Dictionaries have defined the word “trivial” as unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential or minor but that does not apply to trivia itself. According to psychologist John Kounios Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the doctoral program in applied cognitive and brain sciences at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. “You get a rush or a neuro-reward signal of a dopamine burst from answering a trivial quiz question correctly,” he said going on to say that the benefits can also be similar to those of playing a video game. However, unlike gambling and even video games, Kounios says trivia is generally not a habit that’s a problem. Beyond that short-term benefit, collecting and deploying information can exercise the brain as we age, supporting healthy neurological function.
When it comes to trivia, there are also several potential health benefits.
Many people are quick to dismiss anything that they don’t know as “trivial”. However, they will usually perk up immediately when asked a trivia question to which they know the answer. There seems no answer to this apparent hypocrisy?
Importantly, it must be said that trivia should never be equated with intelligence. Knowing that Annie Proulx wrote thee Pulitzer Prize for her novel, “The Shipping News” does not necessarily mean that one is smarter than everyone else; it just means that one knows that Annie Proulx wrote “The Shipping News.” Thus, you shouldn’t feel stupid if you fail to know the answers to trivia questions; rather, you should take note of the correct responses and try to recall them the next time they come up in another situation.
Given the current state of affairs in the country, this may be more important than ever. The best way to deal with a potential post-truth, ‘fake news’ world is to engage in activities that promote the spread of information and knowledge. What activity besides trivia is better at doing just that?
In the light of this argument let me stimulate your minds by offering you three questions on trivia with suggested answers and the correct ones. All of which could lead to a special Medium article.
First Question: What is a “chron”?
If it helps at all I can tell you that it has little relationship with synchronicity, no association with anachronism and absolutely nothing to do with chronic pain.
The possible answers:
1. The term “Chron” will be familiar to most Texans as it is the familiar abbreviation of the Houston Chronicle. Unlike most things in Texas, it is not the biggest, heaviest or most valuable in the world but, as a newspaper, its Sunday distribution is only exceeded by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. It is owned by the Hearst Corporation and employs nearly two thousand people including approximately 300 journalists, editors and photographers. With its 1995 buy-out of long-time rival the Houston Post, the Chronicle became Houston’s newspaper of record.
2. Chron is the acronym of chromate of Neodymium, a chemical element with the symbol ND and atomic number of 60. It is a rare earth element of a silvery metallic appearance. Although classified as a rare earth element it is fairly common being no rarer that cobalt, copper or nickel. Neodymium alloy magnets are the strongest magnets so far known to man. This capability enhanced the performance of the large Hadron collider based at the CERN headquarters based on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva in Switzerland. The research scientists found that by lining the twin tubes with chromate of Neodymium they could significantly increase the speed of the colliding electron particles as well as sealing any microscopic fractures in the tubes. This eventually led to the confirmation of the Higgs boson which had been predicted for many years but never proved.
3. A chron is a geomagnetic reversal of the earth’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged. These are not to be confused with geographic north and south. The Earth’s magnetic field has alternated between periods of normal polarity, in which the predominant direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse polarity, in which it was the opposite. These periods are called ‘chrons’. There have been 183 reversals over the last 83 million years. The latest occurred 780,000 years ago, with widely varying estimates of how quickly it happened. Other sources estimate that the time that it takes for a reversal to complete is on average around 7000 years for the four most recent reversals. Although variable, the duration of a full reversal is typically between 2000 and 12000 years, which is one to two orders of magnitude less than the duration of magnetic chrons.
The correct answer:
Any Houston newsagent will give you a very strange look if you ask him for a Chron. However the facts about the Houston Chronicle are believed to be accurate.
They are clever fellows at CERN but they have never heard of ‘chron’ either, although neodymium and samarium cobalt magnets are used in their large hadron accelerators.
So it is the strange magnetic reversal that is the correct answer but don’t bother to alter your compasses it may be some time before the next event.
Second question : What is a gillaroo?
1. A small stream or river that, by joining a larger river changes its characteristics, is known in Australasia as a gillaroo. It may change the colour, acidity or even temperature of the larger river. A prime example of a gillaroo is the Tangarakau River in New Zealand which, when it joins the larger Whanganui River, turns the combined river a deep red colour.
2. In Australia a trainee sheep cowboy is known as a jackaroo. His female equivalent is, obviously, a gillaroo. As diversity spreads across the globe there has been an increasing number of these ‘lady cowboys’ over the past ten years.
3. It a variety of mainly bottom-feeding trout which eats primarily snails and is only proven to inhabit Lough Melvin in Ireland. To aid digestion of the shells of the snails it has a gizzard which helps to break up the harder materials. It has a bright, buttery golden colour in its flanks with bright crimson and vermilion spots.
The correct answer:
The gillaroo ‘river’ is complete claptrap and you nearly got the Australian cowgirl right but she is spelled “jillaroo”. Yes, the completely correct answer is the trout.
Third Question: Which monarch reigned for the shortest time?
1. John I, King of France and Navarre
2. Lady Jane Grey
3. Sweyn Forkbeard
4. Louis XIX of France
5. Crown Prince Luis Philipe, King of Portugal
The correct answer:
It is a close run thing but we can forget Sweyn, King of Denmark, who also ruled England in the 11th century, albeit for only five weeks, making the small town of Gainsborough in eastern England his capital.
Lady Jane Grey only made it for nine days before she lost her head in 1553 buteven that was four days longer than John I (15–20 November 1316), called the Posthumous, who was King of France and Navarre. He was the posthumous son and successor of Louis X for the five days he lived in 1316. He is the youngest person to be King of France, the only one to have borne that title from birth, and the only one to hold the title for his entire life. His reign is the shortest of any French king. Pretty impressive for somebody not out of their nappies (or diapers for any American readers). Although considered a king today, his status was not recognized until chroniclers and historians in later centuries began numbering King John II, thereby acknowledging John I’s brief reign.
We are therefore left with Louis-Antoine of France — the last “Dauphin” or heir apparent of his father, Charles X, who had abdicated in July 1830. Louis-Antoine of France ascended the French throne as King Louis XIX but, within 20 minutes, he also abdicated making him the joint shortest reigning monarch in history.
He probably shares this record with Crown Prince Luís Filipe, who on 1st February 1908 was returning with his family to Lisbon from Vila Vicosa, the home of the Dukes of Braganza when Alfredo Luis and Manuel Buica, two members of a revolutionary society called the Carbonara shot at all the royal family. They hit his father King Carlos I, Luís Filipe, and his younger brother Infante Manuel, Duke of Beja. Carlos I died immediately, while Luís Filipe lived for another twenty minutes. Manuel survived the attack, having only been shot in the arm, while the queen was unharmed. Had automatic ascension to the throne been the law, Luís Filipe would have been one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in history, with a reign of just twenty minutes.
Just three morsels of trivial knowledge but I hope you feel just a little bit better having something to drop into a conversation that has run embarrassingly dry.
Adrian Arnold is a retired veterinary surgeon and seeker of knowledge who lives with his wife of 57 year in Somerset in the West of England.