26 November 2013

Big Ideas for a Christmas Social 2013

The worst thing about working away from home as much as I have over the last couple of years is missing so many evening events in London.

One of the main casualties of this has been Big Ideas, the philosophy discussion group that meets in a pub on the last Tuesday of each month. However I planned my time away it was hard to be in London on Tuesdays. Luckily those days have passed (t least for the moment) and I was in London for the last Tuesday in November.

This was the date for this year's Big Ideas Christmas Social with its famously difficult quiz.

But first the social.

To keep things simple the Christmas Social followed the format of the monthly meetings, except without a speaker. So that meant meeting in the upstairs room of The Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia with each of us sorting out our own food and drinks, though these were supplemented by a significant number of mince-pies courtesy of the pub landlord.

Big Ideas had stretched it wings a little to include a philosophical reading group and a maths group. The organisation and membership of the three groups overlapped significantly so it made sense for them all to share the same Christmas Social.

Despite my recent absences I recognised enough of the people there to walk in to some interesting conversations.

Then the quiz game.

This page shows just how hard it was. None of the brain-boxes in the room knew that Madama Sousatzka, Batman and My Left Foot were the first three films given the new 12 rating.

I did know, or at least guessed, that the symphonies in question 9 are all No. 8. But that was the only one that I got. Others did better.

My one big success was in the maths section where I was the only person to get the right answer to one of the question, including the question-setter! The question was, how many distinctly different ways are there to make a cube with faces coloured either black or white. The official answer was 6 but clearly there are at least 7 as there can be 0, 1, 2, ... or 6 black faces. The question then becomes how many ways are there to arrange 2, 3, ... black faces on a white cube. I know.

Despite by (old) degree in Mathematics that was the only maths question that I got completely right and I got two of the four completely wrong. I did not win the quiz but I was not too embarrassingly off the pace. Not that anybody was taking it too seriously.

The quiz was a challenging diversion but the main point of the evening was simply to have intelligent conversations with intelligent people. I certainly managed that and I hope that the people that I spoke to managed it too.

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