Spot-the-Fake Super Happy Quiz 2
As fans of Spot the Fake Super Happy Quiz already know, we here at the LabKitty Global Media Empire labor to keep alive our take on a certain Saturday morning radio show's popular quiz game which we can't explicitly name here for legal reasons. But the rules go as follows: we provide you with three interesting factoids, gleaned from our lifetime of nerditude. You must identify the one we made up. We give the answer below, in one of those reverse-color mouse-select-to-see thingys.
if you just open up a new tab and do a Google search, you are missing out on the fun. We can't stop you, but for our part, we promise that you should be able to tell which story is fake by reviewing the information provided. There is a tip, a clue, an indicator, a pointer. Evidence, information. This should allow you to puzzle out the answer without being privy to some obscure nerd minutiae.
Without further ado, we give you:
SPOT THE FAKE SUPER HAPPY QUIZ #2
This episode celebrates the seamy underbelly of our beloved harsh mistress. Something we like to call: Science Violence!
The Father of Modern Algebra died in a duel
First off, we should note this is not "algebra" like you might remember from middle school, quadratic formulas and word problems and whatnot. No, we're talkin' the hurtful kind of algebra. Advanced algebra. Modern algebra. The kind of algebra that spawns textbooks like "Abelian Lie Groups on Homeomorphic Manifolds." Books which occupy that ghastly section of the library where you wisely shield your eyes from the titles as you pass, lest you be stunned to the carpet and taken by the movable shelving. Dare check out one of these babys and the library work-study will clumsily drove the foul thing onto the scanner using the broken end of a broomstick, all the while regarding you with a jaundiced eye as s/he might someone with a chair for a head.
What breed of freaky nerdozoid produces this sort of cryptonomocology, you ask? Évariste Galios, for one. Galois advanced the concept of a group, and made important contributions to Abelian integrals and continued fractions. He also proved there is no formula for the roots of polynomials of degree five or higher (you may recall the quadratic formula provides the roots of a polynomial of degree two. Higher than five? Not only don't we know a formula, Galois proved that one doesn't exist). Fast forward a hundred years, and all manner of algebraic bestiary sprung from Galois' loins are roaming the countryside, mad in shape and purpose, terrorizing undergraduates like the mutant kudzu that swallowed the post-antebellum South.
Oh, and he did all this by the time he was twenty.
And we're not even to the good part yet.
Galois lived in 19th-century France, the good ole days where dueling was not only permitted, it was encouraged. While this had many positive influences on society, such as keeping right-wing blowhards off the radio, it also led many a young man to the Field of Honor (the Le Petit E'cole, if we remember our high-school French) in a misguided attempt to impress chicks. Competition for mating rights indeed has a long and proud history, but most members of the animal kingdom have devised non-lethal alternatives, be it spectacular displays of plumage (the peacock), elaborate ritual dances (the honeybee), or vomiting on MTV (the Jersey Shore). Long story short: there is a romantic entanglement, a competing paramour, a perceived slight, two muskets, and a fateful morning. The rest, as they say, is history.
But wait, it gets better.
The legend that has been passed down, from nerd parent to little nerdling perched on knee, is that Galois was well aware his chances of winning the day were slim. Ergo, on the night before, in an erotic outburst of mathematical passion, this unknown upstart committed all of his knowledge to parchment. This he mails to Euler or Cauchy or one of the other establishment big shots in hopes that perhaps, just perhaps, the gods that do guide young men to folly will grant some small favor and his mind seed will find fertile mathematical soil amongst these great men and in so doing make him immortal though he perish.
So it was, with the night lifting, the first hint of shadows spilling from under the windowsill, Galois surrenders his quill for the last time, wipes the ink from his hands on a tattered cloth, dresses, and walks out into the morning.
Galois takes a musket ball in the gut and dies the following day in a local hospital, presumably with his beloved's name on his quivering lips. His manuscripts wind up in the hands of Euler or Cauchy or one of the other establishment big shots, who upon recognizing his brilliance at last, rush them to the French Academy (Le Petit E'cole, if we remember our high-school French). There, the members gaze upon the revealed truths and bemoan the tragic lost potential. One of their own, at last.
Tout est perdu hors l'honneur.
Isaac Newton had people killed
Imagine your garden-variety pre-Victorian English thug having spent a lifetime of crime running circles around the dullard civil servant miscellany he had faced in court after getting "pinched" as the Brits say. Then one day he looks up from the defendant's box only to see Isaac Newton sitting at the prosecutor's table, lending his prodigious talents to the proceedings.
Oh bugger me, it's Isaac crikey Newton. Now there's gonna be a right pen and ink!
There ya go. Our best Cockney imitation. Not even close, was it?
Our point being is that after Newton invented calculus and discovered gravity and whatnot he turned his talents to the mint. No, not the curiously strong kind, silly, the money-making kind. Back then, your average treasury employee was about as dumb as plum pudding. Counterfeiting was rampant, deterred as it was mostly by the Crown's colorful array of spectacular death machines that would be applied to your person in the off-chance your attempts at counterfeiting did not pass muster and got you "nicked" as the Brits say. Back in the day, anyone with half a good eye and a rudimentary lathe could churn out fake tuppence from now until Boxing Day and the authorities would likely be none the wiser right up until the whole monetary system collapsed from hyperinflation.
