The Richard Feynman Learning Method

How to Learn Anything Quickly and Commit it to Memory

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Richard Feynman, physicist
Richard Feynman, physicist
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Richard Phillips Feynman, ForMemRS (Foreign Member of the Royal Society), was an American theoretical physicist who was well known for his classic work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, and particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. For the random layman, he was as well known as Einstein and Hawking. He was a very colorful fellow who had a penchant for his logic and thinking out of the box. If all that isn’t enough, he also came up with his signature learning method, which we will look at here.

The Problem With Traditional Learning Methods

Most people learn by rote, meaning we simply repeat something enough times to memorize it. Next, we are tested on it. The problem is that if we don’t use it, we lose it. It simply doesn’t remain in our memory. Another way is to associate a fact with something else, like using mnemonics to remember someone’s name. So, what’s missing here? These traditional learning methods don’t address understanding a subject.

This is at the core of Feynman’s method. Don’t be that guy that simply spouts jargon. When you really learn something, internalize it, you’ll have acquired a tool that you can use for the remainder of your life. The more you really know, the fewer surprises you will encounter, because most new things will connect to something you already understand.



Feynman’s Learning Technique: 4 Easy Steps

The beauty of this method is its simplicity. Well, that, and the logic of it. You’ll wonder why nobody nailed this sooner. How much can we really commit to memory? Like the limit of human sports endurance, we don’t really know. Someone always moves the goal post.

Step 1. Define your topic and conceptualize teaching it to a child. Start with the topic you want to absorb. Write it down. Then write down everything you know about it, noting any gaps in your knowledge as you imagine explaining to a child, with, say, a sixth grade education. This will ensure that you get it in simple terms.

Step 2. Fill in the gaps in your understanding. If you don’t have gaps after explaining things to your imaginary friend, you’re not doing it right. You are running the risk of being the jargon and trendy catchword phrases-spouting guy. Check other sources. Investigate definitions. Keep it up until you can explain everything in basic terms. Continue to write it down and keep it simple. If you need nerdy terms to explain what you know, you are lacking in flexibility. When someone questions your understanding, you can only regurgitate what it is that you’ve already said.



Step 3. Compile all your notes and simplify them. Now that you’ve got a firm grasp on all the finer points of your topic, re-write them into a single document that you can file away. This isn’t just make-work; this step will aid in understanding and retention. A lot of people find it helpful to keep a permanent binder of all researched topics, ready to review at any time.

Step 4. Put your new expertise to the test. You’ve done the work; it’s time to spread your wings. Find a willing friend and communicate your knowledge of your topic. Encourage questions. Not only will this solidify your knowledge, it will most likely generate further topics of interest.

How Feynman Saw In-Depth Knowledge

Feynman didn’t just wonder about things; he wanted to know what made them tick. Unlike many scientists, he did not embrace jargon-spewing. He put it this way:

“See that bird? It’s a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it’s called a halzenfugel, and in Chinese they call it a chung ling, and even if you know all those names for it, you still know nothing about the bird. You only know something about people: what they call the bird. Now that thrush sings, and teaches its young to fly, and flies so many miles away during the summer across the country, and nobody knows how it finds its way.”

Richard Feynman

That’s how Feynman saw knowledge. Life is not just an encyclopedia. To really understand something and have that knowledge in usable terms, it is necessary to break it down in simple terms that can be used in real-life ways. He gave us that with the Richard Feynman learning method.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A List of Random Trivia Facts

Increase Your Brain Content and be the Life of the Party

by Kelly R. Smith

Do you know your trivia?
Do you know your trivia?
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This trivia list was updated on 01/06/21.

Do you like trivia? I love it. My wife (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) hates it; too pedestrian, and should I point out, trivial? (See what I did there?) My mother was the trivia boss; nobody could whip her at the game of Trivial Pursuit. In this post I list some of the tidbits that I find interesting as I stumble across them them. I’ll be adding them as I discover them so come back often. You might also enjoy New Years Eve trivia!

