Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 15: Elfrida, dog detective

Published 20th January, 2023

Sabrina Cruz, Melissa Fernandes and Taha Khan from 'Answer in Progress' face questions about baffling bans, Australian emblems, and stamp sales.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. EDITED BY: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITOR: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Eglė Vaškevičiūtė, Samuel, Manfred Paul. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Which component must be fitted to commercial airlines but cannot legally be used by passengers? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Today's guests are from Answer In Progress, a YouTube channel all about answering interesting questions like why pizza tastes good, the history of the Sourtoe cocktail, how to teach an AI to make pasta. I did just realise that I have just taken all your food videos there. Sorry about that. Let's have some introductions, 'cause you all know each other for once. This is gonna be a little more competitive than the usual videos, I think. Melissa Fernandes.
Melissa:Hello, I'm Melissa, a third of Answer in Progress, and... I am scared.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Taha Khan, you were the one who messaged me saying, "Can we come on the show?" Like, why do you wanna be on here?
Taha:Oh, I love every, give me a game show and I'll be on it. I love game shows. I love this show. I'm so excited.
Tom:And how about Sabrina Cruz? Are you excited as well, or are you just being dragged along behind Taha here?
Sabrina:Hey, I'm excited but also worried for my friendships, because I am a very competitive person. Melissa is rightfully scared.
Tom:Well, there are no points here. No prize at the end other than bragging rights, but I somehow have the feeling that's gonna be quite important for all three of you. So, good luck to all. The questions here are a bit like that party game where you spin around with your head on top of a broom and get dizzy and try and walk somewhere, in that you might eventually—
Sabrina:What happens in the UK?
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom:You dunno that party game?
Melissa:This is also what I was thinking.
Taha:I don't know that party game!
Sabrina:What happens in Tom's house?
Tom:Look, look. The scripts for this are just getting increasingly unhinged as time goes on, okay? And I am dealing with them as best I can. Are you telling me you have never held up a broom, span round with your head down, and then tried to walk somewhere? That's never a thing? That's never a thing.
Sabrina:You said that with so much confidence that it would be relatable.
Sabrina:But I can guarantee no.
Tom:I'm gonna finish my script, because... Because I've got no other option here, Which is, let's see who's gonna stagger down the garden path of uncertainty, and who's gonna land in the nearest hedge? But you know what? We'll just do question one. That's fine.
SFX:(others giggling)
Taha:We have already derailed Tom's game show.
Tom:Your first question then.

Stockholm resident Elfrida Carlson worked as a tax inspector. Her job was to locate people who were not paying their taxes for dog ownership. What did she do to track them down?

I'll give you that one more time.

Stockholm resident Elfrida Carlson works as a tax inspector. Her job was to locate people who were not paying their taxes for dog ownership. What did she do to track them down?
Sabrina:Bark really loudly. Dog treat, boom, nailed it.
Sabrina:We nailed it in one.
Taha:Next question.
Sabrina:Next question, we're good. Okay.
Tom:Here's the thing, Sabrina. You actually did just nail it in one.
Tom:So... why? What was the plan? Like yes, it absolutely involved barking. Why?
Sabrina:I wasn't supposed to be right. I don't know! (giggles)
Taha:Because she speaks dog?
Sabrina:She speaks dog. She was just asking where they were. Oh—
Tom:You've modified the question to: Stockholm resident Elfrida Carlson stands and barks. Why?
Taha:Okay. Surely because the dogs would reveal themselves. They would bark back.
Taha:Okay, okay.
Sabrina:They wanted to participate in the conversation.
Tom:So she visited addresses where unlicensed dogs might be present, and barked outside the door, and apparently that was enough. She was able to mimic about 20 different types of dog barks.
Sabrina:So she practiced. That's impressive.
Tom:She also said she was able to estimate the correct age and breed of any dog that replied.
Melissa:Who has a dog encyclopedia in their brain?
Taha:Yeah. That's incredible. What I'm hearing is: Dog impersonator got a job as a tax professional.
Tom:(laughs)I will say that the the reference for this — which I do have in my notes — is a domain that ends in .ru. So I'm not completely ruling out that this is some badly translated misinformation. But no, this is tagged to an actual reference here.
Taha:That's amazing.
Tom:Here's the thing. That was meant to be a five minute question. So good luck, here we go!
Melissa:You ruined it!
Tom:Alright, so Sabrina, since you started us off so well there, we'll go to you for the first guest question. Each of our guests has brought a question along. As ever, I don't know the question. I definitely don't know the answer. So, Sabrina, it's over to you.

The performance artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay finished their romantic and work relationship in typically grandiose fashion by walking for 90 day in roughly east and west directions. How and where did they say goodbye?

I'm gonna say it one more time.

