Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 22: A carousel's little secret

Published 10th March, 2023

'SuperSaf' AhmedMia, Ali Spagnola and Mehdi 'ElectroBOOM' Sadaghdar face questions about rigging research, dating dwellings and exploiting extras.

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: Eglė Vaškevičiūtė, Nick Landis, Dhruv Gandhi, Josie, Sarthak Chandra. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Which TV show has the numbers 35 and 56 in its logo? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral. To quote Shakespeare, When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurly-burly's done, when the battle's lost and won? Here for today's battle, we have Ali Spagnola!
Ali:Hello! Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Tom:Thank you so much for being back on the show. We also have from ElectroBOOM, Mehdi.
Mehdi:Hi! Thank you.
Tom:How are you doing after last time?
Mehdi:Oh, yeah, I am still recovering from the questions I was asked, but.
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom:We'll try and reign in the competition. There's no points here. There's nothing but bragging rights. But it seems like you do like the bragging rights.
Mehdi:Yeah, well, I do.
SFX:(both chuckling)
Tom:And finally from his own channel, SuperSafTV and from the Muslim Money Guys podcast, Saf.
Saf:Hey, how you doing? Thanks for having me again.
Tom:No worries. Thank you for coming back for a second round. Are you ready to go?
Saf:I'm feeling much better after that. With the first round, I was a little bit anxious. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm confident. And I'm completely gonna ruin it now, I know.
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom:Well, this is the last show we're recording in this particular block, so I'll be honest with you, this is gonna be the laziest rules explanation of the series. There are some people. There are some questions. Let's go.
Mehdi:Easy enough.
Saf:Let's do this.
Tom:Our first question has been sent in by two listeners. Dhruv Gandhi and Josie both sent this one in, so: Air Force One, the US presidential aircraft, has made more takeoffs than landings. How's that possible? I'll give you that one more time. Air Force One, the US presidential aircraft, has made more takeoffs than landings. How is that possible?
Mehdi:Few of them crashed?
Saf:Oh, that's exactly what I was gonna say.
Tom:To my knowledge, Air Force One has never crashed. And I also think technically that is still a landing.
Mehdi:Oh, well, I guess.
Saf:Okay. Crash landing.
Ali:Is it possible to land a plane in another plane? Is that a maneuver they do? You know, like air fueling. You can also put a plane inside one and then...
Tom:I know you can launch a plane from another plane. 'Cause that's how Virgin's spaceship is getting to orbit. They take it up on a jet, and then launch from there. I don't think you can land a plane on a plane. That feels like something that Red Bull has done at some point.
Mehdi:And we are just talking about the plane, not the copters or anything else that is Air Force One?
Tom:Yeah. I think the chopper is called Marine One. I think.
Ali:Is there always one in the air right now? So it's at least one takeoff that hasn't been canceled out with a landing?
Tom:Unfortunately not, no.
Saf:That would've been a good one actually. That was so—
Tom:It would've been lovely. But this has been true since 1974.
Mehdi:So we have a plane here that took off but never landed? Or the landing didn't count as landing somehow?
Saf:Did it reach escape velocity and just go off into space?
Ali:It's just orbiting earth now.
Saf:It's just constantly just there with the space debris.
Tom:That's actually where— No, I was gonna make a JFK conspiracy theory joke, and just say he was up there orbiting. But that doesn't work. And weirdly, my brain went to, that's where Harold Holt disappeared to. And he was the prime minister of Australia that vanished. So that's not even remotely relevant.
Ali:Deep cut.
Tom:Oh, no. It's one of my favourite stories about Australia, is that Harold Holt went swimming in the ocean, vanished... was never found... And they named a swimming pool after him.
Tom:But no, Air Force One, depending on how you count it, has either had one or two more takeoffs than landings.
Ali:One or two. What's that triangle where planes disappear, that just go in there and... and manifest itself away.
Saf:Bermuda Triangle?
Ali:There we go, that's it.
Mehdi:I have a guess.
Mehdi:Is it possible that it was Air Force One when it took off, but then the President switched, like he wasn't president anymore, and the president was someone else, and that plane was not Air Force One anymore?
