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. 233 episodes (pilot + 16 series), 2003 - 2019. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Jason Manford, Sandi Toksvig, Lee Mack, Aisling Bea. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series P, Episode 2 - Peril

Further details

Topics

- The most perilous job in the world is that of reverse parachute tester. In the Cold War, staff in Arctic spy bases had to be parachuted in and out because aircraft could not land. To get people out they had to use a skyhook: a device for parachuting upwards. It worked by using a helium balloon to carry a rope into the air, then an aircraft would catch the rope and reel in the person attached to the rope.

- XL Tangent: One of the very first parachute testers was a woman, Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick. The first woman to parachute was also the very first person to freefall parachute.

- XL Tangent: The skyhook was originally tested on a pig. The pig spun round and was so disorientated upon arrival it attacked the aircrew.

- Tangent: Arguably the most perilous specific job is being President of the United States, because you have an 8 in 44 chance of dying in office. The fatality rate is roughly 27 times worse than that of a lumberjack.

- Tangent: Another perilous job is test pilot. In 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge accidentally shot himself down. He did a burst of his cannons then accelerated downwards shortly after. His windscreen shattered and the engine failed. He assumed it was bird-strike, but actually he dived down into his own cannon rounds, because the air resistance had slowed the bullets down whilst the engines had sped the plane up. It crashed, but Attridge survived.

- XL Tangent: In 1952, test pilot Lieutenant Colonel Alfred J. D'Amario deliberately shot himself down. Due to a malfunction, one of his two fuel tanks was empty and the other was really full. Thus if he landed, the plane would almost certainly have been lopsided and he would have crashed. D'Amario thus opened the cockpit, lent out, shot holes in the full tank with his revolver, tipped the plane so the fuel could leak out of the holes, and he was able to make a safe landing.

- Tangent: The most perilous sport is Formula 1, but Lee argues that it is fishing and asks people to trust him, to which Alan points out that Lee is a regular on Would I Lie To You?. In the 1970s, there was a 0.35% of dying in each F1 race, meaning a driver who competed in every race over five years had a 20% chance of dying.

-Tangent: In 2015, Health and Safety Executive data showed that the most accident-prone occupation in the UK is hairdresser. One of the pictures shown to illustrate hairdressing is of a Pakistani hairdresser who does not use scissors, but instead sets hair on fire and then puts it out with a hairdryer.

- XL Tangent: In Turkey, they burn off ear hair. Aisling suggests that when it happens people are talking about you, because your ears are burning.

- XL Tangent: In 2012 & 2013, Health and Safety Executive figures listed one librarian and four estate agents as dying from workplace mishaps. Sandi has no idea what could have possibly happened.

- A Duckworth is a scale using known statistics to assign a risk of dying as a result of any given activity. A score of 0 represents living unharmed on Earth for an entire year. The top score is 8, meaning "Certain Doom". An example of something scoring 8 would be playing Russian roulette with six bullets. Being hit by an asteroid in the Duckworth scale is 1.6 because it is unlikely to happen, while doing the washing-up scores 5.5 because while it is not dangerous it does happen a lot.

- Tangent: One other form of Duckworth is the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method (formerly just the Duckworth-Lewis Method), a famously complicated way for calculating targets in limited over cricket matches in the event of play being delayed. It is based on the number of runs required, divided by the number of balls left, and includes other variables like the number of wickets left.

- Tangent: Sandi went to a cricket match, and the only thing she learned is that it is possible to have too much Pimm's.

- XL Tangent: A 35-year-old male who smokes 40 cigarettes a day would be at 7.1 on the Duckworth scale, while playing Russian roulette with a single bullet is 7.2 on the scale. The Duckworth scale is also like the Richter scale in that it is logarithmic, thus meaning that Russian roulette is actually ten times more dangerous.

- There are several perilous things that you can teach yourself. For example, Theodor Kaluza, a German physicist who was one of the people behind string theory, was so sick of people saying that theoretical knowledge had no value that he taught himself to swim from a book, managing to swim for the first time in his life in his thirties.

