Thomas Midgley Jr and a Pope Infestation: Citation Needed 5×02
This is the Technical Difficulties,
we’re playing Citation Needed. Joining me today:
he reads books y’know, it’s Chris Joel. Third time’s a charm. Everybody’s favourite Gary Brannan, Gary Brannan. Join me in my secret expedition, to Noel Edmonds’ secret underground bunker… of filth! And the bounciest man
on the internet, Matt Gray! Today’s show is sponsored by the word cuneiform. Getting highbrow here. In front of me I have an article from
Wikipedia and these folks can’t see it. Every fact they get right is a a point, and a… You OK there? Might be reaching coffee saturation. I’ll start being funny any minute now. Can we just… Good siren noise there. Can we just take a minute to acknowledge
how good that siren noise was?! 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: ♫[MYSTERY BISCUITS]♫ You will put your back out doing that
at some point, Gary. All in the name of wit. And today we are talking about Thomas Midgley Jr. Son of Thomas Midgley? I mean one would assume so, yeah. It doesn’t explicitly say that here. It’ll be under early life. I’m pretty sure. It’s not! It just said where he was born.
Which was the town of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Also known as a ‘Slut Drop’. I said that before I thought about it! – That’s a better joke than I was thinking about.
– Pennsylvania, you’re it this week! Either that, or it’s a town at the bottom of a cliff. Above it is a large woodland.
With a very heavily disguised edge of cliff. “What are we going to call this place?” That’s my impression of a beaver, by the way. I don’t know what noise they make
when they hit the ground, I’ve never seen it. A siren noise by the sound of it. Oh, it’s a trumpet. Yeah. Yeah. Grew up in Ohio, then. And went to Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He sounds like an awful person(!) His father was an inventor and he was an inventor
and he made, I think a… great change to the world. Although it might not have been for the better. The automatic French horn? Why would you need an
automatic French horn, Gary? To save you having the trouble of
playing a French horn, dickhead! You’ve got player pianos, why not player French horns? -Yeah!
-OK! Yeah! Come on. It’s the general trend towards
playerisation of the entire orchestra. They just stumbled on the kettle drum. It’s a self-boiling kettle drum. It’s just a kettle with the drum attached to it and steam… “That’s not quite what we had in mind.
But useful in the morning!” Eight am. “But I do have hot water for tea now, so that’s good.” And everybody’s awake! No. That’s not what he invented. I’m out. Tom, are you asking us of all the things that could
have been invented in the 1900s I was hoping that you might hit on something
I could move towards it. But no… Ivory harvesting machine? …since you went with automatic French horn and ivory harvesting machine, no! Nothing like that. Let me see if I can narrow this down a bit. He was working at Dayton Research Laboratories. Oh! Dayton Research Laboratories! Still no idea. …which are a subdivision of General Motors. So what would he be working on,
in about 1920? This is December 1921. Nuclear powered car? The double decker bus? No, no, but you are technically closer. It’s something to do with how cars are powered. Nuclear powered double decker bus! I mean… That’s a great film actually. That’s combining both noes there. Wait. What film is that? I remember that. – The Big Bus.
– The Big Bus! Big Bus, brilliant. All I remember is someone pulling a lever and the flags of all nations popping out of the top of it. Yep. Yeah. Wow! It actually predates Airplane! as well. – It was a comedy, wasn’t it?
– Yeah. Aaw! Well “comedy”. If you want a serious one, did
you hear about Supertrain? No? This was a massive flop for NBC, in the US. It was one of the worst, one of the most expensive
and greatest television failures of all time. This sounds like it should be in
my DVD collection already. You know how they had the Love Boat? I do know how they had the Love Boat. Would you explain the Love Boat for our viewers? The Love Boat was a serial. I think it was probably weekly or something. Where you have a cruise liner. A boat went around, trying to shag other boats. My God! The one with the oil tanker!
