True or False: In 2003, a hunter was responsible for starting the biggest fire in California’s history.
A hunter was responsible for starting the biggest fire in California’s history back in 2003. He lost a lit signal flare near the San Diego County Estates, and the fire spread. Close to 300,000 acres and 2,322 homes were destroyed. 14 people also lost their lives.
What other movie making company was purchased by Sony in 1989?
Sony thought that they were making a smart purchase when they scooped up Columbia Pictures for 3.4 billion dollars in 1989. The cost of the deal increased when they had to spend $200 million on another production company, and another $500 million to settle a lawsuit. In the end, they were forced to take a 3.2-billion-dollar write-down on the acquisition
Why did Russia sell Alaska to the United States for very little money?
At the end of the Crimean war, Russia was weakened and had very little money, and they knew that Britain could simply take over their Alaskan territory if they wished. As far as the Czar was concerned, it was just a useless piece of barren land, so he decided to sell it to the United States, rather than lose it to their British enemies. Neither party knew about the gold and petrol that lay beneath the land. If they had, Russia likely wouldn’t have sold it for 2 cents an acre.
In 1532, how did the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro trick the ruler of the Incas, Atahualpa, into a massacre?
In 1532, Conquistador Francisco Pizarro lured the Inca ruler Atahualpa to a supposed feast in his honor. It turned out to be a trap. Pizarro’s men massacred 80,000 Inca warriors, and captured Atahualpa, forcing him to convert to Christianity before killing him.
True or False: A Japanese man once lost more than $2 billion trading copper futures.
Yasuo Hamanaka, the former chief copper trader at Sumitomo in Japan attempted to corner the market (get enough market share to manipulate the price) on copper back in 1996. Before prices dropped and the scheme collapsed, Sumitomo controlled as much as 5% of the world’s copper. He was known as "Mr. Copper" because of his aggressive trading style. On June 13, 1996, Sumitomo Corporation reported a loss of US$1.8 billion caused by unauthorized copper trading by Hamanaka on the London Metal Exchange. It was later revealed that the true losses caused by Hamanka totalled $2.6 billion dollars.
True or False: Japan has never had a major nuclear accident in its history.
False! The triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Number 1 power plant occurred largely because despite warnings that the aging plants would not withstand a major disaster, the Japanese government had blind belief that the plants were so safe, and that a disaster of that magnitude was impossible. The accident will take an estimated 40 years and billions of dollars to clean up
Which of these options was NOT the name of a NASA Space Shuttle that crashed or exploded?
Columbia and Challenger were two space shuttles which crashed during NASA missions. Each disaster resulted in the deaths of 7 astronauts.
600 years ago, China had one of the greatest seafaring fleets in the world. They boasted 5 times the size of those being built in Europe. But by 1525 the fleet was almost entirely gone. What happened to it?
600 or so years ago, China had one of the greatest seafaring fleets in the world. They boasted 5 times the size of those being built in Europe. By 1525, the entire fleet had been destroyed. Chinese elites urged the government to destroy their own fleet, concerned about the rising status of the middle class who had benefited from the
international trade that the "Treasure Fleet" enabled. The vessels were either set aflame, or left to rot at port. Economists believe this act crippled China's economy and drastically reduced their world influence.
What was the surname of the Austrian Duke whose death is generally considered to have triggered World War I?
Who would have imagined that a wrong turn could start a world war. That’s what happened on June 14, 1914, when the Archduke Ferdinand's driver made a wrong turn. He turned down the road where the assassin, Gavrilo Princip, was enjoying a sandwich. The driver, realizing his mistake, slammed on the breaks and caused the car to stall, which gave Princip the opportunity to fire into the car at close range.
What caused the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster?
