A Guide to QI. Series I, Episode 7 'Incomprehensible'

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Headless Males Make Great Lovers is a perfect QI book - full of fascinating facts about nature.  It was here that we first saw the fact that prairie dogs have been found to have some kind of language.  That book says:

Prairie dogs, research has revealed, have a pretty advanced language, mostly used, of course, for giving warnings about approaching predators. Oddly, they also have "words" (that is, particular barks used uniquely to identify one species of animal) for animals that offer them no threat: they'll bark "cow" if they see a cow coming. This "seems to be just an informational item, as none of the [dogs] run or show any concern." It's just chat, in other words.

What's most exciting about the research is that it has proven that the prairie dogs coin new "words" for unfamiliar objects. When the scientists "wheeled a 32-by-26-inch black oval plywood shape across the colony on a pulley system, all the prairie dogs gave the same unique call," even though this was something they'd never seen before.

We then looked further into the research, which was done by Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University.  Here is his website if you'd like to know more:


and here's a nice article about his work and his book:


Leo Allatius was the pope's librarian who speculated that the rings of Saturn might be Jesus's foreskin, here is some information about that venerable character:



Unfortunately any Catholic who mentions the relic under discussion is excommunicated latae sententiae, as ruled by Leo XIII in 1900.

Scientists have indeed been looking at penguin poop from space, here's a news story which explains all:

And here's an article from National Geographic that goes into more depth:


Our question about the second-commonest gas in the universe began life as a fact about
how the world is running out of helium. Basically in 30 years we won't have any helium balloons at all. Which is a bit sad for our grandchildren.


One of the QI elves, Justin Pollard, is an acclaimed historian, and he says of "The Present":

For archaeologists using BP (Before Present) dating, the epochal reference date is January 1st 1950 which is considered to be 'the present'. The date was chosen as it was just before the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 in the atmosphere (needed for C14 dating) was buggered up by large-scale atmospheric nuclear tests.

You can even get one of his books about archaeology here:


This week's "Ingenious Interlude" was inspired by this wonderful video from Professor Richard Wiseman, which included a number of different experiments:

We had decided to do a "Titanic" question in the I series of QI quite early on, but really struggled to find anything jaw-droppingly interesting.  But when we found out that a
s the Titanic hit the iceberg First Officer Murdoch gave the famous order to Quartermaster Hichens, "Hard-a-starboard!". Hichens turned the wheel rapidly to port and Titanic turned to port, not quite avoiding the iceberg, we decided that it was definitely going to get us a *Klaxon*.  There is more on the subject here:


Not only was there 7000 heads of lettuce on the Titanic, there were 15,000 bottles of stout, 8,000 cigars and 400 asparagus tongs.  You can find the full list here:


As for icebergs of diamond, here was our source:


Which states that:

Oceans of liquid diamond, filled with solid diamond icebergs, could be floating on Neptune and Uranus, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Physics.

We spoke to astrophysicist Professor Duncan Forbes about the definition of a galaxy after we found out that there was no accepted definition.  Here is a site where you can read about Professor Forbes's task:


and here is a picture of globular cluster Omega Centauri which will soon be known as a galaxy:


Finally, in this show was a sneaky little General Ignorance trap.  We found it amusing that there are insects called webspinners that spin webs, where, of course, spiders are not insects.  It seemed certain that we would get the *Klaxon* and sure enough, it worked.  Here is some more information about webspinners if you'd like to know more about them:


and didn't believe us that goat milk can be used to create silk?  Well here's the story...

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by eggshaped published on October 24, 2011 6:42 PM.

A Guide to QI. Series I, Episode 6 'Inventive' was the previous entry in this blog.

New Research: "Why Don't We Have More Women On QI?" is the next entry in this blog.

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