Regarding Food & Beverage

Q. Where did Doritos come from anyway?

A. Shortly after Disneyland opened in 1955, the founder of Frito-Lay opened “Casa de Fritos,” a Mexican-style restaurant in Disneyland’s Frontierland. When a vendor noticed the cooks dumping stale tortillas in the trash, he gave the kitchen a little tip: fry them, season them, and sell them as chips. Of course, they were a big hit, and the iconic snack was unofficially born. The VP of Frito-Lay fell in love with the repurposed snack and christened them “Doritos”. The chips proved to be so popular, they were rolled out nationwide in 1966.

Q. Where was Russian dressing invented?

A. Russian dressing was invented in Nashua, New Hampshire, by James E. Colburn who started selling the salad dressing at his store in 1910. By 1914, Colburn began manufacturing and distributing it to retailers and hotels. The condiment came to be called “Russian” since the original recipe included caviar, a staple of Russian cuisine. The dressing is made with a mayonnaise-ketchup base, often complemented with additional ingredients such as pickle relish, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, chives, mustard, and additional spices.

Q. Which of these foods, peas, potatoes, squash, could not have been eaten at the first Thanksgiving?

A. It turns out that our “traditional” Thanksgiving feast may not be as traditional as you might think. Many of the foods we associate with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner were not yet available for “The First Thanksgiving”. Turkey was not the star of the feast either. Instead, venison headlined the meal, although there was a healthy selection of seafood, fowl, and fish. There was no cranberry sauce, no pumkpin pie, and no potatoes. The potato had not yet been grown in North America. There was no gravy either, since they didn’t yet have mills to produce flour.

Q. Introduced in 1954, what was the entrée in the very first frozen “TV Dinner”?

A. The TV dinner owes its existence to Thanksgiving, an order miscalculation, and a salesman named Gerry Thomas. In 1953, the folks at Swanson overestimated how many Thanksgiving turkeys they would sell, leaving the company with an extra 260 tons of frozen birds sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. To get rid of them all, salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of filling aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes. They were sold for 98 cents, and thus, the TV dinner was born.

Q. Breakfastofchampions.com is the official website of which breakfast cereal?

A. Wheaties is well known for featuring prominent athletes on the exterior of its package. The company first sold the product as Washburn’s Gold Medal Wheat Flakes in 1924. After an employee’s wife won a renaming contest, it called the cereal “Wheaties.”The brand adopted the “Breakfast of Champions” slogan in 1933, and in 1934 the Wheaties box featured its first athlete, Lou Gehrig. Its boxes have since been graced by hundreds of other athletes including Michael Jordan (who has appeared on the box 18 times — more than any other athlete).

Q. Which fast-food chain introduced the controversial “Double Down” sandwich?

A. Who needs burger buns when you can use fried chicken instead? We are, of course talking about KFC’s legendary Double Down sandwich. The Double Down is an iconic sandwich with fried bacon, melted cheese, and BBQ sauce all sandwiched between two pieces of chicken fillets. When it was first introduced, it caused a lot of curiosity, because KFC basically replaced the usual burger buns with actual chicken, and deep-fried at that. Genius! It’s not surprising that the limited time sandwich is one of KFC’s bestselling and controversial products ever. No veggie vegan burger here, folks!

Q. Which of these is part of a wine bottle AND a football term? Tackle, punt, rush, or safety?

A. A punt is the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. Historically, punts were a function of wine bottles being made by glassblowers. The seam was pushed up to make sure the bottle could stand upright. Bottles nowadays are much stronger and machine-made, so the punt is simply part of wine-bottle tradition, though some say it helps collect the sediment as wines age. It’s also thought that the punt consumes some volume of the bottle, allowing the bottle to appear larger for the same amount of wine, which may impress the purchaser.

Regarding Politicians and Politics

Q. What is Senator Mitt Romney’s first name?

A. Romney’s real first name is Willard. He was named after J. Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott hotel chain, who was Mitt’s father’s best friend. Romney’s middle name, Mitt, comes from his father’s cousin, Milton, who played quarterback for the Chicago Bears back in the 1920s. Romney became governor of Massachusetts in 2003 and ran for the Republican nomination in the 2008 election, losing to candidate John McCain. He made a second run for the U.S. presidency in 2012, but was defeated by President Barack Obama in a tight race. He returned to public office in 2019 as a U.S. senator from Utah.