Performance artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay finished their romantic and work relationship in typically grandiose fashion by walking for 90 days in roughly east and west directions. How and where did they say goodbye?
Tom:Wow. I mean, that is a grandiose way to end your relationship. That's a 90 day breakup, which now I say it sounds like a reality show.
Taha:It's a sequel to Love is Blind.
Tom:Yeah, we found divorcing couples, and just stuck them together for 90 days of a trip.
Sabrina:Love is Tired.
Taha:Love is Tired. Love is getting their a hundred steps. Hundred steps? 10,000 steps.
Tom:We have just workshopped a reality show format there. So, you know, let's just copyright that.
Taha:Okay, the thing that I have questions about here is east and west.
Tom:Oh. Did they both go east and west together or...
Taha:I feel like they're both like... It doesn't say— Does it say that they started in the same place? 'Cause I think... they would start at different places, go east and west, and join up. Not join up, meet up.
Tom:I was thinking they were walking both together. But now, thinking about it, why, if they're breaking up, do they start in the same place and move apart?
Taha:But then how do they meet? After 90 days... how do they meet up?
Sabrina:I can say that Taha is going in the right direction, because they did start this journey in different spots.
Taha:Yeah, cause they have to meet up, right? Like they can't... I think that the performance art part of it is flawed, because they should be moving away from each other symbolically.
Taha:Yeah. So maybe they, that's why they broke up, is 'cause they were bad at performance art.
Melissa:Were they walking back and forth somewhere? Did they have to go in one direction the whole time? Were they walking... you know what I mean? Like, were they on stage? Were they meeting again on stage? Were they just walking back and forth on stage?
Sabrina:That's a very tedious journey. 90 days pacing.
Melissa:I don't know, maybe they were practicing for a new project.
Tom:I've seen worse performance art than that.
SFX:(Sabrina and Melissa laughing)
Tom:Is there any part of Earth where you can like walk for 90 days east and west without— Like how far do you go in that length of time?
Taha:Depends how many steps you plan to take, right?
Tom:If you figure it's about, yeah, five, six miles a day, maybe if that's...
Taha:But the thing is like... anywhere, east and west, you could just... walk in a line and meet each other. East and west are literally opposite directions, right? So like, this could be anywhere, so...
Tom:It's gotta be somewhere symbolic then, surely. It's gotta be a rendezvous point where—
Taha:Is it gonna be like the bridge of love in Amsterdam? Is that a bridge in Amsterdam with the locks?
Melissa:The lock one? Yeah?
Sabrina:Yeah, because I think it's worth remembering that they are performance artists. So you know, there was some drip and pizzazz.
Taha:Is there a country that's 90 days of walking along? Does anyone have that information in their brain?
Sabrina:How much is one day of walking along?
Tom:That's about six or seven miles, I guess. Like how long can you keep that up for 90 days? Like yeah, you can do 20 miles in a day if you want to, but after a while, you'll be tired. So let's say, I dunno, six or seven miles. It's maybe 500 miles... It's not, like, they didn't do The Proclaimers, did they? They didn't walk 500 miles and then walk 500 more?
Taha:That... I would take back my comment about performance artists.
SFX:(others laughing)
Taha:If that is what they did. That is epic.
Sabrina:Well for this journey, they... It was in a location that they needed to get like permission from the country to do this thing. So it wasn't some arbitrary distance.
Taha:Was it Vatican City? Did they walk Vatican City? Surely you can walk Vatican City in a day.
Tom:You can walk Vatican City in about 10 minutes, I think.
Sabrina:It was not Vatican City.
Tom:You know that old riddle about going north and then east and then south and then ending up back in the same place, or whatever order it is, and it turns out you're at the poles? Did they circumnavigate...
Tom:the Arctic or the Antarctic, or something like that, and then both go east and west, and then meet back up at the same point having like walked 'round... a circumference?
Taha:I like this.
Sabrina:The journey was done on foot. I will say that the path was a little bit more obvious than just walk in the direction of a pole.
Sabrina:So they were kind of set on a route.
Taha:Is it like Lord of the Rings? Did they do the walk to Mordor?
Tom:I was thinking Great Wall of China, but that's not east-west.
Taha:You're making a face!
Sabrina:Well, I will confidently say that it wasn't Mordor.
SFX:(group giggling)
Tom:But what did you say, Tom? I was thinking Great Wall of China, but that's north-south, isn't it?
Sabrina:I mean, the question did say roughly east and west directions.
Taha:So was it the Great Wall of China?
Sabrina:It was.
Tom:So where did they meet? The centre of the wall?
Tom:(chuckle) Good answer. Like it.
Taha:Do I get the point?
Sabrina:I want you guys to guess like where did they meet and then how did they meet up? Because the question did say how and where did they say goodbye? So we know the location. Now paint me a visual picture.
Taha:Oh my god, I don't know anything—
Melissa:Did they scale the walls? What?
SFX:(Tom and Sabrina laughing)
Taha:They met up by physically being in the same place. So that answers your question.
Tom:They were that couple that put on wing suits and dove off the Great Wall of China through the big arch thing. I can't remember the name.
Sabrina:I love performance art. Nah, they just walked from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, and then they met in the middle to say goodbye.
Taha:After they met up to say goodbye... did they then have to turn around and go away from each other? Or did they then be like, "Right, okay, now we are both going to go to the exit"?
Tom:"I accidentally have booked ourselves on the same flight back, and that's just awkward."
Sabrina:Okay, so this is interesting, because Taha, you were pointing out how it seemed like, weirdly, it seemed like a bad art choice to choose them starting from different locations and meeting in the middle if they were gonna break up. But the thing is in 1988, the original plan was to start on opposite ends, meet in the middle, and then get married. But it took them so long to get permission from the Chinese government to do this project, that they broke up!
Tom:Oh wow.
SFX:(group laughing)
Taha:Oh no!
Taha:Oh, no.
Taha:That is so sad.
Sabrina:That's the reality TV show right there.
SFX:(group laughing)
Melissa:Yeah! Walk the Great Wall of China.
Tom:I think that arguably makes the performance art better.
Tom:That's two people who now don't like each other that much, just coming towards each other and meet— "Oh god, that's two days now I'm gonna have to meet them."
Taha:And then the Proclaimers were in the middle. It was amazing.
Sabrina:They were their pace car. The interesting thing is, I think they ended up meeting again during another performance art piece. I think that Marina, she was sitting— It's a very viral video. She's sitting at a table. And then this dude walks up, and then they just start crying and holding hands. And if you don't have any context, it's just like, what's going on? And I think it's because it's like one of the first times they've seen each other since they've had like a very intense relationship. Their art is really beautiful. I recommend checking it out.
Taha:I retract my previous statement about them being bad at art.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Sabrina:So these two performance artists just start off on opposite ends of the Great Wall, originally expecting to marry, but it took so long to do that they ended up breaking up in the middle.
Tom:Back to me for this question. Good luck everyone.

Ringo Starr auctioned his copy of the Beatles' White Album for charity in 2015. Apart from it being in his possession, there was a clear way to prove that it was his personal copy of the album. How?

One more time.

Ringo Starr auctioned his copy of the Beatles' White Album for charity in 2015. Apart from it being in his possession, there was a clear way to prove that it was his personal copy of the album. How?
Taha:Okay. I know nothing about the Beatles.
Sabrina:Did he write his name on it? Did he label his items, like my mom always recommended I do?
Tom:I mean, he could've done that to any— He could have bought a copy of the White Album from someone else, shoved a signature on it, gone, "Yeah, yeah, that's—" I'm sorry, I nearly tried to a Ringo Starr impression there. And I got as far as, "Yeah, yeah." And I'm just not gonna try on that. "Yeah, absolutely my copy. Look, it's got my signature on it." There's something else about that.
Sabrina:Is there something about record pressings that make it obvious which one's a ma— like an original one versus a future pass? Like maybe there was like a specific error?
Sabrina:I imagine it's on vinyl.
Tom:Yes, it is on vinyl.
Taha:So if it's vinyl, each pressing can potentially be using a different material, which means the pressings can be different colours. If you had a test press, sometimes those have a different label. So it could have been one of the only test presses. Or...
Tom:So it was one of the sort of early samples. So not for resale, but there were hundreds of those. This is particularly valuable because it was very clearly Ringo's.
Sabrina:He'd smashed it with a drumstick. It was broken. It was just impaled. He's the drummer, right?
Taha:Yeah, I was gonna say, is he the drummer? Okay. Interesting.
Tom:I forget that we have three people here who are just into the generation where the Beatles are starting to become less relevant.
Taha:I feel like I'm going to get in trouble for this, 'cause I'm British.
SFX:(others laughing)
Taha:So, you know.
Sabrina:Melissa, what do you think?
Melissa:I'm trying to think like, was there some publicly known... quirks that he had that he would put on...?
Tom:I mean, Ringo does have a lot of publicly known quirks, but...
Melissa:I just don't know them.
Taha:Is he the only surviving Beatle?
Sabrina:No, Paul McCartney's still alive, bro.
Taha:I don't know the Beatles!
SFX:(Sabrina and Melissa laughing)
Tom:We're gonna get complaints about this one.
Taha:I know, I'm sorry.
Sabrina:Okay. Did he get— No, no, 'cause it can't be special, 'cause it was... Huh-hm-hmm. Much to think about. What things can you do to a vinyl album that makes it uniquely yours?
Taha:You could play it. Was it— Were certain songs played a lot, so that like the grooves had like changed slightly? 'Cause that happens.
Tom:Not in this case, but yes. You can wear out a vinyl I think. But this is not what happened here. I think it could have been still factory sealed here. I dunno if it was, but that— It could have been for this to work.
Sabrina:He took a selfie with it. He said, "This is mine. I haven't played it before. It's fully sealed, but it's mine."
Tom:And somehow the selfie is from 1974, just when he...
Tom:I think the Beatles had broken up by '74, never mind.
Taha:He made an NFT out of it.
Sabrina:He made an NFT. He had the receipt. He sold it with the receipt. From HMV.
Tom:Sorry, you don't know the Beatles, but you know HMV?!
Sabrina:I knew Paul McCartney was still alive. I just don't know anything else.
Taha:Is he related to the woman that makes the vegetarian sausages?
Tom:That's Paul McCartney, who was once married to Linda McCartney, who made the vegetarian sausages.
Taha:Really? That's amazing!
Sabrina:That's the real celebrity Taha cares for.
Taha:That's who I care about.
Tom:No, Ringo Starr is famous as the drummer in the Beatles and the British narrator for Thomas the Tank Engine.
Sabrina:I didn't know that.
Taha:That's, yeah, I didn't know that either.
Tom:That wasn't a clue. Just to be clear, that was not a clue.
Sabrina:Oh, okay.
