Lateral with Tom Scott

Comedy panel game podcast about weird questions with wonderful answers, hosted by Tom Scott.

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Episode 1: The elevator where you're "born again"

Published 14th October, 2022

Matt Parker, Bill Sunderland and Dani Siller face questions about a 'born again' elevator, a bronze medal failure and a very expensive Danish supermarket.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT & EDITED BY: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITOR: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Josh Halbur, Ben Justice, Lewis Tough, Arun Uttamchandani, Eglė Vaškevičiūtė. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:If only more people told the truth, more of these would be sold. What are they? I'm Tom Scott, this is Lateral, and we'll have the answer to that at the end of the show.

I've asked three people to come and play a game where all the questions have a sideways answer.

Joining me today from Escape This Podcast: Dani Siller and Bill Sunderland!
Tom:How are you doing?
Dani:Hello. Very happy to be here. I'm very excited.
Tom:Thank you very much for joining us. We also have... also from Australia, but not there at the moment, from Stand-up Maths and... Sorry. Are you just disappointed at being not in Australia at the moment?
Matt:I am. I genuinely am. I was honestly just thinking both myself and my accent are now a long way from being in Australia.
Tom:Aw. Well, from Stand-up Maths and from Festival of the Spoken Nerd, and from Australia, Matt Parker.
Matt:Thank you very much, Tom. It's good to be here.
Tom:Alright. We will get straight off—
Matt:Wherever here may be. Who knows.
Tom:Alright, we will get straight on with question one. Lateral is a very simple game. I've got questions and I'm hoping you'll have answers. There's no points, no prizes. It's just reputation, bragging rights on the line. And we start with:

An advert featuring a famous painting was placed next to an elevator in an ingenious position. The advert's tagline reads, "Be born again." Who will you become, if just for a moment?

I'll give you that again.

An advert featuring a famous painting was placed next to an elevator in an ingenious position. The advert's tagline reads, "Be born again." Who will you become, if just for a moment?

I do like that I have given the first question, an art question, to a mathematician and two people who do escape rooms. Any art knowledge?
Bill:I was about to be insulted that you were gonna say, "I can't believe I'm giving an art question to three Australians."
SFX:(group laughing)
Bill:I was ready! We've got some culture!
Dani:We have an artist who paint sailboats.
Tom:Sorry. And I nearly came back to "We have some culture" with, "Yes, but unfortunately it's E. coli." Cause apparently I'm just in a sassy mood today. Sorry about that.
Bill:We've got— I've got some art knowledge. I wish I had more... because I would then have the answer to this question.
Dani:Do you think... How much do you think we should be focusing on the 'born again' part versus the 'next to an elevator' part?
Bill:Yeah. What's an... 'elevatorial' picture?
Matt:I mean, there's not much that's traditionally around an elevator... other than the button to operate the elevator.
Dani:Oh, that's interesting. Do we have any button-related artwork?
Matt:And people waiting for the— There's bound to be other things, but there's nothing that's common to all elevator environments, other than maybe having floors above or below where you are.
Bill:Mm. If we're talking pure humour value, I think if you put The Scream right opposite the doors, So as they opened in front, it was just an "Aaah!" right in front.
Matt:No, you wanna put them half on each door,
Matt:so it does the Home Alone action.
Bill:Yeah, as it comes together.
Matt:As the doors close.
Dani:It's quite glorious.
Tom:I hate to pedant you, Matt... but in that case, where's the face?
Matt:What? Oh, the face moves with the hands. That's why they're screaming.
Matt:I thought...
Tom:Yeah. Yeah.
Matt:That's like Art 101, I think.
Bill:Yeah, come on. And Tom says Australians have no culture.
Tom:You are actually doing very well with the elevator button there. That was a point.
Matt:Because there's lots of comedy places you could put a button. So if you, basically you got a painting, and instead of doing the cutting out the two holes, hilarious looking through the painting bit... if you cut out a single hole... and then line that up with the elevator button...
Tom:Yeah, you're on exactly the right lines. That's what they did.
Tom:They've lined—
Matt:There's all sorts of childish places you can put that button.
Tom:They've lined up a very famous bit of a very famous painting with the elevator button.
Bill:Now... what is a painting that has a conspicuous, circular, possibly arrow-shaped feature that could be replaced with a button to call an elevator?
Matt:I'm thinking the guy with an apple for a face.
Tom:Oh, yeah.
Bill:Marat? Did I make that up?
Matt:End of list.
Tom:I have just been told by the producer that it's Magritte.
Bill:Magritte! I was confusing it with the guy who died in a bathtub!
Dani:Rookie error!
Tom:(laughs)Oh, the—
Matt:We haven't got time to fact check that story.
Tom:No, we really don't.
Bill:Just move on. It's probably true.
Tom:I'm ashamed for anyone listening in audio, that you didn't see Matt's face when you suggested Archimedes as dying in the bathtub. It's called The Son of Man. Yeah, it is unfortunately not that one. You're closer with an arrow. It's not a feature— It's certainly pointing at something.
Matt:Hmm. 'Cause you almost want like a roulette, like a spin again—
Dani:Is it a melting clock?
Matt:Like, who could you be? Like you're selecting something.
Tom:Bill, what were you doing just there?
Bill:I was just trying to imply that there's gotta be— It's pointing at something, right? But it's gotta be pointing either up or down. No one's pointing...
Bill:If you had a picture of someone pointing left or right, and you replaced that with an up arrow, you'd be a fool.
Tom:Now, it just occurs to me that the way you are gesturing there with the pointing and the hands and the fingers, it is pointing sideways.
Bill:Oh. Well, Dani also suggested...
Dani:A melting clock.
Bill:Melting clock.
Dani:That's definitely got arrows.
Tom:It has— Don't take my lead on arrows. I'm saying you're getting closer and closer as you continue to point your fingers around.
Bill:Alright, I'm just gonna move my fingers and you tell me when.
Dani:The only thing that I was thinking of, and right at the start, it was talking about being born again. I only have two paintings in mind when it comes to things like birth. One of them is The Birth of Venus, and one of them is The Creation of Adam.
Bill:Oh! Because the pointing with—
Dani:That's with the pointing.
Bill:You're right! If you are Adam...
Tom:You are absolutely spot on.
Dani:Oh, wow!
Tom:Absolutely right. It was Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam.
Dani:And now that you've confirmed it, now I can actually visualise it.
Dani:And it makes sense.
Tom:They took the right-hand half with God, cut that out, and just made the finger touch the elevator button. So when you call the elevator... you were touching fingers with God, if just for a moment.
Dani:That feels— That's gotta feel pretty glorious.
Tom:It was actually an advert for a plastic surgeon. I'm not entirely sure what the context was with that, but... But yes, in the painting, God is giving life to Adam, the first human. So for just a moment, as you call the lift, you are being 'born' as the first human. Which frankly is more than I asked for when I called the lift.
Matt:This feels very thinky for a plastic surgery advertising.
Tom:I feel like you're stereotyping plastic surgeons there, Matt.
Matt:No, I'm not! I'm just... It doesn't feel like... that's... Maybe they know the demographic better than me, but there you go.
Dani:I have been into a lot of surgeon's offices. I haven't had promises like that before.
Bill:If you did go into that office and you said... and you accuse them of playing God... by being able to change people, they couldn't really deny it.
Tom:So yes, it was Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam, with the section with God on the right-hand side of the elevator. So you reached out and touched God's finger for just a moment.

