John Baez

October 13, 2008

Here are some puzzles. Test your sense of reality! If you give up, the answers are a mouse-click away.

  1. What was Uncle Sam's last name?

  2. The names of which pair of Shakespearean characters appear on the astronomer Tycho Brahe's coat of arms - in the list of his ancestors?

  3. For which 1998 referendum in Washington D.C. did the United States Congress pass a special bill to prevent the votes from even being counted?

  4. What is the following sentence about?
    "Such a brivla, built from the rafsi for the component gismu and cmavo, is called a lujvo."

  5. When was the Roman empire sold, and who bought it?

  6. Which famous buildings were named after a form of food - or was it the other way around?

  7. Which bird can sleep with half its brain while the other half stays awake?

  8. Which 39-year-old female mathematician was rumored in 1999 to be secretly in charge of one of the world's largest countries?

  9. Which famous philosopher is also known as the RaMBaM?

  10. What is the slogan of the Unity party, which did so well in the 1999 Russian parliamentary elections?

  11. When was the toothpick invented?

  12. What is the size of New Jersey, shaped like a dog bone, and named after a famous woman?

  13. What noun can only be correctly used in the singular, according to the first edition of Henry Fowler's famous book "Modern English Usage"?

  14. Where was the Republic of Rough and Ready, and why did it secede from the United States of America?

  15. Which part of North America still belongs to France?

  16. When public high school teacher John Maurer wore a beige hat to school, the principal said it was unacceptable. When he wore a blue hat, he was reprimanded again. And when he wore a red hat, he was forced to stop teaching there. Why?

  17. What did Britain's "Act Against Multipliers" prohibit, and why did the chemist Robert Boyle fight (successfully) to have it repealed?

  18. Which would-be state was not allowed to join the United States, and lasted only 4 years after its founding? Hint: later, its capitol building mysteriously disappeared.

  19. As of February 2004, five of the ten richest people in the world had the same last name. What is it?

  20. Edward Witten is probably the most famous string theorist in the world. Why is he teaching particle physics on a street corner - with a megaphone?

  21. How is the phrase hanky panky related to the transubstantiation of the body of Christ?

  22. Which animal has a tusk 2 to 3 meters long that grows through its upper lip?

  23. Why did a patch of the Indian Ocean 15,000 square kilometers in size glow with an eerie white light so bright it could be seen from space for three nights?

  24. In which part of the world is it most likely for a woman to claim that her child's father is a dolphin?

  25. Why do zookeepers give orangutans and other endangered species birth control pills?

  26. Which region containing about 40 houses belongs to one country but is entirely surrounded by a ring-shaped portion of a second country, which in turn is surrounded by the first?

  27. Which neutral territory in Europe flirted with making Esperanto its official language before the Germans invaded?

  28. Why should you be careful if you meet someone whose passport is from the British West Indies?

  29. Due to a plumbing mistake, which liquid came pouring out the faucets in dozens of homes in Marino, Italy?

  30. What happened when Fidel Castro's brother took a ride in this flying car?

  31. Which organization, whose motto is now "Praise God for All", once played an influential role in getting certain goods to be sold in quantities that are multiples of a rather awkward prime number?

  32. In Korea, which job do they only allow blind people to do?

  33. Who owns all the unmarked mute swans on the River Thames? And, who owns the marked ones?

  34. What do Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan have in common, besides having long names?

  35. Which three well-known varieties of mushroom are actually the same species?

  36. Which country has the most wild camels?

© 1999-2006 John Baez