Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 20: The rigged JFK election

Published 24th February, 2023

William Osman, Dani Siller and Bill Sunderland face questions about statesmanly statues, parking perks and bountiful birthdays.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. EDITED BY: Julie Hassett at The Podcast Studios, Dublin. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Matt Jones, Ben Tedds, Jake Ng. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:In printing terminology, what are also known as shrieks, bangs, and screamers? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Our three guests returning to the show today have been chosen because they've developed a reputation with fans for their creativity, quick wits, and calmness under pressure. All of which will end in the next few minutes. First up, we have: from Escape This Podcast, Bill Sunderland.
Bill:I'm back! Did you miss me?
Tom:We missed your character work.
Bill:Yeah, good. You've all been sitting there waiting for the return of Detective Mike Paper from episode one.
Tom:Yeah, absolutely. And also from Escape This Podcast, Dani Siller.
Dani:Hello. I'm going to win. Just, I know that's not how the show works. I'm going to find a way.
Tom:You've come in with so much energy in this show! It's lovely. Thank you.
Dani:Energy? Hostility. Hostility. I'm against all of you.
William:Lateral: the only game show where everybody loses.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:And finally... either keeping the energy up or about to deliberately destroy it, we're not sure. From his own YouTube channel and from the Safety Third podcast, William Osman.
William:I still can't believe you invited me.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:To be fair, that's what I thought about your podcast when you invited me on as well. So, you know, it's done well for both of us. This show is all about answering some tricky lateral thinking questions, so thank you if you've sent some into us via We do enjoy reading them all. Except for the one about the whoopee cushion and the cactus. With that in mind, here's question one.

This is a listener question. It's been sent in by Matt Jones.

A US TV network for young children had a daily feature to wish viewers happy birthday. Their names and ages would appear on a crawler text banner at the bottom of the screen. One day, every age happened to be the same. How is that possible?

I'll give you that one more time.

A US TV network for young children had a daily feature to wish viewers happy birthday. Their names and ages would appear on a crawler text banner at the bottom of the screen. One day, every age happened to be the same. How is that possible?
Dani:Well, if the internet has taught me anything, it's that there's a call-in or write-in feature. People will abuse it. So I'm guessing lots of people just put in "Birthday McBirthday-Face, age 10."
Tom:I mean, you should absolutely see the question submission form. It's a mess. Please, just don't.
William:So you could abuse it, but that wouldn't prevent actual ages, so... Was it maybe like a technical difficulty, or a technical error?
Bill:They've all just displayed incorrectly?
Bill:As the same number? I mean, 'cause it's an interesting question, 'cause how could that happen? I mean... Maybe just by design they thought, "Ah, I'll just make everyone, we'll just pick all the 10 year olds today." But there would have to then be a reason that it was important that everybody was... We've settled on 10, but they could have been any age.
William:How long ago?
Dani:I've got a guess that is a sincere guess, so maybe I'll hold back on it just in case.
Bill:Oh, then don't do that. This show isn't about sincerity.
Bill:It's about bits.
Tom:You are slightly overguessing with 10. This is for very young children.
Tom:Oh I think Dani, you might have this.
Dani:Them being younger definitely fit with what I was going for. But that's still broad enough that who knows?
Tom:If I tell you this happened in 2008, does that match up with what you're thinking as well, Dani?
Dani:It does, yes.
Tom:You've definitely got it. Let's let the other two fumble in the dark for just a moment here.
Bill:I'm so surprised, 'cause my thought for a second was like, maybe it was the fifth anniversary of the show. And we've picked a bunch of kids who are all born in the same year the show started. And so it started in 2003, and now welcome— look at all these show— people who are the same age as our show. It's our fifth birthday and it's your fifth birthday. Let's all sing the fifth birthday song. And then they sing just like William is about to do.
William:♪ Happy— ♪ We can't do that.
Bill:There we go.
Tom:Most of the viewers were between three and six.
William:So it's definitely, my guess is some sort of production thing, where it was either a conscious choice... No, or an accident?
Tom:No, this was accurate.
Bill:So it was accurate and it was not curated? It just happened that all the birthdays were the same age?
Tom:Didn't need to be curated.
Bill:Oh, this was that year. You know, you see it on Facebook where they're like, "For the first time in a thousand years, if you take your age and the year of your birth, it's the same as this year's year! Whoa, it only happens once a millennium!"
William:Oh wait. A leap year.
Tom:Yep, William just got it. Yep.
William:A leap year would only make sense if it's young kids.
Tom:Yep, so it was February 29th, 2008. All the names that came up were four years old. Or one year old, depending on how you count it.
Bill:I love it!
William:How is that not more obvious? I feel like that should have been immediately obvious. Why did that take so long?
Bill:Yeah, it should've made perfect sense. What day is everybody who has their birthday gonna be the same age? That's, mmph.
Tom:Thank you to Matt Jones, the question writer who sent that in, because he has young kids and saw it one February 29th, when he was watching the show with them.
Bill:There you go.
William:"I was watching the show with them." He was watching it for himself. You can't.
Bill:Yeah, no, look. There's a lot of jokes that are there for the adults and the parents. They go over the kids' heads.
Tom:Yeah, there's just a lot of things that say, you know, four years old, four years old. And then, you know, Matt Jones, 32.
Bill:We paused the show while Tom Scott thinks of a multiple of four.
Tom:You had to call me on it, didn't you? You had to say it! My brain went—
Bill:I was doing the same thing!
William:Well if didn't do it now, the comments would do it, so.
Tom:I know my four times table! I just wasn't certain that 32 was on there for just a brief moment.
Bill:I understand!
Tom:It ends in the number two. I wasn't certain.

