James takes to the air to help an Oxfordshire town with its diamond jubilee celebration. He also tests whether it is possible to make your own luck.
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Hello and welcome to Man Lab,
which stands like a warmly lit wayside tavern
on a road ruined by the potholes of our own incompetence.
And where the weary traveller may drink deeply of the sawdusty draught
of reassurance that everything will be OK.
Or something like that.
'On today's rainy Wednesday afternoon at school...'
Stand clear. Fire in the hole!
'..we give a whole town its daily bread.'
He's desperate for a bun, that bloke. His head is like a skull, Simmy, you've got to get him.
'We take the reins of time's winged chariot with our own clock.'
What could be simpler than that, apart from obvious things like quantum physics?
'And we explore complex mathematical probability theory via 300 cans of lager.'
Three, two, one! Aaaaaaarrrghhh!
Yeah, so we've had a letter from Ian Littlejohn.
He's a councillor in the Oxfordshire town of Abingdon.
And he says, "Abingdon has an ancient tradition of throwing buns
"from the top of our town hall to the assembled populous for royal events."
"It usually attracts several thousand spectators
"and the local councillors throw approximately 6,000 currant buns.
"However, we have a problem and we wondered if you could help."
I'm sure we can.
'This might sound like the sort of thing we would just make up. It isn't.
'Abingdon's obsession with chucking buns at its citizens stretches back centuries.
'Every time there's a royal event, out come the buns.
'All the way back to eyewitness accounts of low-flying hot crossers at the coronation
'of King George III in 1760.'
' "Let them eat buns," cry the burghers of Abingdon.
'And the dough-faced citizens swarm into the streets like yeast-crazed fanatics.
'Old photographs show crowds in a bun frenzy,
'so deprived of entertainment that a pelted bun must have seemed like a PlayStation 3.'
But, if anything, it gets worse.
Let's move forward to the modern colour age, the 1990s,
the rise of the me-me-me culture, the decline of community values.
We find tragic scenes such as this.
If you look carefully, you will see this girl has three buns to herself.
This woman over here has three buns.
Somebody back here has two buns. Somebody is catching buns in a hat.
But what about this poor urchin here? He has nothing.
He is our wart for this operation.
Let's not forget, he will now be in his twenties.
He must be starving.
Well, they throw all these buns
and the crowds are massive, you know.
You're literally up against one another like in a football ground.
And it's impossible, unless you're very lucky, to catch one, you know.
I'd say the amount of buns that actually make it to the back,
about one or two, not even that.
We try as hard as we can.
But if we're wearing robes, they do inhibit you rather.
Last year, people were going home with five or six at the front.
Those at the back were not getting any.
With James's help, hopefully, we can get them spread out so more people can get buns.
It's a very old and very worthy idea.
The re-distribution of wealth.
The idea that riches should trickle down from the top to the people underneath.
From the rich to the poor,
we are the Robin Hoods of slightly stale bakery items.
'This then is our battlefield, Abingdon town square,
'clearly constructed to resemble a giant hot cross bun.
'Come the jubilee, we'll be perched on top of the town hall,
'rivalling the Shard at a colossal 20 metres high.
'But if we are to successfully throw buns to the farthest reaches of the square,
'we need to introduce Abingdon to the white heat of technology and science, which will feed us all.'
So, here we go. 300 years in to the great tradition of throwing buns
off the roof of the town hall, we have introduced the theodolite.
Looks very complicated. The principle is very simple.
It sort of draws invisible optical triangles in the air.
You will remember from trigonometry that, if you know angles and a few distances,
you can then work out all the sides of the triangle,
so we can get distances away, heights above the ground and so on.
The point of this is, if we've got very accurate dimensions,
we can work out very accurate trajectories that the buns need to follow.
In order for this to work, you have to point it at the little prism on the top of Aaron's rod here,
which means Simmy will press the buttons on this because he's very brainy.
I'm going to go back down the 108 wooden steps of ye olde town hall and stand in the square with this.
None shall pass!
Shall we do a reading from the centre of the cross in the square?
The cross in the pavement? I'm advancing.
You can advance. I don't have to do anything. This machine will follow you.
That is unbelievable. You want to look down here.
The machine now automatically follows the prism to there.
The centre of the cross in the centre of the cross in the centre of the square.
You are now... Horizontal distance from me is 30 metres
and your slope distance is 35 metres.
This will be the most accurate reconnaissance for a bun-chucking mission
ever attempted in the history of Abingdon.
Your slope distance 55 metres, so we are getting quite far away.
I think we'll be hard pushed to get that kind of distance.
'Thanks to the theodolite, we know that our buns must reach a distance of 55 metres
'if they're to reach the most dejected and leprous peasants at the back of the square.'