Taha:Right, okay.
Sabrina:I was so excited.
Taha:Yeah, I was gonna be like, I know that there is this novelty vinyl player, like record player, which is a little... like train with a... and you just put it on the vinyl in it, and it spins around and it plays music. So I was thinking something to do with that, but... No?
Tom:Beatles fans are gonna be shouting this one immediately, 'cause it turns out there is a feature on the cover of the White Album that makes this easy.
Tom:Yeah, just to be clear, the White Album, the cover is just white with "The Beatles" on it. It's just known as the "White Album", because that's the most distinguishing feature.
Taha:Did he spill tea on it so it wasn't quite white? It was like tea coloured.
Tom:That could still be anyone's tea.
Taha:Nah, that's true.
Sabrina:So, just to get things clear, this... Everything about the album was... At least at the moment that he first received it, was indistinguishable from like other copies sold.
Tom:Mm. 'Indistinguishable' is not the right word there.
Sabrina:So, distinguishable.
Taha:I mean, obviously distinguishable. That's how they know it's Ringo's one.
Sabrina:It could have been something that happened after the fact.
Tom:It had the same features as all the other copies of the White Album.
Taha:When it was created... Yeah, well, here's the thing. You keep saying 'features'. And in my head...
Sabrina:That has musical meaning.
Taha:When you say music— Yeah, when you say music and features—
Tom:Oh, no, that's not.
Taha:Okay, great.
Sabrina:I thought that he just had a version of the album which is just him playing the drums. Nobody else.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Just isolated all the drum tracks. Like this is Ringo's White Album. This is the one that matters.
Taha:Yeah, okay. So when it came off the presses... It's the same thing. It's put in the sleeve. Was the sleeve different?
Tom:The same thing is done to all the copies of the White Album. All the vinyl ones.
Taha:It was numbered. It was his number. Four or five, whatever Beatle he was.
Tom:Now... it's interesting you pick him as number four or five there.
Tom:For two reasons. One, he is usually last in the list. And two, there are only four Beatles.
Sabrina:Number five then.
Tom:You've basically—
Taha:Number one.
Tom:Number one. You've got it there. He has album copy number one. And all the copies of the White Album— It was designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton, and it was his idea as a joke. They are all limited edition. Millions and millions of copies of this album were originally stamped and numbered. Later on they just kind of printed text, but they all have an increasing number of how many copies have been sold. And Ringo has number one.
Melissa:That's so cool.
Taha:I love that.
Melissa:That's awesome.
Taha:It's like a physical version of views. You know what I mean?
Tom:Yeah, it really is!
Taha:Like, this album has 10 million views. And it's like, great.
Tom:Yeah, you're not wrong. I don't know how they coordinated all the pressings to make sure.
Sabrina:You did take something that I was quite happy with, which was the idea of numbers and limited pressings and labelling your prints, and then you turned it into the worst thing.
Tom:So, yes, Ringo Starr was able to prove that his copy of the White Album was his, because he has stamped copy number one.

Our next question comes from Taha, so whenever you're ready, let's hear it.
Taha:Okay. So in 2012, the British art dealer Jeff Salmon... Weird name— No, I can't say that.
Tom:That's not a real name.
SFX:(group laughing)
Taha:I can't roast someone's name.
Tom:We were all thinking it. Jeff Salmon... is a character from a sitcom with a really dull life. Anyway.
Sabrina:Oh, I thought it was just a fake name. He has a really interesting life.
Tom:It's just a sitcom about a salmon.
Sabrina:Oh, it's a salmon with a day job.
Taha:In 2012, the British art dealer Jeff Salmon bought 250,000 pounds of new first and second class postage stamps from the Royal Mail. He didn't use any of them. Why?

