Student suffers TV quiz drubbing

QUESTIONS on University Challenge are often difficult enough to baffle the brightest minds.

THE questions on University Challenge are often difficult enough to baffle the brightest minds.

But an East Anglian student found himself as flummoxed as the rest of us despite being the captain of a quarter-final team.

His Exeter University team scored just 15 points - the worst score since 1971 and the second lowest of all time.

Richard Stearn, 21, from Ditchingham, near Bungay, saw his squad beaten 350 to 15 by Corpus Christi College, Oxford, when the BBC2 quiz show aired last week.

The score is only five points higher than the lowest ever score of 10, notched up in 1971.

To add to the embarrassment Exeter spent the first 10 minutes of the show with a negative score after being penalised five points each for interrupting two starter questions which they then got wrong.

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Richard said the team was just proud to have reached the quarter finals.

“We are all pretty positive about it,” he said. “In my eyes, and we discussed this afterwards, we were just not quick enough.

“Quite a few of us knew the answers, but when we got a turn we were not quick enough on the buzzer.

“After a while it hits your confidence, and I didn't feel as sure of myself.

“The captain of the other team was very good and I suspect they will go on to win. The producers said she was the best person they have ever had on the show.

“This was the first time Exeter has got to the quarter finals. It is like the Canaries getting to the quarter finals of the FA cup and losing 10-0 to Manchester United.”

The team might have been expected to struggle against Corpus Christi as they had racked up the biggest accumulated score - 625 - in the previous two rounds.

Quizmaster Jeremy Paxman joked when Exeter managed to work their way back to zero by correctly answering a question about the Japanese tea ceremony.

At the end of the contest, he told the team: “Um. I'm rather at a loss for words. I'd arrange to be out of the bar the night this goes out. You were thrashed by a very strong team.”

Richard, a third-year philosophy and political economy student, said the team had beaten Sheffield University and Pembroke College, Oxford, to get to the quarter finals.

“Straight afterwards I thought we could have done a bit better,” he said.

“But it all happened about three months ago and I didn't watch it on Monday because I was busy. I have got it recorded and will watch it at some point.

“Jeremy Paxman was very nice. He said there was no shame in losing the way we did. He made a comment about the other team's brilliance.”

The other members of the Exeter team were Jacob Funnell, a conservation biology and ecology student from Hastings, East Sussex; Tom Pugh, from Shrewsbury, studying for an MA in social and political thought; and film studies PhD student Katy Limmer, of Crookhorn, Somerset.

They were up against captain Gayle Trimble, of Walton-on Thames, Surrey, studying for a PhD in latin literature; Lauren Schwartzman, from Chicago, studying for a PhD in ancient history; Sam Kay, a chemistry undergraduate from Frimley in Surrey; and James Marsden, of Farndon in Cheshire, studying ancient and modern history.

Here are some of the questions Exeter got wrong:

Q A grasshopper; half a basketball squad; Best Mate; the Isle of Man flag; a tie in the knock-out stage of the Uefa Champions League and Long John Silver form a sequence in which each term compared to its immediate predecessor has one less what?

A Leg (Exeter answered 'three legs')

Q Tropical orchids bromeliads, mosses and lichens are not rooted in soil, but grow above ground level usually on other plants although unlike parasites, they do not obtain food from their hosts. What Greek term meaning 'upon' and 'plant' refers to them?

A Epiphites (Exeter answered 'sapriphites')

Q Born in 1542, the Italian Jesuit theologan Robert Bellarmine said no-one can remember more than seven of anything to justify why his catechism omitted which feature of the New Testament?

A The Eight Beatitudes (Exeter answered 'The Apostles')

Q Which animal gives its name to the dilemma identified by Schopenhauer in 1851 in which animals which need to huddle together for warmth may cause injury to each other in doing so? The concept implies that human intimacy results in mutual harm.

A Hedgehog (Exeter answered 'cat')

Q Apart from the origin, at which points does the curve Y = X4 - 4X cross the X axis?

A X = +2 and X = -2 (Exeter answered '8')

Two starter questions Exeter answered correctly

Q Cha-No-Yu is a traditional Japanese ceremony first performed by priests and warriors in the Middle Ages as a means of concentration. It involved detailed etiquette, the use of special bowls and utensils and what liquid?

A Tea

Q God is dead: but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves, for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown... which philosopher said these words?

A Nietzsche