You should have seen that one. Lubricated. That’s kinda what it sounded like. Make sure this one is called the
‘Gary Brannan Sound Effects Special’ As I have just done a cruise liner shagging an oil tanker. Actually, yeah! Sorry! ♫[MYSTERY BISCUITS]♫ Recognise the effort this series. Erm, no. I don’t think it was a comedy. It was a kind of a light drama maybe. Romantic drama. Where you had a cruise liner… So was this like Tugs? No, no, no, no. Wow! I bloody love Tugs.
Tugs, by the way, to digest… – Digest?!
– Tugs was like Thomas the Tank Engine on water. We are now three diversions deep.
But keep going. – We’ll circle back round.
– Tinder username! This is, I think, the third season in a row… where you have referenced Tinder, despite
being the one married person at the table. Yeah! The one who’s safest to reference
it without any eyes swivelling on it. That’s fair. But the Love Boat is a giant cruise liner… and you have guest stars every week and romantic things would happen, while at sea. – Right.
– But because you’re in international waters… there’s all manners of deviancy you could get up to. This was the point. You could have a
steady, regular cast for the crew… and guest stars each week,
for the passengers on the ferry. Superdeathtrain! Supertrain. Which was NBC going, “Huh. They’ve got that, what can we do differently so it’s not a complete ripoff? Let’s put it on a train.” Wow! “Let’s put it on a nuclear powered train, that goes from New York to Los Angeles, in 36 hours.” “That’s a great idea. That can’t possibly fail.” Yes, when you do the math, that means
the train is doing about 80 miles an hour. That’s hardly impressive. That’s hardly impressive at all. No. In fact you can do that on the West Coast Main Line. You actually could. Double width train, so you can get
some sets and things like that. – Of course.
– Stupid, stupid idea from start to finish. But it was like, “this is the big series. This is what we’re going to do.” Sounds expensive. Yes, it was massively expensive… it did not work. Why did we talk about Supertrain? – I don’t know. We talked about nuclear powered…
– Big Bus. – Nuclear powered bus. The Big Bus.
– Big bus. Yep. – And then where were we…
– And I said nuclear powered cars. – Because it was an invention for the motor.
– Because he was working in Dayton… Because Thomas Midgley Jr… invented something about how cars were powered. God, I watched Inception last night.
And this is more difficult. That’s not surprising, I’ve seen Inception. What was the invention in the 1920s? That would reduce the… – That would make engines more effective.
– Was it an electric car? No it wasn’t. No, it was definitely petrol. In fact this
was something to do with the petrol. Leaded petrol? Point! [DING] Absolutely spot on. Nice. Nice, harmonisation there. Yeah, that was good. He added tetraethyl lead… The scamp! …to petrol and discovered it reduced ‘knocking’. On heaven’s door? Yes! Yes that’s why… “Do you need to cure Bob Dylan?
Use lead!” (That worked for JFK.) “What did he die of?”
“Lead poisoning.” Do you know, when it got to unleaded cars,
in the early 90s, when it started coming in? They stopped selling four star.
Four star petrol used to be leaded petrol. -And two star.
-And two star, they stopped selling it. A relative of mine, who shall remain nameless,
he’s an older gentleman, shall we say Decided he wanted to convert his car to use unleaded petrol. It was quite an expensive procedure. So what he did was, he got unleaded petrol. Put it in the tank, and then bought, through a magazine today it would have been off a dodgy web site,
but in those days it was a magazine some ‘thing’ you could put in your tank,
to make your car unleaded. When they came, it was effectively lead shot. So he put unleaded petrol in… lead shot in,
which re-adds lead. Let’s face it. And he was convinced that his car was running on unleaded petrol, with all the benefits thereof. Genius! So this was the problem. Lead in petrol does
reduce ‘knocking’. What’s the problem there? – It adds lead.
– It adds lead! Yes, absolutely. Have a point [DING] It adds extremely toxic lead. Which then gets sprayed out,
in the exhaust, over everyone nearby. Which is why we went to unleaded petrol.
Which is why we had all that. Because lead is bad! If you didn’t know that. What happened in 1923, just two years later,
with Midgley? What did he do? [CHORUS] Die of lead poisoning! I mean not quite, I’m not actually giving
anyone a point there, because, between the… no one was a third of a
point close enough, to get that word. But he did take a prolonged vacation,
to cure himself of lead poisoning. What did they call the addition? Lead. No! No. They knew that would not work well for marketing, so with tetra, ethyl and lead, They picked? -Plumbum.
