Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 29: The passenger going nowhere

Published 28th April, 2023

Emily the Engineer, Wren Weichman and Kip Heath face questions about right-handed roads, tea taxonomy and broken bikes.

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: Raz Binyamin. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:In the Afrikaans language, what is known as a 'papier vampir'? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral. Welcome to today's episode, where the first question my six guests have to answer is whether I've had my eyes tested recently. First of all, we have from the Corridor Crew... I was gonna introduce you as Wren Weichman, but you have put your name on the call we're all sharing here as just "Wren!" with an exclamation mark at the end. So please welcome from the Corridor Crew, Wren!
Wren:That's me. What's up?
Tom:Welcome back to the show.
Wren:Thank you.
Tom:Since you were last on, you have made the ants video. How did that go? 'Cause you visualised every ant in the world in one ball, and then showed that to the researchers who'd written the paper counting the ants.
Tom:How was that like actually working with scientists this time?
Wren:Oh, it was great. I was— I've realized with the types of videos that I wanna do, the important things is to make the nerds happy. And so that was what I wanted to do for that video. So I actually reached out before I even started, just to get some collaborative information from them so I could actually kinda do it accurately.
SFX:(distant barking)
Wren:Of course now my dogs decide to go crazy.
Wren:Yeah, no, it was great. Just 20 quadrillion ants. There's a lot of ants in the world, and no one seemed to be able to quantify that. So I thought I'd give it a shot, and I wanted to be able to do it accurately and truthfully. So getting their help was cool.
Tom:Next up, also returning to the show, science communicator Kip Heath. Hello again!
Kip:Hello. Thank you for having me back.
Tom:Oh, thank you for being here. Thank you particularly because we are currently, I think 13 time zones different, and it is quite late for you. So thank you very much for stepping up for this one. How was it last time? 'Cause you did one episode here, and I think you did pretty well on that as I remember.
Kip:Yeah, I think so. I hope so. (nervous chuckle)
Kip:People tell me it was. Most of my friends apparently know you, Tom. They've got lots of messages.
Tom:Oh, that's worrying. (both chuckling)
Kip:And the cat will just be appeared.
Tom:Yeah, there may at some point just be meowing in Kip's microphone, and that is one of the two cats that appear to be dancing around there. Either that or your cats can be in two locations at once. I'm not quite sure what I'm seeing.
Kip:And different colours, which would be very impressive of them.
Tom:And finally someone new to the show. From making her own Iron Man suit and more recently – and how I found your channel – making a tie cannon to put ties onto Colin Furze. Emily the Engineer. Thank you for joining us.
Emily:Hey, thanks for having me.
Tom:Can you describe what you are working on now? What's the next thing that's gonna be out by the time this episode releases?
Emily:(huffs) That's a really good question. I am building another Iron Man suit. So I'm building another one just with different paint methods and stuff that I've found are a lot better. So hopefully it looks kind of cool. I'm working on that, so hopefully that'll be out. And then I'm also working on, funny you mentioned the cats. I also have two cats. I'm working on a giant cat wheel for my cats.
Tom:When you say giant...
Emily:Yeah, like... I don't know, maybe a meter in diameter or something like that but I'm gonna try to use that. Obviously, I don't know if it's gonna work, but I'm gonna try to use it to power some things like a little hamster wheel would.
SFX:(Tom and Wren laughing)
Emily:to get my cats to power my home. "Home." But we'll see how that goes.
Tom:Well, good luck to all three of you. It's not a contest. There are no points. There's nothing other than bragging rights, but good luck to you all anyway. Playing this quiz is a little bit like Dungeons & Dragons. It's an adventure into unknown realms with the outcome never certain. At least until the d20 rolls under the sofa. So, I'm gonna start you off with the first question. Here we go. Every year until she died, the American comedian Steve Harvey sent a television to his sixth grade teacher for Christmas. Why? I'll give you that one more time. Every year until she died, the American comedian Steve Harvey, sent a television to his sixth grade teacher for Christmas. Why?
Kip:Was she particularly accident prone?
SFX:(others laughing)
Emily:Needs a new TV every year.
Tom:I love the idea that two weeks before Christmas, somehow she just smashes the TV. "Steve, hello, yes."
Kip:I mean, I've been in A&E four times just from cooking, so you know, it could happen.
Tom:How recently?
Kip:I mean, over the last few years. I'm dangerous with sharp objects and hot objects and flat objects.
Tom:And objects.