- Tangent: When Alan was 16 it was possible to buy a motorbike, get on it, and just go. Sandi also had a motorbike and drove it without taking any lessons at all. While the bikes could normally go up to 30mph, bikes could be modified to go faster - up to 40mph.

- Tangent: In April 2017, an eight-year-old boy from Ohio who was desperate for a burger. With his parents asleep, he looked up videos on YouTube about how to drive. He then got his four-year-old sister and they drove to the nearest McDonald's. Several people called the police, but apparently his driving was excellent, obeying all the rules of the road, and no charges were filed.

- Tangent: The most frightening thing Alan has ever done was a tandem skydive. The reason he did it was because he had a girlfriend who was always going on about how brave her ex-boyfriend was. To be fair to the ex-boyfriend, he was a battlefield medic in the army, but the girlfriend really hurt Alan's feelings when she said that the ex-boyfriend was the funniest person she knew. Alan did the skydive in Cairns, Queensland, and he absolutely shat himself. Someone once asked Lee if he wanted to go bungee jumping, but as Lee does not like heights he just agreed to go up and watch his friend. The instructor told his friend that when he said "Jump", he should jump. The instructor said "Jump", and just as the friend began to jump the instructor shouted as a joke: "NOT YET!"

- XL Tangent: The man Alan parachuted with told him that: "The plane can't land with this much weight in it, so we do have to jump out."

- XL Tangent: There are some books you should not use to learn from just by reading the title. For example, "Learning to Fly" is actually the title of Victoria Beckham's autobiography. Bill Hillman, co-author of "How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona", was gored at the 2014 run, but he did survive. Former MP Gavin Barwell, author of "How to Win a Marginal Seat", lost his marginal seat of Croydon Central in the 2017 General Election. "How to Hug" is not an instruction manual, but a joke name for the seventh volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica[ii].

- The panellists are given particular dolls of each other, including Sandi. These are poppets, which are traditionally used in European folk magic. For example, if you wanted to get someone out of your life, you fill the poppet with herbs, tie its hands behind its back, then toss it into a fast flowing river. You could also use needles to stab the dolls to cause pain.

- Tangent: Alan moves the Sandi doll's mouth to his groin. Sandi replies that she feels the need to rinse her mouth out. Lee uses Aisling's doll to rise her arm (which she plays along with), then rubbing her own breasts and then lying on top of Lee. Before she does lie on top, Aisling throws the doll away.

- XL Tangent: Poppets often used to contain "tag locks", the locks of hair taken from the target person. Some poppets are used to heal or cast love spells. Disposing of the puppet was still dangerous because could fall into the wrong hands. Recommendations include burying it far away, often near a waterfall; on a Saturday in the woods, put the poppet under rocks; providing an offering of fruit and coins, throwing the poppet away towards the west and walking away, never looking back; or burning it, taking the ashes to a faraway place.

- Between "mild peril" and "moderate torture", the worst depends on the views of the British Board of Film Classification, formerly the British Board of Film Censors. These are stock phrases to describe the content of films. Examples have included: "Contains mild language, and horror, and fantasy spiders", for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; "Contains strong language, violence and sex, all involving puppets", for Team America; "Contains irresponsible behaviour", for Mr. Bean's Holiday; and "Dangerous behaviour, mild threat, innuendo, infrequent mild bad language" for Paddington.

- Tangent: Alan's favourite warning on films is that they contain "language", because all non-silent films do, it's just that some is rude and some is not.

- XL Tangent: The first film to be given a description of its content by the BBFC was "Jurassic Park 2". The description was: "Passed PG for scary scenes of violence that may be unsuitable for sensitive children or those under eight."

- Tangent: Jason used to work in a cinema, and when people purchased tickets he had to tell the customers the warnings the censors gave, so when buying tickets for children's films Jason had to warn them that the film contained: "Mild peril". When selling tickets to Harry Potter films, he had to warn people the film contained: "Fantasy spiders".

