General Knowledge

last update: 08 August 2020

Many trivia topics are specific, e.g.
Greek gods or US national parks, and each will find its place on a specific webpage (eventually…).

These 'General Knowledge' webpages are dedicated to those topics that don't easily fall into well defined subject domains. As examples, the first webpage is about
calendars and the second one is about the naming of time, including days and months, etc.

So the rest of this particular webpage is dedicated to "
setting the scene" with some typical 'General Knowledge' quiz questions with their answers:-

How many days currently separate the Gregorian Calendar and the 'old' or unrevised Julian Calendar? Answer - It's currently 13 days.

We know that the Earth has the form of an oblate spheroid, but what is the difference in diameter (in km) between the equatorial diameter and the polar diameter. Answer - The difference is often called the equatorial bulge, and it means that the equatorial diameter is 43 km larger than the polar diameter. Note: the difference between the equatorial and polar circumferences has been calculated to be 67.154 km.

We all know what a leap day is, but how exactly is it introduced every four years? Answer - Unlike past leap seconds which are introduced simultaneously world-wide, the leap day is introduced after February 28 23:59:59 local time.

What kind of calendar is used by the Jewish faith? Answer - They use the Hebrew calendar which is a so-called lunisolar calendar, where dates indicate both the lunar phase and the time of the solar year. The Hebrew lunar year is about eleven days shorter than the solar year and uses the 19-year Metonic cycle to bring it into line with the solar year. This means adding an intercalary month every two or three years, for a total of seven times per 19 year period. In the Hebrew calendar the years are counted from the creation of the world (Anno Mundi) so the year 2020 is AM 5780.

What do Christians commemorate on
Maundy Thursday? Answer - Maundy Thursday is part of the Christian celebration of Easter, and marks the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and the Last Supper.

How many different 'twilights' are there, and what are they called? Answer - Twilight occurs both in the morning (dawn) and evening (dusk), and in each case there are three different twilights, i.e. civil twilight (when the Sun is between 0° and 6° below the horizon), nautical twilight (between 6° and 12° below the horizon), and astronomical twilight (between 12° and 18° below the horizon). Above 0° on the horizon you have day and 18° below the horizon you have night. Dusk is usually associated with astronomical twilight, however dawn can replace twilight (i.e. civil dawn, nautical dawn, and astronomical dawn). These angles are so-called solar zenith angles, so between the horizon and the centre of the Sun's disc.

Which country has the most official public holidays?
Answer - The answer that often appears on the Web is India with 21 days. However Public Holidays in India mentions that they only have three national holidays, to which are added a multitude of regional and local festivals. Other answers on the Web include Cambodia with 28 days, although Public Holidays in Cambodia only lists a possible 22 days. Sri Lanka is mentioned on the Web as having 25 holidays, but Public Holidays in Sri Lanka lists 26 days.

Which country has the least number of official public holidays?
Answer - The answer that often appears on the Web is Mexico with 6 days. However Public Holidays in Mexico mentions 7 statutory public holidays, and additional civil holidays and festivals. You also often see on the Web that Norway only has 2 paid public holidays, but Public Holidays in Norway lists a total of 12 holidays. There is even the mention that the US has no compulsory paid holidays at all. There is also a mention for the United Kingdom, which, with 8 public holidays, has the lowest number of national public holidays in the G20.

Of the Moon and Earth, which has the most eccentric orbit? Answer - Orbital eccentricity is a dimensionless parameter that measures the difference between an eccentric orbit and a perfect circle. Earth has an eccentricity of 0.0167 and the Moon has an eccentricity of 0.0549. Venus and Neptune have even lower eccentricities, and Halley's Comet has one of the most eccentric orbits.

What is the importance of the month of
Ramadan? Answer - Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and interior reflection, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is considered mandatory as a religious duty commanded by Allah.

What is
Holi? Answer - Holi is a popular Hindu festival, also called the 'festival of spring' or the 'festival of colour', and it signifies the victory of good over evil.

What does
Passover celebrate in the Jewish faith, and when is it celebrated? Answer - Passover commemorates The Exodus (departure of the Israelites from Egypt), and is celebrated in spring, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan.

Ankara lies on the latitude 39° 55' 32" N, but which major Asian capital lies more or less on the same latitude? Answer - Beijing lies on 39° 54' 50" N (and has more or less the same latitude as Denver and Philadelphia)

The '
Four Noble Truths' is a basic belief of which religion? Answer - The Four Noble Truths were the first teaching of Buddha, and are some of the most important teachings in Buddhism.

What is
Yom Kippur? Answer - Yom Kippur is the 'Day of Atonement', the holiest day in Judaism. It is a holy day of fasting and prayer, and it falls in the autumn on the 10th day of Tishrei.

Saint Patrick's Day commemorates what moment in his life? Answer - the 17 March commemorates the death of Saint Patrick.

