Series G, Episode 3 - Games
- Alan is asked to imagine the following situation: He, Phill and Sean are taking part in love with Liza and the three are going to fight a truel, which is a three-way duel. Sean is a really good shot with a 90% chance of hitting his target. Phill is an OK shot with a 60% change, and Alan is a poor shot with only a 10% chance. Alan is given first shot, and they only have one shot each. After Alan fires, Phill and Sean get their turns. Alan is then asked what the best course of action is. The answer is to fire his gun in the air. If Alan where to shoot at either Phill or Sean, chances are he would miss, but if he did hit, the chances are that the one left standing would shoot Alan. So, by deliberately missing, it is in the interests of Sean and Phill to kill each other because they are better shots. Also, because each person only has one shot, Alan would survive. This is an example of what is known as "Game theory", invented by John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern and John Forbes Nash, the later of whom won a Nobel Prize and was portrayed in the film A Beautiful Mind by Russell Crowe. Game theory is used in economics. (Forfeit: Shoot myself; Shoot Liza)
- Tangent: Stephen gives some examples of game theory. For example, if two companies both advertised then they are spending a large amount of money to cancel each other out. If neither advertised then the market would still be the same but less money would be spent. This meant that the banning of tobacco advertising was of benefit to tobacco firms because it meant that they spent less money.
- Tangent: Another example of game theory was an episode of Big Brother in which the two final contestants where given the chance of taking a share in the final prize money or keeping the money. If both said they would share, the money was split. If one decided to take the money and the other share, the one who decides to keep the money gets the lot. If both decide to take the money, no-one wins. The best strategy is to share, which the contestants both did and probably regretted because they ended with smaller winnings.
- XL Tangent: Many people believe that altruism between humans is genetic proof of game theory. It is better for someone to share than to keep something themselves.
- XL Tangent: A rocker climber once had to cut his own arm off because it was trapped between two rocks. He knew that no-one would come to save him and he had limited food so there was no other option. To cut off his arm he broke the bone (because he could not saw through it) and cut through the flesh and the gap in the broken bone.
- XL Tangent: Children who are taught to share at an early age will make new connections in the brain.
- XL Tangent: Phill once died on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. He was comic support for The Who.
- The popular game which ends with the players being thrown into a lake of fiery sulphur is Ouija. In the Book of Revelations, people who try to contact the dead and practice witchcraft go to Hell. Ouija however was not invented as a method of contacting the dead. It was a game, still owned by Parker Brothers, in which you automatically wrote to yourself. Only one third of those who still use Ouija boards use it as a way of contacting the dead and in World War One it was used to contact troops abroad. Ouija fell dramatically out of fashion in 1972 after it appeared in the film The Exorcist. Before that, in early 1972, it was more popular than Monopoly. The word "Ouija" may be a combination of the French and German words for "Yes".
- Tangent: In Britain during the 1990s, a judge dismissed a jury in a murder case who tried to contact the murder victim via an Ouija board in their hotel room. The victim told the jury that the accused was guilty. Interestingly, if the Ouija board had been used in the jury room, the judge would have had no power to dismiss the jury as a judge has no right in law to know what takes place in a jury room. The man on trial was put before a different jury and was found guilty of the crime, which means the original jury were right in their prediction.
- Tangent: There is an Elvis Presley séance website. The site cautions: "If you wish to repeat this experiment, please be considerate. Many people may wish to contact Elvis and we're sure he's quite busy. Please treat this information as if he were alive and you had his e-mail address, with respect."
- XL Tangent: When blindfolded people still make words on Ouija boards. However, if you turn the board upside-down without them knowing they write rubbish.
- During World War Two, the scallywags where a branch of the Home Guard. If the Germans invaded, the scallywags were to act as a resistance movement. They would be a guerrilla section without any connections to the regular army. Each member was given money, supply dumps, ammunition and a gallon of rum. Their job would be to shoot Germans and those would be likely to collaborate with them such as Lord Halifax. Famous scallywags included Michael Foot, George Orwell and J. B. Priestly. Foot said that he would have shot Lord Halifax. Left-wingers and radicals had an uneasy alliance with the military to train the scallywags. Scallywags were only given two weeks worth of food because the belief was they would not survive that long - they were essentially terrorist suicide squads in cells. Their unofficial motto was "Terror by Night".
- Tangent: In the regular Home Guard, 12 to 14-year-old boy scouts were given demonstrations on how to decapitate motorcyclists using piano wire. Harry Lee, the British roller skating champion, demonstrated how to use roller skates to knee someone in the groin.
- The toughest of all vegetarians in all of history were Roman gladiators. Gladiators were strictly speaking vegans and were known as "barley men" or "hordearii". The main diet was believed to be barley, beans and dry ash. The strongest animals on Earth are all vegetarians.
