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.

Returns Wednesday 23rd December at 9pm. Episode Guide
Series P, Episode 4 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 2am.

Series I, Episode 13 - Intelligence

Further details


- You can get a goose interested in volleyball by making the ball look like an egg. If you get a volleyball, paint it bright blue with large flicks of black on it, the goose will think it is an egg and will sit on it. There is no upper limit to what a goose thinks of as a suitable size of an egg. They will always be attracted to it and will like bigger eggs more than smaller ones. This is known as "supernormal stimuli".

- The most intelligent birds are the corvids, which include crows, ravens, jackdaws and magpies. They are deemed the most intelligent because they can solve problems. For example the panel are played a video in which a crow figures out how to use a hook to get food out of a narrow tube.

- Tangent: 65% of an owl's skull is made up of the eyes. The brain makes up a tiny percentage.

- Tangent: Cormorants can count up to eight. They are used by Chinese fishermen who kept the eighth fish for themselves.

- XL: The Enigma code was first cracked by the Poles. In 1932 the code was cracked by mathematician Marian Rejewski (of whom there is a statue of at Bletchley Park), but in the late 1930s the Germans changed the way they worked so the possible number of settings reached 364 billion per day. According to General (later US President) Eisenhower, cracking the Enigma code shortened the war by two years. The first code-breakers were brought together by using a particularly challenging cryptic crossword in the Daily Telegraph. They later brought in mathematicians, the most famous of which was Alan Turing. Turing was at Cambridge at the time and is considered one of the fathers of computing. However, he was punished for being gay by being chemically castrated and later committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple. An apology was eventually given decades later by Gordon Brown. While there are many people who believe that the Apple Computers logo is a reference to Alan Turing it is not, with Steve Jobs telling Stephen: "It isn't true, but God, we wish it were." Not only did Turing help crack Enigma, but he also helped crack the even more tricky Lorenz code, used by Hitler himself. To crack it the first modern computer, Colossus, was built by Turing, but it was destroy after the war because of the Official Secrets Act, despite giving the secret to the CIA. Correction: Colossus was not the first computer. Other computers such as Zuse Z3 predated it. Also, the team that built Colossus was not lead by Turing, but by Tommy Flowers.

- XL Tangent: Some politicians during the war wondered why Bletchley Park was being given such a large budget, so Churchill went there to see what they did. Afterwards Churchill wrote a hand-written memo reading: "Give them what they want."

- XL Tangent: Stephen once talked to a man at Los Alamos, where the nuclear bomb was developed, who said they received a million cyber attacks an hour from China.

- The perfect job interview lasts 12 seconds. You do not even have to hear the interviewee speak in order to make a judgement. Coming across with the right attitude and confidence will sway the interviewer.

- Tangent: There is a list of job interview questions that interviewers should not ask. These include: "Are you a smoker?", "Are you originally from the UK?", "Do you have children who need to be looked after?" and "Do you plan to have children in the future?" With regards to the question, "What are your weaknesses?" it is best to avoid naming something which is actually a strength like being a perfectionist, but instead say a weakness that is not terrible, like getting bogged down in details. With regards to the question, "What are your strengths?" you should not say that you are a confident, outgoing, natural leader, because you come across as domineering. Instead you should that you have good interpersonal skills (a phrase Stephen hates), but Alan argues that giving that answer proofs you have not got good interpersonal skills. If the interviewer looks like they have fallen asleep the smart thing to do is leave a note saying: "I enjoyed meeting you." Interviewers also ask some rather bizarre questions like, "How many piano tuners are there in the UK?"

- XL Tangent: A strength you should avoid saying is that you work well without supervision, because it sounds like you resent management. Instead you should say that you work equally well with or without supervision.

- Tangent: David says that people should be unhappy if they have a terrible job. Alan then talks about his wife who went into a shop on the day of the recording to buy an ironing basket and the shop assistant said: "I've never heard of such a thing. I have no idea where you would find something like that." Phill used to deliberately go to a Chinese restaurant in Wardour Street because the people running it were so rude. On one occasion they were forced to move to a different floor mid-meal.