'But recording mere distances is simply not enough.
'In order to be truly accurate, we need to cater for the height
'and catching variances of all the citizens of Abingdon.'
I can't help think we're making this complicated.
Distances in metres accurate to three or four decimal places.
It's not as if the bun is standard.
We won't be able to make it land exactly there.
I've got a better idea. I've got a really good idea.
This is Jonathan Whaley. He's a highly experienced classic jet-fighter display pilot
and an ex-Royal Navy aerial warfare instructor.
He is eminently qualified to throw some stale bakery produce
out of the window of a small Cessna.
-So, any questions?
-Let's go, I'm ready for it.
-Monday, it is.
'And so began the first flight of the Abingdon bunner command.
'Our target, representing Abingdon citizens the world over,
'is our cardboard cut out of Will, our producer.
'In the past, he's survived being shot by duelling pistols and being crushed by falling trees.
'Can he withstand an aerial assault with the contents of a Greggs?'
In the RAF during the Second World War,
there were 300 pilots named Baker, 60 named Bun and one named Cake.
'In-flight entertainment over, we've got to start flying really low
'if we're to successfully slam the man not cut out for his job.'
And reducing altitude.
'And I mean REALLY low.'
Five degrees. Five degrees, bun doors open.
'There are more bun puns to come.'
30 feet, 30 feet.
'Target in sight.'
OK, bunbardier, make it a good one.
'Goner, goner. Will has been bunned.'
'Stuff poncing about with the theodolite.
'We now have proof that rapid aerial delivery would give 50% accuracy.
'And only mild concussion.
'Ecstatic, we took our proposal to the Abingdon council.'
-Can James do some low-level bunning?
'But, judging by the hammering sounds traumatising the chickens outside Simmy's kitchen,
'he may have a plan B.'
Our plan today is to make a catapult.
'Sim sets to work, accompanied by cheesy doing music,
'welding up a framework from mild steel.'
That'll be our frame. Then we stick it on something similar to this.
'In engineering circles, this is known as a long bit.
'With the long bit attached, Simmy also fashions a trigger mechanism.
'This is becoming less of a catapult, more of a hot crossbow.'
Off it goes.
'Following art shots of the angle grinder, the final stage is to attach bungee cord to the frame.'
'When this is extended, it's held by the trigger.'
..that seems to work.
'Now too the bun-firing buts.'
-How accurate is this?
-Well, if I aim for the middle of the gate.
-What if I go and stand in there? Can you...?
See if you can actually fire it into my hands because,
I'm just thinking, if this is a device that fires a single bun,
-the really needy people who never get a bun, we can fire buns at.
-Yeah. All right.
People who maybe aren't quite up to the fray.
'It's a good 40 metres to the gate.
'If you add in a 20-metre drop, as we'll be firing from the top of the town hall,
'then if we can reach this, we should clear the square.'
-Yeah. Give me that bun, man.
There's a bit of wind.
'This is a precision pastry projectile system.
'The sort of thing 3D TVs were invented for.
'If only we'd thought to film it that way.
'With this, we can slam a bun into the mewling gob of a hungry child from 60 metres.
'The only problem is, we need to fire a heck of a lot of buns
'and our hot crossbow is a one-shot deal.'
-Perfect. OK, what else you got?
You might recognise this.
-That's the Christmas tree bauble mortar.
'Yes, in a display of ingenuity that will justify your licence fee for years to come,
Simmy has spent 15 minutes digging out
the bauble mortar from our Christmas special last year.'
The idea being, one big valve,
which will let whatever compressed air is in this part out very quickly.
And out they'll come. Simple in theory.
We're going to give it a go now.
'Pressure up to full. Here we go.'
-There we go.
'Before you can say, "Didn't that happen on the Christmas special?" Simmy has identified the problem.'
There's so much air rushing past.
What about some sort of wadding, like a shotgun cartridge?
-Oh, I've thought of that, James.
-So I came up with that.
So that now is a nice fit.
So no air escapes around the side of our buns.
Ramrod just to get it...
What we're looking at here is the mechanisation,
the industrialisation, of food distribution,
which a lot of people object to.
They think it's not proper, local, or rustic.
Let's face it, the population is expanding and this is the way they get fed.
If you don't embrace this sort of thing,
you end up with a place like Abingdon full of starving peasants.
And nobody wants that. So, raising pressure.
-I like that.
-'Buns to rain over us.'
'So thanks to the cutting-edge tech of a small foam bung,
'we can now give Abingdon a currant-bun carpet bomb.'
With that sort of trajectory, you're going that far,
plus we've got the drop, you'll be able to mortar the shops opposite.
You'll be able to fire buns through the windows.
