QI (H series)

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QI Series H
QI Series H.jpg
QI Series H DVD
Starring Alan Davies
Guest panellists
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 16
Original channel BBC One
Original release 17 September 2010 (2010-09-17) – 14 January 2011 (2011-01-14)
Series chronology
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Series I

The eighth series of QI, the BBC comedy panel game television show hosted by Stephen Fry, started on 17 September 2010. As each series of QI is based around a letter of the alphabet, all questions in the series had themes beginning with the letter "h". Series H was aired on BBC One. It was the first series of the show to be aired in high definition (HD).


As with the previous series, series H featured a total of 16 editions. During recordings, there was a return of the game that Stephen Fry had set up for his Twitter followers during the previous series through AudioBoo. As before, the object was to decipher a word the audience shouts out, this time for words beginning with the letter "H". Debutant panellists for this series were; Chris Addison, Clare Balding, Eddie Izzard, John Lloyd, Ross Noble, Daniel Radcliffe, Ruby Wax and Robert Webb. Lloyd is QI‍ '​s creator and former producer, while Izzard was a panellist in the unaired pilot of the programme, but until this series had yet to feature in the actual televised show. This was also the first series not to feature Clive Anderson as a guest.

Episode 1 "Hodge Podge"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 17 September 2010
Recording date
  • 19 May 2010
  • Sean Lock was originally planned to appear on the panel, but was stranded on the Isle of Man and unable to arrive in time. Phill Jupitus stepped in at the last minute to replace him.
  • Bankers prefer long-haired men and short-skirted women because, by coincidence, all the booms in the 20th century occurred when shorter skirts and longer hair were in fashion, and all the recessions happened when longer skirts and shorter hair were in fashion.
  • Halitosis was entirely made-up by Lambert Pharmacal, the company behind Listerine, named after Joseph Lister, the so-called father of antiseptic surgery. Weirdly the antiseptic used in surgeries was also used to clean floors and used as a cure for gonorrhoea, then as a mouthwash without changing the formula. The reason they made up halitosis was so they could sell the mouthwash, because there wasn't a need for it before, so the company made claims such as "hotel clerks say one in three guests checking in have halitosis" and "dentists say 83% of patients have halitosis". Mints were also invented to mask "dog breath" and get rid of halitosis.
  • A hoplophobe would be scared of a Sturmgewehr 44 with a Krummlauf modification, or indeed any other firearm because a hoplophobe is someone who is afraid of firearms. Stephen has the aforementioned weapon in the studio on loan from the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, with instructions that only he could touch it, annoying Alan. The Krummlauf was a modification that allowed the holder to see round corners, because the Krummlauf was a periscope. A modern version was invented by the Israeli Army. The original periscope rifle was invented by an Australian during World War I. It was invented by Hans-Joachim Schaede, who also was involved in the washing machine industry.
  • Ammunition Technicians use Silly String to help with detecting bombs. The string is used on tripwires which can reveal them, but not set them off. There are also fluorescent versions, which can help detect booby traps as well.
  • You can make a square with a circular drill bit, or in particular, one with a Reuleaux triangle shape, which Ross describes as a sort or Toblerone-Rolo combo. Phill says the best 3 words he has ever heard from in a Geordie accent are Toblerone, Rolo and combo. Wankel engines (invented by Felix Wankel) use an approximation of the Reuleaux triangle shape.
  • The Immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis) is made of jelly and lives forever. After it has had sex, it can turn back into a child, and its cells, muscle and sperm and egg cells regenerate. They only die by being eaten or by disease, never by old age. Human attempts for some sort of rejuvenation or immortality included monkey glands, which were actually monkey testicles, and before that, human testicles. A Russian man called Serge Voronoff, who was based in Paris, injected the human testicles into the person. Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Dennis Westcott also had this treatment injected into him. Major Frank Buckley, the manager of the club, insisted on it and the following season, he scored 38 goals in 35 games. The manager of Plymouth Argyle also made his team get injected too.
General Ignorance
  • If a snake's meal is bigger than their head, they get it down by stretching their mouths by using a bone that most mammals have in their ears, the quadrate bone, but it works as a sort of double jointed hinge. (Forfeit: they dislocate their jaw)
  • If a British judge wants order in the courtroom, he wouldn't (forfeit) bang his gavel, as British judges have never used them. The only people in the UK who use them are auctioneers. Oddly though, there is a picture of Stephen as a judge with a gavel, and Jack was in the television programme, Kingdom (which Stephen was in also), where he played a judge with a gavel, which leads Alan to suggest that that was another reason for why it was axed.
QI XL Extras
  • A person who might use a left-handed motorbike would be a policeman, mainly so that the right hand could be free to use a firearm. The Indian motorcycle company was the biggest seller of motorbikes between World War I and World War II.
  • Motorbikes don't pay congestion charges because they have no registration plate on the front of the vehicle and the ANPR cameras only take shots of the front of the vehicle. There used to be sideways plates on the top of the mudguard, but they were removed a while ago.
  • The roundest thing in the universe is a neutron star, which is what a supernova becomes after it suffers from a gravitational collapse. They have a diameter of 15 miles, and there isn't one near enough to us to see with the naked eye. A thimble full of neutron star would weigh more than a mountain. They're also believed to have twice the mass of the Sun. The highest mountain on a neutron star is just 5 millimetres high. Comparatively, Earth is actually smoother than a billiard ball, because if it was scaled up to the size of Earth, the mountains and trenches would be much bigger than Earth's are.
General Ignorance
  • The "X" on treasure maps used by pirates didn't mean anything (forfeit: the spot) as they were rarely used. The idea surrounding buried treasure was brought up in Robert Louis Stevenson's book, Treasure Island. Pirates never really buried treasure, they preferred to spend it rather than hide it.

Episode 2 "Hanatomy"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 24 September 2010
Recording date
  • 5 May 2010
  • Alan Davies (−25 points)
  • Bill Bailey (−12 points) 20th appearance
  • Gyles Brandreth (joint winner with −8 points) 2nd appearance
  • Sue Perkins (joint winner with −8 points) 2nd appearance
  • Palmistry has never been proven, that your hands cannot tell the future (forfeit), but the ridges of your hand can tell you about your health, i.e.: your past. Francis Galton discovered the ridges, and decades later Down's syndrome was discovered to show signs on the palms, and by the 1960s, more than 20 illnesses and conditions have been shown on the palms.
  • Marcel Proust had a limp handshake, as the panel associated with homosexuality. Marcel was not outed as a homosexual, and even visited brothels to try to convert himself. He deliberately kept a limp handshake as a double-bluff to assert his appearance as straight. Handshakes are said to reveal personality.
  • Trepanning or the drilling of a hole to the head, was performed in Papua New Guinea, with more success than if performed in Europe, due to blood infections from less sanitary surgeries in Europe (forfeit: Just Here - Alan points to the top of his head when asked where would be the best place for trepanning). In New Guinea, they made the incision with found objects, like a sharp stone, and sterilized the wound with coconut milk afterwards. European hospitals of the 19th Century were rife with infection, and the exposed area, though operated on with more sophisticated methods, was more prone to infection and had only a 20% chance of survival. Open brain surgery occurs consciously sometimes so you know where you are operating, and what systems you are interfering with.
  • Authentic shrunken heads come from Ecuador and were made by the Shuar tribe. All the skin must be removed as a single piece, the skin must be scraped out, the lips must be bound and the eyes stitched, filled with stones and boiled, then smoked. This was an aggressive gesture. The tribe was notoriously fierce, having in 1599, poured molten gold down a Spanish governor's throat until his bowels burst, a repayment for his greed for gold. The tribe is also known for arrows dipped in Curare.
  • When asked to draw the Queen's face on a blank coin, all the panellists believe she was (forfeit) facing left. She has always faced right, though she faces left on the stamp. Images of each monarch will alternate between facing left and right when appearing on a coin, so the Queen's father George VI had a left facing coin, and presumably Prince Charles will. This has happened ever since Charles II. It is allegedly to do with right handedness, a natural presumption of a profile.
General Ignorance
  • If you have a nosebleed you should not (forfeit) tilt back, since the blood could return through the canals in the eyes, or down your throat to the lungs. A common cause for the nosebleed is being punched in the face, or blowing your nose too hard. It should resolve itself after a few minutes, but if longer than 20, it is advised to seek medical help.
  • It is impossible to swallow your tongue. The fear is the tongue may block your airway, but it is impossible for it to go down your throat.
  • Cracking knuckles does not cause arthritis. A science experiment was performed over 60 years where one hand had cracked knuckles, the other didn't. Both hands were examined and seemed equal for the potential for arthritis; cracking caused no noticeable damage.
QI XL Extras
  • Famous people who experienced trepanning include Prince Rupert (nephew of Charles I) and Prince Philip of Nassau. In 1591 alone the latter prince had himself drilled into 27 times, but lived. He later went on to win a drinking competition against someone who died from alcohol-induced shock.
  • Imagery involving a decapitated saint brings to question where the halo should appear, suggesting the body or the head, or both. Denis was represented in art with a glowing area above his neck and a halo at his head. Pope Gregory the Great was represented in some images with a squared halo, which was used for people who were still alive (and therefore not yet beatified) at the time of the painting.
  • When you comb a ball covered with fur, it proves impossible to do it smoothly; it requires a bit of a twirl at the top of the head "the crown", otherwise it will have a cow lick. This can be proven mathematically using the Euler characteristic and other mathematical concepts. Most men have a clockwise pattern in their hair, only 8% men have it anti-clockwise, but 30% of gay men do, potentially being a physiological indicator of sexuality.
  • The hula hoop boomed in 1958. That year it was a massive craze, and it disappeared as fast as it came. It failed to make any money, since the companies had stockpiles still waiting to be sold when the demand vanished. There was a thought that it was brought around by a fad surrounding Elvis and his swivelling hips. There was a similar fad in the 1990s in China, but also public panic, since a few children were entered in hospital due to "twisted intestines", though that was unlikely to have been caused by the hula hoop.