I'll say that again.

In 2012, the British art dealer Jeff Salmon bought 250,000 pounds of new First and Second Class postage stamps from the Royal Mail. He didn't use any of them. Why?
Tom:Just to be clear, what do you mean by pounds?
Taha:Pound sterling.
Tom:Pound sterling.
Taha:British currency.
Melissa:Oh, okay.
Sabrina: Okay.
Sabrina:And what do you mean by used?
Taha:I said he didn't use any of them.
Sabrina:Yeah, but he didn't use them for post, but he's an artist. So did he use them in a work of art?
Melissa:Yeah, did he put them on the wall?
Taha:He's a British art dealer.
Melissa:He didn't put them on the wall. (nervous chuckle)
Tom:A quarter of a million pounds on stamps. So... This is me from knowing that the cost of stamps has gone up a lot. Is this like an investment? Because the stamps used to be a lot cheaper than they are now. They seem to go up every year. Did he just realise he could sell these in a few years for twice as much as a stamp dealer all of a sudden?
Taha:Yeah, you got it. You literally actually got it in one. That's exactly what he did.
Tom:No! Why do we keep doing this?
Taha:I know! It's terrible for your show, Tom! But yeah.
Tom:I didn't think anyone would seriously do that. I've had that as a stupid get rich quick scheme since I was like ten years old. Like, oh, the stamps have gone up in price, but they just have first and second on them, so...
Tom:Oh yeah, you know. I could just buy these, and then in a few years— You're telling me someone actually did that?
Taha:Yeah. I mean, and it was the British art dealer, Jeff Salmon. He stole your ten year old get rich quick scheme.
Melissa:He got there first.
Taha:But yeah, he bought 'em just before the price of postage was about to rise. In 2012, the Royal Mail announced that the price of stamps was going to rise by an average of 35%. And he basically bought them at a lower price when they were still available. And then when the deadline had passed, he just sold them to businesses at a 10% discount. Everyone makes money. So, you know, if you have—
Sabrina:That seems like a massive arbitrage opportunity. Why don't more people do that?
Tom:This is what ten year old me was thinking!
Taha:Yeah, I mean, you know, if you— So you know Sabrina, if you wanna spend your quarter of a million pounds on British stamps, then feel free. That's something you can do.
Sabrina:I'm curious, how does postage work in the UK? Because in Canada, there's a price, and then the postage just represents like 10 cents, 50 cents, and you put it on. What is this first/second class?
Tom:We have those, but we also have stamp— In hindsight, realising this was a question being asked by the one British person on the team to the people who aren't, I should have just kept my mouth shut. Because that's the key bit of information you need to know to solve this question.
Tom:Is that British stamps... for just the regular first and second class stamps, just have '1st' or '2nd' on them, because it was judged too much hassle that if the price went up, you'd have to buy an extra penny stamp and put it on. So it was like these will always be honoured.
Tom:And I didn't realise that North America didn't do things that way. So... that's on me!
SFX:(Sabrina and Melissa laughing)
Tom:That's definitely on me.
Sabrina:Can I ask what a first class stamp gets you?
Taha:Tom, isn't it true that you can take a first class stamp, and you get a first class flight?
SFX:(others snickering)
Taha:It's true. The Queen said so. It's true!
Sabrina:The Queen?
Taha:The Queen.
Tom:Traditionally, it— When I was a kid, it was that a first class stamp would be priority service, so it would be your letter will arrive next morning. And second class was, we'll get it there in maybe two days, maybe three days.
Tom:These days, the services, between less people using the post and COVID and everything like that, it's kind of, the service is degraded a bit more, but it's still the difference between priority and, "Eh, this can get there whenever."
Sabrina:I'm gonna be honest with you, we might do that in North America. I don't find myself sending a lot of packages.
Melissa:I was gonna say, I don't remember the last time I sent physical mail to somebody else.
Sabrina:For the most part, if I've ever had to mail anything, it's just like you pay online, you get a little thing that you could tape onto your package, and then you just drop it off. I've never interacted with a stamp in years.
Tom:If he's got any stamps left now from that deal, he has to trade them in, because we just switched to stamps with a QR code on them now. So... They're still honouring them, but you have to send them in to trade off for the new fancy ones. But yeah, in theory, if you find a stamp from like 1972 with '1st' on it, that's never actually been used, You can just put it on a letter and it would still be honoured or traded in for one of the new ones.
Sabrina:I'm certain that's the best use of that stamp.
Tom:Yeah, yeah.
Taha:Yeah. I think that the first and second class system is quite whimsical. I think it's great.
Taha:Okay, not—
SFX:(Sabrina and Melissa laughing)
Taha:The first and second class stamp system.
Tom:There we go, okay!
Sabrina:There we go!
Taha:Mr. Salmon.
Melissa:Mr. Salmon!
Taha:The smartest fish in the sea.
Tom:Our next question was sent in by a listener. Thank you very much to Samuel.

