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Hey, good evening.
Welcome to QI,
for a show which is an overwhelming O-ssortment of operations.
And joining me in my theatre team are, Dr No, Bill Bailey.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Dr Who, Rhod Gilbert.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Dr Doolittle, Katherine Ryan.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
"Doctor, Doctor, I think I'm a pair of curtains", Alan Davies.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-Pull yourself together.
-Pull yourself together.
Right, let's see how the patient's doing. Rhod goes...
FLAT-LINING HEART MONITOR BEEP
Oh, that's bad, we've lost one already. OK, Katherine goes...
REGULAR HEART MONITOR BEEP
Oh, that's better, that's much better. Yes.
OK. Bill goes... RAPID HEART MONITOR BEEP
Wow, that's... And Alan goes...
Vehicle reversing. Vehicle reversing.
-They're so loud, some of those trucks.
I was about 50 yards away
and it was going, "This truck is turning left!"
"It's turning left!" And it wasn't.
I know, it's annoying.
Right, let's start with a special operation.
How can you turn a muffin into an offensive weapon?
I have muffins for you all.
There you are, there's some muffins, help yourselves.
Douse it in petrol.
-I don't know, just chuck it at someone?
Chuck it at somebody? Rhod, what do you reckon?
Turning a muffin into some kind of offensive weapon?
Just remove the "may contain nuts" label from it.
Yeah. We're in World War II.
You drop it out of a plane.
Just a single muffin?
"That'll teach you, Germans! Yeah."
"Argh, it's got me in the eye!"
Was it poisoned, was it presented to Hitler?
"Oh, there you go, obst und mein Fuhrer."
It is the most bizarre thing, Bill.
During World War II, flour mix was invented
that could either be eaten or used as an explosive.
And, yeah, so the mix was invented by the Office of Strategic Services,
so that's the CIA's parent organisation.
It consisted of 75% explosive powder and 25% ordinary wheat flour,
which is the way I like my muffins.
And if the holder was challenged,
it could either be eaten, or you could blow somebody up.
-So the early versions made you quite ill.
-Yeah. I think that was part of the problem.
But, later versions, they made it fully edible
and it didn't matter whether you had made the flour into a cake.
You could stick a fuse into a muffin and it would still blow up.
Have you ever done that thing of making an exploding cake
for a children's birthday party?
It's very naughty, but it's terribly funny.
-And potentially fatal.
You make a totally hollow cake and then you stick a balloon
in the middle and then you ice the whole thing
and when they cut into it, it goes, boom!
-A very good idea.
-That's a good trick, isn't it?
-I'm very, very pleased with it.
-That's a brilliant idea, yes.
And there were all sorts of things disguised in World War II
-so that the British sabotage outfit, which was the S...
Special Operations Executive.
Because they were in the North African Desert,
they invented exploding camel dung,
and they also smuggled explosives into occupied Europe
inside artificial turnips, lumps of coal, crabs, lobsters and tuna fish.
Of course, the Germans had it, as well,
they had bombs that were disguised as a chocolate bar.
They had a mess tin full of bangers and mash,
which in fact was exploding.
Irresistible to the British Tommy!
"We jolly well shouldn't eat this, Roger."
"You're right, we shouldn't eat it."
"Enjoying your breakfast, Tommy?" "Yes, thank you." Boom!
And bombs were sometimes left in books
and were triggered by the removal of a picture
of a scantily-clad woman!
"Don't remove the picture, Roger." "I can't resist her."
Can't resist her.
In 1942, an SOE agent by the name of Monty Woodhouse, he parachuted
into Greece to blow up a viaduct called the Gorgopotamos viaduct.
And when he got there, unfortunately,
some local children thought his plastic explosive was fudge
and made themselves sick eating it.
And the bit I like about the story, he writes about it as,
"Thankfully, there was enough left over to still blow up the bridge."
That's the kind of thing you'd take to a children's party,
Here, children, fudge, help yourselves, enjoy.
Lots of SOE agents were dropped into Europe covered in Vaseline -
anybody know why?
Where do you want us to take this?
The door of innuendo has been opened.
All the clothes that the SOE had made for them
when they went in to Europe had to be in the European styles
and new clothes were very rare in Germany at the time,
so they were artificially aged by the SOE tailors,
and the way they did that, they would wear them
at home for a week and then they would smear
the suits in a thin film of Vaseline and then sandpaper them.
So it was just the suits they smothered in Vaseline?
-Yes, not the actual...
-You led us down a merry road there, didn't you?
And that, I think you'll find, Rhod, is my job.
These two different armies flying down together
with their different-shaped parachutes...
They don't look like parachutes, they look like Quavers, don't they?
They are Quavers.
-That's what the Quaver started out as.