So yes, this was the Sprout network in 2008. And all the ages of the birthday greetings lined up, because it was February 29th on a leap year.

We go to our guests for some of the questions in each show. As ever, I don't know the question. I don't know the answer. The only person that does for this first one is William. Whenever you're ready, give us the question.
William:In 1946, the team running John F. Kennedy's local election campaign persuaded a janitor called Joe Russo to run against him, even though he had no political experience. Why?

In 1946, the team running John F. Kennedy's local election campaign persuaded a janitor called Joe Russo to run against him, even though he had no political experience. Why?
Dani:I mean, even though he had no political experience, doesn't seem to be a disqualifier in this day and age. Was it in 1946?
Bill:But even then, surely that's what you want, right? If you are encouraging someone to run against your candidate, don't you want them to have no experience? You wanna be like, "Well you should run, 'cause you're terrible and we'll beat you." I feel like you— that's not a problem.
Tom:And this is a local election as well. So... It's not like there's high, high stakes here. He is not going for presidency, but...
Dani:Did Joe Russo look a lot like Truman or something? So they thought it would be good exposure and good practice?
Dani:Truman, 1946, is that right?
Bill:Maybe. Just believe in yourself and you'll be fine.
Tom:Is it like a name thing, like Joe and John or something like that, and they want to separate him out from someone on the ballot, in alphabetical order?
William:It is a name thing, but not that name thing.
Bill:Oh, see that's interesting, 'cause when you said separating out the ballot, I was gonna talk about the benefits and drawbacks of first-past-the-post voting systems, and all this. And the fact that if you want to increase your percentage of the vote, you should fund parties for the opposite spectrum, 'cause then you split the vote on the right wing, and then the left wing can go— But if it's a name thing, we don't have to get into it. And I won't go on my rant about Australian voting systems and our superiority.
William:It was a very dirty thing to do.
Tom:Oh, it would have to be, wouldn't it? For that sort... Wait, was there another Joe Russo running? Were there two people with the same name, and he was trying to split the vote?
Bill:Or like two J. Russos at the very least. Like a John Russo, a Joe Russo. And then they got a Jimmy Russo. No one knew what was going on.
Tom:Because many years ago... It didn't happen to be on names. But I— so many, many years ago, in another life... in something that was a mistake because I lost a bet, I actually ran for election in the UK while dressed as a pirate and going under the name Mad Cap'n Tom. And it's something I wanna leave very well in my past, but...
Bill:Well, good to bring it up on the show.
Tom:Well, it's that I checked with the Pirate Party beforehand. You know, the kind of pro... How do you describe it? Like free software, kind of pi– Like, piracy in the sense of technology, and not the sense of swashbuckling on the high seas. And I'd quietly checked in with a couple of them beforehand. Like you're not gonna run anyone in that constituency, right? Because that would just be confusing. And they're like, "No, absolutely not. You're free to go ahead and be a (bleep)." I'm like, "Alright, fine." I put my candidacy in... And then a few days later, they decide to run someone, and they split the pirate vote! Because there is one that says Mad Cap'n Tom Scott, and there's one that says So-and-so, Pirate Party. I'm like, "You've screwed over both of us here!" "The joke doesn't work anymore, and you are not getting most of the votes!"
Dani:Oh man. But this is definitely a thing that still happens. Some of our political parties have very similar aims to each other. I think this happened like one or two US elections ago, that they ran someone deliberately in one of the seats that had almost the same name as someone who was outgoing, so that they could still keep all of his vote.
Bill:Cash in on the goodwill.
William:That is exactly why they picked a janitor.
William:He had the exact same name, and they were trying to split the vote.
Bill:They were just trying to sneak it— screw over another Joe Russo.
Tom:Really? So, what, there were two Joe Russos on the ballot and...
William:Yeah, they found him in a phone book.
Dani:That really seems like
Bill:That's fantastic.
Dani:there would be rules that would have to make them separate a little bit more.
Bill:True, but I mean, you can— Wouldn't that be even worse though? Imagine if you were trying to run for politics, and they were just like, "No, there's already been a politician with that name. Sorry, you could never hold public office." You know, you can't really legislate against it.
Tom:I mean, that's kind of how it works for actors.
Bill:Yeah, but everyone knows actors are better than politicians.
Tom:But I'm almost certain there will already be both a Thomas Scott and a Tom Scott in Equity, the British actors' union. So I would have to change my name if I started working on union productions. I mean, I occasionally get emails for Tom Scott, the jazz saxophonist, or Tom Scott, the New Zealand cartoonist, or Tom Scott, the New Zealand rapper, 'cause it's two of them just in the same small country there.
Bill:What are they even doing?
William:What about Tom Scott, the English rapper?
Tom:Let's never even suggest that as an idea!
Bill:William, give us a beat.
Bill:We can keep this beat, people. We can keep this beat going as long as we need to!
William:John F. Kennedy's Democratic opponent for Massachusetts 11th Congressional District was a popular local counselor. Although it's unlikely he knew about the scheme himself, JFK's campaign team convinced a local janitor to run a ballot paper in return for favors. The idea was to confuse voters with two candidates that had the same name.
Tom:That's incredible!
Dani:And presumably succeeded.
William:In the end, the scheme wouldn't have been necessary. JFK won 22,000 votes, whereas Joe Russo's two, Joe Russo's combined votes didn't even get 7,000.
Bill:Wouldn't it have been better if the janitor had won?
Bill:You could have campaigned. "Like, I'm gonna clean up this town."
Tom:Hey, there we go!
Bill:And everyone would've been like, "Oh, good work. I love the pun."
William:I would've cleaned up this town.
Tom:Next question is back to me. Good luck, folks.