Episode 3 "Hoaxes"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 1 October 2010
Recording date
  • 1 June 2010

Each of the panel have a "Hoax card". If the panel think they have spotted something that is a hoax, they can play their hoax card for bonus points. If they get it wrong they lose points.

  • The makers of the show commissioned a crop circle done by three professional crop circle makers with a plank and rope. The crop circle was of the QI logo, in Wiltshire, with permission by a local landowner. After its discovery, someone contacted the BBC asking whether or not the crop circle was "real" or "man-made." Crop circles have been made since only the 1970s, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitting to being responsible for a large percent.
  • The moon landing hoax. 6% of Americans and 25% of Britons do not believe the moon landing actually happened. Buzz Aldrin was so annoyed by a disbeliever that he punched him.
  • The Berners Street Hoax, in which Theodore Hook bet his friend Samuel Beazley that he could make a house chosen at random "the most famous house in London," much to the annoyance of Mrs. Tottenham, who owned the house.
  • After a lifetime of studying fish, Stephen Jay Gould discovered that all sea-dwelling creatures are not of the same genus, nor are they in any way related to one other, and that there is no common evolutionary ancestor for all species of fish.
  • Though Nostradamus' quatrain predictions can't be proven, he did however have a near-perfect recipe for cherry jam, which can still be used today.
  • Napoleon was beaten at chess by the Mechanical Turk, which supposedly was a chess playing robot but in fact contained a man hidden inside the cabinet.
General Ignorance
  • Listening to a person's cadence and how they are speaking is a more reliable way to detect lying than trying to find a visual clue. (Forfeit: it's in the eyes)
  • Oranges are not always orange. The ones in the supermarket are grown green and the fruit companies use a gas to remove the chlorophyll. (Forfeit: They're orange)
  • The chemical smell of swimming pools is not (forfeit) chlorine. You add chlorine to get rid of the chloramines.
QI XL Extras
  • The alien connection to crop circles is mentioned in connection to the Nazca Lines, which some theories describe as marking points or runways for alien spaceships. The lines themselves have only remained because of the dryness of the climate in Peru, and the panel speculates they may not have been drawn with the intention of them lasting.
  • 400,000 people were employed to work on the moon landing, including the 12 astronauts who landed on the moon.
  • Huge sums of money were gambled on absurd bets amongst the leisure classes during the Regency period. Clubs such as Brooks's and White's had such bets. For example, there was a £3,000 bet between Lord Alvanley and a friend on the landing and timing of raindrops. In comparison, a servant cost around £10 a year.
  • The broken-rays mussel has an outcrop of its shell that looks like a fish, in order to lure other fish to disperse its larvae for it.
  • In 1989 American magic trick maker John Gaughan reproduced the Mechanical Turk costing $120,000.
  • The best way to make a squad of American soldiers panic in a plane is to make them think it is crashing. American soldiers were used to test panic scenarios on a plane (the pilot cuts one of the engines claiming it is damaged), and are given a questionnaire to rate their stress and recall personal information. It showed that people who genuinely think they are going to die are lousy at giving information.
  • Stephen re-visits the concept that a person cannot lick their own elbow, and removes the points given to Danny on the very first show. A member of the audience shows that she is able to, in fact lick her own elbow.

The hoax was the concept of one of the questions being a hoax. The program was entirely true.

Episode 4 "Humans"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 8 October 2010
Recording date
  • 9 June 2010
  • Alan Davies (3 points)
  • Jo Brand (winner with 4 points) 25th appearance
  • Jimmy Carr (−3 points) 16th appearance
  • Jack Dee (−2 points) 4th appearance
  • The "Perfect Man" – Most species have a holotype, which is a standard shape to which other individuals are compared. Humanity does not have a holotype, though Linnaeus gave Homo sapiens its nomenclature, so it was felt the honour should go to him. The next aspirant, American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, was disqualified because he had syphilis, which affected his skeleton. Bob Hope, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Raquel Welch were all nominated as "perfect" or the standard for humanity. Vitruvian Man demonstrates the dimensions of the human. The height is the length of the arms outstretched perpendicularly as a square, and when arms are spread at an angle with legs, it fits a circle. The image appears on the one Euro coin in Italy.
  • The Neanderthal man looked more like a member of the public than you realize. If, for example, a Neanderthal were dressed in a T-shirt and other modern clothes, they might go unnoticed in today's crowds. Neanderthals lived contemporaneously with Homo sapiens (modern humans) for some time, and the two species did interbreed, though the Neanderthals eventually died out entirely, for unknown reasons. The Neanderthal is named after a region in Germany where they were discovered.
  • The part of the human body which is evolving the quickest is the nose, which has changed the most over the past 10,000 years. It is theorised that humans' relationship with dogs has removed humans' need for an acute sense of smell, so the ability has atrophied.
  • Hero Syndrome is a psychological disorder in which sufferers cause scenarios where they appear to save the day, like setting a building on fire in order to rescue residents and be seen as a hero. Firemen have a higher probability for this illness. A news reporter, Wallace Souza, was allegedly responsible for the commission of five murders in order to go on reporting about the cases.
  • Human parts as a commodity: the individual pieces or elements are quite low cost, although specialized organs are quite expensive, for example the corneas of the eyes. The whole body would work up to about ₤420,000 including trace metals and full organs.
  • Teenagers think differently from adults. A test was performed to demonstrate emotional recognition: adults could accurately discern the emotions displayed in facial photographs, whereas the teenagers could not. Teenagers use a different way of thinking, and rely on different parts of their brains.
General Ignorance
  • The fastest human runner (forfeit: Usain Bolt) is identified by a set of fossilized footprints near Willandra Lakes, Southeast Australia. The runner appears to be running at over 23 mph, based on analysis of the prints (spacing, depth of indentation, etc.).
  • Male mosquitoes buzz, and do not give malaria. Half the people who have ever lived have died from diseases spread by mosquitoes (such as malaria). Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are part of a foundation whose goal is to cure malaria. (forfeit: malaria)
QI XL Extras
  • Many items sold as fossils are forgeries, often filled with plastic. One way to tell if a fossil is a forgery is by looking at it under ultraviolet light. Stephen suggested taking the purported fossil into a nightclub as a way of achieving this. Genuine fossils appear quite different under UV light than plastic.
  • Human evolution may be slowing down as we build around us in order to make our world easier. The part of the body that has changed most recently is the nose, since dogs were domesticated 15,000 years ago, we don't need to have a more heightened sense of smell. With changes in nutrition, people are getting taller in recent generations.
  • Cortical homunculi are drawings of people, but with the parts of the body in proportion to the portion of the brain that is responsible for navigating its sensation. Each panellist was represented as a cortical homunculus, and had large hands, ears and tongues, and emaciated arms and legs. Dr.Wilder Penfield came up with the concept.
  • There are 100 billion brain cells in the brain, and each cell may contain between 1,000–10,000 synapses. The brain is 80% water.
  • The naked mole-rat is a recent discovery in the animal kingdom, though it is neither a mole, nor a rat. It is a rodent. It is a social mammal that lives underground, nearly like an ant farm. They do not have "substance p," a neurotransmitter that projects pain.
  • Saunas are not good at releasing "toxins" from the body; they actually dehydrate your body and release sweat, removing the essential salts. Boxers and jockeys use them to lose weight in a short period of time.