-As a parachute?
-As an exploding crisp.
-One of those has got their landing techniques wrong.
-In what way?
Well, they can't both work.
One's gone feet together, one's gone akimbo.
I don't think health and safety was paramount back then.
I mean, that just looks like a bed sheet.
Health and safety was chronically neglected during the war.
I think that.
Many things went on that were totally unacceptable.
The streetlights were out the whole time...
-You'd bump into things, wouldn't you?
-You'd bump into things.
Stub your toe.
It doesn't look much of an invading force, does it?
-It's not the most terrifying force.
-It's just Roger and Tom, isn't it?
Anyone that spots you, it doesn't matter.
OK, muffins away, which is not something I've ever said before.
I might have mine after.
I'm about to carry out an operation.
What's the first question I should ask myself?
Is there a balloon in the patient?
Should I have taken all these selfies with the sleeping patient?
Am I sober?
Yes. Where am I?
Should I at least have a quick look on Wikihow?
So, there's a list of questions.
-Is there? An official list?
-There's a list of questions.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is,
do we have the right patient?
-Do we have the right patient?
-Is the very first question.
Make sure you know which bit of the body
you are going to be operating on.
-I thought "location" meant am I in the hospital?
I'm in the shed with the pliers, is this best practice?
If it had said "identity" and then "location, location, location".
What are we doing in that location?
In other words, what is the procedure that we're going to do?
And did the patient, before they were conked-out,
say that it was OK to do this?
-So these are the things.
-It's really basic stuff, this.
I thought our surgeons were kind of ahead of this stuff.
That's the extraordinary thing. 2008, the World Health Organization,
they composed a set of 19 questions to be asked before
and after all surgical operations to reduce hospital errors.
And it's called the Safe Surgery checklist.
And it sounds really simple
but the use of this checklist has reduced deaths by 40%...
..and complications by one third.
So is that the... So before all these checks then,
were there just surgeons just going, "Right, bring him in!"
"Right, all done! Right, come on."
"Let's just tuck in, come on!"
"He looks like he could have his leg off."
"Come on. Next!"
"My leg! My leg! And you've left the poisonous arm!"
What about when you have your leg cut off and then you still
-feel like you've got an itchy foot, even though it's been cut off?
-Phantom leg itch.
What about if you get that with two legs,
and you've got a phantom third leg?
That's what every boy thinks he's got.
The strangest thing is when people have heart surgery or something
and they've never liked Chinese food before and they wake up
and they love Chinese food and discover that the person
whose heart they've been given really liked Chinese food.
-Oh, is that true?
-So they say.
-Who says that?
-So they say.
People who've had heart surgery who didn't like Chinese before,
It's a very niche group.
The really weird one, the woman who had a bang on the head
-and when she woke up she could speak French.
Yes, and why don't they just do that anyway, for all of us?
Cos it was very boring, learning French at school.
-It's not guaranteed to work, I don't think.
It's unpredictable, that's the problem with it,
as an educational tool.
-Did you speak French in Canada?
But the way that I learned French is that my parents, I think as a prank,
just put me into an all-French school when I was four years old.
They didn't speak a word of French.
My dad's from Ireland, so he barely speaks English.
My mum's Canadian, they put me in this all-French school, and
I vividly member coming home that day being like, "What's going on out there?"
Thinking the whole world was this other language.
And they wouldn't answer you in English.
But what my parents didn't really account for is
I had two sisters after me and we all went to that school.
They gifted us a secret language.
All our teenagehood we could make plans right in front of them.
Of course, cos they didn't speak... That's a marvellous idea.
"Lorsqu'ils sortent, on va avoir le party?"
We could do anything we wanted right under their nose.
-I mean, we didn't.
One surgeon who had no problem identifying the patient whatsoever
was a Soviet surgeon called Leonid Rogozov.
So he realised he had appendicitis, but he was visiting
the Antarctic, so he had no choice but to operate on himself.
-So he described the pain as...
"A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like 100 jackals."
I think he wrote that long after he was better
because I don't think you're going to come out with that sentence
-"What's it feel like, Leonid?"
"It feels like a snow storm whipping through..."
So, he got two assistants to hold a mirror for him,
and he gave them instructions what to do if he lost consciousness.
"Not my face, you idiots!"
He worked on himself for an hour and 45 minutes,
and he was back at work within a fortnight.
He worked on himself for an hour and 45...
-Sorry, sorry, sorry.
Well, it's that kind of thought, Rhod,
that led a man called Boston Corbett to perform self-surgery.
Here is Boston Corbett.
He is famous in history as the man
who killed Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
But he believed that he was very tempted by ladies, and that he
didn't like this, so he castrated himself with a pair of scissors.
Oh, good action, good action from the audience there.