Wren:My wife can relate. Well, Steve Harvey, I guess he's on Family Feud. Maybe there's some feuding sixth graders in her class. Maybe he's donating to her so that she could donate it to someone. But I have a feeling the answer's probably more obvious and subtle.
Emily:What if it's just like... This sounds, I dunno— This sounds kind of morbid, but what if she only lived one year and he just sent one TV every year until she died?
Wren:Oh, I think you're onto something there.
Tom:The TV was cursed and fell on her. No, unfortunately... Or fortunately, depending on how you look at it... That is not what happened here. There was several years and several televisions.
Tom:I do appreciate that you've come in as a new person here and immediately drilled down on the idea that some of these questions may have some subtle tricks and you've got that right away.
Kip:Did he intend to send the same... a new television every year. Or was it accidental?
Tom:Oh, yeah. This was deliberate. This wasn't just some order that his personal assistant happened to get wrong.
Wren:Do we know the make and model of the TV? Was it a new TV every year or was it just, "Oh, I found a new TV at Goodwill"?
Tom:It wouldn't be relevant to the question. I dunno how much it was, but he's certainly a man who can afford to give a TV away. It does seem a bit over-the-top to send one every year though.
Wren:Maybe it's a smart TV and he loaded up some sort of photo album on it for her. It's like instead of a Christmas card, she gets a Christmas TV.
Tom:Well, he might have put some sort of album together or said she should watch certain things on it, yes.
Emily:It makes it sound like he was storing something on the TV and sending it. But that doesn't make sense. I don't know.
Tom:It's more like, I think he'd stored something up himself there.
Wren:(scoffs) What?
Kip:Did he buy the TV every year to send to her, or had he already pre-purchased all the TVs?
Tom:I don't actually know the answer to this question, but I believe he just, he caused one to be delivered to her house.
Kip:So it's not some weird television stockpile that he got going on.
Tom:No, but Steve Harvey's Television Stockpile is coming to NBC this fall, so...
SFX:(group laughing)
Wren:And she wasn't returning it to him every year?
Tom:She could have done, she could have donated it. It's not actually recorded here what she did with it. She probably wouldn't have wanted to have kept it.
Kip:I mean, that's quite a lot of televisions.
Tom:It's far too many televisions. Why would you do that?
Emily:Of course, my brain just goes straight to yeah, she's gonna stack 'em all together and make a giant jumbotron or something. That's unfortunately the first thing my mind goes to, but that's obviously not right.
Wren:Man, I wanna do that now.
Emily:I dunno.
Kip:Emily is an engineer. What would you make with 20 televisions?
Emily:20 tele— oh man. What kind of gaming setup would that be, right? Have like... surrounding semi-circle televisions? That'd be kind of cool.
Tom:I've seen one of those rigs with Google Earth attached to it. It was a Google demonstration of the thing. They had 20 flat panel TVs to make a full 180 degree, and then just a big controller for Google Earth. So it sort of felt like you were flying in a way that would've been a lot cheaper if they just put a VR headset on it. But...
Kip:It's not as fun to talk about later.
Tom:So the teacher didn't really want these televisions. In fact, I think she was probably getting pretty tired of them.
Emily:Was she using a part of the TV? Or something like taking them apart.
Tom:I don't know if she was using any of it. I think she could have probably just taken the box and gone and given that away immediately.
Wren:So he wants to show her something. And he's doing it in a really inefficient way. Perhaps outta spite, I wonder. Is he doing this specifically because she doesn't want— Oh, you know what? I bet she never had any TVs when he was in sixth grade and he was like, "This is the worst class ever." All of our classmates get TVs in their classrooms and we're not getting anything. I wanted to watch Bill Nye today, but no."
Tom:You are 90% of the way there, Wren. It is spite. It is definitely a point being made, but that wasn't quite the point. What might have stuck in Steve Harvey's head for so long that he's sending a television to his sixth grade teacher every year?
Emily:Was it like... the teacher didn't believe he would be anything, so he keeps sending her TVs to be like, "Look, I'm on TV."
Tom:What specifically might she have said? Kip, you look like you've got this.
Kip:I assume it's that he would never make it on television.
Tom:Yep. The teacher said to him in sixth grade, "You will never make it on television." And thus his... adult revenge for this is to send a television to her every year.
Kip:That is the level of spite that I aspire to. I love it.
Wren:Alright. Alright.