- XL Tangent: Another example of a BBFC description is: "Contains very strong sexual violence, sex and violence." This is the description of A Serbian Film, one of the most violent films ever to be given a UK film rating. It has been banned in at least 46 countries. Jason has not seen the film but has read its Wikipedia description, and that alone gave him nightmares. Aisling says that she found it hard going to the lavatory after watching an episode of The X Files on her own, where someone is sitting on the toilet, then rats come out of the toilet bowl and eat the man from the arsehole out.

- Tangent: Lee says that the only example of mild bad language in Paddington was: "Where's my marmalade sandwich you c***!?"

- You know that scene in silent movies where the damsel is tied to the railway lines by a villain and rescued by the hero? Well, you don't. In the earliest versions of this cliché, it was the other way around. In the 1867 melodramatic play Under the Gaslight by Augustin Daly, the villain (Byke) tied the hero (Snorkey) to the track, who is rescued by the damsel (Laura). Not only was it originally the other way around, this railway scene never appeared in mainstream silent dramas. It only appeared in comedy spoofs. (Forfeit: Yes)

- XL Tangent: In the 1914 film The Perils of Pauline, there is no scene in which she is tied to a railway line, but in a satirical talkie version of the film made in 1947, the railway line scene does appear.

- XL Tangent: You should push a man under a train depending on the circumstances. It is an example of an ethical thought experiment, formerly known as the "Trolley Problem" and relating to trams. If, for example, five people are tied to a railway line and a train is about to come over and run them, you could arguably push one very fat person from a bridge down onto the track. The train would kill the fat person, but the train would halt and save the lives of the other five. This scenario has come back into recent discussion because of the issue of driverless cars, which need to be programmed with ethical codes. For example, if the car is going to crash, the car needs to decide whether it is more ethical to crash into a passerby and save the driver, or kill the driver but save passerby.

- XL Tangent: When Lee took his driving test, he was asked the question: "What happens if an animal runs in front of the car?" The answer is to keep going, because if you swerve to avoid it you may cause an accident involving other cars. When he was taking his test, a goat ran out in front of the car. He didn't want to fail the test, so he just kept driving. He missed the goat by millimetres. He then jokes that he looked in his rear-view mirror, saw the goat, and not wanting to fail his test reversed back, hitting it. Jason failed his driving test six times. Amongst his errors wer failing his parallel parking, because when he was told to park, he argued that it would be better to find a better space and then walk. Another time, he was at a junction, checked one side and then asked the instructor: "All right your side?"

- Out of an airhorn, a water pistol, a bar of soap, a whistle and an umbrella, the best thing to use to defend yourself against a kitten is the airhorn. While the water pistol might work, some kittens will think of it as more intense play. Kittens attacking you is important because they are learning to ambush and hunt. What you need to do is distract them before they launch, so you use the airhorn, although it does not need to make a loud noise. Just spraying the air will work.

- Tangent: Other examples of self-defence against pets include protecting yourself from being bitten by hamsters and guinea pigs. The advice is that you should never approach a hamster from behind. Hamsters do not like being blown gently in the face. If you are bitten by your pet rabbit, shriek, because this is a recognised rabbit signal of pain, or turn your back on the rabbit and stamp your feet, as this shows disapproval.

- Tangent: In July 2017, a hamster owner took her pet to the vet because it had sat unmoving in the corner of its cage for three days. It turned out that the hamster had swallowed a fridge magnet and had been stuck to the metal bars of the cage.

- XL Tangent: The NHS suggested that nurses who were attacked by squirrels should carry umbrellas to fend them off. One man, Mike Madden of Huddersfield, invented a head-mounted bird feeding tray and tested it by walking through the woods. A squirrel landed on his head, knocking Madden to the ground, resulting in him having to wear a neck brace because he got whiplash. Madden said: "I was lucky really, 'cos it could have taken my head off." Madden lives in Crackpot Cottage, and he also invented a suit made from bubble wrap to wear when he comes home from the pub.

- XL Tangent: If you are attacked by a cock (as in cockerel) you should not respond because if you do respond the cock will be convinced you are also a cock and will then feel obliged to attack you every time it sees you. You should keep facing it and back away. If you are attacked by a beaver make sure it doesn't bite you because they only attack when they're rabid. The best way to show dominance over a rabbit is told its head gently down to the ground, as this is how other rabbits establish dominance.

