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  #1  
Old 01-24-2008, 10:16 PM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Smarter than a 5th Grader: How do they make sure the contestants aren't very good?

I don't watch the show regularly, but sometimes a fall asleep during the Simpsons and wake up to some excited shouting. At any rate, it seems like the contestants on the show aren't really trivia whizzes. I think any Jeopardy champion would cut through all 12 questions in about 3 minutes. Heck, I don't think of myself as being good at Jeopardy, but I don't think I've missed a single question on 5th Grader in the four episodes I've seen. (Except tonight, but I think I was right and the show was wrong; Hawaii is both north and south of the Tropic of Cancer)

To get to the point, how do they select contestants? They clearly don't take the best, so do they give a test and take the middle performances? I assume there is some kind of interview, but how do they protect against a slow-play? The prize is 1 million, so I would think they would have trivia whizzes trying to game the system all the time.
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:28 PM
atomicbadgerrace atomicbadgerrace is offline
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I can't say for sure, but I recently applied to be on the show after coaxing from several friends who thought it would be both fun and hilarious.

The application is the first step, and it's about 7 pages long, if memory serves. They ask a bunch of questions such as "Did you take the SATs in high school? If so, what was your score?" and "Did you go to an Ivy League school?" Later, they ask things like "What words would your friends use to describe your personality?" and "What would you use the prize money for?" Standard fare for a game show app.

Along with the application, you send in a video of yourself sitting and answering some prepared questions you print out from the website.

I imagine the only people who know how the selection process works are the few people doing it. My guess is that they automatically exclude boring saps, people who answer "1600" for the SAT question (or, for that matter, "600"), people who graduated first in their class from Harvard, people whose friends rant and rave about how smart and funny, or dumb as a doornail, they are... probably not a good idea to say you'd use the prize money to pay off your Harvard Law School student loans, either.

Again, no idea how the process works-- probably just people who "seem like they'd do well on TV, and are of about average intelligence" according to the producers, or whoever screens these things.

Should I get any further along in the process, I'll be sure to update you.
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Old 01-24-2008, 11:28 PM
SSG Schwartz SSG Schwartz is offline
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From what I have seen, big boobs and guys that can act confident. I think that is along the lines of the original People's Court. They take the people that will look good on TV and take their chances with the million dollars.

SSG Schwartz
  #4  
Old 01-25-2008, 12:13 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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Um, by holding it in America?
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Old 01-25-2008, 12:26 AM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
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True. We all know Americans are dumber than the rest of the world. Just watch objective proof like "Jaywalking" on Leno.

Clearly the US has no shortage of smart people to make game show contestants - Jeopardy has 10-15 per week for decades now. Clearly this show and that show have different criteria.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 01-25-2008 at 12:27 AM.
  #6  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:11 AM
Fern Forest Fern Forest is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T_SQUARE
(Except tonight, but I think I was right and the show was wrong; Hawaii is both north and south of the Tropic of Cancer)
You are technically correct. The best kind of correct. I guess I wont use that in the Futurama quote thread.

While the main islands lie south of the ToC the state of Hawaii, in particular Honolulu Co., includes all the Northwest Hawaiian islands with the exception of Midway. Kure atoll is almost as far north as New Orleans.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:46 AM
Sprockets Sprockets is offline
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Maybe they only take people who voted for Bush. . .twice. . . ?
  #8  
Old 01-25-2008, 09:26 AM
Sitnam Sitnam is offline
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I saw 5 minutes of that show last night. Those adults should be ashamed of themselves...and have their high school diplomas taken away.
  #9  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:00 AM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Actually, most of the contestants they have on are high achievers. They WANT people who score well on their SATs or go to Ivy League schools. They often show graphics that say, "Bon scored 1580 on his SATs", or "Bob finished in the top third of his class at Princeton". Heck, they've even had a NASA rocket scientist on the show. Part of the appeal of the show is to see smart people get crushed by 5th graders.

As to why they don't do better, I don't know.
  #10  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:18 AM
Just Some Guy Just Some Guy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
Actually, most of the contestants they have on are high achievers. They WANT people who score well on their SATs or go to Ivy League schools. They often show graphics that say, "Bon scored 1580 on his SATs", or "Bob finished in the top third of his class at Princeton". Heck, they've even had a NASA rocket scientist on the show. Part of the appeal of the show is to see smart people get crushed by 5th graders.