Episode 5 "H Animals"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 15 October 2010
Recording date
  • 7 June 2010
  • Alan Davies (−6 points)
  • Sean Lock (−5 points) 23rd appearance
  • Ross Noble (winner with 7 points) 2nd appearance
  • Ruby Wax (−36 points) 1st appearance
  • Animals with horns are suggested (forfeit: unicorn, rhinoceros), though many of them are confused with antlers. A true horn is made out of bone. A rhino's "horn" is technically hair or fingernail related, as it is made from keratin. Antlers are shed (typically annually), and horns are permanent. Antelope, horned toads and buffalo all have proper horns, where deer and moose have antlers.
  • A late 18th century nun grew a horn in her head as her nunnery was being invaded by Napoleonic troops. She banged her head for a long period of time and eventually grew a horn, though it had to be cut off to keep it from piercing her eye.
  • If you put a hippopotamus in the deep end of a swimming pool, it would sink and would walk along the shallow end of the pool. Hippos also can float, but not swim. If at the bottom of a river, they walk to the shallower end of a river and climb embankments. With no embankment, a hippo will have a difficult or impossible time getting out of a swimming pool. Hippos have four teeth when they are full grown (Sean says "forty" though it might have sounded like "four teeth"). They are difficult to kill by gun, since their hide is so thick, weighing nearly a ton. Hippos do not get sunburned as once thought; their skin goes red as an external moisturizing technique.
  • Hammerhead sharks have eyes on the protrusions of their faces, increasing their depth perception greatly, to keep aware of prey, however the precise reason is still unknown to science. They are bottom feeders, eating flatfish and stingrays, and can detect camouflaged animals under sand. They have structures called the Ampullae of Lorenzini that detect electrical impulses in the movement of muscles, so even a disguised fish's breathing or heart beating will reveal it. Sharks have rows of teeth on a kind of conveyor belt of teeth.
  • Hagfish release an incredible amount of slime as a defence mechanism. A hagfish can turn 20 litres of water into slime in a single minute. It can tie itself into a knot.
  • Aspirated water from a humpback whale is tested to see trends in health, seeing if any illness will be translated to humans. Scientists use a toy helicopter to fly over a surfacing whale to collect the samples when the whale spouts. The data is used to keep track of the illness spread through the different pods, since they travel thousands of miles over the ocean.
  • Justin Schmidt has devoted his life to his study called the Schmidt Sting Pain Index where he has subjected himself to numerous species of stinging insects, and grades the pain from each exposure as an almost wine-tasting description. "Pure, intense, brilliant pain, like fire-walking over charcoal with a three inch nail in your heel" is the description for bullet ant.
General Ignorance
  • Three animals are shown on a screen, the panel is asked to identify them. They look like hedgehogs, shrews, mice, but are unrelated animals that evolved separately in Madagascar and are known as tenrecs. The point is they fit the gaps in the ecosystem where hedgehogs, mice, shrews, etc. would be in other areas.
  • While showing video of two hares fighting, the panel was asked what they were fighting over (forfeit: a female). It was one female, fighting off the advances of an aggressive male.
  • Rhino horn is not used as an aphrodisiac in Chinese medicine. It is thought to reduce fevers, though this is unlikely to be true, being how it is like ingesting hair or fingernails and expecting that to work.
QI XL Extras
  • Dolphins may get overexcited and stimulated if even casually touched "below the waistline". Dolphins are also quite violent in the wild, which is often overlooked.
  • Hamsters have been used on testing cures for jet lag. It has been show that taking viagra may relieve eastward-bound jet lag.
  • Honeybees are easily pacified by smoke because it alarms them into thinking they are under attack. The bees then eat as much of their honey as they can, making them bloated, tired and docile. Scientists can interpret the dances of bees and understand the directional instructions that they are giving. If a bee is given cocaine it will greatly exaggerate the source, it would become "boastful". This is similar to how the drug would behave on people. 85% of all bee species are non-colony bees. 75% of all fruit is pollinated by bats, not bees.
  • The world's most aggressive mammal is the honey badger (10 points to the audience). Scientific American says that pound for pound it is the most fearsome land animal because it is so aggressive with such big claws. The honey badger is not of the same family as the European badger, other than a similar colouring and shape, though they do eat honey, using a bird called a honeyguide. They will attack anything, including lions, hyenas and cobras; animals known for their viciousness have been bested by honey badgers, which is about the size of a cat. They attack by clawing the testicles of an animal, and have been witnessed castrating a full grown buffalo.

Episode 6 "Happiness"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 22 October 2010
Recording date
  • 11 May 2010

The 'Pleasure Gauge' measures the audience's happiness. If the needle enters the red zone the panellists win points.

  • Equality and the lack of disparity between rich and poor leads the country to have a more happy outlook. Britain's gap between rich and poor has widened 10% since 1984, consequently leaving the country "less happy". There is no unit of happiness, and therefore the empirical measurement of happiness is difficult. Specific events (like a lottery win or car accident) can make a person's mood more or less happy, but they will eventually level out to the state they were in before the event. Bhutan is the first country to record the gross national happiness, though it was also tested in Slough, where prioritizing daily laughter, watching less television and cultivating a positive outlook were encouraged, and a 33% upswing was seen in their life satisfaction index.
  • The Dunbar number is the limit a person has to maintaining friendships. It was calculated a person can have a maximum of 150 friends, defined as people whom you would not feel "embarrassed to join at the bar of the transit lounge of Hong Kong airport at 3am". Groups of 150 people are statistically significant in human anthropology, including tribe sizes, religious groups and village households, as well as the number of Christmas cards an average person would send, and the average number of friends a person has on Facebook. This is the widest definition of friendship, however.
  • Smile interpretation is a key to telling whether someone is genuinely pleased to meet you. Facial cues, such as "smiling with one's eyes", have only been studied since the 19th century when French scientist Guillaume Duchenne tried electrocuting people's faces into smiling, while having "unsmiling eyes". Making your eyes smile is an involuntary response; you can't force your eyes to look more sincere. The false smile is known as a Pan Am Smile where a genuine smile is known as a Duchenne smile.
  • Waiters draw smiley faces on the bill in order to get a bigger tip, and it works. If a server introduces themselves, tells a joke and keeps the customers entertained, their tip will be bigger. This is perceived as better service. America is the country that tips the best, where 20% is considered fair, and it is mandatory. In Britain, 10% is considered the norm, but typically 8% is left. The Welsh are the best tippers in the UK.
  • Florence Nightingale did her most influential work when she was in bed. When she came back from the Crimean war, it was revealed that patients under her care had an abysmal chance of survival, and she felt her career and reputation were over. She stayed in bed for over 50 years, writing letters and campaigning to make up for her failures in Crimea.
General Ignorance
  • Africa's dominant animal predator is the hyena, considering numbers of kills. Lions will more likely scavenge the kill of a hyena, than the reverse. The hyena's laughter is a submissive noise.
  • The five pound note is made from a cotton blend, not (forfeit) paper. Paper is too fragile.
  • As you age, your general mood and disposition is typically fixed. There is no evidence of people becoming grumpier or more depressed as they age. Disposition changes very little after the age of 30.
QI XL Extras
  • On the topic of tipping: Singapore discourages tipping, as does Japan.
  • In 1910, it was predicted that the world would die of mass hysterical laughter because of Halley's Comet approaching. The theory was that the nitrogen in the tail of the comet would combine with the atmosphere of the earth, producing nitrous oxide which would cause uncontrollable giggles. This didn't happen. A man laughed himself to death while watching the Goodies. He laughed uncontrollably for 25 minutes and the strain caused him to have a heart attack and die.
  • The original 'Mr. Happiness' considered using corpses (forfeit: gnomes) to "cheer up" his front garden. Jeremy Bentham was one of the founders of utilitarianism, where happiness was measured and scored for "the greatest good for the greatest number". He requested council permission to replace his shrubberies with hanging corpses for the benefit of mankind. His will instructed that his corpse be preserved and kept in a cabinet as an "auto-icon" at the University College of London.
  • A species of bee drinks the salts of the tears of deer. There are three species that drink out of the eyeball, even of humans.

Episode 7 "Horrible" (Halloween Special)[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 29 October 2010
Recording date
  • 25 May 2010

The set is decorated with spiders webs and Halloween themed props.

