Before I started university I had one clear goal that I wanted to achieve during my time here. No, it was not getting a medical degree, passing with a honours or having epic amounts of fun. It was all about getting into the University Challenge team and have that familiar voice call out “Imperial College Wu!”. The advantages of studying medicine is that you essentially have 6 years of attempting to get in to the team. Therefore even though I have failed in 3 attempts, there are still 3 more years left to try. I have even considered doing a PhD purely for the sake that I will have 3 more years of hearing those infamous words, which my friends have described as “one of the best reasons I’ve heard of doing a PhD!”
Personally I love trivia and general knowledge, whether it be the weekly pub quiz, the annual school quiz or passionately shouting out answers whilst watching back University Challenge on iPlayer (yes I am THAT dedicated!). However I think trivia is actually something that is enjoyed and loved by everyone, especially at university. I tend to find that in lectures, the piece of information that everyone tends to remember afterwards is usually told with some clever anecdote/background which is generally quite interesting. In fact at the exact moment when a piece of trivia is told, you can hear a distinct, hushed murmur of everyone going “aaaahhhhh…that’s really interesting” accompanied by a slight smile and nod of the head. That piece of information is all your will remember and talk about and, as my friend Nia will know all too well, you will want to share that absolute gem with everyone around you. In fact, the most senior, memorable, and knowledgeable lecturers, consultants and professors (in fact the ones most likely to get a good SOLE!) tend to just casually throw out pieces of inane information that is vaguely related to medicine. Even though it may be a completely useless piece of information that you will never use, especially in exams, it does give you that indescribable warm feeling you get inside when you felt like you have genuinely learnt something.
General knowledge is also strangely memorable. Learning medicine often involves the painstaking process of learning an insane amount, especially when it comes to lists of drug names, muscles and molecules. It is very similar to learning a whole new language with their dreaded ‘vocab’ lists. Learning these pieces of information tend to be via repetition, much like practicing endlessly to perfect a piece of music. However, pieces of trivial knowledge tend to stick in your mind after just one mention and they are emphatically memorable since if you think of anything associated with that particular topic, that piece of general knowledge suddenly jumps out over any other knowledge. One of the best examples of this is the reason why all screws are sunk in clockwise. Basically supination of the arm (turning your hand clockwise) is a lot stronger than pronation (turning your hand anticlockwise) as the biceps muscle is the most powerful supinator. After learning this, I have suddenly found that every time I use a screwdriver, this piece of trivia jumps into my head!
General knowledge can of course be learnt and mastered in the usual way. In preparation for a pub quiz, my friend tried to learn all the knowledge in the world by learning the whole of Wikipedia! I tend to find that the beauty of trivia lies in the way you acquire it. When you are told a piece of general knowledge that is just completely random and out of the blue, not only will you enjoy that special feeling when you are told something that is ‘interesting’ but you will easily remember it. My fondest moment is when my friend Emily, who is from Salisbury, somehow mentioned in a lunchtime conversation that Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest church spire in the UK. 2 weeks later in a pub quiz the very question ‘which cathedral in the UK has the tallest spire?’ was asked!
The paradox of trivia is not to seek it out, but let it find you. Make yourself vulnerable to trivia and embrace it so that one day you might hear the words “Imperial College Wu!” spoken by that infamous voice.