Now the tables are turned, and one of our guests is gonna take over as host. I do not know the question that they have. I certainly don't know the answer. I'm gonna be playing along too. We're gonna start with Bill, and I should check, because you and Dani are in the same room. You have not seen the question either, Dani?
Dani:No, not a clue.
Tom:Alright. Bill, it's over to you. Give us the question.
Bill:Alright, I have a question here. I'm ready to go. This is a movies question.
Bill:It's a movie themed question. So I'll give you a second to just re-centre your head. Go away from high art and to movies instead.

'Police [blank] [blank] Was Accidental.' Which two words have been removed from this newspaper headline from a 1993 film?

Again... 'Police [blank] [blank] Was Accidental.' Which two words have been removed from this newspaper headline from a 1993 film?
Matt:[Police] Academy 4.
Tom:The whole film was just an accident.
Matt:It would explain a lot, if I'm being honest.
Tom:I was gonna say, that's—
Matt:Or Academy N.
Tom:That's more—
Matt:I mean, why commit to a number?
Tom:That's more a mistake than an accident.
Dani:A newspaper within the film.
Tom:Yeah, did you say it was from a film, or that—?
Bill:Yes. Yes.
Bill:This is not about a film. This is from the film, so this is a newspaper that exists in-universe, in the film. And we see the newspaper headline: 'Police [blank] [blank] Was Accidental.'
Dani:Now I'm not great at the early '90s era, but I'm trying to think around then. Ooh, okay. Silence of the Lambs. I hope not.
Tom:I'm just— I just know there's a prop company somewhere in Los Angeles that has stock newspapers where all the headlines are guaranteed to be safe and not affecting your movie, and you don't have to clear the rights. So the same newspaper keeps showing up in TV shows and movies and everything like that. There will be a supercut of it somewhere on the internet.
Dani:I have a great example of that, and that's in the first episode of the TV show Charmed. They have the Mrs. Doubtfire newspaper article.
Tom:Wait, wait, 'cause—
Matt:That can't be accidental.
Tom:Wait, how did they, I thought— If I remember Mrs. Doubtfire right... he's looking 'round, and sees the words 'doubt' and 'fire'. Was it just—?
Dani:He sees— Wait a second. Is this it? Have I landed on it? Is it 'Police Doubt Fire'?
Tom:Oh my, yes!
Dani:'Was Accidental'?
Tom:(laughs ecstatically)
Tom:Come on!
Bill:You've done it.
Dani:Was this just my question?
Bill:Yeah, I was worried. I was worried as soon as you said it, but yes, that's it. 'Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental'.
Matt: Amazing. I feel like that was a real team effort. Just so we're clear on that.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Yeah. Sorry, Matt. We stumbled upon that before you had a chance to get a single gag in there.
Dani:I'm so sorry!
Matt:That's amazing.
Tom:That's excellent. Congratulations, Dani. There are no points. I feel like there should be. I didn't see that coming. I'd written seven individually handcrafted, hilarious jokes about films from 1993.
Matt:But I won't bother with any of those now.
Dani:I'm sorry, that's... Them's the brakes.
Matt:That's fine. We'll move on.
Bill:I would like to point out that... that aspect of it, that is like... "Oh, I need a name. Let me just— Oh, it says 'Doubt Fire'. Hmm. I could be that." Dani.... does this constantly.
Dani:I think everyone who does tabletop role-playing GMing does this. The players always make you point out a random stranger in your campaign, saying, "Oh, what's that person's name?" And so you just look around and you go, "That's Detective Water Bill."
Tom:Yeah, that is... That is Detective Mike Paper. Yep. Got it. Absolutely.
Bill:(thick gumshoe accent) "Hey, it's me, Mike Paper. I got things to do here. Me and Waterbill are meeting up after this case. Let's get this in. Let's get this done. I gotta go home. I'm retiring."
Tom:"No, no. You've got one more case—
Bill:I thought we're doing character work.
Tom:"You've got one more case before retirement. You've just gotta get through that."
Bill:"Okay. "It seems like a routine case. I can't think anything's gonna go wrong."
Dani:But it turned into the... murder of Jill Keyboard.
Tom:Bloody Jill Keyboard. What I don't get though is if that prop was made for the movie, which it must have been, surely... did they just give it to a prop warehouse?
Dani:Did they just leave it hanging around? I don't know!
Matt:I mean, there's a non-zero chance.
Dani:I have no idea how to even tell.
Matt:Cause the name's not important in the plot, is it? It's just a fake name.
Dani:Pretty much.
Matt:So... Williams could have improvised a different name at the time based on a prop.
Matt:And then ran with it.
Tom:I mean, Williams... He was famous for improvising all sorts— So it could have just been that he was picking a different name every time, and they're like, "Well, that's the name of the movie now."
Matt:Yeah, exactly. Every edit was— Every take was a different thing in the room, yeah.
Bill:And also, if you put an infinite number of screenwriters with an infinite number of fake newspapers, they're gonna write the same headline, so you never know.
Matt:I set my Wi-Fi password by looking for things in the room. So when people come to my office, they're like, "What's the password?" I'm like, "It's these things on the shelf." But then I moved office, so I had to take a photo of them.
Matt:And then... And I realise now, I can't end this story...
Tom:Without giving away your Wi-Fi password.
Matt:Without compromising the password on my office. It's three things that were on a shelf.
Bill:So yes, the headline from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire was 'Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental.' And I mean, there's a good chance that we could have had Mrs. Policedoubt.
Tom:Alright, it's back to me for the next one. And it goes something like this.

Putney Bridge in London is unusual in that it has a church at both ends — All Saints on the north bank of the Thames, and St Mary's on the south bank. How did that come about?

I'll give you that question again.

