This is a special day and deserves a special pop quiz. Because April is the cruelest month and because there are reports that Shakespeare’s skull is missing I thought the subject should be poetry. For previous pop quizzes you can click the category over on the right or you can use this handy link. And now without further ado about nothing here is the quiz.
Romantic comedy or Three Stooges short?
Hold the Lion, Please
The Adventure of the Red-Headed League
The Five Orange Pips
A Scandal in Bohemia
A-Lad-In His Lamp
Chariots of Fur
The Problem of Thor Bridge
Foxy by Proxy
The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap
Hyde and Hare
Devil’s Feud Cake
Wild About Hurry
What’s Opera, Doc?
The Gulag Archipelago
18-20: Seek professional help
13-17: Hey, that’s not bad!
10-16: We’ve got a live one here.
5-9: You cheated and this is still the best you did?
Regular readers are familiar with the occasional pop quizzes I throw out. I try to make them fun and a little bit challenging but not too difficult because nothing annoys me more than trying to do a crossword puzzle and halfway through feeling like the antediluvian legal scholar who created it decided no one would make it past 42-across and just started making up words and I want to hunt him down and beat him with a dictionary.
Anyway I got an idea for a pop quiz while reading Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon, which is a really cool book about the periodic table and the elements that comprise it. It’s not a heavy scientific text but full of interesting stories like how in 1915 the Germans covertly took over a Colorado molybdenum mine which gave them an advantage in World War I, but that’s another story.
And then I started writing the quiz down and realized I was insane. It relied on some pretty rarefied knowledge and the clues were such a stretch I think even most chemists would find it tougher than tungsten. The answers are all scientists who aren’t household names, with one exception. Think bushy hair and moustache and sarcastic synonym for “smart person”.
They are also all scientists who’ve had elements named after them which narrows it down but they’re mostly still obscure and to make it even worse all my puns are a real stretch. And this may surprise some of the laity but the naming of elements can actually be controversial. Dmitri Mendeleev created the first modern periodic table and realized there were a lot of undiscovered elements to fill the spaces. He named the gap elements things like “ekaaluminum”. “Eka” is Sanskrit for “one” and was the element Mendeleev predicted would sit under aluminum on the periodic table. He was right about there being such an element but the scientist who discovered it named it gallium. When Marie Curie discovered polonium in 1911 she named it in honor of her home country, Poland, which was not at the time a bona fide country and fighting Germany for independence. Now while the naming is less political scientists still rush for naming rights and some elements have gone unnamed for years while who really found them first is sorted out.
Still with me? Here’s the quiz. Get one or two and you can feel really good about yourself. Get more than half and you can non-sarcastically call yourself a smart person. Get zero and you get the grand prize: you can hunt me down and beat me with a dictionary.
Name the scientist suggested by the following puns.
1. He would prefer to wade.
Additional clues: called the “father of nuclear physics”, he won the Nobel Prize in 1908
2. Hard common vowel.
Additional clues: an Italian physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project
3. Ocean-going Star Trek villain.
Additional clues: the only living person to have an element named after him he discovered or helped discover ten elements
4. Heal him.
Additional clues: the only woman to have an element named after her (so far), she discovered both polonium and radium
5. One big mug.
Additional clues: a real smart person with a reputation for absent-mindedness. Think bushy hair and moustache.
6. Edict wash.
Additional clues: invented the cyclotron
7. Repair Bulgarian currency.
Additional clues: created the periodic table and predicted the discovery of many additional elements
This clue is also so far out if you get it without the additional clues you are either a science historian, a chemist, or are working in the wrong field
8. Doesn’t ring.
Additional clues: has a prestigious set of prizes named after him and invented dynamite
9. Hire Hunger Games star.
Additional clues: German scientist (oh, like that narrows it down) who discovered X-rays
10. A real sleeper.
Additional clues: Danish scientist who created a popular atomic model.
And all this is really an excuse to share Tom Lehrer’s The Elements. If you’ve all been paying attention you’ll know that since he wrote it the news of a few new elements has come to Harvard.
You have one hour to finish the test. If you feel you need more time you have thirty minutes to finish the test.
