Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 28: An 'out of this world' lecture

Published 21st April, 2023

Melissa Fernandes, Sabrina Cruz and Taha Khan from 'Answer in Progress' face questions about crafty clocks, remunerative records and veiled video games.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT: Podcasts NZ Studios. EDITED BY: Julie Hassett at The Podcast Studios, Dublin. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Josh Halbur, Lewis Tough, Nick VanAcker. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Brown can help you think. White can help you work. And pink is soothing. What is it? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Welcome to the show that provides you with all the useless information you never knew you needed to forget. Sort of like the internet, but with more personality and fewer cat videos. Today, I am joined by some returning players who all know each other, who all run a big project together. It is the team from Answer in Progress. And I never know which order to introduce you in. I try and mix it up every time. So I'm just gonna go with the order that you appeared on my screen. We start with Melissa Fernandes.
Tom:How are you doing?
Melissa:I'm good. I'm nervous to be back though.
Tom:You're obviously coming back on the show. How was it last time? How do you feel about being back?
Melissa:It was fun last time. I realised my trivia knowledge... or my puzzle knowledge is not very good, but I'm still here to compete and win against these two. It's a competition, right?
Sabrina:Because it is a competition!
Tom:Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I love it when the players are up against each other and not just gang up on me. This is great. Also from Answer in Progress and clearly getting into the competitive spirit immediately, Sabrina Cruz.
Sabrina:I'm here to win. I have never shut up about getting it in one on that first question, and I'm gonna do it again.
Tom:You came in and said, "I have never shut up." And then you paused for just a moment, and I was like, That can't be where the sentence is ending. It can't be!
Sabrina:Ah, Taha and Melissa wish.
SFX:(both chuckling)
Tom:And thus rounding out the team, from another continent entirely, Taha Khan.
Taha:I'm just happy to be here.
SFX:(others chuckling)
Taha:I'm playing the up— moral high ground here. I'm just happy to be here. So, you know, if Sabrina's overly competitive, you know, I can't be held liable.
Tom:Well, we'll see how you get on with today's questions. The questions I have in my script today are a bit like a cheeseboard. They are addictive, varied in texture, and they've got some mustard smeared on them, although that's mostly from my lunch. Let's take a bite outta question one, which is this:

In 1922, the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner gave her first public lecture on "The Significance of Radioactivity in Cosmic Processes." She was surprised by the large number of women in the audience caused by an error in a newspaper. What was it?

I'll say that again.

In 1922, the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, gave her first public lecture on "The Significance of Radioactivity in Cosmic Processes." She was surprised by the large number of women in the audience caused by an error...
Sabrina:I think I know this. a newspaper. What was it?

