Six Degrees of Celebration

The joys of a trivia chain

Fancy a game of the Six Degrees of Celebration? One of the most beautiful things about trivia, I think, is the way it works along tangents. One fact reminds you of another, which reminds you of another, and so on until within a few short steps you're on a completely different subject. That's why conversations with another trivialist are always such fun. One of you mentions, say, that Carlsberg Special Brew was invented for Winston Churchill ...

Six Degrees of Celebration

... which reminds the other person that Fanta was invented by the head of Coca Cola's operations in Germany when World War II prevented him obtaining the ingredients for Coke. Before you know it you're off on a trivia trail that will lead who knows where.

I like playing a self-invented game called the Six Degrees of Celebration. You start with a fact, and see where you've got by fact six. For instance:

1. The Doors took their name from the Aldous Huxley book The Doors of Perception.

2. Aldous Huxley died on the same day as John F Kennedy.

3. JFK's back trouble was so bad that some days he couldn't tie his own shoelaces.

4. The Liberal leader David Lloyd George never learned to tie his own shoelaces, as he always had a woman to do it for him.

5. The hitman hired by friends of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe to kill Norman Scott was so inept that at first he went to Dunstable instead of Barnstaple.

6. Westward Ho! in Devon is the only UK placename to contain an exclamation mark.

Fancy a go? Start with a piece of trivia, and see where your connections lead you. A free place on a walk of your choice to the best entry I receive by Friday 20th April at 5pm. You can either leave your entry as a comment below, or email me. Happy trivving!



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Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.