Read 1,227 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off Online

Authors: John Lloyd,John Mitchinson

1,227 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off

BOOK: 1,227 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off
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A QUITE INTERESTING BOOK

 
1,227 QI FACTS

TO BLOW YOUR SOCKS OFF

Compiled by
John Lloyd, John Mitchinson
& James Harkin

 

with the QI Elves
Anne Miller, Andy Murray & Alex Bell

 
 
 
Contents
 
 
 
Introduction
 

I am no poet but, if you think for yourselves as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your mind.

MICHAEL FARADAY (1791–1867)

 
 

Michael Faraday was one of the greatest scientists in history and the greatest experimentalist of them all. The son of a village blacksmith from a desolate part of Cumbria, he left school at 14 with only the most rudimentary education, and taught himself everything he knew by reading the books that passed through his hands during his seven-year apprenticeship to a London bookbinder.

At QI, we think a great deal of Michael Faraday, and we’re not the only ones. Albert Einstein kept a picture of him on his study wall, alongside Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell.

Like Faraday, we read a lot of books – on any and every conceivable subject, and the more madly random the better.

None of us claim to have an ounce of Faraday’s genius, but all three of us, despite the fact that we each went to university (43, 31 and 16 years ago respectively), count ourselves as essentially self-educated.

We have achieved this together over the last ten years by applying the QI Research Method, which can be expressed in a single line. It is to ‘read all of anything (even the footnotes) but
only
write down what you, personally, find interesting’. This not only reduces, by several orders of magnitude, the essentially infinite amount of available information in the universe, but it also has the delightful side effect that we really do ‘learn something new every day’.

For instance, until 20 minutes ago, when we started writing this introduction, none of us knew that Michael Faraday (as in so many other ways) was more than 150 years ahead of us. For he did exactly the same thing as we now do: he read every book he came across, but only noted down what he found ‘singular or clever’.

Core QI research always begins like this, in nuggets. Each bit is then added to our database, expressed in the clearest and sparest form that we can manage.

This simple way of distilling knowledge leaves behind a rich residue of astonishment and delight, a small selection of which is before you.

Much of what we find lays bare, surprisingly often, what is
not
known, rather than what
is
known. Such information (or lack of it) can be returned to again and again without ever becoming dull. It bears thinking about, often. When Newton was asked how he had discovered the universal law of gravitation, he replied, ‘By thinking on it continually.’ Or, as another of our heroes, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, put it: ‘Do not become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin.’

So here, in bite-sized pieces, nestling among the known and the numbered, are the mysteries of the enormous and the minuscule; of human comedy and tragedy; of heat, light, speed, life, art and thought.

As Faraday urged his students, we also try to think for ourselves. But more uncannily than that, coaxing these 1,227 items into an order that felt comfortable and right has had the strange result that they have indeed come to form a kind of poem in the mind.

We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have enjoyed putting them together.

And, if you solve any of the mysteries, let us know.

 

 

JOHN LLOYD, JOHN MITCHINSON
&
JAMES HARKIN

 

 

 

 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,
but they are not entitled
to their own facts.

DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (1927–2003)

 
 

Asteroid

1,227

is called Geranium.

 

The ozone layer

smells faintly of

geraniums.

 

The centre of the galaxy

tastes like

raspberries.

 

The universe

is shaped

like a vuvuzela.

 

Light travels

18 million times faster

than rain.

 

The Queen is the legal owner

of one-sixth of the

Earth’s land surface.

 

The name of the first human being

in Norse mythology

is Ask.

 

Everybody
expected

the Spanish Inquisition –

they were legally obliged

to give 30 days’ notice.

 

Octopuses

have three hearts.

 

Kangaroos

have three vaginas.

 

Three of Fidel Castro’s sons,

Alexis, Alexander and Alejandro,

are named

after Alexander the Great.

 

The opening lines of

Jerome K. Jerome’s

Three Men In A Boat
are:

‘There were four of us.’

