Bad Questions

Last week my brother mentioned that while watching an episode of 1 vs. 100 he noticed that they asked a question that was the equivalent of:

Which of the following containers can hold all of the blood from an
average human adult?

a) A 1-quart pitcher

b) A 2-liter bottle

c) A 2-gallon jug

I’m not certain that these were the choices but I’m pretty sure about the last two.

My brother realized that you didn’t have to know anything about how much blood is in a human body, because if you know that the c) has the largest capacity, it can’t be wrong. The question didn’t say anything about which came closest to the exact amount; just which was large enough to hold it all. Even if b) were closer, c) isn’t wrong.

In last night’s episode of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? they asked something like:

If you cross the northern border of the United States, which country would you be in?

Obviously, they expected the answer to be: Canada.

My son said something like “The northern-most border is to the north of Alaska, and I don’t think there is a country to the north of that.”

I said “The question doesn’t say you have to be heading north, so if you cross any northern border of the United States going south, you’ll be in the United States. So, saying the United States shouldn’t be wrong.”

My point, besides that I have a family of smart-asses, is that game show writers should be more careful when formulating questions. Especially when there’s a lot of money at stake. It’s hard to believe that people get paid high salaries to write these questions without taking care to remove ambiguity.


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