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

QI

BBC Two and BBC One panel show focusing on quite interesting facts. 249 episodes (pilot + 17 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Cariad Lloyd, Sandi Toksvig, Paul Sinha, Josh Widdicombe. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series P, Episode 13 - Phenomena

Further details

Theme

- In her introduction Sandi describes Alan as the "Pope Lick Monster". It is a part man, part sheep, part goat creature that supposedly lived beneath a railway bridge over Pope Lick Creek in Louisville, Kentucky. The creature lures people to their death by hypnosis.

- When testing the buzzers, they go off before the panellists press them, all of which are the theme tunes to supernatural films and TV shows. Cariad has The X Files, Paul The Twilight Zone, Josh the theme for the original John Carpenter version of Halloween, and Alan Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!

Topics

- The panel are shown three ink-blots that form part of the Rorschach test and are asked what they see. Created by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach in 1921, he was looking for a way in which you could diagnose schizophrenics, but rather than being a substantive test to analyse different illnesses, it did allow people to sometimes tap into the unconscious. Thus it makes people talk about things that they wouldn't ordinarily talk about. "Pareidolia" is the human tendency to see images where maybe they don't exist. Rorschach was also looking for a way to look for depression or anxiety in disorders and violent criminal tendencies, but it does not do this. The test can however unlock things that people can't articulate. Regarding the ink-blots themselves, the first is known as the "sex card" as it has the most reported sexual answers, but many also see it as an animal skin or rug; the second is sometimes called the "mother card" because people often see women or children in it; and the third card can also induce a variety of sexual responses.

- Tangent: The word "shrink" comes from phrenology, the pseudo-science where it was claimed that the shape of the skull indicated the personality, and they could help you shrink your undesirable qualities.

- XL Tangent: Rorschach tests were performed on senior Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, to see if they could pick out the war criminals, but it is impossible to do so.

- The weirdest place to feel another person is on Mount Everest or somewhere during an expedition, especially if you are suffering from Third Man Syndrome. Under this syndrome, you feel the presence of an extra, unseen person, that doesn't actually exist. It happens under extreme conditions, normally by adventurers. In 1933, there was a solo attempt to climb Everest by British explorer Frank Smythe, and he got within 1,000ft when he was under the belief that there was someone else with him. It was so strong that he broke off a piece of Kendal Mint Cake and tried to hand it to this unseen person. Ernest Shackleton also reported the same sensation. In his book South he wrote: "During that long and racking march of 36 hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four and not three." Third Man Syndrome may be a coping mechanism of the brain to provide comfort. The electrical stimulation of the temporoparietal junctions of the brain are important in how people interpret all thing that comes into our senses.

- Tangent: In T. S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland one passage inspired by Shackleton's experience goes:

"Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you."

The words to the passages are on the screen, which Alan says looks a bit like karaoke, leading to Alan and Cariad to sing the verse karaoke-style.

- Sandi gives Alan a special helmet with electrodes and a metal plate on it and asks why you are more likely to see God when wearing it. This "God Helmet", invented by Stanley Koren, a technologist at Laurentian University in Canada, and neuroscientist Michael Persinger, creates a minor electrical stimulation that interferes with the brain's function, so it was used in experiments to see if it can recreate the sense of a religious experience. Some people when wearing claimed that they felt they were in the presence of God. Persinger's theory is that religious and mystical experiences are caused by disruptions of the brain.

- XL Tangent: Formula 1 driver Alain Prost said he was a bit frightened of his rival Ayrton Senna because Senna believed in God, and believed that he would look after him on the track, making Senna more dangerous. Senna ended up dying in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

- XL: Everyone glows in the dark. A Japanese study from 2009 used special hyper-sensitive cameras and found that humans are bioluminescent at levels 1,000 times less than what is detectable by the human eye. The study photographed five volunteers for 20 minutes every three hours, inside a dark room for three days straight, and they discovered that the light was brightest in the late afternoon, when we expend the most energy. The brightest part of the body was the cheeks, followed by the upper neck, and then the forehead. All living creatures produce light, as it is a side effect of our metabolism.

- XL Tangent: Josh's hair glowed in the dark. As a child his hair was blonder, and for his own and his friends birthdays he would go to Newton Abbot Laser Quest (four times a year). The place had UV lighting, so Josh's hair glowed in the dark and made him an easy target for everyone else.

- XL Tangent: At the Battle of Shiloh in the American Civil War, soldiers reported that they had wounds the glowed in the dark that appeared to heal faster than normal. It wasn't until 2001 when it was discovered that the soldiers were hypothermic, and the conditions on the battle were perfect for a bioluminescent bacterium caked Photorhabadus liminescens to enter the wounds. It is believed that it help the soldiers survived because this bacterium produces antibiotics, hence it is nicknamed "Angel's Glow". Two teenagers, Jonathan Curtis and Bill Martin, took top prize at an international science fair for discovering this. The bacterium lives in the guts of nematode worms.