-Plumbum! Pumbum, ooh! Latin joke! ‘Tis indeed. Yeah, but you can’t say ‘Putting bum in your petrol tank’! No, they went with ethyl Plumbum petrol. “Plumbum petrol, good for you and your car!” So they had a prototype plant… They started making the stuff… You don’t make lead form plants. Isn’t a prototype plant a seed? They had a prototype factory.
Where they were making the stuff. What happened to the people who worked there? [CHORUS] They all got lead poisoning! Point. [DING] Yes. So this is clearly quite dangerous stuff. Midgley called a press conference,
to demonstrate its safety. What did he do to demonstrate? Sprayed it onto some kids! He ate a sandwich made of lead. Killed the journalist, through lead poisoning. He produced a song and dance number ‘Lead! It’s Great!’ He had a lead lolly. Lead lolly, yellow lolly! He turned up on a set,
made entirely of lead, and produced a sitcom. -You’re all…
-Right? -Dancing around…
-Did he writhe around in lead shot? -You know like…
-What a great age Victoriana was! You know like mud wrestling, but lead wrestling. You know what Matt? You’re bloody
close enough. No one else is going to get it [DING] He wrestled in lead? No, he poured the stuff all over his hands… Yeah? and then just put the bottle under his nose,
for sixty seconds, just sniffed it… for a while. And then died of lead poisoning. He claimed… He’s already got the first signs of lead poisoning,
of madness, already. Let’s face it. Well he claimed, that… Hang on! Lead? He poured lead Not liquid? Poured… the stuff with lead in it The stuff they were putting in the petrol Molten lead over his hands. Argh! “This is fine, really!” He said he could do this every day, without succumbing to any problems whatsoever. What then happened? He died? -He succumbed to lead poisoning?
-Lead poisoning? No, he managed to survive. His hands fell off? There and then. “Well this is embarrassing!” I’ll give Chris the point [DING].
He retired, because of lead poisoning. ‘Cause of lead. Did I even say that? I mean I’ll take it. To be honest, I kinda kept track,
all amidst the ridiculous suggestions of what you could do with lead at a press conference . -I kind of…
-Are you saying you couldn’t writhe around in lead? At a press conference? -I mean that…
-Call a press conference! You’d get quite severe burns. He’s in a lead suit -It’s rather…
-“Hello? Bring me the lead…” “Also, tell me what accent this is.” “I don’t know…” “And why I’m speaking in to my hand?” “Sir! That is lead.” “Fantastic!” So needless to say, he didn’t have
a great effect on the environment. Well, I mean he had a great
effect on the environment. It wasn’t a… -Good one.
-A ‘great’… effect… on the environment. So he moved on to somewhere else, in General Motors. Yes? He moved out of that division. Obviously lead went
on to be quite successful… as a thing, in petrol. Did he move on to drinkable arsenic?
Or something like that? Well, you say that! He did. Did he put lead in the windows? Or lead in the… Leaded windows on cars. All little hexagons Stained glass cars. Beautiful image of St. Christopher
on the rear window. It really, really is. Admit it… It needs thousands of pounds now
to replace it now. It really does. Admit it. You want it though don’t you? Of course I ****ing want it. Why doesn’t the Popemobile have that? Very difficult to make that bullet proof, I imagine. Oh, that’s fair. That’s fair. Stained polycarbonate, doesn’t
really have the same ring about it. You just need the lead then. Forget the window. It’s an actual leaded window. It’s lead lined lead. You might be being a bit
generous with window there, Matt. It’s safe from… Just a shield. It’s safe from Superman though. Superman can no longer see the Pope. That’s fine. Oh yeah, ’cause that’s how Superman gets his kicks. We technically have two popes, which is quire rare. -I don’t have any popes.
-Well… I mean you guys have been in my house.