Tom:My notes here say he had a stutter at school. So he wanted to be on television. He wrote that as part of a school assignment. His teacher thought it was ridiculous enough to phone home and ring his parents to say that he was a smart aleck. And his revenge for that many years later is to send a television every year to that teacher. As usual, all of our guests have brought a question with them. I don't know the questions. I definitely don't know the answers unless I'm very, very lucky. We will start today with Wren. Take it away.
Wren:Alright. Roughly 90% of the population of the US is right-handed. However, relatedly, there is one road where the majority of residents is left-handed. What is it? Roughly 90% of the population in the United States is right-handed. However, relatedly, there is one road where the majority of the residents are left-handed. What is it?
Emily:What is the road?
Tom:Yeah. And I guess from there, we can work out the reason, but... I don't think this is relevant, but it's a lovely story, so I'm throwing it in anyway. There is a wonderful graph of left-handedness over time. And if you compare the numbers of people who are left-handed in 1920, 1930, 1940, it starts to rise and rise and rise and then plateau at about 10%. And it's because they stopped literally beating it out of kids in school. That you were taught to be right-handed, and it was insisted that was the only way. So now that that's accepted, the numbers have stabilised somewhat at a higher level, but I feel like that's not strictly relevant to what we're talking about here. I'm just trying to find anything to grasp on with this.
Kip:Is this to do with the fact there's a genetic link and certain sports people are statistically more likely to be left-handed? Because there's certain sports where being left-handed is an advantage.
Tom:Oh, like fencing, isn't it? Is it fencing or is it?
Kip:So cricket, they tend to alternate, left-handed, right-handed. I'm not American, but I'm guessing baseball has a similar issue?
Tom:I dunno why I thought it was fencing, 'cause I don't think you hold the sword in the other hand. It was some— I got fencing and cricket confused, which may be the first time that anyone has ever said that.
Wren:I will— So it's a location, right? We're looking for a road here. And it is a world-famous road.
Kip:Is it a road that only one person lives on? Is this something really weird, like where Mount Rushmore is, in that the presidents on Mount Rushmore are all left-handed or something?
Tom:I mean, they don't have hands. They were meant to, I think. I think at one point the plan was to cut the entire bodies out or something, but they are not really handed at all.
Tom:Like it... It's something like— it's mirrored because there's no reason. And I'm gonna ask this at Kip, who's the left-hander. There's no reason why left-handers would flock together or anything like that, is there?
Kip:No, 'cause there's no... I say there's certain professions where there's a benefit, and there's mostly in sport. So you have a higher percentage than the average, but there's... In theory, it's supposed to mean more intellectual. I'm gonna stick with that one personally.
Wren:So I'm gonna restate the question one more time here. Roughly 90% of the population of the US is right-handed. However, relatedly, there is one road where the majority of the residents are left-handed. There's a relationship between the first and the second sentence.
Tom:Relatedly, okay. So it's something to do with...
Wren:I feel like you're on the right track, but not.
Tom:It's not Sesame Street, is it? Because the puppeteers are all right-handed, and we're looking at them through the camera, and thus all the puppets are left-handed and it's Sesame Street?
Wren:You nailed it. You nailed it!
Emily:What? What?
Wren:(giggling) Soon as Tom's got it, I'm like, "Uh, okay." Yeah, yeah. No, that's totally it.
Tom:Yeah, sorry. That was a bolt from the blue, and it was literally, I was trying to think why you would mirror something or flip something or anything like that. And literally I'm looking into the camera, and up on the screens and monitors, I see myself reversed, and my brain went... "Hang on a minute." And it's like, where is a famous road on television? And it's— my brain connected that! I'll take that point. We don't have points, but I'll take that point.
Wren:The reasoning is that most puppeteers, they tend to operate the puppets with their dominant hand, and 90% of people are right-handed. So they would operate the puppet with their right hand, and then the hands of the puppets would be with their left hand. So the majority of the residents on Sesame Street are left-handed.
Tom:That's lovely.
Emily:Man, you came outta nowhere with that. We were so far.
Tom:I dunno where that came from.
Wren:I was like, this is gonna take a minute. Here we go. Never mind. Alright, you got it.
Tom:One thing I do love is that of all the Muppets, only one of them has human hands, and it's the Swedish Chef. And the Swed— purely because I think they just forgot to put gloves on the character, or the first time they needed to hold kitchen equipment and things like— So that is the only Muppet with human looking hands.
Kip:Kitchens are a dangerous place.
Tom:As we've established. Next one's from me. Good luck folks. Nearly every day, a woman went to Embankment station on the London Underground. She sat until the next train arrived, but didn't get on it. She then left the same station contentedly, without speaking to anyone. Why? I'll give you that one more time. Nearly every day, a woman went to Embankment station on the London Underground. She sat until the next train arrived, but didn't get on it. She then left the same station contentedly, without speaking to anyone. Why?