The only slight problem is,
the loading procedure is quite convoluted and there's,
I don't know, something like 5,500 buns.
-All those braying, starving people who haven't eaten since Charles and Diana got married.
And all those councillors wanting to throw buns as well.
We need a sort of... A more rapid-fire solution.
Well, yeah, there is something I'm working on.
I mean, given that the crossbow does, like, one a minute,
this'll do six a minute. But I'm working on something that will do about one a second.
'We're not going to reveal until part two exactly what this is,
'only that it can do this...'
I don't know what Sim's secret weapon is.
But I do know that it's part of an extremely...
NOISE OF WEAPON DROWNS OUT VOICE
This is true progress.
'Coming up, will our bun battery be up to bunmaggedon?
'And will we run out of cheap bun-based gags?'
Hey! Load the bunderbuss!
Now, the other day we noticed that there isn't actually a clock anywhere in the Man Lab,
which isn't a problem because we can go out and buy one very easily.
But where's the skill in that?
This is Man Lab, so we're going to make one.
All timepieces in the world rely in some way on natural phenomena.
Even the most ancient of clocks, the sundial,
relies on the movement of the sun through the heavens,
which is an immutable, it will always be the same.
A clockwork wristwatch has an oscillating spring.
Even an atomic clock is based on something natural.
There's another one that we're going to use, the flow of water.
Even a bucket with a hole in it, if the hole is the right size,
will give you a rudimentary egg-timer sort of clock.
But Simmy has been working on something more complicated involving siphons. Simmy.
We're going to have a constant flow down to a siphon.
As you know, with siphons, if you let water go into them slow enough
they won't siphon because they'll never get to the point
-where the water goes over the top of the siphon to actually draw in, draw down the water.
'I'm saying "right" in a vaguely confident manner but, actually, this is all quite complicated.
'We need to go back to first principles.
'Here's what any petrol thief knows.
'You draw liquid from a container through a pipe like this.
'Once it reaches the point where it's lower than the liquid in the container,
'it will continue to flow unassisted.
'So if you keep topping up the original container, you can maintain a constant flow.
'Because the chalk drawing is a bit baffling,
we set up a simple prototype siphon to show how a series of them
could manage the flow of water very accurately.'
'If the siphons fill and discharge regularly,
'then it should be a simple matter to join them up to a display.
'Another natural phenomenon as the basis of a clock.'
It's absolutely spot on.
That always goes back to the same level, which means the same amount is coming out. That's important.
Everyone will be constantly rushing to the bog with this thing going on in the background.
'After going for a wee-wee, Simmy's ready to reveal more
'of his increasingly complicated time and motion plan.
'Time will be read on the clock by our minute indicator,
'which will have 30 holes, each of which takes two minutes to fill.
'When the minute indicator is full, the water will flow into the hour indicator, which has 12 holes.'
If three windows in this were full and three windows in that were full,
it would be six minutes past three in the morning.
-Or the afternoon because it's a 12-hour clock.
There you go. What could be simpler than that?
Apart from obvious things like quantum physics.
'Any timepiece is as useless as a speed hump on a runway unless it's accurate.
'And this is true of ours.
'The slightest leak could completely ruin our clock's precision.
'So to be extra careful, we make a wooden template for each part first,
'so we can cut the real Perspex parts with absolute accuracy.
'Once our Perspex pieces are cut,
'it's time to construct our chronometer.'
We must get on with this, Simmy, because, as Omar Khayyam said,
"The stars are setting,
"the caravan starts for the dawn of nothing. Oh, make haste."
'The great thing about this, as opposed to a longcase clock,
'is that we'll mount it on a large wheeled frame
'so the whole thing is completely portable around the Man Lab.
'It'll be as versatile as a wristwatch.
'So, with our Perspex components exactly in position,
'suddenly, from nothing but the mind of Simmy and precision engineering,
'stands the Man Lab water clock.'
You join us at a very exciting moment.
We are about to add water to our water clock for the very first time.
And you will know that the poet Larkin said,
"If I were called in to construct a new religion, I would make use of water."
And that's what we've done here. Time is our god.
-How are you doing?
-You should see it come into that bottom tank soon.
Can you see water coming through?
-We have water?
Simmy's plumbing in the pump that maintains the head of water at the top.
'This is it, then, zero hour for the Man Lab water clock.'
MUSIC: "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss
Oh, it's leaking like a bastard.
-Yeah, let's close that off.
-Right. Stop it. Close the valve.
That's what I... No... That's...
Where's the ladder gone? I've banged my head on... Ah! No, chair. Chair will do it.
-Why is there another hole there?
-Oh, I don't know.
Shouldn't be a hole there. I'll have to keep my finger in it.
