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The Man Who Knew Too Much 655

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 BetterThanCaesar ( 625636 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:28AM (#9640822)

    I think you're thinking of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" There was a documentary about it called Millionaire: A Major Fraud [].

  • by I_M_Noman ( 653982 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:33AM (#9640870)
    What timeframes are we looking at for the current Jeopardy episodes? These certainly aren't being taped for same-day or next-day broadcast, are they?
    When I passed the test and was placed in the contestant pool for last season, they told me that they film from August through March, 5 episodes a day each on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Since we're almost up to the new filming season, I'd guess that these episodes were filmed last March.

    (BTW, the bastards never called me so I wasn't ever actually on the show. But I was ready, dammit!)
  • by sielwolf ( 246764 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:35AM (#9640887) Homepage Journal
    Was it recently? For a while that kept the max pretty low (since, well, the best anyone could do was be on less than a fifth the shows Jennings has been on. Also might explain why his winnings are about five times as high).

    On a related note: I liked Tony Kornheiser on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption talking about auditioning for Jeopardy where he got some pretty high marks but chose a less skilled contestant because Mr Tony wasn't "telegenic enough" (ironic since he cohosts PTI, is a guest on another weekly DC sports show and the Sports Reporters). I guess criteron might be out the window too.
  • Re:Coaching? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) * <ken&jots,org> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:37AM (#9640906) Homepage Journal
    No, there's no coaching whatsoever. After the great gameshow debacle in the 50's (there's a movie by -- not starring -- Robert Redford about this, which I can't remember the name of), this stuff was clamped down on BIG time. A friend of mine -- super-duper smart -- was on Jeopardy!, and wrote up an article about it at the time. For one, they do it in batches; IIRC, they knock off three shows in one day, and show them MUCH later. (Lots of NDA signage re: the results occurs when you get selected.) While they foster the illusion that it's live, it's not. In addition, while they're friendly with Alex during the game, there's essentially NO mingling at any other time -- no sense of impropriety is wanted or allowed. Etc. Honestly, from his article, it sounded a lot less chummy to be a Jeopardy! participant than it looks like from watching the show.
  • Re:Tonari no Totoro (Score:3, Informative)

    by sglane81 ( 230749 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:41AM (#9640935) Homepage
    It was Country music and "potent potables" since he doesn't drink. He is also a mormon and will be tithing some of the earnings/winnings to the Latterday Saints.
  • Re:Tonari no Totoro (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:43AM (#9640952) Homepage Journal
    According to this []:
    The website is down at the moment, undergoing a Jeopardy-related overhaul. D'oh!

  • Re:Proud? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rembem ( 621820 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:45AM (#9640981)
    The terms used in psychology are 'fluid intelligence' and 'crystallized intelligence'

    Fluid Intelligence is "a natural ability which is not dependant on acquired knowledge" Crystallized Intelligence is "ability dependent on acquired knowledge"
  • by bujoojoo ( 161227 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:46AM (#9640987)
    Brings to mind the recent GSN (Game Show Network) airing on the Michael Larson "Press Your Luck" scandal. This guy learned their random board sequence was actually sets of predictable moves and won what was then large $. Then the network would not pay him, although IMO he did nothing wrong.

    Not true. The producers tried to weasel out of paying him but could not prove he was cheating, only paying close attention. There is an interesting site here []
  • Re:Coaching? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:48AM (#9641004) Homepage Journal
    You're thinking of Quiz Show [].
  • DON'T BUY IT!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Inf0phreak ( 627499 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @08:58AM (#9641079)
    It's the cut dub-only version from Fox! And to make matters even worse, it's fullscreen. *YUCK!*

    Some time next year Disney will release a new and uncut version with subtitles and a new dub.

  • Jeopardy Web boards (Score:5, Informative)

    by UDGags ( 756537 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:00AM (#9641099) .php?s=50aa46369dcf5a3280b1ed37548dfe79&forumid=34 These are the actual message boards for Jeopardy and Ken Jennings posts there frequently on such topics. They also have running tallies of his scores and precantages. Kinda cool information if you like that kind of stuff. Also I have watched most of Ken's game and this guy is amazing with the amount of trivia he knows.
  • by arcdx ( 302794 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:06AM (#9641166)

    According to this story [] and countless others, the tapings occurred in February. The next tapings are scheduled for August.

    If Ken didn't lose by the end of his season, then he could be back for those tapings. I assume the current season will continue airing even during these tapings, and while Jeopardy has been extremely good at keeping the length of the streak under wraps, I imagine if KJ shows up in August, we're going to hear about it from somebody.

  • by rkhalloran ( 136467 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:15AM (#9641251) Homepage
    OK, I'll assume this isn't a troll.

    For the non-US readership: three contestants with a ring-in button. 'Hook' for the show is that you get an 'answer' and have to respond in the form of a question ("The US President who wrote the Declaration of Independence"; "Who is Thomas Jefferson?")

    Three rounds: first two consist of six categories of five questions each (game 'board' is six columns of five monitors each). Cash value of questions in first round runs $200-1000. in $200 increments, second round ('Double Jeopardy') runs $400-2000 in $400 jumps. You lose the value of the question on wrong answers, so you can potentially run negative. There are random 'Daily Double' squares (one in first round, two in second), where you can wager some/all of your winnings on getting that item correct, allowing for big shifts in position during the game. Third round ('Final Jeopardy') the players wager some/all of their winnings on a single question/answer; high total wins for the day.

    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.

  • Re:Tonari no Totoro (Score:3, Informative)

    by paitre ( 32242 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:17AM (#9641270) Journal
    And there is absolutely -NOTHING- wrong with this, either.
    I just watch this guy in absolute awe. I'm pretty good at trivia, but this guy just -owns- the freaking game. 800k, and counting, who -cares- that he's going to pay a 10% tithe to his Church, he's -still- not going to have to work for a while :)

  • Re:Incredible (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:18AM (#9641279)
    Actually he is a guy who writes trivia questions, for college
    quizbowl []..

  • by Bricklets ( 703061 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:36AM (#9641412)
    I think it may be difficult for many Americans to appreciate what a feat Lance Armstrong has been able to accomplish by winning these past few Tours. I happenly vacationed in Paris last summer around the time the Tour was going on, and let me say that was one insane tour Armstrong had to go through. I'd never seen cycling before then, but I'm now forever hooked. On the first day there was a massive crash among the huge swarm of cyclists in their final dash to the finishing line. Armstrong had also crashed. On the ground with his bike broken, one of his teammates stopped beside him and handed him his own bike so that Armstrong could finish the race. Amazing.

    Another time the tires of a cyclist in front of him exploded and that cyclist went skidding across the pavement. I don't remember how fast they were going (maybe 40-50mph), but Armstrong just barely misses running the guy over but had to swerve off track onto the grass before finally getting back on the road and continuing on. And there was one day when due to perhaps his own mistake, he ran out of water. By the time he finished that day he was completely dehydrated and had lost 1/3 of his body mass. Crazy.

    And finally the tour had a thriller of an ending. I think the day before the Tour ended Armstrong was still neck and neck with this closest competitor. Racing through a timed trial in the rain, Armstrong finished a bit slow if I remember correctly, but the other guy ended crashing on the wet road, losing too much time and hence guaranteed Armstrong's victory. A toss-up to the very end. Amazing.

    And so while Ken Jennings is certainly impressive with his winnings so far, I'd be hard press to say that the Tour pales in comparison.
  • by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:41AM (#9641458) Homepage Journal
    Basicially this is it in a nutshell.

    -Michael Larson at the time was unemployed. He became obsessed with game shows thinking that he could get on one and outsmart the system to win on it.
    -He starting watching Press your luck and realized that the pattern was psudorandom and completely reversed engenerred the Random pattern, and even perfected a button pressing method to be as precise as possible
    -Mike applied to be a contestant on Press your luck, and eventually got the green light to get on. CBS Producers commented that his demeanor was different from other contestants and they were suspicious of him, but couldn't find anything wrong so he got the go ahead.
    -Once on the show, In the beginning, he acted just like any other contestant, and went through the question and answer session pretty unenentfully.
    -the spin round, was where it got interesting. The First thing Mike did was get a whammy. It's believed that he did it on purpose to get a feel of the button to the board interaction and also not to look like he was blantently hacking the board.
    -after the first whammy, it was all big bucks from there. he would almost always either hit big bucks or another space on the "wheel" that he knew would never popup a whammy. The whole time doing it he was in some sort of trancelike state.
    -The second Q&A Session goes underway, already he's won a good amount of money but CBS hasn't seen anything yet. CBS Producers are going nuts in the back, more than aware that he's got the system beat from his first round performance. Peter Tomarken is basicially shocked at this point.
    -Second round comes around. Mike basicially spins and never stops, collecting even more spins and more money. it gets to the point that Peter is beyond stunned now and doesn't know how to react to this, CBS is going insane in the back, and the episode is running way out of bounds for it's time.
    -Mike breaks the $100,000 barrier. at this point he's won more money than was not only thought possible, but has broke the daytime money winnings record.
    -finally, he gets frightened that he's going to screw up and get a whammy, so he passes the spins.
    -eventually, some spins he has to take get passed to him. Wins Even more money. until basicially all the spins are gone.
    -in the end, CBS "retired" him as champion, and originally would not pay him for cheating. eventually they paid him when their lawyers advised thm that they would lose because their wheel was too predictive. They aired te show as a two day show, because it was so long, they increased the patterns, and added more whammy slots where there originally were none.
  • Re:Ugh (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:49AM (#9641554)
    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.

  • Re:The Tour (Score:3, Informative)

    by YetAnotherDave ( 159442 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:53AM (#9641603)
    their bikes are less of a factor than the fact that the riders are:
    a) rediculously fit
    b) _really_ good at getting the most benefit from drafting. It cuts wind resistance by a huge amount for riders to be wheel-to-wheel...
  • by kryptkpr ( 180196 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:18AM (#9641883) Homepage
    Personally I think he will just decide to walk once he hits $1000000.

    Ken has himself said (on the 23rd show I think it was; where a the lady got ~$1800 taken away retrospectivelly for saying 'Olympics' instead of 'Summer Olympics' and didn't end up with enough $$ to challenge him) that his goal is to be invited to become a writer for Jeopardy. All Jeopardy writers are previous contestants (according to Trebek).
  • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Informative)

    by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:24AM (#9641943) Journal
    • 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.
    Actually the article mentions this, did you read it? Another person pointed out that the doubled the value of the questions also this season (when they did away with the 5 day limit). That wasn't mentioned in the article.
  • by red floyd ( 220712 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:30AM (#9642035)
    Speaking from experience (I came in 2nd in 1991) they film 5 episodes a day. They used to tape two days per week.

    When did they change the rules? It used to be that you could be on 5 times... max, at which point you retired as an "undefeated 5 time champion".
  • by red floyd ( 220712 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:32AM (#9642070)
    They have a light around the contest board. You can't ring in until the light goes on (otherwise, you have a 2 second lockout).

    Speaking from experience

    red floyd -- former Jeopardy! contestant
  • by kaden ( 535652 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:36AM (#9642126)
    I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet (apparantly). Ken Jennings has a webpage []! I'm sorry to report to the /. crowd that it was designed in MS Word. But it seems to be more of a personal checklist (and a window into how he got so much "useless" knowledge) than a page he intended for other people to see.
  • by agallagh42 ( 301559 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @10:49AM (#9642300) Homepage
    "When did they change the rules? It used to be that you could be on 5 times... max, at which point you retired as an "undefeated 5 time champion"."

    It was very recently. I think within the past year. They made a big deal out of it when they changed the rules. Now the champion keeps playing until they lose.
  • Re:The Tour (Score:3, Informative)

    by ipfwadm ( 12995 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:01AM (#9642464) Homepage
    I often wonder what the ratio between gears on the professionals' bikes are. A lot of times when I'm riding downhill I'm pedaling as fast as I can with no tension left to gain speed. I need a better bike. 'Course no bike in the world is going to make me anything near as fast as those guys.