  • The tongue-eating louse latches on to the tongue of a fish, drains it of blood and fluid, and replaces it in the mouth of the fish. The fish continues its life believing the parasite is its tongue. The fish does not die, it shares the food with the louse inadvertently. There is also a parasite that lives off the bones of dead whales after it sinks to the bottom of the ocean. It is covered in a thick mucous and is known as a Snot Flower. Tapeworms do not cause people to eat more. It is a misapprehension, since having a tapeworm will cause a person to lose appetite. Tapeworms can be up to 8 meters long, and live in you for up to 20 years
  • The key ingredient in the world's "nastiest" cocktail is a severed human toe (forfeit: Malibu). A bar in Dawson City in Canada is famous for its "Sour Toe Cocktail", where a severed toe is offered in a drink, and the patron's lips have to touch the toe as the drink is consumed before passing the toe to the next glass. It is a gross-out challenge that has been around the 1960s when the proprietor of the hotel bar discovered a preserved, pickled toe in a hunting cabin. The toe was accidentally swallowed in 1980, and has been replaced by a number of donated toes. About 35,000 have taken the challenge.
  • When you are trying to remove a leech, it is better to let the leech drop off itself than rip it off or burn it off. The leech will put in some anticoagulant so if it is ripped off it will continue to bleed, but if the leech falls off itself, it will seal the wound. Leeches are used in scientific research for bloodletting and in microsurgery for blood vessels.
  • Bonnie and Clyde syndrome is a fetish where typically a woman falls in love with a terribly violent criminal. Hybristophilia is one of the few paraphilias that more women have than men. An estimated 100 women in Britain are engaged to American criminals on death row. The emphasis is that the criminals are not petty in any way, they are murderers of the most gruesome and cruel kind. It is speculated that one of the reasons some women choose this kind of man is their need to care for or morally cleanse the criminal, sometimes due to a strong Christian background. Harpaxophilia is a condition where an individual becomes aroused while being robbed.
  • A pizza topping that eats insects is tomatoes (forfeit: pineapple, anchovies). Tomatoes trap insects in the furry layer of their stems until they die and fall off. As the insect dissolves into the soil, the tomato plant will absorb its nutrients.
  • The expression "to heckle" is derived from the textile trade. A person who would tease out fibers with a comb was known as a heckler. In Dundee the hecklers were known for being trouble makers, and the term was eventually applied to people who would call out and disrupt a show.
General Ignorance
  • A snake's tail 'begins' where immediately following its anus, meaning they have surprisingly short tails.
  • The dimensions of a 2x4 piece of wood is not 2x4 inches (forfeit: 2x4, 4x2); it is typically closer to 1.5 x 3.5 inches.
  • Scandinavian rotting fish called Surströmming is banned from aeroplanes, and can allegedly cause birds to fall from the sky from its stench. Herring is fermented and putrefied in a barrel with not enough salt to cure it. The can is designed to buckle as it expands from the gases produced by the decomposition. It is apparently tasty, but the smell is incredibly foul. Stephen explains that if he opened the tin, the smell would never leave the studio.
QI XL Extras
  • A "good reason" to put a frog to your mouth is to drink the water that is inside of it. The water holding frog (Litoria paltycephala) is an Australian frog that engorges itself before going dormant, and is a source of potable water for a person in need. It was first discovered by the Aborigines. The dormant period it spends in the summer is underground and for several months, as mammals do in the winter. This summertime variation of hibernation is called aestivation.
  • Vaccination was discovered in the early 19th century. Edward Jenner discovered that if you were injected with cowpox, you would be immune to smallpox. Around 1809, the infant son of the King of Spain died of smallpox, and it was declared that everyone in Spain's colonies in South America must be vaccinated. To get the vaccine to the settlements, which were months away by sea, the Spanish government's solution was to gather a load of orphans, and infect them with the vaccine, allowing the blood to develop antibodies and develop an immunity. The technique was successful, saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Handbooks for travellers from the 19th century had often strange advice:
    • "Never rub your eyes except with your elbow." Taken from A Handbook for Travellers in Spain by Richard Ford in 1847.
    • "Keep a spare jewel in case of emergencies in your arm." Taken from The Art of Travel; or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries by Sir Francis Galton in 1872.
    • "Beware the dirty habits of the native cooks, who will often be seen buttering toast with the greasy wing of a fowl." Taken from Hardships in Travel Made Easy.
    • "The Germans are the worst offenders, having a grossness in their way of eating and a gloating zeal in collecting salacious postcards." Also taken from Hardships in Travel Made Easy.
  • Louis XIV was considered hygienic for ordering the corridors of Versailles to be cleaned of human excrement once a week.
  • The Low's Pitcher-Plant (Nepenthes lowii) attracts a shrew to suckle nectar from its lid and defecate in its pitcher, supplying 70%–100% of its nitrogen.

Episode 8 "Hypothetical"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 5 November 2010
Recording date
  • 26 May 2010
  • Stephen introduces the episode as the 99th recorded episode and to celebrate, the show's creator John Lloyd joins the panel. Because Stephen saved John's name for last, Alan accidentally applauded for himself.
  • The questions are supposed to be hypothetical and without any "correct" answer.
  • To weigh your own head, the easiest way would be to put it in a bucket of water and measure the water displacement. If you (forfeit) cut it off, they wouldn't be able to weight it themselves This uses the Archimedes concept of buoyancy and displacement. With air cavities being lighter than water and cranial bones being denser than water the two figures are averaged out to get a reasonably accurate measurement. A CT Scan can give a more accurate measure and give you greater detail of the density of every part of the body. The average head weighs 12 pounds, as studied in the University of Sydney.
  • Hypothermia has a curious side effect of paradoxical undressing. This may be a mental or physiological condition; it is unknown as people who have reached this state of hypothermia are the least likely to survive. One theory is that the hot feeling comes from opening blood vessels at the surface of the skin reacting and dying due to the cold. Hypothermia tends to start when the body temperature falls below 35 degrees. Being accustomed to the cold by living in a typically more frigid part of the world makes one less likely to experience hypothermia, as presumably being closer to a hot climate would make you more tolerant to conditions like heat stroke.
  • Quickfire Hypotheticals: Special for the Hypothetical episode.
    • A tree falling in the forest may or may not make a sound, depending on if one asks a semanticist or a neurologist. A sound may be something that is perceived by the vibration of the ear drum or the vibration of the source of the sound. (forfeit: no)
    • There is no semantic explanation of left and right, therefore it would be impossible to describe right and left to an alien in a distant galaxy verbally without a visual cue or common reference point. Also, it might be the case that the alien might not be symmetrical and would have no need to know left and right.
    • If a sealed truckload of birds is transported to weighing scales, and the birds are prompted to fly up at once, the weight would remain the same. The volume and air pressure of accounted for the birds still remains in the sealed system.
  • If Schrödinger put a Siamese cat in a fridge not only would the cat get cold, but it would also turn black. (The concept of Schrödinger's cat—that an unseen cat is both dead and alive at the same time—is technically irrelevant to the question). For Siamese cats, their fur has an unusual quality of being temperature sensitive. The warmer core shows white fur, and the cooler extremities are coloured by dark fur. If one were to expose the cat evenly to cool temperatures over a long time, the fur would become evenly black.
General Ignorance
  • "It's an insectivorous mammal. It's found all around the world. It's active at night. It's almost totally blind." The answer is a mole (forfeit: bats). Bats use different methods for seeing, but none of the 1,100 species of bat is totally sightless. Moles can tell the difference between light and dark, but that is typically the limit. There are no moles in Ireland due its separation of Ireland from the rest of Britain and Europe. Almost all photographs of moles for wildlife stills are of dead moles; the photographers fluff them up to look like they are burrowing.
  • The ultimate hypothetical question (which came first, chicken or egg) is quite simply solved in realizing that eggs have been laid for millions of years before chickens started, and then presumably a species gradually evolved and laid the egg that became the first chicken. (forfeit: chicken)
QI XL Extras
  • You can tell if someone is actually dead by using a stethoscope to listen to someone's heartbeat. In the 1830s a competition with a prize of over 1000 francs was held in France to find the best way of determining if someone is dead. Rejected ideas included a thermometer into the stomach to see if the patient was cool enough to be dead, attaching pincers to the nipples, scalding the patients arm to see if a blister would form, putting leeches on the buttocks, and sticking a long needle with a flag on the end into the patients heart.
  • If you took someone who has been blind from birth and then gave them a cube and a sphere to feel, and then restored their sight, they would not be able to tell which was the cube and which was the sphere just by looking at them.
  • Curses work because the cursed person thinks that something bad will happen to them and they brought down by themselves. A curse is thus a negative version of the placebo effect – it works because you believe in it, but were as a placebo makes you feel better, a curse makes you feel worse, and is known as the nocebo effect.
General Ignorance
  • If you are on death row chances are that you would not be able to choose whatever you wanted as your last meal. You can only have what is in the prison kitchen. (Forfeit: You choose the menu)

