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The Man Who Knew Too Much 655

Posted by simoniker
from the rather-clever dept.
theodp writes "For thrilling competition, Slate says the Tour de France pales next to the 25-game reign of Jeopardy! supercontestant Ken Jennings. The 30-year-old software engineer has won a total of $788,960, beating the previous record-holder by a margin of over $600,000. Watching KenJen play is like witnessing any great athlete in top form: He's the Michael Jordan of trivia, the Seabiscuit of geekdom, and his antics have once again made Jeopardy! required viewing. (Update: 26 wins and $828,960: 'When Jennings ran the Marvel comics category during the second round, host Alex Trebek asked: Have you done anything besides read comics? It pays to be a nerd, Jennings responded.')"
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The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:22AM (#9640774)
    If Jennings were on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, he could already have more money by now (and it wouldn't take him a month to do it).
  • Proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rpbailey1642 (766298) <robert...b...pratt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:22AM (#9640780)
    I'm actually really impressed that this man is getting so much respect (and money!) for how much he knows. Most of it is useless trivia, but to most people, that comes across as intelligence...a man is getting respect for his intelligence, on daytime TV. Awesome.
  • Well duh, obviously they got caught since you know about it. The possible good cheaters don't.
  • Culture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by feilkin (790260) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:27AM (#9640815)
    If our culture is headed down the path of having high esteem for people who appear and do successfully on game shows--boy are we screwed.

    Oh, wait. We already do that with reality tv people. Whoops, my bad.
  • by Sancho (17056) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:30AM (#9640831) Homepage
    Hell yeah. I'd just advertise the hell out of it.
  • What a change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rurik (113882) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:30AM (#9640835)
    People being celebrated for their intelligence and wit, and not their looks or physical attributes. Are we still in America? What happened here?

    Anyone remember the episode of Sliders where Quinn (sp) was on the game show of extremely high level math and science questions (while throwing a ball). The perfect world for geeks :D
  • Heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sglane81 (230749) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:30AM (#9640842) Homepage
    Wow, this article is lacking something... content maybe? Someone who has seen the show maybe?

    Note his systematic habit of moving down the categories vertically, one by one, rather than skipping around the board.

    Everyone does this.

    His nearly preternatural ability to land on the hidden Daily Doubles.

    The odds are much more in your favor for hitting the DD if you answer the most questions.

    Sounds like Dana Stevens watched one episode and thought she understood. 2/3rds of the article isn't even about Jeopardy! or Ken. It's really amazing these kinds of journalists can get a job.
  • by twoshortplanks (124523) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:31AM (#9640859) Homepage
    Yes, if it meant that you'd get a flock of people who wanted to watch the show and the combined revenue from advertising (both for this show, people who watch following shows because they liked this show) and resale rights is more than the million.
  • Re:Culture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apocalypse111 (597674) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:33AM (#9640864) Journal
    This is not high esteem for a man who does well on a game show.

    This is high esteem for a man who does well on a game show by showing of his gargantuan brain. This is high esteem for a man who has probably forgotten more trivia than most of us currently know. This is high esteem for a geek pressing his advantage in an arena suited to his forte.
  • Pales? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linuxrunner (225041) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:33AM (#9640871) Homepage
    "Tour de France pales next to the 25-game reign of Jeopardy!"

    I'm sorry, but a 23 day 2235 mile, (3600 KM), race at full speed PALES?

    Yesterday was the time trials, and the US Postal team finished first with an average speed of 33 MPH, 53 KPH.

    That's amazing... and they'll keep doing it. With other racers such as Ullrich, Hamilton, Julich, etc, this is going to be a great year to watch the race.

    Sure this fella on Jepoardy is smart, but we don't know if the show is trumping it up, now do we?

    I mean... we can get one smart guy, and keep getting dumb challengers, and hey... look... wow.. he DEFINATELY looks smart, and won't loose.

    Can anyone say, "ratings"... I mean, on a bad channel, and a bad time... they need something right?

    At least the tour isn't fake, and everyone is at the same level, going for the same goal.

    I'll take the Tour over any WB show anyday.
  • Re:Job Interview? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:36AM (#9640900) Homepage Journal
    Not necessarily.

    The median difficulty question can't be too hard. Part of the fun of a game show is sitting at home knowing the answer and watching the contestant choke.

