QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Christmas special coming up.
Series K, Episode 16 is repeated on Dave today at 9pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Colin Lane, Sandi Toksvig, Sara Pascoe, Jimmy Carr. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series O, Episode 7 - Opposites

Find out how to sort the sheep from the goats, discover the opposite of Tarzan, and meet the telescope that points straight through the Earth. With Jimmy Carr, Colin Lane and Sara Pascoe.

Further details


- As everything in this episode is the opposite, the winner is the person with the lowest score. Every time they get something wrong, they get a bonus.


- The panel do the opposite to getting down to business. Sandi hands out alcopops, helium balloons and chocolates. If you are driving with these in your car and crash into a tree, the thing that happens to the balloons is that they move backwards. If you accelerate, the balloons move forwards. (Forfeit: They go up; They stay still)

- Tangent: Alan's red balloon drops off the desk so Sandi has to climb onto the desk to get it back. When she does get it, Jimmy tells Sandi to hold the balloon up in the air because it makes her look like a work by Banksy.

- The opposite of a monopoly is a monopsony, where a single customer holds all suppliers to ransom. Examples include the BBC, which has a monopsony on radio drama; a single passenger getting off at a train station being given the choice of lots of different taxis to take also has a monopsony over the taxi drivers.

- Tangent: A "monopsony" is an "orphaned negative", meaning an opposite word that is almost never used. Other examples include "effable", the opposite of "ineffable"; "cessant", the opposite of "incessant" which hasn't been used since 1701; "dain", the opposite of "disdain"; "nocent", the opposite of "innocent"; and "chalant", the opposite of "nonchalant". "Flammable" and "inflammable" both have the same meaning. The opposite of "flammable" is "non-flammable". A contronym is a word that is the opposite of itself. Examples include "screen", "bound" and "fast". An antigram is a word where the anagram has the opposite meaning to the original word. Examples include "dormitories" and "tidier rooms"; "customers" and "store scum"; "a volunteer fireman" and "I never run to a flame"; and "forty-five" and "over fifty".

- XL Tangent: Other orphaned negatives include "sipid", the opposite for "insipid"; "beknowst", the opposite of "unbeknownst".

- The panel play a game of "Sheep or Goat", but first they need to be able to tell the difference. The simple way to tell is that the tails of goats point upwards. Another way to tell the difference is that rams back up and charge in order to butt heads, while billy goats rear up on their hind legs and try to nut their opponent. When the two fight each other, the ram has the advantage.

- Tangent: There is an internet clip of people doing yoga, and while they are doing so tiny goats jump on them, as if they are tiny hillocks, jumping from person to person.

- The first picture sees an animal with small horns and long floppy ears pointing down. The ears indicate it is a sheep. (Forfeit: Goat)

- A very woolly animal, which is an angora goat. (Forfeit: Sheep)

- A brown animal with a tail pointing down, indicating that it is a sheep.

- A woolly pig. It is a pearly coated mangalica from Austria or the borders of Hungary.

- Tangent: A quarter of the world's sheep are "fat tailed", meaning they store fat in their tails. Sources as far back as Pliny the Elder claim some sheep had to have trolleys to carry their tails because they were so fat.

- XL Tangent: The panel are shown a picture of a bald rodent and asked to identify it. It is a hedgehog without its spikes. It was born bald from birth, and presumably has some kind of trauma. This followed by a bald bird, which is a Moluccan cockatoo.

- The opposite of a plant-eating sheep is a sheep-eating plant. The Puya chilensis, a member of the pineapple family, entangles the sheep in its spiny leaves. The sheep then starves to death, decays, and the plant consumes the nutrients as it rots into the soil. There is one in Surrey, and the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley, in 2013, said that it bloomed for the first time in 15 years. A spokesman said: "We keep it well fed with liquid fertiliser as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic."

- XL Tangent: There are nearly 600 species of carnivorous plants. Sandi takes out a Venus flytrap and tricks it into shutting by putting a stick in it. Aside from the carnivorous plants there are about 300 proto-carnivorous plants. The plants vary in how they attract pray. While the Venus flytrap actively traps insects, others like the Roridula trap an insect and then feed on the faeces left by other insects which come to eat the trapped one.