Now, I heard gasps there!
SFX:(Melissa and Sabrina giggling)
Tom:And here's the thing.
Taha:I'm lost.
Tom:I heard Melissa gasp first. So just, without saying what the answer might be yet... who in the crowd thinks they might have the answer to this one? Melissa?
Melissa:I think I know it.
Taha:I feel like Melissa and Sabrina have both got it 'cause they pointed at each other.
Sabrina:Well, it's just, I— Maybe, maybe this is one thing. It might be a bit of lateral thinking.
Tom:Okay. Taha, do you have any idea whatsoever?
Taha:No. I am lost. And it does— It is interesting that the two women got it. You know, so I'm like—
Tom:On a question about a female physicist giving a public lecture with a large number of women in the audience.
Melissa:I just wanna know why.
Sabrina:I also— It can't be this. It can't be what I'm thinking.
Melissa:I know!
Sabrina:Because that can't be the case.
Melissa:It can't be what I'm thinking either.
Taha:So now I'm like—
Melissa:That seems wrong.
Taha:What do I not know as a man?
Tom:Normally, if two people get the question immediately, we'll just normally throw it out and start again, but in this case... I feel like we wanna play this out. Melissa, what's your guess?
Melissa:I think there was a typo in the newspaper and it probably said "no men allowed" or something.
Sabrina:That's not what I thought! I thought it was about 'cosmetic' instead of 'cosmic'.
Taha:Yeah, that's—
Tom:One of you is right.
Taha:I mean, definitely Sabrina is right. Surely.
Tom:Yes, absolutely. Sabrina is right.
Taha:Yeah, yeah.
Tom:So for the second time on question one!
Taha:Oh dear.
Sabrina:Let's go! All the pressure's off now. Let's go!
Taha:Tom, our whole year is ruined. I will hear about this for the rest of time. Why did you gasp?
Taha:Yeah, you immediately—
Melissa:I was appalled by that. I was like, that can't be the answer.
Sabrina:Where did you think the typo would've taken place?
Melissa:I don't know. It was just the first thing that came to mind. That's just an easy typo. 'Cosmetic' and 'cosmic' are two different words.
Taha:Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. You think that cosmetic and cosmic... Cosmetic and cosmic... Versus—
Sabrina:She's not wrong, Taha. She's not wrong. Cosmetic and cosmic are two different words.
Taha:That's true.
Melissa:(giggles) They are!
Taha:But the different, it's like either you can misspell cosmetic or you could accidentally type 'No men'.
Tom:I mean, that's happened a lot of times for me. I've just been signing off an email and it's been, "Kind regards. No men." No oh, don't, sorry. Yes, it was promoted as "Radioactivity in Cosmetic Processes," which actually kind of implies that your makeup may be radioactive, which really did attract a lot of women.
Sabrina:Yeah, that's the thing that I'm confused by, because if I saw that, even if it's said cosmetic, I'd just be like, "I don't know what to do with this information!" And then I'd put it down and walk away.
Tom:I mean, it's 1922, so—
Sabrina:Yeah, it's just like, ooh, you know product recalls? I understand that they're important. However, if something that I had consumed was recalled, I've never heard about it.
Melissa:So what if it's bad though? You're just gonna live and wait for the effects to happen?
Tom:I mean, there is not much you can do about at that point other than maybe make a note for your doctor to check in about 20 years.
Taha:Sabrina sounds like the type of person who won't go to the dentist because then it makes it real.
SFX:(group laughing)
Sabrina:I haven't been to a dentist in three years.
Taha:I suspected.
Melissa:This is a personal attack.
Taha:Yeah. It's like, "I have toothaches, but I don't have any cavities 'Cause I haven't been to the dentist."
Sabrina:Do you sometimes worry that your teeth are loose?
Taha:I go to the dentist. I go to a dentist every six months.
Sabrina:You had a month of tooth issues Taha. You can't even talk.
Taha:I learned my lesson.
Tom:Yeah. I learned my lesson back in my teenage years. "Oh, this is why you go to the dentist." And now I go to the dentist. You learn these things. I appreciate, Sabrina, you may have never learned that lesson, and I hope you never have to.
Sabrina:I have never had a cavity. And I'll never have a cavity if I never see a dentist again.
Tom:Yes, in 1922, Austrian physicist Lise Meitner gave a public lecture on radioactivity in cosmic processes and the newspaper typo'd it as 'cosmetic'.

Sabrina, just to try and cut you off at the pass from immediately getting the second question straight away. Let's go to your guest question here. What have you got for us?
Sabrina:Alright, y'all ready?

So Abby and Bella can't decide where eat. Abby takes out a US one-cent coin and says, "Let's use this to decide fairly." Abby is able to give herself an 80% chance of winning without Bella suspecting anything. How?

Let me say that again.