Q. Which Vice President famously could not spell the word “potato”?

A. In 1992, Dan Quayle altered 12-year-old student William Figueroa’s correct spelling of “potato” to “potatoe” at a school spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey. Quayle was widely lambasted for his error. What most people don’t know is that Quayle was looking at a flash card provided by the school that had the “correct” answer on it, spelled incorrectly.

Q. Which president cancelled Thanksgiving?

A. Thomas Jefferson was so adamantly against Thanksgiving that he refused to declare it a holiday during his presidency, and many say that he called the holiday “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.” Most historians agree that Jefferson really refused to declare the holiday because he believed in the separation of church and state, and thought that the day of “prayer” violated the First Amendment. It wasn’t until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a federal holiday, that it was officially scheduled to fall on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Q. Whose ghost did British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly see in the White House?

A. Stories of a ghostly President Abraham Lincoln wandering the corridors and rooms of the White House have persisted for more than a century. Presidents, first ladies, guests, and members of the White House staff have claimed to have either seen Lincoln or felt his presence. A well-known ghost story was reported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was a guest at the White House. After a long bath, and naked except for a cigar, Churchill walked into the adjoining bedroom — and there was Abraham Lincoln at the fireplace. Churchill said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” He reported that Lincoln smiled softly and then disappeared.

Q. Who was president of the United States for eight hours on July 13, 1985?

A. On July 13, 1985, when President Reagan underwent colon cancer surgery, Vice President George H. W. Bush became the first “acting president” of the United States. Reagan sent letters to the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tempore advising them he “will be briefly and temporarily incapable of discharging the Constitutional powers and duties of the office of the president” and thus “Vice President George Bush shall discharge those powers and duties”. This transfer of power lasted all of eight hours — from 11:28 a.m. until 7:22 p.m. Various press reports say that for most of his tenure as acting president, George H. W. Bush played tennis.

Q. Who is the only First Lady that did not change her last name upon marriage?

A. Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt were 5th cousins, once removed, and had known each other since they were two. They were married on March 17, 1905, in a ceremony that featured Theodore walking his niece down the aisle. When asked for his thoughts on the Roosevelt–Roosevelt union, Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is a good thing to keep the name in the family.” Eleanor is the only first lady to not change her last name upon marriage.

Q. The line “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is included in which of the following?

A. This iconic line comes from one of the best-known speeches in American history. On November 19, 1863, in what would become known as the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln expressed his conviction that the Civil War was the ultimate test of whether the Union created in 1776 would survive, or whether it would “perish from the earth.” The dead at Gettysburg had laid down their lives for this noble cause, he said, and it was up to the living to confront the “great task” before them: ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Q. What were George Washington’s last words?

A. George Washington died on December 14th, 1799, of a throat infection. He passed away in his bedroom in his home at Mount Vernon, with Martha sitting at the foot of his bed. His last words followed instructions he gave his secretary, Tobias Lear, to “have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead”  After Lear confirmed that he understood his mentor’s final wishes, George spoke his final words: “Tis well.” Martha passed away on May 22nd, 1802, about two and a half years after George died.

Regarding the States

Q. Which state’s capital does not begin with the letter “P”?

A. Many people, if put on the spot, would probably assume that Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. It’s not necessarily a bad guess considering Philadelphia is the most populous city in the state, and once served as the capital of our nation. The city of Lancaster served as the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812, after which the capital was moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. With a population just under 50,000, Harrisburg is the 13th largest city in the Commonwealth and the 38th-most populated state capital in the country.

Q. Which of Georgia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont was NOT one of America’s original 13 colonies?

A. Vermont was NOT one of the original 13 colonies. The United States of America initially consisted of 13 states that had been British colonies until their independence was declared in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies consisted of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The 13 colonies were divided into three geographic areas consisting of the New England colonies, the Middle colonies, and the Southern colonies.

Regarding Cities

Q. Which resort city was named after the abundance of trees that grow in the area?

A. Nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest and surrounded by the peaks of the Elk Mountains, Aspen is well known as an iconic ski destination for the rich and famous. It was founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom, and was later named Aspen for the abundance of aspen trees in the area. Now known as a world renowned and luxurious ski area, Aspen is also a popular summertime destination with outdoor adventures like running races, hiking, and biking. “I came to Aspen for the winter, but stayed for the summer,” is how many locals respond after telling about the years they have lived in Aspen.

