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Trivial Pursuits, Part 2

Posted on 2007-03-21
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This is another Trivial Pursuit question where I disagreed with the given answer.

The question was "What is the World's longest non-mechanical race?" Their answer was "The Tour de France". I disagreed with the answer for two reasons; 1) A bicycle is a mechanical device, and 2) If a bicycle is allowed, then so should a yacht be, in which case a round-the-world yacht race is longer.

What are your feelings on this, experts?
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Question by:KelvinY
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Probably they meant "non-motorized", but either way, I think you've trumped the answer. Actually, another interpretation of the question is whether they mean "longest" in time or "longest" in distance. Race for the Cure wins for me.  What say we collude and publish "Trivial Pursuit Esoteric Version"
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by:keola75
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Here are a couple of definitions of Machine from dictionary.com...

A device consisting of fixed and moving parts that modifies mechanical energy and transmits it in a more useful form.

A simple device, such as a lever, a pulley, or an inclined plane, that alters the magnitude or direction, or both, of an applied force; a simple machine.

Considering these definitions and the definitions of mechanical, I would have to agree with you.  In fact, one of the other definitions of a machine does state bicycle as a machine.  A yacht doesn't modify applied force (wind) like a bicycle does.

Another race (land) that can be considered non-mechanical is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which is over 1150 miles.
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by:ozo
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By those definitions  The Tour de France, Iditarod, Race for the Cure, and the Clipper race are all mechanical
Shal we try definitions of "race"?
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by:noci
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That leaves the long distance running races (forrest gump?)
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by:keola75
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ozo,

Can you really consider Iditarod mechanical because it is not modifying the energy nor transmitting it in a more useful form?  It's just animals pulling a sled.

keola75
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by:KelvinY
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Keola

I had the same thought. You're not using any machine that gives you a mechanical advantage in a sled race, but rather taking advantage of an animal's power. The same could be said for horse racing.
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by:TeamSrv
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I think the card is accurate.  There are three things in the question that need defining.
1. Non - mechanical
2. World's
3. Longest

For non-mechanical, I would simply define that as 'human powered'.  We might get into a few technicalities with the Iditarod but I think 'human powered' is a decent generalization.

For World's, I would take that as known throughout the world.

As for Longest... it could either mean longest distance, longest event time, or longest running history.

The Tour de France is definately 'human powered'.  Even though you use a bicycle to amplify that power and sometimes gravity to aid you, it is basically 'human powered'.  The Tour de France is easily a house hold name, it would be hard to find someone that has not heard of it.  In 2005 it was broadcasts to over 170 countries.  I think this qualifies for the 'World' portion.  For longest, (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tour_de_France) the Tour de France started in 1903, and the current race lasts approximately 3 weeks and covers 1,864 to 2,486 miles.  

Nothing else comes to mind that fits those three ideas.  Can anyone think of any?

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by:dagesi
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I'd define "non-mechanical", in this case, to mean "initial power generation not produced by a mechanical device.
Obviously, mechanical devices went into modifying that power but if you're not too careful, you could carry that back quite a few layers...
Did a machine make the sled...?  
And if not, did a machine make the axe that cut the wood that made the sled?  
And if not, did a machine mine the ore that went into the axe that cut the wood that made the sled?  And if not, did a machine make the explosives that opened up the mountain that was mined for the ore that blah blah blah...?
Unless everyone is expected to make their own tools from hand, machines come into play for everything.  So we just have to decide at what point we stop moving back in our "defintiion".
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by:KelvinY
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TeamSrv

I don't agree that non-mechanical is the same as human-powered. If you try to push a big rock over with your bare hands that's human powered. If you use a lever to move it, that's mechanical, as well as being human powered. A lever is, by definition, a machine, albeit a very simple one. Bicycles make use of leverage so they are mechanical, which, I feel, disqualifies a race using them them from being considered as non-mechanical.

I quite like the idea of rephasing the question to say "human powered". If the card had said that then the Tour de France is a fine candidate for the correct answer. Sadly, "human powered" does disqualify the Iditarod - sorry, doggies.

dagesi

I think the cut off point is the equipment used in the race itself, not the processes for manufacturing it.
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by:dagesi
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KelvinY...
Ok... but how many racers in the Tour lack a car with their crew...?  Technically, isn't the car part of the race then?  
People have in the past ended up sidelined for a longer period of time due to the fact their car took longer to reach them...
But I do understand the concept...
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by:KelvinY
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dagesi

You really are thinking laterally here! I wouldn't say that the car was part of the race. After all, the cars are not providing any motivational force to the bicycles and the first car across the line does not determine the winner. The role of the car is to idealize the situation as far as possible, to remove the effect of outside influences likes punctures, for example. Obviously in the real world things are not perfect, as you have noted, and the absence or timely presence of a car has influenced the outcome of a race before.
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by:dagesi
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Exactly... of course, it's not that perfect world, as you say, and so there are advantages potentially gained from the cars.
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by:dqmq
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In my mind, even the 100 meter dash is "mechanical".  It involves a starting block that aids the runner and shoes engineered to optimize the forces at work. Are not arms and legs levers, too?

Substituting "human powered" doesn't solve the ambiguities either. A sail boat is generally not considered human powered, but then without humans steering the boat and moving the sails, it would be a different kind of race altogether.

This reminds me of issues I had with tests in school.  You have to get good an ascertaining the intent of the question and picking the best answer with that in mind.  When you master that skill, you can do pretty well even with limited knowledge of the subject matter.
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by:noci
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43 Miles foot race
http://www.devilothehighlandsfootrace.co.uk/

54 miles walk/run
http://www.caledonianchallenge.com/

153Km race
http://westhighlandwayrace.org/     (motorized backup required..., to recover you if you get lost, injured).

With various equipment (bikes, kayaks) and on foot 700Km
http://www.hebrideanchallenge.com/concept.shtml

Then there are the guys that row over the oceans:
http://www.woodvale-challenge.co.uk/
http://www.around-n-over.org/boat.htm
http://www.oceanrowing.com/statistics/index.htm
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by:noci
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Longest row I could find = 10652 Sea miles ~ 19727 km.
Peru to Australia ,
en of june 2000 -> end of march 2001
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by:KelvinY
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I think the bottom line here is that it's open to interpretation. Thanks for sharing all the interesting thoughts.
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