'We'd like to tell you how long we spent on repairs, unfortunately, our clock was broken.'
Simmy's water clock, really,
it defers to the Romans and their aqueducts,
the canal builders of the Industrial Revolution
and our clock-making grandfathers.
It really is a remarkable bubbling thing.
So you can see it work more clearly,
Simmy's now going to add dye to the water.
# Our eyes are watering, mama... #
'Now this may look a little complex, so here's how it works.
'Water is pumped up from the tank at the bottom to the top.
'It then travels down through our siphon system,
'which releases water every two minutes into our minute gauge.
'So each hole filled here represents two minutes of time.
'Once the minute gauge is full, the water is dumped into the hour gauge
'where each hole filled is one hour.
'Then at midnight or midday, when everything is full,
'the whole system is dumped back to the water tank to start again.'
Simmy reckons he's fixed the leaks in the clock and it's running perfectly.
But to see if he's right, we need to check it against the real time.
And to find the real time,
I'm going to use one of the most ancient methods known to humankind,
which is, of course, the talking clock.
'At the third stroke, the time will be 10:52 and 10 seconds.'
Right, let's find out.
Ten... Two, four, six, eight. 52.
'To use the strict horological term, that's bob on.
'The Man Lab water clock is complete and accurately recording our tardiness.
'Wave goodbye to boring wall clocks
'and welcome this gurgling monument to doing things the hard way.'
That's marvellous. But now it's time for something different.
We've all done this, of course.
You've been out with your mates who live in the country,
you've had a good night out, maybe had a few too many,
then you miss the last historic steam train from the local station.
What do you do? There's nobody here to help you.
The signalman sits in his signal box
staring dispassionately at his chipped thermos flask.
You crash out. If it's summer, here's a bench,
here's a nice grassy knoll. You can kip down there.
Wait for the next train in the morning.
But what if it's winter? What if it's freezing cold? What if it's raining?
We think we have an idea.
You join me in Man Lab's top-secret inflatable novelties department
where air can be used to sustain anything,
even a small igloo-like building such as that one.
We're going to use it for what we call the snore-kel.
The meaning of this will become clear. Here's a bit of a prototype.
It's lifejacket technology.
This is polyurethane held together with seams.
This is a small valve device with a hand trigger,
like the one you're supposed to pull after your airliner has ditched in the sea.
I have in my pocket an air canister.
This would simply screw into here like so and then...
I hope I don't let myself down.
..pull the string and nothing happens.
Pull the string...
That, we think, is the basis of a very good night's sleep anywhere.
I've missed the last historic steam train again and it's raining.
However, this time, I am wearing the snore-kel.
And to look at it would appear to be a typical coat of the sort
available from any retailer of clothing to the railway enthusiast.
But watch this.
Undo the two pockets.
Remove the three ripcords.
And then, very swiftly...
The great thing about this is that it can be used in pretty much any situation.
'Inexplicably sleepy at an adventure playground?
'Watch your snore-kel inflate like a butterfly leaving the chrysalis.
'Tight, uncomfortable spaces are transformed into near womb-like levels of comfort.
'A bottle bank becomes a sought-after open-plan studio.
'A small wall transforms into a plush orthopaedic bed.
'And a phone box...
'..now indistinguishable from a state-of-the-art Hong Kong penthouse.'
Hello, darling. I'll be home tomorrow. Goodbye.
'The snore-kel. Enjoy a night under the stars in comfort,
'safe in the knowledge that no one has any clue that you've been sleeping rough.'
That was one round of the most perilous game of chance known to man, The Beer Hunter.
And it is, of course, a complete game of chance.
Do you take the can that's been shaken up or do you not take it?
Here's a question, one that's concerning us a great deal in Man Lab,
can you make your own luck in a game of chance?
Maybe you can. Step this way.
We're going to talk about something called the Monty Hall Problem,
named after Monty Hall, the host of an American TV quiz show called Let's Make A Deal.
Typically, in the show, the winning contestant would be presented
with three mystery prizes in boxes, you can't see what they are.
One of them is a good prize, the other two are duff prizes.
In our case, one of these boxes contains a lovely large slice of gala pie.
The other two contain a bowl of dreary salad.
At this point, the game show host says to me...
Good luck. Pick a box.
I'm going to say, "I choose box one." And the game show host says...
You've made your choice.
I shall now help you out by revealing that in box three
there is a dreary salad. Now that you've seen that,
would you like to change your mind?
Now, at this point, many of you at home, I imagine, will be going,
"But that's just a 50/50 chance. What can you do about it?"
But not so. According to game theorists,
who have been working on this sort of thing since the 1930s,
I should change my mind and I stand more chance of winning.