Q. Which U.S. city is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”?

A. In 1682, William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. The name he gave his city combined the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), setting up its enduring nickname “The City of Brotherly Love”. Coincidentally, the term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia, when it was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1966 to describe the chaos caused by massive traffic jams, car accidents and congested sidewalks that resulted from the shopping day after Thanksgiving.

Q. Where are the US towns are named “Turkey?”

A. There are four small towns in America that are named after the nation’s favorite bird.  There is Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina, Turkey Creek, Louisiana; and and Turkey Creek, Arizona. Oh, and let’s not forget the two townships in Pennsylvania: the creatively named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!

Q. On which Hawaiian island is Pearl Harbor located?

A. Pearl Harbor is located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is located roughly 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland and about 4,000 miles from Japan. Pearl Harbor of course was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on this day, 12/07/41. The Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbor was a pivotal point in world history and President Franklin Roosevelt would famously describe as, “a date which will live in infamy.” Today, Pearl Harbor remains an active military base, and the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Q. What is the capital of the U.S. state where the country’s deepest lake is located?

A. With a depth of 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest lake in the world. Crater Lake is located in south-central Oregon, and Salem is of course, the capital of the state of Oregon. Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano. The volcano once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. The lake is known for its vibrant blue color and purity. Because there are no inflowing streams, the lake is fed solely by rain and snow. According to the National Park Service, it is the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.

Regarding Celebrities and Showbiz

Q. Whose 1993 autobiography titled “Private Parts” was released as a movie in 1997?

A. Private Parts is a 1997 biographical comedy film about radio personality Howard Stern, who stars as himself. The film is an adaptation of Stern’s best-selling 1993 book of the same name. The film follows Howard Stern’s life from boyhood to his rise to success in radio. Stern and several of his radio show staff star as themselves in the film, including newscaster and co-host Robin Quivers, producers Fred Norris and Gary Dell’Abate, and comedian Jackie Martling. The film also stars Mary McCormack, Allison Janney, and Paul Giamatti.

Q. Who was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2020?

A. Michael B. Jordan has been crowned 2020’s Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Michael B. Jordan began his career as a model and actor, landing roles in television shows like “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights”. Jordan garnered acclaim for his role in the film festival favorite “Fruitvale Station” and for his role as a boxing protégé in “Creed”. His biggest role to date is his portrayal of supervillain Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s “Black Panther“. Previous title holders of the award include John Legend, Idris Elba, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, David Beckham, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, and Channing Tatum.

Q. What real life figure did Leonardo DiCaprio portray in the 2004 movie “The Aviator”?

A. The Aviator is a 2004 epic biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, staring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner. The film depicts the life of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer and director of the film Hell’s Angels. The film portrays his life from 1927 to 1947 during which time Hughes became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Q. Which “Saturday Night Live” cast member was shot and killed by his wife?

A. In 1986, Phil Hartman joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, and was on the show for 8 seasons. Hartman played a wide range of characters including Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, and many others. Hartman married his third wife Brynn Omdahl in 1987 and they had two children. Their marriage was troubled by Brynn’s drug use and Phil’s constant absence from home. In 1998, while Hartman was sleeping, his wife shot and killed him, and later committed suicide. It was later discovered that Brynn had alcohol, cocaine, and Zoloft in her system. Phil Hartman was 49 years old.

Q. Who is remembered for the catchphrase “Say good night, Gracie”?

A. This line is spoken by George Burns in the TV show “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show”. George Burns and Gracie Allen met in 1922 while they were both touring on the Vaudeville circuit. After falling in love and getting married, the two developed an act together. By the time they brought their act to TV in 1950, the two were a huge hit. The end of every show became a catchphrase: George and Gracie would come out and do some jokes until it was time to close the show, when George would turn to his wife and tell her, “Say goodnight, Gracie,” and she would simply reply, “Goodnight.”

Q. What is the maximum amount of money that a contestant can possibly win in a single game of “Jeopardy!”?

A. Although it’s never happened, the maximum winnable sum in a single game is $566,400. A single contestant would have to sweep both boards, find all three Daily Doubles – in the top tier and at the end of each round – make them true Daily Doubles and then wager everything in Final Jeopardy! The contestant would have $35,600 after Jeopardy, $283,200 after Double Jeopardy, and $566,400 after Final Jeopardy. The highest one-day winning total was $77,000, a record set by contestant Roger Craig on September 14, 2010.