Kip:So I once read a book on the history of every single underground station, and I know this, so I'm gonna let the Americans go for it first.
Tom:Oh, oh, that's so— I love that you know this, Kip, but I also hate that we have now left the two Americans with a London Underground question. This could be tricky and it's gonna depend on how much knowledge you've got.
Emily:One of these Americans barely even been out of the state, so I dunno.
Wren:I'm inclined to think, this is kind of a trick question. So she goes into the Underground, watches the train roll into the station, watches it leave without talking to anyone, leaves contentedly. So happy, satisfied, and... we don't know what she actually did.
Kip:So I would say as an American, what is the most famous thing about the Tube?
Tom:Let him stew for a while, Kip. Let him stew for a while here!
Kip:Sorry, it's the teacher in me. I have to help.
Emily:Yeah, you're right. If she's not speaking, still might be doing something.
Wren:And we did see a train come into the station and leave. So the train was operational?
Wren:'Cause I'm inclined to guess something like she was hiding from a bombing run back in, I don't know how old the Tube is, but like, was she going down underground, during World War II or something?
Tom:They absolutely did do that. The Tube was used as bomb shelters, but she's the only person doing this. And this is fairly recent.
Wren:Oh, okay.
Tom:You will almost certainly have this thing about the Tube in the back of your mind somewhere. You will probably have heard it. If you haven't, then you don't stand a chance on this one, and we'll let you go through for a while, but talk through... let's say you're on the Underground, even if you've just seen it in the movies. Let's talk through that process of going down to the platforms and what you might see as the train comes in.
Wren:So it's busy in the Underground, right? Isn't there also like a phrase about, it's like, "Keep Calm, Carry On" or something like that?
Kip:That was from the World War II.
Tom:That was a poster campaign in World War II. But you are coming along the right lines there.
Wren:I don't know how I keep coming back to World War II. I don't, sorry.
Tom:The Keep Calm, Carry On posters were never actually put out. They were sort of the emergency reserve for I think it was if Germany invaded and Britain was under occupation. That was one of the posters that was gonna go up. So they were just held in reserve until someone found them about 15 years ago now. And because they're out of copyright, they just kind of started making merch, and it became this thing that caught on. In this case, it's not that phrase, but there is a famous phrase.
Wren:Is it 'mind the gap'?
Tom:It is.
Wren:Oh, okay, okay.
Emily:I was gonna say something, but if you're on the right track, then I'm probably not.
Wren:Well, I'm curious. I have nothing else. I have come up with a phrase, apparently.
Emily:I was sitting here thinking the lady worked there or something like that, so I'm...
Kip:Go with that.
Wren:Ooh, okay.
Kip:Go with that thought.
Emily:Oh, go with that?
Emily:I was thinking... I don't know if they— I know nothing about the Tube. Know nothing, okay, but... Do people monitor people that go in and go out or something like that? Maybe she works down there. Maybe she just sits there—
Kip:Sort of getting colder.
Emily:Colder. Okay.
Tom:She didn't work there.
Kip:It's an adorable story. I love it.
Wren:Adorable. Maybe was she going down there to observe whether or not people were not tripping onto the plane— or the onto the train?
Wren:Just being like, "Yes, no one got injured. My day has been made. I'm gonna leave."
Tom:You are dancing around the correct answer.
Emily:It's a statistics person, counting something? How many people are— I don't know. People that just... watched things.
Tom:She went down there to watch the train arrive and hear that announcement.
Wren:Hear the announcements?
Tom:That's why she waited until the train came in.
Wren:"Mind the gap." Was it her... her husband is the voice of the narrator on the thing, sort of thing. She's like, "Alright, I wanna see him work today— or hear him work" and shows up... hears it? No? Oh, okay. She— It was live. His voice was live over the intercom, so she knew that he had to have been at the microphone at work or whatever, so she knew where to find him. She just had to check the Underground first.
Tom:I hate to say this, Wren. But it is the exact opposite of that story.
Wren:Oh, no! It's tragic, isn't it?
Emily:Is it like the husband is dead and she goes down there to hear his voice and then.
Kip:And it's the only—
Kip:It's the only station left that has it, and they kept it for her. So every other station has changed.
Wren:Oh man!
Kip:It's really cute.
Emily:That's so sad.