So, yes, please, I would like this box instead.
I don't get that at all.
-That is a piece of gala pie.
-That's a piece of pie, you got it right. I don't understand the maths.
I know what you mean. It doesn't seem to make sense because that box has gone,
but we know what was in it, so that seems to change the odds.
But, apparently, and this has been debated for decades
by statisticians, by PhD mathematicians,
and it is supposedly true. In that situation,
you should change your mind.
So what we're going to do to test the theory
is play the Monty Hall version of The Beer Hunter.
Three cans per round, two are explosive, one is safe.
But, of course, that's not very scientific either.
The only way we can make this statistically viable is to play 100 rounds.
MUSIC: "Cavatina" ("The Theme from The Deer Hunter") by Stanley Myers
So, just to reiterate, each of the 100 rounds of The Beer Hunter
will feature three tins of beer.
Two of them will have been banged on the Anvil of Doom by Rory over there.
Viet Tom will present me with the three tins and I will choose one.
He will then remove one of the remaining dangerous ones.
He will offer me the opportunity to change my mind.
And I'm always going to change my mind,
meaning Sim is always left with the one remaining tin.
Helen over there will keep score of how often each one of us buys the farm.
And if the game theory is correct,
Simmy should end up covered in more beer than me.
And now, to set the mood and increase the tension,
some insect noises from the BBC Sound Archive
and some artistic camera shots.
Most game theorists will predict that Simmy will lose two-thirds of the time,
or 66.6%, with me only losing one third, or 33.3%.
Three cans. I pick one and Tom takes away a dangerous one.
Are you going to open that one yourself?
'I then always change my mind and pick the other can,
'leaving Simmy with the remaining one.
'Come on, game theory, do your thing.'
Three, two, one. Fire.
So this is why we have to do this properly over 100 rounds
because one go doesn't prove anything statistically.
I lost that. I'm dead.
But, overall, well, let's see.
Three, two, one.
Three, two, one. Fire.
'Three rounds in and game theory is beginning to look
'about as relevant to the real world as The Golden Shot.
'Sergeant Simmy's winning streak has been broken. The game is on.'
Three, two, one.
Three, two, one!
# There's blood in the streets, it's up to my ankles
# There's blood in the streets it's up to my knees
# There's blood in the streets in the town of Chicago... #
Oh, my God!
# Just about the break of day... #
# She came and then she drove away... #
Just to be absolutely clear, this is a pure experiment.
I can't see what they're doing. I'm not cheating. I don't look when I choose the tin.
This is absolutely a statistical experiment.
And the score is, Simmy has died 28 times to my nine.
Halfway through The Beer Hunter.
'It was at this point that things started to get a little strange.'
INSECT AND BIRD NOISES
'What we didn't realise was that,
'although we weren't actually drinking the beer,
'the sheer amount of CO2 released from the cans into our sweaty tent
'was giving everyone low-grade hypercapnia,
'or carbon dioxide poisoning.
'Do not try this kind of mathematical research at home
'or in a pound-shop mock-up of Vietnam.
'Thoughts of game theory and clever number crunching had fallen away.
'Our clothes dripped with beer, our fingers, shrivelled and wrinkled,
'fumbled with soft nails at ceaseless ring pulls.
'Pneumonia had taken Simmy.'
'Collateral damage was everywhere.
'The horror. The horror.'
# This is the end... #
-Five rounds left.
-# Beautiful friend
# This is the end
# My only friend, the end
# Of our elaborate plans, the end
# Of everything that stands, the end #
Come on! Ah! Ah!
60-39. What does that mean?
Final round, gentlemen. Final round.
Two, one, fire.
'Despite our escape attempt, the final point would have been to me.'
So the final score, Simmy dies 60 times,
I've died 40 times, meaning what?
'Four hot baths later and with therapy for post-alcoholic stress disorder pending,
'we tried once more to figure out the maths.'
Here is a theory that Tom and I have come up with.
And this is after a great deal of heated debate.
Let's say I choose this can,
there's a 33% chance that that is the safe one,
and there's a 66% chance that the safe one is in those two.
But this is where it all becomes a bit corrupted because Viet Tom,
the game show host, comes in to remove a can
but he has to remove a dangerous one, let's say it's that one.
Now, of course, that one could be dangerous as well
but there's now a 50/50 chance that that is the safe one.
Somehow, 17% of the odds disappear with that can
because Tom has to take a dangerous one.
So I should swap from my original 33% chance to my new 50% chance.
And the amazing thing is, if you extrapolate the ratio 50 to 33,
you arrive at 60 to 39.6,
or only 0.4 adrift from the result we got.
That's less than half a tin of beer out
from what our theory would predict.