    The maximum gearing I have on my road bike is 53 teeth in the front and 12 in the back. Note that the average mountain bike or hybrid has nothing near this gear ratio. You need a racing bike to get this. I don't think pro racing bikes are too terribly different from this -- they might have a couple more teeth in the front and maybe an 11 in the back. If you look at pros ride, they usually have an incredibly high cadence (in other words, they pedal really fast). Sprinters will spin their legs at well over 100 or 120 rpms. Even climbers will often sit in the saddle and spin -- it's much easier to maintain high RPMs and low torque than it is the opposite. The average person would be bouncing all over the place at 100 rpms.
  • by Crazy Man on Fire ( 153457 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:27AM (#9642810) Homepage
    That is correct. Lance produces lactic acid at an insanely reduced rate. This allows him to push himself much further before fatigue and eventual exhaustion and muscle failure set in.
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich&aol,com> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:33AM (#9642889) Journal
    I still cringe deeply to the core of my being every time I see the replay of Joseba Beloki's fateful crash in Stage 9 last year. Indeed, Armstrong put his cyclocross skills to good use to avoid that crash, but I remember hearing Beloki's screams of agony as he lay there on the ground, both himself and his bike, broken.

    He had a compound fracture of his elbow and broke his Femur (in two places, IIRC). That was by far one of the worst crashes I have ever seen involving only one rider, and is one of the many reasons I will never ride tubulars.

    What had happened was that, in braking down the hill, the rear rim heated enough to soften the glue that was holding his tire on... he lost the tire, and down he went.

    Just one minor argument, however. I think that if you lose 1/3 of your body mass in water, you're dead. Usually if you lose just 3-4% of your bodyweight in water, you lose the ability to move effectively. 33% is just fatal :)
  • The Tour is a Joke (Score:0, Informative)

    by ChrisN79 ( 615123 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:39AM (#9642960)

    Before you mod this as flamebait, read it.. I think I have some valid points here.

    I am tired of everyone going on and on about how amazing Lance Armstrong is. Sure, he is a fine athlete... he couldn't win these without being one. However you have to consider some other things when you think about Lance Armstrong:

    1. This is the only major race he participates in each year, unlike his competitors
    2. He spends all year training specifically for this event, unlike his competitors
    3. His teammates do what they can to help him win at the expense of their own times (I know this happens throughout cycling, but it's true nonetheless)

    To use an analogy: It would be like Tiger Woods only playing the Masters every year. And practicing on the Masters course every week for the year leading up to it. And to top it off, he would make friends with other golfers, who would help screw up other golfers' games, to ensure that Tiger won. How many of you would consider Tiger Woods hands-down the best golfer in the world at that point? (I know this is a crude analogy, but it gets the point across)

  • Re:The New Jeopardy (Score:4, Informative)

    by GeoGreg ( 631708 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:45AM (#9643028)
    You can't buzz in as soon as Alex begins to speak. The buzzers are locked out by a producer until Alex finishes the question. That's how it was when I was on in 1991, and other posts here indicate that's still the case. I haven't watched the show myself recently.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @11:49AM (#9643057) r-luck/

    There is also a lot of other good reading in the rotten library.
  • by drjzzz ( 150299 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @01:25PM (#9644271) Homepage Journal
    An "allele" is like the flavor of the gene, one particular sequence along the length of the chromosome containing the gene. Some genes have hundreds of alleles whereas others have very few or even a single sequence in the population. For example, the hundreds of "histocompatibility" alleles make it very hard to match transplant organ donors and recipients (HLA-B has >300 alleles). In contrast, the proteins that help compact DNA, histones, are highly conserved and differ only very slightly between even humans and peas (a fact that I still find amazing).

    Briefly, the Millionaire" answer sounds correct!
  • Hardly a cult (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @01:48PM (#9644556)
    Yeah, you know ... cult ... like all those people in the bible:

    Gen. 14: 20 (Heb. 7: 2) gave him tithes of all.
    Gen. 28: 22 I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
    Lev. 27: 30 tithe of the land . . . is holy unto the Lord.
    Num. 18: 26 for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe.
    Deut. 12: 6 your tithes, and heave offerings.
    Deut. 14: 22 (Deut. 26: 12) tithe all the increase of thy seed.
    2 Chr. 31: 5 tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.
    Neh. 10: 38 Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes.
    Neh. 12: 44 for the treasures, to gather.
    Neh. 13: 12 brought all Judah the tithe of the corn.
    Mal. 3: 8 Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
    Matt. 23: 23 tithe of mint and anise and cummin.
    Luke 18: 12 I give tithes of all that I possess.
  • Re:Pales? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bonius_rex ( 170357 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @01:51PM (#9644577)
    You, sir, are full of shit.
    Lance had testicular cancer, which later became lung, and brain cancer. He never had prostate cancer.