Tom:Yes, her name is Margaret McCollum, and she was once married to the man who recorded the phrase "mind the gap" for the Northern Line of the London Underground. He passed away in 2007. She visited the station to hear his voice, and when they changed to a new set of announcements, they kept just that one station with his old voice in his memory.
Wren:Awesome. Yeah, that is sweet.
Tom:Emily, your question next, take it away.
Emily:Alright. The question is: In Dutch, Afrikaans, and Māori, it is known as "thee" or "tee". In the Middle East, China, and Russia, it is called "shay", "chai", and "chay" respectively. What caused this popular beverage to have two names worldwide? I'll say it again. In Dutch, Afrikaans, and Māori, it is known as "thee" or "tee". In the Middle East, China and Russia, it is called "shay", "chai", and "chay" respectively. What caused this popular beverage to have two names worldwide?
Tom:The last section of your question... I was already saying, That's tea, the answer's tea. Those are the names for tea. There are two of them. And then you said, why does it happen? And I have no idea.
Wren:Yes, let's ask the American about tea. Yeah.
Tom:Yeah, the Brits aren't looking too good on this either.
Kip:That's fine. My grandmother always said that I couldn't attract a man and be a proper adult if I didn't drink tea. And apparently she was right. There's black tea and green tea, right? Is that— it's not that easy, is it?
Emily:No, I don't think. No, it has nothing to do with the type.
Tom:And also tea can be anything where you steep some leaves in some water. You can have mint tea, jasmine tea, anything like that.
Kip:This isn't some kind of colonisation question, is it? Where it depends who...
Emily:I wouldn't say so.
Tom:I was thinking it might be about trade routes or something like that, that... But I don't know... I'm just remembering that Dutch and Afrikaans are very closely related.
Tom:But I dunno how that connects to Māori, which is... That's New Zealand. So... Oh wait, New Zealand. It's— the clue's in the name Zealand. That's also Dutch. I've only just made that connection in my head, that those are all connected to the Netherlands. What were the other three countries?
Kip:China, the Middle East and...
Kip:And that's 'cause we traded— Obviously we call it tea in English, and we traded a lot with the Netherlands.
Tom:Okay, there is this thing in my head that I cannot remember the details of, and I don't know if anyone's heard of. Which is somewhere in Japan... there is a Dutch themed theme park. And it's called something like Huis Ten Bosch or something like that, and it is just a replica of a Dutch town. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about? Am I just making this up?
Kip:I mean, isn't this kind of your shtick to know this sort of thing?
Tom:It is.
Wren:Come on!
Tom:That's fair. I'm just struggling. And it's something... It's something to do with the fact that Japan only let the Dutch in to trade... a little— in one port for a limited amount of time. I know that 'cause of Bill Wurtz's History of the World video. Japan I think only let the Dutch in to trade, and only let them into one town. So there's that connection between them.
Tom:And Dutch, Afrikaans, and... I dunno if Māori as a language isn't connected, but that's a New Zealand language, and that's got a connection to the Dutch. Is it about the Dutch? I'm rambling a lot! Is it about the Dutch?
Emily:Alright, I'll give you a hint. You were, when you were talking about trade routes... that was kind of...
Wren:On the right track there?
Emily:Yeah, it was on the right track.
Wren:On the right trade route. Because I was thinking maybe it's just like the pronunciation of the word didn't translate, and it's just... pronouncing that in a different language just comes out that way. Like phonetically or whatever?
Tom:Oh god, if this turns out to be a linguistics question about phonotactics, I have just missed an open goal. That's what I studied.
Kip:Also, there's— Is there something about the fact that the Dutch traditionally traded via boats and Russia, China and the Middle East, particularly Russia was a lot bigger in those days, were attached by land, and may have gone that way?
Emily:Yes, that's right. Basically it says tea traveled from China by land was named after the Mandarin or Cantonese word 'cha' and tea sent by sea was called 'tea.' So it's like... It says the saying 'tea' if by sea, 'cha' if by land.
Kip:Yeah. And that I suppose works, 'cause in India they call it chai as well, don't they? Which would be 'cause it came from local.
Tom:Came by land.
Wren:But what if it was delivered by hot air balloon?
Kip:You'll need a new word!
Tom:Next one's a listener question. Thank you to Francesco Falcone. When the game Among Us gained popularity in 2020, it was discovered that it had been in violation of the Geneva Convention for two years. Why? I'll say that one more time.
Tom:When the game Among Us
SFX:(group laughing uproariously)
Tom:When the game Among Us gained popularity in 2020, it was discovered that it had been in violation of the Geneva Convention for two years. Why?