Tom:Yes. Yes, you're spot on. Where did that suddenly come from?
Saf:Wow. He's got Google Assistant.
Ali:You genius brain.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Yes, so who would that have been? This is 1974. What was going on?
Mehdi:No idea actually. Did— actually—
Saf:Was it—
Mehdi:Did someone die in the plane or something?
Ali:Yeah, did he have a heart attack or some— He was unconscious and so then the vice president took over for that amount of time?
Tom:That would also have been right. 1974 was Nixon.
Mehdi:Oh, they impeached him or something, huh? And he wasn't the person—
Tom:Nixon resigned.
Mehdi:Oh, resigned, right.
Tom:Nixon resigned.
Ali:From the air? He was like, "Peace out, but I'm on the plane."
Tom:Well, sort of, yes. He was flying home, while his successor, Gerald Ford was being sworn in. So at the moment of the transition of power, he was on Air Force One, and then... then he was on SAM 27000. Because the call sign travels with the president, not with the aircraft.
Saf:And so is this before they put him in that jar for Futurama?
Tom:Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Yeah, out of nowhere there, Mehdi. You got that absolutely right. Air Force One is a call sign, not a specific aircraft.
Mehdi:Yeah, that's what I remembered, yeah.
Tom:So the transition of power happened while Air Force One was carrying the president, and thus it just became any other plane. So we will go to Mehdi for the next question. As ever, I don't know the question. I dunno the answer. The guests have just brought one along with them. So what have you got for us?
Mehdi:Okay, here's the question. Mesa Verde is a famous set of 13th century dwellings built into a cliff in Colorado. Scientists can accurately estimate when it was first built and when it was abandoned, using the same method two different ways. What are they? Mesa Verde is a famous set of 13th century dwellings built into a cliff in Colorado. Scientists can accurately estimate when it was first built and when it was abandoned, using the same method two different ways. What are they?
Tom:You can't carbon date a rock. That doesn't work.
Mehdi:Yeah, well, yeah.
Ali:Can't carbon date somebody leaving a building.
Tom:13th century. So this is... This is gonna be Native Americans somewhere in Colorado.
Tom:I mean, I guess accurately means naming the century in this case. 'Cause if they happen to say that it was the 27th of February, 1259, I'll be really impressed. But I think it'll... Presumably just the rough time scale.
Saf:Did they have any— I'm assuming, did they have any paintings or you know... I know they probably didn't have scriptures, but did they have any carvings or anything that indicated this?
Mehdi:No, it's not about that.
Tom:I know you can do some dating by what's been left behind. So you can look at... middens would be the archeological term, but I feel like that's not gonna give you an accurate date.
Mehdi:Like what kind of circumstances would cause a settlement to be abandoned?
Ali:Oh. Weather.
Ali:Some, yeah, natural... Something happens naturally that would've caused them to know that it was built then. And then that's sort of natural earth.
Tom:Same method for arrival and departure though? Two different ways?
Saf:Would it be like... I don't know. I know there's lots of things about the eclipse and things, so was there a particular time that they used, you know, something like that as an indication?
Mehdi:Well, it's more to do with something that the dwellings were made of, and they could use that to date it.
Ali:So we're back to carbon dating.
Mehdi:Could you guess what they were made of in general, in the cliff in Colorado apparently?
Tom:I would've thought they'd been dug out of the stone.
Ali:Yeah, carved into it. Okay, so it's about what they're made— because I was gonna say, some sort of animals that they're protecting themselves from, and then ran them out. Yeah, why are they exiting?
Mehdi:Oh, well, the dwellings were mainly constructed using sandstone and mortar supported by beams.
Tom:Sandstone and mortar. What, it can't be carbon dating though, can it?
Mehdi:Yeah, no, I don't think it's that.
Tom:I keep coming back to that. It's not, no. It's not like the tree rings that they cut down to make the beams or something like that?
Mehdi:Oh-oh-oh, yeah.
Mehdi:You're getting somewhere. Yeah, go ahead.
Tom:Okay. But that would only make sense for like working out... No, that just tells you how old the tree is when they cut it down to make the dwelling. That doesn't give you an accurate date.