As to why they don't do better, I don't know.
Perhaps they screen for people who lie on the application?
  #11  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:29 AM
Spatial Rift 47 Spatial Rift 47 is offline
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Maybe they pick people who are intelligent and have the traditional markers of that, but have been studying or working on only a very limited field for several decades, allowing their memory of material they learned in elementary school to slip away. Just a WAG.
  #12  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:50 AM
Garfield226 Garfield226 is offline
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Originally Posted by Spatial Rift 47
Maybe they pick people who are intelligent and have the traditional markers of that, but have been studying or working on only a very limited field for several decades, allowing their memory of material they learned in elementary school to slip away. Just a WAG.
There was a guy on last night (or the night before last, I don't remember) who was a middle school principal, and the graphic showed he got like a 1400 or something on his SAT. Seems like the kind of guy they WOULDN'T pick, but there he was. IIRC he stopped before answering the half-million dollar question.

Why don't I think they do well? For one thing, many of the questions aren't your basic elementary school questions. Maybe they're questions someone mentioned once in that grade, but come on...while you may have known what the Tropic of Cancer was in 5th grade, and you almost certainly knew how many states there are and where they are generally located in relation to one another, how many people REALLY put those two pieces of information together at 10 years old?

Not that the questions are HARD, but would YOU study to be on a show called Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? My guess is most of them don't, thinking it'll be a piece of cake.

The other aspect is this: The cheats aren't all that helpful, especially on the harder questions. On Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the cheats are useful, not to mention all the questions are multiple choice. You can make your odds 50-50, you can call one of a number of people who you trust may know the answer (and who presumably aren't 5th graders), or you can ask an audience full of adults.

On this show, you can look at the kid's answer and then answer yourself or you can take the kid's answer without looking. Also, if you get it wrong and he gets it right, you can continue, once. Of the three, a combination of the first and last is the most useful -- the principal used it on a three-choice multiple choice question to make his odds be 2/3 (he peeked, then chose another answer -- if he was right, he would move on, if the kid was right, he would move on because of the save). Any cheat on its own, the second and third in particular, seems more like luck than anything, especially if the question is difficult.

So, while I don't think the questions are very difficult (certainly not Jeopardy caliber), I think the show is a bit more difficult than it seems, and I think that's what gets a lot of the contestants in trouble.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:00 PM
Spatial Rift 47 Spatial Rift 47 is offline
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I think you're on to something there. They probably ask questions about the same subject that you might see in a 5th grade curriculum, but actually require far more logic or integration than you would expect from your average 5th grader. I see the same thing often in my own life: You can take "intro level" physics and construct some really nastily hard questions. Add to that the overconfidence induced by the premise, the constraints of the game, and the pressure of being in the hot seat and you have a good chance of failing.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:19 PM
jacquilynne jacquilynne is offline
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I've only seen the show once, but I have to agree with Garfield226. The questions I saw on the show were not the kind of things you actually study in the early grades, nor the kind of things you'd need to remember later. They were a mix of synthesizing information at a much higher than fifth grade level, and random factoids that might get mentioned in a 5th grade text somewhere but that would never have been the focus of your learning in that or any other grade.

While I'd expect adults to be able to synthesize information at a higher than 5th grade level, I'm not sure I'd expect them to do it while on camera. And random factoids are just trivia you know it or you don't -- a question you might not ring in for on Jeopardy can become your game ender on a show where you have to answer every one.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:24 PM
control-z control-z is offline
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I have a 7th grader who got all A's and B's on her last report card and I don't think she could answer many of the questions.

I think the question is not how they find dumb contestants, it's how they find those smart kids (or supply them the answers somehow.)
  #16  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:37 PM
HazelNutCoffee HazelNutCoffee is offline
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They do sometimes come up with "obscure" bits of elementary school trivia. I remember once they posed a grammar question that gave me pause, and I taught advanced ESL grammar for 4 years.

But most of the questions don't seem that difficult. If you're unlucky you'll be asked a question like "How many countries are there on the continent of Africa?" (a question to which I don't know the answer, I freely admit) but the majority of the questions seem fairly standard.
  #17  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:46 PM
garygnu garygnu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacquilynne
...The questions I saw on the show were not the kind of things you actually study in the early grades, nor the kind of things you'd need to remember later. They were a mix of synthesizing information at a much higher than fifth grade level, and random factoids that might get mentioned in a 5th grade text somewhere but that would never have been the focus of your learning in that or any other grade...
The questions come from textbooks for the respective grade levels.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:50 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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MilliCal is constantly after me to go on this show. She loves it, and watches it all the time.


From what people have said here, I'm not sure I'd get on.