Episode 9 "House and Home"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 12 November 2010
Recording date
  • 4 May 2010
  • Alan Davies (−19 points)
  • Bill Bailey (winner with 3 points) 21st appearance
  • Danny Baker (−17 points) 5th appearance
  • Eddie Izzard (−16 points) 1st appearance excluding the pilot episode
  • The easiest way the average family can reduce their ecological footprint is to get rid of their dog. A dog takes up as much energy as the use and manufacture of two Toyota Land Cruisers because of the energy required to make the meat they eat. (Forfeit: Get rid of a car)
  • In the US the value of a house can be instantly reduced by a third if it is reported to be haunted.
  • When moving house on South America's fourth largest island it is custom to move the house from one place to another. On the Chilean island of Chiloé, they get a herd of cattle to drag the house which is put on logs. This is usually done to get rid of spirits and ghosts, as they believe the ghosts won't follow the house.
  • The kind of person who builds their house out of straw is very clever (forfeit: a pig), because despite the story of The Three Little Pigs, straw is actually a very good material to build houses out of.
  • If the Queen is coming for tea you do not need to do anything with your lavatory seat. There is an urban myth that you need to buy a new one when she comes, but there is no truth to this. Prince Charles did have his own lavatory seat which he was given as a present and he carried it around with him as a joke.
General Ignorance
  • Slavery became a criminal offence in Britain on 6 April 2010. There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world, which is more than there was when slavery was legal.
  • The people who live in the smallest houses in Europe are those in the United Kingdom. On average the British have 76 square metres.
  • No bleaches claim to kill 100% of all household germs because there are some germs that are so small that it is almost impossible to know if they have been killed. (Forfeit: So they don't get sued)
QI XL Extras
  • A spiteful person lives in a spite house, which is designed deliberately to annoy people. The guests are shown a spite house built by Jan Pol in Gaylordsville, Connecticut, with each floor smaller than the one below it like a tiered wedding cake, and are asked who lives there. (Forfeit: Wedding cake maker)
  • When an amoeba splits up the house goes to the original amoeba. Amoebas build their own houses with spikes to protect them, which are about the size of a full stop. It is built using sand which the amoeba has absorbed. When the amoeba splits, the original takes the house and the new one takes some remaining sand to build a new house.

Episode 10 "Health and Safety"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 26 November 2010
Recording date
  • 28 May 2010
  • There are safety warning signs decorating the set and the panellists wear safety goggles, high-visibility vests and hard hats. Stephen wears a lab coat.
  • This was the 100th (not including the pilot) recorded episode of QI.
  • The panellists were given the Whitely test, to see if they were hypochondriacs and were to rate questions between 1 and 5. David is frustrated with the logic of the test, second guessing the wording of the questions, and suggesting that without comparison, there is no baseline to compare the results to. Ross is not a hypochondriac; Alan is a mild hypochondriac; David is a borderline hypochondriac; and Jeremy, who answered "5" for all the questions (not bothering to read them), is dangerously hypochondriac according to the test. Part of hypochondria is people not expecting to get pain and when they do they think it is very serious.
  • Stephen shows the panel a strange set of bellows, asking how this device will save a person from drowning. The bellows are filled with tobacco smoke and is inserted into the drowning victim's bottom. It was believed this was able to resuscitate an individual from the symptoms of drowning. This was a common medical practice between the 17th and 19th centuries. It was suggested that this may have been a coincidence when a woman happened to come back to life after being treated in this way, and became a part of the common medical knowledge.
  • The panel provided with sets of paper glasses with pictures of eyes staring upwards on them. These glasses were designed for observing gorillas in zoos who, as a species, do not like to be stared at in the eyes. They are called "Bokito viewers", named after a gorilla in Rotterdam Zoo who attacked a woman for staring at him (she thought she was creating an emotional bond). Dark glasses would work just as well.
  • It is a myth that when playing conkers, children are now required to wear (forfeit) safety goggles. A school headmaster near Carlisle was frustrated with the health and safety gone mad movement and suggested issuing goggles and safety warnings as a joke. Media misinterpreted the story as fact, and thought that the school was being too health and safety conscious.
  • The only medically known way to cure hiccups is "digital rectal massage", or the insertion of a finger up the bottom. Stephen poses the cure as a punishment for not being able to name seven bald men apart from Yul Brynner (a commonly known folk remedy for hiccups).
  • The spelling "hiccough" is an incorrect spelling for the word "hiccup". Previous spellings had "y", "ck" and "hiccop", and the idea that hiccough has something to do with coughing is erroneous.
  • During an out-of-body experience, one should look at the tops of shelves for random pictures and objects. Dr. Sam Parnia at the University of Southampton has done a three-year-test of 25 hospitals to see if people claiming to have an OBE, they will be able to confirm their experience. The doctor refused to tell QI his findings before the results had been published.
General Ignorance
  • Three birds are shown on the viewer: a robin with its left eye covered, a robin with its right eye covered and a blindfolded pigeon. The question is which bird would be trusted to direct you home. Either the pigeon or the robin with the left eye covered would be able to do it, since they can sense magnetism without the use of their eyes. This is because pigeons can sense magnetic forces so can tell the direction even if blind. Robins can do this also, but only with their right eye.
  • Except for special circumstances, it is typically alright to drink while taking antibiotics. It was originally suggested to prevent people from partying while infectious. In most cases, if advised not to drink, it is more that the issue involves making you feel more ill, not preventing the antibiotic from working. This said with the assumption that you will consult your doctor before indulging.
QI XL Extras
  • Jeremy immediately (and correctly) identifies the centre of the steering wheel as the safest place to put a large metal spike in the car. The reasoning behind this is it will make people drive more carefully without the knowledge that an airbag will save them were they to come into any accidents. Risk compensation is the idea of feeling so safe that they then behave more recklessly. The advent of seat belts increased the number of cyclist deaths, as people drove more recklessly and unintentionally caused the accidents.
  • Stephen asks the panel whether or not they would help Jeremy if he were being attacked by environmental protesters. According to the bystander effect, the more people witnessing a dangerous event, the fewer people are likely to respond to help. One theory for this is that you may be subconsciously embarrassed by reacting incorrectly towards the situation, no matter how obvious the moral judgement should be.
  • The hippocampus is an area of the brain that helps with the sense of direction. It is named after the taxonomical name for the common seahorse. It is part of the limbic system, which also helps with sensing danger.
  • Hernias are caused by a weakness of the muscles of the abdominal wall, not by lifting something heavy (though lifting a weight may make it worse or call attention to it). A weakening in the abdominal wall, which could be due to a congenital weakness or smoking.

Episode 11 "Highs and Lows"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 3 December 2010
Recording date
  • 18 May 2010
  • Four tartans were shown on screen to the panel. It was decided that the only tartan that Stephen would be able to wear would be the Royal Stewart tartan, as it is the tartan of the "chieftain" which is the Queen, and any citizen of the UK can wear it. Clan tartans are not as traditional as typically believed, only surfacing in the 19th century, and having more to do with trade than family. The word originates from the French "tiretain", and more resembled a toga than what we know today. The short version of the kilt that is used today was actually an English invention, and was thought to be simply quicker and more convenient to wear.
  • Caber toss competitions are won not by height or distance thrown, but by the most parallel trajectory to the tosser, landing directly straight in front of him. You lose points for every "minute" off the "12 o'clock" measurement. Other events at the Highland Games include weight over the bar, sheaf toss, hammer throw, shot put, and "dancing". While some people try to claim it goes back to King Malcolm III, son of murdered King Duncan, it is actually another recent invention dating back to the 19th century which was liked by the royals.
  • Between 1989 and 2010, haggises were smuggled into the USA from Canada, since bovine lungs were blocked from trade at the border due to worries of BSE and other infections. Haggis was first referenced in Lancashire in the UK, but it may have a Scandinavian or Viking origin. Burns Night is celebrated on Robert Burns's birthday, 25 January.
  • A helicopter ascent of Everest was once attempted by Frenchman Didier Desalle, because the thinness of the air and intensity of the 160 mph winds makes keeping a helicopter stable incredibly difficult. He stayed for two minutes before taking off again, making it the highest ever landing and taking off of a vehicle. Brian Blessed attempted an Everest climb, but only got to 28,000 feet before having to turn back in aid of a member of his crew. He is the oldest man to climb this distance without the assistance of oxygen. Blessed is also a black belt in judo, a boxing champion (he once boxed with the Dalai Lama), the oldest man to go to the North Pole, and keeps overs 2,000 animals in his house and gardens in Surrey.
  • If you are on the top of a mountain you can tell how high you are without electric instruments by boiling water. For every 1,000 feet you climb the boiling point of water drops by one degree Celsius. So if you tried to boil water on the top of Mount Everest it would be at 72 degrees, but if you were at the bottom of the Marianas Trench it would be 584 degrees. This is because of the air pressure. The field of telling your height using these methods is "hypsometry".
General Ignorance
  • English is an official language in many countries including Wales and India, and Canada but not in England (Forfeit) since there was never a need to set one up. Official languages are those that are defined in the legal system. It is more typical to define a language as "official" when more languages are universally spoken. Official languages are ones which are established in the legal system. Official languages have also never arisen in the USA, although President Theodore Roosevelt said English should be it. Every time it has been suggested that English should become the official language of the USA, the Hispanic population have protested against it because they see it as a form of discrimination.
  • No country can lay claim to being the modern home of the Huns. The idea of Germany being the home of the Hun came from a speech made by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1910 during the Boxer Wars, when he said: "We shall take no prisoners. We shall show no mercy. We shall sweep down on them like the Hun." The actual Huns came from the East, and were an army rather than a people. (Forfeit: Germany)
  • If you are afraid of heights you suffer from acrophobia. Vertigo is the name given to the dizziness induced by heights. (Forfeit: Vertigo)
  • The point on the Earth which is furthest from the centre is Mount Chimborazo. This is a mount near the equator, which is further from the centre of the Earth than Mount Everest because the world is an oblate spheroid which bulges outwards in the middle. Chimborazo is 1.3 miles further from the centre than Everest. (Forfeit: Everest)
QI XL Extras
  • Once he conquered Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary decided to settle whether the yeti existed or not, undertaking an expedition to the Himalayan mountain range. He concluded that it did not exist, explaining that the massive "yeti tracks" could be accounted by regular footprints becoming elongated when they melt in the sun. Some believe that actually Hillary was not on a yeti hunt, but that he was really on a spying mission because two of the people with him were rocket experts. Thus some think he was spying on Chinese rocket installations in Tibet.
  • When digging the Channel Tunnel, the person who made sure that the English and the French met in the middle was German Max Schuler. His invention, a gyrotheodolite uses the rotation of the Earth to calculate the direction, since there was no other unit of measure that would not be affected by the magnetic ore and being buried with no line of sight. The two people who met in the middle were Frenchman Philippe Cozette and Englishman Graham Fagg. They were just 300 millimetres out. However, they actually did not meet in the exact middle. The English made further ground because of French geological difficulties.