Saf:No, but then if there's other trees that were still there, then they'd be able to kind of calculate... Subtract the trees that were used as beams to the trees. I don't know, some trees last a long time, don't they? Like hundreds of years.
Tom:800 years?
Saf:Yeah, so then they're like, okay, this one's like 300 years, minus that from 800. Alright, 500. This is what it was, I don't know.
Mehdi:Since you said it, it is the answer. So I guess you win. Examining the rings in tree trunks is the answer.
Mehdi:The last tree felled to construct the Mesa was cut in the year 1281. So they know when was the last tree was cut, I guess. And then, counted backwards from there to get a more accurate reading from the rings.
Tom:How on earth do they know that was cut down in 1281?
Mehdi:So basically you are looking at the rings in the trees, tree trunks. You can see the pattern of weather and climate in those rings. Like if there was a drought, or there was a very cold year or something. It shows in the rings. They'll be more packed or more spaced. So you will see the weather pattern for many years in the tree trunks. And that way...
Tom:And you can match that to all the other records.
Mehdi:Yeah, match that to the record, and you know exactly when that happened.
Ali:I said weather. They left 'cause of a drought. I got points.
SFX:(group laughing)
Mehdi:All yours.
Tom:There are no points, but you know what, absolutely, have some points. It's the end of the recording block.
Ali:Thank you.
Tom:You all get points.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom:Our next question comes from a listener. Thank you to Sarthak Chandra. In Danish, it's called the 'war of the ants'. Other countries call it 'ant football', 'anthill', or 'fleas'. 1% of it is from out of this world. It's largely disappeared, having been replaced by coloured rectangles. What is it? I'll repeat that question one more time, 'cause there's a lot of stuff in there. In Danish, it's called the 'war of the ants'. Other countries call it 'ant football', 'ant hill', or 'fleas'. 1% of it is from out of this world, and it's largely disappeared to be replaced by coloured rectangles. What is it?
Saf:I can see some coloured rectangles in your background. Is that a clue, Tom?
Tom:It's not. That's just the show's logo. The show's logo was not the war of the ants.
Ali:Out of this world, 1% of it is from space?
Mehdi:So I assume it's not about ants at all. It just resembles something, like an anthill or something, huh?
Saf:Okay, so 1% is from out of this world. So is it vibranium?
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom:Oh yeah, this is just the war of— This is just the story of Ant-Man. This is just the movie.
Saf:That's what it is. It's gonna be vibranium.
Mehdi:1% of it is from out of this world, but isn't everything on Earth from out of this world anyways?
Tom:Oh, oh. I've been out-technicality'd!
Tom:1% of it is very immediately from out of this world.
Mehdi:Okay, so maybe a meteor hit the earth and created something that resembles an anthill or... But what is left is a colored rectangle? Red rectangle, was it?
Tom:Coloured rectangles.
Tom:Actually I was wrong to push you entirely away from the coloured rectangles behind me. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't completely unrelated, but it's not close.
Ali:All these different places have different names for it. It must be something naturally occurring. And people are just like, oh, that thing that has this name.
Tom:Yeah, I would call this sort of naturally occurring. There's a strong "sort of" in there.
Ali:So okay.
Mehdi:Well, naturally, if we...
Ali:Northern Lights?
Mehdi:Consider something falling from outer space on the ground, huh? Is that— is something from outer space falling on the ground triggers the event that creates these rectangles or...
Tom:Not onto the ground, no.
Ali:When you rub your eyes and you see weird patterns. Is that all those different cultures have names for that?
Tom:Oh, that is closer than you might think.
Mehdi:Wow, okay.
Ali:What? I was trying to be dumb here.
Tom:And this is how this show works. Sometimes you say something that sounds like a joke, and I get to go, you know what? That's actually quite close. What would a war of ants look like to you?
Ali:Giant human-sized ants with full armor. Well, we're not scripting a YouTube video here. We're actually trying to answer a...
Saf:War of the ants.
Ali:Oh, is it the...
Tom:I saw the lights come on there!
Ali:Yeah. It's gotta be the black and white interference on an old TV screen.
Tom:It's TV static.
Ali:And now no longer we see that static. We see something else. Triangles.
Mehdi:There you go.
Tom:It's called the 'war of the ants', or 'ant football', 'anthill', 'fleas'. There's also 'snow' or 'sandstorm' or 'rain'. And yeah, 1% of it is radiation and interference from space. Rather than just atmospherics around here. And the coloured rectangles are?
Mehdi:Pixels, if we can call them.
Tom:Yeah. The first line in, I think it's Neuromancer by William Gibson, is that the sky was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel. And for someone my age, that means it's gray and cloudy. And for anyone who's sort of born in this century, that means it's just bright blue.
Saf:Blue screen of death.
Tom:Blue screen of death. So yes, the war of the ants, snowstorm... I mean, white noise is the technical term. It's the white noise on old analogue televisions when they're not tuned to a channel. And yeah, 1% of it is from cosmic microwave background radiation. So it's the afterglow from the Big Bang. Ali, the next question is yours. Over to you.
Ali:Alright. You arrive at a fairground with a friend. You see a carousel in the far distance. "Oh, I love these traditional English fairs," you say. "That carousel was originally built in North America, not Britain," replies your friend. How could they tell? Again, you arrive at—
Tom:Do you wanna try that with an English accent this time?
SFX:(group laughing)
Ali:That was the best I could do.
Tom:That was solid Australian, that was. It was great.
Ali:Was it? Okay. You arrive at a fairground with a friend. You see a carousel in the far distance. "I love these traditional English fairs," you say. "That carousel was originally built in North America, and not Britain," replies your friend. How could they tell?
Tom:So this is something obvious from a long way away.
Mehdi:Is it because, I dunno, North American ones have horses and... original ones...
Tom:Or buffalo. North American ones have buffalo.
Mehdi:Buffalo, buffalo. Are we saying that they were originally invented in North America?
Tom:No, it must be some property of this carousel makes it obvious from afar that it's North American. But why would that be built differently?
Ali:You are right. You're too far away to see any words or symbols. So it is about the distance.
Tom:It's just got a giant American flag on top of it!
SFX:(others laughing)
Mehdi:Yeah that could be the case.
Tom:Fireworks going off.
Tom:Guns firing into the distance from the top of it. Meanwhile, the English carousel next door is just apologising. But weirdly... also invading several other carousels at the same time.
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:I'm gonna take punt on this and risk cutting the question short. Is it that one goes clockwise, and one goes counterclockwise? Because Americans drive on the right?
Ali:It is that! I don't know if it's because of the driving situation, but yes, you are correct. You have nailed it.
Ali:Excellent job. Straight through the goalposts, punted.
Tom:I was trying to think of any properties of a carousel that you could see from a distance. And it's like, it's gotta be the rotating thing, but so, North American carousels go the other way?
Ali:Yes, so American carousels kept the riders' right hand free to catch a brass ring from a dispenser, which entitled them to a free ride or a prize. So the more decorated side of the horse, the one that faces outward, is called the romance side. And...
Tom:Wait, wait. They only decorate one half of a carousel horse?
Ali:It's more decorated 'cause you're not gonna see the inside, right?
Saf:That's smart.
Ali:Save a little cash, I guess.
Tom:I'm gonna look for that next time. Next time I'm on a carousel, as if I do that as a regular thing.
Ali:Yes. But yes. American carousels turn counterclockwise. British go clockwise. And that's easy to see at a distance.
Tom:Sorry. I didn't mean to cut that one short. It's just that there was nothing else going. I'm like, I can't think of anything else that it is. Right.
Ali:It's fine. It'll gimme more time to work on my English accent.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Back to me for the next one then. Good luck folks. In 1948, scientists George Gamow and Ralph Alpher released an academic paper. They credited their friend Hans as a co-author, even though he didn't really help to write the paper. What is Hans's surname? I'll give you that again. In 1948, scientists George Gamow and Ralph Alpher released an academic paper. They credited their friend Hans as a co-author, even though he didn't really help to write the paper. What is Hans's surname?
Mehdi:Hans Christian Andersen?
Tom:Not in this case. I mean, feel free to name some famous Hanses.