It also seems to me that a lot of the questions aren't hard, but you can get tripped up by a specific answer that isn't obvious without, say, a map, but that you'd be able to answer in a guess or two. Only you don't get that guess -- you only get one shot. (Is All of South America east of Columbus, Ohio? What's the capitol of Kentucky?)
  #19  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:51 PM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
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Originally Posted by control-z
I think the question is not how they find dumb contestants, it's how they find those smart kids (or supply them the answers somehow.)
They give the kids areas to study before the game, which seems crappy to me. Why not set up the game to reward kids who legitimately have lots of knowledge? Make the kids a bigger part of the game, reward scholorships. I haven't watched the show much, but I'd have known probably better than 90% of the questions I saw when I was in 5th grade. Elementary education actually covers a whole lot of information very quickly, it's just that most of it is retained briefly and then lost. I'd probably have known more of the answers on that show in 5th grade than I do now. So why give the kids study guides? Audition them, pick smart kids, and make them play a bigger role.
  #20  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:52 PM
RickJay RickJay is online now
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Originally Posted by SenorBeef
True. We all know Americans are dumber than the rest of the world. Just watch objective proof like "Jaywalking" on Leno.
A viewing of "Are you Smarter Than a Canadian Fifth Grader" (yes, they made such a show) will quickly disabuse you of this notion.

And I'll pipe in; no, the show simply is not as easy as people think it is. My wife didn't remember who wrote Gulliver's Travels, amd under pressure I might have blown it too (although I got it at home.) A lot of the questions do seem very easy to me, but unlike Jeopardy!, you don't get to miss a question, you don't have the option to play it safe and walk away with a bagful of money (the guy last night actually did know the answer to the next question, but wasn't sure and walked awya with a quarter million - unquestionably the smart choice) and still win the game; you get two wrong answers and you go home.

They had some example questions for the Canadian version online, and I found that eight would be stupidly easy and then the ninth would be something like "True or false: the Whoaretheycallamiq Indians did not migrate to Ontario until the 18th century" or "Was Milton Q. Cocknozzle one of the Group of Seven?" and I would have not the faintest idea what the answer was. And I'm a trivia buff and very conversant in grammar, which helps me with a lot of questions (I'm not actually that intelligent, just full of trivia junk) and they still could stump me with some preposterously obscure factoid. I am sure that in Grade 5 we might have done a "unit" lasting a week during which we talked about the Group of Seven, or maybe went to the art gallery and walked by one of their paintings, but it's not something even most smart, educated people would remember.

And that's at home sitting in front of my computer eating popcorn. Under pressure, you'd be likelier to think your way out of the right answer.
  #21  
Old 01-25-2008, 01:58 PM
N9IWP N9IWP is offline
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Answers I didn't know:
  #22  
Old 01-25-2008, 02:01 PM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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They open up the phone book and point.


Actually, since I was in 5th grade, the map of the world, especially Eastern Europe has changed quite a bit. Plus, primary education today is quite different than when I was an actual 5th grader There is more emphasis on geography, and the environment than back then.

Plus as a person gets older, their 'intelligence' becomes more specialized, where a youngster's smarts are more spread out.
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Old 01-25-2008, 02:22 PM
N9IWP N9IWP is offline
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OOPs, I didn't mjean to say I have know the answer to every question
I didn't know the lowest atmosphere question (which is lowest? meso, thermo, or stratospher or something like that)
And there was a question about waht geologic era/epoch/something we are in that I didn't know.

The president question wasn't completely accurate (you need to be a natural born US citizen) True today, but "(or citizens at the time of the Constitution's adoption)" are also eligiable.

Brian
  #24  
Old 01-25-2008, 02:26 PM
SenorBeef SenorBeef is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay
A viewing of "Are you Smarter Than a Canadian Fifth Grader" (yes, they made such a show) will quickly disabuse you of this notion.
I was being sarcastic. We get the impression that the average intelligence of other cultures is higher because we mostly import the better things about their culture, their good movies, tv shows, whatever. Whereas in the US, we see everything based around the lowest common denominator. It's part of what gives people the impression that Americans are dumber than the rest of the world, but the sad thing is that the rest of the world is pretty stupid too. I remember reading about a basic knowledge test given to British kids where only a depressingly small fraction could correctly point to the Pacific Ocean on a map - the sort of thing you always hear about in "Americans are so dumb..." rants.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 01-25-2008 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 01-25-2008, 02:33 PM
Cubsfan Cubsfan is offline
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Originally Posted by atomicbadgerrace
Along with the application, you send in a video of yourself sitting and answering some prepared questions you print out from the website.
How the fuck do you do that? Do you have to be all animated alone in your living room reading the answer into a video camera??? Wow, that would be so phony.
  #26  
Old 01-25-2008, 02:52 PM
jacquilynne jacquilynne is offline
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Originally Posted by garygnu
The questions come from textbooks for the respective grade levels.
I'm not sure that's true -- the information comes from those textbooks in some sense, but I don't get the impression that every question was a homework or end-of-chapter question in some textbook somewhere, especially the ones for lower grades -- they're just not written in the way you'd present those types of questions to small children. How a question is presented makes a huge difference in how answerable it is, and a piece of information that happens to be in one 5th grade textbook is not necessarily general knowledge.