Adopted in 1912, Australia's coat of arms is supported by a kangaroo on the left and an emu on the right. Why were these specific local animals chosen to represent the emergent country?

I'll say that one more time.

Adopted in 1912, Australia's coat of arms is supported by a kangaroo on the left and an emu on the right. Why were these specific local animals chosen to represent the emergent country?
Melissa:I just need to remember what an emu looks like.
Sabrina:Isn't it ostrich-esque?
Melissa:Okay, okay yes, that's what I thought. It's a bird.
Tom:Yeah, it's a big, tall bird with a long neck.
Sabrina:And it can beat you up, as evidenced by... the Emu War.
Taha:The Emu War. So what I'm thinking is that initially the coat of arms was two kangaroos, but then Australia lost the Emu War, and so they had to honour the emu. How close am I?
Tom:Thankfully, for once in this show, not close at all!
Sabrina:Okay, so it has to be the hit film Kangaroo Jack. This is such a niche cut.
Taha:Yeah. Propped up the Australian economy, and they had to honour it. It was a licensing deal.
Tom:In 1912, yep.
Taha:The novel of Kangaroo Jack.
Sabrina:Okay, so what animals use— Like why do we put animals on coats of arms? I think in Canada, we've got like narwhals, we've got beavers. I think some place has got like unicorns. Is it representative of like culture?
Taha:What does uni— To you, what does unicorn represent culturally?
Sabrina:A land of high fantasy and hope.
Tom:Weirdly, I think it's the Scottish coat of arms that has the unicorn on it, so...
Taha:Ah. Well in my head... I don't know where else you find emus and kangaroos.
Taha:So obviously, you would put those on the coat of arms, because the British who came over to Australia were like, "These are the new ones. These are the Pokémon we haven't seen before."
Tom:That's true, but that would also be true of the koala, the cassowary. There's a load of other animals they could have picked.
Melissa:These are both gigantic. They're huge!
Sabrina:I do not wanna engage in a fight with these.
Melissa:Yeah, like unassuming, cute, and then...
Tom:Have you seen a cassowary?
Sabrina:I don't know what it is.
Tom:It's basically a very large murder bird. Imagine an ostrich or an emu, but like vicious.
Taha:Okay. When you said, imagine an ostrich or an emu, but like vicious...
Melissa:They're already vicious.
Taha:In my head I was like, the emu is vicious. So I just imagine like an emu with a knife!
Tom:That's basically a cassowary. Like it's talons can rip people to shreds.
Melissa:But why did they put them on there? That's the question.
Sabrina:That is the question.
Tom:Why those specific two?
Sabrina:Was it unique? Is it distinct from the reasons why other countries would put animals on their coats of arms?
Tom:Yeah, there was a definite choice that—
Sabrina:Did they— were they introduced at the same time?
Tom:Yeah, they were both put on the coat of arms together in 1912.
Sabrina:That was around World War-y periods, right?
Sabrina:Were there emu and kangaroos fighting in the war?
Tom:Not to my knowledge.
Taha:They got enlisted after the Emu War.
Tom:The Emu War, I've just been told, is 20 years later. So at this point...
Sabrina:Oh, predates it.
Tom:This predates it.
Sabrina:Wow, they were betrayed.
Taha:Yeah. This was like part of the diplomacy before the Emu War.
Tom:Well, it was part of the... It's a little bit early to use the term, but the marketing and branding of this new country is how you'd describe that now. If you were doing the coat of arms now, those are the words you'd use. I imagine in 1912, they use different words for this.
Taha:So they're tourism maybe. It's like, look at these really weird animals. Look at these weirdo animals.
Sabrina:It's like influencers.
Taha:Come and see— Yeah.
Sabrina:Come and see animal influencers.
Taha:Come and see our animals.
Sabrina:This is like their TikTok, right?
Tom:Yes, yeah. The 1912 equivalent of TikTok was a coat of arms.
Taha:Yeah. And they were like, "Here's five great things to do in Australia!" See an emu.
Sabrina:Fight a bird.
Tom:The other bit of branding was the motto underneath, which at that point was "Advance Australia".
Sabrina:That sounds very militaristic.
Melissa:I mean... Both of these animals seem like very fighting, like combative animals. Were they just trying to be like, we can fight? Was that why?
Tom:It is something about how the animals behave, yeah. It's not necessarily fighting, 'cause again, like cassowary could beat either of them. But it is definitely something about how the animals behave.
Taha:Do they jump?
Sabrina:Is it like the style in which they fight, within like their own vibe? I don't know if a cassowary can fly, but like emus work together, I think. That's how they won the Emu War. Maybe kangaroos, they formed a military.
Taha:We never explained the Emu War to anyone.
Tom:(chuckles)Do we need to?
Sabrina:It happened in the future, to be honest.
Tom:It was 1932. Australia went to war against emus and lost.
Tom:Taha, you were really close with what you said a little bit ago. It's how the animals are behaving. And if you see them out in the wild... You would...
Tom:You would spot this.
Taha:Okay. I've never seen— Are they fast? I think, okay, so the only video I've seen of a kangaroo is when a guy gets in a boxing match with a kangaroo. Which is very funny.
Sabrina:The kid film Kangaroo Jack.
Tom:'Cause the kangaroo will win.
Tom:And then, the emu I've...
Taha:I think I've seen an emu run, and I think they're fast.
Sabrina:Yeah, I know ostriches are fast. They're really fast in D&D. That's all I know.
Tom:That's something they can do. What can't they do?
Taha:Fly? I mean, I actually don't know, but I'm just saying things.
Sabrina:I mean, a lot of—
Taha:They can't do taxes.
Sabrina:Koalas can't fly. What else can they...
Melissa:Step up your game, emus.
Taha:What else can't they do? Can they advance? I think that the motto has to do, has to be something. They can't... They can't help but progress.
Sabrina:They can't go backwards.
Tom:Yes. That's it, Sabrina. Neither of them can move backwards.
Tom:If you think about how kangaroos bounce and move, they can't do that backwards. And emus likewise, they're kind of stuck to going forward. So that was apparently one of the reasons they picked those animals, is that both of them are forced to advance.