Montevideo lies on the latitude 34° 54' 11" S, but which major Australian city lies more or less on the same latitude? Answer - Adelaide lies on 34° 55' 43" S.

What is the name of the great Muslim pilgrimage to
Mecca, and when does it occur? Answer - The Hajj occurs between the eighth and thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last lunar month on the Islamic calendar.

In the
Northern Hemisphere which season is the shortest and why? Answer - The winter season is the shortest (December solstice to March equinox). The reason is that in early January the Earth is at its perihelion, i.e. nearest to the Sun. So during the winter the Earth is actually moving slightly faster when nearest to the Sun (about 1 km/s faster on an average of 30.3 km/s), meaning that the winter season is the shortest. In fact winter in the Northern Hemisphere is usually nearly 5 days shorter than summer.

Which Christian event is celebrated on 2 February?
Answer - Candlemas, commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

What is a
gnomon? Answer - It's the part of a sundial that casts a shadow.

On what day do
Sikh's celebrate New Year, and what is it called? Answer - Vaisakhi, usually celebrated on the 13 or 14 April, is the Sikh New Year festival. It also celebrates the year 1699, when Sikhism was born as a collective faith.

Tehran lies on the latitude 35° 42' 55" N, but which major Asian capital lies more or less on the same latitude? Answer - Tokyo lies on 35° 39' 10" N.

What event originated as the ancient
Roman festival of Lupercalia? Answer - It is one of the most ancient Roman holidays, but its origins are obscure. However, it is often associated with Valentine's Day. It would appear that Lupercalia was also associated with dies Februatus, after an instrument of purification called februa, which gave us Februarius (February).

Chinese holiday celebrates the life of a famous Chinese scholar? Answer - The Dragon Boat Festival, which varies from year to year but is always held in May or June. It is said to commemorate the death of the poet Qu Yuan (ca. 340-278 BC).

When do Chinese celebrate the New Year?
Answer - The Chinese New Year usually falls between 21 January and 20 February, and is based upon the lunar calendar. The first day starts with the New Moon, and the celebrations finished with the Full Moon 15 days later.

Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with which festival? Answer - Ramadan is a month of daily fasting during dawn-to-sunset that cumulates in Eid al-Fitr. Fasting on Eid al-Fitr is forbidden, and there is an obligation to offer money to the poor and needy before performing a special prayer.

Guangzhou (formerly Canton) lies on the latitude 23° 07' 44" N, but which Caribbean capital lies more or less on the same latitude? Answer - Havana lies on 23° 06' 48" N.

What British event is named after a man who tried to blow up a government building?
Answer - Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) was a member of a group of English Catholics who were involved in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes was in charge of the gunpowder placed under the House of Lords, and was discovered in the early hours of the 5 November 1605. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but he fell from the scaffold and broke his neck.

What is the celebration called
Diwali? Answer - Diwali is the Hindu 'Festival of Lights', celebrated over 5 days sometime between mid-October and mid-November. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness (good over evil).

How many days after
Easter Sunday do Christians celebrate Pentecost? Answer - Between 'Resurrection Sunday' and the seventh Sunday after Easter Sunday there are 49 days. The holiday is also called 'Whitsun' and it commemorates the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

Is Xmas a recently introduced abbreviation?
Answer - No, as far back as 1100 AD 'Christianity' was spelt 'Xianity', because 𝛘 or Chi is the first letter of 'Christ' in Greek. And in 1551 'Xtemmas' was shorten to 'Xmas'.

What is the name of the
Jewish 'Festival of Light'? Answer - Hanukkah is usually celebrated sometime in December and lasts 7 days. The most well-known symbol of this celebration is the menorah, the seven-lamp candelabra (where one candle is lit every day).

Buddhists celebrate the birthdays of religious figures? Answer - Whilst Christianity is considered monotheistic, Buddhism is non-theistic and does not believe in a God or gods. Wikipedia lists Buddhist Holidays, and important moments in the Buddha's life are celebrated, including his birthday.

What is the significance of the
Islamic New Year? Answer - After Ramadan, the Islamic New Year is the second most important month in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic lunar year is 11 or 12 days shorter than the solar Gregorian year, and so the Islamic New Year does not occur on the same day as in the Gregorian calendar. The Islamic New Year starts on the first day of the month of Muharram, which varies from year to year, from late July to mid September. Muharram is one of the four sacred months where warfare is forbidden, and it is considered a month of remembrance and meditation. In Shia Islam they begin on the first night of Muharram to mourn the death of the grandson of Muhammad, Hussein ibn Ali (the period of mourning lasts 10 nights).

Who introduced the
Christmas tree? Answer - The tree was significant in both early civilisations and early mythologies, but what we have today originated during the Renaissance in early modern Germany. However, it would appear to have 'taken off' when Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to his new wife Queen Victoria.