Putney Bridge in London is unusual in that it has a church at both ends — All Saints on the north bank of the Thames, and St. Mary's on the south bank. How did that come about?
Matt:I'd never noticed.
Tom:I mean, I don't wanna give away your location here, Matt, or compromise your security again... but your wifi password is here and apparently you are based in Putney.
Matt:That ship has sailed. No, I lived near Putney for several years, when I lived in South London, but when I go into London, if I cycle in, I go over that bridge. So it's potentially I'm so exhausted by that point in the cycle, I'm not paying close attention, but now that you say it, there's... there's definitely— well... There's definitely a church and a Walkabout at one end, the southern end of the bridge.
Matt:And I do not know if there's another Walkabout on the north end of the bridge, but that could also be significant.
Tom:Walkabout being the Australian-themed bar.
Matt:The, the horrific...
Bill:Ah, that's fair.
Tom:I was gonna ask if there are Walkabouts in Australia. I assume they're not.
Dani:Likely not.
Tom:The same way there aren't really—
Bill:There are not.
Tom:There's not like British-themed restaurants in Britain.
Bill:Hmm. And America. What does America have? They have Outback Steakhouse.
Matt:Outback Steakhouse.
Dani:Yeah, that's the one.
Bill:We don't have that either. When we were—
Dani:I think we have one now.
Bill:Ooh, exciting.
Bill:When people ask us about Bloomin' Onions when we're overseas, just, I don't know what that is. You've invented a food.
Dani:So how... How heavy is the gang warfare between churches in London?
Tom:(laughs)I don't know how to answer that question.
Matt:I think that might be a decent chunk of the answer, I suspect.
Tom:I don't know how to answer that question without being offensive to... some group. And I don't know whether it's the religious, or the gangs of London. I don't think I want to annoy any of those people. Do I want teenagers with knives coming at me? Absolutely not. Do I want bishops coming at me? Also no. They're gonna be more polite about it though.
Bill:But they've also got knives.
Tom:(laughs) Yeah. Ceremonial ones. Surprisingly sharp.
Bill:I gotta say, I feel like if you had to pick, who do you think got better off in that deal? 'Cause one of the churches has Mary. That's a pretty good saint. But the other one has All Saints. That's— They got a better deal, I think.
Dani:I don't wanna take sides in the war.
Bill:Okay, we've gotta move on.
Tom:We just see everyone dodging the answer to that question. I will tell you—
Bill:"Hey, everybody at home!"
Tom:"Pick a denomination! Today's winner is the—" No, I'm not finishing that sentence. I will tell you that it is nothing to do with the specific denominations or the religions of the churches.
Matt:Is it because churches are quite territorial?
Matt:They're like... like jaguars or...
Tom:water voles— I don't know animals that are territorial. You went with jaguars. I went with... McDonald's franchises. Because if you have a franchise manager in an area, their job is to not put things so close together.
Matt:I think that's even closer to the truth, 'cause if you get yourself a church franchise, you don't wanna— you got your congregational map that you're drawing. It's not like Subway, they just cram them in next to each other.
Tom:Actually, that is a problem. The franchisees complain about that. Also, I've realised that the word I've been struggling to find there is parish.
Matt:So when you open a McJesus's, you're guaranteed... ...according to Tom Scott...
Tom:Oh no, don't drag my name into this!
Matt:...a parish catchment area.
Dani:We're offending the gangs again.
Tom:I mean—
Dani:So how special is this bridge?
Tom:This is how it used to be, that the church would be for a certain parish, and it would be for the certain area. And you generally didn't have two churches in the same village if everyone there was the same religion, 'cause you didn't need it.
Matt:It's even like, each city's only allowed one cathedral or whatever. And you can have other equally impressive churches, but only one is bestowed the rank of cathedral, or whatever the...
Bill:We gotta reassess, what's the situation? We're in a place. I can't remember where we are.
Tom:Putney Bridge, which is—
Dani:Putney, not Putnam.
Matt:The place is probably... It's probably important because London started in the east, in what is now called the City. That was London original. And even like Westminster, 'cause I taught in a school in Westminster for a while when I was a regular old maths teacher. That used to be an outpost from London.
Tom:It's in the name. It's the minster in the west.
Matt:It's the minster in the west. Yeah. And the school I taught at was founded after the Great Fire. Because suddenly, a lot of people moved out from London... to the 'suburbs'... after the Great Fire and then they had to build schools and whatnot. And Putney is even further to the west. It's the west-west minster of Westminster. And so... I imagine originally these were like little villages. You got Putney. You've got... What's north of that? Knightsbridge or something. Something in there.
Tom:I can't remember what it is. But you are definitely along the right lines.
Matt:You've got not-Putney. It's a bit like All Saints. It's just... not Putney.
Matt:It's every other suburb. And so I imagine originally they were totally separate towns. There was no bridge. So all they could do was throw rocks at each other. And then they had their own little churches.
Bill:'No bridge' is good.
Dani:That makes a lot of sense.
Matt:And one day, London expanded out. It's just slapping bridges everywhere. and suddenly they're near-accessible, hundreds of metres apart. That's my...
Dani:London became the city of a hundred bridges.
Matt:Exactly. And the people who ran the Walkabout were sensible enough to collapse those down into a single location. But not McJesus's. They were like... "We've separately got thousand-year leases on this franchise. We're keeping it."
Tom:With apologies to every Christian listening, Matt, you've absolutely got it right.
Dani: Nicely done.
Tom:Spot on. The churches were built before the bridge. It was two separate parishes, two separate congregations, two separate everythings. There was a worship site on the south bank since the 13th century, on the north bank since the 12th. There wasn't a bridge until 1729. And there was a ferry, but that wasn't enough to make them the same place. It is said that there wasn't a bridge for a long time. And then Prime Minister
Bill:Robert Walpole
Tom:... was making his way back to Parliament, and the ferryman was drinking in a pub on the other side of the river and held up the Prime Minister and suddenly a few years later, there was a bridge.
Matt:In the Walkabout, is what I've been trying to explain.
Tom:You know what, I can absolutely believe, because it's London, and there will be that history, that the pub the Prime Minister got delayed by is now the Walkabout.

Matt, we are coming to you for the next question. As before, I've not seen it. I don't know the question. I don't know the answer. No one here does other than the production team. And Matt, it's you.
Matt:My question, and this is one that I'm a big fan of this topic. So the question is:

There is — you get this for free — There is a mathematical reason why bees make their honeycombs using hexagonal shape cells. The question is, what is that reason?

