Category Archives: Trivia

Is There Really a Life-size Replica of Noah’s Ark in the U.S.?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureSubscribing to the belief that “if you build it, they will come” Answers in Genesis, a Young Earth creationism group built a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, called the Ark Encounter, as a place where the faithful can come and toss science and the theory evolution overboard, and reaffirm their belief that the Bible is literally true. And let’s not forget the business side of religion — where there is faith, there is profit.

The historically-themed attraction, located in Williamstown, Kentucky, was built over five years (from 2011 to 2016); it officially opened on July 7, 2016. The ark contains three decks filled with 132 “teaching” exhibits, featuring Noah and his family, animal models (dinosaurs co-exist with early man and animals; remember the world, according to the fundamentalists, is only 6,000 years old), and colorful dioramas. Docents will explain that the ark was built according to the dimensions and descriptions found in the Bible’s Genesis chapters. The interior, however, is another story. Since Genesis leaves out any specific description, the design of the ark’s interior is complete conjecture — it was built according to what the builders imagined it would look like. And yes, with more than 120,000 square feet of cargo space, they firly believe that there was room for two of every animal (or in creationist terms, “animal kinds”), and enough food for all the humans and animals.

Of course, no historically-accurate ark would be complete without a pricey gift shop, a restaurant (Emzara’s Kitchen), two movie theaters, and several areas for staged photo ops. Just outside the ark is a massive pond, the Ararat Ridge Zoo (petting zoo), a first-century Middle Eastern village, and a jaw-dropping zipline (the Eagle’s Nest Aerial Adventure), presumably a replica of the zipline that Noah and his family used for recreation while sailing around the world in a floating zoo. Conveniently located nearby is the Creation Museum, featuring 75,000 square feet of exhibits that “bring the pages of the Bible to life” and where pages of Charles Darwin’s Origins of the Species are burned to provide warmth for visiting guests.

Whether you believe the story of Noah’s Ark and the worldwide flood described in Genesis 6 to be literally true or a profound allegory (or Mashal), one cannot deny that the replica of the ark, standing seven stories high and the length of 1.5 football fields, is a stunning marvel of craftsmanship (built, ironically, by a team of very talented Amish carpenters) and engineering to behold. After all, it has been Intelligently Designed! The stewards of the ark proudly proclaim that the ark is the largest timber-frame structure in the world. Each evening the ark glows against the night sky as it is illuminated by brilliant spotlights in the color of the rainbow, evoking of the Noahic covenant (Genesis 9:12-17 — “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”). For Christian fundamentalists, seeing truly is believing. However, for science advocate Bill Nye, the Ark Encounter is creating a generation of scientifically illiterate children and discouraging critical thinking. During his tour soon after the Ark Encounter opened, Nye observed, “On the third deck, every single science exhibit is absolutely wrong… It’s all very troubling. You have hundreds of school kids there who have already been indoctrinated and who have been brainwashed.”

If climbing aboard Noah’s Ark in Williamstown doesn’t float your boat, you can visit two other full-size replicas on the other side of the globe. You can make a stop in Dordrecht, Netherlands to visit Johan’s Ark or travel all the way to Ma Wan Island, Hong Kong, China to visit Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Of the three replicas, the Ark Encounter is the largest.

Here is a view of the Noah’s ark, located in the U.S., by the numbers.

Cost: over $100 million dollars
Size: height – 51 feet; length – 510 feet; width – 85 feet
Decks: 3, each 18 feet high
Interior space: 120,000 square feet

Amount of wood used: 3.1 million feet
Mount of metal plates and bolts: 95 tons
Admission: Adults – $40; Senior – $31; Child (up to age 12) – $28
Size of parking lot: 4,000 spaces
Cost to park: $10-15

Size of site: 800 acres
Craftsmen employed: 1,000
Estimated visitors in first year: 2 million
Seasonal jobs: 300-400