Wren:Remind me exactly, the Geneva Convention, what was...
Kip:And Among Us and what it is.
Wren:Okay. I can explain Among Us. So it's a video game. It's a social video game where everyone's playing on the same team, except there's a couple different imposters who are not actually on your team, but you don't know who they are. And so it's, you're trying to go about doing these missions and these tasks while also trying to suss out who the person trying to backstep everyone is. It's a fun little game to play with your friends or online.
Tom:It is basically Werewolf or Mafia.
Kip:Ah, yes.
Tom:Just with a few extra clues as to who it is.
Kip:I spent 2020 as a virologist in a pandemic. So, you know.
Tom:Wren, however, you wanted to know about the Geneva Convention. So I'm hoping one of the others of the people on your team can fill you in on that.
Kip:So they are the post-war treaties, and I'm now trying to remember exactly what they cover.
Emily:I'm not gonna lie. I was kinda also waiting for that answer after he asked. Right.
Wren:I just know that Geneva Convention is a big deal.
Wren:That's about all I know. Are we allowed to Google 'Geneva Convention' real quick?
Tom:The Geneva Convention is a lot of rules. And if no one's quite sure it is, I'll say it is on the regulations for wartime. So it is the rules on the treatment of civilians, of prisoners of war, of anything to do with the world around— It is the rules of war, for want of a better description.
Kip:So is this then the game... what happens in the game is a breach of the Geneva Convention, or the game itself?
Tom:The game itself.
Wren:Wow, what?
Tom:Is somehow a breach of the Geneva Convention.
Wren:'Cause inside the game, you launch people out the airlock. I mean, I bet that's probably against the Geneva Convention, but it's still just a video game.
Tom:So a good place to start would be to think about who the Geneva Convention is there to protect. Who in a war zone might be the people that you are looking out for?
Wren:You wanna protect the people and not... Not the soldiers, I guess? The soldiers... The innocent bystanders, minimize collateral damage.
Kip:Well, people are attacking each other over this, but that would still be— that wouldn't be the game itself.
Emily:Yeah, so we're not talking about the contents of the game. We're talking about... just the game.
Tom:It's not a meta level. The characters in the game were not violating this. It was the game itself.
Emily:Interesting, okay.
Tom:And it was one element in there. It wasn't the concept of the game. It was one part in there.
Wren:Maybe it's something where you have to declare to the other people who you are or something like that. Maybe some sort of anonymity type thing. And in Among Us, you don't know who each other... who the other players are, unless you're playing locally with friends.
Tom:You started along the right lines there, and kind of veered off. There are identifications in wartime.
Emily:I was thinking like, just because you talk over it to random people, something to do with the conversa— But you started to say that just conversations with random people that you don't know, like that aspect of the game.
Kip:And that happens all the time on the internet.
Wren:But does the Geneva Convention apply only to Europe, or is it worldwide?
Tom:That is to every country that signed up for it. But you were sort of along the right lines there, Wren, when you were talking about identifications and things like that. You've played Among Us, Wren. Run through some of the locations and what you might see there.
Wren:There's a mess hall where everyone has a meeting around a table when you wanna, you know, call someone out for being an imposter. There's the bridge. There's a bunch of... There— oh, there's a nuclear reactor room? No, okay. Yeah, there— It's a bunch of just rooms that have jobs for a spaceship. And you gotta coordinate together, work together to solve a problem, which is keeping the ship going. So is it maybe a minors thing where kids and adults are working together, and that's like...
Tom:I'm gonna have to give you a different hint here. 'Cause I think there's so much to go on. Weirdly, I have nearly violated this myself. So this is a design thing.
Wren:It's a design flaw?
Tom:This is a particular design that is protected by the Geneva Convention and international law.
Kip:Oh, you gonna regale us with how you almost broke international law?
Tom:I will do later.
Kip:I mean, it can't be about the fact that it's just sort of anonymity of people talking on the internet, because that's what half of social media is built on.
Tom:We're looking for a specific symbol. Other video games have also violated this.
Kip:Oh, is this like Escape to Colditz, and it's the use of a swastika?
Tom:Not quite. And I say not quite, because symbolically, very, very different. However, from a sheer design perspective, actually quite close.
Wren:Oh, oh! Is it— is it the white flag?
Tom:Oh, nearly, not quite.
Kip:Is it first aid?
Wren:Is it a red plus sign?
Tom:Yes it is. It is the symbol of the Red Cross.