- XL: You cannot know if you yourself are incompetent. The Dunning-Kruger effect states that if you are incompetent you do not know it because the thing that makes you incompetent means you do not realise what the incompetent thing is. For example, if you are an incompetent doctor, and you diagnose a patient wrongly, you do not know you gave the wrong diagnosis until a more competent doctor points out you were wrong.

- XL Tangent: There are some people who you feel must know they are incompetent. Some examples of this include the two Iowa thieves who disguised their faces very poorly by drawing on them with magic markers. Another case occurred in 1994 where a 30-year-old plumber and terrorist from Al Jahaleen entered a cinema in Al Zarqa, Jordan, with a bomb because the cinema was showing X-rated films. He planted the bomb under a seat, but then stayed to watch the film. The bomb exploded and took away both of his legs.

- Stephen performs an ingenious interlude in the form of an experiment. He takes a loudspeaker, then some cornflour mixed with water, coloured green to make it stand out more. This mixture is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning that instead of changing viscosity according to temperature, it changes due to pressure. He pours the mixture onto the speaker and then sound is played through the speaker. The louder the sound gets the more the cornflour morphs and the mixture begins to escape from the loudspeaker. This knowledge is being put to use to make liquid armour.

- The panel are shown a picture of a robot with a shirt on it and asked what the robot is designed to do. It is designed to iron the shirt by puffing it up. Stephen is about to go on about the robot but then claims he is thirsty and calls for drinks. The drinks are carried over by Asimo, the world's most advanced humanoid robot. He can talk, walk, go up and down stairs, and run. He can also recognise people, objects and gestures. He can calculate distances, the direction of movement and create flexible routes to a destination. He can understand 50 different calls and greetings, plus 30 different commands. Stephen says he deserves points, but Asimo says that what he really wants is to dance with Jo, so Asimo does. The fact that Asimo's name sounds similar to sci-fi novelist Isaac Asimov is a coincidence. The name comes from "asi", the Japanese for "feet", and "mo", short for "movement".

General Ignorance

- Nobody Knows: No-one knows exactly how many piano tuners there are in the UK - not even the British Association of Piano Tuners. Their best guess is between 1,000 and 10,000. This is partly because there are few full-time piano tuners. Alan gets the bonus.

- XL: On a clock face the two hands over lap 22 times a day. This is because you lose one hour's rotation every 12 hours. It takes the minute hand just over 65 minutes to catch up with the hour hand. There are 1440 minutes in a day, and divided by 65 it equals 22.15. (Forfeit: 24)

- XL: The biggest clock face in Britain is the one on the Shell Mex building on The Strand, which is currently used as the HQ for the Penguin Group, the publishing company. The second biggest is the Royal Liver Building Clock on the Liver Building in Liverpool. (Forfeit: Palace of Westminster)

- Time immemorial began on 6th July 1189, the day King Richard I was coroneted. Time immemorial means that if you can date something since then you do not need to re-justify doing it again. It was decided that the first statute of Westminster which began a few years later, defined his reign as the limit of legal memory.

- XL: The job of the breakman in a bobsleigh race is to give the bobsleigh the hardest push to make it travel fast. You are not allowed to apply the break on the bobsleigh during a race as it damages the ice. Other versions of bobsleighing include the luge which involves one person feet first going down the run, and the skeleton which involves one person head first going down the run. (Forfeit: Braking)

- XL: The Caribbean country which came 29th in the 1988 Winter Olympics was the Dutch Lesser Antilles, which stopped being a country in 2010. The national anthem of the Dutch Lesser Antilles was called "Anthem Without a Title". Jamaica came 30th. (Forfeit: Jamaica)


- Asimo: 32 points
- David Mitchell: 4 points
- Phill Jupitus: -4 points
- Jo Brand: -8 points
- Alan Davies: -16 points

Broadcast details

Friday 2nd December 2011
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jo Brand Guest
Phill Jupitus Guest
David Mitchell Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer


Hello ASIMO!!

The panel are shown the robot, ASIMO, and Jo Brand dances with it.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Jo Brand, Phill Jupitus, David Mitchell.


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