- XL Tangent: In 1807, a rabbit hunt was organised for Napoleon Bonaparte. To make sure he got plenty of kills, the entire hunt was stocked with tame rabbits instead of wild ones. This was a mistake because when Napoleon got out of his carriage the rabbits thought he was coming with food, and several hundred rushed towards him. Guards had to beat the rabbits back with whips and Napoleon fled in his carriage.

General Ignorance

- When using tin foil on your roast, it makes no difference if the foil is shiny or dull side up. The two different sides to the foil are as a result of the manufacturing process. (Forfeit: Shiny)

- XL Tangent: If you are out of AA batteries and only have AAA batteries, you can pack the gap with tin foil to make the batteries work. If you have woollen gloves because it is cold outside and you can't use your touch-screen on a device, putting tin foil on the finger will make it work. Shoplifters put tinfoil in the lining of their coats to prevent setting the alarms off. Cutting through several layers of tin foil can sharpen your scissors. Putting a ball of tin foil in your washing machine stops static electricity from affecting your clothes.

- Chocolate biscuits have the chocolate on the bottom, not the top. This is according to the manufacturers themselves. They say: "During the manufacturing process, the biscuits go through a reservoir of chocolate that enrobes them, so the chocolate actually goes on the bottom." (Forfeit: Chocolate side up)

- XL Tangent: As a child, Jason's uncle worked at the McVitie's factory in Stockport. About every month or so he would bring back from work a large bag of free broken biscuits, which was a treat for Jason growing up. It wasn't until Jason was about 14 when someone showed him what a Penguin biscuit was supposed to look like.

- The thing that spread the Black Death was fleas on humans, not rats. Studies of mortality data on plague victims who were discovered during the construction of Crossrail conclude that the plague could not have been spread so fast if rats were the sole or primary carrier of infected fleas. (Forfeit: Rats)

- XL Tangent: Tube lines curve simply to get round corners. Some people mistakenly think it is to get round plague pits, but in reality, if you are constructing a tube line it is much easier to dig down from a road than it is to dig under a building.

- In the fight between David and Goliath the underdog was Goliath, because the slingshot back then was the most deadly weapon at the time. If the stone bullet is launched by a trained slinger, it would have the stopping power of a .44 Magnum hand gun. (Forfeit: David)

- The reason why coyotes never catch roadrunners is because roadrunners can fly. Coyotes are actually faster than roadrunners. Coyotes can run at 43mph, while roadrunners top out at 20mph.

- XL Tangent: An episode of Peppa Pig called Spider's Web was banned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2012 because it teaches children that spiders are their friends. While this is a good idea in the UK, it is much less so in Australia where so many spiders are venomous.

- XL Tangent: Lee once worked as an apricot picker in Australia, and on the first day something was in his shoes. He put the shoe on and thing that was inside bit him. Worried he might die, Lee ran to the farmer's door, knocked on the door late at night, and the big, burly Australian farmer answered saying; "What do you want, mate?" Lee showed what had bitten him and said: "This has just bitten me", to which the farmer replied: "Get a grip, mate", and slammed the door in Lee's face.

Scores

- Aisling Bea: 8 points
- Jason Manford: -12 points
- Lee Mack: -15 points
- Alan Davies: -21 points

Broadcast details

Date
Monday 17th September 2018
Time
10pm
Channel
BBC Two
Length
30 minutes

Repeats

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    Cast & crew

    Regular cast
    Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
    Alan Davies Regular Panellist
    Guest cast
    Lee Mack Guest
    Jason Manford Guest
    Aisling Bea Guest
    Writing team
    James Harkin Script Editor
    Mat Coward Question Writer
    Production team
    Ian Lorimer Director
    John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
    Piers Fletcher Producer
    Nick King Editor
    Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
    Howard Goodall Composer

    Video

    Dolls

    Lee Mack discovers that the dolls they're playing with can control the panellists' movements.

    Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Lee Mack, Jason Manford, Aisling Bea.

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