Anyhoo, one day Newton is weeping for there are no more scientific worlds to conquer (he had just been elected head of the Royal Society. His first act was to have his predecessor's portrait burned. Me-ow!). As fate would have it, Thomas Nealy - the current (and woefully ineffectual) Master of the Mint - is stepping down and looking for his replacement. We imagine the phone call went something like this:
TN: Newts, my man.
IN: Hello, Nealy.
TN: Want to be Master of the Mint?
IN: The curiously strong kind?
TN: No, the other kind.
IN: Meh. Pass.
TN: You get to hang counterfeiters.
IN: I'm in.
So it was Newton became Master of the Mint. While this provided him opportunity to apply his critical acumen to improve economic policy and stabilize the English currency and whatnot, Newton took a particular relish in hunting counterfeiters. Perhaps you are imagining Isaac slaving in the apothecary to prove the improper metallurgy of some suspect coinage (we like to imagine he had a goth chick laboratory help-mate who wore pig-tails and Chuck Taylors). Alas, Newton's anti-counter fitting efforts were more gumshoe than eureka. He developed a substantial network of spies and informants, and he often lurked incognito in taverns collecting intel. Finally, Newton's sharp analytic skills made him a force of nature in the courtroom, his withering relentless cross-examination breaking countless defendants, who were then sent to the gallows or worse.
A letter survives from convicted counterfeiter William Chaloner, mailed to Newton from death row, that gives some indication of Newton's wrath:
Most merciful Sir. I am going to be murdered although perhaps you may think not but tis true I shall be murdered the worst of all possible murders that is in the face of Justice unless I am rescued by your merciful hands.
If Newton was moved to pity by this, there is no record of it. On March 23rd, 1699 Chaloner was hanged, drawn, and quartered.
Niels Bohr trained as an Olympic kickboxer
Academics rarely risk life and limb for their research anymore. These days there's a demon's list of rules and regulations and safety inspections and whatnot designed to keep us from harm and the university from becoming a smoldering vacant lot. But back in the day the frontiers of science were open to anyone smart enough to grasp spherical harmonics and dumb enough to grasp radioactive substances without adequate protective gear. Consider the number of the early atomic physicists who later died from cancer: Oppenheimer (throat); Fermi (stomach); von Neumann (brain); Feynman (intestinal); Wigner (bladder). Perhaps most famously, Madame Curie died from leukemia as a direct result of her work with radium (her husband Claude was killed by a horse-drawn carriage, as if to denote some invisible transition of a simpler time).
Yes they were of stout stock, these nuclear pioneers, and none more so than Niels Bohr. Ernest Rutherford - himself a hulking expat New Zealander - usually discouraged continental softies from setting up shop in his Cambridge laboratory. But to him Bohr was different. "He's a footballer, a mountain climber," Rutherford would say, loudly and probably between gulps of blood pudding at afternoon tea.
And indeed he was. Hearty in the harsh Danish tradition, they of Viking ships and the plundering Cnut. Bohr played soccer -- what Rutherford was calling "football" (silly English kniggit!) -- as an undergraduate in Stockholm and regularly climbed the local mountains, often with his brother Harald. But Bohr's first love was kickboxing, or "Klogenfisten" as it is called in Danish.
After rising through the amateur and university ranks, Bohr looked to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin as his chance for fame and the gold. He trained virtually nonstop to the neglect of his physics studies, this causing no small amount of consternation on the part of his parents. For the young Bohr's scholastic prowess was as well known as his devastating roundhouse kick. All in good time, Papa, we image Niels assuaging his father as he worked the heavy bag, after yet another episode of Christian Bohr's fruitless efforts to convince his son to abandon this fool's errand and return to the Polytechnic. Niels was having none of it, the siren song of the Olympiad calling him forward like Odysseus unbound.
Alas, it was not to be. The King of Denmark decided to boycott the Olympic games in protest of the rising Nazi menace.
It was probably for the best, as there were hints of a Nazi plot to kidnap Bohr and force him to assist the German effort to build an atomic bomb. Still, Bohr's spirit was broken by the boycott. Disillusioned, he hung up his Klogs and never boxed again, turning his attention full time to the development of quantum physics, for which he would win a Nobel prize in 1922.
Galois indeed died in a duel (CHERCHEZ LA FEMME!) although whether this was really the result of a romantic entanglement is questionable (um, Cherchez la femme?). The political climate of France at the time - what with the monarchy and the republicans duking it out - was pretty much a splatter film, wherein anyone could be killed at anytime, for any reason. Here Galois' infamous temper certainly did him no favors, having gotten him thrown out of university (and into jail) more times than LabKitty's been thrown out of Bennigans. It may well be he simply stepped on the wrong toes once too often. A smoky back room, a coin purse, and a hearty Zut Alores! and the next thing you know you're staring down Harvey Keitel in the Parisian dawn.
Issac Newton indeed used his considerable intellectual powers to help the crown ferret out and hang counterfeiters. Always remember: we nerds can kill you with our brain.
Niels Bohr was indeed a footballer and a mountain climber but, alas, he did not take up kickboxing as far as we know (the Vikings would have to wait another 40 years to avenge themselves in the kickboxing arena in the guise of one Jean Claude Van Damme).
Your clue? We mention that the disappointment of the boycott of the 1939 Olympic games drove Bohr back into the arms of physics, leading to a 1922 Nobel prize. Unless part of his work was a time machine, that there just don't add up.
Also, we're pretty sure "Klogenfisten" is not a word.
Images of Galois, Newton, and Bohr from Wikimedia and are in the public domain.
All other weirdness (c) 2011-14, LabKitty Design.