 

40% of the human race

did not survive

beyond its 1st birthday.

 

One in ten European babies

is conceived

in an IKEA bed.

 

The human heart

pumps enough blood in a lifetime

to fill three supertankers.

 

The word ‘time’

is the most commonly used

noun in English.

 

10% of all the photographs

in the world

were taken in the last 12 months.

 

Between 1838 and 1960,

more than half the photos taken

were of babies.

 

The words written on

Twitter every day

would fill

a 10-million-page book.

 

In 2008, a man in Ohio

was arrested for

having sex with a picnic table.

 

The average person walks

the equivalent of three times

around the world

in a lifetime.

 

The world’s population spends

500,000 hours a day

typing Internet security codes.

 

The first book ever printed in Oxford

had a misprint on the first page:

they got the date wrong.

 

For 100 years, the flag of the

tropical Turks and Caicos Islands

in the West Indies

mistakenly featured an igloo.

 

One third of Russians

believe that

the Sun revolves around the Earth.

 

46% of American adults

believe that the world

is less than 10,000 years old.

 

46% of American adults

can’t read well enough to understand

the label on their prescription medicine.

 

More than 50% of NASA employees

are dyslexic,

hired for their superior problem-solving

and spatial-awareness skills.

 

Beyoncé Knowles

is an 8th cousin, four times removed,

of Gustav Mahler.

 

Shostakovich

wrote his 8th Symphony

in a henhouse.

 

Argentina

is the 8th-largest country

with the 8th-largest Jewish population.

 

8th January 1835

is the only day in history

that the USA had no national debt.

 

Italy’s biggest business is the Mafia.

It turns over $178 billion a year

and accounts for 7% of GDP.

 

George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein

had their shoes hand-made

by the same Italian cobbler.

 

The designer of Saddam’s bunker

was the grandson of the woman

who built Hitler’s bunker.

 

Churchill’s secret bunker

was in Neasden.

It was so horrible

he only went there once.

 

In his first year at Harrow,

Winston Churchill was bottom

of the whole school.

 

The Irish poet Brendan Behan

became an alcoholic

at the age of eight.

 

Leonardo da Vinci

worked on the
Mona Lisa
for 15 years.

By the time he died in 1519,

he still didn’t consider it finished.

 

When the
Mona Lisa
was stolen

from the Louvre in 1911,

one of the suspects was Picasso.

 

Most diamonds are

at least 3 billion years old.

 

There are enough

diamonds in existence

to give everyone on the planet

a cupful.

 

A burning candle creates

1.
5
million tiny diamonds

per second.

 

Under extreme high pressure,

diamonds can be made

from peanut butter.

 

The US tax code

is four times as long

as the complete works of Shakespeare.

 

Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh

and King Charles I

all had pierced ears.

 

An ‘earworm’ is a song

that gets stuck in your head.

 

Over 100 billion neutrinos

pass unnoticed through your head

every second.

 

IKEA

is the world’s 3rd-largest user

of wood and sells 2 billion

Swedish meatballs a year.

 

In Afghanistan and Iraq

it takes 250,000 bullets

(three tons of ammunition)

to kill each insurgent.

 

More Falklands veterans

have committed suicide

since the war

than were killed during it.

 

A language

dies every 14 days.

 

The world’s largest pearl

weighs 14 pounds.

 

On average, American doctors

interrupt their patients

within 14 seconds.

 

There are over 14 billion light bulbs

in the world

but fewer than 14 million Jews.

 

People earning over £14,000 a year

are the richest 4%

on the planet.

 

There are eight times as many atoms

in a teaspoonful of water

as there are teaspoonfuls of water

in the Atlantic.

 

There are more living organisms

in a teaspoonful of soil

than there are people on Earth,

and a billion times more in a tonne

than there are stars

in the Milky Way.

 

Charles Darwin

calculated that English soil contained

50,000 worms an acre.

 

In 1999, Darlington FC acquired

50,000 worms to irrigate their

waterlogged pitch.