In order to avoid temptation of prostitutes...
He cut his own testicles off with a scissors
to avoid the temptation of...
-Why didn't he just walk down a different street?
He was... I don't know how to put this nicely. It was religious craziness.
He thought that eunuchs were more likely to get into heaven.
-Oh, my word!
-I like him, I wish more men would take this path.
Every house has got scissors.
They say that delivering a child hurts as much as having
your leg amputated at the thigh without any pain relief.
Who has been through those two things that could tell?
-That's unlucky. That's a bad day, isn't it?
Possibly the least professional surgeon of all time
is a man called Nicolas-Marie-Alexandre Vattemare.
He lived between 1796 and 1864.
-Hang on a minute.
-That is terrible plastic surgery.
He trained as a surgeon but he was not allowed to qualify
because the whole time he was working on cadavers
he kept getting them to speak and upsetting all the other surgeons.
"Blah, blah, blah." "Put it down!"
Apparently he was a really good ventriloquist. And he couldn't resist making dead bodies talk.
I have to say, it looks a lot like Andrew Lloyd Webber, I have to say.
Barry Cryer tells a wonderful story about a ventriloquist that he worked with,
and the ventriloquist came in with his little trunk of things
and took out one of the dummies and put it up on the wall like that, and said to the others,
"Don't look in my trunk, OK? Cos I've got a lot of secrets."
Out he goes, out the room, and of course everybody has a look, right? I mean, they can't help themselves.
They hear him coming, they close the trunk, and as he walks in,
the dummy on the wall goes, "They've been looking in your trunk." LAUGHTER
The man who invented the game Operation.
-Do you remember the game Operation?
There he is, John Spinello.
He sold the rights to the game for just 500 in 1964.
And in 2014 he had to crowdfund enough money to have an actual operation.
-We didn't have that game in Wales.
-Did you not? Why?
-It was a six month waiting list.
Thank you very much.
No, it's good to have you here.
Now, doctors, what's your diagnosis here?
-He's fallen asleep on a stag do.
He was running a circus school and his students hated him.
The world's worst.
It's a party game, is it?
Pin the sword on the nutter.
So, this is possibly one of the earliest
anatomical drawings for medics.
He was known as the Wound Man.
It's a medieval image, first printed in a book, 1491, in Venice.
It's all the various things, so he's been injured, if you look there,
with daggers, he's been shot with arrows, he's been lacerated,
he's been stung by bees, scorpions, been clubbed in the head.
Bitten by a dog, scratched by thorns.
Blasted by cannonballs, he's definitely got plague
and bad spots, and he appears to have a toad in his stomach.
So, it's, as it were, the contents page to the book.
What a shame though, for a guy who obviously looks after himself
and goes to the gym.
To go down like that.
-He eats Paleo.
You know, he's really healthy, he thought he'd have a long life...
-Yeah, all of those things happen to him.
He's a curious contradiction, though,
because he doesn't look after his appearance enough
-to remove a sword from his head.
But he does buy his underwear in Agent Provocateur.
Yeah. They're quite snug.
They are on the tight side, aren't they?
-Yeah. Ironically, that's the most pain he's in.
"It's gone right up me arse, that has!" Ooh.
If I'd been...
The first three or four of those had gone in,
I'd think, "right, I'm going to put something more protective on than a thong.
He's come back from a sort of Civil War re-enactment, you know.
"So, how did it go?" "Don't ask!"
"They nicked my armour, I'm left in my pants, look at this!"
The doctor's going to go, "I'm going to try something new."
"Don't pooh-pooh it straightaway, it's called acupuncture.
They also had one for women, it isn't just the Wound Man.
They had Disease Woman.
There she is. And...
Is Marvel running out of superheroes?
Look over there, it's Disease Woman!
The wound man. Ian Fleming talked to his publisher
and he wanted to call one of his books Wound Man.
But his editor said no. Why do you think that might be?
-You'd read it the wrong way.
-The Wound Man.
-It might be Wound Man. That's exactly right.
And in fact, it turned into Dr No.
In the United States they have an exceptionally complex system
for categorising injuries. It's called the ICD-10 System.
The International Classification of Diseases.
There are 140,000 detailed codes for different complaints,
and they are extremely specific.
So they include "bitten by orca".
"Forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant."
"Asphyxiation due to being trapped in a car trunk."
"Burn due to water-skis on fire..."
That's really hard!
-How could that ever happen?
-I don't know.
-That is so unlucky.
But my absolute favourite - "hurt at opera".
Otherwise known as the Abraham Lincoln.
Yes. The first attempts to categorise diseases in this country
are the Bills of Mortality.
And there was a man called John Graunt,
who was actually a haberdasher, but he was very interested
in trying to work out the various things that people died of.
