The Number Game

Numbers — you may love them, you may dislike them, but there’s certainly no getting away from them!

Published: 27th October 2014 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2014 06:04 AM   |  A+A-


1. Here are some years from world history that are associated with important events. Can you guess the events?

a. 1066

b. 1776

c. 1857

d. 1914

e. 1917

f. 1945

2. Numbers also figure in titles of books. Can you identify the books based on these brief clues?

a. A collection of novellas by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. It contains 100 tales told by a group of 10 young people sheltering in a secluded villa just outside Florence to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city.

b. Written in 1890, this classic Conan Doyle story featuring Sherlock Holmes tells a complex tale involving service in East India Company of India, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a stolen treasure and a secret pact among four convicts and two corrupt prison guards.

c. The title of this Buddhist three-volume collection is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘three baskets’. The books describe Buddha’s sermons, their philosophical interpretation and the monastic way of life.

d. This is a 1961 classic by Joseph Heller. The title stands for a US military rule: If one is crazy, one can be discharged from the army. But one has to apply for the discharge and applying demonstrates that one is not crazy. As a result, one will not be discharged. The book’s title has entered the English language, referring to unsolvable logic puzzles.

e. This classic by George Orwell is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation, and “ruled” by Big Brother. It was originally titled 1948, the year of its publication.

f. An all-time favourite by Alexandre Dumas serialised in 1844 recounting the adventures of D’Artagnan and his friends Athos, Pothos and Aramis who live by the motto ‘all for one and one for all!’

3. Numbers are all over the place in science.

a. Originating during the Jurassic period, these microorganisms are a major group of algae and are among the most common types of phytoplankton. They get their name from the fact that the cells are contained

in a cell wall that shows bilateral symmetry.

b. 6.0221 x 1023 – This famous number in chemistry and physics was described by French physicist Jean Perrin (Nobel Prize for physics, 1926), who named it in honour of a 19th century Italian scientist who first proposed it. It is the number of particles found in one mole of a substance (or the number of atoms in exactly 12 grams of carbon-12).

c. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.” This is one of many parodies of which famous law?

d. This equation gets its name from the Latin word for ‘square’. It played a pivotal part in the whole of human civilisation as we know it. One of its early uses was by the Babylonian civilisation to determine how much crop could be grown on a piece of land in order to pay taxes!

e. Melvil Dewey, an American librarian and a founding member of the American Library Association, is best known for the system that he created to index books in libraries that is followed to this day. What is it called?

f. The Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that ‘299,792,458 metres per second’ was independent of direction. This startling result eventually led to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the iconic intellectual achievement of the 20th century and perhaps of all time.  What does this number denote?

4. Here are six sporty ‘numerical’ questions.

a. By what collective term were the Indian bowling greats —  Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi, famously known? Between them, they played 231 Test matches, taking 853 wickets.

b. Graham Hill is the only driver to have completed the feat of winning the Indianapolis 500, the 24-hour Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. What are these motorsport events collectively known as?

c. In golf this term describes the rare occurrence (also known as an ‘ace’ in American English) when a player hits the ball directly from the tee into the cup with one shot.

d. Nadia Comaneci became the first female gymnast to score a perfect 10 in an Olympic event in the 1976 Montreal Games. The scoreboard however showed 1.00 confusing the crowd. Why was it displayed thus?

e. What connects Pele, Michel Platini, Diego Maradona, Roberto Baggio and Zinedine Zidane, among many others?

f. In the sport of athletics, what act was first achieved on May 6, 1954 by Roger Bannister in 3:59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road Track at Oxford? This barrier has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners.


1. (a) 1066 – The Norman conquest of England that transformed that country. (b) 1776 – The American War of Independence when Britain lost one of her key colonies. (c) 1857 – Who hasn’t heard of the first war of Indian Independence, also known as Sepoy Mutiny? (d) 1914 – The start of the terrible World War I that lasted four years. This year is the centenary of that event. (e) 1917 – The October Revolution that saw the overthrowing of the tsar of Russia and the beginning of communism in the USSR. (f) 1945 – The end of World War II after atom bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushering in the atomic age.

2. (a) The Decameron (b) The Sign of Four (c) Tripitaka (d) Catch-22 (e) Nineteen Eighty-Four (f) The Three Musketeers

3. (a) Diatoms (b) Avogadro Number (or Constant) (c) Newton’s Third Law of Motion (d) Quadratic equation, (e) Dewey-Decimal System (f) Speed of light.

4. (a) Spin Quartet (b) Triple Crown (c) Hole-in-one (d) The scoreboard could display only three digits and could not show 10.00 (e) Number 10 jersey (f) Running the mile under four minutes.

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