If you can find one pope! You’ve got a pope infestation. “Oh, I’ll tell you what mate, it’ll take a while to get…” I’ve tried spraying in Anglicanism. It’s not shifting ’em. The weirdest thing is, they don’t breed. But you know. The thing is, you could bring in your Anglicanism,
but you just end up with an infestation of bishops and archbishops, which are even
harder to get rid of, because they… Because they can only move diagonally! Thomas Midgley Junior, meanwhile Meanwhile, back at the Popemobile. Having retired from that… This is a day of sound effects for you. Having… Can we have a goose please? Go back to the old standards. And let’s go for train. And both together. Thank you. That was a good one. A good combo one. That’s one of the better ones in recent years. Old school! Old school. He moved on from the cars divisions of
General Motors and he moved to Frigidaire. Oh for ****s sake he put loads
of CFCs in the atmosphere! Point! [DING] Absolutely right! What a ****! I think on a list of people who shouldn’t have bothered… He’s on it! Can you imagine, wherever one might end up,
beyond the icy veil of the hereafter He’s sat there. ‘So what did you do in life?’.
‘Well I invented leaded petrol…’ ‘Right and …’
‘But then I moved on to putting lots of more dangerous chemicals in the atmosphere, after that.’ All of our problems now, are his fault! Are his fault. This is the thing. What did CFCs, and what did
all the new stuff, the Freon and things he put in fridges… …fix? What was there before? What’s more dangerous than that? What’s more immediate. If you didn’t know,
because to be fair, they didn’t know… what would happen with CFCs. If you don’t know that.
What are they a safe alternative to? Some other kind of gas that’s cooling Ammonia. [CHORUS] Ah! Ammonia is very good at being compressed.
And as a heat exchanger, it’s pretty much unparalleled. But it is extremely toxic and
extremely unsafe and a little bit… There are some alternatives.
I’ve got chloromethane or propane. Ooh! Propane powered fridge! Yes! That’s… It’s not ideal. Electrical fault… Yes. That was one of the problems with it. You are just coming back to lots of houses with holes in their roofs, where the fridges went upwards. That kind of thing. If it’s good enough for Indiana Jones… Yes. He basically invented the idea of using CFCs as refrigerants, and then into aerosol spray cans. And… things like that. -And he won medals for this, because, to be fair…
-Oh, he would have. -They did…
-Better than the alternative. Better than the alternative, but the
long term consequences weren’t known The King’s Medal for Environmental ****ery, I think. He’s actually on an interesting list, in Wikipedia. because the manner of his death is also somewhat unusual. Is he on the list of unusual deaths on Wikipedia? He is. Auto-erotic asphyxiation? You’re right on two words there. Auto and asphyxiation. He didn’t do an Isadora Duncan, did he? You are going to have to explain that reference. Isadora Duncan, Nineteen, twentieth century actress, was killed by her scarf becoming entangled in the back wheel. Her long scarf in an open top car, becoming entangled in the back wheel. I thought you said Wizadora. Very different. He contracted polio, at 51. Which left him quite severely disabled.
So he’s an inventor. He’s bed ridden. He didn’t invent the iron lung did he? No, the motorised bed. He’s got a grabby system of
a series of ropes and pulleys. Point. [DING] And he accidentally roped and pulley’d himself. Point again [DING] Absolutely right. He invented an
elaborate system of strings and pulleys… and he got entangled in it,
and there was nothing he could do about that. That is a heck of a way to go! Did he end up getting buried in lead? Lead casket, yeah. I doubt it? With a lot of coolant. They buried him in a fridge. -Lead fridge.
-A lead fridge. So at the end of the show. Congratulations Matt. I’m giving you the win here. You win a hellbound Ford Transit, previously owned by a Belgian action star,
that’s had a genetic copy made of its mandible. Van Damme’s… van…? Van Damme’s damned van… and… something. It’s Jean Claude van Damme’s
damned clone-jawed van. I tried! So congratulations there. With that, we say goodbye to Chris Joel. To Gary Brannan. To Matt Gray. Bye bye YouTube. I’ve been Tom Scott and we’ll see you next time. [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]