Wisdom Of The Crowd

May 18, 2018
Originally published on May 18, 2018 4:59 pm

Ophira and Jonathan estimate various quantities, such as how many blocks make up the Great Pyramid of Giza. They compare their estimates to an average of the guesses made by a previous Bell House audience.

Heard on Diane Guerrero: Most Likely To Be Superlative.

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While Tyler and Patrick get ready for the final round, it's time for us to play a game. This is Wisdom Of The Crowd. Puzzle guru Greg Pliska, how does this work?

GREG PLISKA: We asked a previous live audience here at the Bell House to answer trivia questions with numerical answers. For example, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Now, we averaged everyone's responses. And now we'll compare the wisdom of the crowd to the wisdom of Ophira and Jonathan. All right, here we go. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, approximately how many stone blocks make up the great pyramid of Giza?

JONATHAN COULTON: So a pyramid. What's that got - four sides?


COULTON: I was there once. I was at this pyramid. All I remember is that it is very big. The blocks are pretty big but not super big. This is all technical terms.


EISENBERG: Is that...


EISENBERG: Is that your own...

COULTON: I don't even know how you...

EISENBERG: ...Units of measurement?

COULTON: I don't know how you figure this out. So - well, let's say one edge on the bottom, say - I don't know - a hundred blocks. And then if it were a cube, you'd do a hundred times a hundred times a hundred, which would be a one with six zeros, which is a million. But it's not a cube. It's a pyramid. So it's going to be less, but I don't know by how much because I don't remember my geometry. But I'm going to say it's half. I'm going to say 500,000 blocks.

PLISKA: Five hundred thousand blocks.

COULTON: These are very big pyramids, people.

PLISKA: That's great. OK. Ophira.



COULTON: Sixty blocks?

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK. I'm going to say slightly less than yours to sort of even it out and give myself a shot. So I'm going to say 400,000.

PLISKA: Four hundred...


EISENBERG: Did someone just do a spit take?

COULTON: Somebody just snorted at you.


COULTON: It's very brave and smart snorting from the darkness.


COULTON: From the anonymous darkness.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Must be very proud.

PLISKA: Just to be clear, we were talking about the great pyramids.

EISENBERG: Oh, the great ones.

COULTON: The great pyramids. Not the less - not the smaller ones.

PLISKA: Not the lesser pyramids, not the mini pyramid, but the great pyramid.

COULTON: Nobody likes those...

PLISKA: All right. So, Jonathan, you said 500,000 blocks.

COULTON: Yes. Yes, I did.

PLISKA: Ophira, you said 400,000 blocks. The crowd said there were 2,399,348 blocks.


COULTON: That seems like too many.

PLISKA: The correct answer is 2.3 million...


PLISKA: ...Blocks.


PLISKA: The crowd was very close.

EISENBERG: Just a little.

PLISKA: Here's the next one. According to a 2010 study in The Wall Street Journal, in an average NFL football game, for how many minutes is the ball actually in play?

EISENBERG: OK. This is American football, right?


EISENBERG: OK. So what is that - three periods?


PLISKA: I can't help you. You're going to have to work this out.

EISENBERG: It doesn't seem like it's ever long enough that the ball is in play. It's always, like, a whistle. And they get - they have how many tries? Four tries or something like that?


EISENBERG: Yeah. Canadian football is three. It's harder.


EISENBERG: You know, OK, so I'm going to say - how about 40 minutes?

PLISKA: Forty minutes. Got it.

EISENBERG: Collectively...

PLISKA: Yeah. Total.

EISENBERG: ...Throughout the game. That seems...

PLISKA: Total...

EISENBERG: ...Like a lot of minutes.

PLISKA: Throughout the whole game.

EISENBERG: Now I'm making it exciting.

COULTON: It does seem like a lot of minutes. But I don't know. I mean, there's two halves.


COULTON: I used air quotes because I don't know if I'm correct.


EISENBERG: Well, that's why there's a halftime show. I know that.

COULTON: This is the sport where there's a lot of running and kicking and you jump on each other? That's football?



COULTON: All right. So there's two halves...


COULTON: ...Of a football game. And they're each 15 hours long. They take forever.



COULTON: I think there's a lot of wasted time. There's a lot of - they run down the clock for some reason that I don't understand. What - timeout - what's that? Who even knows?

EISENBERG: They punt. They huddle.

COULTON: I'm going to say...


PLISKA: You guys are big fans clearly.


COULTON: I'm going to say that it's - I'm just going to say it's 50 minutes.


PLISKA: Five-zero - 50 minutes.

COULTON: Five-zero.


PLISKA: So there are 60 minutes of actual time in the game, right?


PLISKA: Ophira says 40 of those the ball is in play.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, and I said 50.

PLISKA: Jonathan says 50.


COULTON: It's probably right.

PLISKA: At least you didn't say 68 or something. The crowd thought that football - the football is in play for 38 minutes. The real answer is 11 minutes.


EISENBERG: What? You've almost...

COULTON: What are they doing the rest of the time?


PLISKA: They just stand around. They dispute what happened during the 11 minutes. They pause.

COULTON: It's terrible.

PLISKA: OK. So the crowd wins that one.


PLISKA: Congratulations. Good work, Ophira. Good work, Jonathan. And good work, previous audience.

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