As an example of what I think is going on, we had reading comprehension assignments in grade school, where we'd be given a passage to read about some random subject, and then we'd have to answer questions about the passage. It might be a biography of Joe Blow, and than it would ask questions like 'What did Joe Blow invent?' and 'Where was Joe Blow born?' so you'd have to distinguish been Joe Blow being born in Philadelphia but living in Boston, and having sold farm equipment but having invented some kitchen gadget.

In the 'are you smarter' pantheon had information on Joe Blow just become something that 5th graders are supposed to know? Even thought the 5th graders themselves know that they're not now, or ever going to be, tested on knowledge of Joe Blow, and 5th graders at another school that didn't happen to have the same reading comprehension text have never heard of Joe Blow, the question 'What did Joe Blow invent?' is something in a 5th grade textbook.
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Old 01-25-2008, 03:49 PM
Dolores Reborn Dolores Reborn is offline
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Yeah, but, what about the easy peasy question about louse/lice? The guy uses a cheat to answer the singular of lice for Og's sake? That was just ridiculous.

I got the question on the Tropic of Cancer wrong, however (I said all 50 states.) But at least I knew it was the southern one!

Some of the questions are a bit tricky, but not the early ones. The lice question was maybe the third question.
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Old 01-25-2008, 03:52 PM
Garfield226 Garfield226 is offline
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Originally Posted by Dolores Reborn
Yeah, but, what about the easy peasy question about louse/lice? The guy uses a cheat to answer the singular of lice for Og's sake? That was just ridiculous.
*shrug* I didn't realize that was the answer until they said it. I was thinking it was just "lice" like "deer." Once they said it, I did a facepalm because it's so obvious, but really, I'm not sure I've ever needed to actually know that (even in 5th grade...).
  #29  
Old 01-25-2008, 04:00 PM
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I think the hardness of it also has to do with the breadth of subject matter, from math to cultural studies. Unlike Jeopardy, you have to answer all the questions to win the money. A person who can answer the science question about what is the fastest bird on foot might not know the geography question about what states border Lake Superior. On Jeopardy, he could just let the second one go to someone else or be timed out. Or even miss it and recover later.

Last edited by Liberal; 01-25-2008 at 04:01 PM.
  #30  
Old 01-25-2008, 04:07 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Originally Posted by RickJay
And I'll pipe in; no, the show simply is not as easy as people think it is. My wife didn't remember who wrote Gulliver's Travels, amd under pressure I might have blown it too (although I got it at home.)
Pfft, easy. Tom Wolfe, right?
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Old 01-25-2008, 04:09 PM
garygnu garygnu is offline
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Originally Posted by Liberal
I think the hardness of it also has to do with the breadth of subject matter, from math to cultural studies. Unlike Jeopardy, you have to answer all the questions to win the money. A person who can answer the science question about what is the fastest bird on foot might not know the geography question about what states border Lake Superior. On Jeopardy, he could just let the second one go to someone else or be timed out. Or even miss it and recover later.
Yeah, even with the cheats, you still have to ace the test to win it all. I generally breeze through the questions, but some trip me up, like the clouds question and John Jay being the first Chief Justice.
Grammer is a tough one for me, because I might be able to follow the rules, but I don't know a participle from a predicate.
(If I did get on the show, I'm sure as hell going to study my ass off first.)
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Old 01-25-2008, 05:37 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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I once wrote all the questions for a trivia night at my kids' elementary school. For one of the categories, I gathered questions from the kids' textbooks.

Nobody got them all right. Including the asst. principal.
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Old 01-25-2008, 05:59 PM
Cervaise Cervaise is offline
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Pfft, easy. Tom Wolfe, right?
No, no, he wrote Peter Rabbit.

