QI Series T, Episode 1 – Tips and Tools


– A lesbian builder’s favorite tool is a lesbian ruler. It’s a device that memorizes the shape of whatever you measure. It is named after the rulers used by ancient Greek stonemasons in flexible lead on the island of Lesbos. These rulers allow you to follow the contours of any molding. Aristotle wrote about these rulers, using them as a metaphor to assert that things like law and justice should be flexible and applied to specific circumstances. Today, the name of Lesbian Rules has been changed to Flexible Curve Rules.

– Tangent: Sandi pulls out a large metal file used for metalworking, and asks the panel to name it. This is called a flat bastard file.

– Alan receives a small toolbox containing twigs and a nut, and is asked who uses it. It is used as cover by cockatoos. In 2021, wild Indonesian Goffin’s cockatoos were seen eating sea mangoes using sticks carved into three distinct types of tools. They used the sticks to crack open the hard stone, then eat the pulpy matter inside. The sharpest twig pierces the shell, the thicker holes open the crack, and the middle twig serves as a spoon to dig up the seeds. This is the first documented case of a tool set being used by a non-wild primate.

– Tangent: Holly says you shouldn’t break down the phrase “sea mango”, because you get “semen-go”. Alan says that’s what you’re shouting at an important moment.

– The panel sees images of three unusual tools and is asked what they are used for:

– The middle image is a Hirtz compass used to detect metal objects in the body, designed during the First World War. Invented by French doctor EJ Hirtz, it was created because it is very difficult to locate bullets with 2D X-rays, so the rods are inserted directly into the wound and thus allow you to determine the depth of the projectile and the location in which it was located. A general surgeon wrote in 1924: “No instrument has given so much help as the compass in its precision and accuracy.”

– Tangent: Alan guesses that the compass fits into the urethra. Bill mentions that there is a fish, the candiru, in the Amazon that swims in the urethra, lodges inside the penis and prevents you from urinating. Bill adds that sometimes you have to have your penis removed because of this, although Alan says it probably only happens once.

– The image on the right is a dodecahedron, from the Roman Empire, made between the 2nd and 4th centuries. However, there is no known mention of them in Latin literature. The first to be discovered was found in 1739, and since then 115 have been found. They were normally made of bronze, but some are made of stone and are about the size of a golf ball.

– The image on the left, consisting of two long pointed metal sticks, depicts Perkins tractors. Invented by 18th century American physician Elisha Perkins, it was an example of quackery involving electromagnetism. George Washington is said to have owned a pair, and they supposedly handled anything. At first they would seem to work, as there would be an interaction between the skin and the metal which would have healed the patient. However, the English physician John Haygarth showed that fake wooden tractors did this too. It is therefore possible that this is an early example of the placebo effect.

– NASA uses trampolines to strengthen its astronauts. Trampolines strengthen the leg muscles without putting too much strain on the joints. Trampolines are 68% more effective than treadmills at building muscle, especially when returning from space. The modern trampoline was invented by American gymnast George Nissen, who made a prototype from an old bed frame. He did a commercial in Central Park showing him bouncing on his trampoline with a red kangaroo called Victoria, who repeatedly kicked Nissen throughout the photoshoot. Nissen started the first trampoline manufacturing company in 1942, then met a man named Scott Carpenter, who became one of the first Mercury Seven astronauts, and they introduced trampolines into the training program of the Nasa. One element of the program is a game called spaceball, in which one player on one half of a trampoline must push a ball through a hole, and the other must try to push it back again. Spaceball is said to be the best conditioning exercise for space travel.

– A good way to earn bigger tips if you wait tables is to wear something unusual. For example, waitresses wearing flower hairpins earned 17% more than those wearing plain hairpins. Other things that help include wearing fun badges; French researchers gave waiters jokes and 42% of those who told jokes received a tip, compared to 25% who did not. There’s also something about postural congruence, where you’ll get bigger tips if you crouch at the table and bring your face closer to the customer, as well as touch customers casually. The best time to make these touches is when you put the check on the table, so you distract the customer from the invoice amount. The best people to serve if you want a good tip are men who consume alcohol with their meal on a weekend, ideally when conducting a business discussion or dinner after a sporting event.

