Series M, Episode 5 - Maths
- XL: Before the show the audience were given a challenge in order to test the idea of, "the wisdom of crowds", the idea created by Francis Galton that the more people you have answering a question the more accurate the answer would be. A random selection of the audience were asked to guess how many Smarties were in a large bowl, and then the panel are asked for their guesses which are revealed at the end of the show. The one who is closest gets to be called "Smartie-pants". Sandi guesses 1,500; Susan guesses 1,000 (after originally putting down 6,024,092); Alan guesses 1,966; Aisling guesses 12; and the audience average guess is 2,412. The correct answer is 3,890, so the audience were closest.
- The panel are shown a Biblical image and are asked what the royal figure sitting down did well with his fingers. The royal figure is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who in the picture is having his dreams interrupted by the Old Testament prophet Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, like all Babylonians, could count with his fingers, but unlike today where we just count up to 10, the Babylonians counted the finger joints, which meant they could count up to 60 and had a base-12 counting system. This was important because it is thanks to the Babylonians that we have 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute, 360 degrees in a circle and 12 inches in a foot. 24 is useful because it is so divisible, dividing equally by 12, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
- If last night you tossed two heads at the same time - coins that it is, the odds of it landing that way are 1 in 4. There are four possible outcomes: both heads, both tails, the first is heads and the second is tails, or the first is tails and the second is heads. While this is not a difficult maths question, this exact question was given to MPs in 2012, and 60% of MPs got it wrong. There was a divide along political lines: 47% of Conservative MPs got it wrong, and 77% of Labour MPs got it wrong. (Forfeit: 1 in 3)
- There are animals that count. These include monkeys, chicks, pigeons, parrots, raccoons, ferrets, rats, salamanders, honeybees and apes. They can count, add and subtract. Rhesus monkeys at Colombia University have been shown that they can arrange up to nine objects in the correct numerical sequence. Crows and parrots can count up to six. Cormorants can count up to seven, and this is known because Chinese fishermen use cormorants. They put a ring around their throat so they cannot swallow the fish themselves, the birds catch fish and then dump on the ship's deck. Once they get to seven, the ring is taken off and the cormorant can catch its own fish.
- XL: The reason why bankers do not give a damn about what people think of them is because money makes you more likely that you will put up with people not liking you. A test asked their subjects who they wanted to work with, and they were told randomly that everyone else wanted to work with them or that nobody wanted to work with them. Half the subjects felt rejected by their peers, and the other half reinforced. Before this half of the subjects who had previously been exposed to money, and were told to count money as a test of manual dexterity, while the other half counted sheets of blank paper. The people who handled the money were not offended when they were told that nobody wanted to work with them.
- XL: The illegal substance that can be found in the pockets of most of the audience is cocaine, because over 99% of banknotes have trace amounts of it.
- The thing that moon-starers do and why they call themselves that is because they are astronomers and they use anagrams to both share and yet hide their discoveries, however it should be pointed out that strictly speaking "moon-starers" and "astronomers" are not anagrams, but aptagrams, which is where the words not only share the same letters but their also roughly have the same meaning. Other aptagrams include "Apple Macintosh" and "laptop machines", or "semolina" and "is no meal". The most famous example of an astronomer using an anagram was Galileo, who wrote a Latin anagram to his friend and rival Kepler, about how he believed he discovered new moons orbiting Saturn, when in fact he discovered Saturn's rings. The anagram was: "smaismrmilmepoetaleumibunenugttauiras", which when arranged correctly said: "Altissimum planetam tergeminum observavi", which in English is: "I have observed the highest planet to be triplets."
- The panel are given a mathematical equation which is also a limerick, and are ask to recite it. The sum is ((12+144+20+3?4)/7)+(5*11)=9*9+0. The limerick goes:
Plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Equals nine squared plus not a bit more.
This limerick was created by a man named Leigh Mercer. Another interesting pair of sums is 12+1=11+2, because these sums are anagrams of each other: "twelve plus one" and "eleven plus two".
- The biggest mistake anyone has ever made with a pencil is making pencils with inscriptions saying that children were: "too cool to do drugs", but when they were shaven down later read as, "cool to do drugs" and "do drugs". These pencils were given to children in New York in 1998. Other mistakes include at time in 1945 the Arkansas legislature accidentally repealed all their laws at once, because they had an act with the words: "All laws and parts of laws, and particularly Act 33 of the Acts of 1941, are hereby repealed." Another mistake occurred in 2003 when the German agency for TV licences sent a series of reminders to St. Walpurga to pay her licence fee. St. Walpurga died in 777. Yet another mistake occurred in the Australian Morning Bulletin which printed a correction concerning a story when: "more than 30,000 pigs were floating down the Dawson River." What the owner of the piggery actually said was: "more than 30 sows and pigs were floating down the Dawson River."
- A failure to sell mirrors massively improved modern media because this particular failed mirror salesman was Johannes Gutenberg, who then went on to invent the printing press. At the time, people went on pilgrimages to see relics, but they were so popular that when you got to your destination you could not get close to it, so Gutenberg had a failed business selling boxes with mirrored lids, so the image of the relic would be reflected on the mirror, shone down into the box, you closes the box and then you would leave believing that your box contain the image of the relic. Gutenberg made these mirrors for Aachen, whose relics included the Virgin Mary's robe from the night Jesus was born, Jesus's swaddling clothes, the cloth John the Baptist's head was wrapped in after his execution, and the loin-cloth Jesus wore on the cross. After failing to sell any of his mirrors, Gutenberg returned to his hometown of Mainz, where in 1450 he invented his printing press. Unfortunately for Gutenberg, the people who funded the press took all the money and Gutenberg died penniless in 1468.
- Stephen uses a machine to prove that square of the hypotenuse on a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. However, while it is named after Pythagoras, the theorem named after him is much old, and is referenced by Euclid. The model Stephen uses is a container full of red liquid and the three square holes around a right-angled triangle. The liquid is in the largest square and tilting the machine pours the liquid equally into the other two holes. (Forfeit: Pythagoras)
- XL: By end of Elizabeth I's reign there were an extraordinary number of dukes, and the panel are invited to name one. The problem is that the reason why the number is extraordinary is because there were number of dukes was zero. The number of peers at the time of Elizabeth I's death included one marquis, 18 earls and 37 other peers. One peerage jokes dating to Elizabeth I's reign was written in the diaries of John Aubrey, concerning the Earl of Oxford, who some people thought wrote the works of Shakespeare. Aubrey wrote: "This Earl of Oxford, making his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to travel seven years. On his return, the queen welcomed him home and said, 'My Lord, I had forgot the fart.'" (Forfeit: Norfolk; Cambridge; Hazzard)
- Friday 20th November 2015
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|Scott Penrose||Master Magician|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Justin Pollard||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Sohail Shah||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|