So we're talking 16th century. And he put together these
Bills of Mortality, and they're great. If you have a look,
these are the different things that people died of. They are just...
"Griping in the guts," 1,288 people died of that, "griping in the guts".
-"Lethargy" is already my favourite.
-That's a good one.
-That's quite good, yeah.
-"Oh, I can't be bothered."
-That's the way I want to go.
-Just too lethargic to live.
I quite like "frighted". 23 people died "frighted".
That's good - "killed by several accidents".
I like the "found dead in the streets, field, etc."
"What, how did he die?" "I don't know, they just found him."
-He, no, he was just, he was just dead.
-Just found him.
Some of these Bills of Mortality, they just had,
"Cause of death - suddenly." That's it, just...
-That'll sort you out.
-"Teeth and worms"!
-How do you die of teeth and worms?
Two thousand, six hundred and...
I'll tell you what, Wound Man would have read that, and he'd go,
"Yeah, I've had that, I've had that, I've had that.
-"I've had all them."
-Brain surgery - new, old?
Oh, no, it's probably old, isn't it?
I don't know. This is not brain surgery,
but it's about a doctor's understanding of the brain.
There was a guy who got, on the railroads,
who got, he had an accident
and he got a four-foot metal rod through his head.
Phineas Gage had an accident, pole through his head,
and they left it in
because they didn't want to take it out in case it killed him.
-And he was fine until a train came through.
And then it affected his mood, so they were wondering where it had,
had it damaged his frontal cortex? Because I mean, I don't know
why they were so surprised it affected his moods, to be honest.
-But his boss was saying he started swearing,
his wife left him, I think.
All his friends saying, "He's a real misery now."
I should imagine his wife left him.
-He probably couldn't get in the house.
"Watch what you're doing with your pole!" "What?" "Ow!"
He had to do a three-point turn on the trains, just to turn round.
But we're going back much further than the 19th century, so Neolithic.
It's probably the oldest of the practised medical arts,
-Would this be trepanning, or something like that?
-So, trepanning, yes.
-They'd drill a hole in the head
because they want to get out the little tiny bits of bone that have
gone into the brain when they've been hit with a club or something.
A drill, though, how did they have a drill in Neolithic times?
-Ah, well, they would have had, like, a chisel.
-What would it have
-been in Neolithic times? What would the chisel be made out of?
A stone chisel. And then the hammer was made out of stone?
-And the bed was made out of stone, I'm guessing?
There was a lot of stone. There was a lot of stone, yeah.
Have you seen The Flintstones? It's just like that, yeah.
But surely in Neolithic period, they didn't know that your brain
was as important as it is. Because wasn't there a time
when they thought that your whole personality was in your chest?
Yeah, but everybody would have known what it was to have a headache.
I don't think that's a new thing.
Can you imagine if you'd said that to Phineas Gage?
"Yes, Phineas, we all know what it's like to have a headache."
I think maybe a lot of your personality is somehow in your chest.
And if you have a heart transplant and all of a sudden you like Chinese food, something's going on.
Something's going on, but whether your cognitive function is in your chest, I would dispute.
Mine is. Mine might be.
OK, some girls feel that. That's fine.
I like her.
I think we think from here sometimes.
Yes, we think in an emotional manner, rather than...
-Yes, I would agree with you.
It's a good foot above where we think from.
Wound Man was a medieval superhero
whose superpower was having everything wrong with him.
What would you do if you found 2,000 skeletons in your closet?
I would cancel my dog's credit card.
Katherine, what do you reckon?
I live in a Catholic church conversion,
so it is likely there are.
-Oh. Does it feel spooky?
-It doesn't feel spooky.
My nana was really upset, but it's been deconsecrated
so that you can swear in it, and do all sorts.
I expect that happened before, don't you?
-Oh, really? OK.
-Is she Catholic?
-She is Irish Catholic, so, I mean...
And yet she still came over to check. That's love.
She was a little too nosy for her own good.
2,000 skeletons, you suddenly discover them,
what are you going to do with them?
That is a game of sardines that went too far.
A hidden mass grave.
So, a collection of thousands of skeletons was discovered in Rome
in 1578, and nobody knew who they were, and the Church thought,
"This is fantastic," because for several decades, the Protestants had
been stealing their relics, and what they really needed was new ones.
So, they employed psychics to try and see if there were any martyrs amongst them.
And a few of them had an M inscribed nearby,
and they thought, "That'll do, we'll have them."
Even though, like, Marcus was a really popular name at the time.
And when they found a likely candidate, they gave them
a new name and a back-story and they sent them out to the churches across Europe.
They couldn't actually sell them as relics, but what they could do is
they could charge them transport, decoration, induction, blessing.
