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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 269 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series S recorded.
Series R, Episode 9 is repeated on Dave today at 9pm.

Series I, Episode 18 - Idleness

Further details


- The code for the American nuclear trigger between 1960-77 that was given to every president during that period was 00000000. The British during that period did not even have a code. Instead they used a bicycle lock key and accessed the trigger by removing two screws from a panel. Behind it was a series of dials which allowed the user to select if the bomb would have an air burst or a ground burst.

- Tangent: Jeremy once published his pin number in The Sun. It was in response to a news story about a civil servant leaving some important information on a train. He decided that it was not such a fuss and to prove it he published his pin number so anyone could access his bank account in the belief that you could only deposit money into the account. The Diabetic Society took £500.

- Tangent: While most people believe that the current advice regarding computer passwords is to have a different password for every account, each being no shorter than eight characters consisting of at least two numbers and you must never write them down, this is nonsense. For starters almost no-one can remember that many passwords. Instead the current advice is to write down one complicated password, but then again there is little point in writing it down because you are more likely to have your password stolen by someone using technology rather than a burglar entering your house.

- Tangent: Jeremy likes using retina scanners at airports. One thing he does is to get very drunk on the plane and see if the scanner can read his bloodshot eyes. They always do. Ross likes to go through the first security section where a photograph of him is taken, and before he gets to the second section mess with his hair so it looks different to the photo.

- Tangent: Dara once went on a flight from Gatwick to Spain. At check-in he spotted someone who tried to take on board the plane a two-litre fizzy drink bottle full of water, inside of which was a pet fish.

- XL: There are many problems in trying to find the best person for a job in a hierarchy. One famous theory is "The Peter Principle" in which you constantly promote someone who is good at their job until they get to a job which they cannot do, at which point you stop promoting them.

- XL: The best way of electing MPs is using sortition - the system the ancient Greeks used, which was a simple lottery. It guarantees that powerful interest groups can have no influence on the outcome; it does not favour people who are good at winning elections such as people who are charismatic, wealthy, well-educated or well-connected; and you cannot buy votes from people so it is impossible to be corrupt. This system is the same one we use when picking a jury.

- XL: It might be a good idea to use your leisure time smoking 30 cigarettes a day, drinking explosives and eating dried blood if you want to get invalided out of the army. During World War II the Italians came up with the idea of sending boxes of matches to the Allies inside of which were secret instructions on how to make yourself look ill and thus send you back home. They also gave psychological advice such as acting as if hate being ill, sticking to one set of symptoms and not telling the doctor too much. They advised people already smoking to double the amount they smoked. While you may be tempted to simply shoot yourself in the foot, it was such a common trick that doctors and solders were wise to it. The British then did the same trick of sending advice on making yourself to look ill, by sending fake German manuals which had the information in the middle of them. This had a double effect because the Germans knew about the trick, so sometimes they sent off troops who were really were ill back to the front where they could spread infection. Amongst the tricks the British used was how to fake tuberculosis, which involved smoking a lot so you cough, telling the doctor that you had flu some time ago but the cough has not gone away, cutting yourself so you can add blood to your mucus, and also add smegma.

- Alfred's game was more successful than Alfred's other game because the first game was Scrabble. Alfred Butts invented Scrabble, but it was not a great success until the man who ran the Macy's department store got hooked on playing the game one Christmas. He promoted the game the following year and sold 4 million games. It became the best selling board game ever. Butts got just $1.6 million, but he was happy with it. Butts then went on to design another game called Alfred's Other Game, but it did not take off.

- Tangent: The highest possible score in Scrabble is "oxyphenbutazone" which can score 1,178 points. The highest score for a single play was 392 by Dr. Karl Khoshnaw for "caziques". The most commonly played word is "qi", the Chinese life force, because it is one of the few words in which the "q" does not follow after a "u" and the "q" can score 30 points if it is on a triple letter or word score.