There is a statue of Winston Churchill outside the British Embassy in Washington, DC. The positioning of the statue is very precise, due to something about Churchill's background. What is it?

I'll give you that one more time.

There's a statue of Winston Churchill outside the British Embassy in Washington, DC. The positioning of the statue is very precise due to something about Churchill's background. What is it?
William:Is it the pose positioning or the location positioning?
Tom:Those are– that's a very good question to start with, and I'll let you stew on that for a little while first.
William:Ah, thank you. Thank you, Tom.
Bill:There is that famous quote, that interaction. Where it was, you know, like, "Oh sir, you're drunk." And he said, "And madam, you are ugly. But I always face to the east. And in the morning you'll still be ugly. But I'll be facing to the east, like always. I could only face the east!" And so maybe that was the inspiration. They always have the statue facing to the east.
William:Tom, is the statue facing the east?
Bill:Is that it? I think I've got it. I should have said before we started that I think I've got it and I should have excused myself in the question. I didn't mean to just answer it correctly straight away. So I've got the next question.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Stop stealing my show, Bill!
Bill:Welcome to Lateral, everybody!
Tom:Where the means of production has just been seized by the question answerers!
SFX:(group laughing)
William:It's my show now!
Tom:Our show, Will, our show.
Bill:Owned by the people.
Tom:I don't actually know which way it's facing. It's not strictly relevant.
Dani:Every picture that I have ever seen of Churchill has him very regally sitting. I don't know if he ever stood up in his life.
Bill:Not once.
Dani:Is it clear how much I know about Churchill?
Tom:I've also seen a video of him going backwards down a water slide. That footage definitely exists out there somewhere.
Dani:Would you not make a statue out of that?
Bill:That's it. That was his most famous position.
Tom:So again, I nearly used the authoritative voice to— Just to make it clear, it is not true. But I nearly said yeah, well, there's actually a waterpark in Britain that has the Churchill slide that is in the... No, no it doesn't.
Bill:And a popular dance called the Churchill Slide.
Tom:And everybody retreat from Dunkirk!
Bill:Cha-cha real smooth.
Tom:Churchill real smooth.
William:Is he po– What's the pose of the statue? Is that relevant?
Bill:And then like, is it, 'cause if the pose is relevant, it's not about his like co– Like it's about his background. So it's not gonna be him doing something Churchillian. It'll be him doing something... Little Churchillian maybe, or younger... or where he comes from, or...
Tom:It's a generic standing pose. He is standing up in this.
William:Okay, so maybe his physical position is more important than his pose.
Dani:Oh, I'm foiled.
William:And what was he next to again?
Tom:The British Embassy in Washington, DC.
William:The British Embassy. Is he on public property or private property?
Tom:That's a really difficult one to answer without giving everything away.
William:Yes! Okay.
Dani:Oh, that's interesting.
William:That's a good answer.
Tom:In itself, that's probably a massive clue.
Bill:Oh, maybe to a smart man!
Dani:Why would that matter?
William:Did the British Embassy install it?
Tom:It's there officially.
Tom:It's not a guerrilla statue placing.
William:Is it a dis to the British Embassy?
Tom:Oh, no, no, very much not.
Bill:Yeah, the one thing we know about Churchill was he hated Britain. Just hated it! So, okay. Are we thinking— I can't remember where we've landed. Is it the physical location of the statue that we're referring to is specific?
Bill:Rather than anything he's doing?
Tom:Yeah. It's a statue of Churchill standing.
Dani:Yeah, would it help to know if where in DC this British Embassy is?
Tom:Not particularly, no.
William:Does the British Embassy like where it is?
Tom:I think they could probably move it if they wanted to, but they don't want to. It's quite a nice reflection of who he was.
Bill:Is it just that it is in a place that is relevant to Churchill? It could be in a... little rose garden 'cause he loved roses Or, is it, but like, it's something like that. It's not about, oh it's 20 metres away from the embassy, because he always stood 20 metres in front of everybody. But it's in a place—
Tom:No, it to do with his background. It's actually just outside the gates.
Bill:What is Churchill's background? William, you know all about Churchill. Gimme a quick rundown of his life.
William:Churchill was... a man who lived.
Bill:Ah, the statue's alive. It's a living statue. I've got it now, you're right.
William:Is his back facing the embassy?
Tom:No. His side is facing the embassy.
Bill:Because he always looks to the east.
SFX:(group giggling)
William:This is hard!
Dani:Is he halfway between two things or something?
Tom:Ah, yes. Dani, you are getting very close there.
Tom:What's special about embassies in particular? If you've ever seen The Simpsons, you'll probably get this reference.
Dani:Oh, yes. Very much.
Bill:Australia, America, Australia, America. They are foreign soil.
Dani:What? Yeah, what is Churchill's background? Is he half American or something?
Tom:Yes, he is.
Dani:He is?
Bill:Oh, he's got a foot in, foot out. He's Australia, America, Australia, America?
Tom:He has one foot in America and one foot on... what is questionably British soil, depending on how you'd take the definitions, because he had an American mother and a British father.
Dani:Is this a thing that everyone in the UK knows? This feels like it should be such a well-known thing.
Tom:I didn't know that! I had no idea about that.
William:Literally, I was, in a thousand years, I don't think I would've ever guessed that.
Tom:No, I assumed he was British descent. But no, he's Anglo-American.
Bill:I like that, and I like that it's a nod in to play statue placement. I think that's fun. I like people doing fun things with their public art.
Tom:Yes, the statue of Winston Churchill outside the British Embassy in DC has one foot in America on one foot on British soil.

Our next question comes from Dani. Whenever you're ready.
Dani:Alright, this question was a listener submitted question sent in by Ben Tedds, thank you so much.

In 1963, Heinz Meixner wanted to drive his girlfriend, Margarete Thurau, back home. In order to do so, he had to take the windshield off his rented sports car. Why?

So once more.