They would dress them up, they would cover them in jewels,
like this, and put them on display.
The real problem with this was they didn't send them with any instructions.
So it was like a flat-pack without instructions.
Come on, put a bit of make-up on it!
-So loads of the skeletons were just...
Honestly, just all over the shop.
Looks like the House of Lords, doesn't it?
But there was a huge rush to name your children after the Saints.
So, when St Valentine would go on display,
boys would be called Valentine, girls would be called Valentina.
And in the most extreme cases in some villages up to half the
children would have the same name cos they were all named after the skeleton.
And very, very rich people would try and buy relics of a saint who had the same name as them.
It's like a personalised license plate that you get today.
It's the same sort of thing. And hundreds remain to this day.
Now, time for a secret operation.
What is the point of a tap in the ocean?
That's not a real picture.
It isn't a real picture
because in Britain you'd have two taps for no reason at all.
OK, I don't understand this.
So you have a... You have a hot tap and you have a cold tap, right?
-Yes, well, how is that?
-So you're trying to wash your hands.
And what happens, you put it under the hot tap, you go, "Argh!"
-And then you go for the cold tap, and go, "Argh!"
-"Ooh-hoo-hoo, oh, hoo-hoo! Argh! Ooh-hoo-hoo!"
How is it the British haven't discovered there's a mixer tap?!
-What is it...? What...?
-It's the only excitement we get.
Oh, is that...? Did you find that baffling when you arrived?
-I still find it baffling.
-And I don't understand radiators.
Why you want to heat an entire house
with a small hot metal plate in the corner.
-It doesn't work!
-What would you do instead?
We have forced air in Canada, otherwise you freeze to death.
-What do you have? A four what?
-Forced air, just same as air-con.
-Oh, forced air-con.
-I've never heard the term... I'm 40...
..late 40s, and I don't...
I genuinely didn't know how old I was then, but I've never...
I'm not going to bother sitting here working it out,
but I mean, I'm 50 soon, and I've never heard the term forced air.
-Well, not in that context.
-I love the fact...
I love the fact, Rhod, that I'm asking you some quite complicated
science questions, and you don't know how old you are.
-I'm about 49.
-You're about 49.
-Have you just worked it out?
I'm so used to saying "I'm 50 in a few years,"
I'm so used to saying that, that, for a moment, it stumped me.
No, but the thing is, though, it is quite good to KNOW how old you are,
and the producer has just told me in my ear, Rhod, that you're 48.
Is there a really easy way to remember how old you are?
-Is there like a little...?
Like some kind of song I can sing, or something? Or...
I've never needed a mnemonic for my age, but I'm sure we can invent one.
I'm going to come back to what's the point...?
-What's the point?!
-What's the point? That's the question.
-What was the question?
What's the point of a tap in the ocean?
My wife wrote a poem for me.
Oh, God Almighty! LAUGHTER
-It was really good.
Really funny poem about all things I do, like yelling at the kids
and being ill mannered and hungover and stuff.
Very accurate character assassination in rhyme.
But it was all about how I was 48.
And I read the whole thing and said, "You know I'm 49 today?"
I'll have it.
God, you don't think she was thinking of Rhod, do you?
-I've written one for you.
-I've written one for you.
-OK, here we go.
-How about like,
# What year are we in today?
# When am I born? Just take that away
# You don't have to be a whiz
# That's how old Rhod Gilbert is. #
I've just followed your poetic guidelines - I'm 48.
-At the risk of repetition,
WHAT IS THE POINT OF A TAP IN THE OCEAN?!
Is it so that when sea levels rise, you can turn it off? I don't know.
-So it's not actually a water tap.
-It's not a tap.
-No, it's a rather...
-Oh, tap, oh...
And so what else could you tap? What is another kind of tapping
-that people do when they're trying to listen in?
-There's a shark behind you.
-Is it a wire,
when they put a transatlantic radio communications wire?
So, it's Cold War.
It's called Operation: Ivy Bells, and it took place from 1971 to 1981,
and it was the USA wire-tapping a Russian underseas cable.
That thing - they're moving it into position there -
is a giant tape recorder, and they just put it onto the wire.
-So the sailors on a submarine,
-the USS Halibut, located a Soviet cable...
They located a Russian cable off the Russian east coast,
and they moved a six-metre long recording pod around it
to track the communications.
The thing I really like about it, because this - we're talking
some years ago now - the device had to be updated every month,
so divers had to leave a submarine once a month and change the tapes.
But it was hugely successful, it ran for a decade,
until a National Security Agency employee of the United States
sold the information to the KGB.
Spying was a lot more hassle back then,
when you've got to train a team of divers, get submarines...
-Now you just need somebody's maiden name
-and their first pet's name, and you're off.