- Tangent: Stephen has a house rule when playing Scrabble which is that you must know the meaning of every word you play. Jeremy has a house rule which is that it must be a word used in everyday conversation. Ross has never played Scrabble because he is dyslexic.

- XL: Strategically speaking, the best group of properties to get in Monopoly are the oranges, which in the standard British version of the game are Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street. This is because they are the places you are most likely to land on, due to them being so close to Jail. If you role a double 3 or double 4 to get out, you will land on either Bow or Marlborough. Rather appropriately, all three of those streets used to have magistrates courts.

- - XL Tangent: One story about the origins of the tokens used in Monopoly is that they were items on a charm bracelet worn by the wife of the inventor.

- If a dormouse had a gap year it would most likely sleep all the way through it. Dormice, which are not mice at all, can hibernate for up to 18 months in one go, so if there is not enough food in one year they can sleep all the way through it until next year.

- Tangent: Dara was once hosting a barbeque in his house near the Thames where a lot of children were in attendance. Suddenly they spotted a squirrel jumping out of a tree and then trying to swim across the river. Then the squirrel went underwater and the parents were worried about having to explain the death to the children. Luckily though the squirrel appeared again from out of the water and swam to the other side.

- The panel are asked to demonstrate the best way to sit on a chair, using some toy chairs and some dolls of The Stig. The best way is to sit tilted back by about 30 degrees.

- The panel are asked to make a homopolar motor using a screw, a magnet, an AA battery and a piece of wire. What you do is attach the magnet to the flat end of the screw. The screw becomes magnetised so the point will attach to the flat (negative) end of the battery easily. Hold the battery up so the screw and magnet are dangling down. Then take the wire, place one end of it on the positive side of the battery and the other to the magnet. This will cause the screw to spin. Because the friction caused is so small, the screw can spin at around 10,000 rpm. This type of motor was invented by Michael Faraday in 1820.

General Ignorance

- Nobody Knows: No-one knows how many arms the Milky Way has. This is because no-one has ever taken a photograph of it from the outside, because the camera would have to travel hundreds of light years to get a shot.

- The panel are shown a picture of Del Boy and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses along with their car, which is a Reliant Regal Supervan. The Supervan also appears in Mr. Bean as it is the car which always gets in the way of Mr. Bean's Mini, not a Reliant. (Forfeit: Reliant Robin)

- Tangent: Jeremy once drove a Robin Reliant in Sheffield for Top Gear. The car kept on rolling over at high speeds. Even The Stig turned one over on the first corner of the Top Gear track. Jeremy claims it is very comfortable to roll over in one. When doing the original road test, healthy and safety took out just about everything out of the car including Jeremy's cigarettes and lighter in case they hit him. They also fitted in a very sharp window hammer which they put in the centre console of the car. When the car rolled over the spike of the hammer flew past and just missed his head.

- Tangent: Ross once rolled over his Land Rover. After the roll his Sat Nav said: "Off route, recalculate."

- Out of doctor and veterinary training, training to be a vet takes the less time course wise. For a vet it is five years, for a doctor it can be between nine to twelve years. (Forfeit: Doctor)

- Tangent: Vets have a high suicide rate because while they love animals they spend a vast amount of their time putting them to sleep.

- XL: Out of animals and humans, humans get the most charity money in the UK. Most money goes to towards cancer charities, followed by the National Trust and then children's charities. The most popular animal charity is the RSPCA, but it has never been in the top ten. (Forfeit: Animals)


- Alan Davies: 12 points (Alan's 15th victory)
- Ross Noble: 4 points
- Jeremy Clarkson: 1 point
- Dara O'Briain: -15 points


This episode was originally scheduled for broadcast on Friday 9th December, but was postponed following upset over comments made by Jeremy Clarkson on The One Show the previous week. The XL version of the episode was erroneously available via iPlayer for a short period.

Broadcast details

Friday 4th May 2012
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jeremy Clarkson Guest
Dara O Briain Guest
Ross Noble 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
Piers Fletcher Producer
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer

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