Can you name Newton's three laws of motions? The four horsemen of the Apocalypse? The five pillars of Islam? The six wives of Henry VIII? The seven voyages of Sinbad the Sailor? The eight beatitudes? The ten plagues of Egypt? This is a packed compendium of culturally significant lists from the fields of mythology, religion, history, literature, science, art and music. Witty and thoughtful essays accompany each list, making the book both an invaluable reference and highly entertaining read.
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Historic trivia is fascinating stuff. The secret to great trivia reporting is not just in the gathering of the details, however, but in the presentation. Organization is vital, because without an appealing structure, the mind won't grapple with the facts. The human brain needs an inviting presentation to wrap around any new information, and this is what D'Epiro and Pinkowish have done. It's why their compilation of 107 cultural questions is so beguiling.
The elemental secret of their innovative table of contents is the use of numbers. Starting with three and working their way up (with a gap here and there) to 24, they pose a series of intriguing questions which are then answered to everyone's satisfaction on the indicated pages. What are the three Laws of Thermodynamics? Who were the three Furies? and What are the three ages of Vico's historical cycle? These are the sorts of queries they present in the chapter entitled Three. Further chapters inquire after the four properties of a musical tone, the six flavors of quarks, the seven Virtues, the 12 Labors of Heracles, the 14 Points of Woodrow Wilson, and the unofficial Homeric titles of the 18 chapters of Ulysses.
While the questions are appealing in and of themselves, the answers are even better. Going far beyond mere lists, they delve into the histories and texts, the theories and significance of each. The question is the hook, but the answer is the prize, riveting you with more information than you'd anticipated, reminding you of the joy of learning. --Stephanie GoldFrom the Publisher:
So...you think you're smart.
You kept your notes from college. You read the whole newspaper and not just the movie listings. You have subscriptions to the New Yorker and Harper's. You've read all of Shakespeare's plays and did not skim a single line of The Odyssey. You never miss an episode of "Nova." You won the Science Fair...twice.
That's just great.
But just to prove what we all already know--that you took Alan Turing in a fight in the sandbox and gave Harold Bloom that whole "Canon" idea--try this quiz. If you know the answers, you get to keep your Mensa card. If not...
We have just the book for you.
1. Who are the 3 gods of the Hindu Trinity?
2. What are the 4 conic sections?
3. Who were the Russian composers known as the Mighty Five?
4. Who were the 6 wives of Henry VII?
5. What are the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World?
6. What are the 8 Beatitudes?
7. Who were the 9 Muses, and what were their associated arts?
8. What were the 10 major U.S. wars and their dates?
9. Which were the 11 states of the Confederacy?
10. Who were the 12 Knights of the Round Table?
Answers are below...
1. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva
2. Circle, Ellipse, Parabola, and Hyperbola
3. Mili Balakirev, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Aleksandr Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, and Cesar Cui
4. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr
5. The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, The Mausoleum at Halinarnassus, The Colossus of Rhodes, and The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria
6. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are
persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
7. Calliope (epic poetry), Urania (astronomy), Clio (history), Terpsichore (dance), Melpomene (tragedy), Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry and flute music), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred songs)
8. Revolutionary War (1775-83), War of 1812 (1812-15), Mexican War (1846-48), Civil War (1861-65), Spanish-American War (1898), World War I (1917-18), World War II (1941-45), Korean War (1950-53), Vietnam War (1961-73), Persian Gulf War (1991)
9. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee
10. Lancelot, Galahad, Bors, Perceval, Gawain, Tristan, Lamorack, Torre, Kay, Gareth, Bedivere, and Mordred
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