Why are bees such big fans of hexagons? I mean, we all are, but why... Why are bees particularly into hexagons?
Tom:I know there's a CGP Grey video about this, and I cannot remember a single word of it. I just remember the phrase, "Hexagons are the bestagons."
Bill:Are the bestagons.
Matt:There you are, see? And that's every time I mention hexagons.
Tom:That's all—
Matt:In any context, everyone yells "bestagons" at me.
Tom:I can't remember a single word of the rest of that video. I didn't do maths past being a kid. So, alright.
Matt:I messaged Grey after that. I said, "Thanks a lot, you...
Matt:You've tainted hexagons, henceforth!"
Bill:I wanna say that there's something along that line... ...that... Something jumping in my head that bees don't make hexagons. They just make, they just fill—
Bill:They make circles, which when they start to layer, just naturally will compress down and make— But they're just like, "I'm a bee. I don't know hexagons. "I just put it around me. I make a little circle and it compresses down naturally."
Matt:I'm gonna give you—
Dani:Is it something about them having amazing tessellation?
Bill:Wait, don't interrupt me. He said he's gonna give me something.
Dani:Oh, please.
Matt:No, I was about to. But Dani has now yoinked...
Matt:the points away from you.
Bill:No! Tessellation!
Tom:Is it the most—
Bill:It's about tessellation, everybody.
Tom:Is it the most efficient way to get that number of honeycomb cells into an area?
Matt:Well, okay. So it depends subtly on how you phrase the question. 'Cause Bill was absolutely correct. Bees would rather make circles. If you leave bees alone and there's no other honeycomb near 'em, they will make a circular cell. And by circular cell, I mean the opening to the tube is a circular and then actually be a cylinder.
Tom:How did they find that out? Did they just get a single—
Matt:What they do...
Bill:Aww, poor little bee.
Matt:They actually— They get unusual starting conditions for a honeycomb that would never happen in nature. They artificially make a really weird starting setup. Put some bees on it, and then see where they build from there.
Tom:I'm sorry. I just love the phrase, "Put some bees on it." Which sounds... which reminds me both of just bad advice for life, and also, "Put a dunk on it." Which is just... which is a reference that has landed for no one in this call! Never mind.
Dani:Nope. I thought you were gonna say that that was medieval surgery advice.
Bill:"I cannot work today. My legs. My legs. I have gout."
Tom:Put some bees on it. You'll be fine.
Bill:Put some bees on it.
Matt:"Now we're out of leeches, but we have got a recent shipment of bees."
Tom:"You say shipment. They just arrived a while back, "and we haven't really wanted to get rid of them. We keep trying."
Bill:"It's the latest treatment from Prague."
Matt:You do, you get bees. I was talking to a beekeeping friend of mine on the weekend, and they get bees— Bees are shipped in the post.
Matt:That's a real— Actually another beekeeper I know who happens to be in the same room as me is nodding their head... furiously! That we happened to be talking about bees. It's true, you order bees in the post. And they are angry. You open it up, and oh! You wanna— Wait, do you make them fall asleep first? Do you put 'em in the fridge? No, you just open it and hope the best.
Tom:Don't you use bee smoke or something like that? Sorry. I'm gesturing—
Matt:Bee smoke?
Dani:It's my favorite western.
SFX:(Tom and Dani laughing)
Matt:I don't do bee smoke.
Tom:Sorry. I have just been completely nerd-sniped by the idea of how a bee would hold a gun and swivel a six-shooter, to be in a duel at high noon.
Bill:Well, fun fact: bees have little pockets! Bees have tiny pockets on them.
Dani:That's true.
Bill:So you can put a gun, you can holster the— Bees are the best cowboys of the insect kingdom, because you can holster the guns in your little leg pockets. The pollen pockets.
Matt:"Bees have little pockets."
Bill:No, Matt, I don't want you to repeat anything I say about bees out loud, 'cause there's a beekeeper near you who can immediately fact check me.