On 26th April 1986, engineers at the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station, a Soviet facility, were testing a new cooling system designed to reduce the risk of a meltdown. Their test caused a meltdown, and the resulting explosion destroyed Chernobyl’s reactor 4. The Chernobyl Forum predicts that the eventual death toll could reach 4,000 among those exposed to the highest levels of radiation. That said, what many people don't know is that the plant actually remained a fully-functioning power plant for years after the disaster. The disaster destroyed reactor 4, but reactors 1-3 remained open for business. Due to high levels of radiation, plant employees could no longer live beside the facility, but many continued to commute to work to supply power in Europe. The final reactor only ceased operating in 2000.
In 1998, Mercedes Benz merged with another major auto-manufacturer. The merger would prove to be a failure. What was the other automaker?
Unfortunately for Mercedes Benz, their 1998 merger with Chrysler failed to work out as planned, and less than a decade later in 2007, Mercedes sold the company for $7 billion- about $13 billion less than they’d paid for it.
The founders of WhatsApp had previously been turned down for jobs as programmers at which Internet giant?
In 2009, Facebook turned down a pair of programmers for jobs. No big deal, right? Must happen all the time at FB HQ.... A few years later, though, the pair developed WhatsApp. Facebook subsequently purchased that venture for a cool $19 billion.
Which of these options was NOT a reason that Napoleon’s invasion of Russia failed?
Just over 200 years ago, Napoleon’s army attempted to invade Russia. Whoops. A combination of factors spelled doom for the invasion. There wasn't nearly enough food for the soldiers and horses. Poor discipline was rampant in the ranks. And, of course, none of the men were prepared for the unimaginable brutality of a full Russian winter.
In 2009, Tiger Woods made an admission that cost him $750 million in endorsements. What did he confess to?
Tiger Woods’s admission of multiple illicit affairs with women cost him his wife, and 750 million dollars. He also lost his sponsorships with Gatorade and others, but even worse, the shareholders of the companies with Tiger Woods endorsements lost an estimate $5 to $12 billion dollars in the wake of the scandal.
In 1999, the founders of Google approached Excite CEO George Bell, offering to sell him the search engine. How much did they ask for?
In 1999, the founders of Google approached Excite CEO George Bell, offering to sell him the search engine for $1 million. When Bell refused, they lowered the price to $750,000, which he also rejected. Today, Google is valued at $365 billion.
When the Titanic sank, it was travelling from England to...
In April 1912, the largest passenger ship ever built began its maiden voyage across the Atlantic from England to New York. It would never finish the trip. The Titanic was called "unsinkable". It wasn't. The ship sank in the early morning hours of April 15, after crashing into an iceberg and taking on water. Long before the actual incident, the Titanic's crew received warnings about icebergs in the area. In the interest of saving time, the warnings were ignored. That mistake claimed the lives of 1,517 people.
True or False: Workers at NASA once taped over part of the original moon landing
Back in the days of data tapes, it was easy to accidentally tape over earlier recordings. Unfortunately for NASA, that’s exactly what they did, and the original tapes of the moon landing were erased and re-used. Luckily, they were able to restore the original broadcast, and offer the world a glimpse of the historic event.
Where was the largest nuclear meltdown in American history?
The nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in March of 1979 was the result of mechanical failures that were made worse by poor training and oversights in the human-computer interaction design. It was the most significant nuclear disaster in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.
True or False: The Tower of Pisa was intentionally designed to lean.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a free-standing bell tower in the city of Pisa Italy. The tower is famous for its lean, but that wasn’t by design. The foundation for the tower was built on ground that was too soft to support its weight, and it started to lean during construction.
What was the “Hindenburg Disaster”?
The Hindenburg disaster marked the end of the airship era, killing 35 passengers, and one member of the ground crew. The airship caught fire because of a spark that ignited leaking hydrogen. As the Germans discovered, hydrogen is an extremely flammable and dangerous substance, and using it to fill airships perhaps wasn’t the smartest idea.
What was the mistake which caused the Romans to lose control of Constantinople when they were attacked by Ottomans?
