(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘quiz show

“An investment in knowledge almost always pays the best interest”*…

 

Agnes Scott

The Agnes Scott GE College Bowl team: Katherine Bell, Karen Gearreald, Malinda Snow, and Betty Butler

 

America’s anti-intellectualism can be traced through the decline in popularity of the American quiz show. Most viewers think of Jeopardy! as the peak of quizzing aspirations. But Jeopardy!, while challenging, is still geared toward the viewer, feeding the audience accessible clues and manageable categories.

Take a look at Britain’s University Challenge in comparison. The program, whose format is based on the midcentury GE College Bowl, is aggressively uncharismatic. The quiz itself is notoriously difficult, tasking contestants with identifying obscure Indian cities, deep-dive classical compositions, and even failed American vice presidential hopefuls. University Challenge is still wildly popular, anchoring a Sunday evening slot on BBC. While the college quiz bowl continues to exist in the U.S., American television stopped broadcasting the event in 1970.

It’s been said over the years that trivia skews male. The assumption is not that women are less intelligent; the assumption is that for various reasons—structural discrimination, biology, increased pressure—women aren’t as able to compete. But GE College Bowl knocked that assumption on its ass. Women’s colleges won time and again on the decadelong program, handily beating elite institutions.

Barnard College beat Notre Dame and the University of Southern California in 1959 before going on a five-game winning streak in the 1967–68 season. Bryn Mawr had its own four-game tear in ’67. Wellesley won four consecutive games in ’70. And Mount Holyoke won twice in ’66 before losing to Princeton.

And then, of course, there’s the Agnes Scott game, now legendary among quiz fans for its high stakes, for the wide gap in expectations for the two teams, and for a killer last-second comeback…

The story of the match-up between Agnes Scott and Princeton on the GE College Bowl in 1966: “The Greatest Upset in Quiz Show History.”

* Benjamin Franklin

###

As we celebrate cerebral celerity, we might send healing birthday greetings to Susan LaFlesche Picotte; she was born on this date in 1865.  A doctor and reformer in the late 19th century, she is widely acknowledged as the first Native American to earn a medical degree.  Beyond her medical practice, she campaigned for public health and for the formal, legal allotment of land to members of the Omaha tribe.

Doctor.susan.la.flesche.picotte source

 

Shine on…

click on the image above, or here, for larger version (well worth doing)

Amateur astronomer Alan Friedman captured this photo of the surface of the sun.  As Discover‘s Bad Astronomy reports:

The scene-stealer is that detached prominence [that appears to be a cloud] off to the left. That’s the leftover material ejected from the Sun by an erupting sunspot (you can see other sunspots in the picture as well). The gas is ionized — a plasma — and so it’s affected by magnetic fields. The material follows the magnetic field of the Sun in the explosion, lifting it off the surface and into space. Sometimes it falls back, and sometimes it leaves the Sun entirely. In this case, Alan caught some of the material at what looks like the top of its trajectory.

The beauty of this picture belies its violence and sheer magnitude: the mass of material in a prominence can easily top 10 billion tons! As for size, see that dark elongated sunspot near the base of the prominence, just to the right of the bigger, speckly one? That spot is roughly twice the size of the Earth.

We’ve come a long way since the discovery of sun spots in 1611… but that too was the work of a gifted and dedicated amateur.

As we raise our SPFs, we might recall that on this date in 1957, a star of a different sort fell when Charles van Doren’s winning streak on the television game show Twenty One came to an end.  Van Doren was a young Columbia professor at the time, the scion of a storied family: son of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and literary critic/teacher Mark Van Doren and novelist and writer Dorothy Van Doren, and nephew of critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Carl Van Doren.  This pedigree, along with an academic resume that included St. Johns, Cambridge, and Columbia and advanced degrees in both astrophysics and English, made him a natural for the broad general knowledge challenge of the quiz show.

And indeed, in January of 1957, Van Doren started a winning run that ultimately earned him more than $129,000 (more than $1 million in 2009 dollars) and made him famous (he graced the the cover of Time on February 11, 1957). His reign ended when he lost to Vivienne Nearing (a lawyer whose husband Van Doren had previously beaten).

Subsequently, allegations were made that Van Doren has cheated; and in 1959, he testified before a House investigatory committee that he had been given questions and answers in advance of the show:

I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception… I asked (co-producer Albert Freedman) to let me go on (Twenty One) honestly, without receiving help. He said that was impossible. He told me that I would not have a chance to defeat Stempel [the long-running champ before Van Doren knocked him off] because he was too knowledgeable. He also told me that the show was merely entertainment and that giving help to quiz contests was a common practice and merely a part of show business. This of course was not true, but perhaps I wanted to believe him. He also stressed the fact that by appearing on a nationally televised program I would be doing a great service to the intellectual life, to teachers and to education in general, by increasing public respect for the work of the mind through my performances. In fact, I think I have done a disservice to all of them. I deeply regret this, since I believe nothing is of more vital importance to our civilization than education.

Vivienne Nearing, host Jack Barry, and Charles Van Doren (source)

 

%d bloggers like this: