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)
- 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".
- 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".
- 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.
- 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: 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.
- You can tell that someone is bluffing because they tell. A "tell" is something which gives your bluff away. Examples include blinking a lot.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|