Our Most Difficult Knowledge Quiz


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Pixabay / geralt

About This Quiz

Why do we humans love to test our knowledge so much? Since time immemorial, stories have been told of heroes who had to solve riddles to win wealth or glory  -- or, sometimes, just to survive. For an example, we offer the Sphinx, a mythical creature that posed difficult questions to humans, and ate them if they couldn't answer properly. Or consider Samson, in the Bible. He challenged the Philistines with the riddle about the honey in the lion ("out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.") Unfortunately for Samson, the Philistines had outside help -- his treacherous wife gave them the answer. 

Fast forward to the present day, when prime-time quiz shows are immensely popular. Shows like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "The Weakest Link" were absolute crazes back in the 2000s, and Ken Jennings became a celebrity for racking up the longest-ever winning streak on "Jeopardy!" 

Maybe you aspire to one day be a quiz-show contestant. Or perhaps you're happy just to stay at home and yell answers at the screen. Whichever's the case, we've got a quiz for you. It'll test you on a little bit of everything: biology, geology, literature, pop culture and more. Put on your thinking cap -- you'll need it!

What color do about 75 percent of national flags contain?

Red is associated with Communist nations of past and present -- notably, the USSR and China. However, this is a fairly recent development -- red has long been a favored color in flags for countries of all political persuasions.


From 1919 to 1933, the Weimar Republic was the government of what nation?

The Weimar Republic was the government that preceded Adolf Hitler's. It was named for the city were its first constitutional convention was held.


What part of a sailboat does the tiller move?

The rudder is the strong underwater blade that makes the boat "yaw" in the water, or turn left or right without leaning. Fun fact: Swimming dogs, like Labradors, use their tails as a rudder!


What is the wearing away of rock by wind, water or gravity called?

If you're outdoorsy, you've probably explored caves made by wind erosion. This is one of the more common terms from geology.


Caravaggio shared a first name with what other famous artist?

The Sistine Chapel painter's full name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. It's no wonder we just call him "Michelangelo." Meanwhile, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is only known by "Caravaggio."


Vienna is the capital of what country?

Classical music lovers flock to Vienna to see the city where Mozart, Lizst, Beethoven, Strauss and more lived and worked. Vienna is also the city that gave the world Sigmund Freud (though not everyone would thank the Austrian capital for that!)


Seismology is the study of what?

You probably knew this if you live in a coastal region, where earthquakes are common. However, inland regions aren't immune from seismic activity, at least not entirely.


Which of these was the first actor to be paid $1 million for a role, for "Bridge on the River Kwai"?

Holden holds this distinction. If you knew this, you're likely to also know that Elizabeth Taylor was the first woman to be paid the same amount, for "Cleopatra."


Which of these is NOT one of the Earth's layers?

Geologists roughly divide the Earth into core, mantle and crust (going from center to exterior). "Terrestria" isn't part of that system, though we think it'd make a good name for a country in a fantasy paperback.


What body of water did the Romans call "mare nostrum"?

"Mare nostrum" means "our sea," and reflects the dominance that ancient Rome had all through the lands surrounding it. It's a bit ironic, though, because Rome had a great army, but a terrible navy -- their history is full of losses in sea battles.


Which of these is the hardest mineral on Earth?

Despite the Sia song, titanium is not the hardest metal on the planet. Fun fact: Diamonds became popular for engagement rings because they were hard enough to stand up to daily wear, even during housework. It doesn't have anything to do with their value -- diamond is actually rather common.


A "crepuscular" animal becomes active at what time?

This is a complicated word for a simple thing. While many animals are classified as "diurnal" or "nocturnal," a "crepuscular" animal comes out to hunt or graze at twilight.


Which fantasy hero might you find in Diagon Alley?

Diagon Alley is a shopping district in the Harry Potter novels. It's where Hogwarts students buy their books and supplies.


Which of these authors created Cthulhu and Yog-Soggoth?

Lovecraft created a grand, terrifying "mythos" involving gods called "the Old Ones," which included Cthulhu and Yog-Soggoth. Horror writers set stories in his fantasy world to this day.


Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie co-created which operating system?

UNIX came out of Bell Labs in the 1970s. Fun fact: The Mac operating system is actually UNIX-based.


Which of these authors wrote "The Red Badge of Courage"?