They all drowned.

 

Three and a half Olympic swimming pools

could hold all the gold

ever mined in the world.

 

In 2011, Birds Eye sold

225 billion frozen peas:

enough to fill

40 Olympic swimming pools.

 

If all the Birds Eye waffles

sold in a year were stacked up,

they would be 474 times higher

than Mount Everest.

 

Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb

Everest, was a professional beekeeper.

When filling in forms,

he always gave his occupation as

‘apiarist’.

 

The 10,000 trillion ants in the world

weigh about the same as

all the human beings.

 

If the 5 trillion spiders

in the Netherlands took to eating

humans rather than insects,

they’d consume all 16.7 million

Dutch people in just three days.

 

Alfred Kinsey, author of

Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male
(1948),

had a collection of 5 million wasps

and could insert a toothbrush

into his penis, bristle-end first.

 

Biologically speaking,

‘bugs’ are insects that suck.

 

Biologists cannot agree

on definitions for the words

‘species’, ‘organism’ or ‘life’.

 

Behavioural biologists

do not agree on what constitutes

‘behaviour’.

 

Psychologists

cannot agree on

what ‘personality’ means.

 

Anthropologists cannot agree

on the meaning of the word

‘culture’

or on the meaning of the word

‘meaning’.

 

Abulia
n.

The inability

to make decisions.

 

Astasia
n.

The inability

to stand up.

 

Aprosexia
n.

The inability

to concentrate on anything.

 

Apodysophilia
n.

A feverish desire

to rip one’s clothes off.

 

If all the Lego bricks ever manufactured

were clipped on top of each other,

they would make a tower ten times as high

as the distance to the Moon.

 

Liechtenstein,

the world’s 6th-smallest country,

is the world’s largest exporter of

false teeth.

 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries,

having all your teeth removed

and replaced with false ones

was a popular

21st-birthday present.

 

The road signs

of the Austrian village of Fucking

are set in concrete

to deter thieves.

 

London,

with a population of over 8,000,000,

is not a city,

though the City of London,

with a population of about 7,000,

is.

 

According to the Forestry Commission,

London is

‘the largest urban forest in the world’.

 

In 1894,
The Times
estimated that by 1950

London would be nine feet deep

in horse manure.

 

The Roman name for Paris was

Lutetia
,

which translates into English

as ‘Slough’.

 

In 1811, nearly a quarter

of all the women in Britain

were named Mary.

 

In 1881, there were only six men

in Britain

called Derek.

 

Only 4 Clives, 13 Trevors and 15 Keiths

were born in the UK

in 2011.

 

Naughty racehorse names

that managed to escape

the Jockey Club censor include

Hoof Hearted, Peony’s Envy,

Wear The Fox Hat
and
Sofa Can Fast.

 

In 2012,

the Advertising Standards Authority

ordered a Northampton-based

furniture store to stop

advertising its prices

as ‘Sofa King Low’.

 

Caterpillars make no noises

other than chewing –

though
Phengaris rebeli

strums its bottom like a guitar.

 

Every year,

Peruvians eat more than

60 million guinea pigs.

 

In Switzerland,

it is illegal to keep

just one guinea pig.

 

98% of British homes

have carpeted floors.

In Italy, only 2% do.

 

In Japan only 2% of adoptions are

of children;

98% are adult males

aged 25 to 30.

 

It’s unsafe for travellers to rely on

‘St Christopher’ any more:

he lost his sainthood

in 1969.

 

10% of US electricity

is made from

dismantled Soviet atomic bombs.

 

Until 1913, children in America

could legally be sent

by parcel post.

 

There are 5.9 calories

in the glue of a

British postage stamp.

 

All the batteries on Earth store

just ten minutes

of the world’s electricity needs.

 

Ancient Greek democracy

lasted for only

185 years.

 

The ancient Greeks

had no word for religion.

 

China

is the world’s largest supplier of Bibles:

one factory in Nanjing prints

a million a month.

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