Abby and Bella can't decide where to eat. Abby takes a US one-cent coin and says, "Let's use this to decide fairly." Abby is able to give herself an 80% chance of winning without Bella suspecting anything. How?
Melissa:Can you have a loaded penny? Like, one of those... That was the end of my thought. Can you have a loaded penny? I dunno.
Taha:Well, I agree. My suspicion was maybe all one cent pennies are loaded. Maybe one cent pennies have a unique characteristic, which means maybe the head on one of the sides, whichever side the head is is extremely bulbous. The guy just has a massive forehead. He's like Megamind. So it's just like, oh It's just weighted slightly differently. And so if you flip on—
Tom:I dunno, I feel like if you flip a coin though, it's going so fast through the air as it flips and flips and flips and you just kind of catch it at some point, it's not gonna be facing down for 80% of the time.
Taha:Yeah. Sabrina's making faces as if we've... You know how like with a metal detector, like it would go beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, and then go back to normal. I feel like we've hovered over the answer.
Tom:Also, how do you buy a loaded coin? I imagine this is something like magic and illusion shops somewhere out there that will buy— where you can buy coins that always land one way down or something like that. But even then you have to let it drop on the floor. Cause if you just snatch it out the air, that surely will be random. It's not gonna go...
Taha:But isn't that just as random as it dropping on the floor because it's just something stopping the object, no?
Tom:I feel like if it's got time to bounce around on the floor, it might always land butter side down like toast does that—
Tom:That's a terrible analogy 'cause that's based on the height from the worktop. So ignore me. That was a bad deduction. We'll just move on.
Melissa:Unless they put butter on the penny.
Sabrina:(cackles) Yes, that's what she did. She smeared butter on it. You've locked it in. But it is interesting.
Tom:Or just attached it to a cat and then threw the cat off the...
Taha:No suspicion here. Why do you have my cat?
Sabrina:I will say though, that Melissa and Taha might've been leaning a little bit more in the right direction, because... Let me read the question again. And this might be a bit of a hint, might not be a bit of a hint, I dunno. They can't decide where to eat. She takes out a US one cent coin, and she says, "Let's use this to decide fairly." After that, all I say is Abby is able to give herself an 80% chance of winning without Bella suspecting anything. There's something in that, that you should think about.
Tom:Did you actually say that you were flipping a coin there? Was that part of the question, or did you just imply heavily that they were flipping a coin?
Melissa:They just used—
Sabrina:What did I say? Play back the tape.
Taha:I see what's happening.
Tom:But how else do you use a coin to decide which way to go?
Taha:You could... I'm thinking like a spin the bottle type situation, but maybe there's arrows on the coin or something? Or you could do the thing where you spin the coin on a table and it... And then it sort of lands.
Sabrina:Boom. That's it.
Taha:That was it, and it was the weighting of the coin?
Sabrina:Yeah. And I think it's interesting that you immediately latched onto the fact that it wasn't just a specific coin. It was every coin. And that's the thing, US one cent coins, their— You even said it, the head is slightly heavier, which means it's always more likely—
Taha:And was it Megamind?
Sabrina:It was Meg—
SFX:(group laughing)
Sabrina:It's Abraham Lincoln, the same thing. It's fine, none of us are American here. We can say stuff like that. I think it's the big hat. Does he wear the hat on the penny?
Tom:And one of us is not Gen Z and thus did not get the Megamind reference at all. Just I'm assuming it's some guy with a big head.
Taha:Yeah, he's a cartoon character.
Tom:Cool. Okay.
Sabrina:He's got a big head, very heavy. Causes it to topple over consistently on... the head side down. which means that tails are pretty consistently able to win 80% of the time.
Tom:I'm pretty sure that it's Abraham Lincoln on the one cent in the US because one of the reasons they haven't got rid of the US one cent is that one of the states, which was Lincoln's birthplace, is just really angry at the idea that he might not be on the coins anymore.
Sabrina:But is the hat on it?
Tom:That may be true, or it may just be something I heard on an episode of The West Wing once, which again, sets me out as not being the same generation as the rest of the people in this call.
Sabrina:I can't stress enough, I've wanted to watch The West Wing. There's no way to do it legally in Canada.
Taha:There's no way to do it legally in the UK either. I've also wanted to watch The West Wing but it's like, am I going to buy it?
Sabrina:So Tom, how did you watch it?
Taha:Yeah, Tom.
Tom:Because I'm old enough, I watched it on actual television when it came out!
Taha:What's actual television, Tom? Is that like YouTube?
Sabrina:What is TV? Do they— Is it like streaming on demand?
Taha:It's like Twitch, but
Tom:I'm just not giving that any of the attention it deserves.
SFX:(guests giggling)
Sabrina:Yeah, so basically Abby would say, "Heads, you win. Tails, I win." And the thing is about US one cent coins is that they're weighted in such a way that the head is slightly heavier. So that around 80% of the time if you spin a coin on a table, heads will land face down, and then the tails up. So she wins. Sneaky! (snickers) Great button.
Tom:Next question's from me. Good luck, folks.

The funk band Vulfpeck released an album. However, even their indie band's die-hard fans haven't listened to it. Despite that, the band used the profits to fund one of their tours. How?

I'll say that again.

The funk band Vulfpeck released an album. However, even their indie band's die-hard fans haven't listened to it. Despite that, the band used the profits to fund one of their tours. How?