Q. Which band had a No. 1 hit on the “Rocky III” soundtrack with the song “Eye of The Tiger”?

A. “Eye of the Tiger” is a song by the rock band Survivor. It was the theme song for the film Rocky III, and was recorded at the request of Rocky III star, writer, and director Sylvester Stallone, after Queen denied him permission to use “Another One Bites the Dust”. “Eye of the Tiger” was nominated for the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Song (the only Oscar nomination for Rocky III), but it lost to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman. The song was also nominated for the 1983 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, but lost to the Willie Nelson hit “Always on My Mind”.

Q. At 8 minutes and 36 seconds, what is the longest single ever to reach #1 on the Billboard chart?

A. “American Pie” is a song by Don McLean that was a No. 1 hit for a full month in 1972. It is the longest song ever to top the Billboard Hot 100, at a whopping eight minutes and 36 seconds. The 45 RPM single had to be split into two parts, and some DJs only played one side or the other, although many played the uninterrupted album version which includes no fewer than six verses. The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to the plane crash that killed rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1959.

Q. What was the fictional town where “The Andy Griffith Show” was set?

A. Mayberry is a fictional community that was the setting for the television sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show.” The show starred Andy Griffith in the role of Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff of the slow-paced town of Mayberry, North Carolina. Mayberry is said to be based on Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina. Mount Airy is also known as Mayberry and called by both names by its residents. According to show episodes, the community of Mayberry was named for fictional founder Lord Mayberry. Purportedly, Andy Griffith himself chose the name of the fictional community.

Q. What was the title of the first video ever posted on YouTube?

A. YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the first video titled “Me at the zoo” to the website on April 23, 2005. The 19-second clip shows Karim standing in front of the elephants at the San Diego Zoo saying “the cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long, um, trunks.” He ends the video simply by stating: “And that’s pretty much all there is to say.” The video doesn’t look like much, but it sparked a revolution. A year after “Me at the zoo,” Karim and his fellow co-founders sold the platform to the social media Google for a whopping $1.65 billion.

Q. Who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Gandhi in the 1982 film of the same name?

A. Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. It tells the story of Gandhi and his struggle to win independence for India through nonviolent civil disobedience. To embody Mahatma Gandhi, producer and director Richard Attenborough turned to British actor Ben Kingsley, whose father came from the same area in India in which Gandhi was born. The film was a commercial success and received a leading eleven nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, winning eight including for the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley.

Q. Which television show premiered on the same day that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik?

A. On October 4, 1957, the day Leave It to Beaver premiered on American television, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik was a polished metal sphere about the size of a beach ball. It measured 23 inches in diameter, weighed 184 pounds, and circled the Earth once every hour and 36 minutes traveling at 18,000 miles an hour. The U.S. government and scientific community were caught off guard by the Soviet achievement, and their efforts to catch up with the Soviets heralded the beginning of the “Space Race.”

Q. What was the first TV series to be filmed before a live studio audience?

A. Premiering in 1951, I Love Lucy was the first television series to be filmed in front of an audience. This was made possible by the idea of Desi Arnaz to use multiple cameras. This implementation allowed the show to benefit from the strengths of both stage plays (live audience) and film (camera angle options, point of view, etc.). This approach produced a marriage between cinema and theater; television and plays. Shows that subsequently adopted this concept include All in the Family, Cheers, The Jeffersons, Seinfeld, Friends and Full House.

Q. Which band sued Nike after they used the song “Revolution” in one of their commercials?

A. In 1987, the Beatles filed a $15-million lawsuit to halt the use of the band’s 1968 recording of “Revolution” in a Nike running shoes TV commercial. Declaring that the rock group doesn’t “endorse or peddle sneakers or panty hose,” the three surviving Beatles filed the lawsuit objecting to Nike’s use of the song, claiming that the band hadn’t given their “authorization or permission.” Nike stopped running the ads early in 1988, and the “Revolution” lawsuit was settled out-of-court the next year on terms that have been kept secret since.

