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  • 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!"