This is the Technical Difficulties,
we’re playing Citation Needed. Joining me today, he reads books you know,
it’s Chris Joel. Everybody’s favourite Gary Brannan,
Gary Brannan. “All I’m gonna tell you is the whole thing will need ripping out, burning, and starting again, Vicar.” And the bounciest man on the Internet, Matt Gray Insert soliloquy here… Thanks Matt. In front of me I’ve got an article from
Wikipedia and these folks can’t see it. Every fact they get right is a a point and a ding [DING]. And there’s a special prize for
particularly good answers which is And today was are talking about
Camille Flammarion. Hello foreign parts. -Yes… absolutely.
-Hello. Any guesses as to which foreign part? “France”? Point. Straight off the bat. [DING] Yes. And the wheel spins
and lands on France! Again! The wheel is 50% France. “France… rest of the world.” Flammarion? Flammarion. OK, we are going to need an occupation here. Yeah, we are. Astronomer and author. It’s a long article, so I’m happy to give you that. Astr-author? Astr-author. Yes, he was a-str-author. So he wrote books about astronomy,
that were either fact or fiction. Well that’s the thing. They were both.
I’m going to give you a point. [DING] “Faction!” Isn’t that just lies? Oh! Faction is already a word. He wrote both science fiction and popular science God, I hope he didn’t get those two mixed up. Ah! Yes, well, funny you should mention that, Gary. “I have the manuscripts here of my
important scientific work… “and my one here about men with
bum-faces from Venus. “But they both went to the same printer
on the same day, in the same envelope!” “We can completely agree with Professor whatever…” -Flammarion!
-Flammarion. He was not a professor. “…on gravitational waves, but the bum faced goats from Mars, are a completely different concept.” I mean, I’m not going to give you
bum faced aliens from Mars -But I will…
-Well, there’s a first! I am going to give you a point for Mars [DING]
He was one of the people who… Canals on Mars? -Point! [DING] Absolutely right.
-There we go! Percival Lowell in America, was the
one who came up with the theory. But yes, he thought there were artificial canals on Mars. What? For boating? Yeah! Big, big canal boating system. Big recreational holiday market out there, to be honest. Go to Mars. Get a narrowboat. Pootle along the canals of Mars. At a gentle four miles per Mars hour. The canals on Mars were actually what? Motorways. Just rain covered motorways. When they looked at them through the telescope, the light glinted off them. -It was an easy mistake. Anyone could have made it.
-Swans landing on it, all the time. All the bloody time. Cobwebs on the telescope? Erm… not quite. Not quite. They were natural formations, weren’t they? No! No, not at all.
And they weren’t artificial formations either. So they weren’t formations at all! I will give you a point. [DING] Can you explain what they were? No! I was just being a pedant about what you’d said. There are two possible explanations for the canals. -One…
-They’re canals! OK, there are three… But one of them was definitely wrong.
There are still two, that are… possibly… One is that there was a formation…
something they saw, they misinterpreted. The other… is an optical illusion. Like the one when you go to the fair and you walk in and the mirror makes you look all small and fat? Yeah, that it made a load of… Watch it! Watch it, watch it…
Watch it! It made a load of points look like lines that
connected up, through a slightly dodgy telescope. But! Why canals? It could have been rivers or… -They were straight lines.
-They were very straight. So they looked more like canals than rivers. So they looked like irrigation canals. You know what? If I had the ability to do
one gigantic s***-stirring effort I would now transport myself to Mars…
with a canal boat! Just be there waving. No. Put it out on Mars and half bury it,
like it’s been there a long time. When the next Mars rover comes over the hill.
“Holy s***!” I suppose the Curiosity rover’s the size of a big car. Yeah! So if you make it shorter and longer,
it’s a narrowboat rover. If you just put, I don’t know, some… expanding foam sealant around the windows and doors. I’m sure it would be airtight enough. I mean let’s face it, the moon lander was
made of tin foil. A canal boat’s way stronger! Hello NASA? Yes, it’s Matt Gray. Put narrowboats on Mars. They’ve gone. See, this is how the world gets sorted. Yeah! Matt Gray. “Hello World Organisation, it is Matt Gray!” So… Flammarion was… I’m going to try…
I’m going to try. I’m not even off tangent.
We’re talking about canals on Mars. Yeah, yeah! Oh yeah! This is perfectly on stream! How did we stay relevant?! It’s a skill! I dunno? Six years later, how are we still relevant? Flammarion was both scientist and…
very much not a scientist. So he was exposed to
two very different lines of thought. One of them was very much scientific method.