And I will say that "the funk band Vulfpeck" is really difficult to get your teeth around.
Sabrina:Congratulations to you. (chuckles)
Tom:Hooh. The odds of me coming out with "the vunk bank Fulfveck" at some point in there, or... just dropping an F bomb because I got my vowels mixed up is just very, very close to happening throughout that read. But yes, the funk band Vulfpeck.
Sabrina:Was there just no sound on the album? Was it just an empty album?
Tom:Oh, god dammit, Sabrina!
Melissa:Wait, what?
Sabrina:Shut up!
SFX:(both laughing)
Sabrina:No, you're joking.
Tom:I'm not joking!
Melissa:They bought an empty record?
Sabrina:Well, you know, if it's a charity thing, like people would be down to clown. I'm so sorry!
Tom:This is the sound of a question document being literally just screwed up
SFX:(paper crumpling)
Tom:and just thrown out behind me.
Sabrina:It's whimsical if it's a one. I feel mean if it's two.
Tom:Okay, so here's the thing. You have the first part of this, but it isn't the full story.
Tom:You have... You've missed a little bit of that, which means I now have to unscrew this document that... See, the thing is— what I should have done was got a different sheet of paper, 'cause this is mostly an audio show. I could have screwed up any sheet of paper. I could have screwed up the last question. I didn't, I screwed up the actual question that I now have to refer to.
Sabrina:Because you are an honest video content creator.
Taha:Everything is real. Nothing is faked on this show.
Sabrina:He's honest. He doesn't lie to you.
Taha:He does his own stunts.
Tom:Thank you for the endorsement there. There is a couple of extra things that you can work out about that. But yeah, Sabrina. You've got the first bit of that. It was a completely silent album.
Taha:Okay, so—
Tom:So why were people still... Why were they still making money off this?
Taha:So I have a couple of theories. I don't remember what the artist was, but...
Sabrina:The funk band Vulf—
Tom:See?! It's difficult! It's really difficult!
Sabrina:The funk band Vulfpeck.
Taha:But there was that artist who released a single that was four minutes of silence... as a protest against the X-Factor winner that year in the UK. And they were basically getting people to stream it, or to buy it, for charity. But I assume if this was Vulfpeck, they could have been more recent, and it was a streaming thing, where they just got people to stream silence?
Tom:Vulfpeck just released an entirely silent album. And yes, it was on Spotify for streaming. So if you did not want to listen to music... you could put that on instead.
Taha:This is... I am taking issue with the phrasing of the question, but would you not consider that listened to?
Tom:Well, the streaming services did!
Sabrina:That's fair.
Melissa:But did you hear it?
Taha:Maybe I heard it, but I didn't listen to it. You know what I mean?
Sabrina:Deep in.
Tom:So yes, each stream of the entire album would earn them about five cents, which is apparently the going rate for streaming these days. They ended up with $20,000 from their audience listening to silence. And I assume that that loophole has now been closed.
Sabrina:I'm curious if it's like, if it was also an act of protest, or if it was like just an act of... this is a thing that exists. We can exploit this and then put the proceeds towards charity.
Tom:It wasn't towards charity. It was towards funding their tour.
Taha:I think it's a great idea to have this album be just silence, because I would love to cue up a bunch of music in a party and then just have some songs be silent. So it is sort of that awkward times, just stops. I think it'd be really funny.
Sabrina:Do not hand Taha the aux!
Tom:There was a wonderful project a few years ago called The Boiling Frog, which was a Spotify thing where if you wanted guests to steadily leave your party, you would put in a song that was lovely. And then put in a song that they absolutely would hate. And it would give you like a 10–12 song playlist where all the transitions seem reasonable. At no point is there a shocking jump in genre. But by the end of it, you're listening to something terrible! And it's just kind of just ease the guests in. So at some point they go, "I think I should leave now."
Melissa:It's like restaurant music at 1:45. They're like, "Please leave. We're gonna play the sad stuff. We're trying to clean."
Tom:Yes, the funk band Vulfpeck released an entirely silent album so their fans could listen to it when they didn't want to listen to anything, and they could take the money. Melissa, we're coming to you next. Let's see what you've got.
Melissa:Alright. Two men meet for a coffee in Malta.

"Sorry, I'm late," says Nick. "The church clock was wrong."

"No, it wasn't," replies Joshua. "I'm sure it was correct."

They go outside to find that both of them were right. How was that possible, and what is the tradition behind it?

I'll say it one more time.

Two men meet for a coffee in Malta.

"Sorry I'm late," says Nick. "The church clock was wrong."

"No, it wasn't," replies Joshua. "I'm sure it was correct."