Episode 12 "Horses and Hunting"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 10 December 2010
Recording date
  • 2 June 2010
  • Alan Davies (−6 points)
  • Clare Balding (winner with 5 points) 1st appearance
  • Jimmy Carr (−13 points) 17th appearance
  • Dara Ó Briain (4 points) 11th appearance
  • The horses of New York City killed 20,000 people in 1900 because of their manure. While it was used as a fertiliser, there were so many horses in the city that there was too much manure (2.5 million pounds a day) and so it helped to spread diseases like typhus, typhoid and cholera. Horses were used in transportation, pulling most vehicles (London had 50,000 of them just in the public transport system). In New York, 41 horses died a day. The people preferred to leave the bodies to putrefy because the bodies were easier to carve up. Apart from fertiliser, horse manure can be ground into a powder which can be used for moulds. Astronomer William Herschel used such a mould to make one of his telescope mirrors or "speculum". Other than manure, the horses themselves were dangerous because they could bolt, drag people off with them, trample people, and make a lot of noise. Interestingly, the thing which helped stop this environmental disaster was cars, because they made traffic safer, quieter and faster. Having horses in a city is seven times more dangerous than cars. While people say that traffic today is at the same speed as the horse, it should be pointed out that there is a lot more traffic.
  • The advantages of guide horses, or rather guide ponies, for the blind over dogs is that fewer people are allergic to them, they have good memories, they live longer, and have greater stamina. Disadvantages are that they are flight animals rather than pack animals, restaurants tend not to allow them in, and they blend into the background less easily.
  • The panel are given a strange device, which looks like a pair of pliers, and are asked how it can be used to calm a horse down. It is in fact a "twitch" and is used for grabbing hold of and twisting the upper lip of a horse, which causes it to release endorphins, but at first it was thought to be the distraction of the twisting that calmed them down. It is used when giving a horse medication. You can also calm some horses down by twisting their ear.
  • The panel are played a piece of film which shows a black bear roaring and are asked what the sound accompanying the film is. It is however not the sound of a black bear, because they do not roar. Instead, in films and sometimes even in nature documentaries they play the sound of another animal like a wolf or lion roaring because people expect a bear to roar. Black bears are hunted in the USA, but they usually do not attack people. Black bears can climb trees. People jokingly say that the difference between a black bear and a brown bear is that if you climb a tree the black bear will follow you up it and kill you, while the brown bear will knock the tree over and kill you. The strength of the bear is mainly used to turn over stones to find food. (Forfeit: A bear)
  • Out of the million horses that were sent by the British to the front during the First World War, almost none of them made it back. The vast majority were killed, either for food or to be turned into other products. According to Michael Morpurgo, author of the children's novel War Horse, 8-10 million horses died during WWI. One belief at the time was they thought they would bring disease with them if they came back to Britain.
  • The panel are shown some illustrations of horses and are asked what they are thinking. You can tell by the ears. Ears straight up: It is startled by something. Ears slightly forward: Eagerness. Ears slopped on their sides: Tiredness or surrendering. Ears pulled back: Scared or angry. Ears flicking: Panic. Ears drooping sideways: On depressant drugs. Ears stiff: On stimulants.
General Ignorance
  • The Lone Ranger's horse is white in colour. While most people generally call all white and grey horses "grey", some are completely white. However, they actually start off black and get lighter. (Forfeit: Grey)
  • If a shoal of piranhas meet a dolphin usually the dolphin eats them. The idea that piranhas are deadly flesh eaters is wrong and goes back to US President Theodore Roosevelt who was shown a display of them and exaggerated about them. Piranhas are actually frightened of humans and are scavengers.
  • The weapon used by 19th century whalers to kill whales was a lance. Harpoons were actually used to tire the whale out. You threw a harpoon with a rope attached to the boat into the whale and then a "Nantucket sleigh-ride" took place where the boat was dragged by the whale and would become tired. A lance would then be used to kill the whale. While most countries today ban whale hunting, some countries like Norway and Japan still hunt whales. (Forfeit: Harpoon)
QI XL extras
  • The panel are shown a picture of three cowboys, one in a white hat and clean shaven, another in the background who is also in a white hat and clean shaven, and another in a black hat and with facial hair. The panel are asked which one just held up a stagecoach, uses bad language in front of a lady, drinks whisky and chases people from right to left. The answer is the man in the black hat. In the 1950s eight out of the top ten primetime TV programmes in the USA were westerns (the other two were comedies). During this time people watched TV mostly on small black-and-white sets, so it made it easier for the viewers to tell the characters apart. In terms of stage directions, the goodie walked from left-to-right which meant that his gun was facing the camera.
  • America's most wasteful hunters were the Native Americans who killed herds of bison by making them run off cliffs and only eating and using little of the animal, thereby wasting a lot of food over a period of 5,000 years. It could be argued that European settlers made them more efficient by importing horses and then they started hunting on horseback. Buffalo Bill did kill lots of bison, with the European settlers reducing it from the most populous herd species of its kind to almost extinction (70 million to almost zero in 15 years), but they used more of the bison. Also they killed bison as a method of controlling the native population by getting rid of the main source of food. Also, the European settlers gave smallpox-infected blankets to the Lakota Sioux people.
  • Hunting cannot work on the Internet because it does not exist, although it is illegal in 34 US states. Texan John Lockwood in 2004 proposed the idea which involved using a computer with an internet connection to move a gun with a webcam on it so that an online user can fire the gun from their computer. However, as soon as he proposed the idea he was banned from doing so as soon as he set up the website, by both the anti-hunting and the pro-hunting lobbies. Similarly, in California Internet fishing is illegal which also does not exist.
General Ignorance
  • You get just less than one horsepower from one horse. When James Watt developed and demonstrated the steam engine, he was generous to the horses and so he decided that one horsepower had to produce more effort than a horse. As a result, one horse produces 794 watts of power.

