Quizzing First Direct's Octopus

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The Independent Online
"LOOK WE'RE not Brain of Britain you know," said an unhappy First Direct spokesman through gritted teeth yesterday as the tension started to tell.

The bank launched its Octopus service on Thursday which which promises to answer virtually any query or request put to it by customers. A temptation too much to resist - so we put five fiendish questions.

To turn up the heat,we invited our readers and Science Line, an educational charity which answers science questions from the public, to pit their brains, too, and set a four o'clock deadline.

In the end it was a draw. Science Line got back to us sooner but they only answered the first two scientifically orientated questions, giving information on where to find the other answers. After an initial faltering start, First Direct got three out of five. Congratulations to the team at NatWest Zenda who surpassed them getting three out of five with no second tries.

The first response we got from Octopus was not promising. Asked how long would it take to count each nerve connection in the human brain counting at a rate of one per second, they said 3,070 years. In fact, you would need at least 32 million years. They came back with 3.17 billion - the upper limit. Science Line revealed later they had provided First Direct with the answer.

Answers: 1. 32 million years to count all the nerve connections; 2. 22,799 Jowett Javelins were produced; 3. Tony Benn was the last cabinet minister with a beard; 4. Dave "Clem" Clempson played lead guitar for Greenslade; 5. Anthony Burgess's Enderby Outside had the word onions three times consecutively.