Crane was one of America's first practitioners of the style called naturalism. Though Crane had no military experience, he wrote a grippingly detailed story about the Civil War.


Whom did Robert E. Lee surrender to at Appomattox?

There's an old joke that says that Lee never meant to surrender. He was passing the Appomattox Court House and went in to use the bathroom. Inside, he saw an unkempt bearded man, assumed he was the janitor, and gave him his sword to hold. (This joke works better if you know that Ulysses Grant was pretty far from a sharp dresser.)


The femoral artery is named for a bone in what part of the body?

The femoral artery is named for the femur, which is commonly called the thigh bone. It's good that the femoral artery is deep inside the leg, and well-protected -- when breached, this large-bore artery can bleed out quite rapidly.


Which of these Golden Age actresses was also an inventor?

Fun fact: Hedy Lamarr was the inspiration for a villain on "Agent Carter." The character, Whitney Frost, was a Hollywood ingenue whose image belied her formidable brain and scientific skills.


Which of these is NOT a taxonomic classification?

These are all fields of study. Though each of them involves animals, none are classifications. Those would involve an animal's kingdom, or phylum, or ... well, you get the point.


Viking I and II were spacecraft which NASA sent to ______.

At the present time, the InSight lander is on Mars. But the Viking crafts of the 1970s paved the way.


Who wrote the 1976 Best Picture winner, "Rocky"?

Yup, Stallone was a struggling actor who decided he'd write the ideal role for himself. Then he had to fight to ensure the part wasn't given away to a big-name actor.


Whom did Bill Clinton run against in the 1996 presidential election?

Bob Dole was the Republican senator from Kansas. An older candidate, he was hindered by suggestions that he was too old to effectively lead America, compared to the younger Clinton.


What religion gave us the concept of Nirvana?

Nirvana is the idea of ultimate non-attachment, therefore peace, that a good Buddhist will achieve after death. If you haven't heard about the complicated journey that is the Buddhist afterlife, Google it -- it's remarkably complex and mythic.


What action star had a bit role as a organ player at a wedding chapel in "Kill Bill: Vol.2"?

Director Quention Tarantino and Jackson -- who, we know, is more than just an action star -- evidently have a great working relationship. Jackson has appeared in several Tarantino films, but the role in "Kill Bill" was really just a cameo.


Which of these medical fields deals with blood?

Hematologists study and treat blood cancers like leukemia and clotting disorders. The latter includes hemophilia and Von Willebrand disease.


Which of these is the last book of the Christian bible?

The full name is "The Revelation to St. John" (or "the apostle John"). Highly allegorical, it purports to tell the story of the coming end of the world.


"Ropa vieja" is a stewed beef-and-tomato dish that is the pride of which national cuisine?

We know that "stewed beef and tomato" doesn't sound like an epicurean delight. But trust us -- you've gotta try it to really appreciate it!


Kurt Vonnegut's most famous novel was called "Slaughterhouse _____."

"Slaughterhouse Five" is a story about war, with a strong anti-war message. A central event in it is the firebombing of Dresden in World War II.


Which world religion has 613 commandments?

These are also called the "613 mitzvot," with the latter word meaning good or righteous deeds. They are divided in several ways, including "positive" and "negative" commandments, commandments for men and for women, and so on.


What was Lot's wife turned into, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt in the Genesis story about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Her sin? Turning back to look behind her, which God had forbidden.


San Quentin, California, is known to the world for what reason?

San Quentin is a very small town north of San Francisco. It really only serves as a bedroom community for prison staff, some of whom work on "the Q's" death row.


In which game would you "castle kingside" or "castle queenside"?

"Castling" is an unusual move in which you can move your king more than one space, and "jump" over the castle (aka rook) that will now be on the king's flank. It's a protective maneuver done early in the game.


Atropos, Lachesis and Clotho are the Three _____ of Greek mythology.

You might have been helped here if you've read Piers Anthony's "Incarnations of Immortality" series, in which the Fates appear prominently. For those of you who haven't read it, here's the gen. Clotho, the youngest of the fates, spins the thread of a life; Lachesis, middle-aged, measures it out; and Atropos cuts it, creating death.


Who was judged at the Nuremberg Trials?

At the Nuremberg trials, former Nazis were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Notably absent was Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, all of whom had committed suicide as combat came to an end.


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