- XL Tangent: There is a false story of a man-eating tree in Madagascar. In 1874, the New York World wrote a hoax story about a tree eating a woman alive. However, the myth endured, and as late as 1925 there was a book called "Madagascar, Land of the Man-eating Tree" written by Chase Osborn, ex-governor of Michigan. Osborn did try to search of the tree, but obviously failed.

- The panel are shown a human optogram and are asked what it proves. It proves nothing. The idea of an "optogram" is that the human eye has imprinted on the retina the last thing the person saw, so the police used to believe that optograms of murder victims could contain the images of their killers. The belief began in the 17th century with a priest called Christopher Schiener, who claimed that he got a frog to look at a flame, and the image of the flame was imprinted on the frog's eyes when he dissected it. The invention of photography was thought to provide more evidence for it. In 1878, German physiologist Wilhelm Kühne immobilised a rabbit and forced it to look at a window for three minutes. He then decapitated the rabbit, cut open the eye, and declared the next day that the window was imprinted on the eye. In 1880, he repeated the experiment with the head of a guillotined murderer named Erhand Gustav Reif, dissecting his left eye 10 minutes after death. The image on the eye is the one shown to the panel. Some think it might have been the guillotine blade, but this is unlikely as he was blindfolded. The idea of optograms was taken up by writers like Jules Verne, and stories were made about murderers stealing the eyes of victims so there would be no evidence.

- XL Tangent: Research into optograms has been going on as late at 1975. Evangelos Alexandridis of the University of Heidelberg produced a number of images from the eyes of rabbits, so there is a possibility of some kind of underlying scientific basis for optograms after all.

- XL Tangent: Carrots are not dead when you bite into them. They only die when they get to your stomach. Jimmy says it is worse than you think, because he has been eating baby carrots.

- Tangent: Albert Einstein's eyes were removed during his autopsy in 1955 and were given as gift to his personal physician. They are now believed to be in a safe deposit box in New York City. Meanwhile, Napoleon Bonaparte's penis was removed during his autopsy, displayed around the world, and then it was purchased by a urologist in New Jersey called Dr. John Lattimer because he was annoyed about people mocking the size of the penis. He had a special box made for it and it is now in his home.

- Tangent: Jimmy was once in a strange store in the East End, which had for the sale the penis of the last man who was hanged in Britain. Sara asks if he was hung.

- The opposite of Tarzan is an ape brought up as a gentleman. A lowland gorilla orphaned by hunters in Gabon was put up for sale in Derry & Toms. The gorilla, named John Daniel, was bought in 1918 for £300, which is about £20,000 today, by Major Rupert Penny, and was entrusted to his sister Alyce Cunningham. John lived in a country house in Gloucestershire and was brought up as a boy, although he did drink whisky and port. He attended the local school, was quiet good at making his own bed and doing the washing up, could use light switches and use the lavatory. He preferred the company of women. When John was with men he would urinate on them. John would also walk into people's houses and help himself to cider. Eventually John grew too big and Alyce couldn't manage him, so she sold him to an American for 1,000 guineas hoping he would have a good life, but instead he ended up in Barnum and Bailey circus, was displayed in a zoo, his health deteriorated, and Alyce was sent a telegram to say that John was pining for her. She thus set sail for America, but John died of pneumonia before she could reach him. John's body was donated to the American Natural History Museum and he is now on display. (Forfeit: Nazrat)

- Tangent: Alan says keeping a wild animal like an ape is alright for the first year, but then the ape would get aggressive. He also claims a similar thing happens with tigers. On Jonathan Creek he worked with a tiger that was on a chain and had three handlers, and was told to have a photo with it. Alan was worried, but was assured that tigers were not dangerous until they reach 12 months old. The tiger was 11 months old.