Who in his era would have been the person, standing at the front of,
“this is science against religion”? The chief scientist? Darwin! Point. [DING] Exactly right.
And then on the other hand, the rising popularity of what
less scientific movement? Roller skating? Not really…
I mean, it is a movement! Very movement! Straight line,
forwards or backwards. Yes. Bowel? Not a bowel movement! No, we’re not having… Chris, save us! Cubism? Way too early. I don’t know! Spiritualism. -The idea that…
-“Knock three times….” Yes, the idea that you could talk to the dead. So he was astronomer, mystic and story teller.
In a time when… Liar, liar… and liar! No, astronomer! This is the thing. This is where astronomy and astrology
hadn’t quite sorted each other out yet. Diverged, yeah. So in 1907, he wrote that dwellers on Mars
had tried to communicate with the Earth. Naturally. And also that what was heading towards Earth? -Cylinders…
-Following cylinders! No one would have believed in the last
years of the nineteenth century that canals on Mars were being observed… No. Not in this case.
Something from a little bit further out. Asteroid? Asteroid. Aste… Uranus?! You’re very close with asteroid. Comet? Point! [DING] for that. Comet is absolutely right. A seven tailed comet. Are you sure that’s not just a very
badly focused telescope again? Well that was the thing, yes! It seems to be swirling in a spiral! A small comet’s seen, it did not have seven tails. “He’s using the kaleidoscope again, isn’t he?” They are in a formation, where there
is one at the top, one on each side… and there is an upside down one at the bottom. Oh ****ing hell! Giant spiders in space! Along those lines, 1910, what
astronomical event revisited us? Halley’s. Yeah, you got there first again, have a point. [DING] He caused a bit of a fuss, did Flammarion. Earth was actually going to pass through
the tail of Halley’s comet. For the first time. And we also, for the first time, had
spectroscopic data on what it was composed of. So they looked at the light coming
out of it, to find out what… To find out what elements and what stuff
was in the tail, that Earth was going to pass through. I’m surprised they could do that then. Yep! 1910. It’s the first time they were able to do it.
So it was a close approach. We were passing through the tail.
What did Flammarion say… “We’re all going to die!” Point! [DING] But how? Bearing in mind they now knew what the tail was composed of and what some of the stuff… Poisoning! Asphyxiation! Yes! Absolutely right. Poison gas.
[DING] There was a cyanogen, which is (CN)₂.
There are brackets there, so it’s 2 of each. Colourless, toxic gas. And apparently he thought
“well that’s in the tail of the comet.” “We’re going to pass through the tail of the comet.” “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” He was wrong. Hello! No way! Really? He said it would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet. Did he use the words ‘snuff out’? Erm, I… -I hope so.
-Being French… “Ze snuff.” I would have thought he would have done that in French. I believe that is a translation. “C’est buggered!” What did it cause? PANIC! To a certain extent. I’ll give you a point. [DING] MILD DISQUIET! Witty headlines! A jump in sale of wine. A jump in the sale of something. Lifeboats? Umbrellas? Wills? Gas masks? Point.
[DING] Absolutely right. So in 1910, he essentially
caused a slight panic buy of gas masks. Could be handy a few years later, eh? -I refrained from making that joke.
-That’s not unfair… But yes, that was one of the things.
Then he wrote a series of science fiction books. One of which was called ‘Real and Imaginary Worlds’. -I’m going to guess it was more imaginary than real.
-I can only think of one real one he knew anything about. And he was also wrong. Now we have talked about psychics,
mediums and all this before Several times. Several times, but the approach
here was somewhat different. So are we looking for the scientific analysis of ghosts? Point. [DING] Yes, he was looking at it from the scientific method. And… for the time… was remarkably skeptical. OK. There is a wonderful quote here. “It is infinitely to be regretted that we cannot trust the loyalty of mediums. They almost always cheat.” How very dare he. That doesn’t mean he didn’t believe it. But he was certainly very skeptical about it. He thought they were doing it the wrong way? He thought it might be possible, but… What he needed wasn’t a medium. And I know it would be very hard to find in France, but he needed a well done. I’m not biscuiting that! I’m just… I’m not! Oh come on, that’s beautiful. That’s good stuff. It’s a rare thing in France. Have I mentioned before
I’ve actually been to a spiritualist service? -Is that like a church service?
-Yeah. No, no, he just took his spiritualist in for a tune up(!) No… no! -I actually meant…
-“The readings are a bit off. They need…” -I meant this as a valid question.
-Yeah, as in… I went to be serviced by a spiritualist? No, no, I had a day… That’s very different, Matt! I can tell you now, that’s not what happened! No, no. I’d been out with a friend of mine.