Or if you're the Russians, you just have to go and see Donald Trump
and ask him.
99% of all international data
-is transmitted through underseas cables.
And so you know when we talk about the cloud?
It's actually underwater.
The cloud is underwater, Sandi?
-That's done your head in, hasn't it, Rhod?
-How old am I again?
# Happy birthday to you... #
I'm going to write down 48 and make a badge.
There we go.
550,000 miles of cable, so, enough to get to the moon and back. And...
If you were on the moon, and you jumped off...
-..would you land on the earth?
Hold on, hold on, what are you doing on the moon anyway?
Well, I don't know, maybe...
Have you been left behind by a spacecraft?
Yeah. You got an Uber, and it went horribly wrong.
It depends which side you're on.
I just think if you jumped off the moon, you would just fall...
-..and you'd land on earth.
I don't think you'd be in a great state.
I mean I think you'd be like Wound Man by the time you got down.
-They know about space, this is my problem with the sea.
-They can tell us all kinds of things about planets and space
and other galaxies, they've been to the moon, allegedly,
but they've not been to the bottom of the sea.
I've been to the bottom of the sea, in parts of it.
-What's down there?
I don't know, I'm with you, Katherine. I think this...
It's an indulgence, all this fiddling around in space.
You don't like birds, you don't like fish, what's wrong with you?
I like birds, I like being on earth, it's boring up there.
How do birds know to stop?
-LAUGHTER Stop what?
-Stop going up.
Oh, right. They go round...
You'd think that you'd get into space and there'd be
loads of dead birds going round and round.
The air gets thinner and they can't fly around up there.
But when they fall dead, when they hit the ground,
we don't know, they're just found dead in the field.
They don't hit the ground, they just fall down to an area where they can fly again.
So they sort of black out?
LAUGHTER DROWNS SPEECH
And then come back down and suddenly they go. "Oh!"
Just out of interest, which particular bird are you being?
I'll tell you what you were there, you were a bar-tailed godwit.
Cos the bar-tailed godwit, they fly the longest of any bird.
Because what they do, they do a very weird and quite disgusting thing
called autophagy, where they actually consume their own
internal organs, partially, to keep them going on the long flight.
And what do they do when they get there and they've got no liver?
-Just sort of "ping!"
-They make another one.
-They make another one. Yeah.
Their livers regrow. It's the most extraordinary thing.
Wow, I know a few drinkers who would love that trick.
On the cables, because of the incredible pressure under the sea,
it is very difficult to lay them, and what they have,
it looks exactly like a plough that places them down onto the seabed.
-Yeah, look at that.
-What were we talking about?
LOUDLY: You're 48!
So, the cables are different thicknesses depending on the water,
so in shallow water they can be as thick as a soft drink can, but once
they are down under the deep water they are as thin as a garden hose.
-The very first undersea cable that linked France and England.
-Oh, look, it's Wound Man.
It took two minutes to send a single character. So, one letter or one number.
So, one word every 10 minutes.
One of the very first messages of the transatlantic cable, which
was laid in 1858, they sent a 98-word word letter from Queen Victoria
to President James Buchanan, it took 16 hours to send it.
And basically she just said "hi".
By the time we get to World War I, there's a really intricate network of cables
connecting Britain, France, Germany and the US, and in fact,
Britain's very first hostile action at the outbreak of World War I,
so, five hours after it started, was to cut-off Germany's undersea cables.
And that meant Germany could only communicate by wireless,
and that's good for Britain because...?
-They could listen in.
But Britain had really thought ahead.
They had a network of cables called the All Red Line,
and it was a worldwide network, and they were able to communicate
cos it only passed through British territory, and so to cut
it off you would have had to have 49 separate cutting missions.
So, they protected themselves and were able to communicate.
-This looks like a post-Brexit map to me.
-It does, doesn't it?
Now, which body part was used to stop the Netherlands flooding
Somebody put their finger in a dyke.
No, it's been mentioned on QI before,
the story of the Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke is a myth.
What other body part might you put in a hole to...?
I was sucked into that!
I can categorically tell you no dyke needs a penis. So...
No, sadly 100 men just put their shoulders against the water barrier,
that's all. So it feels...
GROANS OF DISAPPOINTMENT I know, tame, it feels really tame.
-Is that what it is?
-Where did the finger...? OK, so that's a myth.
-It's a story.
What is a short story, sorry?
A little boy put his finger in the dyke to stop the place flooding.
-But it's not true.
It's like you've woken up from being cryogenically frozen.
That is how I feel a lot of the time.
-There is a famous story...
-..about a single...
Oh, "famous"? You had a little dig there.
There is a poorly known story...
