Series J, Episode 13 - Jobs
- The panel are given a list of obscure job titles taken from the 1891 UK Census and are asked what the job was.
XL: Snake farming works by someone getting bit by all kinds of different snakes and making yourself immune to the poison. The best known farmer, Bill Haast (1910-2011) was bitten over 120 times, the first time being at the age of 12. He claimed to have been bitten almost fatally 20 times. His blood was so rich in antibodies that they could be used in science.
- An inspector of nuisances was the environmental health officer of their day. They were appointed by the local authority for sanitary and health issues. They would sort out smelly houses, hoarders, disinfect houses that had smallpox, and were responsible for the scavengers, formerly known as "night soil men", who were the people who collected faeces from outside toilets.
- The thing that gets software engineers that drives people to violence is when new technology comes to replace them. Ada Lovelace, mathematician daughter of Lord Byron, and Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference Engine, wanted to steal Frenchman Joseph Marie Jacquard's idea of using punch cards to automate things, to see if it could also be used to do calculations. Jacquard invented the Jacquard loom that used punch cards to create different patterns in the cloth, but this system put lots of people out of work, so in revenge they threw their wood clogs, known as "sabots", into the machines, from which we get the word "sabotage". The sabotages were much more violent than British Luddites.
- Famous fictional butlers include Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs. Jeeves however was a valet, a gentlemen's personal gentleman, but Bertie Wooster does say of him: "Although he is not a butler, if it comes down to it, he can buttle with the best of them." A butler is the head of a household whereas a valet is a personal attendant. (Forfeit: Jeeves)
- A sheep can be used in a gold rush because who can use the wool to filter out golden ore. You take the fleece, water runs through it and flecks of gold are left behind. You then dry the fleece and shake the gold out. This is a better method than panning. One man, Tim Severin, who wrote a book called The Jason Voyage, claims that the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is an exaggeration of this method.
- XL: The thing the Swiss are planning to tidy up next is space. The debris up there is very dangerous. Even a chip of paint is travelling at 18,000mph. If it hits something it shatters causing more mess and smaller pieces which are harder to clean up. In space there is 480 million copper needles because of a terrible idea by the Americans called Operation West Ford, where between 1961-63 they tried to create an artificial ionosphere that could be used to bounce radio signals off. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne is developing a project called CleanSpace One, where a sequence of janitor satellites manoeuvre alongside some rubbish, grapple it with a claw, then dive into the atmosphere where it will burn up on re-entry. The problem is the janitor is also destroyed and each satellite costs £27 million. In Britain's University of Surrey a different idea is being planned, which is the CubeSail, a nanosatellite the size of shoebox is sent up, which has a 25-square-metre solar sail. It is then driven by the Sun's photons, then carries any junk into outer space. It could be the case that anything that is sent into space may have such devices in the future.
- The best planet in the solar system to take your annual holiday in is Earth, because it is the only one who can survive on. In terms of time, Uranus might be a good place because a year there is 84 Earth years long, but each day is only 17 hours long. A year on Jupiter is equal to 12 Earth years, and its days at only 10 hours long. However as these are both gas planets holidaying on them is difficult for obvious reasons. Having said this, Jupiter might be a good place to sightsee. Sights include a layer of black liquid hydrogen 27,000 miles thick, which crushes carbon into diamonds the size of the Ritz Hotel. Also, it rains neon rather than water, so the rain is a brilliant bright red colour. The Giant Red Spot on Jupiter is four times the size of the Earth. Venus on the other hand rotates so slowly that a day is longer than a year, so a fortnight there would last 15 years. Sadly the weather is terrible. There are clouds of sulphuric acid, the surface is hot enough to melt aluminium, the atmospheric pressure is equivalent to being half a mile under the Earth's sea, and the air is mostly carbon dioxide.
- XL: Dubious Theory - Alice in Wonderland is not a children's fantasy story, but a satire on Victorian mathematicians. Lewis Carroll was a mathematician at Oxford, who was a very conservative, classical mathematician. He believed in Euclidean geometry, and was opposed to the mathematics that led to David Hilbert's questions, the Poincare Conjecture, and Riemann's Hypothesis, which later mathematicians like Alan Turing were devoted to. Carroll disliked the way maths was becoming more abstract, as he preferred symbolic logic and plain geometry. According to author Melanie Bayley, scenes including the Mad Hatter's tea party, the encounter with the Caterpillar, and meeting the Duchess whose baby turns into a pig, those scenes typified modern mathematics as nonsense. In the later story of the Cheshire Cat, who leaves only with a vanishing grin, this is claimed to be humorous way of making a serious point about the futility of abstraction (How can a cat leave a grin behind?). Also, all of Carroll's other works are either very dull, moralistic or technical. Queen Victoria loved the Alice stories so much that she asked for his next book to be dedicated to her. His next book was a rather complicated mathematical book. In the Tim Burton film version of the story the Cheshire Cat was voiced by Stephen. For more information visit aliceschaliuce.co.uk.
- A Jolly jape: Stephen is given a line of four balloons, the first three being black and last one white. He uses a laser pen to burst the black balloons, simple by focusing the beam on the balloon surface. It bursts because the black balloons absorb the green light of the pen. However, the white balloon reflects the light and does not blow up. Alan then draws a black target on the white balloon and is able to burst the balloon himself by aiming at the spot.
- Friday 14th December 2012
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|Richard Coles (as Rev Richard Coles)||Guest|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Ruby Kuraishe||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|
|Andrew Hunter Murray (as Andy Murray)||Researcher|