Quite Inaccurate

I’m sure that whoever had the idea of giving QI a Twitter feed of its own thought it would be a delightful wheeze, and in principle I suppose it is. Unusual facts are always fun, after all.

The problem, though, is that the Twitter stream is clearly less well-researched than the TV programme, and written by people with poorer general knowledge than Stephen Fry (which, to be fair, is everyone), and as a result it’s quite often just plain wrong. They had to publish a retraction this week after posting the interesting but inaccurate claim that kangaroos are the only animals besides humans who move on two legs, when various of their followers pointed out that birds, among others, are equally bipedal.

You’d think, after that embarrassment, that they’d be paying a bit more attention. But today’s “QI fact of the day” on the BBC homepage, whilst quite possibly true, is frankly baffling:

Container ships carrying pistachio nuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, copra, and sunflower seeds are floating time bombs liable to explode without warning.

Wouldn’t you think that required some sort of explanation? Perhaps a link to a page with a bit more context, so those of us who had no idea what it means could have our curiosity satisfied? My sister works on a ship: should she be busily enquiring whether any of the neighbouring crafts at the various ports she comes to a halt in are likely to “explode without warning” while she’s asleep?

Of course, it barely matters. There’s all sorts of nonsense on the internet: that’s kind of what it’s for. But the whole QI brand is specifically about precise little fact-checking, and poking fun at people when they get it wrong. The TV show is sometimes a smug-fest, but it gets away with it because it makes a point of getting the details right. It’s unforgivable to be smug and wrong.

Edit: since I posted this a couple of hours ago, several people have ended up here after searching for “nuts explode container ships” and similar terms. I’d hazard a guess that those are people who, like me, want to know more. Sorry if you’re one of them; I’m no wiser than you are.

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