Matt:"Bees have pockets," from the person who brought you "Archimedes drowned in the bath."
Dani:Hey, he didn't say drowned. He just said died.
Bill:He died.
Matt:Good point. You're right. I'm adding some narrative flavour to it. No, so bees actually—
Bill:Shot by a bee!
Tom:Sorry, we were talking about tessellation, Matt. This is your question. Sorry.
Matt:To go back... One, answer to the question is, bees make hexagons because they start with cylindrical tubes, and if you stack them, they become hexagons. Or more accurately, because the wax is pliable, when the bee's making the cylinder, it just pushes out a lot. But there's a bee on the other side of the wax. It's like, "Hey, stop there." And they're pushing back.
Matt:It's often the same bee at different points in time. 'Cause the same bee can be working around. A bee, two bees, maybe the same bee...
Tom:Or not to bees.
Matt:...separated in time, yep.
Tom:It wasn't worth interrupting you for that joke!
Matt:Did you just say "Or not to bees"?
Matt:Oh my goodness.
Tom:Oh look, an open goal! Sorry, carry on, Matt.
Matt:So two bees, or as I mentioned before, not two bees. One bee separated in time, are pushing the wax backwards and forwards, and the stable structure that you end up with is a hexagon. Now, the tessellation thing is also super important, because nature— 'cause bees did that, and evolution was like, "Good work, bees, you get to live." because that is the most efficient way to section space into little areas with the minimal perimeter. The hexagon, can't beat it. And bees have been doing this for millions of years, and we only managed to prove mathematically that that is the best arrangement in 1999.
Matt:So within the last 30 years.
Dani:We wasted all our time on triangles.
Matt:I know! We were distracted by the triangles. And so the... In one sense, the answer is because that's the shape that forms when bees argue over where whacks should go. But the answer is also, that's just the most efficient way to do it. It gets slightly more interesting when you look at the end of the tube. 'Cause if you think about it, you've got the opening to the tube as a hexagon... then you got a tube. It's gotta end somehow. Does anyone wanna have a guess, what the end... the other end of the bee tube is? It's a shape we all know and love.
Tom:Wait, so... it's not just the same all the way through? You've got a different shape at the end? Does it turn into chaotic tunnels or...
Matt:It's gotta end. I mean...
Tom:does it splay out?
Matt:What actually happens is you got tubes coming from both sides of the... What do you call the thing in the hive, the thing you're lowering? I'm going to my bee expert. The frame?
Tom:Frame, that's it, yeah.
Matt:Frame, excellent. You got bee tubes — technical phrase — coming from both directions in the frame. And where they meet, they have to form some kind of— I mean, one option is just a flat surface. But that's not what happens. They actually form a different shape in the middle.
Matt:And I'm taking bonus fictitious points.
Tom:An exact replica of Spaghetti Junction.
Tom:It's not, is it?
Matt:It's actually... I've actually got it behind me. It's been in shot the whole time. There it is. If you were looking at the webcam version, it's a rhombic dodecahedron. Here we go.
Matt:This is gonna be— See, it was a clue! You just had to look in the background. The hints were there, people! So they form a rhombic dodecahedral shape. They end like that, like a pointy bit of a rhombic dodecahedron, which for people listening is just a bunch of rhombuses that meet in a point basically. And this is not the most efficient way to do it.
Matt:There are better ways of doing it.
Bill:Yeah, but it's got style!
Matt:It's got style. And so this is the counterpoint to, "Bees are doing maths." 'Cause if they were, they'd do something better, like a... truncated octahedron, but they're not. They're just pushing wax around. So they've ended up with the pretty good, but not perfect, rhombic dodecahedron. Although it is my favourite of all the dodecahedra.
Tom:Another one for you then.