Episode 13 "Holidays"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 17 December 2010
Recording date
  • 12 May 2010
  • Alan Davies (−28 points)
  • Bill Bailey (−22 points) 22nd appearance
  • Rob Brydon (winner with 7 points) 12th appearance
  • Rich Hall (−5 points) 22nd appearance
  • This is the fourth instance of a complete panel appearing twice. Bailey, Brydon and Hall all appeared together in episode 1 of series C.
  • At his own expense, Stephen had sent each panellist to a place beginning with 'H' (the series' letter) and asks them to report back with anything interesting about their destination
    • Rob went to Hungary, birthplace of Ignaz Semmelweis the surgeon who came up with the theory of cleanliness in hospitals. Doctors rejected this theory as they could not bear the idea of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Semmelweis went mad because no one would believe him and he died in an insane asylum in 1865. There is also a museum dedicated to him in Budapest. Other Hungarian inventions include the Rubik's Cube, the biro, Goulash, Pasteurization, the automatic gearbox and the word "Hello".
    • Bill went to Bhutan in the Himalayas. It is the only country in the world that is a 'Carbon Sink', meaning they take in far more carbon dioxide than they expel. Its constitution states that the forest area should never be reduced to less than 60% of the entire country. Its major export is hydroelectric power. The state of the country is not measured in wealth, but in the happiness of its people. Bhutan is Buddhist and the major sports are archery and a larger version of darts, more akin to javelin.
    • Rich went to Hawaii. It was discovered by James Cook, who was eaten by the cannibalistic Hawaiian natives. Most land in Hawaii is owned by Dole Food Company. Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world, is in Hawaii. Canoes there are fitted with special outriggers, which allows people to ride the canoe without paddling. The Hawaiian alphabet has only twelve letters.
    • Alan went nowhere as "he was in detention"
  • White sand is made of parrotfish droppings, which contain phenylbenzimdazole sulfonic acid, which is used to make sunscreen.
  • Tsutomu Yamaguchi of Japan was in Hiroshima on business when the city was bombed, yet he survived. The next day he got on a train to Nagasaki where the second bomb hit, and he survived again. He claimed he met over a hundred people who also survived both blasts but became renowned for his longevity. He lived to the age of 93, dying in January 2010. (This segment of the show attracted complaints from the Japanese embassy in London, over suggestions it trivialised the atomic bombings.)[1]
  • The largest steam engine of all time was used to reclaim land in the Netherlands, especially Holland. Some argue the reclaimed land is the largest man-made structure on Earth.
General Ignorance
  • The country which contains the most of the River Nile is Sudan (Forfeit: Egypt, also no longer true since Sudan - South Sudan division's independence)
  • An embassy is not the soil of the country that it represents, but the soil of the country it is in. The British-American embassy therefore is not American soil. A memorial to John F Kennedy at Runnymede was built on actual soil from America (Forfeit: Grosvenor Square)
  • Aeroplanes do not jettison frozen urine, though some trains still do jettison waste. (Forfeit: Urine)
  • The country which has the lowest age of consent in Europe is the Vatican City, which is 12.
QI XL Extras
  • You are most likely to see fish falling in Honduras, where they hold a festival every year celebrating such events.
  • If you were in the middle of Epping Forest and you knew that the closest pub was due north, the best way to find north if you do not have a compass is to wait until night and find the North Star. To find it, find the constellation Ursa Major, find the two stars at the far right and follow the line they make. It is a myth that you can use moss to tell which way is north because it grows on all sides of a tree, not just north. (Forfeit: Moss)
General Ignorance
  • The panel is shown the border between Sudan and Egypt and are shown some disputed territories between them. An arrow points to a very small part on the Sudanese side and they are asked who it belongs to. The answer is no-one. The area of Bir Tawil is next to an area of arid land in Egypt which contains nothing really of interest, but a small area in Sudan is worth having because it contains oil. Thus both sides deny that they own it because they believe it will increase their chances of someone else arguing on their behalf that they own the more valuable area, The Hala'ib Triangle. (Forfeit: Sudan)

Episode 14 "Hocus Pocus" (Christmas Special)[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 24 December 2010
Recording date
  • 4 June 2010
  • Stephen wears a magicians cloak, and a Tommy Cooper-esque red fez on his head, The other panellists have black hooded-robes.
  • The oldest trick in the book is removing a goose's head and restoring it. It dates back to Ancient Egypt, where it was written by Dedi in the Westcar Papyrus, who also did the trick with other animals including a duck and an ox. The trick is still performed today, and is shown to the panel by the Vice President of the Magic Circle, Scott Penrose.
  • Many things can go wrong if you tried to catch a bullet with your teeth. For example, you can break your teeth because you hide the bullet in your mouth. Several magicians have died because of this trick. In 1869 magician Dr. Epstein tapped a bullet into a gun down with his wand, but part of the wand got stuck in the gun and when it fired the wand shot out and killed him. In 1880 magician Raoul Curren performed the trick in the Wild West and a drunken member of the audience fired his gun at Curren to see if he could catch his bullet, shooting him dead.
  • The panel are asked to complete the following sentence: "I before E except...". There is no actual answer to this because the "magic e" rule, which is "I before E except after C", is wrong. There are more exceptions to the rule and thus it is no longer taught in schools. There are 923 words in English that have "cie" in them, and there are 21 times as many words which break the rule than obey it, i.e. they contain the letter string 'cie' or another consonant other than c followed by 'ei'. Words which break the rule include "glacier", "species", "concierge", "caffeine", "weird", "Madeira", "hacienda", "weir", "being" and "veil". (Forfeit: After C)
  • The panel are asked whether they would prefer a Muggle, Hagrid or Dumbledore on their Quidditch team. The words "muggle", "hagrid" and "dumbledore" have origins before they became associated with the Harry Potter books. A "muggle" is jazz slang for someone who uses cannabis. To be "hagrid" or "hag-ridden" is to be inflicted with nightmares. A "dumbledore" is a bumblebee and was later used as a term for a village idiot which appears in Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree.
  • Hogworts (the panel was mean to assume that Fry by this meant Hogwarts) tackled drinking problems by being put into submarine fuel. Early torpedoes in the US Navy were fuelled by ethyl alcohol (ethanol) which is 80% proof. In 1914 the US Navy banned alcohol, so the fuel was the only supply of alcohol the navy had. Sailors would thus drink it and flavour it various ways. To try and stop sailors from drinking it they first put methanol in the fuel and told the sailors it would make them blind if they drank it, but they still went for it. They then added croton oil which comes from the hogwort plant, which when consumed made you vomit and gave you diarrhoea. The sailors however still got around this by boiling the fuel.
  • A question about a different type of "Harry". The Domesday Book contains so many empty villages in Yorkshire because of the Harrying of the North. When towns in the North rebelled against William the Bastard (whom we now call William the Conqueror) William ordered the area to be destroyed, killing 100,000 people outright and causing many more to die of starvation and disease. It is the worst act of genocide committed on British soil.
General Ignorance

The panel all pulls some Christmas crackers and tell each other the jokes. The panel are asked why their jokes are so bad. The answer is that in most cases not everyone will find a joke funny. Thus if you tell a good joke the chances are you will split the room in two; between those who like the joke and those who do not, and thus some people may dislike you. However, if you know the joke is going to be bad, then the figure of dislike is the joke itself rather than the person telling it.

Final tricks

To end the show the panel perform their own magic tricks. Alan saws Lee in half successfully. Graham guillotines Daniel but actually gets the trick wrong and cuts off Daniel's head (this is revealed to be, of course, an illusion at the end of the credits).

QI XL extras
  • The Great Lafayette's last and greatest disappearing act was when his body turned up three days after it was cremated. Lafayette was the most successful performer of his day, sold out 10 years in advance and earned £44,000 per year (£2.3 million in today's money). He had a pet dog called Beauty that was given to him by Harry Houdini. Lafayette used to travel in his own private railway carriage and Beauty in another containing a porcelain bath, its own china and crystal. Beauty died from being overfed and Lafayette insisted that Beauty should be embalmed and buried. The cemetery allowed it on condition that Lafayette was buried with the dog. Lafayette died four days after Beauty died in a fire caused by a lamp while performing on stage. The audience first thought it was part of the trick and by the time they realised it was not 11 people had burned to death including a midget in a mechanical bear suit. The people found what they thought was the body of Lafayette, cremated the bits that were not already burned and buried the body next to Beauty. They then pulled down the burned theatre, and found another body which they recognised to be the real Lafayette due his diamond ring, so they had to exhume the first body and bury the actual one. The reason for this confusion may stem from the fact he used doubles on stage, which made it look like he appeared and disappeared on stage very quickly.
  • Stephen asks which sport is it where the aim is to thrown a ball with handles on it into a goal consisting of a long vertical pole with a hoop on the end. The sport is horseball, which was invented in France in 1970. It is played on horseback and it involves throwing a ball, catching it by the handles and throwing it through the hoop to score a goal. The game is related to a Spanish game called pato. The word is Spanish for "duck" and it involved throwing a basket with a live duck in it. It became the national game of Argentina under President Juan Peron in 1953. (Forfeit: Quidditch)
  • The subject of Beatrix Potter's first book was fungi. Before writing her series of children's books, she wrote a book about fungus which was presented by her uncle to Linnean Society. She could not present as women were barred from the meetings and the society did not apologise until 100 years afterwards. Potter wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit for the son of her former governess. The opening line of the book is: "Once upon a time there were four rabbits called Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter." Peter Rabbit was the first ever merchandised toy. It appears that the names of many of her characters come from the tombstones in a cemetery near where she lived.
General Ignorance
  • You should open the first door of your advent calendar on the first Sunday of Advent which is four Sundays before Christmas and occurs more often in November than December. The date moves around between 27 November and 3 December. It only occasionally occurs on 1 December. (Forfeit: 1 December) (this seems to be saying that an advent calendar should really follow advent, however standard advent calendars have 24 doors number 1-24 indicating 1–24 December)