Ali:Famous Hanses?
Tom:Not... I can't now come up with any other than Hans Gruber, but...
Ali:Down, his last name is Down.
Mehdi:Hands down.
Saf:Hans Down.
Tom:Oh... oh!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:That's just over my head! I know this is the last one of the recording block, but I thought I'd be faster than that.
Mehdi:That was good, Ali.
Ali:Thank you. Perhaps something in his name has helped them figure out their problem that was answered in the paper. They're using, they're crediting him because his name sparked their solution.
Mehdi:Well, I mean, I know that some professors, if you are the student writing the paper, you have to include the professor's name in the paper too. Although they haven't helped. (chuckles)
Tom:Hans was a friend.
Tom:I dunno why that excludes him being the professor, but in my head, it does.
Mehdi:Is it because the publication wouldn't accept a paper written by two people, but they would accept one that is written by three people?
Tom:No, I've seen workarounds for that before. I know there was someone who insisted on being credited next to their cat. And journals kept kept rejecting that.
Saf:Is there a hint somewhere for his name or...
Tom:The names are important here.
Saf:Okay. Can we hear the names again?
Tom:Yeah, it's George Gamow and Ralph Alpher.
Saf:Gamow, Alpher, and something else that kind of goes with the three. So the reason why they included him, because that makes something, those three names.
Tom:It's a nerdy joke, yes.
Saf:Nerdy joke.
Tom:You've got that right. It's a nerdy joke.
Saf:Okay, yeah.
Mehdi:Beta? His last name was Beta?
Tom:Spot on. His last name was Bethe.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:It is Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow.
Saf:There you go.
Tom:And they did that— It was called "The Origin of Chemical Elements" from 1948, and it was credited to Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow. And is it pronounced al-fehr? I don't know. I've only got A-L-P-H-E-R written down here. But I deliberately made sure not to say Alpha in that sentence. So well done working your way through that one, Mehdi. The final guest question of the show then goes to Saf. What have you got for us?
Saf:So my question is: A children's book has these illustrations: a tree with five branches in different directions; a sun peeking through a two-pane window frame; a mountain with three peaks, the central one being highest. What is the book for? So... A children's book has these illustrations: a tree with five branches in different directions; a sun peeking through a two-paned window frame; a mountain with three peaks, the central one being highest. What is the book for?
Ali:It's for reading to children.
Saf:It is something to do with... teaching children, but what is it teaching children?
Mehdi:I feel like it's a science book. Well, my mind goes towards science, because of light and scattering and things of that sort. But maybe I'm wrong.
Ali:I'm leaning towards religion, 'cause the three peaks feels like some sort of iconography. And the five... branches are very specific. It sounds religious to me.
Tom:The second time you read the question out, I was doodling that in front of me. Oh, tree with five branches. Oh, it all— No, I've got no idea. I've just got some weird idiograms in front of me, and nothing.
Mehdi:Tree with five branches. Sunlight going through two...
Tom:Tree with five– I mean, I'm just looking at my hand. Tree with five branches could be an arm with fingers, but... I dunno why you'd have three peaks or a sun poking through a two-pane window.
Ali:It's one sun, two panes... three peaks... five branches. We skipped over four 'cause it's unlucky. Oh, was that a callback to a different episode? Sorry.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ali:And the middle peak is important. So the shape of... Boop, up-higher boop, and lower boop is important.
Tom:Is this...
Mehdi:See, the center boop would be larger, because I assume if it was light scattering through two slits, and the waves collide afterwards, then the first one would be brightest, then the next wave would be lowest, then lower and going forward. But there are only three. I dunno. It doesn't have anything to do with science, does it?
Saf:Not necessarily.
SFX:(guys laughing)
Tom:That's a cautious answer. A sun poking through two window panes. Is this like... a word book? There's some connection between— 'Cause you said the numbers specifically, so, is there a connection between five and tree, or two and window, or something like that? The thing I'm remembering is like that memory technique where you
Tom:connect numbers to words.
Ali:Three is tree.
Tom:Yeah, so... Yeah, and you create a mental picture based on whatever you have to remember. Can I remember what those are? Absolutely not. I just know the technique, and it's—
Ali:Four is door, three's tree.