- The most terrifying thing about Anne Robinson is when she tricked the woman she worked for that her home was haunted. The Stockwell poltergeist of 1772 supposedly terrorised Mrs. Golding of Stockwell, smashing crockery and moving furniture. One of Sandi's favourite books, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay in 1841 says: "Mrs. Golding, an elderly lady who resided alone with her servant, Anne Robinson, was sorely surprised on the evening of Twelfth-Day, 1772. She was sorely surprised to observe a most extraordinary commotion among her crockery. Cups and saucers rattled down the chimney, pots and pans were whirled downstairs, and every room in the house was, in a short time, strewed with fragments." However, these incidents only happened when Robinson was in the house. Robinson had tied horse hairs and wires to objects in order to scare Golding. Mackay wrote: "Anne, it appears, was anxious to have a clear house to carry on an intrigue with her lover and resort to this trick to effect her purpose."

- Tangent: Sandi claims that she things that the studio is possibly haunted, and as she says this a table with a vase on it behind suddenly false over and the vase smashes, giving Cariad and Josh a big fright before they realise it is all a trick.

- Tangent: In 1804, Hammersmith was terrorised by a ghost impersonator. However, the huge publicity meant that the culprit came forward. The culprit, elderly shoemaker John Graham, pretended to be a ghost by using a white sheet to frighten his apprentice. The reason for a bed sheet being the classic ghost look is because back in the 16th century, people who could not afford a coffin were instead covered in a linen winding sheet, knotted at the head and foot, and placed in the grave.

- XL Tangent: Josh claims he doesn't believe in ghosts, because his grandmother said that when she died she would come back to haunt him, and hasn't. Alan claims that instead she reincarnated as Adam Hills.

- XL Tangent: During the 1804 Hammersmith ghost event, a man named Thomas Millwood was on his way home wearing his white work-clothes of his bricklaying trade, and was shot by Francis Smith who was out ghost-hunting with a friend.

- XL Tangent: Dutch Renaissance theologian Erasmus wrote of a country vicar who fastened candles to the backs of crabs, and then let them wander around the churchyard at night, telling people they were witnessing distressed souls in purgatory.

- The audience celebrate that last question by doing a wave celebration, leading to Sandi to ask who invented that wave. It was invented by giant honey bees. Called "shimmering", it is a defensive mechanism to warn off predators. Each bee flips their abdomen upwards in turn, creating a shining pattern that confuses and deters hornets, forcing them to chase individual flying bees rather than jumping in on all the bees. Giant honey bees (Apis laboriosa) are the largest bees in the world at 1.2 inches in length, live on trees and cliffs in the Himalayas, and produce hallucinogenic honey out of pollen taken from rhododendrons. This honey is collected by teams of Nepalese men who descend cliffs, harnessed to a ladder by ropes. A single comb can contain over 60,000 bees. The Mexican wave was made popular in the 1986 World Cup that was held in Mexico, but no-one is sure on the actual origins. It may come from 1970s USA. (Forfeit: Football fans)

- XL Tangent: The "dab" gesture, with your head down, right arm across the face pointing diagonally upwards with a flat palm, and the left arm diagonally up and left out straight with a flat palm, was invented by the Victoria's riflebird, Australia's bird of paradise known to Aboriginals as the "duwuduwu". The male performs the move, and if the female is interested she responds with a raspy call of: "Yaas?" Then both the male and female dab together. Human dabbing originated in hip-hop, where Sandi gives a bizarrely knowledgeable explanation: she exclaims that possible inventors include Skippa Da Flippa, Peewee Longway, Jose Guapo, Rich The Kid and Migos. Migos is known for his hit track "Slippery" featuring Gucci Mane. Controversy was cleared up when OG Maco called out Migos, for saying they were the creators, when it was actually Skippa Da Flippa.

- The panel are shown pictures of three people and are asked which world records they hold. The first is Susan Ridgedon, the holder of the women's record for the fastest marathon in a toilet roll costume, at 4 hours and 54 minutes in the 2017 London Marathon. The second is Martin Brady, who has bradycardia, and thus the slowest heart rate in the world at 27 beats per minute. In comparison, the average male heart rate is 72 beats per minute. The third is Stephen Wildish, holder of world record for the 100m sack race. While Mo Farah held the record in 2014 at 39.91 seconds, but Wildish set a new record in 2017 at just 26.3 seconds. Wildish had tried earlier that year but his sack had had been ruled-out for being too small. Wildish is in the audience and has a race against Josh, which Wildish wins easily while Josh falls over.

- XL Tangent: The Valsalva manoeuvre is a technique for lowering your heart rate. You take a deep breath, strain the muscles of your abdomen as if you were defecating, hold the pressure for five seconds and then let go. After a few times, it will trigger the vagus nerve, which is the part of the body responsible for controlling your heart rate. You can also close your mouth and punch your nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon. When Paul is asked if he has ever used these techniques on patients, he says that normally you just use medication. Valsalva was a 17th century physician and anatomist from Bologna, who coined the term "Eustachian tube", and liked to diagnose disease by tasting bodily excretions. He wrote: "Gangrenous pus does not taste good, leaving the tongue tingling unpleasantly for the better part of the day."