    It wouldn't be any fun if the contenstants were asked to know things that only a tiny minority of people are likely to know, like the name of the actor who played "Bobba Fett" in the Star Wars movies.
  • Only in america (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Underholdning (758194) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:36AM (#9640903) Homepage Journal
    "If his winning streak continues, Jennings could become the most celebrated software engineer in America."
    Engineers can put probes on Mars and take pictures of Jupiter, but if you want to be celebrated, you must go on TV :)
  • by Mr.FreakyBig (3755) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:36AM (#9640904)
    No. If you watch him play, he gets answers wrong from time to time. In Millionaire, he'd be screwed, and bounce back to $16000 or $32000 for a wrong answer, and he'd be done. In Jeopardy! a wrong answer erases a bit of case, but only small amounts, and he does not get kicked off the show. Instead he get to continue. All he has to do is be better than the other two contestants, and know a bunch of trivia.
  • The Tour (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ljavelin (41345) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:38AM (#9640917)
    I dunno, the Tour de France is still freakin' incredible.

    The fact that cyclists can ride a 40+ mile route at an average of 33+ MPH [cnn.com] is amazing. Especially if you consider all the rain. And that I have a tough time going 30+ MPH ... downhill.

    Go Lance!

  • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaseyB (1105) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:39AM (#9640924)
    Most of it is useless trivia, but to most people, that comes across as intelligence...

    Any one fact by itself is "useless trivia". But assorted "useless trivia" questions are just a way of gathering a random sampling of the entire body of knowledge that someone has.

    If you're going to reliably answer a question about who happened to be president in a given year, then you pretty much have to know the entire chronology of the presidency.

  • Re:Proud? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maxbang (598632) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:39AM (#9640926) Journal

    Ah, yes, you say useless trivia. This proves that useless trivia is far from useless, given the right circumstances. Nothing is not worth knowing.

  • Re:Pales? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by treuf (99331) <treufNO@SPAMusers.sourceforge.net> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:42AM (#9640945) Homepage
    Excuse me, but when you say that the tour isn't fake, you should consider doping.
    All those guys (most of them) are cheaters and I don't consider this sport anymore.

    Check those 2 links out :
    http://www.thinkmuscle.com/articles/hoberman/to ur. htm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/ cycli ng/3748973.stm
  • Re:Culture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dr_dank (472072) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:45AM (#9640977) Homepage Journal
    If our culture is headed down the path of having high esteem for people who appear and do successfully on game shows--boy are we screwed.

    This isn't an outback-jack-who-wants-to-marry-a-midget-bachelor type of televised retardation that the reality shows are. You can't fake Jeopardy; either you know it and you're fast enough on the buzzer or you're dead in the water.

    Finally someone revered on a gameshow for their mind, not their boobs or conniving.
  • by donnyspi (701349) <junk5@donnyspi.cOOOom minus threevowels> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:47AM (#9640994) Homepage
    That's right. Before last night, he got 3 Final Jeopardys wrong in a row. That's big, but not big enough to make him lose on jeopardy. In Millionaire though, he would have multiple choice at least.
  • Re:Pales? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @07:56AM (#9641068)
    You're right. It doesn't "pale" in comparison. Rather, they're not comparable.

  • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neuroklinik (452842) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:03AM (#9641127)
    Useless trivia? Last I heard, this guy had won over $800,000 because of all this useless trivia. Doesn't seem so useless now, does it?
  • Re:Proud? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rpbailey1642 (766298) <robert...b...pratt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:05AM (#9641145)
    Afraid of the Canadian Linux user groups/lynch mobs?
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:12AM (#9641212)
    "Personally I think he will just decide to walk once he hits $1000000."

    I don't think so. If I were in his place, I would keep going until I lost or they made me leave. There's not too many chances in life to rack up that kind of cash that quickly. He should and probably will take full advantage of it.
  • by Sheltim (673293) <sheltim&gmail,com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:18AM (#9641272)
    "There's not too many chances in life to rack up that kind of cash that quickly. He should and probably will take full advantage of it."

    Even ignoring the fact that he's making so much money, I bet he's *enjoying* it. Who wouldn't want to have that much fun and then get paid for it?
  • Re:Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sab39 (10510) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:25AM (#9641330) Homepage
    What's astonishing to me is that *nobody* mentions that the only reason he's so far ahead of previous records is that in all previous seasons you were booted after 5 wins. Of *course* someone doing very well is going to beat records by a lot - anyone who did this well on any previous season would have left the show three weeks ago with a paltry 150K or so.

    Sure, the guy's good. But there's no way to tell how much better he is than previous 5-day winners, because those previous winners never got the chance to show what they could do.
  • by XO (250276) <blade.eric@gmPOL ... om minus painter> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:40AM (#9641448) Homepage Journal
    If there's a wrong answer on Millionaire, and you can prove it, you need to contact them - at least once, i know, they have called the player back, and restarted the game at the point where the incorrect answer was.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:00AM (#9641696)
    "Former rule was five days and you're out (but eligible for the year-end 'Tournament of Champions'); this has been dropped this year allowing for the current streak of said Ken J."

