Series N, Episode 12 - Noodles
- This is a "General" show in Series N, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "N".
- The list of the Christian names of the first 200 parachutists to land in Normandy on D-Day is very short, as they were all dummies called Rupert, which was nickname used in the British army for officers. The first parachutists consisted of 200 dummies, six men, some gramophones and a pigeon. The dummies were a diversionary tactic, the six men were SAS troops who played battle noises on gramophones to trick the Germans, and the pigeon was a carrier pigeon strapped to the first man to actually land in Normandy, the appropriately named Norman Poole. The Ruperts were 2'9" tall, but looked full-size from the ground. They also had firecrackers which went off when the landed, so it sounded like they were firing guns. They successfully distracted a whole German division. In 2013, a Rupert was discovered intact in a British garden shed. No-one knows how it got there, and it is now in the Museum of Army Flying in Middle Wallop. (Forfeit: No; Not that; Keep trying)
- People from Newcastle took dead fish down coal mines in the 18th century because they glowed in the dark, making them safer to light mines than lit flames. They had to putrefy first before they glow, because the glowing comes from a type of bacteria. It is possible that these bacteria use the glowing to attract living fish to eat the dead fish, and thus cause the bacteria to spread. This has been known about for millennia. Aristotle wrote about wood glowing, and Pliny the Elder recommended using a walking stick dipped in a jellyfish's glowing slime as a torch.
- The most painless way of sacking 24,000 people at the same time is to sack people who don't exist. In February 2016, Nigeria sacked 23,486 employees on the government payroll for not existing, in a move that saved £8million a month. These employees are known as "ghost workers", and real workers claim the wages of their fictional co-workers. In 2011, a newborn baby was added to the government payroll, and got £90 a month and a diploma. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Minister of Foreign Trade in 2007 was Andre Kasongo Ilunga, who also didn't exist. The law states that there has to be at least two candidates for any ministerial post, so politician Kasimba Ngoi, who wanted the job, invented a fake rival and assumed the Prime Minister would choose the person he had heard of. However, the PM hated Ngoi, so picked the fake Ilunga instead. Ngoi later claimed that Ilunga had resigned, but the PM said he would only accept the resignation in person. Ilunga was eventually sacked.
- Out of death or Norfolk, Norfolk is worse. Norfolk Island is a tiny island off Australia, which in 1825 was established Australia's penal colony. Thus, Norfolk Island was a penal colony for a penal colony, and was used to transport criminals who were already serving a sentence in Australia. People who were sentenced to death on the mainland thanked God that they were not going to Norfolk Island because it the island was so awful. Some people hated the island so much that chose to commit capital offences in the hope they would be executed rather than be sent to the island.
- The newly-discovered continent, beginning and ending in "A", that most British convicts were transported to in the 18th century was America. Between 1718 and 1775, at least 52,000 convicts were exclusively sent there. Possibly a tenth of migrants to America during that period were British convicts. It wasn't until the American War of Independence started that Australia was used to transportation. (Forfeit: Australia; Antarctica)
- The country where you will find the highest peak of the Alps is the Netherlands. Swiss geologist Horace-Benedict de Saussure, who led the first expedition to Mont Blanc, cut off the top of the mountain when he reached it and kept it as a souvenir. This is now kept in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. Saussure was a polymath who some describe as "the inventor of climbing". (Forfeit: Italy; Switzerland)
- Britain's biggest national secret was the BT Tower. It was built in 1965 and it was considered such an important part of the telecoms infrastructure it was classified as an official secret, even though it was Britain's tallest building, contained a public viewing gallery and a revolving restaurant. Under the Official Secrets Act, it was illegal to take photos of the tower; it was in no Ordnance Survey maps until the mid 1990s; in a 1978 case a judge could only refer to the tower as Location 23; and in 1993 MP Kate Hoey spoke in Parliament to state the location, saying: "I hope I am covered by Parliamentary privilege when I reveal that the British Telecom Tower does exist, and that it's address is 60 Cleveland Street, London." In 2009, BT said they were going to reopen the revolving restaurant, but they never did.
- The best cure for nostalgia is to threaten people with being buried alive. A Russian general in 1733 threatened this to his troops, as back in the 18th and 19th century nostalgia was considered a disease. It was called "Schweizenkrankheit", or "Swiss illness", because Swiss soldiers were prone to it. In the American Civil War over 5,000 men were diagnosed with nostalgia, and reportedly 74 people died from it. The Unionist Army was forbidden from playing the song "Home Sweet Home" in case it brought on attacks of nostalgia. The suspected causes of nostalgia were unfulfilled ambition, poor hygiene, coming from farming stock and masturbation. It was declassified as a disease in 1899.
- Alan is and is not a narcissist. In the standard modern test for narcissism, research shows that narcissists feel so good about themselves that they don't mind admitting it. Thus, if you think you are a narcissist, then you are one. The term "narcissism" comes from the Greek legend of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. He couldn't leave his reflection, and ended up transforming into a flower. However it is never stated what flower he is transformed into. The narcissi flower we have today has no connection with the myth, with the name coming from the narcotic quality of the plant bulb.
- XL: The thing that has five faces and bigger sperm than you is a nematode worm. One of these, Pristioncus borbonicus, has sperm that is larger than that of a human and grows one of five different faces as it matures, depending on whether it is going to eat microbes or other worms. This is known as "polyphenism", and it is when animals change their form depending on the environment. Scientists believe there are over a million undiscovered species of nematode. Some are so small that it would take 20-30 of them lying end-to-end to equal the thickness of a single average coin. Some species live exclusively in vinegar and in book-binding glue. Other species use slugs as taxis by getting themselves eaten and being extracted later on, while being protected by thick skin that stops them from being digested. Bigger animals produce smaller sperm because the bigger you are the more sperm you need to produce to increase the odds of fertilising the ovum.
- The panel are shown a picture of a body builder and a normal man flexing their muscles and are asked whose muscles are stronger. It is the normal man who has the stronger ones. Pound-for-pound, body builders have weaker muscles than normal people. One of the reasons body builders are so strong is that they have a large amount of muscle, but the muscles they do have are weaker. If you don't have muscles, but you do have a really good imagination, you can exercise your muscles. For example, if your hand is in cast, you can prevent yourself from losing muscle mass by imaging yourself using your hand muscles.
- The Shakespeare play that wasn't performed at first because it was believed to have been cursed was Henry VIII. In 1613, the first production of the play resulted in the Globe Theatre burning down, when cannon used in the special effects hit the straw thatched roof. No-one was injured in the incident, but one man's britches caught fire and he was put out with a bottle of beer. No-one was superstitious about Macbeth in Shakespeare's lifetime.
- America's biggest fault is the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The maximum earthquake the San Andreas fault could cause is 8.2 on the moment magnitude scale. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, which is off the coast of California could release an earthquake 30 times stronger than this. However, this is still half as large as the earthquake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. A big earthquake could cause a tsunami 100 feet high. (Forfeit: Donald Trump)
- Friday 13th January 2017
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Sandi Toksvig||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Sohail Shah||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|