(Investigator 135, 2010 November)

The Book of General Ignorance (2006) by J Lloyd and J Mitchinson will help you cure your general ignorance. The front cover says "Everything you think you know is wrong."

The book considers 230 common items such a Quaker oats, tigers and pens, and asks a question about each that most people either can’t answer or get wrong.

For example "In what year did WWII end?" "How many moons does the earth have?" "How long can a chicken live without its head?"

WWII ended in 1990 with the reunification of Germany — prior to that the Cold War got in the way of a legal settlement. Earth has seven moons — six of them are Near Earth Asteroids that follow Earth in its orbit around the Sun. "Mike the headless wonder chicken" lived for 2 years and earned its owner $4500 per month in sideshows across the USA. It survived beheading because its jugular vein wasn’t cut.

The average length of answers to questions is about one page. Here are a few more:

"What does a St. Bernard carry around its neck?" No, not a brandy barrel — giving brandy to someone with hypothermia would be a mistake.
"How many states of matter are there?" The common answer "Solid, liquid and gas" is 20% correct since matter has at least 15 states!
"What did feminists do with their bras?" The short answer is "No, they didn’t." Get the book to read the full answer.

The book includes some topics covered in Investigator.

Page 139, for example, says that snakes "have acute hearing…via an inner ear", page 5 answers "What is the biggest thing a blue whale can swallow?", and page 230 explains where Santa Claus comes from.