– Tangente: Holly has worked as a caterer before. Sandi asks her what she did when she was a caterer, to which Holly replies, “Catering.” Bill once worked in a job delivering cakes, but in one job he discovered that the recipient of the cakes had moved since the time they were delivered, meaning he ended up in an apartment full of cakes.

– Tangent: Between Denmark and South Sudan, the place where you are most likely to get a good tip is South Sudan. Indeed, the best tips are found in the most corrupt countries, with Denmark being the least corrupt country in the world and South Sudan the most corrupt. Also, tipping is very rare in Denmark. Bill then starts speaking Danish to Sandi. Bill claims the language sounds like people speaking English while being a bit drunk. For example: “Thank you for the coffee”, in Danish is said: “Tak for kaffe”.

– These days, a dozen puffins will net you around 800 live mackerels. Until the 1970s, Western zoos and aquariums legally bought and sold animals. Zoos gave explorers shopping lists of rare animals to find. This has resulted in a huge amount of poaching. At JFK airport, they found 1,867 illegal cheetah pelts at one time, which at the time represented one-tenth of the world’s population. In 1973 the United States introduced the Endangered Species Act, which means you must now have a license if you buy and sell animals. However, there is a way out: barter. Thus, all zoos and aquariums have gone cashless. For example, in the New England Aquarium in Boston, the basic trade unit is a jellyfish. If you want a fish from another aquarium, but the other aquarium doesn’t want jellyfish, you have to do multiple jellyfish swaps to get what the other aquarium wants, then swap that fish for the one you wanted in first place. Thus, there is a kind of traded animal used by zoos around the world.

– Tangent: Bill runs Britain’s smallest zoo. The zoo started as an animal rescue center, and it snowballed from there. The barter system also works for Bill’s zoo, which has already traded two giant rabbits for turtles. The rarest thing in Bill’s zoo are the frogs. Bill also has Malayan Fighting Cocks who are so aggressive that he can’t go into his garden because of them. The person Bill got them said the roosters were bred to fight in the 1840s, but the aggression came out of it – just not the one Bill had. Apparently, if they attach themselves to you, they turn bad. Bill once had builders working on his house, who at first laughed at him for his fear of the rooster, but then the rooster turned on one of the builders, who had to rush through the garden of Bill to avoid it. Holly suggests that Bill is henpected.

General ignorance

– The first to discover America were the Siberians. A recent study of Native American DNA by a Brazilian university found that the first people of any kind to set foot in America were about 250 Siberians who migrated there about 15,000 years ago, when there was a land bridge known as Beringia connecting Siberia to Alaska. People have lived in this area for about 8,000 years. Almost all Native Americans are descended from these people and spread as far as Argentina. (Package: The Vikings; Christopher Columbus; Jeremy Clarkson)

– Venus flytraps mainly eat ants, spiders and beetles. Flies make up about 5% of their diet. A man fed his plant flakes of scab from his own sick skin with a very bad case of athlete’s foot, and the plant ate him. The leaves are lined with teeth that lock together, forming an airtight seal. It takes plants about a week to digest a meal and they can live for about 20 years. There is only one place on Earth where Venue Fly Traps grow wild, 75 miles from Wilmington, North Carolina. (Package: Jeremy Clarkson; Flies)

– Tangent: Bill has a carnivorous plant named after him: a pitcher plant called Nepenthes Bill Bailey, which eats small worms.

Sheet music

– Holly Walsh: 2 points
– Alan Davies: -3 points
– Bill Bailey: -12 points
-Joe Lycett: -27 points

About Octavia A. Dorr

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