At the 1924 Olympic Games, the American athlete Robert LeGendre set a world record with a long jump of 7.76 metres, which no one surpassed at the event. However, he only received a bronze medal for his efforts. Why?

I'll give you that again.

At the 1924 Olympic Games, the American athlete Robert LeGendre set a world record with a long jump of 7.76 meters, which no one surpassed at the event. However, he only received a bronze medal for his efforts. Why?
Dani:Back then, robots were allowed to compete.
Bill:Ah, those bloody robots.
Tom:Yeah, the 1924 Steampunk Olympic Games.
Matt:No, you just put some bees on 'em. They'll fly for miles.
Bill:That's it.
Tom:How many bees does it take to lift a human if they really work together? He was just banned for doping 'cause he just had 10,000 bees attached to him. No, it's not that. I realise I'm supposed to 'yes, and' these suggestions, Matt. But no.
Matt:No, I accept the occasional "No!"
Bill:Okay, so he has set the world record.
Tom:Yep. Absolutely.
Bill:For the long jump. "Look at me. I'm the best long jumper." No one here has outperformed that long jump. But he doesn't get the gold.
Bill:Becomes third. To me, there's only... I'm thinking there's two possibilities.
Bill:I would like to— We can collective the way up these options. I think either...
Matt:Two's a good start.
Bill:long jump does not exist as its own sport. So he's done the long jump as part of the heptathlon, or the pentathlon, or the decathlon,
Dani:Oh, that'd be a funny way of doing it.
Bill:or the dodecathlon, or the rhombic— No.
Matt:Yeah, the rhombic dodecathlon. I would love that.
Bill:Best long jumper by far, but then his high jump, not so good. He still went long and he just went underneath and so he ends up on average third. I think this is a very reasonable thought.
Dani:That actually is very reasonable.
Matt:That tracks.
Bill:Here's my second option. He gets the long jump. It counts according to the record rules, but it doesn't count according to normal Olympic rules. So it's like, "Yeah look, by the record book, you set the record. You did the longest jump. No one's gonna jump that far."
Dani:But he got the time penalty.
Bill:"But you didn't tuck your toes at the end, and that means that in the Olympics, you get nothing, you lose!"
Dani:Except bronze.
Matt:Or vice versa... It could qualify for the Olympic win. Let's say there was too much wind to be an official world record. But the Olympics don't care about wind assist. So it still counts for the Olympics, but not for the world record.
Bill:Yeah, it's exactly, different standards.
Matt:Yeah. Or... the other two competitors never landed.
Dani:This is...
Bill:(laughs) Yes! They just kept going!
Dani:This is funny.
Matt:The other two competitors never landed. They just... jumped on.
Dani:Oh, no!
Bill:Just flying up.
Dani:That happens in a Simpsons episode. One of them just goes right out of the stadium.
Bill:It happens in an Ant & Dec sketch.
Matt:And they're like, "Well... I mean, we can't measure that, but I feel like they should win."
Bill:Yeah! "No record, didn't land, but that's the gold!"
Tom:One of those three suggestions is exactly right. You've nailed it.
Bill:Good work, Matt. You've got it. They never landed.
Matt:Never landed, but they hit orbital velocity.
Tom:I'm gonna ask each of you to put your weight behind one of them.