Saf:So you're on the right theme. You're on the right theme. It's not necessarily numbers as such, but you're on the right theme.
Ali:Colors. Brown, tree? No, because the numbers are important.
Saf:So, okay, so it's a tree with five branches in different directions. There's a sun peeking through
Ali:In different directions.
Saf:a two-paned window frame, a mountain with three peaks, the central one being the highest.
Tom:It's a central one being highest that's got me. It's not just about the numbers then. There's gotta be...
Ali:The sun is peeking. Does it have a face? Does it have eyes, and it actually... peeking, or is that a metaphorically peeking?
Saf:It's— No, no, it's— It's not got eyes. It's not the one from Teletubbies.
Mehdi:It's three different illustrations, right? There are not one image—
Saf:Yeah, three separate illustrations. And, you know, so we've said it's a children's book. So what are you trying to teach these children?
Tom:Could it be a language thing? Is there a language in which the number for five sounds like the word for tree in a different language? I am desperately searching for any language in which that's true in my head. But I can't think...
Ali:Is it calligraphy? The way you make the shapes of the words? That's why the peaks would have to be that shape... And the tree has to be all the different spread in different directions. Is it Chinese characters?
Saf:That's— Ali's got it. So...
Saf:It's teaching children Chinese characters.
Mehdi:Oh, okay.
Saf:You got it.
Tom:I was about to say sign language, 'cause I was thinking that, but yeah.
Saf:You were, you got the language bit right, and then you started going off, and I was like...
Saf:Ali bought it back in. So the idea is to use pictures as memory aids to remember what the Chinese symbol is for those concepts. The same concept has been used by a book called Dot Line Curve and a YouTube channel called Chinesey, which is a really clever name. In Chinese, if you draw the symbols 'person tree', it means rest. Two 'woman' symbols together means argument.
Tom:Oh wow.
Saf:That's controversial.
Ali:Ooh, let's unpack that some other time.
SFX:(group laughing)
Saf:But 'woman child' means good.
Tom:This is one of the things to do with sign language as well.
Tom:I know very little about Chinese characters, but I know a few things about sign language. I think there was a push in America a few years ago to replace some signs, because they're not great for the 21st century. They're referring to races and religions by just signing stereotypes. And they've sort of had to change some of those signs for this century now.
Tom:I imagine it's a lot harder to change characters.
Mehdi:You gave me a reason to Google those now.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:So, what do the signs mean? How do you get from tree with a branch to...
Saf:So the pictures are basically trying to demonstrate concepts. So of a tree, a sun, mountains in a visual way. So you've got these symbols. So you've got the tree with the five branches, which makes that symbol, but sort of looks like a tree. Then you've got the sun peeking through a window frame. So you've got a symbol there with the little dots. And then you've got a mountain with three peaks. So with the one being highest, and then the symbol is you've got the two, and you've got the one that's higher in the middle. So it's basically trying to find visual cues for these symbols to make it easier for children to remember. So it's like, oh, what was this symbol? Oh, it's that mountain. Okay, I know how it goes. It's those three lines with the one in the middle bigger than 'em.
Mehdi:Well, does the meaning of the symbol have anything to do with the mountain, for example?
Saf:So they've basically turned the symbols into props in a scene. So with the lines for the tree, you've actually got a tree in the background a little bit, to kind of give that representation. And with the sun peeking through the window, again, that's representing the sun. And you've just got those symbols there that represent that, and are good visual cues for kids to learn.
Tom:So the symbol for sun is the window frame. And the sun is shining through that symbol.
Tom:Oh, that's clever!
Saf:I mean, I'd struggle with this if I was to try to do that. So good luck to those kids. They must be very smart.
Mehdi:Yeah, I mean, how many characters are there? Do they have like 6,000?
Saf:Do they?
Tom:I think it's more than that.
Mehdi:Yeah, even worse.
Saf:It's a lot of characters.
Saf:It'd make you very good at art, I'm sure.
Tom:Yeah, yeah. One more from me then. In 1963, which film director boasted that he was able to get 28,000 extras to work just for food? I'll say that again. In 1963, which film director boasted that he was able to get 28,000 extras to work just for food?
