Diehard Jeopardy! Fans Have Created a Database of Almost Every Question Ever Asked

ABC
ABC

For trivia fanatics, the mere half-hour run time of Jeopardy! fails to satisfy their hunger for meaty, bite-sized pieces of knowledge. The J! Archive, however, just might do the trick.

The fan-created database includes a total of 384,440 questions (as of January 10, 2020) from 36 seasons of Jeopardy!. They date all the way back to the beginning of Alex Trebek’s hosting gig in 1984, right up through this week’s special tournament featuring greatest-of-all-time contestants James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter.

According to Polygon, the website was founded 15 years ago by now-39-year-old patent attorney Robert Schmidt and is updated with the help of a small group of Jeopardy! devotees. One of them is Mark Barrett, who’s spent countless hours re-watching VHS tapes of episodes he recorded in the 1980s. He estimates that he still has around 150 taped matches to add to the archive—but there could be as many as 1400 matches still missing.

“The dream is that more games turn up through streaming services, or contestants with their own copies who upload them to YouTube and such,” he told Polygon.

The job is a little easier these days, since recent Jeopardy! seasons are available online and the archive's operators have automated the process of copying each question from the episode and uploading it to a template.

Even if it’s not quite complete, the archive is nothing if not extensive—and well-organized, too. Categorized by season, each episode includes the air date, list of contestants (names, occupations, and hometowns), and a clue board that matches the one on TV. If you hover over the money value at the top of a square, it’ll flip over to reveal the correct answer along with the name of the contestant who guessed it. If there are any wrong answers or color commentary from Trebek, you’ll see those, too. They’ve even noted the order in which the clues were chosen with tiny numerals in the upper right corners of the squares, and added boxes to reflect the contestants’ scores at the end of each round and commercial break.

For example, in the June 28, 2018 episode, Mental Floss science editor Kat Long entered the first commercial break in the lead after correctly responding “what is yuzu?” to the $1000 clue (“Ouzo is a Greek liquor; this is a 4-letter Japanese citrus fruit”) in the “Kitchen Confusion” category.

In other words, the site functions as a comprehensive transcription of the television show. For future contestants, it’s a fantastic study guide; for the rest of us, it’s just plain fun.

Explore the archive here, and find out 15 secrets of former Jeopardy! winners here.

[h/t Polygon]

20 Weird Clubs That Actually Exist

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he'd never "want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members." Most people would probably say the same about the Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club—a very exclusive, 63-year-old organization created specifically for individuals who have had their lives saved by an ejection seat. Currently, the club boasts more than 6000 members.

That's just one of the weird and wonderful clubs you'll learn about in our latest edition of The List Show. Join Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she hunts down the world's most unusual clubs (Extreme Ironing Bureau anyone?). You can watch the full video below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

An Explosive History of the T-Shirt Cannon

Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images
Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images

As the mascot for the San Antonio Spurs from 1983 to 2004, Tim Derk—also known as the Coyote—was constantly looking for ways to make the live game experience better for fans. In addition to dancing, antagonizing players, and engaging with attendees, Derk did what many mascots do to raise morale: He gave the crowd free stuff.

Shirts, hats, and other apparel were tossed out on a regular basis, though the gifts were limited to the ability of a mascot’s throwing arm. Which meant that fans seated in the upper bleachers didn’t get much of anything, except maybe a nosebleed.

Derk and the other mascots used huge rubber bands to propel shirts to those people seated higher up in the stands, but even those had limited range. Then, in the 1990s, Derk and his peers decided to become apparel arms dealers. They designed and fabricated a massive, 90-pound cast-iron pipe 4 feet in length that used the pneumatic principle to blast T-shirts into the air and into the arms of fans.

Once Derk strapped it on for an appearance during a game as “Rambote,” sports would never be the same again.

The T-shirt cannon can be traced back to Britain during World War II, when sailors on commercial freighter ships were left vulnerable after their anti-aircraft weapons had been rerouted to warships. Desperate to protect themselves from enemy attack, the sailors adopted a weapon developed by the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Dubbed a Holman Projector, it could shoot projectiles out of a tube using steam from the ship’s boiler.

Rugby mascot Captain Hurricane (L) stands near former Hurricanes player Norm Hewitt (R) as he fires a T-shirt cannon at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand in May 2018
Hagen Hopkins, Getty Images

Sailors usually lobbed grenades in this manner, but when they weren’t under direct threat—which was most of the time—they loaded the gun with less-lethal ammunition, like potatoes. When Winston Churchill observed a demonstration and someone forgot the grenades, operators used beer bottles instead.

Without a wartime steam boiler, people still felt a need to launch projectiles. Contemporary “spud launchers” use compressed gas, usually carbon dioxide, that is delivered into an air tank. When the trigger is pulled, the gas is released all at once, and the energy shoots whatever’s in the barrel. That can be a potato, a paintball pellet, or a rolled-up T-shirt.

Derk was intrigued by the concept of the spud launcher and adopted it for clothing. When he began brandishing his T-shirt cannon, other mascots quickly followed suit. Kenn Solomon, also known as Rocky the Mountain Lion—a mascot cheering on the Denver Nuggets—had a friend build him one after seeing Derk’s. Solomon also got involved in selling them commercially. Pretty soon, the device was in heavy use across the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL organizations, growing smaller and lighter with each passing year. Once 90 pounds, the cannons now weigh as little as two pounds.

This T-shirt arms race grew to include multi-barrel guns like Big Bella, a 600-pound behemoth which debuted in 2012 at a Philadelphia 76ers game and could fire 100 shirts every 60 seconds. Not to be outdone, the Milwaukee Bucks introduced a triple-barreled gun powerful enough to propel vests and jackets. The Army’s football team built a tiny T-shirt tank.

Rumble, the mascot for the Oklahoma City Thunder, fires a T-shirt cannon at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in May 2016
J Pat Carter, Getty Images

Despite having a relatively innocuous payload, these guns have not always brought joy to attendees. In 2018, a mascot named Chip at the University of Colorado-Boulder suffered an injury when a T-shirt cannon malfunctioned, shooting him in the groin. (The video, of course, went viral.) That same year, a fan named Jennifer Harughty claimed that Orbit, the mascot for the Houston Astros, shot her with a T-shirt and shattered her finger, necessitating surgery. In 2019, Alex Swanson was at Citi Field for a New York Mets game and alleged that a shirt struck him in the eye and knocked him unconscious. Both sued the respective teams.

Derk surely had no idea there would be the occasional mishap, nor could he have predicted someone might misappropriate the gun for other purposes. In 2019, a woman named Kerri Jo Hickman was arrested after being caught while trying to deliver contraband—cell phones, chargers, ear buds, and drugs—by shooting it over the fence of North Folk Correction Center in Sayre, Oklahoma, with a T-shirt cannon.

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