In 1963, Heinz Meixner wanted to drive his girlfriend, Margarete Thurau, back home. In order to do so, he had to take the windshield off his rented sports car. Why?
Tom:She was the world record holder for longest nose in the world. Just could not fit.
Tom:Could not fit in there, and they just had to take the windshield out.
Bill:I love it.
William:That has to be it.
Bill:I think we've cracked it.
William:Cracked the windshield.
Bill:With the nose!
William:Were they crossing a border?
Bill:Why would you have to remove a windshield for a border crossing?
William:Well, I don't know. I just feel like the names are very... One sounds– They– It sounds like some, you know... intercountry...
Tom:Yeah, it does sound very European, and 1963 was definitely before Schengen Agreement, so... That should... Is it a border thing?
Dani:There are borders involved in this, yes.
Tom:Oh, well done, William.
William:The names were too explicitly... There's a lot of focus on the names, and how different they were. What about–
Bill:Can we get a recap of the names?
Dani:That's interesting. The names are not that linguistically different as you think.
Bill:I thought they were both kind of German.
Dani:Heinz Meixner and Margarete Thurau.
Tom:Alright. Oh, hold on. 1963.
Tom:If it– Wait, is this East Germany to West Germany or something? Are they crossing the Iron Curtain here?
Dani:You are in the right place.
Bill:Okay. But why can't you have–
William:Yeah who barred having a windshield on your car?
Tom:Is this pre- or post-Berlin Wall? I'm not sure if 1963, the Berlin Wall was built yet.
Dani:It was the '50s I think?
Dani:Oh boy.
William:Maybe it's like a...
Dani:You can tell my certainty by the pitch of my voice.
William:Is it like militarized? Was there sort of like a...
Tom:Yeah, if you were trying to get East Germany to West Germany, it was almost impossible to get through.
Bill:So why– Is– What does a car look like... if it does not have a wind— Is there something that— I've taken the windshield outta my car. Have I made it look different? Does now look like a little military jeep and people are like, "Well that's fine. Let him through."
Tom:Is he smuggling her across the border? He's got the right to travel, but she doesn't?
Dani:That is correct.
Dani:What's that giving you?
William:Maybe he disguised it as a military vehicle.
Dani:It would be one interesting rented sports car, if getting rid of the windshield made it look military.
Bill:It's a rented sports car... and you remove the windshield... and everyone's going, "Where's the windshield?" And they don't notice the woman with a giant nose next to you.
Tom:No, no, no, hold on. Was this... If this is right... Bill, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take a leaf from your book here, alright? I want you to close your eyes and picture a thing, alright?
Bill:Here I go.
Tom:You've got a big, long, empty street in Berlin, alright? It's long, it's straight. At one end of it is a checkpoint with a barrier. That is just high enough...
Tom:that if you remove the windshield from your low sports car, and you go full throttle, no one will be able to hit you or stop you before you blast through there, slide in your car under the barrier.
Bill:It's a limbo car!
Tom:out the other side to West Germany. Come on, tell me they're limboing under the barrier.
William:No way, that's ridiculous
Bill:Limbo car! Limbo car!
William:if that's the answer. That sounds like the answer.
Dani:To more successfully limbo under this barricade...
Bill:Aww, so good!
Dani:They also let some of the air out of their tyres just to be safe. They gunned it through Checkpoint Charlie, made it as fast as they could.
Bill:She pointed her nose downward, to make sure it didn't clip the barrier.
SFX:(others laughing)
Dani:They made it by about two inches underneath.
Dani:Complete success. Also, Margarete's mother was hiding in the boot of the car as well.
William:This sounds like a very pop culture...
Dani:The Great Escape 2.
William:How do they confirm this? Is this confirmed?
Tom:Well, at some point someone had to return the rental car.
William:It was missing a windshield. That's just what they wrote in the insurance report.
Bill:"I have to get this car back to Herr Nobody! He's so stingy!"
Tom:That's a callback.
Dani:Yeah, that totally stayed in.
Bill:Yeah, now you gotta keep Herr Nobody!
Dani:That's absolutely right. In 1963, Heinz Meixner took the windshield off his rented sports car so that he could help smuggle his girlfriend, Margarete, under the security barrier that guarded the entrance to West Berlin.
William:Wouldn't you still get shot at?
Dani:They had some bricks in the car as well to hopefully deflect any bullets that might have come through.
Tom:(exhales stiffly)
William:(wheezes) I just, oh my god.
Tom:My last big question of the show then.

In some parking locations, a driver may be required to use a cardboard disc to indicate their time of arrival. How did ingenious Italians find a way of greatly extending their allowed time without anyone helping them?

One more time.

In some parking locations, a driver may be required to use a cardboard disc to indicate their time of arrival. How did ingenious Italians find a way of greatly extending their allowed time without anyone helping them?