Read related posts: What was the First Bible Printed in the United States?
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For further reading: Searching for Adam: Genesis and the Truth About Man’s Origin by Terry Mortensen (2016)
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye (2015)
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins (2010)
Inherit the Wind: The Powerful Drama of the Greatest Courtroom Clash of the Century by Jerome Lawrence (2003)’s_Ark_replicas_and_derivatives

Who is the Best President in U.S. History?

atkins bookshelf triviaWhat better way to celebrate Presidents’ Day than to review and reflect on the list of the best U.S. presidents as ranked by presidential historians. C-SPAN’s academic advisors (Douglas Brinkley, history professor at Rice University; Edna Medford, history professor at Howard University; and Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and author) reached out to historians and other professional observers of the presidency and asked then to rate each U.S. president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times. Each quality was ranked on a one through ten scale (one means not effective; ten means very effective) and tallied to arrive at each president’s total score.

The presidential survey has been conducted in 2000, 2009, and 2017. In each survey, Abraham Lincoln was consistently ranked as the best president in U.S. history. For two of those surveys, George Washington was ranked as the second best president. Richard Norton Smith notes: “The golden age of the American presidency, according to this survey, is 1933 to 1969. Five presidents from this era each rank in the top 10 which tells you something about the criteria that historians tend to use. It reinforces Franklin Roosevelt’s claim to be not only the first modern president but the man who, in reinventing the office, also established the criteria by which we judge our leaders.” Since historians prefer to judge a president’s legacy from an objective distance, Trump’s tumultuous, topsy-turvy, twittery presidency will not be evaluated nine to ten years from now. Here is the ranking of the presidents of the United States:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
6. Harry S. Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Lyndon Baines Johnson
11. Woodrow Wilson
12. Barack Obama
13. James Monroe
14. James K. Polk
15. Bill Clinton
16. William McKinley Jr.
17. James Madison
18. Andrew Jackson
19. John Adams
20. George H. W. Bush
21. John Quincy Adams
22. Ulysses S. Grant
23. Grover Cleveland
24. William H. Taft
25. Gerald R. Ford Jr.
26. Jimmy Carter
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Richard M. Nixon
29. James A. Garfield
30. Benjamin Harrison
31. Zachary Taylor
32. Rutherford B. Hayes
33. George W. Bush
34. Martin Van Buren
35. Chester Arthur
36. Herbert Hoover
37. Millard Fillmore
38. William Henry Harrison
39. John Tyler
40. Warren G. Harding
41. Franklin Pierce
42. Andrew Johnson
43. James Buchanan

Read related posts: What are the Perks of Being a President of the U.S.?
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For further reading:

What Are the Most Popular Music Genres?

atkins bookshelf musicIf you visit Wikipedia’s comprehensive list of music genres — containing more than 1,650 types! — you get a real understanding of the extremely wide range of musical tastes. Back in the day when brick-and-mortar record shops existed (remember the iconic Tower Records?), could you imagine navigating aisles dedicated to 1,650 music genres? It would be, of course, overwhelming. Fortunately, for music stores and online music services, most people’s preference for music gravitates toward about two dozen music genres. Curious to learn what type of music most people like to listen to,, an online music discovery website analyzed the listening preferences of their subscribers over one year. Here is their list of the top ten most popular music genres:

1. Rock
2. Pop
3. Jazz
4. Ambient
5. Hip-hop
6. Hard Rock
7. Chillout
8. Blues
9. Rap
10. Trance

Read related posts: How Many Music Genres Exist?
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For further reading:
Infographic Guide to Music by Graham Betts (2014)

Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

atkins bookshelf triviaThe date: September 18, 1787, the close of Constitutional Convention of 1787 held at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Because the deliberations of the convention were held in strict secrecy, crowds had gathered around Independence Hall waiting with bated breath to learn of the final outcome. As soon as Benjamin Franklin stepped outside Independence Hall, a woman, Mrs. Eliza Powell,  approached the eminent statesman and asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy? Franklin turned to the woman, and without any hesitation replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, after witnessing today’s political circus mired in the post-factual milieu, he would climb back into his grave, quick as lightning. It is apparent that America’s elected representatives are struggling to keep the republic that the Founding Fathers created as an alternative to the abuses of the monarchy that forged the country in the first place. But, let’s return to Franklin answer to Powell’s question; he states that America is a republic (and presciently hints that it is fragile). America is indeed a republic, defined as a system of government where supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and has an elected or nominated president (as opposed to a monarch). A democracy, on the other hand, is a system of government were citizens exercise power directly or indirectly, i.e., by elected representatives that form a governing body. You can immediately see the dilemma: it is difficult to pigeonhole America in to one or the other; in fact, America is a bit of both. In the late 1700s, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson used the term “representative democracy”; alternatively, you could say “democratic republic.”

However, there is another dimension to American government — it is also a constitutional democracy. A constitutional democracy is defined as a system of government based on popular sovereignty in which the powers, structures, and limits of government are clearly stated in a written constitution. A constitutional democracy provides an inclusive political system with checks and balances to keep the branches of government independent and accountable, and allows the electorate to modify the government and remove elected representatives from office by majority vote.

Therefore, the short answer to “what kind of government does America have?” is this: America is a constitutional democratic republic. However, in recent years, many believe that America is really a plutocracy, a government ruled by the wealthy (the so-called 1%). The current president and his cabinet (all of which are billionaires or millionaires) reinforces that perspective.

In discussing America’s form of government, perhaps the most critical question is the one implied by Franklin: can we keep it? Only time will tell…

For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?

For further reading:

What Are the Perks of Being President of the U.S.?

atkins bookshelf triviaBeing President of the United States (POTUS) is a job like no other on the planet — a truly relentless 24×7 job; as King Henry IV, in the Shakespeare’s play of the same name, declares, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” The title of POTUS brings enormous responsibility, constant worry, and intense stress. And its not like you can ease into the job: you go from 0 to 150 MPH in just about one minute — the time it takes to complete the oath of office. A job this difficult and demanding should have some pretty awesome benefits, right? So what are some of the perks of being President of the United States?

The President of the U.S. earns $400,000 per year, paid monthly, as well as an extra expense allowance of $50,000 per year. On the other hand, the hardworking First Lady gets paid zero. When the President leaves office, he will earn $200,000 per year for life. 

One of the best perks, outside of living in the most famous house in the world, is free transportation via the heavily armored limousine, Cadillac One (nicknamed “The Beast”), Air Force One, and Marine One. The President will never have to drive and endure annoying traffic jams — mostly, because he will be creating them! Although a President may keep his driver’s license, he is banned from ever driving a car on a public road. (The Secret Service will allow a President to drive on private property or to drive a golf cart on a golf course. After serving office, a President could drive again, but the Secret Service highly discourages it.)

While living in the White House, POTUS is served by 96 full-time and 250 part-time staff members, including a Chief Usher, Physician, Social Secretary, Chief Calligrapher, Chef, and Pastry Chef.

The President is entitled to a number of freebies, including: all meals, pens, personalized stationery, high-speed internet and cable channels, valet, unlimited periodicals and newspaper subscriptions, and first-run movies (courtesy of the MPAA).

Every President gets to design their own Oval Office Rug with the help of White House staff. The rug, made of 100% wool, is manufactured by a private company.

Although POTUS and his family live rent-free in the White House, they must pay for toiletries and services like dry cleaning, hair cuts, etc. Valet and housekeeping services, however, are paid by the taxpayers. Incidentally, incoming Presidents must hire private movers to get all his and his family’s belongings to the White House. Once there, the White House staff will move all items into the third floor of the White House (in White House refers to this as the second floor), since only staff is permitted inside. The White House staff has only five hours to make the move, placing all clothes and items in the residence, making small repairs (including paint touch-ups), and stocking the pantries. If POTUS wants to make any changes in decorations or furniture, since he is living in what is essentially a museum, all changes must be discussed and cleared with the Director of the National Park Service. The acquisition of new furniture must be paid with private donations.