Bill Bryson wrote Gulliver's Travels.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:07 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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Originally Posted by Cervaise
No, no, he wrote Peter Rabbit.

Bill Bryson wrote Gulliver's Travels.
No one knows who wrote Gulliver's Travels since it wasn't written until almost fifty years after Gulliver traveled.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:09 PM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Originally Posted by Dolores Reborn
Yeah

I got the question on the Tropic of Cancer wrong, however (I said all 50 states.) But at least I knew it was the southern one!
I think you got the question right. Either 50 states are north of the ToC and 1 is south, or 49 are north and 0 are south. The first way is the only way it makes sense to me. I don't know what I'd have done had I been on the show and missed that. Probably puched Jeff Foxworthy or took it to court.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:48 PM
zagloba zagloba is offline
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Originally Posted by Zebra
Actually, since I was in 5th grade, the map of the world, especially Eastern Europe has changed quite a bit.
Case in point: with what country does Russia have the longest border?
SPOILER:
Kazakhstan
I believe this was the million dollar question on one of the few episodes I've watched.

Last edited by zagloba; 01-25-2008 at 06:49 PM.
  #37  
Old 01-25-2008, 07:22 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Originally Posted by Cervaise
No, no, he wrote Peter Rabbit.

Bill Bryson wrote Gulliver's Travels.
Are you sure? I thought Bill Bryson was the nom-de-plume Ian Fleming used when he wrote that delightful Nancy Drew series.
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Old 01-25-2008, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by garygnu
Grammer is a tough one for me
Spelling, too.
  #39  
Old 01-25-2008, 10:52 PM
Tenebras Tenebras is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolores Reborn
I got the question on the Tropic of Cancer wrong, however (I said all 50 states.) But at least I knew it was the southern one!
Um... Tropic of Cancer is the northern one. All fifty states are unambiguously north of the Tropic of Capricorn (aka the southern one). If it helps, cancer comes before capricorn when listing things alphabetically and it's on top, which is where such lists tend to start. Also, Tropic of Cancer was published 5 years earlier than Tropic of Capricorn.
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:48 AM
Typo Negative Typo Negative is offline
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Saw an episode where the contestant was a college graduate (Duke, business major) but did not know a) how many days in a regular year and b) how many in a leap year.

And did not know the absolute value of 9. He said "it couldn't be 9"!
  #41  
Old 01-26-2008, 03:17 AM
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Some of the people that get on there are stupid. Just, dumb.

I did ok on my ACT's, about top 1/3 of my class in highschool, and I have descent GPA now in college. But I kick the hell out of this game almost every time I watch it. I almost never run into problems. The fact that these people can't answer some of the simplest questions in game show history is mind boggling.

But, sometimes the questions can be a real pain. I remember seeing a "member" of Mensa play the game and quit at the 500,000 dollar question. I say "member" because I've been lied to by T.V. before...

His question was,"What country shares the largest land border with Russia?" The answer was Kazakhstan; I had no clue.

So, you never know. Most days, I would expect the average adult like me to get these without a problem. But every once in a while, you get thrown a Kazakhstan.
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Old 01-26-2008, 03:19 AM
Surbey Surbey is offline
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Originally Posted by zagloba
Case in point: with what country does Russia have the longest border?
SPOILER:
Kazakhstan
I believe this was the million dollar question on one of the few episodes I've watched.
Just saw your question after I made my post above. Guess that struck us both as an oddly hard question.
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Old 01-26-2008, 02:11 PM
Dolores Reborn Dolores Reborn is offline
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Originally Posted by Tenebras
Um... Tropic of Cancer is the northern one. All fifty states are unambiguously north of the Tropic of Capricorn (aka the southern one). If it helps, cancer comes before capricorn when listing things alphabetically and it's on top, which is where such lists tend to start. Also, Tropic of Cancer was published 5 years earlier than Tropic of Capricorn.
Which explains why I said 50.

I'll be over here in the corner, if anybody needs me...
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Old 01-26-2008, 05:48 PM
garygnu garygnu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
Spelling, too.
Blast.
  #45  
Old 01-26-2008, 08:35 PM
Liberal Liberal is offline
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Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Gone
Posts: 39,401
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surbey
Some of the people that get on there are stupid. Just, dumb.
Yeah, there was one lady who bombed out on the very first question, winning nothing. Suddenly, the host of the karaoke show next door came over, grabbed her, and out of pity brought her to his show, where she lost on the first song. Bad day for her.
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