-..about a hole springing in one of the dykes in Holland
and a little boy put his finger in the hole until somebody came
and rescued him, but it is in fact just a short story about...
-What was the kid's name?
-The child's name was...
IN DUTCH ACCENT: Thomas.
I made that up. I have no idea.
I don't know the name of the dyke, either, and that's unusual for me.
But there is a story of plugging a hole,
it's done in a rather more dramatic manner.
So, these were the great North Sea floods, and there was a danger of
three million people being at risk if this particular dyke had burst.
And what the mayor of the town did, he requisitioned a grain barge,
and he ordered the captain to steer it directly at the dyke head-first,
and it plugged the breach and it saved thousands of lives.
So, yeah, there is a story where somebody did something heroic, but
it was neither done with a finger nor their nether part of any kind.
That must have been difficult, the water rushing.
Yes. And the captain having to decide to do that.
Trying to steer it. They could make that a film with Tom Hanks.
But almost half the population live below sea level,
and a lot of the country's windmills are in fact used
to pump water uphill to reclaim land.
So the Netherlands is actually much bigger than it used to be.
-Anybody ever been to Schiphol airport?
It's now the site of the Netherlands' biggest airport.
It was the scene of a sea battle in 1573.
Is that why they are so tall, the Dutch, then?
Because...their feet are wet? I don't know what...
Because it's so low, because it's so...low.
So they need to be able to see over the wall?
I don't think that's the reason.
Welsh people are only 5'8" on average, but we've got hills.
-Right, so people in flat places tend to be tall?
-It's just a theory.
30% of the flooding in the Netherlands has been done
deliberately since 1500 and is done for defensive reasons.
The Dutch always had very flat-bottomed gunboats,
so the depth of only about 30 centimetres, Dutch boats could
still get through, but it would stop the enemy from getting through.
So they used the water for defensive purposes.
ALAN SPEAKS IN DUTCH-STYLE ACCENT
Did you know that some British canals have got plugs in them?
In 1978, a man called Bill Thorpe was employed to work on
the 18th century Chesterfield Canal - there it is, extremely beautiful -
and he was dredging the canal to get rid of rubbish,
and he accidentally pulled the plug out.
And when he got back to work the next day, the canal was gone.
Most canals were built with some form of emergency drainage,
but he had no idea there was a plug.
Now for the mopping-up operation that we call General Ignorance.
Fingers on buzzers, please.
To the nearest five years, what was the average age in the Home Guard?
60 is a very, very fine answer.
How can that be a buzzer, that?!
Katherine, do you know what the Home Guard is?
Have you ever seen Dad's Army?
-Know it well.
-So, what do you reckon, average age?
-It's 30. It's...
-I was going to say 30! Oh!
-I went up to 35!
But 30 was my first thought!
Half of the membership was younger than 27, and a third was under 18,
so the average age was about 30.
My dad was from Ebbw Vale, and my mum was from Abertillery,
and they used to have... The Home Guards in each of
those towns in the Welsh valleys used to battle each other, you know.
What they used to have to do was take the flag off the town hall
of the opposite town's thing.
And he said that all the Ebbw Vale boys were up in the hills,
trying to make their way through the kind of forests and stuff,
across to Abertillery, and then they looked down and saw on the road
below, and the Abertillery boys were going into Ebbw Vale on the bus.
It was incredibly popular, being in the Home Guard.
So when they established it, they thought about 150,000 men
would volunteer, and in the first 24 hours, 250,000 men signed up.
At the end of June, 1940, over a million, 1942, nearly two million.
My grandfather was an ARP warden,
and I thought that was quite special when I was a kid.
And then I looked into it, and there were 1.2 million ARP wardens.
-Yeah, it was, it was...
-People just volunteered for everything.
They wanted to help.
If you put it in context, the Chinese People's Liberation Army,
which is the largest army in the world, has got 2.2 million men.
And we had two million people in the Home Guard.
But they did very important work - anti-aircraft guns,
coastal artillery, and in fact, over the war,
1,206 Home Guard men were killed on duty, or died of their wounds.
-So, not quite the comic thing that Dad's Army shows us.
What is the tallest mountain in the UK?
-Well, I'm going to say Ben Nevis. You'll ring the thing.
I'm on a roll here.
It is called Anton Dohrn, is the highest mountain in the UK.
It probably rises about this much out off the ground
and then goes down 10 miles underneath.
-Oh, I knew it.
-It's underwater, 100 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland.
-That doesn't count!
And it's named after a German, of course.
It was discovered by a fishing vessel called Anton Dohrn.
He was a 19th-century biologist.
But it's 1,700 metres in height. It beats Ben Nevis by about 350 metres.
There is Anton Dohrn, the German biologist.
But the thing that is interesting,
it is home to some of Britain's finest coral reefs.