Episode 15 "Hypnosis, Hallucinations & Hysteria"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 7 January 2011
Recording date
  • 14 May 2010
  • If you hypnotised someone and then cut off their leg the chances are they would not make a fuss, unless they did not want their leg to be cut off in the first place. Some people have a strong resistance to anaesthetics so for some patients it is better to be hypnotised than to be put under in case you wake up during an operation. Hypnosis has been used for this since in the 1830s, before ether. The reason for using hypnosis is that most pain we feel is actually caused by the anxiety of it which is in the brain, so hypnosis helps you relax. Pain itself is created by the brain. Other than hypnosis, you can also take Valium to calm yourself down.
  • The best way to hypnotise an alligator or a tiger shark is to turn it upside down. Whales tip sharks over to hypnotise them, which causes them to suffocate and die. Frogs, lizards and crocodiles can also be hypnotised this way. To hypnotise chickens, you hold them down and then draw a line from their beak along the ground. Another way to do it to chickens is to take a stick or paddle and fix fake eyes to it. However, the producer of the show tried it on his chickens and it did not work. Rabbits and guinea pigs can be hypnotised if you stroke them or roll them over a few times first. They are woken up by blowing on their noses. Stephen once hypnotised a lobster when doing his documentary Stephen Fry in America and does so again in the studio, which is done by stroking the top of the head, bottom to top. They wake up by lifting them up. In animals, hypnosis is called "tonic immobility".
  • You should not consult Dr. Zoe D. Katze Ph.D., C.Ht., DAPA because she is a cat with bogus qualifications including hypnotherapy. Academic Steve Eichel wanted to prove just how easy it was to get qualifications over the internet. Once you get one then you can use the others to parley until you get a whole list of them. Zoe has a doctorate in counselling psychology from a mail-order university, she has a C.Ht. meaning she is a certified hypnotherapist, she is in the National Guild of Hypnotists, and is a Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association. Zoe also has qualifications that allow her to be an energy therapist, a past-life regression therapist and an alien abduction therapist. There are "diploma mills" and "degree mills" which give either fake diplomas from a real university or a real diploma from a fake university. Stephen then gives the panel a fake diploma each in "Advanced Banter". The whole business of fake degrees is called "pseudo-credentialing".
  • You could not persuade the audience to elect Stephen as the Pope without them noticing that they have done it. This is because subliminal advertising does not work (although messages saying "Stephen Fry for Pope" do appear quickly during this discussion). Although it is banned by most broadcasters, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, it has never been shown to work. The person who invented was a man called Vicary in 1957, but in 1962 he admitted that he faked the evidence. (Forfeit: Subliminal advertising)
  • The kind of behaviour you would get from a superstitious pigeon would be repetitive. American psychiatrist B. F. Skinner found out that if you feed pigeons at predetermined intervals, the pigeons registered what they did before they got fed, so they do what they did previously to try and get food. It is rather similar to people doing things such as wearing a certain piece of clothing when their favourite football team scored a goal. This is known as "magical thinking", when you think you can affect the world by doing such things. It is also hard to find any definition of superstition that does not cover religion. Also, other religions tend to treat each other as superstitions, but claim that they are real. In the Catholic Church it is a sin to be superstitious.
  • The thing which is hysterical about wandering womb trouble is that in Ancient Greece many medical complaints given by women including madness were blamed on the "fact" that their wombs moved around the body. The word "hysterical" comes from the same root as "hysterectomy". The Greek for "uterus" is "hystera". Freud said that for every real condition there is a hysterical one which is created in the mind. You can have hysterical blindness or dumbness which means you cannot see or speak even if there is nothing wrong with your eyes or mouth.
  • The panel are shown a clip of the sun setting and are asked to buzz in when they think it has dropped blow the horizon. However they are too late when they buzz because what we see in the sky is a mirage. The sun has actually dropped below the horizon when the bottom of it just touches the horizon. This is because of the way the light bends when it shines through to the bottom of the atmosphere which has a different air pressure. Other examples of mirages include what we think of as water evaporating off roads. (Forfeit: Too late!)
General Ignorance
  • Spiral staircases are not spiral in shape. They are helical. Spirals get wider and wider as they go up. Helixes stay the same width all the way. (Forfeit: Spiral)
  • There are so many lavatories in the Pentagon because originally there were going be toilets just for white people and toilets just for black people. The Pentagon is in Virginia, a southern state where segregation was common. However, when it was built President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned all segregation in federal buildings. He was furious when he learned about this situation and so prevented the segregation, but the lavatories (at least 284 in total) were still built. The Pentagon has 23,000 people working in it; the centre open area is five acres in size, there are 17.5 miles of corridor, and it has six ZIP codes. However, it only takes seven minutes to walk from one place to the other.
  • Vyacheslav Molotov did not invent anything apart from some death lists and the Molotov Line system of defences. Molotov was the foreign minister under Joseph Stalin and lived until 1986. In 1939 the Soviet Union was at war with Finland and Molotov claimed that the Soviets were dropping food parcels into the country, but they were actually cluster bombs. The Finns nicknamed them "Molotov's breadbaskets", and Finns fought back with petrol bombs against Soviet tanks, and the bombs were Molotov cocktails to go with the breadbaskets. The Finns eventually defeated the Soviets. (Forfeit: The Molotov cocktail)
QI XL extras
  • The most likely reason that your life flashes before your eyes is because you brain is trying to find a similar situation which has happened previously in order to find a way to save your life. Life flashing before your eyes can be dated back to Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort (who invented the Beaufort wind scale) who wrote in a letter claiming that it happened to him once when he nearly drowned in Portsmouth Harbour in 1795. In one much more recent case, a man was being attacked by a great white shark and remembered a DVD his son was watching years ago which said to fend of an attack shark you should put your hands down the gills, which he did and survived. Phrases for life passing before your eyes exist in Persian, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, German, Norwegian, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish, Arabian, Dutch and French.

Episode 16 "History"[edit]

Broadcast date
  • 14 January 2011
Recording date
  • 21 May 2010
  • Jo Brand was originally planned to be a panellist for this episode but she was taken ill and Sandi Toksvig agreed to step in at short notice.
  • A henge has an embanked area outside with ditches on the inside. Stonehenge is the opposite, despite the fact that the word henge comes from the word Stonehenge. Up until the 20th century people quarried the stone from Stonehenge by setting fires in the lintels that held the top parts and cracking the stone. Druids have been celebrating at Stonehenge only since the beginning of the 20th century and there is no evidence to suggest druids worshipped there before then. (Forfeit: Seahenge)
  • The Bayeux Tapestry is not a tapestry, but an embroidery, and it was not made in Bayeux in France, but most likely in Kent. It was made by Saxon women. Tapestry is all one material with the colours woven in. In an embroidery the cloth is first made and then the colour is added.
  • While we think fighter pilots are posh, only 30% of fighter pilots went to public school, most of which were minor public schools. Fighter pilots from the top public schools such as Eton made up only 8%. 70% were state educated. The reason why we think of them as a posh is that in war films they tended to be played by posh actors. 20% of British fighter pilots were not British and came from either other parts of the British Empire like Australia and Canada, or were from invaded countries such as Poland. (Forfeit: Posh)
  • War tubas were used by the Japanese in World War II to detect enemy aircraft. They could be used to tell the direction and distance of planes.
General Ignorance
  • Hannibal of Carthage used poisonous snakes in large pots to defeat King Eumenes of Pergamon in 184 BC. (Forfeit: Elephants)
  • The successor to Harold as King of England in 1066 was Edgar the Ætheling. He reigned for two months at the age of 15. However, he could not hold onto the throne and spent most of his life abroad. In order to be a Saxon king you had to come from one of five or six particular families and then you were elected. (Forfeit: William the Bastard)
  • Julius Caesar wore a laurel wreath to cover up his baldness. He also invented comb-overs in order to disguise his lack of hair.
QI XL Extras
  • A bronze bowl with a hole in the bottom of it was an early form of clock which works when it is placed in water. Time flows as the water enters the bowl from the bottom and causes it to sink.
  • During the Wars of the Roses the people of Yorkshire were mostly on the side of the Lancastrians. The war was not between the counties but between the houses of York and Lancaster.


  1. ^ McCurry, Justin (23 January 2011). "BBC apologises for Japanese atomic bomb jokes on QI quiz show". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2015.