If You Pass This Difficult General Knowledge Quiz, You Deserve a PhD!


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: PetarChernaev/E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

Do you know it all? Or do you just think that you do?

Knowing everything is hard work. Five hundred years ago you were considered a total brainbox if you could read and write. Two hundred years ago you were probably some sort of top-notch intellectual if you had more than 20 books in your house. A hundred years ago you were ahead of the curve if you finished high school. You could also get credit for knowing an awful lot of nonsense about the shape of the world, how the human body works, and what's really in space. Until the post-war period, the low-hanging fruit of human knowledge had not all been plucked and fact-checking was either slow or impossible. Being smart - or at least, seeming smart - was a doddle.

These days, it's very hard to actually be knowledgeable about everything. Humanity simply knows too much for any one person to know it all, and even the most adept Googlers cannot always extract good information form the internet with anything like the speed that an expert in a given field will summon up the trenchant fact or relevant analysis. We double our knowledge of the world every thirteen months or so, meaning you can't keep up, either - this is called the Knowledge Doubling Curve and it was named by Buckminster Fuller in 1982.

So, you can't be a know-it-ALL any more. But you can still know an awful lot more than the average person. Let's see if you do!

What is the most common wildcat in North America?

Bobcats are very shy so you don't see them often. This is why it is easy to forget that they are actually very numerous.


What is measured in Ohms?

Ohms measure how much a wire likes or dislikes having power put through it. If there are a lot of Ohms then you lose energy as heat, and that means the wire is no good for circuits.


How long does it take light to get to Earth from the sun?

You could make nearly two soft-boiled eggs in the time it takes light to get from the sun to Earth. This means that if the sun just turned off one day, we wouldn't know anything had happened for eight minutes. That means you could make one soft-boiled egg and eat it before realizing the second egg is the last egg you're ever going to enjoy.


Which has a bigger land area: Russia or Pluto?

Pluto may only be a dwarf planet these days but it's still slightly bigger than Russia, clocking in at just over 17.6m square kilometers. Russia is "only" just over 17m square kilometers, meaning it is a little smaller, but not by much.


How can still you make out the East/West divide in Berlin from space?

The bulbs are different so the two halves of the city look a little different from space. People never got out of the habit of using the types of bulbs they liked.


When was the first pizza delivery?

The first pizza delivery went to the Queen of Italy, very fittingly. She ordered it in 1889. So when you order pizza, technically you are living like a queen!


What is special about the bones of birds?

Bird bones are hollow. This is why birds are light enough to fly. It's also why you should not feed your dog chicken bones, because they splinter and then can scratch up your dog's throat and cause injury or even death.


What letter was actually the origin of the "ye" in "Ye Olde Tea Shoppe"?

Thorn is an old letter that is pronounced "th", but it looks like a modern "Y". That's why it's not really "Ye Olde Tea Shoppe", it's just "THE Olde Tea Shoppe"!


Which of the below is NOT an Indo-European language?

Japan is not part of the Indo-European language family, as it is too far east. There are languages in the group that are supposedly connected, though speaking Celtic won't help you very much if you plan to learn Persian!


How deep is the deepest point in the ocean, in miles?

The Marianas Trench is nearly seven miles deep! If you put a human down there without the right suit, their head will pop like a melon!


Which of the below is NOT part of your brain?

The meninges is very important to the brain, being a sort of membranous bag that encircles it. It can surely injure the brain if you get meningitis, as much as it protects it when it's healthy. Dendrites, ganglions, and myelin are all parts of brain cells or brain cell insulation.


Which of the below is NOT an arthropod?

Earthworms are annelids. Arthropods have jointed hard exoskeletons, meaning they are not squishy, unlike annelids which include molluscs. Most of the really scary creepy-crawlies are arthropods.


Why do coral reefs get bleached more these days?

Coral reefs are one of the more fragile systems when it comes to our world. They are the canary in the coalmine of global warming, as higher temperatures, higher acidity (due to higher carbon dioxide in the air dissolving into the water and making it a little acidic), and higher particulate pollution (from burning fossil fuels like coal) will all kill them.


Where do you use a boiling vessel to make tea?

It's crazy but it's true! British armies were being delayed because they had to stop and get out of their tanks to have tea, so they invented a special kettle that you can use to brew tea without stopping your tank.


How many notes are on a standard Western piano keyboard?

There are 88 keys, which cover just over seven octaves. An octave actually has 12 notes if you count the black keys, but eight if you count the white only.


Who wrote the music from "The Sound of Music"?

Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote many of your favorite musicals! Rodgers previously worked with Lorenz Hart, but most of his biggest successes came with Hammerstein.


Which movie director has the distinction of directing the top two most successful movies of all time (without adjusting for inflation)?

Jim Cameron is the director of both Titanic and Avatar, which are the two top-grossing movies of all time. If you adjust for inflation, however, the top-grossing movie is still Gone With the Wind.


What is the longest-running TV show in American history that is still in production?

General Hospital debuted April 1, 1963 and has been going strong ever since. It has had more than 10,000 episodes!


What does body mass index measure?

BMI is a deeply flawed system, as you can have a very "good" one and still be super unhealthy, and vice versa. However, it's one metric that, taken alongside many others, can be a useful guide for a person seeking to improve their health.


How many years ago were horses domesticated?

Horses were domesticated in modern Kazakhstan and Russia, on the steppes. They then spread throughout Europe and Asia.


Which of these is NOT a key component in an air conditioning unit?

AC works by making refrigerant substances turn between gas and liquid very quickly. As liquid, they absorb heat, and as gas they expel it. So they take up heat from inside the house and expel it outside.


How long can a crocodile hold its breath?

You could watch a movie in the time it would take a cocodile to need to surface. Even then it might only put its snout above the water, so you could miss it. That's how it hides from its prey.


What is the world record for running a mile?

The record is held by a Moroccan runner, Hicham El Guerrouj. The first person to break the four-minute mile on the record is Roger Bannister in 1954.


Where was the dish lasagne invented?

Naples is the home of the lasagne. It goes back to 14th century cookbooks that explain how to make a dish of alternating meat and pasta layers.


Which of these does a jellyfish NOT have?

Jellyfish don't have brains, hearts or bones. They have a nervous system that reflexively reacts to things around them, meaning they don't technically know that they've stung you, nor can they feel bad about it.


How fast do hummingbirds beat their wings, in beats per second?

While some hummingbirds have been recorded beating their wings faster than this, most beat around 10-15 beats a second. That's what makes the classic humming sound; it's not coming from their mouths!


What is the collective noun for gorillas?

You call a group of gorillas a band or a troop. It is also correct to call them a "whoop," which naturalists actually started using as a joke after Rowan Atkinson's popular "Gerald the Gorilla" sketch on his first big hit show, "Not the Nine O'Clock News."


What is the highest wave ever surfed?

The official record belongs to Rodrigo Koxa, a Brazilian surfer, who surfed a monster wave over 80 feet high! His record may have been broken in the summer of 2018, as video has surfaced of a man surfing a wave that could be a little taller still.


What covers the body of a seahorse?

Seahorses are unusual as they do have have scales. Instead they have bony plates that are not like cartilage or scales.


How many moons does Jupiter have?

Jupiter has so, so many moons - definitely dozens. The latest official count is 79, but there may well be more. Some are so big they are larger than some planets!


What is the colloquial term for "knismesis"?

Ticklishness is the more common term for knismesis, which means getting wriggly when touched very lightly. It is believed to have evolved as a way to automatically shake off creepy-crawlies without having to think. Many animals are ticklish, such as horses, dogs, and of course, humans!


What is the name for the sense of where your body is in space?

Proprioception is the sense that, for example, I know where my hand is when I can't see it because it is behind my back. It's why you can shut your eyes and still successfully clap your hands. It's a key missing piece for prosthetics, which have not historically had it - though modern versions are starting to, which is radically improving the lives of amputees!


What kind of current do you get when you plug into the mains in the US?

Alternating current is more common in the mains. This is current that changes direction repeatedly. Using it makes it easier to transmit a lot of power at high voltage.


What percentage of a cat's bones are in the tail?

Cats have a lot of bones in their tails considering how light they are relative to the rest of their bodies. They have a total of 245 bones.


Which performer won the highest number of Oscars for performance in Academy history?

You'd think it would be Streep, but she is still one short of Hepburn's record. Katharine Hepburn has an astonishing four Best Actress Oscars. Amazingly, Cate Blanchett once won Best Supporting Actress for playing Hepburn, making her the only person ever to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winner.


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