    That makes his streak less impressive. J has been on for decades, right? So he's only just proving that many people could have done the same thing (as many have gone 5 days before.)
  • by scotch (102596) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:13AM (#9641827) Homepage
    The real problem is that for most of the easy questions, almost every contest up there knows the answer. Ken gets those every time because, after 25 times on the show, he has totally mastered the art of the buzz in. I've been watching the show, it's quite frustration to see the easy questions come up and every contestant frantically pushing their button, except Ken, who calmly get it every time.

    Ken is a super smart guy, but the buzzer factor helps ensure he doesn't have a bad night and lose to another smart guy (or girl).

  • by qtone42 (741822) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:44AM (#9642240)
    I'll take "Swords" for $1000, Trebeck!
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:49AM (#9642299)
    It's like he knows one of the guys who makes up the trivia. It's really incredible.

    OK, this is probably just paranoid thoughts going through my head, but give me a chance.

    Think about this. The Jeopardy people approach some guy. Say, hey we can fix you up with the answers for the questions and you will be the all time Jeopardy champ of champs. You will win about $1 mil on the show, and loose to somebody. We will give you $250,000 upfront and $250,000 when its over.

    So, the ratings go through the roof for Jeopardy (more $$$). The Jeopardy people are actually paying out 1/2 of their prize money, and the nerdy guy comes out with a cool 1/2 mil, and people enjoy seeing him win and talking about it.

    Sounds like a win-win situation for everybody.

    Are there any ethics to game shows? I mean most everything else is fiction on TV, do game shows have to be real?
  • video games (Score:2, Insightful)

    by supergwiz (641155) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:41AM (#9642977)
    I'm sure he is a gamer. How would explain is god-like timing for the answer button.
  • Re:Pales? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edgezone (51898) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:34AM (#9643666) Homepage
    Excuse me, but when you say that the tour isn't fake, you should consider doping. All those guys (most of them) are cheaters and I don't consider this sport anymore.


    Check those 2 links out :
    http://www.thinkmuscle.com/articles/hoberman/tour. htm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/cycli ng/3748973.stm

    Let's see...one link is about a doping incident from 6 years ago. The other is about a raid that turned up nothing? Yet your claim is that "All those guys" or "most of them" cheat and dope? You really have to do better then that. Please offer some better proof. They do urine tests, blood tests, raid hotel rooms (as you proved), monitor red blood cell counts, and France itself is very strict on even bringing substances into the country (ask Edith Rumsas about that one!).

    Obviously no sport can be perfect, after all, there will always be companies like BALCO trying to find a way around drug testing, but compared to other sports, professional cycling is one of the most aggressive testing sports around

  • by nelsonal (549144) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @12:11PM (#9644115) Journal
    I think you are correct also based on my extensive knowledge of Quizshow, but I'm curious why there was a congressional investigation into a television game show? It's good TV, why does it matter (legally or not) if it's fixed? Sure Pro Wrestling isn't the Olympics (not that they aren't just as corrupt) but it remains a fairly popular entertainment medium? Why was/is it so important?
  • by Tlosk (761023) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @12:26PM (#9644288)
    One of the bonuses to walking away when he hits 1 million is then it will be an open question how long he could have gone on for. Maybe there isn't anyone on the planet that could beat him, if he walks away that remains an open question, but if he keeps going until he gets beaten, well then we know the answer to that question.
  • Re:What a change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @12:42PM (#9644480) Homepage Journal
    Oh come on, it's just one guy. Hardly a revolution. Hardly anything new. America's always got their token smart guys. The average man knows Einstein, Sagan and Hawking. The average man knows Bill Gates. The average man know Asimov and Bradbury. The average man knows Alan Greenspan.

    The problem is, smart people don't really have time to spend in the spotlight. They're busy learning and doing stuff that matters. Beautiful people have little to do all day after that four hour session at the gym. So they go on E! So they show up on chat shows. So they go to gala premieres with vapid actresses.

    Fame is very high maintenance, and for most smart people, it's not worth it.
  • by djrosen (265939) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <nesorjd>> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @02:16PM (#9645728) Homepage
    No chance of him even coming close to the 10 Million on Millionaire. One of Ken's Strengths is the ability to make EXCELLENT educated Guesses, but Millionaire is not as forgiving and the mindset of the player is much different. In Jeopardy you dont really have to be afraid of a wrong answer so Ken will make his Guesses, but he isnt always right. Its my belief that Ken would not make it to the 10 million dollar mark.

    FWIW, Regis talks about him almost daily and will have him on the show if and when the run ends.

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