Hodge Podge Bodge

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The first episode of QI went out last Friday on BBC1 and by the end of the weekend our mailbox was brimming with comments, queries and quibbles.  Before the new episode airs this evening, it might be a good time to point out some of our mistakes.

Towards the beginning of the show, we talked about the Reuleaux triangle; a shape that can be used to drill a square hole.  Our definition of "drilling" was questioned, but we stand by that assertion; however there is one point that we must clarify.  Stephen mentioned that the Reuleaux Triangle can be found in the wankel engine: in actual fact the shape in that engine is a close approximation, and not an exact Reuleaux; we were aware of the difference, but decided to use a little comedic-licence in order to mention the wankel.  Hopefully any engineers out there weren't too put-out!

Secondly, we mentioned the story of Wolverhampton Wanderers injecting their players with extract of monkey testicles.  Firstly, the picture that we showed was a chimp, not a monkey... we really should've known better... and secondly, we recieved the following from Steve Gordos (former sports editor of the Wolverhampton Express & Star):

"In tonight's episode Stephen referred to the Wolverhamnpton Wanderers manager Major Frank Buckley saying that he isisted his players be injected with monkey "glands" and that as a result centre-forward Dennis Westcott scored 38 goals in 35 games. Westcott did indeed score 38 goals in 35 games in the 1946-7 season but Buckley had resigned as manager in 1944. The manager in 1946-7 was Ted Vizard. The furore about monkeyt extracts being injected into Wolves players was in 1938 when Buckley was indeed manager."

Thanks for the clarification, Steve.

Finally, in the XL version, we suggested that Blackbeard may have used an "X" to sign his name as he was probably illiterate.  In fact, he wasn't. As a master's mate he was required to undertake the complicated business of navigation and so must've had a certain amount of education.  It is thanks to Edward Fox (who quotes research by Marcus Rediker) that we can take back this slight to Blackbeard's good (!) name.

As the series goes on, we're bound to make the odd error - especially due to amount of information that goes into each and every show.  We will continue to update this blog as best we can with your quibbles, so please, if you see anything that doesn't seem quite right, get in touch by e-mail at elves@qi.com or visit our talkboards at qi.com/talk

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The QI Fact of the Day: "The 10 gallons of fuel in the petrol tank of an average-sized car contain enough energy to run the electricity in an average-sized house for five years."

This "fact" is so VERY VERY NOT a fact at all - I'm amazed that anyone could believe this to be true.

Stephen Fry is wrong in stating that the only recognised medical treatment for hiccups is rectal digital insertion. I went to hospital after 36 hours of continuous hiccuping. Fortunately, a consultant had just attended a seminar on the subject, which recommended neat vinegar - I went home, swigged from the bottle and after my head stopped spinning, the hiccups were gone completely.

Tonight's mistake was to say that English was not an official language in England or France. Of course it is and has been since joining the EU. It is an official language of the EU

@Edwin, the question was about countries in which English was an official tounge. While it is an official language in the EU and the UK normally adopts EU law, this is not one of the laws adapted. Hences the idea that English is not an official language in England stands :-)

But very good point though otherwise

In a fairly recent programme, Stephen asked the panel whether it would be possible for us to explain to an alien the difference between left and right if we were not able to meet face to face but only had radio telescopes in which to communicate. Stephen stated that it would be impossible for us to explain the difference between left and right because it would be impossible to agree on a common coordinate system. Unfortunately I have to strongly disagree with the hugely talented Stephen and and his amazing team of QI elves over the statement that impossible for us to explain the difference between left and right to them.

Let us accept that it is impossible choose a common coordinate system in which both of us could agree. Nevertheless it would still be extremely easy for us to explain to the aliens which side is left and which side is right with the help of the 1957 Physics Nobel prize winning work of Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee on parity violation of the weak force which occurs in beta decay radioactivity and other subatomic particle interactions involving the weak force such as the decay of Kaons. Their Nobel lectures are downloadable free of charge from the Nobel prize site.

It is a truly amazing fact that the world of subatomic particles can distinguish between left and right via the weak interaction (and this is basically what physicists mean, in layman's language and with some oversimplification, by parity violation) and so all we would have to do is explain an experiment where parity violation occurs. This work is absolutely solid and there has been some formidable talent who have worked in this area including many Nobel prize winners e.g. people like Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Abdus Salam, Sheldon Lee Glashow and Steven Weinberg.

There is also a second amazing fact (which is closely related to parity violation) that all neutrinos are left handed and anti-neutrinos are right handed which would give a second easy way to explain left and right to our new alien buddies.

Finally if they do not know any subatomic physics, we might explain to them Fleming's left hand rule or some other physics rule which distinguishes between left and right.

Left and right handedness also occurs frequently in chemistry and biology as Louis Pasteur found, with some biological molecules being only left handed or only right handed in nature. Physics Nobel prize winner Abdus Salam has even suggested this asymmetry of left and right in biology i.e. the preference of molecules of one handedness over the other (even though both forms are clearly possible and even manufacturable in the laboratory) may possibly be due to the weak force. (Go to http://www.springerlink.com/content/kr86w4l65r601655/ but this content is not free of charge).I find all of this really Quite Interesting especially if Stephen were to explain it to us.

In the same program the programme also stated that there were six phases of matter known and did not mention liquid crystals. Perhaps you were right on this (as I have no expertise on this, nor do I have on weak force parity violation if truth be told) and being a liquid crystal is not a phase of matter or not a separate phase of matter, but this is far from obvious to me.

On Qi Series 8 Episode 3 there was discussion on the ratio of prisoners to population in US gaols. There also was discussion on the 'three strikes your out' system and the suggestion of this being frivolously based on baseball. As the discourse unfolded it was almost humourous to watch the surprise and disgust on the faces of the panel.

Perhaps it would be pertinent here to raise the issue of the England's practice of not only arresting their own civilians for meagre crimes but then sending prisoners to faraway lands never to see loved ones again, namely America then Australia.

May it also be brought to notice that many of these outcasts were barely past the age of a child. Perhaps these discarded outcasts are long forgotten but England needs to be wary of global judgements. The British Empire belongs in the annals of time and is now taught in history, you may now take off your pompous hats.

Before gasping at the horrors of modern tyranny, England should remember the tyranny it caused many nations and people. This statement however does not attempt to disregard the great achievements made possible because of England's global contribution; only that her memory should not be so short-lived.

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