Q. What were the final words written down by Walt Disney prior to his death?

A. The final words written by Walt Disney were “Kurt Russell”. In 1966, as Disney was suffering from lung cancer and nearing the end of his life, he scribbled down the name “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper in his office and died soon after. At the time, Russell was a child actor for the studio and had just signed a lengthy contract, according to Disney historian Jim Korkis. To this day, no one knows exactly what Walt Disney meant or intended, including Kurt Russell himself. Walt Disney died on this day in 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday.

Q. Which man was the second person to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in Great Britain?

A. To be or not to be vaccinated, that is the question. William Shakespeare has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Yes, you read that right.) The historic name is shared with the second man in Great Britain to receive Pfizer’s approved COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. The 81-year-old man – Bill to his friends – lives only about 20 miles from the actual Bard’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon. The historic importance of the moment and the historic name sparked some fun on social media calling the inoculation, “The Taming of the Flu.”

Q. Which classic Christmas film opens at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

A. Miracle on 34th Street is a 1947 Christmas film that stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn. The story takes place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in New York City, and focuses on the effect of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. Miracle on 34th Street was shot on location in New York City, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade sequences filmed live while the 1946 parade was happening.” The film has become a perennial Christmas favorite.

Q. The U2 song “Shadows and Tall Trees” is taken from a chapter title in what famous book?

A. The song “Shadows and Tall Trees” is one of U2’s earliest recordings. The song was inspired by William Golding’s dystopian novel Lord Of The Flies. “Shadows And Tall Trees” happens to be the name of the seventh chapter of the book. In 1978, U2 went into a studio in Dublin to record their first demo tape. During that session they recorded three tracks, “Street Mission,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” and “The Fool.” They became the first songs used to try to gain the Irish rock band a recording contract. “Shadows and Tall Trees” was the only song from the demo tape to be included on their debut album, Boy.

Q. Which musician sold his entire songwriting catalog in December 2020 for over $300 million?

A. Nearly 60 years after writing such classics as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan has sold his entire songwriting catalog — more than 600 songs — to Universal Music Publishing Group in a deal reportedly worth more than $300 million. The deal with Dylan may be the highest price ever paid for a musician or group’s songwriting rights. Universal will now collect money any time another musician covers any of those songs, and it will earn revenue for allowing the songs to be used in commercials and movies as well as when the songs are streamed or sold commercially.

Q. Who rode a horse named Trigger?

A. Trigger (originally named Golden Cloud) was a palomino horse made famous in American Western films with his owner and rider, cowboy star Roy Rogers. When Roy Rogers was preparing to make his first movie in a starring role, he was offered a choice of five rented “movie” horses to ride and chose Golden Cloud. Rogers eventually bought him in 1943 and renamed him Trigger for his quickness of both foot and mind. Trigger was ridden by Rogers in many of his motion pictures, becoming one of the most famous horses in film entertainment.

Regarding History

Q. What French explorer claimed what is now Canada for France in 1534?

A. French navigator Jacques Cartier was sent by King Francis I to the New World in search of riches and a new route to Asia. He led three major North American voyages, and his exploration of the St. Lawrence River allowed France to lay claim to lands that would become Canada. On July 24, 1534, Cartier planted a cross with the words, “Long Live the King of France” on the shores of Quebec, thus claiming the region for France. Cartier is also credited with the naming of Canada, which is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word kanata, meaning “village”.

Q. Which iconic event in American history took place on December 16, 1773?

A. On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773. Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British government responded harshly, and enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts. The Tea Party became an iconic event which escalated into the American Revolution.

Q. Which song was originally written for the Thanksgiving holiday?

A. “Jingle Bells” is a classic song sung at Christmas time, but it didn’t start out that way. First published in 1857, it was written by James Lord Pierpont, to celebrate Thanksgiving — not Christmas. Pierpont wrote a song called “One Horse Open Sleigh” for a children’s Thanksgiving play. When the song was reissued two years later, it had the more familiar title of “Jingle Bells.” Although “Jingle Bells” is now a Yuletide staple, there is no mention of Christmas anywhere in the song. The holiday ditty became associated with Christmas decades later.

Q. Which insect inspired the term “computer bug”?

A. The first “computer bug” was, in fact, a literal bug. Computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, coined the term bug in 1947 after operators traced an error in Harvard University‘s Mark II computer to a moth trapped in a relay. The moth was carefully removed and taped to the machines’ log book. Grace Hopper added the caption “First actual case of bug being found”. This was the first time anyone used the word “bug” to describe a computer glitch. The engineers who found the moth were the first to literally “debug” a machine.