They go outside to find that both of them were right. How was that possible, and what is the tradition that behind it?
Tom:I know a lot of listeners are gonna be assuming that I'll get this immediately, because I have previously ranted a lot about time zones and weird time stuff, and I'm happy to say I have no clue whatsoever. Just a complete blank!
Sabrina:Well I'm immediately— like I have— now— This is where my North American education and geography knowledge will really, really get the Europeans going. But I have no idea where Malta is.
Tom:Ah, you said it was Europe. You got that one right.
Sabrina:That's where a lot of places are, Tom. (wheezing giggles) I guess. Got it in one.
Tom:Malta is just south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.
Taha:The thing that's really throwing me off in the question is that the people were named. I know that's— I hope that's not part of the question, but it's like, oh, it was like Nick and Craig or something, and I was just a bit like, why are they—
Tom:Those are not Maltese names.
Taha:Yeah they're sort of like... generic first names as if it's kind of like a—
Sabrina:It's like a math question in a textbook.
Taha:Yeah. Yeah. It's like one of them has 17 watermelons.
Melissa:I wouldn't dig too deep into this, 'cause it's a very, very soft clue in the right direction. The name... One of the names might give you a clue.
Sabrina:Shut up.
Melissa:The name Nick might give you a clue, but I highly doubt it.
Tom:Okay, what do I know about Malta? What do I know about Malta? Almost— the only thing I know about Malta is that they were given a British award for bravery as an island. And I think it's the George Cross, which is our highest medal for bravery, was given to the entire nation of the island, and they put it on their flag.
Tom:That's nothing relevant to this, but you know what? I've got one Malta fact. That's it.
Melissa:How could these two people have seen... different times?
Sabrina:It's either— Is the clock face mirrored in some way? That it almost, if you look at the numerals on it. I don't know. I don't know. I got two in— I got two already. That's good, I'm done. I think—
Sabrina:I'm checking out.
Melissa:She's tapping out.
Taha:This is like Usain Bolt retiring in their prime. Okay. Is it... This makes no sense, but I'll say it anyway. Is the clock face... like one of those shadow clocks? No, sundials, that's the word. I think shadow clock is a more— a better word.
Sabrina:You know what, you're right.
Taha:Shadow clock sounds cool. You know, it's like, is this from Lord of the Rings or something? So is there anything to do with shadows coming into this?
Melissa:No, but it has something to do with the clock.
Sabrina:Does the clock look different from a watch? Not my watch, 'cause I can't read an analogue clock. That is very zoomer of me.
Tom:We had this argument last time, didn't we? I think we had that.
Taha:Yeah. Okay, I have an idea. It's like a geometrical thing. If you look at the clock on different faces, it's like, maybe— It's like Big Ben, let's say. It's like a square. Not a square, but you get what I mean, like a cube. And the different sides of the clock give different times, because that's respecting maybe some time zone that they're going through, or it could be a British time and then a not-British time.
Tom:So, Britain used to have a different noon for every town. Because there was no central time service. We're talking start of the 20th century.
Sabrina:Tell my boy, Sanford Fleming. I'm sorry.
Tom:There was no central time— Sorry, who was Sanford Fleming?
Sabrina:He did the time zones. He made time zones.
Tom:I didn't know that.
Sabrina:Oh, I could be wrong.
Tom:But for a long time, because there was no central time authority, it would just be when the sun was highest in the sky at your town. That would be when the clocks would be at noon. And then the railways came along, and time tabling came along. And then we had for a little while, each town would have local time and railway time. And then eventually railway time won, and we got a single time zone for the whole area. So I'm wondering if Malta has something like that, where they have a traditional noon time zone.
Tom:And then they have an actual official, oh, now we're on Central European Time, and thus our clocks get set to both?
Melissa:We're getting kind of warmer.
Sabrina:Are there two clocks?
Melissa:So Sabrina's actually right here. There are two clocks. But why?
Taha:So here's my thing. I feel like on Melissa's question card, and the clues, she doesn't have the clue. Nick is a relevant part of the story. But somewhere in Melissa's mind, knowing Melissa...
Sabrina:We gotta unravel Melissa's mind.
Taha:She has made a connection to Nick.
Taha:And was like, Nick is relevant in some way. So is it something to do with... stealing? Is one of the clock— Did someone steal one of the hands of one of the clocks? And that's why the word 'nick'... Nick is quite a British word to say. Melissa's not British. So, I don't know. I feel like I'm getting quite meta here.
Tom:I was thinking St. Nicholas, or it might be something to do with Christmas or something like that, but I dunno what the...
Sabrina:No, 'cause she'd also think of Nick, 'cause she likes National Treasure and that has Nicholas Cage.
Tom:And the entire clock is in a cage! There we go! Yeah, we've solved it.
Taha:The other thing I was thinking is like, why would there be two clocks? Is it because there are two warring factions of some sort on the island? So I don't know whether it's a religious thing, where the two clocks observe different religious times. I don't know if religions have different times.
Sabrina:I think they got different calendars.
Melissa:We're getting scalding. We're getting super close.
Tom:Is there a Catholic time and a Protestant time?
Taha:Yeah, everyone knows that. CST and PST.
SFX:(ladies giggling)
Melissa:Okay, this is something that particularly Malteses churches do. So there's two clocks. Why?
Taha:Is one of them like, here's the time for the ceremony, or the service, and it's just always at that time? Then the other one is the church service, here's the time for it. It's on the clock? The other one is the actual time of the... time in reality. So they can be like, "Hey mate, everyone come to church at two," and then they'll just set the time at two?
Sabrina:It's just a fixed thing that reveals— that's just like, this is the—
Taha:Yeah, one is a fixed clock, and then the other one is the actual time? And so the guy was looking at the other time being like, "Oh, I've still got loads of time."
Tom:You've gotta give us a hint for the last bit of this. We're not gonna blunder into it.
Melissa:Okay. The name Nick... or Old Nick, is another word for devil.
Sabrina:I was thinking Santa.
Tom:Oh, yes, it is.
Sabrina:Is it their devil?
Taha:Yeah, demon dowers. Everyone knows about demon dowers. You can't be nodding at me. That's a Gen Z meme. I'm just, I was making a joke.
Melissa:Not that— Not that one. Not that one. Not that one! But...
Taha:Devil time?
Melissa:That's kind of right. Yeah.
Tom:There is God's time and the devil's time?
Melissa:So there's real time, and then there's another random time that these churches put on to confuse the devil.
Sabrina:Stop it. It's a little tricky-trick?
Tom:Oh, that's lovely.
Taha:So hang on.
Tom:That's really nice.
Taha:Is that why Nick— So Nick is the devil, and that's why he's late? Or was the other person late in the riddle?
Tom:What was the other name? Was the other name Chris?
Melissa:The other name was Joshua, but Nick was the one that was late.
Sabrina:It would've been great if the other guy's name was Chris though.
Tom:Yeah. Oh, that's really nice.
Sabrina:How do you trick the devil with a clock when there's the other clock right there? What if I— Is it if you fall for it, you are the devil? 'Cause I would.
SFX:(ladies giggling)
Sabrina:Oh, no!
Melissa:So traditionally Maltese churches have two clocks. The one on the right tells the correct time, and then the one on the left is the devil's time.
Tom:Because the left side is sinister.
Melissa:Yeah, it's intended to... It's made to confuse the devil, so they can't turn up to steal anyone's soul.
Sabrina:Somebody gotta warn Joshua.
Melissa:You just gotta tell the devil. Just can't look left, or can't look right? I don't know.
Tom:Yeah, that's where we get the word 'sinister' from. 'Cause the Latin is 'dexter' for right and 'sinister' for left. And the left hand... and the left side is the devil's side, and that's where we get 'sinister'.

Next question has been sent in by a listener. Thank you to Nick VanAcker.

In 1955, the countries of India, Turkey, and Yugoslavia cut, processed, and sold 11 square miles of flowers – 70 million individual plants – to the United States. They went into storage untouched for the next 40 years. Why?

One more time.

In 1955, the countries of India, Turkey, and Yugoslavia cut, processed, and sold 11 square miles of flowers – 17 million individual plants – to the United States. They went into storage untouched for the next 40 years. Why?
Taha:Isn't this— Is this not just like the thing that they have where they store one of every seed, so that when the apocalypse comes, they can regrow the whole of the world?
Tom:They don't need 17 million individual plants to do that. There are seed banks, absolutely. There's one in Svalbard. There's one in the UK. There's quite a few all over. But this was eleven square miles of plants.
Taha:Oh, the same type of seed?
Tom:Well, we'll move— It's maybe a little early to start drilling down to questions like that.
Taha:That's fine.
Sabrina:So wait, it's just plants. It's just... a bunch of plants.
Tom: Flowers.
Sabrina:But there's no— We don't know if it's the same flower. They just did a lot of flowers. Was it... I wonder if it's cultivated specifically for the US as the recipient. Or if the US was just like, "Don't mind if I do" and then just put it away.
Taha:I wonder if it's something to do with... heroin. Because poppy seeds are grown in those places. And so, was it like a medical thing where they were like, "We need opiates"? 'Cause I know... the USA were all about—
Taha:They love their opiates over there.
Sabrina:Hold on, hold on.
Taha:That was poorly phrased, but you know... So was it...
Tom:Sorry, I'm just gonna take a moment just to dissect the phrase, "They love their opiates over there."
Taha:You know you know what I mean? I mean, they— Okay, there's an opioid crisis.
Tom:I know exactly what you mean.
Taha:It's another way of saying it.
Tom:Yeah. We can make jokes about this, but also at the same time, we probably shouldn't. You are actually way closer than you might think with that. It is one type of flower.
Melissa:Maybe poppies.
Tom:Yes, Melissa. Poppies. And the reason is what Taha said.
Tom:It was for opium. Why?
Taha:So it is for opium, but why?
Sabrina:So if it wasn't going to be used by the US, was it a harm reduction thing that they decided to do? Where they were just like in these areas, this is an act of... The US is being the US, if you know what I mean. They're like, "We'll just buy this so that it's not in the market, in those areas."
Tom:They were put into storage untouched. I'm not sure that count as not being used.
Taha:Did they think, were they like— Wait, what date was it? I'm so bad with dates.
Tom:This was 1955.
Taha:Were they anticipating... Were they anticipating another war, and they were like, let's stockpile on painkillers?
Taha:But in 40 years. So they scheduled a war for 40 years down the line?
Sabrina:Did they keep it— 'Cause this is Cold War times now, right?
Sabrina:So they were just like, in case something goes down, we have it in the back of our pocket.
Tom:Yep. Between the three of you, you've worked this one out. It was a painkiller stockpile.
Sabrina:We did it right guys.
Tom:They kept some morphine as well. But this was a painkiller stockpile in Fort Knox.
Tom:Why after 40 years, might they have not just kept them in storage?
Sabrina:The flowers went bad.
Tom:Yeah. So they converted them into actual morphine. So there is still, I think, a United States morphine stockpile in Fort Knox, or at least if there isn't, no one's told our question writer about it.
Sabrina:Well, very neat.
Tom:Yes, in 1955, the US bought an enormous amount of poppies in order to have a stockpile of opiates, just in case the Cold War got hot.