-Look at that!
-Isn't that like a piece of jewellery?
Stunning. How deep is it there?
-Between 200 and 3,000 metres down you get...
And the reefs get up to 30 metres tall.
A single coral mound like that
can be home to 1,300 species of marine life.
It's a thing of absolute beauty.
Isn't the coral reef dead now?
It depends on which part of the world you are in.
But we are discovering new coral reefs all the time.
In 2016 scientists found a coral reef that stretches
over 9,500 square kilometres at the mouth of the Amazon.
And there are some oil platforms even in the North Sea that have coral growing on.
Now, how many stars are there in Orion's Belt?
KLAXON Three. Yay!
Five, there's five.
KLAXON Five, no, there aren't five.
Seven, there's seven.
KLAXON Seven, there's not seven.
It looks like three, it's one of the most famous things.
Do you call it Orion's Belt, or do you refer to it...?
Yeah. I mean, we have the same solar system.
But it has... It has lots and lots of different names,
so in Latin America they call it the Three Marys,
the Arabic name is the Accurate Scale Beam.
Really? I mean, what is it going to be,
hundreds of thousands, but looks like three?
No, it is in fact nine, is the answer that we were looking for.
-One more go, I'd have got it!
-It looks like... I know.
I was going to go nine next. I was going in twos.
I know. It was like the guy who invented Six Up,
and he was so close to a successful soft drink.
There are the three that we think of,
the bright ones that you can see.
They're called Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak.
But if we take Alnitak, it's actually three different stars.
There's a blue super giant and two smaller companions.
And each of the three main stars in Orion's Belt is at least
20 times the size of the sun, and at least 18,000 times brighter.
-But it's just far away?
-It's so far away.
-This is why I hate space!
Because I don't have the ability to conceptually understand
how a mathematician can go, "Oh, well, because of this and this,
"and my periscope, then, like, it's that far away".
I don't understand.
-That's where you're going wrong.
-Using a submarine, that's the...
-Using a submarine.
So it's possible if you are up there, apart from being burned alive,
that you can't even see our sun.
-That is perfectly possible, it would not be bright enough.
-Not bright enough.
So, this idea that aliens are looking, they can't even see us.
There is nothing there. It's just us. There's nothing.
There's the sun, then there's Mercury, then Venus,
then there's Hummus, Spandau Ballet and...
And then nothing.
Orion's Belt may have three notches,
but it's actually made up of nine stars.
Now then, one test of a great surgeon
is their ability to concentrate while under stress.
So, while you are answering the next question,
you have got next to you bananas, and you have got a needle.
So this is how surgeons learn to do surgery.
What I would like you to do is half-peel the banana, like this, OK?
Your needle has been already threaded for you.
And I want you to sew the banana back together.
I can't. I can't open it.
Can't open it?! Monkeys have mastered this, Alan.
Darling, put it higher up, because that looks awful.
Can't open it!
Before you start, what's your first question?
-Am I a surgeon?
-Is this the banana you were looking for?
Yes! Have I got the right banana?
-Is exactly right. OK.
So, try and sew the banana back together.
Now, one of the great tests, because the whole thing
about a surgeon is the ability to concentrate,
I want you to tell me the name of the food that you are holding
if it was made without using any pesticides.
Organic banana, there we go. Off and running.
-Oh, me thread's not enough.
-Might as well go for it - plum.
Mine's a mess.
Katherine's doing a wonderful job here.
This is where I shine on a panel show of lots of men.
Oh, look at that!
In fact, although it's true that organic food contains
fewer pesticides or fertilisers than any other foods,
the answer is that none of them contain none.
I'm afraid, if you're eating organic food and you think,
"Yay, look at me," it has all got a bit of pesticide in it.
I'll tell you what, I have made quite an effective sort of dolphin
-there, look at that.
Let's put our bananas away.
That brings us to the end of tonight's operation.
The anaesthetic is wearing off, the gloves are in the bin,
and the panel and the bananas have been royally stitched up,
which brings us to the scores.
And, with minus 35, yes, indeed, it's Rhod.
Equally creditable minus 27, Bill.
Minus 16, Alan.
-Thank you very much. Thank you.
And with an amazing whole 4 points, Katherine!
And I'm very pleased to present Katherine with this week's objectionable object prize.
It is this small selection of gallstones.
-Which I had removed only just last month.
-Thank you so much!
It only remains for me to thank Katherine, Rhod, Bill, and Alan.
And I leave you with this -
when the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer
succumbed to a heavy cold at the age of 90,
he did nothing but complain to his doctor.
"I'm not a magician," said the doctor.
"I can't make you young again."
"I haven't asked you to," said the Chancellor.
"All I want is to go on getting older."
Thank you, and good night.