Q. Who wrote the Gettysburg Address?

A. No, not a trick question. While subsequent presidents have all enjoyed significant assistance from speechwriters in crafting their messages, President Abraham Lincoln took a more hands-on approach and is one of the few presidents in U.S. history to have written the entirety of his speeches and remarks.

Q. Who was the first person to break the sound barrier?

A. On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier. Yeager piloted the rocket-powered Bell X-1 to a speed of Mach 1.07, becoming the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. In order to reach its testing altitude, the X-1 was air-launched through the bomb bay of a Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, and then used its four-chambered rocket engine to climb to 43,000 feet, exceeding 660 miles per hour. Chuck Yeager, who was later immortalized in the film “The Right Stuff,” died last night at the age of 97.

Q. Sarah Fuller made history as a female kicker for which college football team?

A. Sarah Fuller made college football history last month as the first female to play in a Power Five college football game. The Vanderbilt University senior made her historic debut as a kicker for the Commodores in their face-off last month against the University of Missouri Tigers. The soccer player was recruited after members of the squad’s special teams contracted the coronavirus. On Saturday, Fuller continued to make history. This time, she converted two extra points for the Vanderbilt Commodores, becoming the first woman to score in a Power 5 college football game.

Q. Which product was advertised in the first television commercial in 1941?

A. The first official paid television advertisement was broadcast in the United States on July 1, 1941 over New York station WNBT (now WNBC) before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. Before the game began, TV viewers saw a 10-second advertisement for Bulova clocks and watches. The ad showed a clock and a map of the United States, with a voice-over that says, “America runs on Bulova time”. Bulova paid $9 to run the spot that was seen by about 4,000 people in New York.

Q. When and how did Santa Claus start to be portrayed as he is today?

A. In the early days, Santa Claus was depicted as tall and gaunt, and in some cases, he appeared as a spooky elf with a bishop’s robe and animal skin. In 1931, Coca-Cola illustrator Haddon Sundblom redesigned Santa’s image to use in the company’s magazine ads, and that is the figure recognized today as the jolly old fellow.

Q. How did the United States Playing Card Company contribute to the war effort in WWII and help POWs?

A. During World War II, British and American intelligence agencies joined forces with the United States Playing Card Company to create a very special deck of cards. The cards were handed out for Christmas to help prisoners of war escape  Nazi POW camps. Individual cards peeled apart when moistened, to reveal maps of escape routes.

Q. Which Christmas song was banned in Boston by the Roman Catholic Church in 1952?

A. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue to go along with a postcard designed for a holiday giveaway. Everyone loved the song when it was released in 1952, except the Roman Catholic Church. When first released, Jimmy Boyd’s record was banned in Boston by the Roman Catholic Church on the grounds it mixed sex with Christmas. Boyd made worldwide news when he went to Boston and met with the leaders of the Church to explain the song. The following Christmas, the ban was lifted.

Q. Which war ended on Christmas Eve?

A. Christmas Eve marks the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. On December 24, 1814, in Ghent, Belgium, the United States and Great Britain came to terms ending two and a half years of fighting the War of 1812. The treaty restored relations between the United States and Great Britain, and foreshadowed more than two centuries of peaceful relations between the two countries. Unfortunately, it took a month for news of the treaty to reach the United States during which American forces under Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, and the British won the Battle of Fort Bowyer.

Q. What is the best selling Christmas song of all time?

A. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby is not only the best-selling Christmas single, but also the best-selling single of all time, with sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. Taking into consideration the sales of cover versions, the number jumps to over 100 million units. The song was listed as the world’s best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and remarkably still retains the title more than 65 years later. Mariah Carey‘s 1994 track “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the 11th best-selling single of all time.

Regarding Geography

Q. Which of the Great Lakes is the only one located entirely within the United States?

A. The Great Lakes are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the upper mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. They are lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes that is located entirely within the United States; the others form a water boundary between the United States and Canada. The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area, and second-largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world’s surface fresh water by volume.