So if you are a proper statistician,
please do not write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org
because our brains hurt very badly already.
But I think something we have demonstrated is that luck itself is not to be trusted.
As the American author R E Shay said,
"Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will,
"but remember it didn't work for the rabbit."
Now, here is a problem encountered by modern man everywhere.
You are abroad. Let's say you're in Tokyo.
You don't speak Japanese but that's not a problem
because you've bought this very handy Japanese phrase book.
Let's imagine I'm at the station.
I want to know what time the next train is and which platform it goes from.
Fortunately enough, that very phrase is in my Japanese book
and it tells me phonetically how I say it in Japanese.
And more to the point, here is a helpful Japanese man I can ask.
REPLIES IN JAPANESE
And there you see the problem.
I don't understand what he's saying because I can't speak Japanese.
The very reason the phrase book existed in the first place
is the reason it's completely redundant.
# I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
# He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich... #
Our linguistic mission was launched when we discovered that research into chimps shows that language
as we know it today evolved out of gestures.
Chimps have a wide range of meanings that come from gestures.
An attempt to teach one actual sign language in the '60s,
resulted in it having a vocabulary of over 200 words.
So the first human words were, in fact, movements and not sounds.
And that got us thinking.
Everybody in the world knows that that means, "Give me a ring."
This means, "The bill, please." This means money.
This means, "Let's eat."
So, is there a universally understood sign language
that could be available to everyone?
Is there an Esperanto of body language
so that we can demolish the Tower of Babel for ever? Let's find out.
'This is Richard and Judi. Richard Knight is a professional mime artist
'and Judi James is a psychologist who specialises in body language.
'Over the rest of the day, they help us develop our revolutionary new silent language.'
Get rid of what you know in your head and start from a blank canvas.
So you need to do it on their map of the world rather than yours.
You know that you want an apple but you've got to make them understand
what would they see as a signal for an apple.
'It should be stressed that we're not trying to do sign language, which isn't international.
'There are not only different sign languages for different countries,
'it also relies heavily on spelling words out.
'Whereas, our language is purely gesture-based.'
Basically, it's doing one thing at a time. Even the body says one thing.
Like the whole body's surprised. But it's one thing.
It's like going, "Surprise," then go straight into something else.
Make sure you eliminate everything else that it isn't.
If you grab like an apple, you want to eliminate that it's not a peach or pear or something.
So I might want to rub it first.
'We spent hours watching Richard and Judi.
'But in order to see if our silent language would be a success,
'we needed a way of testing it in the field.
'And what better place to try out our universal language solution
'than somewhere that spends over a billion pounds a year
'on interpreters and translation...'
More specifically, here at the European Parliament,
where the leaders of our great nations gather to misunderstand each other.
Here you can see the exact problem we're dealing with.
The same simple thing said over and over and over again,
23 times, just slightly differently.
Let's see if we can take the first tentative steps
towards universal understanding.
'This is Guy from the Man Lab. He's armed with phrase books.
'I'm armed with the new Man Lab Universal Silent Language, or MUSL.
'In order to test it, we've been given a list of four tourist spots
'to reach in a sort of race for comprehension across the city.'
Here's how it works. It's a sort of time trial, a bit like the Isle of Man TT.
I will be given the first destination, no idea what it is yet.
I'm given a ten-minute head start.
Then Guy is given it and he sets off using his phrase books.
At the end of the race, we'll see who's taken the least time to get around
and who's taken the least time on each stage.
So we have a series of results we can manipulate to show that mine is better.
Are you ready, Guy?
-Good. Let's begin.
'Our first place to get directions for
'is the Belgium Natural History Museum,
'distinctive for this rather ferocious Iguanodon guarding the entrance.'
TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH:
'I'm trying to remember Richard and Judi's advice
'of doing one clear gesture at a time.'
'But the grand unveiling of MUSL
'isn't going as smoothly as I'd hoped.'
'I don't see what's so tricky to understand.'
'It's clearly the universal Iguanodon gesture.'
-Sort of Michael Jackson. A wolf?
Statue of a monster or a lion, like on a flag or something? No? OK.
'I've picked the wrong single gesture to focus on
'or, as Judi would say, I'm not getting into their heads
'and picturing how THEY would describe this.
'Time to re-group.'
-There's a museum of dinosaurs.
-Oh, yeah, it's round there.
'So the first test of the Man Lab Universal Silent Language
'is an unmitigated disaster.
'Can the phrase book do any better?'
GUY SPEAKS HALTING FRENCH
'Yes, it can. Guy will probably be fired after this challenge is over
'and I'm going to have to refine my approach drastically if I'm going to pull this back.
'Destination two is the Belgian Comic Strip Center,
'home to Brussels' most famous investigative man boy, Tintin.