Tom:So between you, Kip and Wren, you got that one. It is the symbol of the Red Cross. It is just a red cross. And a lot of game designers in the past, including the folks from Among Us, have put it on the medical bay or the medical supply in their game. And international law, that symbol must be used for nothing else.
Tom:Because if they start seeing it there, it might get used on more products and more products and more products. And the law of that symbol is you don't shoot someone in a war zone if they're wearing the Red Cross symbol or the Red Crescent or the Red Diamond. Any of those symbols are protected because they are for medics in war.
Tom:I've nearly violated this because I had a second channel called Tom Scott Plus, and my colour is red. And I got all the way through the design phase of the logo of that with a big geometric plus symbol, where everything lined up in my colour, and I just got all, "This is great, it's gonna look brilliant." And someone went, "You are violating the Geneva Convention." "Oh."
Kip:As you do.
Tom:You're not wrong. I can't use that symbol.
Wren:Now is this specifically red, in all shades of red, like burgundy or maroon?
Tom:Anything close enough that could be mistaken for the Red Cross is protected in almost every country's law when they put the Geneva Convention.
Wren:I didn't realize that extended to video games.
Tom:You will get a cease and desist from the Red Cross, and they will say, "Yeah, this is the law in your country." It is that serious to them. And you'll see video game developers go, "This is ridiculous. This is not something we're—" No, it's, they don't want anyone else using that, because it is that important worldwide. This is also the reason that the nurse's hat on the Blink-182 album, Enema of the State was removed 'cause it had a red cross on it. Other video games, Theme Hospital changed from a green cross to a green asterisk, just to be safe. All sorts of logos. The Red Cross will call up and go, "Could you not?" Last guest question then. Kip, what have you got for us?
Kip:So this is a listener question from Raz Binyamin. And I apologise many times if that was a mispronunciation. So... The Dutch company VanMoof shipped its bikes in big flat cardboard boxes for self-assembly. However, when shipped to the USA, many arrived damaged. A trivial change to the packaging caused a 70% drop in damages. What was it? I'm just gonna read that again. The Dutch company VanMoof shipped its bikes in big flat cardboard boxes for assembly. However, when shipped to the USA, many arrived damaged. A trivial change to the packaging caused a 70% drop in damages. What was it?
Tom:I'm stepping back from this one, 'cause a friend of mine has a VanMoof bike, and I have seen this packaging.
Kip:Yeah, I actually knew it as well, so...
Wren:So, but, so it's for self assembly. So it's not shipping as a full bike somehow. Or at least riding it out of the box, at least. I don't know what degree of assembly it's already been preassembled. It could be mostly the frame, and maybe the handlebar is not on, or something like that. So it could fit in like a flat package.
Tom:You perked up so much on the phrase VanMoof.
Wren:Well, I know the bike.
Wren:Dude, I love anything that's an electric personal vehicle, like... trust.
Tom:Yeah, I've seen your Instagrams of one-wheel trips down ridiculous trails that one-wheels should not go on. It's just impressive.
Wren:Oh, I literally just raced in San Diego over the weekend. I cracked a rib.
Tom:Oh wow. Okay.
Emily:Oh gosh.
Tom:That sounds bad.
Wren:It's actually, I overstated it. I bruised the rib. It hurts a lot, I can't sit up. But it's not actually cracked.
Tom:Oh, thank you for coming on the show anyway and laughing occasionally and hurting yourself in the name of entertainment. Thank you very much.
Wren:So VanMoof bikes probably shipped in a cardboard box of some sort. They were getting damaged, and so a trivial change reduced the damage to those bikes by a huge amount. It could be something as simple as... "this way up" or "don't stack" or "fragile." You know, something along the lines of maybe that. Perhaps not specifically that.
Emily:You said it was a flat box?
Kip:Yes, it's a flat box.
Emily:And just sends all the parts in separate boxes? I dunno.
Kip:No, it's still sending it in the one cardboard flat box.
Emily:One box, okay.
Wren:And it was a change to the packaging and not the product.
Kip:So the contents of the packaging have not changed.
Wren:Okay. So it's not like they loosened any of the bolts or anything like that on the bike so that it can take some stress.
Emily:I'm thinking 'cause he says, oh— Or Tom, you said, "I had a friend that had a bike and I know how it was packaged." So that makes me feel like it stood out to you, the way it was packaged, for some reason stood out to you. So I know it's not as simple as like... they shove bubble wrap in there or something like that. I don't know.
