Series L, Episode 4 - Levity
- The panel will get 50 points (L in Roman numerals) if they figure out the connection between their buzzers. Sue has an owl, Josh has a beard-trimmer, Frank has some clothes being torn, and Alan has a squealing pig. The answer is that owls, shaving your beard, the rending of cloth and pigs are all forbidden under kosher law, which is in the book of Leviticus. According to Leviticus homosexuality is an abomination.
- Lab Lark Experiment: The panel perform a "levitation lark", by rubbing a balloon to produce static electricity and then using it to make a piece of plastic film float in the air.
- The funny thing about lightning strikes is that we cannot explain how they occur. Sheet lightning is the same as forked lightning, except that it is hidden by a cloud. Also it does not always strike the tallest point of a building. A photo is shown of lightning Grant's Tomb in Washington D.C. where most of the lightning strikes it about two-thirds of the way up the monument, with only a small part hitting the very top. Half the lightning comes from the ground and the top part meets it around 300 feet up. 90% of lightning strikes on the Empire State Building are ascending.
- XL: It takes no men these days to work in a lighthouse as now nearly all of them are automatic, but back in the early days it used to be operated by three people, in case one of them died and the second scared the third. There was a case where a lighthouse off the coast of Pembrokeshire was watched by two lighthouse keepers named Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith. The two were known to quarrel, and in 1801 Griffith died. Howell became worried that people might think he killed Griffith because of their quarrels, so Howell made Griffith a wooden coffin and tried to preserve the body, which he lashed to the outside of the lighthouse. However, a storm arouse, the coffin was smashed, and Griffith's hand started waving as if to beckon Howell. Weeks later Howell was relieved of his duty, but he had gone almost completely insane and people did not recognise him because he failed to preserve the corpse.
- The most famous lighthouse in the world is the Statue of Liberty, although you could argue that the now no-longer standing Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was also as famous. It was visible for 24 miles out to sea, was a gift to America from the French, and is made out of copper. Thus it originally shone, but the copper has since oxidised.
- Spending-a-Penny Bonus: There are several interesting things you can do with a sausage. One thing you can do is improve the taste of a sausage by injecting into it a form of bacteria found in baby faeces. According to a study in the journal Meat Science sausages like pepperoni and salami are made using bacteria fermentation. One of the best bacteria to use is in baby faeces. This was discovered by a team in Catalonia. Professional tasters confirmed that the sausages tasted the same, and they are also lower in fat and salt. However, the most interesting use was protecting zeppelins. Germany, Poland, Austria and parts of Northern France actually banned the eating of sausages because the army needed them more. The problem with zeppelins was that the highly combustible hydrogen gas would leak out, so beef sausage skins were used to seal the zeppelin up and prevent the gas from escaping. It took two years for the British to create incendiary bullets to bring them down. 250,000 cows were used per zeppelin. Three zeppelins were brought down by lightning.
- The charge for the world's first charity single was the bugle call that was used in the Charge of the Light Brigade. In 1890 the bugler who was at the Charge that day, Martin Landfried, performed the same bugle call on the original bugle. The bugle itself was also used at the Battle of Waterloo. The recording was sold to raise money for veterans of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
- Chicago got completely screwed up because the city was built on a swamp, so in order to protect the city all the buildings were jacked up and screwed in place. The city was a stop-off at Lake Michigan, but typhus and typhoid were devastating the population, so to protect it they lifted the buildings on screw jacks, while people were still in the buildings. The Tremont Hotel for example remained open while it was being jacked up. Whilst the buildings were jacked up fresh water and sewage pipes were installed underneath. They also came up with a system of locks to direct the flow of sewage and fresh water in-and-out of Lake Michigan. Once a year the river that flows through Chicago is dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.
- Amongst the rules in "race walking" are that you cannot run and, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations: "Race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible to the human eye loss of contact occurs." All race walkers will have feet off the ground at some point, perhaps a few milliseconds long. People watching slow-motion footage on TV sometimes ring to complain about feet being off the ground, but technically the competitor has not broken the rules. (Forfeit: You have to keep one foot on the ground)
- The people on the International Space Station appear weightless because they are both in free-fall and traveling sideways incredibly fast at the same time. (Forfeit: Zero gravity)
- Spacecraft get hot on re-entry because of a bow shock: the pressure of air in front of it. The faster you go, the hotter it gets. You also experience them when you are in a plane and encounter a sonic boom. (Forfeit: Friction)
- XL: Beavers eat wood. They are completely vegan. The dam is purely for breeding purposes. If you took beavers into an area where there are no rivers, and played the recording of a river, they will still build a dam. It is possible for a human to stand on a beaver dam without it collapsing.
- Lab Lark Experiment: Prof. Andrew Boothroyd of the physics department of Oxford University helps Stephen to demonstrate another levitation trick. Stephen is presented with a bucket of liquid nitrogen (and demonstrates its coldness by dipping a rose into it and shattering the rose on the desk) and a specially made magnet track. Stephen pours some liquid nitrogen over two pieces of black ceramic material. By making them cold they become superconductors, losing all electrical resistance, and they react interestingly to magnets. They bend magnetic lines and will resist any motion, even if that means hovering above the ground. Stephen picks one piece up, puts it above a magnet and shows that it will hover above it, never touching it provided it remains cold. A second piece is on a small straight magnetic track and moves back-and-forth along it. You can even hold the track upside down and the ceramic will still slide along. Lastly Stephen puts this second piece on a large circuit of magnets and the ceramic piece will travel perfectly along with circuit. The practical application of this would be as a form of transport, but the cost of cooling the nitrogen is very expensive, so scientists are working on cheaper alternatives. The magnets themselves are made out of neodymium, iron and boron, while the superconductors are made out of gadolinium, barium, copper and oxygen.
- Friday 24th October 2014
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|Andrew Boothroyd (as Professor Andrew Boothroyd of the Physics Dept. Oxford University)||Self|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|Anne Miller||Question Writer|
|Stevyn Colgan||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Ruby Kuraishe||Executive Producer|
|Suzanne McManus||Executive Producer|
|Justin Pollard||Associate Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|
The panel are played an ancient recording of a bugle playing the order for the doomed Charge of the Light Brigade.