Was it that it was a different event, and he just happened to beat the long jump as part of that? Was it on some technicality that counted for the world record but didn't give him the win? Or was it that the other two competitors kept going?

Matt, pick one!
Matt:Aah! I reckon... just... I suspect it's the first one, but I'm gonna put my weight behind the second one, the technicality one. Just 'cause I figure everyone's gonna vote for the first one.
Bill:I'm gonna vote for the first one. I think you don't get a medal for the long jump. You get a medal for the multi-jumps.
Dani:I'm a little disappointed because my initial guess was none of those. And it was that, because I know this was a thing at one point. They didn't have gold medals. I was assuming bronze was the highest.
Bill:Maybe bronze was the best.
Dani:but I guess we're gonna have to go with one of these other ones.
Bill:If you vote for 'they never landed', this question never ends, and Tom is stuck in this episode forever.
Tom:There was no—
Dani:Interesting. Interesting.
Tom:The first clue I have on here, on my notes here is that there was no lack of gold or silver medals. Bronze did mean third.
Matt:Ah right.
Dani:You predicted me. You saw me coming.
Tom:Yeah, if this were a different show, there'd be klaxons going off now, but this is not that show for both important legal and copyright reasons. No, and it was an actual part of the real competition.
Dani:Yeah, the first one just makes so much sense. I feel like I have to go with it.
Tom:Yeah. And you are absolutely right. He was competing in the five event pentathlon. With everything taken into account, he came third. but he casually broke the world record along the way.
Dani:As you do.
Tom:However, there was a long jump event at that Olympics.
Tom:And he didn't qualify for it.
Dani:He showed them!
Tom:I mean, he also played American football and baseball. Graduated from Georgetown University, tried making it as a Hollywood actor, and then became a dentist in Washington. So there's a lot of stories in that man's life.

So yes, you're absolutely right. He was competing in the five event pentathlon. So despite casually setting the world record in the long jump, came third overall, got the bronze medal.

Which means we turn to Dani for your question. What have you got for us?
Dani:Happy to read this one out for you.