Wren:I wonder if it was like a color. Did they paint the box differently somehow? And it was a big box with a big red cross on it.
SFX:(group laughing)
Emily:"Get rid of it. We don't need it."
Kip:And then it gets shipped straight to Switzerland.
Tom:You're closer than you might think there, Wren. Not with the Red Cross part, but...
Wren:I wonder if it was just a regular cardboard box, people would just treat it like crap, right? But if it was a black box or something like that, a very like— or a white box, something that looks a little bit fancier, maybe they treat it with a little bit more care? 'Cause it was the shipping across the ocean that was damaging these bikes.
Kip:I think it's specifically the shipping to the US that was damaging these bikes.
Kip:You're on the right track.
Emily:They made the boxes look like something... that's not a bike. I don't know.
Wren:Was the damage because they were being broken into and stolen? 'Cause they're like, "Oh, look at these bikes." But if they make 'em look like... Big boxes for bananas. No one's taking that.
Tom:No, Emily's nearly there.
Emily:What's something— You said specifically to the US. What's something that people in the US would take care— I don't know— What—
Tom:I feel like I should apologise for the stereotype that's about to arrive.
Wren:Oh no.
Kip:That's why I'm letting the Americans do it.
Wren:Oh, no!
Kip:I suppose it's more of an idea of how things... stereotypes about how things are transported across the US.
Tom:There's a big clue in the— Do you wanna just read the bit about the box from the question again, Kip?
Kip:The Dutch company VanMoof ships its bikes in big, flat cardboard boxes for self-assembly.
Wren:Big, flat boxes. Oh, did they say it had a mirror in it or something like that?
Kip:Very close.
Wren:Something like, where it doesn't say it's fragile, but it says something that is fragile, so everyone takes more care of it, and you wouldn't stack a bunch of... maybe glass inside— Maybe there's a win— it's a window box. There's windows inside of this box.
Kip:What's a mirror, but electronic?
Tom:It's a big, flat box.
Wren:So did they put freaking TV labels on the boxes? And people are like, "There's big, expensive TVs in here. We better handle these with care."
Kip:Yep. You have it exactly right.
Wren:I really wanna see these boxes now. Are they like VanMoof TVs?
Tom:If you look close up, it says it's a bike. All the small print, all the shipping labels say it's a bike. And I remember being shown this by my friend in the US who got one, and it's just like, yeah, there's a tiny little bicycle diagram here, and it says 'bicycle,' but everything else strongly implies this is a television.
Kip:So that, because they were thinking that the box contained a large, expensive, flat screen TV, couriers and parcel handlers along the delivery chain were much more careful with the boxes overnight. The shipping damages dropped by 70 to 80%. And other bike companies have since taken the idea.
Emily:Dang. That's smart.
Wren:Wow. That is very smart, yeah.
Tom:Right at the start of the show, then, I asked: In the Afrikaans language, what object is known as a 'papier vampir'? I am almost certainly mispronouncing that. Because my Afrikaans is not good, and I'm not gonna try and do that accent. So, does anyone have any ideas here before I give the answer?
Wren:Is it a fruit bat?
Tom:Oh, not really. We've got the words— We've got the words for paper and vampire here.
Wren:Okay, I thought that was maybe fruit. Some sort of fruit, not paper. And vampire I thought for bat.
Kip:Dracula? Is it...
Tom:Weirdly, you're actually thinking slightly too laterally there.
Kip:Oh. I'm getting too good at this game.
Wren:Paper vampire.
Tom:It's got two sharp teeth. And you use it on paper.
Wren:Oh, stapler.
Emily:A stapler.
Tom:It's a stapler, yeah.
Emily:Oh, okay.
Tom:The 'papier vampir'— again, apologies for the pronunciation, but the 'paper vampire' is a stapler.
Wren:A stapler, I love that! I love that!
Tom:Congratulations to all our players. You've got through today's gauntlet of questions. Let us know what's going on in your life. Where can people find you? We will start with Kip.
Kip:Hey, you can find me on Twitter at @miceheath.
Tom:And Wren.
Wren:Hi, you can find me on YouTube. Corridor Crew, Corridor Digital, I make YouTube videos.
Tom:And Emily.
Emily:You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok at @EmilyTheEngineer.
Tom:And if you wanna find out more about this show, you can do that at, where you can send in your own questions. You can see video highlights at, and we are @lateralcast pretty much everywhere. With that, thank you very much. It's goodbye from Wren.
Wren:See ya.
Tom:From Emily.
Tom:And from Kip.
Kip:Good bye.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
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