Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Geeks' Guide to World Domination

While not actually giving tips for world domination, The Geeks' Guide... by Garth Sundem is an interesting book for the trivially minded. Within its pages, it contains 314(.1516?) short entries about pop-culture, science, brain teasers and other geekery ranging from useful Klingon phrases to how to balance a chemical equation. It's essentially a bathroom book - something you can grab and open up to find an interest fact or list.

The downside (there's always a downside) is that over the course of reading it I caught at least 3 factual errors. Granted, one I wouldn't have noticed if it hadn't come up in a recent round of pub trivia, but another was an obviously imbalanced chemical equation and the third was something any self-respecting geek should know.
And mistakes are pretty much a fatal flaw for what is essentially a trivia book.

Now saying one wrong thing (or three) doesn't make everything in the book wrong. However trivia, whether in a book or contest form, attracts people (myself included) who get caught up in the details and pride themselves on getting them right. I've been to more than a few trivia contests that have featured heated debates, either amongst teammates or with the quizmaster, over minutia. (The irony being that that trivia is, well, trivial and not worth heated argument) The attitude is summed up in a quote notably missing from The Geeks' Guide's quotable Futurama: "[Y]ou are technically correct – the best kind of correct!"

So if you're one of those people who will be bothered finding one or two errors in a bathroom reader (or not finding them, but knowing they're there) it's probably best to skip this one. But if you can overlook some minor mistakes to find out how to load a pair of dice, learn tongue twisters in foreign languages or discover a quick trick for dividing by 7 then it might be worth checking out - at least for those moments when you're on the can.

The Geeks' Guide to World Domination by Garth Sundem

Some of the entries, and some not in the book, can be read at the author's blog.


Anonymous Coward said...

Ok you got my interest, what were the mistakes? and when can we expect your book?

Kamel said...

I left them out deliberately in case others wanted to read and find them themselves. Is it possible to have a spoiler for a trivia book?

Anyway, the errors I spotted:

1) In a 'balance the chemical equation' puzzle, one of the answers isn't balanced. I checked again, and my memory of it just being missing subscripts was wrong - it's actually just incorrectly balanced. I edited the post to reflect that.

2) The list of highest scoring words in Scrabble is missing the actual highest scoring word - oxyphenbutazone - which is worth more than 4 times any of the words mentioned in the book (If you can play it, it requires 8 letters already being on the board at the proper intervals). This one came up in a recent round of pub trivia.

3) In a list of members of the Fellowship of the Ring, he mentions that Gimli the dwarf also accompanied Bilbo in The Hobbit. This isn't true. Gimli's father, Gloin accompanied Bilbo on that journey. In fact in unfinished Tolkien works recently published, Gimli is explicitly left out of that quest because he was too young. He never makes an appearance in The Hobbit.

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