Series I, Episode 6 - Inventive
- You should be glad that you did not invent the flying car, the parachute suit and the web rotary press because the people who did invent them were killed by their own machines. William Bullock, inventor of the rotary press, which was a huge advance in printing, fell into the machine's works and was killed by them. Austrian Franz Reichelt invented a suit with a parachute in it and tried to prove it would work by throwing himself off the Eiffel Tower in 1912, but it did not work and he fell to his death. It may have been the case that it would have worked if only it was done at a greater height. Californian Henry Smolinski invented a flying car, in which you drove to an airport, collected the wings, attached them to the car, then flew to another airport, took off the wings and drove away. In 1973 one of the struts broke off and Smolinski and his co-pilot fell to their deaths.
- The well known invention which lurks in the belly and deserves to dwell in the cesspool is ventriloquism. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, who once excommunicated the Pope, used this phrase to describe it. The word means "belly speaker" and ventriloquism has a dark history. People originally would just throw their voice anywhere and people thought it may have been demonic possession or a divine utterance. One woman, Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent, used her ventriloquism to object to marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. She was later executed and her head was put on a pole. By the 19th century it became a form of entertainment, but the first acts did not use dummies. They did things like making voices come from suitcases or making the sound of a chimneysweep going further up and up a chimney. The first ventriloquist to have a dummy was Fred Russell with his puppet Costa Joe.
- Imaginary friends among children are more common place than we may think. It is believed by some psychiatrists that having imaginary friends is a good thing because it improves social interaction with real people and their verbal skills. However, some children have malevolent imaginary friends who tell them to do bad things or scare them.
- Each member of the panel has an old invention from the Maurice Collins Collection, and is asked to identify what it is.
- XL: Edward Beard Budding's invention affected an army of men with wooden blocks strapped to their feet because it put them out of work. Budding's most famous invention was the lawnmower, which was inspired by an earlier invention of his which cut the cloth nap on soldiers' uniforms. Previously, lawns were cut by scythe men who made sure the grass was level by wearing wooden blocks on their feet and matching the height of grass to the height of the block. Once the lawnmower was invented it put them out of work. However, the lawnmower did allow huge fields to be cut easily, allowing anyone to have their own lawn and also to make it easier to play sports such as football and cricket by having a level grass pitch. Budding came from Stroud, Gloucestershire, as does Laurie Lee.
- XL: The man who invented the idea of having bacon and eggs for breakfast and the phrase "Torches of freedom" was Edward Bernays, who it could be argued to also invented public relations. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, he was once employed by an American food company. At the time American breakfasts were very light, but he collected 5,000 doctors and he made testament to the "fact" that a heartily breakfast was better for you and promoted the idea of having bacon and eggs. This worked and the dish became a staple. The phrase "torches of freedom" was created by him to promote cigarettes to women. At the time, during women's suffrage, it was considered unladylike to smoke and one woman in New York was arrested for smoking in the 1920s. So Bernays took a photograph of women during an Easter parade smoking cigarettes, promoting the idea that this was empowering and that cigarettes were, "torches of freedom".
- XL: The internet was invented by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who were responsible for the internet protocol. The first "internet" was called ARPANET and was an offshoot of the American defence programme in the 1960s. The first communication took place in California, from Los Angeles to the Stanford Research Institute (over 400 miles), and read "Lo". The full message was "Login" but the system crashed mid-way through the message. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, which was a much later invention and is just one thing you can use on the internet. (Forfeit: Tim Berners-Lee)
- Nobody Knows: Nobody knows how dinosaurs had sex. While the most common theory is that they did it like reptiles and birds do it today using a cloacal sack, no sexual organs survive because the flesh has all rotted away. We have only been able to sex dinosaurs in the last 15 years. Alan gets the bonus.
- XL: The right conditions for dry rot are that it has to be damp. According to architects rising damp does not exist, although it is mentioned in building regulations. It is believed that it is normal damp that comes from a leak.
- No diseases are spread by feral pigeons according to pigeon experts.
- Friday 14th October 2011
- BBC Two
- 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|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|David Morley (as Dave Morley)||Executive Producer|
|Ruby Kuraishe||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|