I just wanna be clear that everyone knows how the cardboard thing works, 'cause I know as a Britain, European, but I dunno if you'll use them.
Dani:I could probably use a bit more clarity.
Tom:So the way this works is that there is a... like a square thing you put in your dashboard, and a disc in there that spins around to show an hour of the clock. So if you park at 4:00, you put this in your dashboard showing 4:00, and when the parking attendant comes along, they're, "Oh, right, they've been here since four. It's 6:00 now. That's two hours. That's legal." And then, you know, they come along later. The idea being that if you want to change the time on that, you have to keep coming back to the car and changing and coming back and changing.
Dani:Gotcha, gotcha. Was it also just— In a previous episode, was it also in Italy where they did the seatbelt scamming?
Tom:Yeah... We keep coming back to certain national stereotypes here.
Bill:Italians, they just love to flaunt all the road rules. They keep taking the tops of their cars off so they can sneak under barriers and get free parking.
Tom:I will tell you, this was from an article titled "11 ingenious, yet completely illegal Italian inventions." So I'm not saying that there's nine more questions in here, but... there's a theme.
William:So when they're saying ingenious, it's like mischievous, ingenious.
Dani:So they were somehow manipulating the time that was said on there, or manipulating the parking guards to make them think that it was a different time than it was. That'd be much better.
Tom:Yeah, they just put a hypnosis spiral on there with some messages that blasted out. Again, I need to stop using my authoritative voice for this.
Bill:No, no, this is correct. This is all true.
William:Yes. They invented a time machine.
Bill:That's it. And the best use of that is just to get out of small parking fines.
Bill:That's the thing with Italians. They're brilliant engineers, but they lack vision. Yeah.
Tom:I dunno if we can leave that in. Is that playful? Is that racist? I don't know.
Bill:It's both, Tom!
SFX:(group laughing)
Bill:It's got one foot in playfulness, and one foot in racism, like a statue of Winston Churchill.
Tom:Winston Churchill!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:I saw you set that one up from a long way away. I was like, "Yep. Just gonna let that one fly past."
Bill:Like a German car without its windshield.
William:Were they standard wheels? Was this a thing you buy? Do they look a little different? Was there sort of like government wine?
Tom:Yeah, so you can normally get these. I realise I'm asking this question to three people who've never seen one of these. So it is just a cardboard envelope with a spinning disc, and a little bit of that disc is revealed to show the time you arrived.
Dani:Sounds like a little decoder ring.
Tom:Yeah, usually if you're a resident, you get these either for free, or you get them for a nominal sum from every shop in town. If you're a visitor, you just pay a couple of euro. You'll get a disc that's valid.
Bill:And I suppose the first sort of how you could extend your time is you're just like, "Well, I know I'm gonna be here till six, so I'll set it to say five, even though it's currently three." The risk being if someone arrives and see that you've set it forward, there's probably a hefty fine for abusing the system.
Bill:So they probably didn't just do that.
William:How many discs can you have on your dashboard at one time?
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:I mean, that isn't the hack they're using, but one at a time.