Why do fools fall in love?
a. Love is tricky
b It makes the floor slippery
c. Ask all my exes
d. THEY’RE FOOLS!
What’s love got to do with it?
c. It makes the world go ’round
d. Ask a fool
Who’s that girl?
b. Sean Penn
c. Is this a trick question?
d. Marlo Thomas
Who let the dogs out?
a. What dogs?
b. They did it themselves. They’re very smart.
c. My housesitter! That’s it. He’s fired.
d. Say that again and I will cut you.
Where have all the flowers gone?
a. They died. Should’ve planted perennials.
b. Young girls have picked them every one. Fools.
c. It’s now a parking lot.
d. They got a new job and moved to Poughkeepsie.
What’s the frequency Kenneth?
a. 4.68 megaherz with a repeating cycle
b. About every four minutes
c. Pre-set on my car radio
d. For the last time my name is Kevin.
Who are you?
a. Who is anyone?
b. Anyone you want me to be.
c. Knock knock. Wait, what?
d. Do you really want to know?
Do you know the way to San Jose?
c. It’s a long way to Tipperary.
d. No, but I’ll check my GPS
How can you mend a broken heart?
a. Time wounds all heels.
b. With new Monster Glue(TM)!
c. Try a little tenderness.
d. You can’t, fool!
What becomes of the brokenhearted?
a. They move on.
b. They binge on tequila and ice cream
c. Medication helps
d. Only farted
Why don’t we do it in the road?
b. It’s rush hour.
c. Um, we can afford a hotel.
d. At least take me to dinner and a movie first.
Who’ll stop the rain?
a. Me. I’ve got an umbrella.
b. The weathermen.
c. The climate
d. We’re in the middle of a drought! What’s wrong with you?
What’s so funny ’bout peace love and understanding?
c. You’re so cute.
d. The desperate shortage of all three.
Have you ever loved a woman?
c. That’s a rather personal question.
d. Define “loved”.
Are you lonesome tonight?
b. I wouldn’t be if you hadn’t stood me up.
c. I’ve got tequila and ice cream to keep me company.
d. No, I’m Kevin. Lonesome Tonight couldn’t make it.
Who wrote the book of love?
a. It was a collaboration.
b. Be more specific.
c. I’ll take “Sounds like Shakespeare” for $500, Alex!
d. Who’s on first.
Will you still love me tomorrow?
a. I guess so.
b. Let me sleep on it.
c. Tomorrow’s just another day.
d. Let me get you another drink.
Should I stay or should I go?
c. We’ve gotta get out of this place.
d. Who invited you?
Wouldn’t it be nice?
a. If you’re into that sort of thing.
b. I’ve tried it. It was overrated.
c. Tomorrow’s just another day.
d. Define “it”.
What’s new pussycat?
a. My hair. You didn’t even notice!
b. The fact that you’re calling me pussycat.
d. Everything under the sun.
How long to the point of no return?
a. Two miles
b. Three blocks that way, then turn left.
c. About thirty years behind us.
d. If train A leaves Chicago going 75mph and train B leaves Poughkeepsie going 80mph and train B overtakes train A in Des Moines what is the capitol of Nebraska?
Each question is worth a completely arbitrary three points to put unreasonable pressure on you to do math after you’ve finished.
75-150 points: Your elegant and fashionable dinner parties are intricate and well-planned in a way that makes everyone else insecure and uncomfortable. Who even knows what a shrimp fork is anymore?
60-74 points: You watch a lot of those fashion and cooking competition shows, don’t you?
45-59 points: Excellent guesswork. You win and may take a prize from the treasure box on the desk at the front of the room.
27-44 points: Still within the ballpark. You may take a pencil from the shoebox next to the chalkboard at the back of the room.
8.5-26 points: You knew most of this stuff at one time but like the quadratic formula you knew you’d never use it so you forgot it. You may take two prizes from the treasure box on the desk at the front of the room.
3-8.4 points: Please hand in the pencil you took from the shoebox next to the chalkboard at the back of the room when you came in. You shouldn’t be allowed to have anything sharp.