Ali:Ooh, I feel like I got it already.
Tom:Oh, if you think you've got it immediately.
Tom:Ali, you sit back from this one. You sit back.
Ali:Okay, well now this is like an overconfident thing.
Ali:But I'm gonna stick with mine.
Tom:Alright, if you wanna write down your answer somewhere, go for it. Otherwise, we'll take it on faith. If you wanna try—
Ali:Text my mom.
SFX:(group laughing)
Mehdi:I'm so bad with names. I would never guess that—
Tom:I mean I would take the film. If you don't know the director, I would take the film.
Mehdi:It must be one of those films that require, I dunno, all the old movies, pretty much, like Cleopatra, for example, had billions of people. (chuckles)
Saf:Yeah, they couldn't really use crowd simulations back then.
SFX:(group laughing)
Saf:"We have to get real people!"
Ali:The food was electricity.
Tom:I mean, there are some beautiful old movies which used tens of thousands of people in the back of them. And then just a lot of sort of cutouts and matte paintings. It was a lot easier to just draw 28,000 people and keep the shot level than... But no, these were actual physical extras. These were not a matte painting. These were actually in camera.
Mehdi:Well... considering the question, I would say the guy didn't really care about human rights. So they went and found a whole lot of poor people, either from another country or from homeless people, and abuse them pretty much. Sounds like it.
Tom:Now, Mehdi. On a lighthearted knockabout quiz like this.
SFX:(guys laughing)
Saf:That's gone very deep.
Tom:I mean, let's be clear. That's almost certainly happened many times in Hollywood.
Tom:We're just gonna point the camera at people, and they're not gonna care. We'll just put that— They'll be happy to be in the movies. I'm sure it's happened.
Tom:But on a lighthearted show like this, we are not gonna be asking a question about human rights abuses.
Mehdi:Right, yeah, yeah.
Tom:Sorry, I just said the words human rights abuses while laughing. That's not a great look.
Ali:(faintly) Not a good look.
Mehdi:Haha, yes, we don't talk about human rights here!
Tom:Ah, you went to the Qatar World Cup, good.
Ali:Oh dear.
Tom:Oh, that was topical when we're recording this.
Saf:28,000 people.
Tom:28,000 extras.
Saf:Extras, like...
Mehdi:28,000, yeah.
Saf:In 1963, what— See, my movie knowledge doesn't go back that far, but... There's obviously gonna be some sort of epic movie, where there's gonna be huge crowds involved. I'm trying to think of what kind of a movie would that be? So you mentioned Cleopatra. What else was there during that time?
Mehdi:Like Moses for example. But I dunno if it had 28,000 people in there.
Tom:You're thinking The Ten Commandments there.
Mehdi:Yeah, Ten Commandments.
Saf:Ten Commandments movie.
Tom:Yeah. Not in this one.
Mehdi:We need 28,000 people in camera. Which movie would they—
Tom:28,000 extras.
Mehdi:Extras, yeah.
Tom:I'm doing the thing where I'm subtly correcting you on a thing, and hoping you can pick up on it.
Mehdi:Extras, yeah, yeah. They have to be extras. I mean, you can't have all 28,000 as the first character of the movie.
Saf:Oh, so they were extras. So they weren't necessarily on camera.
Tom:Oh, they were definitely on camera.
Saf:Okay, they were on camera, 28,000.
Tom:28,000 extras.
Saf:28,000 extras. Oh, so then they weren't people.
Tom:I'm doing a very deliberate correction there.
Saf:Okay, alright, so they weren't people.
Mehdi:But I mean, didn't the guy boast that he hired them for food? You don't... Oh, unless it was sheep or something.
Tom:I can see Ali smiling at this. I think Ali's pretty sure that you've...
Mehdi:Okay, we are getting there.
Saf:So we've got, alright, so there's extras. So there's lots and lots of animals, which obviously you don't have to pay them. You just feed them. What animals would they be? 28,000, that's a lot of animals.
Mehdi:Well, on the bright side, it wasn't a human right violation. It was an animal right.
