These are the episode notes and errata for Pratchat episode 59, “Charlie and the Whale Factory“, discussing Pratchett’s 2005 collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch.
Feast your eyes on this video of Kat’s extraordinary Pratchett shelf!
Notes and Errata
- The episode title is of course inspired by Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which young Charlie Bucket manages to find a “golden ticket” admiring him to the magical factory of weird chocolatier Willy Wonka. We’re not entirely sure if Charlie Darwin would rather have encountered the oddities of Wonka’s factory, but he certainly didn’t seem to have enjoyed seeing the God of Evolution’s whale production line… The book was memorably filmed in 1971 as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder playing the part of Wonka, though Dahl did not like it. It was a modest success at the time, but became a cult classic in the 1980s when it was frequently broadcast on television. A 2005 adaptation using the same title as the book was directed by Tim Burton and starred Johnny Depp as Wonka, but the less said about that the better.
- We discussed The Science of Discworld II: The Globe in #Pratchat47, “A Finite Number of Shakespeares“, with guest Alanta Colley. We felt afterwards we hadn’t adequately expressed all of our feelings about it, so we discussed it a bit more in episode seven of our bonus subscriber only podcast, Ook Club, released in October 2021.
- We’ve previously mentioned Richard Dawkins in #Pratchat29 and #Pratchat47. His early books on evolution are good, and The Blind Watchmaker, published in 1986, makes a great companion piece to Darwin’s Watch. But in the early 2000s he became more and more focused on being anti-religion, and in 2006, a year after The Science of Discworld III, he published The God Delusion, which argued that any belief in a god was delusional. It became his best selling work. He has continued to attract controversy over the years, thanks to his large audience and his perceived position (until fairly recently) as a representative for atheists, whether they want him or not. He’s made enough problematic statements that there’s an entire Wikipedia article titled “Views of Richard Dawkins“.
- Redshift is an increase in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, that occurs when observing objects which are moving away from us – making the light from very fast moving objects over large distances appear redder than it truly is. This is mostly observed with the light from distant stars as the universe expands. It can happen in the opposite direction too, with the wavelengths getting shorter, which is known as blueshift. Kat mentions Terry’s use of it in Thief of Time; she also mentioned that it appears in Thud! but we cut that as we didn’t want to spoil a book we’ll be covering very soon.
- You can get a good overview of Monopoly‘s history as The Landlord’s Game via episode 189 of the 99% Invisible podcast, “The Landlord’s Game“. In recent years there’s been renewed interest in Elizabeth Magie’s original 1904 game, which tried to popularise Georgism, an alternate form of land tax. You can find out way more about it at landlords-game.com. Meanwhile, if you still think the modern game is fair, check out this monopolynerd.com blog post from 2012 which breaks down the probability of getting a full set of properties through luck (i.e. landing on them and buying them, without having to trade with other players), based on turn order.
- I’m You, Dickhead is officially available for free here on YouTube. Note that it really lives up to the title; there’s swearing and the protagonist truly is a dickhead.
- Bees and wasps (and ants) are members of the order Hymenoptera, a group of insects that includes more than 150,000 species. Spider wasps, the parasitic wasps which prey on spiders, are in the family Pompilidae; there are around 5,000 species of them, most of which specialise in specific kinds of spider.
- The telephone is usually attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, who was the first American to be granted a patent for the device in February 1876. But even at the time this was controversial; rival inventor Elisha Gray also filed for a patent the same day, and Bell’s patent was suspended for three months so the matter could be settled – which it was, eventually, in Bell’s favour. But there are plenty of good reasons to think this wasn’t entirely fair or just… (Ben didn’t mean to conflate this dispute with the War of the Currents, but they two conflicts have a very similar vibe.)
- Elizabeth Fulhame was a chemist lived in Edinburgh in the late 18th century, though some details of her life are lost to history. The book from which Kat quotes is An Essay On Combustion with a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting, wherein the Phlogistic and Antiphlogistic Hypotheses are Proved Erroneous, which she published in 1794. Catalysis, which she describes in the book, is the now commonplace practice of speeding up a reaction between two chemicals by using a third substance, a catalyst, which isn’t affected by the reaction.
- Kat is remembering The Science of Doctor Who, which did indeed star Brian Cox and was broadcast on BBC Two in November 2013 as part of the programme’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations… Which means Ben has it one the Blu-Ray box set he has of all those anniversary specials!
- We’ve previously mentioned the cellulose billiard balls way back in #Pratchat1, “Boots Theory” (about Men at Arms), and #Pratchat10, “We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Broomstick“ (about Moving Pictures). The 99% Invisible episode about the invention of cellulose mentioned by Ben is The Post-Billiards Age from May 2015, which we also mentioned in both of those episodes.
More notes coming soon!
Thanks for reading our notes! If we missed anything, or you have questions, please let us know.