Sabrina:Interesting. And then it became their downfall 20 years later.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:So yes, the Australian coat of arms has the kangaroo and emu on it because those are forced to advance and can't go backwards.
Taha:Imagine having to do a three-point turn because you left something in the kitchen.
Sabrina:You don't need to do a three-point turn. You're out in the Australian bush. You can just rotate.
Tom:You can just turn!
Melissa:You still can't do a three-point turn. You gotta go backwards in a three-point turn, don't you?
Tom:Oh yeah. Yeah, actually never mind, that falls apart.
Sabrina:This is why Taha is still getting his driving lesson.
Taha:Why are you gonna put me on blast like that?
Tom:Our last question from our guests comes from Melissa. Whenever you're ready.
Melissa:Alright. A British man performs a service on ten different occasions, for people who are very grateful. However, he is forbidden from doing it an 11th time. What is it? I'll say it again. A British man performs a service on 10 different occasions, for people who are very grateful. However, he is forbidden from doing it an 11th time. What is it?
Taha:A British man?
Tom:Cutting off one of his own fingers and donating them, 'cause he's only got ten of them.
Taha:Ten, yeah.
Sabrina:She is shaking her head. Not perfect, not perfect.
Melissa:Not that one.
Taha:Okay. Forbidden... for eleventh time.
Taha:That's what's...
Sabrina:Was ten like the strict cutoff, or was it like at some point they were like, "Ah, don't do it again." Like, did they decide ten before he even started, or was it just after he had done it a couple of times?
Melissa:So there's nothing really special about the number 10, but they felt that it that, it was like a low enough number was a good idea. Like that number was a good idea.
Taha:So they were just like, "We've had enough. Stop, please."
Sabrina:Doctor Who! The number...
Tom:If only they had! If only they had stopped at that! My brain is still stuck on organ donation or blood donation or something like that. I dunno why.
Taha:Me too, 'cause 10 is the— Physically like ten is...
Tom:But ten is not enough for something like that. 'Cause you know, you get people who donated blood hundreds and hundreds of times.
Sabrina:Yeah, I get emails from the local blood donation society, and they're, it's always just, we need your blood. So I don't think they're trying to cap that off.
Tom:Is it phrased that bluntly?
Sabrina:Yeah. Their slogan in Canada, they have, and their slogan is, "it's in you to give." The only reason you have blood.
Taha:That is crazy.
Sabrina:Get rid of it.
Taha:That is vampire propaganda.
Sabrina:That's a great slogan in my opinion.
Tom:I was also gonna say a great name for a band, Vampire Propaganda, but I'm just, that's just Vampire Weekend and I've just got the...
Taha:It's the cover band.
Taha:This is a very random guess. I don't think it's gonna be right, but... Is it that the man in question was a king... and it was him granting... like making places cities? 'Cause I know that's something that the Crown can do, is they can walk into a town and be like, this is a city now. Which is a very random thing that the Crown can do, but...
Taha:Were they just like, "Stop making everywhere a city. Milton Keynes does not need to be a city."
Melissa:No, that is very not, not it.
Sabrina:"That's very not it."
Tom:That would be a heck of a way for a monarch to go slightly unhinged though, wouldn't it? They're not gonna try and dabble in politics. They're not gonna try and, you know, abuse their office. "City."
Tom:"That's a village of ten people." "City now."
Taha:Yeah. "That's your local pub, sir." "City now."
Melissa:I will say it's something only a man can do. So, a man—
Sabrina:Oh, I thought it was like a donation thing, 'cause they're like, "You're filling up the bank, sir. We can't have this."
Tom:I was trying to stay away from like, too much innuendo here, but...
Melissa:Lean in!
Sabrina:(laughs uproariously)
Taha:Oh wait, hang on. Wives. Did he have ten wives? Was it like Henry VIII, but like more? Well, he was like, he had his 10th wife, and they were like, "Relax."
Tom:Is this actually like sperm donation? Was there like too many children from one source?
Melissa:Yeah, yep. It is becoming a sperm donor to an 11th family. You can't do it more than ten times.
Sabrina:Wait, in what year?
Sabrina:How do you have that conversation? How do you say enough is enough? So, wait, does... Was he like dropping them off at the bank, or was he hitting up individual families, being like, "I have an offer for you!"?
Tom:Can we just take a moment to appreciate the phrase, "dropping them off at the bank"?
SFX:(group giggling)
Taha:Oh dear.
Tom:It's like one of those drive-thru banks in the US. There's just a pneumatic tube and...
Taha:I hate everything about this.
Tom:So this is only vaguely related, but there's a clinic in London, Dean Street, which is like your sexual health clinic, and they have a pneumatic tube system set up there. So, you pee in a cup. You put it inside the little pneumatic cylinder. In the wall of the bathroom, off it goes to get tested. And I was in there once, there's a sign that's saying, "Please ensure you put the sample inside the pneumatic tube container."
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:And I just feel like there's a story there!
Sabrina:There's always a story behind the sign. Awful!
Taha:I don't like that!
Melissa:So yeah. In the— This is specific to the UK.
Melissa:It's very specific to the—
Taha:You apologise for the rest of the world.
Tom:So many things.
Sabrina:They said the empire is ending.
Melissa:A man can only donate to ten families. And after that, someone was just like... "No."
Sabrina:So it's any British man? It wasn't a specific one where they were like, "No more of you."
Melissa:Well, it's interesting. The reasoning that they give is so that it would reduce the likelihood of people marrying their siblings.
Sabrina:And it circles back to the royal family.
SFX:(group laughing)
Taha:That's a great button.
Taha:I love that.
Melissa:Apparently there is a Dutch musician who had fathered 175 children. That's a lot of children. So in the UK, donations from the sperm donor can only be used to create ten families. After that, no more.
Tom:The last part of the show then. Right at the beginning I asked the audience this question, which was sent in by Manfred Paul, thank you very much.