Dani:Thinking back, you said, William, you mentioned, like, oh, how would I think to cheat this? And most of my cheating that I have ever done in life would've been in primary school. And so that would be things like, oh, you slightly blur the markings on something. So it's ambiguous. Was ambiguity...
Tom:I saw an advert for a magnetic leaf that you just stick over one or two letters on your license plate. So it looks like a leaf has just fallen there as you blast through speed cameras. Which feels like a high risk strategy. Like it'll work... until someone spots the leaf, at which point, I'm pretty sure there's many laws that can get you under.
Bill:I would think so. But I don't mind like the idea of, I like you could smudge it. Also surely you could go— If you are supplying them yourself, right? 'Cause you can apparently get one from a store, you can— So they're not like you get a new one every time you park, and they're specific to that place. I wonder if you could cheat and get one that looks like it's a cardboard one, but in fact has a little digital display. So you could just be like, "It says three." And then you could, from your phone, just be like, "Now it says four."
William:Yeah I feel like that's too... probably too complicated of an answer. There's gotta be some really simple...
Tom:I think you are along the right lines, William, when you said, "This feels like something I'd do, or I could make." I can't remember what your words were, but this is that sort of hack.
William:Could you put–
Tom:How would you fix it? You've gotta update this clock without being there. How are you gonna do it?
William:I think you could, one, you could cheese it by having the numbers, one number kind of peeking out, and putting the numbers sort of halfway, if that's even possible. I have no idea. Otherwise, man... Without touching it. And there's no moving parts.
Tom:I didn't say that.
William:Oh, he didn't say that.
Bill:It's got a little dial. It's all moving parts.
Dani:My vision of it right now is cutting a little hole in the cardboard and sticking a digital watch behind it. So the digital watch hour display shows up instead.
Tom:Oh, you're nearly there.
Dani:Oh, wow, really?
Tom:The wrong word in there is 'digital'.
Bill:Could you stick it— It's a spinner, right? Could you stick a little clock device to it, so that instead of turning a handle, it's just turning the little cardboard wheel?
Tom:Yep, that's spot on.
William:Your ticket is like a brick now?
Bill:No, it's just a cardboard thing with a–
Tom:It's literally an adapted clock mechanism from an analogue clock stuck on the back of the disc, so that the hour hand is the thing that's rotating. So over 12 hours, it does a complete spin round and shows you the next time.
Bill:I love it.
Dani:How expensive are their parking tickets that it's worth destroying clocks for?
Bill:You can get a cheap clock!
Tom:I mean, I've bought a clock as— I bought a radio controlled clock as a prop for a video before, and that was like, 10 quid. A cheap wall clock is well below the cost of even one parking ticket.
William:That's interesting. This feels like something one guy did. Like one person did this. Was this a– were they selling them? This is such an interesting hack. No, it's BuzzFeed. What am I talking about? I know exactly what it says.
Tom:There'll be no follow up information on it or anything like that. I do have a picture of it.
Tom:And it is literally the clock mechanism off the back of an analogue clock, just rigged a bit, so it's turning the dial instead. I don't know how you do that without accidentally making it so the clock mechanism was turning itself. But I guess there's just a lot of glue and parts and things making that work. To get around parking regulations, some Italians attached a clock mechanism to the back of their parking disc.