'I find a lady who can't run away from me
'as she's apparently been glued to this step since 2005.'
'I have another go.
'I'm going to try Richard's method of describing one thing at a time.
'So, comic book.
'Little dog. And, suddenly, a break through.'
'It's the first real success for the Man Lab Universal Silent Language.
'But it took me a whopping five-and-a-half minutes to get there.
'Hot on my heels, team phrase book.'
Tres bien. Merci. Merci beaucoup.
'Guy spends the next five minutes wandering around,
'as he has no idea what "A cote de la Grand Place" means.
'But he still manages to get to the Belgian Comic Strip Center before me
'despite my ten-minute head start.
'Next up, the Magritte Museum.
'Your one-stop shop for bowler-hatted businessmen
'floating in the sky and pipes that are not a pipe.'
'It's Magritte, Guy.'
'So far, the phrase book has been reasonably faultless
'but it does fall down when you start asking for places that don't exist.'
Tres bien paintings.
Ah, si! Ah, oui, oui! Oui, oui!
Museum of Magritte. Magritte.
'After six minutes, team phrase book finally gets the goods.'
'So the first cracks are starting to show in the phrase book.
'On the other hand, MUSL was finally starting to find its feet.'
# But there's silence here instead
# We just want to talk, you can never talk enough
# But we can't even talk no more
# So how we supposed to love...? #
'Despite proving that multicultured gesture conversations are possible
'and the way forward for the future, team phrase book is in the lead,
'having reached the Magritte Museum. Now Guy needs directions to the final destination.
'The most famous statue in Brussels, the literally named Manneken Pis.'
Looking for, er...
Ja, ja, ja.
-The jungen pis?
'I may be lagging behind but, while the phrase book is descending into increasing gibberish,
'the Man Lab Universal Silent Language is becoming more streamlined than ever.'
Oh, you would like to... Ah, Manneken Pis.
Manneken Pis is, um...
I think it's this direction in the centre. You should go down here.
'As I race like a tongueless stallion towards the small urinating child,
'I'm under no illusions that I've got no hope of catching up with Guy.
'But that's almost irrelevant.
'The fact is, that after some refining, the universal language mime does work
'and we can finally all be united under one...
'Well, hang on, where is Guy?'
-Thank you very much.
-You made it.
-And Guy's not here.
If Guy takes more than ten minutes to turn up, officially, I've won,
and that'll be a triumph for the single European mime, or the...
And let's be honest, this has been one afternoon's experiment.
New words take decades, even centuries, to emerge,
and we have already arrived at universally internationally recognised symbols
for a dinosaur and a small urinating statue.
That's a triumph.
'Nine minutes and 50 seconds later and Guy is still looking for the boy's piss.'
# And tenement halls
# And whispered in
# The sounds of silence. #
Man Lab's newly formed humanitarian charity
has been hard at work in the Oxfordshire town of Abingdon,
hoping to feed the starving masses.
So now let's go and see how Bunned Aid is getting on.
'Earlier on in the show, we were approached by the right honourable
'council of Abingdon, whose traditional bun-throwing ceremony
'for the Queen's jubilee was in danger of leaving its citizens both hot and cross.'
The amount of buns that actually make it to the back, about one or two.
'Our mission was to find a way to launch buns from the roof
'of the town hall to reach the peasant masses in the square below.
'Even the lazy ne'er do wells at the back.
'After a few false starts with bun-delivery systems...'
'..we finally had a bun-blasting armoury that was a match for the braying and starving proletariat.'
'As morning dawns on the day of the jubilee, though,
'there's just one thing we hadn't considered.
'It's chucking it down.'
And so you join me in Abingdon town square on a glorious June 3rd 2012.
As I'm sure you can see, royal fervour is all around me.
The town is almost at breaking point. What a glorious day.
In honour of both Her Majesty and the British weather,
I've worn this uniform of red, white and grey.
60 years on the throne, long to reign over us.
'If this rain keeps up, it won't matter if our bun launchers can reach the back of the square.
'There may be nobody down there to fire them at.
'But as the first soggy jubilee celebrators start to trickle in,
'morale remains patriotically high. This is a town
'that's hungry for buns.'
Moved from Bristol to Oxfordshire, heard about the bun fight.
Just met the man himself, James May, fantastic.
Waiting to see how far they project those buns.
If I catch one today, I'll go mad.
Boast about it loads. Go absolutely mental.
This is the highlight of the whole weekend.
The bun throwing, that is what we're here for.
Last year, we came to try and catch a bun, didn't manage it.
Royal wedding, big disaster for us. This year, we'll catch a bun.
It's personal, it's vengeance and we're going to take that bun home. It will be a glorious moment.