SFX:(group laughing)
Saf:Yeah. What, how 28,000 animals or...
Tom:The exact quote from the San Francisco Chronicle was, "The biggest crowd I've ever had. Of course, they all worked for chicken feed."
Mehdi:Chicken feed.
Saf:Chicken feed. So they're birds, chickens?
Mehdi:No, they ate chicken feed, right?
Tom:Ali's just got this grin on her face. I think...
Ali:(laughs) It's harder knowing the answer than not.
SFX:(others laughing)
Ali:I should just leave. (groan)
Tom:If you're not getting it from this one, I think we're gonna have to go to the person with movie knowledge. Ali?
Ali:I don't even have movie knowledge. It just happens to be one that was in my brain. So I can say it?
Tom:Go for it.
Ali:Is it Alfred Hitchcock's Birds?
Tom:It is Alfred Hitchcock with the movie The Birds. 28,000 birds. And he said, "They all worked for chicken feed, except for the vultures, who had their own agents."
SFX:(guests laughing)
Mehdi:Oh, so the birds eat chicken feed? Oh, I guess they do, they are.
Tom:So, yes, Alfred Hitchcock once bragged that he had got 28,000 extras to work just for food, because they were the birds from The Birds. Right at the start of the show then, I asked the audience this question, which was sent in by Nick Landis. Thank you very much. Which TV show has the numbers 35 and 56 in its logo? Any guesses from the panel?
Mehdi:35 and 56.
Saf:TV show.
Ali:Is it on a badge, a police badge, and it's some sort of cop show?
Tom:No, it's... It is in squares.
Tom:35 and 56. Two numbers specifically.
Saf:Oh, 35 and 56.
Tom:And you will have seen this logo.
Ali:Are they Roman numerals?
Mehdi:5 x 7 is 35. 7 x 8 is 56. Seven is common in both of them. Does it have anything... (giggles)
SFX:(guys laughing)
Tom:Unfortunately not, but I really appreciate the fast lowest common denominator maths there. That's great.
Ali:That was impressive.
Saf:Are they door numbers?
Tom:They are numbers of something.
Mehdi:Okay, documentary for whatever happened between years of 35 and 56?
Tom:No, they are labelling something.
Mehdi:Oh my god.
Tom:They're also next to pairs of letters.
Saf:Pairs of letters.
Tom:You might wanna look them up in a table of some kind.
Ali:Oh, yeah, I got it.
Saf:Periodic table?
Ali:It's, yeah.
Tom:Which means it is?
Ali:Breaking Bad.
Tom:Breaking Bad.
Mehdi:Ah, okay.
Tom:The "Br" and "Ba" in Breaking Bad are made up to look like the elements from the periodic table, and those are bromine and barium, 35 and 56. And if there was a pause there, it's because I was desperately looking down at my notes to remember what those elements were.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:So thank you very much to all our players. Thank you for battling through this gauntlet. What's going on in your lives? Let's start with Mehdi this time. Where can people find you?
Mehdi:Well, people can as always find me on YouTube. My YouTube channel is ElectroBOOM. And I also have accounts everywhere else under ElectroBOOM or ElectroBOOMGuy.
Ali:I also have a podcast. It's funny and relatable, health, fitness, and longevity. And you can find me on YouTube making outrageous artwork and music under Ali Spagnola.
Tom:And Saf.
Saf:Yeah, you can find me, I'm SuperSaf everywhere. YouTube, Twitter, TikTok. Wherever you look, if you just search for SuperSaf, you'll find me mostly do tech videos, but also some podcasts.
Tom:Thank you very much to all of you. And for the folks at home, if you wanna know more about the show or send in a question yourself, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere on social media, and there are weekly video highlights at Thank you very much to Ali Spagnola.
Ali:Yay, thanks for having me. This was awesome!
Tom:To Saf from SuperSaf.
Saf:Thanks for having me. I didn't do so well this time, but I blame jet lag.
Tom:You did fine! Thank you.
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:And Mehdi from ElectroBOOM.
Mehdi:Yeah, thank you. And I did a little bit better this time, so I'm happy.
Tom:I'm Tom Scott, and this has been Lateral.
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