- Tangent: Adolf Hitler was not a vegetarian as is often claimed. However, he did not smoke and did not drink much. His most common alcoholic drink was wine.
- XL: The contest that can end in either a checkmate or a knockout is chess-boxing. In it you have 12 minutes on a chess clock. You play 4 minutes of chess, then you box for 3 minutes and change every round, with an extra minute to remove your boxing gloves to move the pieces. Other than checkmate or knockout the only other ways to win are by retirement or exceeding the time on the chess clock. The current Ukrainian WBC Heavyweight Champion (at the time of recording) is Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir is the IBF Champion. Vitali has a PhD and both are chess players, as is Lennox Lewis. The first chess-boxing match was in the Netherlands in 2003. Other combined sports include Calcio Fiorentino, a combination of football and martial arts played in Florence. Headbutts, punching, elbowing and chocking are allowed. In 2009, a new rule was brought in to ban anyone with a criminal record from taking part. One team lost 20 players after the match because of this rule. Another game is slamball, which is basketball on trampolines.
- XL Tangent: Alan went to see the swimming at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens but thought it was rubbish because he had no idea what was going on.
- XL: The first prize in the annual Mayan ball game tournament was to be sacrificed to the sun god. The captain would have their heart removed and burned. The game was played for 3,000 years, firstly around 1,400BC. In 700AD, King 18 Rabbit changed the rules so the losing team were sacrificed.
- The panel are shown a picture of a gondola and are asked where they might find it. The answer is Las Vegas. The clues in the picture are that it is too decorative and that it is white. In Venice, an ordinance was passed in 1633 declaring that all gondolas have to be black.
- The best way to win money from a casino is to count cars in blackjack. The system was developed by Ben Campbell, a maths professor from MIT who taught it to his students. He is now banned from all casinos and the casinos now hire staff to look for card counters. Also, by using new face-recognition technology, all casinos in the world can detect the same card counter. However, the practice is not illegal. You are just playing the game very well. Card counters tend to work in teams to beat the casinos. A similar counting system is trying to be developed for roulette.
- XL Tangent: To win at roulette you can use a laser scanner on a mobile phone to calculate where the ball will land and bet during the last minute. A group of people won £1.3 million at the Ritz casino in London using this method. The police were called but decided they had not cheated because they did not interfere with the spin.
- You can tell that someone is bluffing because they tell. A "tell" is something which gives your bluff away. Examples include blinking a lot.
- XL Tangent: Poker legend Amarillo Slim once said: "If you can tell my poker hand just by looking I'll let you shit in this hat."
- The panel are shown a picture of a hound and are asked what the colour of it is. It is blue. The breed is a greyhound, but there are no grey greyhounds. The word "grey" comes from the old English "grig" and means "bitch", so it is in fact a bitch hound. According to Greyhound Racing UK, it is the second most popular spectator sport in the UK, after football. £2.5 billion is wagered every year. The motorised hare that goes around the track travels at up to 100mph. The dogs themselves go at between 40-70 mph. A man called Kenneth Gandar-Dower tried to race a greyhound with a cheetah; the greyhound won because the greyhound was more interested in racing. The cheetah refused to move.
- XL Tangent: Alan did a documentary in Namibia where a baby cheetah had been brought to a reserve. To teach it the skills needed to hunt they had a motor with a cord and pulleys which zigzagged around a field with a rag attached to it. The rag would move around very fast and the cheetah chased it. They also drove a pick-up truck containing horsemeat and the cheetah jogged alongside at 30mph. Cheetahs only eat fresh meat, unlike leopards which will eat rotten meat.
- The thing you should do with mussels that do not open when cooked is eat them. A woman called Jane Grigson wrote a book on seafood in the early 1970s claiming that mussels that do not open are bad and should be thrown away. By the 1990s, 90% of all seafood books claimed this. However, the Australian Seafood Commission say that the reverse is probably true: closed ones are better and you should throw away the open ones. Ones that are open before you start cooking should definitely be thrown away because they are dead.
- XL Tangent: Sean was in Barcelona and ate some clams. His wife said that they did not smell right but he ignored her. He ended up with terrible food poisoning. It was so bad that he could not bend over a toilet so he had to be sick standing up in a shower. Two weeks later he thought he was OK so had some razor clams. He was sick again. He is now worried he might have an allergy to clams for live.
- Gladiators did not say anything before a tournament. There were some people who said "We who are about to die salute you" to Emperor Claudius, but they were prisoners going to be killed. (Forfeit: We who are about to die salute you)
- Thursday 10th December 2009
- BBC One
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Justin Pollard||Question Writer|
|James Harkin||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Katie Taylor||Executive Producer|
|David Morley (as Dave Morley)||Executive Producer|