Presidents are allowed to keep pets in the White House. The staff will take responsibility for the care of a pet, including feeding, grooming, and walking.

The President is assigned a special zip code for mail that is delivered directly to the White House. All other mail is reviewed by staff. The President’s secretary will place all outgoing calls; all incoming calls are screened by staff. All calls are logged in, but not recorded. Staff will listen in during some critical diplomatic calls, and internal informal transcripts are produced in real time.

If POTUS is hungry, he simply contacts his valet or the White House kitchen and the meal will be delivered to a room or the First Family dining room.

For exercise or entertainment. POTUS can avail himself to many of the White House’s amenities: a basketball court, tennis court, putting green, swimming pool, jogging track, billiard room, bowling alley, theatre, and library containing more than 2,700 books.

After leaving office, POTUS earns an annual pension for life ($200,000), health care, Secret Service protection, a paid official office, and paid official travel.

Read related posts: What is the White House Worth?
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For further reading: How to be President by Stephen Williams (2004)–except-the-car-keys-20140506-zr5we.html

What is the White House Worth?

atkins bookshelf triviaThere are several spectacular homes in the United States that are worth more than $100 million, but there is no other home like the White House, a truly one-of-a-kind property that possesses such a fascinating and significant history. The White House was originally built in 1800 (at a cost of $232,372) as the home of the President of the United States. The six-story home, with more than 55,000 square feet, features 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 3 elevators, a secure underground bunker, and 28 fireplaces. The house sits on 18 fully enclosed acres possessing the most famous address in the country: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. In January 2017, Zillow, the real estate analytics firm, valued the White House at $397.9 million (and don’t bother asking for comps). Why they didn’t just round up to $400 is a bit of a mystery; nevertheless the home has slowly crept up in value. It is considered the most expensive home in the United States.

When President Barack Obama and his family moved in into the White House in January 2009, the house was valued at $308.1 million by Zillow. President John Adams was the first president to occupy the White House on November 1, 1800. And as Michelle Obama recently noted, the house that is a symbol of democracy was ironically built by slaves — specifically African-American free laborers and slaves. In fact, most of the workers were immigrants without official citizenship.

But of course, the White House is more than just the President’s house, it is a museum. J. B. West, author of Upstairs at the White House (2008), elaborates: “the Executive Mansion of the United States is far more than a temporary home for the family who lives there for four or eight years. It is now a museum containing priceless works of art and furnishings, a national monument open to 2 million tourists a year, a guest hotel for entertaining visitors of state and, in recent years, an impregnable fortress for protecting the life of the commander-in-chief.”

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How Long Does it Take to Scroll to Bottom of Excel Spreadsheet?

atkins bookshelf triviaWhen you open up a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet you will notice that unlike most programs that have a predefined page size, the spreadsheet seems to have an infinite size. Ever wonder how long it would take to scroll to the very bottom of an Excel spreadsheet? Curious minds want to know.

Proving that college students have way too much time on their hands, Hunter Hobbs, a graduate from the University of Oklahoma, sat in front of a computer manually scrolling (continuously pressing the down arrow key) to reach the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet (version 12, if you must know). Hobbs, thinking that this could be a defining moment in his career, recorded the entire endeavor on YouTube; it begins with his confession: “This is probably the dumbest idea ever, but, hey, somebody’s gotta do it.” So how long did it take? It took 9 hours, 36 minutes, and 10 seconds to reach the final row — row number 1,048,576 — of the spreadsheet. Of course, mindful of the old adage that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” Hobbs spent some of that time reading, making phone calls, playing paddle ball, and drinking lots of energy drinks — and surprisingly, never took a bathroom break. However, if you want to skip the 9.5 hour ordeal, you can reach the end of the spreadsheet by simply pressing the control key and down arrow key at the same time — but what is the point of that?

How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
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