    "Tests revealed advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and his brain" []

    If you read either of his books, you can read all about the witch-hunt the French cycling authorities put him through, for over a year, without ever finding any evidence of his using illicit substances.

  • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @01:55PM (#9644619) Journal
    I suspect the real ability he has is his hand buzzer reaction time. If I recall, you can't buzz in as soon as the question is answered, you have to wait until Alex reads the question, then a signal light is turned on off camera. Pushing the button before the light comes on triggers a two second lockout. So you have time to decide if you are going for it, then concentrate on buzzing in. Like drag racing, its knowing more questions to answers, it being first off the line so you have more opportunities.

    And as far as the record goes, an important factor is that until recently after 5 wins a champion was retired, and would only come back for a tournament of champions. So he's the first "champion" to be given this opportunity.

    Which is not to imply that he's not preternaturally smart, just that there's more to it than just trivia capacity.

  • by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @02:29PM (#9645075)
    Since Jeopardy and Wheel are syndicated, it could just be that way in your local market.

    Then again, I am in New York which will definately go Kerry so they don't bother wasting their money (either side) on ads here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2004 @02:35PM (#9645153)
    clickable link []
  • Interesting Stats (Score:2, Informative)

    by stevemm81 ( 203868 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @02:36PM (#9645163) Homepage
    They have some interesting stats on Jennings at []. Apparently he's number 4 among all winners on syndicated game shows in terms of money earned (after the Million Dollar Tournament Of Champs Jeopardy winner and two syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Winners) and number 3 in all time number of game show appearances.

    The site also keeps track of his average winning and the number of wins he needs to hit various milestones.
  • by mildness ( 579534 ) <.moc.hpmab. .ta. .llib.> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @04:25PM (#9646599) Homepage
    Today had another fantastic stage. Lance went from Yellow Jersey to nine and a half minutes down! To add some perspective to that, Lance's winning margin last year was 61 seconds.


    Le Tour []

    BBC's Le Tour page []

    The Guardian's page has excellant recaps []

    Sports Illustrated's page []

    ESPN []

    OLN has the DAILY TV SCHEDULE []

    8:30-9am ET LIVE Pre-Race Show
    9-11am ET LIVE Coverage
    12pm-2pm ET Re-Air of Live Coverage
    2:30-4:30pm ET Re-Air of Live Coverage
    5-7pm ET The Roadside Tour
    7:30-8pm ET Eastern Prime Time Pre-Race Show
    8-8:30pm PT Pacific Prime Time Pre-race Show
    8-10:30pm ET Eastern Prime Time Expanded Coverage
    8:30-11pm PT Pacific Prime Time Expanded Coverage

    Any other link recommendations?


  • Re:what Daytime TV? (Score:2, Informative)

    by trubador ( 172912 ) <dugrik@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday July 08, 2004 @04:27PM (#9646622)
    Jeopardy! is syndicated. It airs at different times in different markets. (3 p.m. in Dallas/Fort Worth)
  • by Trackster ( 761525 ) on Thursday July 08, 2004 @09:38PM (#9648918) Journal
    Another difference is that the questions are now worth 2X as much as they used to be in the old rules.
  • by polyiguana ( 76056 ) on Friday July 09, 2004 @05:13AM (#9650465)
    From Usenet: []

    The current season of Jeopardy will air new shows through July 23.
    From then until sometime right after Labor Day they will air repeats.

    Jeopardy wrapped taping of this season's shows in April, at which time
    they also taped the first ten shows of next season.

    As of the July 23rd show Ken Jennings will have won 38 shows, and when
    they return in the fall he will be seen to win the first ten shows of
    the new season, with a cumulative total winning somewhere around 1.5

    They will resume taping for the 2004-5 season sometime in August, when
    Ken Jennings will return to continue as undefeated champion for who
    knows how long. So yes, Ken is home in Utah right now, waiting until

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye