Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 11: Who uses the 10-08-42 rule?

Published 23rd December, 2022

Rowan Ellis, Vanessa Hill and Grady Hillhouse face questions about diehard disease, pill-popping performers, and ridiculous room numbers.

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:Which distilled alcoholic drink, when added to ice, becomes something a child could consume legally without any ill effects? The answer to that riddle at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

I'm joined for the second time by three people who between them have more gray matter than 10,000 fairground hotdogs. We have: from Practical Engineering and his new book, Engineering in Plain Sight, Grady Hillhouse.
Grady:Hi, Tom.
Tom:From her own YouTube channel and the Queer Movie Podcast, Rowan Ellis.
Tom:From the YouTube channel, BrainCraft, Vanessa Hill.
Vanessa:Delightful to be here.
Tom:Our brave three guests are on a quest to batter down the doors of Castle Incomprehension, and prove themselves worthy Knights of the Lateral Table. This time, sorry, Rowan. We don't have swords and chain mail.
Rowan:Oh, that's all right. I'll get over it.
Tom:We start with:

In 1935, the US bombed outside Hilo city, Hawaii for one week. Why?

I'll give you that one more time.

In 1935, the US bombed outside Hilo city, Hawaii for one week. Why?
Grady:I feel like that's important.
Vanessa:Is it?
Grady:I'm not an expert in history, but I don't think there were any military events. At least major ones happening at that time.
Tom:Yeah, it'd be a few more years before Hawaii got involved there.
Rowan:And when we say outside the city... that could be outside the city as in the middle of nowhere on an island, or it could be in the ocean outside the city.
Vanessa:I was just thinking of fish. I don't know why. I was just thinking of a lot of fish dying. It made me sad.
Rowan:The military was like, we've got a problem, and it's fish. They're getting a little bit too big for their boots.
Vanessa:Yeah, some kind of aggressive whale, yeah.
Rowan:But it was also for several... how long did you say they were doing it for us? Like a while.
Tom:A week.
Vanessa:A week?
Rowan:Yeah, that is a while.
Grady:Chasing a shark?
Tom:With bombs? I mean, I'd love to see the movie. That's Jaws 5, that is.
Grady:Oh, I hope not. I hope that's not it.
Rowan:Was it to avert some other issue?
Rowan:Because I feel like there's potentially tsunami or other types of underground earthquakes or things going on, that potentially using a bomb would... If disaster moves have told me anything, you can use a bomb to avert any natural disaster. And so I can only assume that that's correct in reality too.
Vanessa:So you think there's a tsunami coming? So they drop a bomb and it just deflects it. Did they ever know about tsunamis, like meteorologists in the '30s?
Grady:I don't know, but I was think— In the same vein though... I mean, the Hawaiian Islands are very volcanic. And so, maybe it's on that path.
Rowan:That makes sense.
Tom:Yeah. You've got it.
Tom:There wasn't a sudden lightbulb moment there. Grady just kind of mu— Rowan mused about natural disasters. Grady mused about volcanoes. Yeah, you found it. Geologists arranged for bombs to be dropped on a nearby volcano to slow down the flow of lava that was approaching Hilo city.
Vanessa:How does it slow it down?
Tom:It builds a massive trench, and that gets filled up, instead of the lava continuing on.
Rowan:Amazing. Bombs, what can't they do?
SFX:(group laughing)
Vanessa:The answer to everything, bombs.
Tom:Yeah, this was... And the bombing runs were commanded by future General George S. Patton. So, far before wartime, he was bombing a volcano. Which again, does sound like a really American solution.
Grady:Yeah, that's fair. I think that's totally fair.
Tom:It was later felt that the bombs weren't actually big enough to make a difference. This was the first time I think the geologists have ever tried it, so... They thought, you know what, we'll see if we can dig a trench, and Mauna Loa, which was the volcano, did actually stop erupting in time that it didn't become enough of a problem to really test that.
Vanessa:It seems so precarious, dropping bombs onto an active volcano, or an exploding volcano.
Tom:I mean, presumably onto the slopes where the lava was heading to try and redirect it. I dunno what would happen if you... I feel like a volcano has more power than most bombs?
Tom:Like I'm trying to—
Rowan:What could possibly go wrong?
Tom:I'm trying to get the orders of magnitude right in my head, but I feel like bombing an actual volcano wouldn't do much other than melt the bomb?
Vanessa:I mean, we will have to try it to find out.
Rowan:There's like Mythbusters episode coming up soon.
Vanessa:Tom's new TV show,
Grady:Bombing Everything.
Tom:I mean, I would... I mean, honestly, I would happily do that. If anyone with a large budget wants to come along and just suggest that I fly over and bomb things, I am 100% happy to do that. But yes, the US bombed outside Hilo city, Hawaii for one week in 1935 to try and stop a volcanic eruption taking out Hilo city.

We now hand over to one of our guests. And as ever, I don't know their question. I don't know their answer. This is as much a mystery to me as it will be to everyone else, and hopefully to you at home. We're gonna start this time with Grady. Give us your question, please.
Grady:This is a simple one, so think hard.

What kind of company uses the "10-8-42 rule" in its advertising?

I'll say that one more time.

What kind of company uses the "10-8-42 rule" in its advertising?
Tom:Ten, eight, 42, in advertising, not manufacturing?
Vanessa:What is ten— What is the 10-8-42 rule? Does anyone have any ideas?
Tom:I'm immediately trying to do, is this like a... I'm trying to decipher this, like it's some kind of code. Okay, the 10th letter of the alphabet is J. The eighth is... (muttering) H.
Rowan:The 42nd is...
Tom:Yeah, that is where it fell apart. That is absolutely where it fell apart. Unfortunately, all I've got is j-h-d, which is not really great.
Rowan:So I guess it's, is there anything that is 42 of something? Is there something that's, because if it was something like 24/7 is obviously like, okay, so that's 24 hours, seven days, things like that. 'cause normally when there's three, it's dimensions, but... I don't know whether that would, there's anything with the dimensions.
Tom:Could it be a date? Like 10/8/42 would be... I mean, depending on the date, either the 10th of August or 8th of... Wow, my brain just blanked on the 10th month of the year. So I'm... But 1942—
Vanessa:Only two months before Pearl Harbor.
Tom:Okay, right, maybe. We got a lot of Hawaiian bombing content in this episode, is all I'm saying.
Rowan:Very specific.
Tom:Ten eight forty— so I mean, I don't know anything that happened... that year that would... I can't think of anything specific on that date that comes to mind.
Rowan:For advertising in particular.
Vanessa:It kind of seems too early for advertising rules. I mean, we all know just by way of smoking ads that nothing really happened in the advertising industry until the '80s or '90s.
Grady:This is a specific Japanese company.
Grady:One company.
Vanessa:Is that... Hiroshima? Why is there so much bombing in my brain right now? But is that like...?
Tom:Ten - eight - forty-two? That adds up to 60. So if you've got a one minute advert, it could be like ten seconds of something, then eight seconds of something, and then 42 seconds of something, but... I dunno why you would follow that rule or...
Vanessa:Wow, okay. Now it's Japanese, sorry.
Tom:Yeah, I was gonna say if it's American, then it's any pharmaceutical company, because they have ten seconds of naming it, eight seconds of promoting, and then 42 seconds of disclaimers about the many ways in which it will kill you, but...
Vanessa:Side effects include death.
Grady:That's a clever, I think you're on a clever path, Tom, but you're not on the right path.
Tom:(laughs uproariously) That's a wonderful way of telling me wrong. Thank you Grady. That smoothed it over very nicely.
Vanessa:So I'm thinking if it's a Japanese company, I'm just trying to think of types of Japanese companies. You have car makers, which are really popular. Japanese companies, lots of great Japanese cars. You've got cameras, electronics. So why would there be that rule for those types of companies?
Grady:The rival manufacturers of this specific company use similar but not identical numbers.
Tom:Oh wait, are we looking for a kind of company or a company here?
Grady:You're looking for a kind of company. But, there is a specific Japanese company that uses the ten-eight-42 rule, and there's other companies within this kind of company that use similar but not identical numbers.
Tom:So is it a ratio of something to something else? Is it...
Vanessa:Do the numbers even matter that much, Grady?
Grady:The first two numbers do matter quite a bit. Well, I'll say the first number matters quite a bit. The second number, less so, and the third number, even less.
Tom:It's a rare hint that makes us more confused. And yet.
Vanessa:Is it 10 hours and eight minutes and 42 seconds?
Grady:You're onto something there. I'll say that.
Tom:10 hours, eight minutes, 42 seconds.
Vanessa:Is it a time?
Tom:I was just thinking that, is that like—
Vanessa:Like 10 o'clock?
Tom:The best time to advertise to people is exactly—
Vanessa:Like 10 pm? Because is Japan like China, where they work nine to nine? So they're watching TV at 10, who knows?
Tom:Japanese TV schedules aren't usually to like round numbers of minutes. Or at least they weren't a few years ago. It may have changed since I've read this a while back, but they sort of had a battle over when particular shows would go out. So one channel would try and preempt the other shows by two minutes, and then the next one will try by one minute. So the TV schedules just end up on arbitrary numbers throughout the day.
Vanessa:Is it a superstition thing?
Tom:Is this a time, Grady? Is this like an actual clock time?
Grady:So you're right that it's a time, but you haven't quite landed on... the type of company that uses this time in their advertising.
Tom:Oh, by god, it's a watch manufacturer.
Tom:It's the time they
Vanessa:That makes so much sense.
Tom:point the hands to on the watch.
Rowan:Oh my gosh.
Tom:Because 10:08:42
Grady:Totally got it.
Tom:means you've got two, you've got that thing that you see in all the... Back when the Argos catalog was a thing, which a reference that isn't gonna land for a lot of the audience, but like you would see the lineup of watches, they would all be put to roughly 10:08, because it looks aesthetically pleasing. So you leave the second hand at about 42, just to kind of create a balanced image. Is that right? That feels...
Grady:You're exactly right, Tom. This actually is to do with Seiko.
Vanessa:So what's the time that the competitors use?
Grady:So, there's a few other watch manufacturers. Timex uses 10:09:36. Rolex uses 10:10:31. And even HTC phones use, on digital clocks, used to show 2:08, and Apple Watches show 10:09 on their ads.
Grady:So everyone has their own rule that they follow.
Vanessa:That's so interesting.
Grady:And the thing on the watches, the analog watches is it also reveals the logo, which is dead center, top dead center.
Tom:Just frames it neatly.
Vanessa:I spent so much time just staring at my watch trying to imagine what this looks like. And it would look good!
Rowan:As soon as you were saying about a time, like I'm so used to digital clocks that I did not even think about an analog clock. Like I was literally thinking about... the numbers literally being on the screen.
Tom:Yeah, same here.
Rowan:It's interesting.
Tom:I wrote down, on my notes, the time as a string, 'cause of course I did. It's not like I doodled a clock. I've sort of— I haven't forgotten how to tell the time, but it's been so long since I've had to rely on analogue clocks that I've sort of lost that instinctive ability to glance at a clock and know what time it is.
Grady:So the kind of company that uses the 10-8-42 rule in its advertising is a watch manufacturer, and in this case it was specifically Seiko that uses those exact numbers in its ads.
Tom:Next one's from me. Here we go, folks.

At the end of the 19th century, a certain tradition became popular in the US. This directly caused an increase in tetanus cases, and the cases were called 'patriotic tetanus'. What caused it?

I'll give you that again.

At the end of the 19th century, a certain tradition became popular in the US. This directly caused an increase in tetanus cases. Such cases were often called 'patriotic tetanus'. What caused it?

Just... There's two words in there that have multiple pronunciations. And no matter how I say it, people are gonna be angry at me that I either said pat-riotic tetanus or pay-triotic tetanus. And just please hold your emails and complaints. I do not care. So yes, patriotic tetanus at the end of the 19th century.
Vanessa:Grady, was there a point in American history where people started shooting themself with metal bullets?
Grady:With rusty knives.
Vanessa:With rusty metal bullets.
Grady:Not that I can recall, but I won't rule it out.
Rowan:I was like, yeah. What kind of stuff is patriotic in America? Like stabbing yourself with a flag? What's the...
Rowan:What kind of stuff might be seen that way?
Grady:Oh man, we could be here all day.
Tom:I mean, there's a lot of stereotypes we can roll with but honestly, this is a stereotype question, and you're not too far away! People are having their skin broken by rusty stuff.
Rowan:Oh, is it tattoos? Is it like a tattoo of the flag or a tattoo of an eagle or something like that?
Tom:Not in this case, unfortunately, but...
Rowan:That would've been cool though.
Vanessa:Grady, what was happening in that time period?
Grady:What was it, the turn of the 19th century?
Tom:End of the 19th century.
Grady:Oh, end of, yeah.
Grady:Yeah. Oh, you're asking me, you're asking an engineer history questions.
Tom:Yeah, but big like skin cutting history questions. Do you know why I said skin cutting? Could have phrased that a lot better. I wanna be careful, like, skin penetrating sounded worse.
Vanessa:It does sound worse.
Grady:Yeah, that is worse.
Rowan:It did, Tom.
Grady:Oh my gosh.
Rowan:Something people are doing to themselves or to other people. But if it's patriot— patriotic tetanus... Oh my gosh, that is difficult to say.
Tom:It's really difficult to say!
Rowan:Is it the person who's being's... penetrated who...
SFX:(group laughing)
Vanessa:I think it's the penetratee, yeah, yes.
Tom:In this case, there is not necessarily any link between the— This could have happened to innocent bystanders. This continues to get worse every time I add a hint. But yes, this could affect innocent bystanders.
Vanessa:Could it be shrapnel?
Grady:That's what I was thinking.
Vanessa:Is something exploding?
Rowan:Is this another bomb question?
Vanessa:Why, what is it with you and bombs?
Tom:Specifically American bomb questions, apparently.
Rowan:Was it a fireworks thing?
Vanessa:I was wondering about fireworks, but... what's coming out of fireworks? Different kinds of metal, I suppose.
Tom:At the end of the 19th century, yeah. Not particularly well constructed fireworks is actually the right answer. You are entirely right that this is a second US bombing question in the same...
Tom:Which in hindsight I should have probably not put in the same show. Yeah I don't wanna say amateur fireworks, but certainly poorly constructed fireworks might not go up all the way, might not explode properly. Would send shrapnel shards out to the bystanders, and people would get tetanus from 4th of July firework celebrations.
Rowan:I love how I don't know who came up with the idea of it being like patriotic tetanus. They went like, this is horrific. We must stop this. They're like, you love America so much.
Vanessa:Tetanus for America. We must keep the fireworks.
Grady:Dibs on patriotic tetanus as a band name.
Rowan:That's pretty great.
Vanessa:That's good.
Tom:Yes, pat-riotic tetanus, or pay-triotic tetanus, depending on how you wanna pronounce it, was a common way to get tetanus on July the 4th, at the end of the late 19th century, thanks to some very dodgy fireworks.

Next question comes from Rowan. So Vanessa, Grady, and me, good luck to us all. Let's see what you've got.
Rowan:It's rumoured that the legendary soul singer Jackie Wilson consumed handfuls of tablets to make the show better. But what were the tablets for?
Vanessa:Handfuls of tablets? Not one or two tablets, a handful?
Tom:Also, I've gotta be honest, I am not sure who Jackie Wilson is. I feel like I should know that.
Grady:Same here.
Rowan:You do not need to know.
Vanessa:Are there tablets that can change the pitch of your voice?
Tom:Oh, can you get helium tablets? I just feel like that'd be funny if you could. That's just... They just steadily effervesce in your stomach and give off helium, and just it's a steady... No, that wouldn't work. That would just make your belches higher pitched.
Tom:Although now I want to try swallowing helium to see what happens.
Vanessa:Great idea for a video.
Grady:There's just so many different... drugs that it could be. I feel like there's gotta be something that makes sense.
Vanessa:Yeah, I'm really getting caught up on the word 'better', because it's so subjective, right? Like if they're sleeping tablets and he falls asleep, is that better for some people? Who knows?
Tom:I'm getting caught up on the word 'handfuls'! Like I know... I know some countries still have the big pill bottles where you can just shake a load of pills out, but I don't think... It's not gonna be something that's... massively psychoactive 'cause you just can't.
Tom:Anything that's got an overdose potential, it's not gonna be that surely.
Vanessa:So our mind has automatically gone to a tablet that you can consume. But is there a different type of tablet or something that we're not thinking of?
Tom:I mean, there's that... Isn't Tablet some Northern British sugar snack thing? I can't remember the name of it. I think it's called Tablet. I think there's something—
Rowan:It is called Tablet, but that isn't the answer. But I would've loved it if to make the show better, this soul singer was like Little Northern Soul and they were like, let's get some Tablet in us.
Vanessa:I mean, it does say consumed handfuls of tablets. So you do assume that's something that... they're eating.
Tom:I've just learned to be so wary of every word in these questions.
Tom:It's consumed, it's not eating. Is that important? I don't know. Maybe the question writer just deliberately chose that. Maybe the question writer deliberately chose that. Maybe it's just, it just sounds better. I don't know. I'm just so wary of everything in these.
Grady:It has to be something like, something that they can safely consume. Like antacid tablets or something relatively benign to physiology.
Tom:Yeah. Homeopathic pills, because he— Have you ever seen that?
Rowan:Sugar pills.
Tom:I've seen that stunt done on stage. James Randi, who's the late lamenter James Randi.
Grady:Oh yeah.
Tom:Used to a stunt and I've seen it live once, where he would bring a pill bottle on stage, like literal. He's bought this, it's a genuine pill bottle. Unseals it, takes the wrapping off and over the course of the first minute of his lecture, just steadily downs the entire bottle of pills. And they're homeopathic pills, so they don't do anything. They're just chalk and a bit of sugar, and they might give him mild indigestion, and that's it. And it's a wonderful demonstration. Wait, they weren't placebos, were they? Like someone gave Jackie Wilson like magical voice changing pills, and he sung so much better, and then it turns out the magic was inside him all along.
Vanessa:Oh, Tom, that's so sweet.
Rowan:I would've loved that to have been true, but no. And in fact, these tablets did not affect his voice.
Tom:Oh, okay. But they did affect something.
Vanessa:Maybe it was for dancing. Maybe he had some kind of ailment,
Tom:and he was taking a lot of— Ecstasy.
Vanessa:pills to be able to move?
Rowan:They also were not medicinal tablets.
Tom:And throat lozenges count as medicinal, so it's not, and they'd affect his voice. I'm gonna be angry about this, because this is one of those things where, where your brain's not indexed the right way. Like you can't just list off all the tablets you know of, that don't fit the categories medicinal or voice changing.
Rowan:So this is not something that just Jackie Wilson did. But the reason why it applies specifically to Jackie Wilson is that he was nicknamed Mr. Excitement due to his very high energy shows. That was part of what made his shows like so exciting for people.
Tom:Were they just sugar pills? Just to get him like hyperactive and enthused?
Grady:What about caffeine pills?
Rowan:You are on the right track with this kind of idea of connecting them together. Not quite the right type of pills.
Tom:I mean, I did say ecstasy earlier and I just feel like we moved away from that slightly too quickly, perhaps. I'm now struggling for a second upper, and you can tell how exciting my life is by the fact that I cannot think of any.
Vanessa:But I mean, even if you had some kind of amphetamine, is that, does that count as medicinal?
Tom:And you wouldn't want to down handfuls of them.
Tom:I also get the feeling that amphetamines are... Illegal amphetamines are normally consumed some other way than that.
Grady:I'm going back to your helium idea.
Tom:What else could—
Grady:What other substance could be packaged into a tablet?
Vanessa:I'd love to have some of those tablets right now.
Tom:They're not like diuretics, so he was forced to hop about 'cause he really needed to pee.
Rowan:No... But I love where your mind is going, Tom.
Tom:I don't! I hate where my mind is going!
Vanessa:I'm really getting caught up on the medicinal thing, because I feel like almost everything that you could ingest that's a tablet could somehow be categorised as that.
Tom:Is this the first question where the entire panel just gives up? I don't know.
Grady:Let's go home.
Rowan:If you want, I can give you the final clue.
Vanessa:Please. We need it.
Rowan:I come at your question with a question for my question, which is, what might an audience expect to see as a result of Jackie Wilson's impassioned dance moves?
Tom:Oh! They made him sweat. Are there pills that can make you sweat?
Vanessa:Why would you wanna take so many pills that would make you sweat?
Rowan:This was why when Vanessa was like, "I would love some of those pills." I was like, you would not, Vanessa.
Vanessa:No, I would not.
Tom:They gave him hyperhidrosis, so he looked like he was way more enthusiastic and way more there?
Rowan:Yeah, it's salt tablets.
Tom:He did salt tablets to make him sweat.
Grady:Oh, wow.
Rowan:Which is... As someone with hyperhidrosis, I'm like, "Cool, good to know I will never be taking those." That's already too, I already have that a bit too much.

Yeah, so Wilson decided that his largely female audiences wanted to see him sweat on stage, and so use the salt tablets accordingly. And supposedly when I said that there were other people who had tried this trick, Jackie Wilson gave the same tip to Elvis Presley, so that he could do the same thing on stage when he was performing.
Vanessa:Wow, nothing like a sweaty man.
Tom:Did Jackie Wilson die of high blood pressure and a stroke or something like that? Because that is a lot of salt to be taking to make you sweat. I didn't even know that was a connection you had.
Rowan:So, potentially? 'Cause all I know is that in the Wikipedia section for him, the fact that he took a lot of salt pills is under the section "Illness and Death", so.
Tom:Right, okay.
Rowan:Quite possibly...
Rowan:the joke is true, Tom.
Vanessa:It just really feels like you could have some kind of fake sweat that is just a liquid, you know, that you are like applying to yourself rather than taking a tablet.
Tom:Just build a rig. Just build a rig that just steadily drips water outta your forehead.
Tom:Hidden from the audience. Much, much healthier way of doing that.
Rowan:So it turns out, if you wanna be known as Mr. Excitement... you can down a lot of salt pills on stage to make you sweat, which is exactly what Jackie Wilson did during his performances.
Tom:The last big question from me, then. We've got one to come from our guests, and then the audience question. But the last big one from me is, I promise, not about the US bombing anywhere. Mostly.

From August the 8th to 11th, 2019, the largest convention of its type was held in Las Vegas. The attendance fee was 300 US dollars, cash. You couldn't buy tickets online beforehand, and no other form of payment was acceptable. What was the conference about, and why was it so inflexible?

I'll give you that one more time.

From August 8-11, 2019, the largest convention of its type was held in Las Vegas. The attendance fee was 300 US dollars, cash. You couldn't buy tickets online beforehand, and no other form of payment was acceptable. What was the conference about, and why was it so inflexible?
Rowan:I mean, maybe something to do with like security or not being tracked or something like that. Like you could only pay in cash, no payment trails.
Vanessa:Conspiracy theory con.
Rowan:Ooh, yeah.
Vanessa:Only in Las Vegas, August 8-11, 2019.
Tom:It's actually not there. It's actually, that's a false flag. It's actually being held in New York three days later, but only for the people who know!
Rowan:I mean, I don't necessarily think Vegas is particularly relevant, in that Vegas is like a massive convention town. So I don't necessarily think that's a clue.
Vanessa:It's not COVID related 'cause this is, right?
Rowan:It's 2019.
Rowan:Unless the conspiracy theories were correct! For the convention.
Vanessa:Is that convention where COVID was created?
Tom:Oh, oh wow. Well, this is—
Vanessa:I've gone down the rabbit hole. I'm really sorry.
Tom:This podcast just had all its advertising taken away.
Rowan:Because it can't just be the idea of that cash was available as an option, because the idea is you had to pay in cash, and you couldn't pay online in advance. So it's not just trying to be like accessible to people who couldn't have bank accounts or something like that. Like it's specifically that cash was needed.
Vanessa:I wonder, I'm just thinking of communities that are cash only. If it's in the US, is it some kind of like Amish type thing? Hasidic Jewish type thing? Communities that don't rely on technology as much as we do for religious reasons.
Grady:Yeah, but I wouldn't think they would gather in Las Vegas.
Vanessa:Why Las Vegas?
Grady:Come to the convention in Vegas!
Grady:Another cash only industry in the US is marijuana, actually. Or at least to a certain extent, because most major banks won't work with... Since it's federally illegal, but legal in some states, most of the major banks won't help the marijuana industry. And so that was one idea I was thinking about.
Rowan:Yeah. Or, kind of on a similar vein, anything that they wouldn't want some kind of paper trail to, or someone who needed to get that cash fast.
Grady:I mean, you might have been onto something with the first idea, Rowan, which was like security. There's a big conference called DEF CON that happens in the summer.
Rowan:Incredible name.
Vanessa:I wonder if it's...
Tom:You need to be a little bit...
Grady:Should I call you out?
Tom:Every time Grady, that you nail an answer, you say it in, in such a, "I wonder, maybe" way that I never get a chance to go, "Yes." And get excited about it. You just kind of pass the answer by, you wave at it as you go by. Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's DEF CON.
Grady:It was DEF CON.
Tom:The hacker conference in—
Vanessa:What is that?
Tom:It's a hacker conference in Las Vegas.
Grady:I don't know very much about it. Except that, yeah, it's a hacker conference that happens every summer. I know they always have really cool name badges that have some gadgetry or electronics, but that's the extent of my knowledge about it.
Tom:And the most hostile Wi-Fi network in the world. You just wanna keep your phone in airplane mode anywhere near the convention hotel, because someone will have set up a spoof cell tower and a spoof Wi-Fi thing nearby. It is an enormous conference.

In their words, they don't want to be a target of any state or federal phishing expeditions. Because every summer, there'll be a glut of news stories that come out about, "Yep, someone's found a way to just tap into this ATM and get all the money out of it. Yep, someone's found a way to hack your car, so it just drives on its own now." Like those stories all come out of DEF CON, and a lot of folks who go do not want the paper trail that they were there.
Grady:That's fascinating. So is it cash-only every year, or was 2019 a specific...?
Tom:Good question, don't know. I believe that's every year. The reason we said 2019 is that since then, it's not been the largest convention of its type, because we're still coming out of COVID, and the big conventions haven't happened yet. But yes, it was the biggest hacker convention in the world, DEF CON at Las Vegas. Good knowledge there, Grady.
Vanessa:That's fascinating.
Vanessa:It must be so hard to organise something like that.
Grady:Well, it's interesting. The only reason I know about DEF CON is 'cause my publisher, who focuses mainly on coding books, was there and had my book on the table. And it got stolen. They had one copy. And so you could go on Twitter to my publisher and see them asking if anyone knows where this book went at DEF CON.
Tom:That's not hacking. That's just outright theft.
Vanessa:Yeah, exactly.
Tom:You don't get to steal someone's book and go, "I've hacked you." That's not how that works.
Rowan:Not how hacking works.
Grady:Yeah, so there's 25 copies that exist, and one of them is location unknown.
Tom:Time for our last guest question of the show, then. Vanessa, this one's on you.
Vanessa:Okay, so a sign outside a hotel room has a "+1" at the end of it. Why?
Tom:Oh, I hate these short questions.
Grady:You want the clues in the question.
Vanessa:A sign outside a hotel room has a "+1" at the end of it. Why?
Rowan:Okay, so... Our brains automatically, when it says a sign outside a hotel room, it's like, "Oh yeah, so the sign that it's the number of the door," but that's not necessarily the sign that it is.
Tom:Yeah, it could be a do not disturb or a like the evacuation things that tell you where to go.
Grady:I was thinking country code on... the country code on US phone numbers, a lot of times is written "+1", but I don't think that's probably it.
Tom:You're gonna have— this is the hotel for the stars of the Eurovision Song Contest. And for some reason, they've been indexed by country code.
Rowan:I mean, the obvious one being +1 is in like a +1 invitation or a +1 to the room, in terms of like, there's someone else in this room on top of who is normally there.
Tom:Yes, although... So could that be for fire safety or something like that? Like you need to tell rescuers there's one more person, but it's not like fire. It's not like the fire brigade gets an index of who's in each room. They just go and knock on each door and see if anyone's in.
Vanessa:Like all of the beautiful short questions, I wouldn't think about this too deeply. It's more simple. Yeah.
Tom:Okay. That's fine. I can definitely not think about this too deeply.
Vanessa:Just smooth-brain thoughts, that's what we're looking for here.
Grady:I was thinking about superstitions, like if there was a room that ended in 13 maybe, instead of writing 613, they would write 612 + 1.
Rowan:Is it definitely plus one, and not just like, line, line, line that looks like a plus one? Like, "Oh, little symbols."
Vanessa:That would be so cruel.
Tom:It's a really, really badly drawn H.
Vanessa:It is definitely a plus one.
Tom:But I feel like if you were superstitious and you saw 612 + 1, you'd know what they're doing.
Grady:That brings attention, that brings more attention to it.
Tom:Sorry, I just realised that I was staying in like room 414 the other day, and now that was probably room 13.
Grady:It probably was.
Vanessa:Okay, I'll give you a hint because I think Grady, as always, is on the right track. It is a room number.
Grady:Okay, it's a room number.
Vanessa:The sign is for a room number.
Tom:Okay, is that the whole room number? It's adding onto something, or...
Vanessa:The sign is the room number, so the final room number requires some addition.
Tom:Like this is not relevant to the question. I just haven't had a space to rant about this. They put the room numbers, so I was in... it was something like 423, which was written as number four, number two, word three, T-H-R-E-E, which...
Tom:Okay, you're in room 43, and then you get there, you get to the fourth floor and it says, yeah, room 4-0-ZERO to, so this... Your brain just completely faults. You have to do mental juggling to try and work out what this sign is telling you. This isn't relevant to the question. I was just angry about it.
Grady:Architects, who needs 'em?
Tom:Well... That's interior designers, Grady.
Rowan:I mean, I was gonna say if they changed the rooms of the hotel and there were now two rooms, but they'd already numbered them. But I feel like you would just put B, like room A, room B, or something like that with the same number, rather than just plus one.
Tom:This isn't Hilbert's Hotel, is it? This isn't that thing with the infinite hotel, where an infinite number of mathematicians arrive, and they all have to move down one?
Vanessa:It doesn't specify what hotel it is, but no, it's not that one.
Tom:Grady, you had a thought immediately before I went off on my rant about phone— about room numbers, sorry.
Vanessa:Grady probably knows, and he'll just casually introduce this thread, and it'll just be correct.
Grady:Well, my idea doesn't shake out, because my thought was maybe a room sign could only have a certain number of digits, and so they couldn't roll over to the... But then if you could add a +1 to it, you would have enough room to add another digit. So that doesn't make any sense.
Tom:Yeah, I feel like they'd go to room 4-100 before they went to room 4-99 + 1.
Vanessa:I used to live in an apartment building where the floors were letters and the apartments were numbers.
Tom:And I find it so confusing.
Vanessa:Who wants to live on floor C, in apartment H?
Tom:Oh wait, that way round? You weren't on 3— you were on C-3, not 3— Oh, yeah.
Vanessa:So all the other rooms in the hotel don't share this feature. This is unique to one room.
Grady:To a single room.
Tom:Is it like two rooms? It's like a suite or something like that, where there's...
Grady:Where they added a divider wall.
Tom:Or there's a kid's room inside it, and so it's got a second room you can book?
Vanessa:It's just a nesting doll of rooms, when you walk in the door.
Tom:Inside the room, there's another room, then another room, then then a doll's house, and then a mouse hole. Yeah.
Grady:Yeah. I think we can all agree that this is bad notation, whether...
Tom:Yeah, yeah. Well, maybe this turns out to be really logical once we actually get there.
Grady:Yeah, that's true.
Vanessa:So the reason that this is done is to prevent the sign from being stolen.
Tom:Oh, okay, yeah. This is...
Rowan:Is it 68 + 1?
Tom:Or it's 419 + 1. It's one of these.
Vanessa:One of you has said the correct answer. Which one is it?
Tom:So I know that the street sign for mile 420 of some highway in the US keeps getting stolen. They've changed it to 419.9, which also now keeps getting stolen. So I'm gonna put my money on 420.
Vanessa:Grady, Rowan, where are you?
Rowan:You know what, I'm sticking with mine on 68. Grady's gonna have to be the deal breaker.
Grady:Oh man. I'm sorry, Tom, but I think... Wait, no, I'm going with Tom, because most hotels I feel like have three numbers.
Grady:as their room.
Tom:Which hotel is this that has to do that?
Vanessa:It actually doesn't say what hotel it is, but I can finally reveal that the room says 419 + 1, to stop people stealing a sign that says 420 on it.
Grady:And, I'm sure it doesn't work just like the road sign doesn't work.
Vanessa:Well, interestingly, this road sign that Tom was speaking about is in Stratton, Colorado, when it marks mile 420, but now it says mile 419.99. It's on Interstate 70, but it's been stolen since 2017. The 419.99 sign.
Grady:Now it's more novel than a 420 sign.
Vanessa:Yeah. So the 420 comes from 420 Friendly, which means a recreational user of marijuana, and it comes from a group of California high school students, allegedly who would meet at 4:20 PM to get high.
Tom:One last thing on the agenda then, which is the riddle. I'm not even gonna say this is a question. I read this and I was just annoyed by it. The riddle that I asked the audience at the start of the show, which is:

Which type of distilled alcoholic drink, when added to ice, becomes something a child could consume legally without any ill effects?

Before I make you all angry with the answer, does anyone have any suggestions on what that might've been?
Vanessa:I mean, is being drunk an ill effect? Because sometimes it's pretty fun.
Tom:Do you need your child to sleep, and have you very little ethics, you've got a solution there.
Grady:It depends on the amount of ice, right?
Tom:No. No, absolutely not. You're just adding it to ice.
Rowan:Dry ice or normal ice?
Tom:Just ice. Just.
Vanessa:Are you freezing some kind of alcohol that would freeze, so they're not actually drinking it?
Tom:It's a riddle. It's very much a sideways look at this. You are adding distilled alcoholic drink to ice. Which means you are adding liquor to ice, which means you're making liquorice and...
Tom:Yeah. I did warn you.
Vanessa:That's a stretch.
Tom:Yeah, it really is. But that is our show. Thank you to everyone for getting through that juggernaut of US bombing questions. Vanessa, tell the world what's going on in your life please.
Vanessa:You can find me on YouTube, or TikTok against my better judgment, as BrainCraft. I make videos on psychology and habits and sleep.
Rowan:Yeah, I'm on YouTube as Rowan Ellis. I make videos about LGBTQ+ history and culture, and have a book out called Here and Queer.
Tom:And Grady.
Grady:I make videos about infrastructure on a YouTube channel called Practical Engineering, and I have a book coming out in November called Engineering in Plain Sight.
Tom:And that is us for the day. If you wanna send in an idea for question, or you wanna know more about the show, you can do that at You can find us at @lateralcast on basically everywhere, and you can catch video highlights at Thank you very much to Rowan Ellis.
Tom:Vanessa Hill.
Vanessa:Thank you.
Tom:Grady Hillhouse.
Grady:Thank you Tom.
Tom:I'm Tom Scott, and this has been Lateral.
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