The last guest question of the show then comes from Bill. Whenever you're ready.
Bill:Okay. This is also a questioner sent in by our listener. So this was sent in by Jake Ng. And here we go.

On the tiny volcanic island of Manam Motu, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, nobody speaks of north, south, east, or west. Why?

So once more:

On the tiny volcanic island of Manam Motu, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, nobody speaks of north, south, east, or west. Why?
Tom:I'm gonna do the backing out of this question thing, because I think I know this one. I think I've done a video on it.
Dani:Not this again.
Tom:I'm sorry.
Bill:You could help me deliver cryptic clues.
Tom:Yep, this is something I've mentioned in a video. Sorry folks, that's the trouble with having nearly nine years of stuff about weird trivia.
William:That's the trouble of being really smart. I'm too...
Bill:I just know too many things.
Tom:These aren't useful facts! This isn't smart. This is just a brain that's clogged by mental cholesterol!
Dani:That's the dream!
Tom:Can I remember the name of someone I've just met? Absolutely not. Can I remember basic civil ways of greeting people? No. Can I remember an obscure fact about Papua New Guinea? Absolutely. That is locked in there.
William:I would buy that shirt. It's a picture of a big brain. It just says Mental Cholesterol.
Tom:I mean, you're the one with a merch store here.
Dani:Mental Cholesterol is a good subsidiary YouTube brand.
William:I really actually do like Mental Cholesterol.
Dani:Mentalfloss? No, no, no, no.
William:Do compasses not work on the island? There's some weird volcano magnet thing going on? I don't actually know how magnets work.
Bill:No, you could use a compass, if you so desired.
William:So it's just they've got some other navigation system. Is there a road that goes all the way around? You said it was an island, right?
Bill:Yes, it is a tiny volcanic island.
William:Is there a road that goes all the way around?
Bill:There might be. There might not be. I don't have the– I don't have it pulled up on Google Maps.
Dani:My first guess was going to be something along the lines of... oh, I don't know... They're built entirely vertically. They're a vertical city, so there's no use for those other directions. Everything is just up–down. But circles is another way that that could potentially be a thing, if everything is just built in circles. Then going in straight compass points, not particularly helpful.
William:Not useful, yeah. Is there sort of a city located on one part, and they don't really go around the island? I guess... I'm trying to think... what their alternative navigation would be if they're not using...
Tom:Wait, hold on. I might be... Bill, can you repeat the question?
Bill:I shall. On the tiny volcanic island of Manam Motu, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, nobody speaks of north, south, east, or west. Why?
Tom:Oh, pride comes before a fall here. I've got that completely the wrong way round.
Bill:He's back in the game!
Tom:I'm back in the game, 'cause I've got it confused. Because there's a language out there where they don't use forwards, backwards, left, right. And I heard your question, and I misunderstood it. There's a language where they refer to absolute direction. So in any context, you would just use the words for north, south– Well it's not that, but for the directions.
Tom:But that's the exact opposite of what you asked.
Bill:Yes, they don't say north, south, east— They're like the anti-Churchill. They never talk about facing east.
Tom:Oh, oh that's, me looking all smug, and then being completely wrong. Agh! That's arguably worse!
William:Welcome to the Lateral...
SFX:(group chuckling)
Dani:And we went through all that brain cholesterol!
Tom:Yeah, there was a whole tangent on brain cholesterol there. Just didn't–
Dani:It's just melted away. Your brain is healthy again.
William:So do they– is it the existence? There's no existence of north, east, south, west, or they just don't like the word? I mean, this is stupid, but they don't have a word for north, or they don't use north?
Bill:Yeah, so... We are talking, look, if they were speaking English, I'm sure they would be able to— and they can, you know, compasses work. If they're speaking English, they could say north, south, east, and west. But we're talking about linguistically and traditionally, there are no words for north, south, east, or west. They have– They don't use that system.
William:Does it have anything to do with circling the island, or rotation around the island?
Bill:I mean, yeah.
William:They use polar coordinates.
Bill:I think William has cracked it.
Tom:They speak of clockwise and anti-clockwise, instead of...
Bill:Yes, they are on a small circular island with a big volcano in the middle. They use– Do you wanna describe what polar coordinates means, as a phrase?
William:Yeah, it's going in circles, instead of like... The Cartesian would be like a graph you see in school that you're used to. And then polar is the version of that, that starts at the center, and it kind of wraps around the center. So instead of going here, here, you go center, out, and around.
Tom:So you have an angle, and you have a distance from the centre.
William:So if you never go to the center, you're kind of always skirting around the edge. And so it would make sense to kind of talk about where you are on the circle.
Tom:Particularly if you're on a volcanic island, which is gonna be a cone.
Bill:Yes. And it's specifically, they have four words. Their versions of north, south, east, or west, their use for coordinate wording is: inland, towards the sea, clockwise, counterclockwise. Those are the four directions in their native language. Specifically, and forgive my pronunciation, if you're from Manam Motu: Auta, ilau, ata, and awa. Inland, towards the sea, clockwise, and counterclockwise.
William:So they do great until they leave the island and then–
Bill:Oh, they leave the island. You gotta build a whole new system.
Tom:But anyone who's visiting has to switch to theirs.
Bill:Yeah, and you know what? When you travel into space, north–south doesn't make sense anymore. You know? Don't you get on your high horse! Mister...
William:It's true!
Bill:So, yes. On the tiny volcanic island of Manam Motu, the inhabitants use the volcano as a centre point, and they use their words for inward, outward, clockwise, and anti-clockwise.
Tom:The last order of business then. At the start of the show, I asked the audience:

In printing terminology, what are also known as shrieks, bangs and screamers?

Anyone wanna take a shot before I give the answer for that?
William:Can I say your mom?
Tom:I'm aware that shrieks, bangs, and screamers...
SFX:(others giggling)
Tom:could also apply to several other things. Fireworks, say.
Bill:No, it's ghosts. It's when there's a poltergeist in the machine. And the old man says, "Ah, you've heard the shrieks, the bangs, and the screamers, have you? Yes, they've been here for a hundred years." And then you say, "The old man told me about the shrieks." And they say, "What old man? There hasn't been an old man here since 1752." And you go, "Oh my god." "Tonight's the anniversary."
Tom:I actually knew the word 'bang' for this from computer science. You used to start files with what was called a hash-bang.
Dani:It definitely sounded punctuation-y.
Tom:Yeah, it is. Which one?
Dani:If they're screamers, I'm assuming the exclamation mark is important.
Tom:Yes, absolutely right. The printing terms for exclamation marks include shrieks, bangs, and screamers.
Dani:Why did they have so many names?
William:Say, I was gonna say plugging a fork into an outlet.
Tom:With that, thank you very much to all our panel. Bill, we'll start with you. What's going on in your life? What do you wanna plug?
Bill:Yes, if you want to hear more of me and Dani, you can check out our shows, Escape This Podcast, where we make audio escape rooms and have guests come on and try and play through those and solve them, or, well, I'll let Dani introduce the other show. So that's where you can find me.
Dani:And I suppose you can find me attempting to solve fictional murders now at Solve This Murder, our other podcast.
Tom:And William, last time you were on, you used this section to plug turtles. Just the concept of turtles.
William:Yes, I won't— I promise I'll do it. Okay, my name's William. I've got YouTube channel and a podcast. You can find it if you go to Google and type in "turtles" in search, you can just– you'll have a very wide selection of turtles you can look at. I strongly recommend taking a look at turtles. Like, seriously, when this is done, go to Google, type in turtles, click on images, and just look at some pictures of cool turtles.
Dani:I like it.
Tom:If you wanna know more about this show, or you wanna send in an idea for a question, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast on pretty much every bit of social media, and you can find video highlights on YouTube at Thank you very much to Bill Sunderland.
Bill:Thank you.
Tom:Dani Siller.
Dani:Always a pleasure.
Tom:William Osman.
Tom:I'm Tom Scott and this has been Lateral.
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