So, some time ago, you could try to purchase two items from Rotunden, a Danish supermarket. Excuse my pronunciation, I don't know that much Danish. One would cost you the equivalent of six dollars, while the other cost $150, even though both items were completely identical. Why?
Bill:Okay. So we're going... What was this? Where are we buying this from?
Dani:So some time ago, you could try to purchase two items from Rotunden, a Danish supermarket. One would cost you the equivalent of six dollars, while the other cost $150, even though they're completely identical.
Tom:That's the new special Danish offer. Buy one, get another at an enormously inflated price. That's... "Buy one, get one for 90 times the price."
Bill:That's how they get ya.
Tom:Yeah. Yeah. Okay so, both items are completely identical.
Matt:How much was the second one?
Dani:About $150.
Matt:150 bucks. So yeah, 25 times more expensive.
Tom:(chuckles)I thank you, Matt. I tried and failed to do that mental arithmetic while also talking.
Matt:I was like, "90 doesn't sound right. It's not two orders of magnitude."
Tom:It wasn't even close, Matt. It was a complete shot in the dark guess, and I am both grateful and slightly annoyed you called me out on it.
Matt:That's my model. Yeah.
Tom:Is that amount important, the 25 times?
Dani:I wouldn't have thought so specifically, just that it was greatly more. There's two options here.
Matt:I would say either: these are items where the government heavily subsidizes one of them, like prescription drugs or something. And they're like, "The amount you need for your health care is government-funded."
Tom:But if you want some more just for funding and giggles,
Matt:you're paying full price.
Bill:No subsidies.
Matt:Or the reverse: It's something that's rationed. So... you get the first one for normal price.
Matt:But you want a second one, you're being a little greedy. There's a massive surcharge to suppress people
Matt:more than they require.
Tom:When was this? Was this like...
Tom:...start of 2020 by any chance?
Bill:Oh! Are you thinking baby formula or whatever it was?
Dani:That's an Australian issue.
Bill:Oh, that's— Sorry. Let's talk about Australian politics and Chinese politics and talk about baby formula shortages.
Tom:Although I do know there's one Nordic country that gives new mothers just a box of stuff for your baby.
Dani:But once you have a second baby.
Tom:Well, I dunno, maybe you can reuse this. No. 'Cause that doesn't make sense. 'Cause you have twins. I'm assuming you're buying both of these at the same time.
Dani:Yes, yes. Absolutely.
Tom:So is this... to prevent panic buying at the start of the pandemic? Was that the rules they put in?
Matt:I suspect, like Australia,
Matt:all of Denmark's toilet paper comes from one factory in Adelaide.
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:Wait, wait. That seems... extremely specific. Is there just one toilet paper factory in the whole of Australia?
Matt:I think I'm slightly overexaggerating, but I feel like maybe just two factories in Adelaide.
Bill:But no, I like that idea. If it's a rationing thing, right? When they didn't want people overbuying toilet paper or masks or hand sanitizer or something like that, where it's like everyone's going and buying a million. So that makes sense, right? It's just a rationing effort for stuff.
Dani:You are indeed bang-on. If we're looking at when this was, early 2020, you nailed it. The question very clever says, "Some time ago." So, you jumped on that.
Tom:Aha, yes.
Dani:Very well done. It was one of the items that you've suggested. It was... masks.
Tom:Toilet paper.
Matt:Toilet paper. Hand sanitizer.
Tom:Baby formula?
Bill:Hand sanitizer.
Dani:Option #3. It was hand sanitizer.
Tom:That was my first sign that there was something going on in early 2020, which is literally, I was in London and I had a moment like... "Huh, shop's sold out of hand sanitizer, that's weird." And that was the first little— if this had been a movie, that would've been the foreshadowing for me. That one in the moment where there's just stuff going in the background that I didn't pay attention to.
Dani:Now at least hand sanitizer makes sense. Did you get weird ones that seemed very unusual for a pandemic, you would've thought? Like two minute noodles. I was very upset that I couldn't get my two minute noodles!
Matt:You couldn't get flour anywhere near where I live.
Dani:Yep, absolutely true here as well.
Dani:Anything in the pasta aisle was pretty much wiped out.
Bill:Yeah, anything that lasts was gone.
Tom:'Cause as soon as one person just goes, "You know what, I'll get a couple more bags just to be safe." The entire supply chain falls, and it's terrifying. Thank you very much. Dani, do you wanna wrap up the question please?
Dani:Absolutely. You're quite right. So fed up with people hoarding hand sanitizer at the height of the pandemic, This supermarket put up a sign saying, "First bottle of hand sanitizer costs 40 Danish kroner, and all the subsequent ones that you bought, 1000 Danish croner."
Tom:I wonder how they policed that. At some point, someone must have been going in and— You know what, go in—
Matt:Fake mustaches were also 1,000 Danish kroner.
Bill:That's how they get ya!
Tom:Go in, buy some hand sanitizer, come back five minutes later. Buy some hand sanitizer, come back five minutes later. "I'd like to return these two bottles of hand sanitizer."
SFX:(others jeering)
Bill:Tom knows how to game the system. That's the real lateral thinking.
Tom:Finally then, at the start of the show, I asked this question:

If only more people told the truth, more of them would be sold. What are they?

Very quickly, anyone on the panel have some thoughts before I give the audience the answer?
Bill:Treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.
Tom:You know what, you know what? That is not on my card, but I will accept that answer. That is...
Tom:I don't like 'sold' in that question because I'm from the UK, and that implies a much darker future. But you know what?
Tom:I will accept that answer. Dani or Matt?
Matt:I was gonna say cans of deodorant. A similar—
Tom:What kind of things do people lie about?
Bill:Copies and copies of... Nineteen Eighty-Four that no one has read. 'Cause they keep pretending they've read it.
Tom:The answer is birthday candles. If more people are honest about their age for employment or anything like that, you'll sell a few more candles.

That is our show. Thank you very much, Bill and Dani. Please tell the audience: Where can they find you? What do you do?
Bill:We make a show called Escape This Podcast, where we have guests on to play through audio escape rooms, that we create, a new one every two weeks. You can check that out at Why not go back to the start of the year, and find the episode that Tom Scott was on, where he tried to save his friend's ailing farm.
Tom:And Matt, how about yourself? What have you got going on?
Matt:I got a podcast called A Problem Squared, where myself and comedian Bec Hill solve listeners' problems.
Tom:People send in a problem, we will solve it.
Matt:And I'm dabbling with this whole YouTube thing.
Matt:If you're into maths, check that out.
Tom:Congratulations on the million subscribers there.
Matt:Well, thank you.
Tom:That's our show for today. Thank you very much to all our guests. Well done to everyone for surviving that onslaught.

If you wanna know more about the show or wanna submit an idea for a question, the website is You can find us at @lateralcast basically everywhere, and you can watch the latest video highlights at

Thank you very much to Bill and Dani from Escape This Podcast.
Dani:Thank you.
Bill:Thank you.
Tom:Thank you very much to Matt Parker.
Matt:Yes, thank me.
Tom:I'm Tom Scott, and this has been Lateral. See you next time!
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