The Most Boring Day In History

August 10, 2011

Brit Trogen


Supercomputers are used for a lot these days—from simulating nuclear war and fusion to monitoring weather and calculating Pi—but you just know there have to be some that are doing stupid, useless stuff, like keeping track of McDonald's purchases or trying to figure out how the movie Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps ever made it to production. It's not the supercomputer's fault, of course. They know not what they do. Yet.


Enter William Tunstall-Pendoe: a Cambridge computer scientist with access to nearly unlimited computing power in the form of a search engine called True Knowledge, and a bit too much free time. True Knowledge is a database that indexes over 300 million facts, including a large percentage that tie events, people and places to specific days in history.


So Tunstall-Pendoe decided that "for fun" his team would pose it a question: what was the most boring day in history? Starting from the beginning of the 20th century, and using a bit of subjective judgement, they've come up with an answer: April 11, 1954. A day on which there was a general election in Belgium and the birth of a Turkish engineering professor named Abdullah Atalar. And... not much else.  


I know, I know. How can they really say that April 11, 1954 was the most boring day in history? Did they not see Wall Street 2? But hey, at least be glad it wasn't your birthday. It's got to be more than a little insulting to have it determined as scientific fact that your life is pretty much irrelevant. When reached for comment, Prof Atalar, who has in fact had quite a distinguished career, said "It seems like I have a long way to go to remove 11 April 1954 from the most boring list."



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