Which component must be fitted to commercial airliners, but cannot be used legally by passengers?

Does anyone want to take a guess at that before I give the answer?
Sabrina:The whole plane. The steering wheel.
Tom:Okay, admittedly—
Taha:The entirety of the cockpit.
Melissa:Yeah. That's what I was thinking.
Tom:This is a single component, and you will have seen it if you've been on a flight. It is accessible to passengers.
Melissa:Oh. You can't use it though?
Sabrina:The kitchen.
Tom:It's there just in case you feel like you need to break the law.
Sabrina:The door to open it.
Taha:Is it the door?
Tom:It's not the door. Taha?
Taha:Is it a small hammer?
Tom:It's an ashtray. All commercial airliners must still have an ashtray in the bathroom. Despite the smoke detectors. Despite the warnings. Because if someone ignores all of that, they still need to stub out their cigarette somewhere safe.
Tom:So that is our show. Thank you to all the team from Answer in Progress for getting questions so very quickly this time. Someone is gonna give the plug for what you'll do. Pick one of you. Good luck.
Sabrina:Taha, do it. I need to feed the cat.
Taha:Oh no! Yeah, we're Answer in Progress. We are three nerds who ask questions about the world, and then document our journey on trying to figure out the answer. So if you've ever wondered why you walk past a building and it looks like it's abandoned, we have a video for that. If you ever wondered what then an AI would think of the trolley problem, we have a video for that too.

So anything and everything. That's Answer in Progress.
Tom:And if you wanna know more about this show, or you wanna send in a question yourself, the website is You can find us at @lateralcast on pretty much every social platform, and you can find video highlights every week at Thank you very much to Melissa.
Melissa:See ya.
Tom:To Taha.
Tom:And to Sabrina, who has gone to feed the cat.
Sabrina:The cat has been fed.
Tom:Thank you very much to all. We will see you next time.
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