If I catch a bun, hopefully, I'll be the envy of everyone
because I'll be amazing at catching buns.
'This is it. Crowd or no,
'a delivery of 7,000 buns means the stage is set.
'On the rooftops, a lone pigeon scout
'stands watchful for the oncoming barrage of crumbs.
'In the streets, security guards carry giant oven grills for torturing Roundheads.
'Just a few days ago, the town square looked like this.
'Today, on the jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,
'1926 to unknown,
'it looks like this.'
This then is what makes Britain truly great.
Yes, we have our Queen, long may she reign over us.
And we have our pageantry and our parks and our great buildings.
But, most of all, we have the capacity of the British people
to stand in the pouring rain waiting to be pelted with a currant confectionery,
the meaning of which is deeply buried in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
People who, every five minutes, turn their eyes skywards and say,
"Do you know what? I think it's brightening up."
'On the roof, the Abingdon town council battalion readies its first assault.
'The thousand-strong crowd means
'that the small and weak are stuck at the back.'
-The buns are in hand.
'And then, without warning or battle cry,
'the throwing begins.'
'It's a valiant attempt, but nowhere near enough.'
'Even the council's most experienced bun handlers are fumbling their aim
'and vast swathes of jubileers at the back aren't getting anything.
'Time for the hot crossbow.'
-James, where are we going?
-Right, down there.
-To your left,
there's a miserable-looking woman, hasn't got a single bun.
Fire at will.
That got a cheer. Reload.
'The hot crossbow dropped a bun benefit right into the hands of the needy.'
He's desperate for a bun, that bloke.
His head is like a skull, Simmy, you've got to get him.
Wait for it, skull face. Here it comes. Fire.
'It's a near miss. But with a crowd this huge, we can't afford to make mistakes.
'And, as we feared, the hot crossbow is just taking too long to fire off single shots.'
Sod it! Let's turn the mortar round and fire at that lot.
-Load the bunderbuss.
'As Simmy readies the bunderbuss mortar, I pull out
'our special bun ammunition, printed with the faces of the entire royal succession.'
'And, as it's her jubilee, a few extra queens.'
Harry, right down the barrel.
I got one!
Browns in the spout.
'This is more like it. The bunderbuss is firing off
a baker's dozen once every 15 seconds.'
-Lower elevation. We might get those people in the window on the opposite side of the square.
Fire! Fire! Fire!
Rory, find us some starving urchins.
Breech closed. Pressure. Loaded.
Stand clear. Fire in the hole!
You got one. You got one.
You got the bun.
'But like a hot cross hydra,
'for every satisfied bun gobbler we fire at,
'another ten crop up in their place.
'The mortar is doing its best but like a plague
'of royalist currant-loving zombies, the siege keeps coming.
'Time to wheel out the big gun.'
We've had the bunderbuss, we've had the hot crossbow.
Would you please welcome Sim's secret weapon, the machine bun.
'Yes, Simmy has created the ultimate advancement in bakery ballistics.
'Slamming together a drainpipe, steel frame
'and a backpack-mounted leaf blower, before carrying it
'very carefully up the 108 antique wooden town hall steps to the roof.
'Taking care not to chip the paintwork. This is war.'
Cheers for the weapon!
Left a bit, left a bit, left a bit.
You have to hold it.
'Right. Take this.'
MUSIC: "God Save The Queen"
Are we out of buns?
'Sim is like a messiah. With just 7,000 buns,
'he seems to have fed 5,000 people.
'But had it worked?'
-Yes, we've got buns.
-I've got a bun.
I got, I think, three normal buns.
And one Prince, whatever his name, Prince Andrew I caught.
We caught quite a few buns today.
Glorious moment. Worth standing in the rain for that.
A glittering memorable day, full of golden memories of glory.
60 years on the throne. 7,000 buns.
And the people of Abingdon have eaten.
What more could this great nation ask for?
Well, I thought that was a triumphant edition of Man Lab.
We've conquered time, we've broken down the great European language barrier
and we fed the starving of Oxfordshire.
So it seems only right that we have a triumphant bell ending.
Here to play us out with Theme From Man Lab,
it's the Stone Handbell Ringers. Goodbye.
THEY PLAY THE MAN LAB THEME MUSIC
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
James travels to an Oxfordshire town where a royal tradition desperately needs his help. Can he find a way of feeding thousands of locals to save their diamond jubilee celebration using ballistics and hot crossed buns?
Man Lab also tests once and for all whether it is possible to make your own luck by beating the odds. To put it to the test, James challenges Sim to the most dramatic drinking game you will ever see.
All this and there is still time for James and the team to build a water clock and create a coat that doubles up as a bed.