- You might be able to commit various crimes with an ear bud, depending on the DNA on it. In Germany, the police hunted down the Phantom of Heilbronn, aka the Woman Without a Face, for two years. Between 1993-2009, the Phantom was held responsible for over 40 crimes and her DNA was found at all of the crime scenes. A €300,000 bounty was placed on her head, and after the two year investigation they discovered that the Phantom did not actually exist. The DNA came from the factory making the cotton buds, the buds being contaminated with the DNA of the women making the buds. Newspaper Bild had the headline: "Are the heads of our police stuffed with cotton wool?"

- Tangent: The makers of ear buds come with a printed warning saying: "Do not insert inside the ear canal." People can become addicted to putting things in their ears, even after they have damaged their ears using the ear buds. Earwax can build up and cause conductive deafness, so you have to be careful when cleaning the ear buds. Paul claims that "timpanicide" is the technical term for killing someone by perforating their eardrum, but he soon reveals he is lying to trick Sandi.

- XL Tangent: In the original novel "The Phantom of the Opera" by Gastron Leroux, the Phantom wears a full-face mask, but in the musical the Phantom has to wear a half-mask to allow him to sing. In the musical the Phantom is constantly popping up in different places very quickly to make you think his is a phantom, but Alan complains that it is blindingly obvious that there is more than one person playing the role to the point where it becomes irritating. The rest of the panel imagines Alan complaining about other stage productions, with the cats in "Cats" obviously being people dressed up as cats, that the trains in "Starlight Express" is not real and the performers are on roller skates, and that Godot in "Waiting for Godot" is not coming.

General Ignorance

- The best poker face is a positive expression, according to research. Smiling and looking cheerful will lead your opponent to make greater mistakes.

- XL Tangent: When playing poker, you should not show aggression, because it makes everyone else aggressive towards you. The faces you should avoid are the RBF - Resting Bitch Face - if you are a woman, and the RAF - Resting Arsehole Face - for men. The RAF is illustrated with a portrait of Louis XIV doing the face.

- The fastest creature on land relative to body length is the Californian mite. It is the size of a sesame seed, but has been clocked at speeds of 322 body lengths per second, which in terms of distance is an inch. The previous record holder was the Australian tiger beetle at 171 body lengths per second. While cheetahs run at 57.8mph, that is only 16 body lengths per second. (Forfeit: Stephen Wildish; Josh Widdicombe; Cheetah)

- XL Tangent: Usain Bolt runs at five body lengths per second, depending on how you measure it. If you measure his body length standing up with the length being between the chest and the back, you could argue he is running at twenty body lengths per second, which would make Bolt quicker than a cheetah, but still slower than the Californian mite.

- XL Tangent: There are many more female Californian mites than males, and there are some mite species with no males at all as far as we know. There are also other species of insect, snake and fish where there are no males, but no mammals have yet to be discovered that do this.

- XL: The German phrase for the phenomenon where of encountering your perfect double is: "doppeltgänger", spelt with a "t". Both this and "doppelgänger" come from a German novel from 1796 called Flower, Fruit and Thorn Pieces; or the Married Life, Death and Wedding of Siebenkas, Poor Man's Lawyer. "Doppeltgänger", means your lookalike, "doppelgänger" is the name of a meal in which two courses are served at the same time. (Forfeit: Doppelgänger)

- XL Tangent: Seeing your own double is traditionally an omen of ill portent, dating back to the ancient Greek idea of shapeshifters, and that a psychopomp was going to escort you to the underworld. The Persian Zoroastrian tradition states that the deceased are led across the Chinvat Bridge by the psychopomp Daena. If you have been wicked the bridge will be very narrow, if you have been good the bridge is very wide and you go to the House of Song. Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest extant religions where men are woman are treated exactly the same. They have six immortal beings: three feminine, three masculine, but there are no female clergy. They recommend having sex three times a month.

Scores

- Alan Davies: 10 points (Alan's 33rd victory)
- Paul Sinha: -5 points
- Cariad Lloyd: -6 points
- Josh Widdicombe: -12 points

Broadcast details

Date
Friday 1st February 2019
Time
10pm
Channel
BBC Two
Length
30 minutes

Repeats

    Cast & crew

    Regular cast
    Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
    Alan Davies Regular Panellist
    Guest cast
    Josh Widdicombe Guest
    Cariad Lloyd Guest
    Paul Sinha Guest
    Stephen Wildish Self
    Writing team
    James Harkin Script Editor
    Ed Brooke-Hitching Question Writer
    Production team
    Ian Lorimer Director
    John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
    Piers Fletcher Producer
    Justin Pollard Associate Producer
    Nick King Editor
    Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
    Nick Collier Lighting Designer
    Howard Goodall Composer
    Mat Coward Researcher
    Will Bowen Researcher
    Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
    Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
    Alice Campbell Davis Researcher
    Mandy Fenton Researcher
    Mike Turner Researcher
    Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor
    Kalpna Patel-Knight Commissioning Editor
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