Our last guest question comes from Taha. Whenever you're ready.

So if you look at the media cases on a shelf, three of the titles are 'Grand Theft ALEX', 'Call of DRONA', and 'ÄPPLARÖ'S Creed'. Where are you?

If you look at the media cases on a shelf, three of the titles are 'Grand Theft ALEX', 'Call of DRONA', and 'ÄPPLARÖ'S Creed'. Where are you?
Sabrina:Pacific Mall. Niche reference for those
Sabrina:in the GTA in Canada. (giggles)
Melissa:Yeah, this is some knockoff game store.
Sabrina:Are you on Steam on April 1st?
Taha:No, you're definitely in a— It's like, where are you? You know, you're looking at media cases on a shelf.
Sabrina:So it's a physical location?
Sabrina:Okay. 'Cause these are spoof names of popular video games. Where would we see these?
Sabrina:What was the second one?
Taha:'Call of DRONA.' Which is Call of Duty for the uninitiated.
Tom:I've only just realised that two of these are video games, not films. 'Cause I don't have video game knowledge. So cool, this is a list of video game— Thank you, this is a list of parody titles for video games. So we have...
Sabrina:We got there.
Tom:Video game titles with Alex, Drona, and what was that last one? A-pal-a-ro?
Sabrina:Oh, the unfortunate thing is, I don't know what that means.
Melissa:Me either.
Sabrina:Alex, Äppla— Oh no, the one person amongst the four of us who— The one person 'amogus' who plays video games asked the question.
Tom:Okay, I get that reference. I get that reference. That hasn't passed me by on the internet. Fine.
Taha:I will say that the reason that I'm sad that I'm not... you know, answering the question isn't because I have video game knowledge.
Tom:So I'm looking at these and trying to think, is there an anagram there or something like that? But... 'Alex' does not... It's not an anagram for anything else that's in there, no.
Taha:I think that focusing on the specific words and trying to anagram them is gonna lead you down some....
Taha:Some paths you don't want to go down.
Sabrina:I'm gonna clear them. So this isn't Disneyland. This isn't Universal Studios. This isn't a theme park area.
Tom:Are these the Latin translations of the words in there? Because they sound vaguely Latin to me.
Taha:They are not, I don't believe.
Sabrina:You made a face that had me thinking
Tom:I did!
Sabrina:that Tom got it.
Tom:I thought I'd got that. I thought we were in some classics library or in some... There is a—
Sabrina:We went to the Library of Alexandria.
Tom:Well, there is a theme park in France called Parc Astérix, which is named after the— themed after the Asterix stories. So I'm like, that— if they put video game parodies in there somewhere, they would absolutely do stuff like that if it was Latin. Unfortunately not.
Sabrina:Okay, but you didn't answer my question, Taha. It's not at a theme park?
Taha:No, it's not at a theme park. But you are getting slightly warmer when you think about sort of... you know... not real environments. You know, a theme park is sort of a place that's sort of constructed.
Melissa:Is it within another video game? I don't know.
Sabrina:It's like you're in Fortnite. You're buying video games in Fortnite.
Melissa:It's like a Metaverse video game. I don't know.
Taha:Yeah, it's definitely in the universe, in the actual one.
Taha:So you don't have to jump into the Metaverse.
Sabrina:I'm curious of whether or not it's to avoid copyright or if it's just like a whimsical... like in a whimsical reference to reality.
Melissa:Or someone's trying to hide something.
Taha:I would say that it's probably to both avoid copyright and a whimsical reference to reality. I would say.
Sabrina:Because it could also be in a museum, right? Where it's some contemporary museum where they're trying to showcase that we live in a society. And they have different references to video games in the exhibits.
Melissa:Wait, so it's not— It exists in the real universe. This is not in The Sims or something?
Taha:No. But, you could be slightly warmer when you're thinking about The Sims.
Tom:It's a constructed environment. It's a room, it's someone's... It's a recreation of someone's bedroom or something like that.
Melissa:Is it a TV set?
Melissa:Like a movie set or a TV set? 'Cause they couldn't get the rights to use the actual games?
Taha:So it's not a TV or movie set, but this is a, like what Tom is saying and what you guys are saying, you know, you're in the right ballpark. You know, just cook a little bit more.
Tom:Okay, maybe this is on stage in a theatre, and it's the things on display for background material at the audience?
Taha:It's not. When I was a kid, I thought— I mean, this is just a new clue that I've just... But when I was a kid, I thought, this environment would be a great place to shoot a short film. But... you know, what do I know?
Sabrina:So we needed to... Allow me to just unlock Taha's childhood memories. One second, let me just—
Melissa:Get into the brain of childhood.
Taha:So this is why I was sad not to be answering it, because... I have loved wandering around this environment when I was a kid. So another title you would see is 'Super MALM Bros.'
Tom:Oh my god, I'm gonna kick myself, 'cause... I must know what this is. I must have heard this place.
Taha:If we think about like, what other constructed environments... you know, simulated environments, do you encounter? Like we've thought about the theatre. We've thought about...
Tom:As a kid, the— one of the classes that was younger than us, 'cause I didn't get to go to this. Our class was bitter we didn't get invited to this, was the weird safety... demonstration thing. They had a fake set of rail tracks to teach kids don't cross railway tracks. They had a fake kitchen where they could set something on fire and do a "this is how to deal with a gas explosion." So that's the only thing from childhood that might have a constructed environment?
Taha:No, it's way more mundane than that. What I'll say is... It's a shop that was known for its sense of humour. You got very close, and now you're sort of going further away from it. I think the closest you guys got was sort of thinking about constructed environments. You know, what's a place, you know, that you would have a simulated environment like a bedroom or like a living room, Where you would have—
Tom:Oh my god, it's IKEA!
Sabrina:Shut up!
Taha:There you go.
Taha:It is IKEA. When I was a kid...
Taha:I used to love going around IKEA.
Sabrina:Malm! The Malm!
Sabrina:I have a Malm bed!
Tom:I know! That's what finally connected my head.
Taha:Yeah, so you have the Alex range of drawer units. The Drona storage box. The ÄPPLARÖ range of furniture.
Sabrina:I'm gonna— I have all of them. I have the full set. The full set!
Melissa:My mind is blown right now.
Tom:Oh my god, that took us so long!
Sabrina:That's so embarrassing.
Taha:When I was a kid, I used to love going to IKEA and taking books off the bookshelf and just flicking through these books of just Lorem Ipsum and looking at all the fun little ways that they had changed stuff.
Sabrina:Oh, I went to an IKEA recently, and it was straight up a real poetry book. And there was a stack of them, and I was very tempted to just...
Tom:Wait, wait, specific IKEA commissioned poetry, or just a poetry book they got from somewhere?
Sabrina:I have no idea. But it was a set of— It was multiple poetry books that did in fact feel like it was from another universe. And if I took it with me... I could have been.
Sabrina:Dang it!
Tom:That's such a good question.
Sabrina:That's so fun! Oh, I'm gonna look for stuff at IKEA more. What an excellent excuse.
Taha:So it was IKEA. If you look at the media cases in IKEA, you will find 'Grand Theft ALEX', 'Call of DRONA', and 'ÄPPLARÖ’S Creed'.
Tom:One last thing then. At the start of the show, I asked:

Brown can help you think. White can help you work. And pink is soothing. What is it?

Any guesses from the...?
Melissa:I knew this one.
Tom:Melissa clearly knows this one. I can see your face. What...?
Melissa:I'm confident this time. It's noise. And if it's not, that's really embarrassing.
Tom:Yes, it is. Yeah, brown noise, white noise, and pink noise.
Taha:What is pink noise?
Tom:Pink is kind of the sound of the ocean.
Taha:Mm. Okay.
Tom:Thank you very much to all our players. One of you, two of you, three of you. Tell us about Answer in Progress. Where can people find you? I'm just throwing that out. I'm gonna start with Melissa.
Melissa:You can find all three of us on
Taha:Sabrina, what do we do?
Sabrina:Where we make videos. What do we do? We haven't made a video in so long, bro!
Melissa:Taha, what do we make videos on?
Taha:We make videos asking questions that no one asked, and then going on a journey to find the answer. And sometimes that takes us to weird and wonderful places like building our own weather station or making a freakish AI, or...
Sabrina:Don't pick that one.
Taha:What else have we done?
Sabrina:Find a better video.
Sabrina:Do the fake building video.
Taha:Yeah, exploring cities, finding fake buildings.
Tom:And if you wanna know more about the— I'm cutting you off there. We got it.

And if you wanna know more about this show, you can do that at where you can send in your own question. We are @lateralcast pretty much everywhere, and has video highlights. Thank you very much. It is good bye from Melissa.
Tom:From Sabrina.
Sabrina:Good bye.
Tom:From Taha.
Tom:That's been our show— Oh, you had to! That's been our show. I've been Tom Scott. That's been Lateral.
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