Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Question Master is Always Right

Section 8 - Natural World

I’m not sure what it is about this category, but it often sends question masters scurrying for the record books – biggest, heaviest , tallest , oldest – you name it. This presents a few problems . As new discoveries are made, records may change, but a question master’s tried and trusted answers often don’t.

What is the world's oldest species of tree ?

There's only one thing worse than getting a wrong'un in the middle of a quiz, and that's getting a wrong'un for the jackpot prize at the end of the quiz. This was one such. The answer we were all given , which, annoyingly, some of the teams actually gave as their answer was,
The Giant Redwood/Sequoia

Oh dear. This is such an elementary mistake. The Sequoia is generally recognised as the world's tallest species of tree, but its a relative youngster when compared to
a bristlecone pine nicknamed Methuselah

which has been carbon dated at over 4,000 years, and is given in the 2008 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. However, at time of writing scientists also believe that they have discovered a spruce tree in Sweden which is possibly twice as old
Advice: Records can be broken. The only safe record to ask is : who was the first to . . . , and even then mistakes still get made. If you're a question master, check your answer really carefully before you answer it. If you're a player - put down the right answer, and cross your fingers.

To which group of animals do Duck Billed Platypus and Echidna Belong ?

The moment you hear this question you just know that a wrong'un is hurtling towards you. Australian animal , right ? Not a conventional mammal , right ? So it must be

Well, hang on a minute. If they are marsupials, then show me the pouches ! The echidna ( spiny anteater ) and the duck billed platypus are actually the only living members of a type of mammal, which lay eggs , but also produce milk for their young. The official word to describe them is

Interestingly as well, the duck billed platypus is the only mammal ( of any type ) to produce venom.
Advice : - If the question master just gives echidna and duck billed platypus as examples, you'd better go with the right answer. But if he gives any additional example, then play the man and not the ball and say marsupials ( even though its wrong )

What is the world's largest species of Reptile ?

There's a fifty fifty chance that the question master who asks this will give you
the komodo Dragon

as the answer. This is a shame, because its wrong. Granted, the Komodo Dragon, which is a species of Monitor Lizard, is the world's largest species of lizard, but by no stretch of the imagination is it the largest reptile. A komodo Dragon may grow up to as much as ten feet long, from snout to tail. This makes it about half the size of a
Saltwater ( or estuarine ) Crocodile

I suppose question masters get it wrong because the croc just isn't as exotic as the komodo dragon. Either that, or they have lingering memories of a young David Attenborough trying to film one.
Advice : Largest lizard - dragon , largest reptile - croc. No need for any confusion.

Which three species of snake are native to Britain ?

This is slightly different from many of the wrong 'uns in our collection, since it requires three answers, and usually the question master will have two correct answers
and one wrong 'un. The two correct answers will be
adder and grass snake

However when we get to the third answer, the problems occur. A very, very wrong answer would be this : -
the viper

for the simple reason that the viper is another name for the adder, its not a seperate species. A slightly better answer would be
the slow worm

This is a different species, and its native to the UK. There's only one problem. It looks like a snake, and it moves by a snake, but its actually a lizard. Granted, it doesn't have any legs, but its still a lizard, not a snake. The correct answer is
The smooth snake

Unfortunately, this is one that roughly half the time the question master will get wrong.
Advice - Play the man and not the ball. Ask yourself - is my question master good and careful enough to know the correct answer ? If you're not sure, put smooth snake down anyway - and cross your fingers.

Which is the world's biggest species of snake ?

Its not so much the answer to the questions that are the problem with this one. Its the question itself. You see, 'biggest' just isn't clear enough. The answer your question master will probably give is
the anaconda

Well, in one sense, this is actually right. Anacondas are without doubt the heaviest snakes in the world. They can weigh over 500 pounds. However they grow to up to 27 feet in length. This is quite a bit shorter than
the reticulated python

which can actually grow up to 10 feet longer than an anaconda. So which is the biggest ? Depends what you mean, mass or length, and that's why it is so important to define your terms.
Advice : - While most of the teams will write anaconda as the answer, the knowledgable ones will know about the reticulated python. So unless you want to lose all respect as a question master - NEVER ask what is the biggest snake - ask the longest - or the heaviest.

Which is the largest species of crow ?

This is a wrong'un that has done the rounds over the years, but its unusual in that I have no idea where it came from, or how it came to be. Several times when this question has been asked , I've heard the question master give the answer
The rook

I have no idea what on earth would lead them to say this. Rooks, ravens and crows all belong to the corvid family of birds, commonly called the crow family. There's no confusion about it at all, the largest species is
The raven

Yet question masters get it wrong often enough to make you think twice before putting it as your answer.
Advice - don't even think about it. The answer is the raven. Write it down, and get on with the quiz.

Which is the largest diamond in the world ?

Its an odd question in as much as its probably easier to say what isn't rather than what it is. What we can say for definite is that it is not the
Koh-i-Noor ( the Mountain of Light )

This is actually a relative minnow, since it doesn't even quite feature in the top 10 of cut and faceted diamonds now. But then that term itself highlights a problem. Since an uncut diamond, and a cut diamond are clearly two very different things. The answer often given is
The Cullinan Diamond

Despite reports in 2007 that a rough diamond of twice the size of the Cullinan had been discovered in South Africa, this is still accepted as the largest rough diamond ever found. However, this does not exist any more. It was in fact cut up into 9 sperate stones. Until the late 80s, the largest of these was the largest cut stone in the world, and it was called
The Star of Africa ( Cullinan I )

However in the 1980s a slightly bigger diamond was cut, and this one is called
The Golden Jubilee Diamond

and this is accepted at the moment as the world's biggest cut diamond.
Advice : -Its not the Koh - i - Noor !Define the question carefully - do you want them to say the largest cut or uncut diamond ever ? If you don't know what you want them to tell you, how can they possibly know ?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Raven question came up today (14 October 2016) on BBC's 'Mastermind' - "Hooded and Carrion are the largest species of which type of native British bird" - answer "Crow". No, they are not the largest - the Raven is! Very poor.