Listen to a segment of BBC's Today where John Farndon is interviewed about his book Do you think you are clever? Complete the blanks in the sentences below with up to THREE WORDS. 0 is an example.
One way to know how clever you are would be answering some of questions that are asked in Oxford or Cambridge entrance exams.
1 An example of a serious question is whether it is more important to focus on poverty at ____________ .
2 To weigh your own head, you find the volume of your body by immersing it ____________ , first without your head, then with it.
3 Students are completely shocked by ____________ and find them easier to remember.
4 These questions don’t normally have right or wrong answers but simply want to provoke you ____________ a bit.
5 The writer, John Farndon, thinks that in ____________ people would be driven into panic by some of these questions.
6 The reporter says that adults don’t get asked many questions like these, that it is ____________ where you get a lot of these questions.
7 Another example questions the reporter gives at the end are, If you’re not in California, how do you know it exists? Why are big fierce ____________? Are there too many people in the world?
8 When later in life you have young children and you get asked questions, the answer is always ____________.
Now, do you think you’re clever? One test would be how successful you are at answering some of the daft questions that are asked in Oxford or Cambridge entrance exams. John Farndon has compiled a book called Do You Think You’re Clever? which simply takes a bunch of those questions and he tries to answer them. He’s with us now. Good morning.
Let’s have some examples. There are the sort of deep ones like does a snail have a consciousness? There are the serious ones like is it more important to focus on poverty at home or poverty abroad? And there are the really interesting taxing ones like how would you weigh your own head? John Farndon, how would you weigh your own head?
Well that’s just a tricky one, it’s not one of those ones that you’re going to be asked in a scientific exam very often. Weighing it on a scale is not very practical because there’s a lot of muscle contraction, you can’t chop your head off and weigh it either, so the way round that is to use the volume, you find the volume of your body, you immerse your body in a bath to find out the volume of your body without your head and with it, and then essentially you weigh your whole body, you know what the proportion of your head is, and you can work it out from that.
Got it, it’s the use of water, very clever. These are real questions, are they? Because there are some apparently quite silly ones, aren’t there?
Yes, there are indeed, yes they are. Basically in fact quite often the silliest ones are the ones that have been memorable. They’ve all been compiled, they were compiled by the publisher and various other things, because the students who’ve been asked these questions are completely shocked and so they remember them, they report them and say, God did you remember the question I was asked, I was asked that really silly, what happens when you drop an ant?
So normally there aren’t right or wrong answers to a lot of these. [No.] They’re kind of provoking you to think a bit.
That may be the fascination of why a book like this is such a great book. You can hardly stop yourself wanting to just see the next question?
Absolutely, I think that’s one of the interesting things. I don’t think in an interview situation you… most of us would be driven into sheer panic by some of these questions, but out of that context it’s great, because what they do is they make you think along different lines, the more bizarre the question, the more thought-provoking it is.
And actually I suppose adults don’t do questions that often, do they? [No.] I mean basically you get a lot of questions at school, don’t you? And then you grow up and...
Absolutely. I mean even at school you stop thinking, but the nice thing is that actually we don’t, it’s so easy just to give a stock response to answer, and it’s the easy way out, so it’s actually very nice just to kind of relax and think, oh I can come up with an answer like this.
If you’re not in California, how do you know it exists? Why are big fierce animals so rare? Are there too many people in the world? Full of things. You’re appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival talking about it?
John Farndon, thank you very much. Thank you very much.
You do get asked questions later in life at one stage, and that is when you have young children, and the answer is always ask your mother.
1 home or abroad
2 in a bath
3 silly questions
4 to think
5 an interview (situation)
6 at school
7 animals so rare
8 ask your mother