I’d had a few. I will admit this. And I walked past. And there is a Spiritualist church, near where I lived.
And there was a sign in the window saying… “Display of Mediumship Tonight”. And I thought… in for a laugh! Yeah, OK. So I snuck in. I went up, and in the first
row of this building. It was like this… church! They had fitted it out with pews
and a pulpit and an altar and the lot! And this bloke was stood in the pulpit, doing… effectively, live spiritualist… this was the big religion of the early 20th century. This even took in Rudyard Kipling
after his son was killed. There were thousands. People were really
into it and it still hangs on in certain parts. Is this like the American stuff? Yeah, exactly the same, yeah.
But he’s doing live. It was… s***! I can’t put it any different, it was ####! I was expecting any other word there. I walked in. I thought, “OK, I’m… You know, there’s lots of older ladies in there”. And I thought, well, as the new… bloke in the room… if he wants to show off… he’s going to pick on me. He could… I’d had a few. I’m open to anything,
and if he could pick something out that… he doesn’t know, I’ll be genuinely impressed.
If nothing else, in his skill at cold reading. He just stood there, and this is a
mill town in the north of England… right, and goes… “Now, I’m… I’m getting the vision of someone… who worked… in a factory.” “Maybe on some kind of cloth… machine?” “They were called… Edith.” And at one point, someone would go “Oh yeah! Yeah, that’s my sister’s friend, when I was younger.” That… far away… a link! “Now! He’s saying something about money.” I mean… I could do this s***! “Is there a problem with…”
There was one were he said something like “Is there a problem with a child?” And she’s kinda, “No!” “Erm? Oh, the readings are very fuzzy
from the other side.” “Is there a problem with children or young people at all?” “No?” “It’s for the future!” Oh yes! And that’s how you do it! At that point, I gave an audible “HA!” from the back. It was terrible. I could do it. Stand in front of a room. Say some old people’s
names. And if you get it wrong, just go “Oh, it’ll make sense one day.” and carry on! Is this a religion? Yeah! They sang hymns and everything at the end. Then had a glass of orange squash. wobbled out and got a samosa butty on the way home. And got what? A samosa butty. How northern is that phrase? It’s a deep fried pastry, with spiced meat inside. The Empire… In a bap! Yeah! -Bread roll, for those…
-In a bread roll, with a bit of mint sauce. The Empire made it to the north. That sounds nice. I want to try that now. It’s beautiful! Don’t! No… that’s… no, that’s double carbs, which I… Chip butty! Burrito. Yeah, never mind. Yeah! -It’s three!
-I withdraw my objection. The number of times I’ve come back, with a big
splodge of yogurt sauce down my front after one. I’m sorry, what? -At least that’s what I told the rest of you.
-After he’d been serviced by the Spiritualist. Seriously, Flammarion was simultaneously
quite a believer and quite a skeptic. He was sure there was something. But, as he looked at it, he kept finding
it can’t be that, it can’t be that. Martians! Or… or Martians! Martian canal boat dwellers. Beaming their thoughts down. Buy me a new pot plant or one of
those nicely painted watering cans… Gonna say that. With a… with a plant in it. That’s obviously from the north of Mars. Every planet has a north!
What can I tell you? It’s kinda sad really, because he seems to
have had the scientific method and really… both wants to prove it properly. Scientifically. And also really wants to believe, and is going, “I’m just… there must be something there!” And I’m going really high pitched. But you know? Yep, that’s absolutely the case. Had a massive influence on a number of people. And has quite a few things named after him. Any ideas? Stars? – No…
– Comets? -Er… Asteroids?
-Yes! [DING] A ghost?! Ah… Well… His own ghost?! Yeah! It was incredibly convenient. Asteroids also named after his sister,
his niece, perhaps his first wife. Did he name them? Er… No! Oh! No he’s just very well respected for what he did for astronomy and for science. And also, not canals on Mars,
what else is named on Mars? Mountains? Volcanoes? -The opposite…
-Valleys? -There’s a word…
-Craters? -Point [DING] Craters. Absolutely right.
-Holes! Upside down hills. -Holes!
-Oh yes. Oh yes. As we Martians… I’ve said too much already! With that, congratulations Matt.
You win this week’s show. Yeah! You win a highly expensive summary
of the life of an American horror actor. It’s Vincent Price’s very pricey précis. With that, we say thank you to Chris Joel. Gary Brannan. Matt Gray. I’ve been Tom Scott and we’ll see you next time. Just hit myself in the face. Worth it. Whole day, worth it for that! [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]