Q. What was on the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial before it was built?

A. The Tidal Basin, which is the center of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival and the setting of the Jefferson Memorial, was originally a popular beach that once featured a cabana and diving platform. At the time,  this summertime swimming hole was a “whites only” facility.  After much debate over establishing a similar beach site for African Americans, it was decided that the Tidal Basin would be closed to everyone instead.

Regarding Countries

Q. How many time zones does China have?

A. China is a huge country with only one time zone! That means that in some parts of China, the sun doesn’t rise until 10:00 in the morning. In the past, China has had five different time zones. This lasted until 1949 when Communist leaders decided having one time zone for the entire country was a good idea. Since then, everyone in China is using official Beijing time.

Q. Which country could fit inside Central Park in New York City?

A. Central Park is located in New York City, and has an area of 1.3 square miles. Shockingly, the entire country of Monaco could fit inside of Central Park with plenty of room to spare. With an area of .78 square miles, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after Vatican City, and roughly 60% of the size of Central Park. With a population of 38,300, Monaco is also one of the densest countries in the world. Monaco is famous for its lavish wealth, casinos, and glamorous events such as the Monaco Yacht Show and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Q. What is the estimated population of the United States?

A. According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of the United States is currently estimated at 330 million. The population of the United States is equivalent to 4.23% of the total world population. Overall the U.S. remains the third most populous country in the world, behind China (1.44 billion) and India (1.38 billion) and ahead of Indonesia (274 million). According to the agency, the U.S. experiences one birth every 8 seconds; one death every 12 seconds; one international migrant (net) every 47 seconds; with a net gain of one person every 16 seconds.

Regarding Nature and Health

Q. Sunlight is credited for increasing the body’s levels of what vitamin?

A. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to solar rays. If you spend the bulk of your time indoors, you may not produce much vitamin D on your own. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but you can get the nutrient from fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones because your body requires it to absorb calcium. Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Q. In humans, which gender has XY chromosomes?

A. The sex chromosomes are referred to as X and Y, and their combination determines a person’s sex. Males have two distinct sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex. Females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), and are called the homogametic sex. In humans, the presence of the Y chromosome is typically responsible for triggering male development; in the absence of the Y chromosome, the fetus will undergo female development. The XY sex-determination system is found in humans, most other mammals, some insects, some fish (guppies), and some plants (Ginkgo tree).

Q. Russia’s current coronavirus vaccine shares its name with which of the following?

A. Sputnik V (V for vaccine), is the trademarked name of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine. In a nod to last century’s Cold War space race, the Russians named the vaccine Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite named Sputnik. Sputnik V has received some questioning from scientists around the world as the vaccine was approved following less than two months of human testing. Russia is not the only world power to draw on outer space for inspiration in naming COVID-19 treatments. In the United States, the Trump administration launched the initiative named “Operation Warp Speed.”

Regarding Irony & Miscellaneous

In 1567, the man said to have the longest beard in the world died after he tripped over his beard running away from a fire.

Q. Which branch of the US Military operates the American Toys for Tots charity?

A. Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks. In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve. Since its founding, The Toys for Tots Program has collected and distributed more than 584 million toys to 265 million children. To make a monetary donation to the program, visit their website at https://www.toysfortots.org

Q. What was the first song to be played in space?

A. “Jingle Bells” was the first song broadcast from space, in a Christmas-themed prank by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra. In 1965, shortly before Christmas, the astronauts reported that they spotted a UFO entering the Earth’s atmosphere and that it was moving away from the North Pole and headed south. Before the people at NASA’s Mission Control became too shocked, the astronauts started playing the song “Jingle Bells.” The astronauts joined in with Tom Stafford shaking the sleigh bells he had smuggled aboard and Wally Schirra playing a miniature harmonica.

Q. Bill Lear, founder of the Lear Jet, is credited with inventing what music playback format?

A. William Lear, the man behind LearJet, was also the inventor of the 8-track cartridge tape system. The 8-track tape is a magnetic-tape sound recording technology that was the preeminent portable and car audio format of the 1970s. The main advantage of the 8-Track tape cartridge was that it did not have to be “flipped over” to play the alternative set of tracks. Eight-track players became less common in the early 1980s, with cassette tapes surpassing it in popularity. Throughout his career of 46 years, William Lear received over 120 patents.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.