Forgetting to close a gate isn’t normally that big a deal--unless you’re the unfortunate Roman who forgot to close the Kerkoporta gate, and allowed the Ottomans to surge through and conquer the city.
What car did Ford release in 1957 to massive excitement... only to result in a significant failure?
The car was introduced with fanfare and excitement... but Ford would stop production in 1959, just two years after the initial sale. Unfortunately for Ford, it failed to live up to the hype created by their advertising campaign. The whole debacle cost them an estimated $250 million.
Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Great Britain in 1770. But Australia had been already been explored extensively (and then abandoned) by explorers from which countries?
Dutch navigators extensively explored Australia almost a century before Captain James Cook claimed it for Great Britain in 1770, but they chose not to settle there because it failed to live up to their expectations. The island had been fabled to be overflowing with gold and giants, and they were disappointed by the seemingly barren coastline.
Roughly what percentage of Americans watched the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger?
Approximately 17% of Americans were watching on the morning of January 28, 1986, as the Space Shuttle Challenger launched toward space. On-board were 6 NASA astronauts, as well as Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe, who was set to become the first teacher in space.
.After J.K. Rowling’s literary agency received 12 rejections for Harry Potter, which publisher finally accepted the book?
.After J.K. Rowling’s literary agency received 12 rejections for Harry Potter, which
publisher finally accepted the book?
The British government was sued for £9 million after a government agency recorded the wrong company as being set for liquidation. What caused the issue?
The British government was sued for £9 million after a clerical error resulted in the wrong company being recorded as in liquidation. Companies House mistakenly mistook a 124-year-old Welsh company called “Taylor and Sons” for a bankrupt company “Taylor and Son” due to a clerical error that inserted an extra ‘s’ onto a liquidation notice. The mistake cost 250 people their jobs.
Which company purchased Snapple for $1.4 billion in 1994 (only to result in a massive loss)?
When Quaker purchased Snapple for $1.4 billion in 1994, their goal was to sell it in every grocery store in the country. But Snapple was so successful in the smaller brand-name grocery stores that companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola made their own copycat brands. Quaker sold Snapple after just three years for significantly less than what they paid.
Who was Alexander the Great’s heir?
Alexander the Great succeeded in forging the largest Western empire of the ancient world-- only for it to be toppled because he never named an heir. Shortly before his death, Alexander was asked who should succeed him. He responded simply, “the strongest"... as though that was a helpful answer. As it turns out, men who've spent their lives conquering much of the known world tend to be a little competitive. Upon his death, Alexander's generals immediately vied to fill the power vaccuum... leaving his carefully crafted empire to crumble.
Which of these animals was NOT targeted for extermination as part of Chairman Mao Zedong’s “Four Pests Campaign”?
From 1958-1962, Chairman Mao Zedong China launched the “Four Pests Campaign,” which would exterminate rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. What they
didn’t realize was that sparrows ate a large number of insects. Without the sparrows to eat them, locust populations grew, and created an ecological imbalance that exacerbated the Great Chinese Famin, which resulted in 15-30 million deaths. That's right, when Chairman Mao Zedong ordered the extermination of sparrows, he accidentally sentenced 15 million citizens to death, all because he didn't realize that sparrows were mission critical for pest control.
Sure, a few of those questions got past you... but that’s because we made this as hard as humanly possible. And you still did pretty dang well. Good on you. One thing is absolutely for certain: you’ve done some serious reading.
How could you possibly know all that? Do you ever make a mistake? No wonder you know all these questions. You’ve clearly made a study of the greatest errors of all-time... all so you could avoid ever making a mistake yourself. Well done.
Happy With Your Test Score? This video can help you do better on any quiz... even if you know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the topic.
History is shaped by mistakes. Some lead to monumental leaps forward in human understanding. Most do not. Of those in the second category, many are simply embarrassing, and result in a good bar story. Meanwhile, other have simply disastrous consequences. How well do you know the most grievous errors ever committed? Time to find out...