- XL: The reason we don't fire nuclear waste into the Sun is because it is very difficult to do so. Firstly, it is very dangerous to do, because if the rocket explodes then you would end up the world's biggest dirty bomb. Secondly, it is very difficult to get something to fall into the Sun, despite the Sun being so big. The Earth is travelling 30km per second (67,000mph) around the Sun, so you need to slow the waste down until it is no longer moving sideways, because even the smallest bit of sideways speed would result in the waste missing the target, and it would instead end up in orbit. Thus you would need to thrust the rocket backwards at about 67,000mph, and currently the most powerful rocket NASA's New Horizon, can go at 36,000mph, which is only 53% of the required power in order to do a "sun dive". Thus, it would actually be easier to send nuclear waste into deep space, because less power is needed.

- The audience are asked to cheer if they are fed up with austerity, and the whole audience cheer. Sandi thinks so to, so they do the opposite and have some ostentatious consumption. The panel are given some Chinese menus, which list dishes in a banquet held by the Kangxi Emperor from around 1700, who was the most ostentatious eater in history. The panel are asked which of his mountain delicacies they would like: camel's hump, bear's paw, monkey brains, ape lips, rhino tail, deer tendons, boar's testicles or leopard foetus. The meal is known as the Manchu Han Imperial Feast, and it was a fusion feast held to help unite rival factions, by showing of both Manchu and Han cuisine. The meal last three days, there were six successive banquets, 124 starters and 196 main courses. The seafood plater included sea slug, fish tripe, swallow's nest, sharks fins and fish bones.

- XL Tangent: The first Earl Spencer (Princess Diana's four times great grandfather) had the finest house in London in the 1750s. He was especially proud of his carpets, but he could only afford three of them, so he had a system whereby as the guests moved through the house, the doors would close, servants rolled up the carpet and took it to the next room. Another man, Henry Paget, fifth Marquess of Anglesey (1875-1905), modified the exhaust of his car so it sprayed perfume. Sara compares this to a modern invention: pants that if you fart in them it smells of mint.

- XL: The panel are shown a painting of a man bent over with his torso in the air and are asked what is problem is. The man is suffering from tetanus. It is an 1809 painting of opisthotonus by Sir Charles Bell. Dinosaur fossils, especially those of Archaeopteryx which have long necks, are often found in the same death pose, and nobody knew why. Experts decided they must have died of tetanus. But then Achim Reisford and Michael Wuttke of the University of Basel did an experiment in 2012. They purchased a load of chicken necks from a butcher, dropped them in water, and immediately the necks all bent backwards by 90 degrees. Three months later, after they rotted some more, they twisted backwards to 140 degrees. They concluded that the neck ligaments, which were normally weighed down by the head, were freed by the buoyance of water to assume their default position.

General Ignorance

- A telescope called Amanda (Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array) based on the South Pole, and is looking at the northern constellations such as Ursa Major. The telescope is pointing downwards into the ground because it is detecting neutrinos, which are small subatomic particles that don't interact with matter and travel at near light speed. If you hold your hand up to the Sun a billion neutrinos would pass through it as you held it up. Neutrinos are very difficult to detect. (Forfeit: The Southern Cross)

- Cats are more likely to sit on the laps of cat-lovers. The only scientific study into whether cats are more likely to sit on the laps of cat-lovers and cat-haters show they go for people who like cats, but the sample size was small. (Forfeit: Cat-haters)

- The figure in Edvard Munch's The Scream is depicting someone hearing the scream of nature, and not depicting someone screaming. The figure in the picture is of indeterminate gender. Munch wrote: "I stopped and looked out over the fjord--the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. This became The Scream."


- Colin Lane: -47 points
- Sara Pascoe: -14 points
- Alan Davies: -6 points
- Jimmy Carr: 8 points

Objectionable Object Prize

- Colin wins the opposite of an objectionable object, and gets a good prize: a QI mug.

Broadcast details

Friday 8th December 2017
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jimmy Carr Guest
Sara Pascoe Guest
Colin Lane Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Ben Dupré Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer


Sheep or Goat?

Sandi Toksvig asks the panellists to identify whether the pictures they're looking at are Sheep or Goats.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Jimmy Carr, Sara Pascoe, Colin Lane.


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