A Guide to QI. Series I, Episode 2 'International'

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

The idea to have a question about landing a plane first came to us after we read an article on the website Slate.com. Which had the line:

This person would instruct the flight attendant how to operate the autopilot, which isn't quite as "auto" as a panicked novice might hope. It can't land the plane without significant human input on changes in altitude and airspeed, and when to deploy the landing gear. Autopilots also leave the control of the wing flaps to the real-life pilots. (These must be extended in stages during the plane's descent, to control lift.) All this means that whoever's flying will be pressing buttons and turning dials pretty regularly until the aircraft drops below 1,500 feet.


We thought that this was a rather nice piece of general ignorance, and so e-mailed a few pilot friends of ours and asked their opinions, but we were told by them that actually airliners do use autolanding systems, which create their own problem: apparently they're so accurate that they always land on exactly the same spot, which wears out the runway at that point. 

So looking at dozens of other online sources, such as this one:


and checking with our pilot friend, we managed to give Stephen the full skinny.

The TV show Mythbusters don't entirely agree with us on this one - you can see what they found when they tried to land a simulator here:

A fantastic description of the first ever use of autopilot can be found here:


which includes the marvelous passage:

Sperry elected to make one more pass -- his tour de force. As they passed the reviewing stand, there was Cachin on one wing and Sperry on the other, with the pilot's seat empty. This was a demonstration beyond the already exuberant audience's expectations. There was the aircraft, flying serenely along with both its pilot and mechanic out on the wings, airily waving to the spectators. The judge, René Quinton, was almost speechless. His comment mirrored the feelings of the crowd: 'Mais, c'est inoui!' ('But that's unheard of!').

Bill Bailey knew about the world's shortest commercial flight, maybe he'd flown it before.  You can learn more about it on their website:


And for more about moustaches on police in India, check out this article from the BBC:


which complimented our reading of the excellent book: Dead Man Wins Election by Phil Mason.

The internet doesn't quite agree about who has the longest moustache in the world, but we think it is this guy, Ram Singh Chauman from Hindustan.

and the fact about a beardy action-man being in the Navy came from a friend of ours in the forces, when asked, he said that:

If a sailor wishes to grow a beard he must submit a request form asking for 'permission to stop shaving'. He is then allowed up to 2 weeks to 'grow a full set'. At this point he must present himself to the Master at Arms (the senior Service policeman in any ship or unit - known as 'the Joss') who will decide if his beard is respectably full enough to be permitted. The rules used to be laid down in 'Queens Regulations Royal Navy' (or QRRN) but are now detailed in BR3 - Naval Personnel Management.

Two wonderful sources for anyone interested in the International Brigade are 'Brigadista' by Bob Doyle (Currach Press, 2009) and 'To make the people smile again' by George Wheeler (Zymurgy Publishing, 2003) but sadly most of our work on the subject was concentrated down to a single fact about urinating on machine guns. We e-mailed the Royal Armouries and they replied with this:

On the urine front, the Imperial War Museum sound archive features an interview with a former soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment who was in Korea and reports "providing urine to cool Vickers machine gun"

They also pointed us in the direction of an issue of 'Popular Science' from March 1951 (p.9):

"...it took the Russians to make one visible improvement on the old Maxim water-cooled machine-gun that that has been around since 1905: a large trap door on top of the water jacket. Throw in some snow and you're in business; also it will take urine directly in an emergency."

The fact that you should put urine on tomatoes is here:


and that you shouldn't pee on Jellyfish stings is here:


That accordions were the largest export of Italy in 1953 came from a Radio 4 program called "The Big Squeeze" which is no longer available here:


but the expert from the show, James Crab, has a rather nice accordion website here:


For more on Italian fascists and the futurists, there are a number of articles here:


As well as a rather wonderful video of Mussolini getting his hands dirty in a wheat field here:



For more information on what Italians eat which which pasta, we recommend that you just ask an Italian, but just don't expect anyone to agree on it. It's one of those ridiculous snobbish things that some Italians believe strongly in, but many just ignore in favour of their own taste.

For more on Jesse Owens and Hitler, check out the book Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap. Evidence that Hitler and Owens shook hands is put forward in this Daily Telegraph article:


This week's "Nobody Knows" joker was about Two Ocean's Creek; you can read all about it on this page:


and so onto General Ignorance...

The Guinness Book of Records says this about the pyramid at Cholula:

In terms of volume, the largest pyramid in the world is in Mexico, not Egypt. Called the Cholula Pyramid (sometimes referred to as Quetzalcoatl), it was built around the year 100 at what is now Cholula de Rivadahia (near Puebla) from sun-dried brick and earth. Although only 177 feet high, less than 40% of the height of Egypt's Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) at Giza, it covers an area of 39.5 acres.

And the nugget about the naming of World War One comes from 'A word in your shell-like' by Nigel Rees though we've already had a quibble on this one, so keep an eye on our quibble blog for a possible retraction!

Finally, the fact about Kaiser Bill and Hirohito being field marshals came from "Discovering British Regimental Traditions" by Ian F. W. Beckett. He says:

"At the outbreak of the First World War both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austro-Hungary were British field marshals...The Kaiser and the Emperor were also Colonels-in-Chief of British regiments, respectively the 1st Royal Dragoons and 1st King's Dragoon Guards. Indeed the KDG had adopted an Austrian double-headed eagle as its badge in honour of the Emperor, who had become Colonel-in-Chief in 1896: it was dropped in 1915 and only readopted in 1937. The 14th King's Hussars had a Prussian eagle as their badge, dating from 1798, when they had been the 14th (The Duchess of York's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons, the Duchess also being the Princess Royal of Prussia; they also abandoned the badge in 1915 but resumed it in 1931."

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://old.qi.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/599


Having only just got around to watching this episode, I was a little surprised to hear Stephen say that a passenger taking control of a plane (a la "Airplane") has never happened. In fact it has...

Helios flight 522 on 14th August 2005 is memorable for a number of reasons, not least the fact that all 121 passengers and crew lost their lives. This included the flight attendant who, on finding the first officer unconscious and the captain missing, and having had some flight training, attempted to take the plane off autopilot and failed. The plane later crashed into mountains just outside Greece.

Sorry, "just outside Athens."

Leave a comment



April 2015

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30    

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by eggshaped published on September 19, 2011 2:12 PM.

A Guide to QI. Series I, Episode 1 'I Spy' was the previous entry in this blog.

The Ig Nobel Prizes is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.