Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 3: Why did 1959's album charts vanish?

Published 28th October, 2022

Jade Tan-Holmes, Corry Will and Luke Cutforth face questions about missing album charts, an evasive painter and a flaw in 'Lord of the Flies'.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT & EDITED BY: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITOR: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Josh Halbur, Ben Justice, Lewis Tough, Arun Uttamchandani, Eglė Vaškevičiūtė. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Why are Swiss Army knives red? The answer to that at the end of the show. I'm Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Joining me today are three folks who I've asked to play here because, well, frankly, we've got some good questions to ask, and the show is gonna be very boring without them. Jade Tan-Holmes from Up and Atom.
Jade:Thanks for having me.
Tom:You are not Jade Tan-Holmes, Luke.
Tom:I appreciate the enthusiasm, but that was not your cue!
Luke:Oh, sorry. I'm not cheering myself, Tom.
Tom:From Up and Atom, Jade Tan-Holmes.
Jade:Hi. Good to be here.
Tom:From the Sci Guys podcast, we have Corry.
Tom:And we have Luke.
Tom:There we go.
Jade:Yeah, on cue.
Tom:Some people would reshoot that intro. Luke, sorry. We're just gonna keep rolling. I've got some clever questions here that need unwrapping. Our panel have to remove the layers of mystery one at a time, like some weird game of intellectual pass the parcel, but hopefully with less tears and shouting at the end of it.

First question then. This one's from me to you three. Good luck.

From your seat, you can see a Salt Shaker and a Sea Slug inside a circle. Why?

I'll give you that one more time.

From your seat, you can see a Salt Shaker and a Sea Slug inside a circle. Why?

I hated saying that question. There were so many S's in that question.
Jade:I'm thinking something to do with a submarine.
Tom:Ooh, why'd you say that?
Jade:Well, because we've got a sea slug for one. And a salt shaker, you said, right?
Jade:So you're dry inside somewhere, and then a circle, because a submarine window is like a circle?
Tom:Ooh. This is one of those things where I get to say, it's a lovely answer and it's completely along the wrong lines.
Tom:It's great though! Like something in your head connected that to submarine. Possibly just all the S's I had to say. Unfortunately, no. This is on dry land.
Jade:Sea slug.
Jade:Oh, aquarium.
Tom:What did you say, Luke?
Luke:No, I was just oh-ing at the fact that we're on dry land. 'Cause I hadn't got that, and... I wondered why Jade thought we were dry.
Jade:I guess 'cause the salt shaker.
Luke:But it might be empty. Of salt.
Corry:Oh yeah. Doesn't necessarily mean it— What's the circle made of? Is the circle made of salt? Because you make the salt circles to keep ghosts out, I guess?
Tom:You've picked up on these questions very well. That's a good start. Now, the circle is— It is a physical circle. That's not a metaphor. It's not made of salt, but the salt is definitely used within it.
Luke:I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say it's not a standard seat in the way that I would assume it's a seat.
Tom:In this case, yes, but it's not the only one around.
Luke:Okay, that made things worse.
SFX:(Tom and Luke chuckling)
Tom:You have a seat. There are lots of other seats around you, and this one is yours.
Corry:I'm thinking like an audience, seated in the round, looking at something.
Tom:Yes, absolutely.
Corry:So would that be the cir—?
Luke:Oh, okay.
Jade:So people sitting around in a circle, and there's a sea slug and some salt shaker.
Luke:Is the Sea Slug a sea slug, or is it a person dressed as a sea slug?
Tom:Oh, that's an excellent question, Luke. It is not a literal— You have successfully worked out that some parts of this question are very literal and some aren't. The Sea Slug is not literally a sea slug.
Jade:Oh, it's not?
Luke:So we're watching some kind of play, potentially?
Tom:A performance, certainly.
Luke:Like a performance of something like The Tempest or something.
Tom:Oh, lovely Shakespearean reference. Wrong part of the world for that, but...
Luke:I don't remember the Sea Slug as a character in The Tempest. But I'm thinking laterally.
Corry:Wrong part— Wrong part of the world.
Jade:Is it a gladiator type scenario?
Tom:It's competitive, definitely. Yeah, there's— You've got a big competition. You've got a big physical competition going on here.
Luke:A big physical competition. Like a war?
Tom:The circle's—
Luke:Or like a competition?
SFX:(group laughing)
Luke:"What is a war, but a big physical competition?"
Tom:Oh we've gone on to philosophy very quickly here.
SFX:(Corry and Luke laughing)
Corry:This is making me think of... do you know those shows that are sort of challenge shows, like Takeshi's Castle? Can we, can I say that? Can I reference that?
Tom:You definitely can for this question.
Corry:Okay— Oh, really?
Corry:Because I'm— Okay, if we're thinking sea slug, I'm thinking like, do you know the sort of Japanese mascots? I'm thinking that mixed with some kind of Takeshi's Castle-style competition.
Tom:On your list of Japanese stereotypes, you've nearly got it. The circle's about five metres across.
Luke:Come on, we're so close.
Tom:The circle's about five metres across. The sea slug's—
Corry:Sumo wrestling!
Tom:There we go!
Corry:Sumo wrestling salt! Because you sprinkle salt in the— Oh, there we go!
Tom:Hold on. Why do you sprinkle salt?
Corry:Is it not to cleanse the ring?
Tom:Yeah, purify themselves in the arena, the first thing they do. One of the first things sumo wrestlers do traditionally, they throw out salt into the arena. So, the salt shaker is literal. Also there is a sumo wrestler called the Salt Shaker. That's his nickname.
Luke:I love how this does require thinking laterally, but it also requires detailed knowledge of Japanese culture.
Tom:Well, the "Sea Slug" is the nickname of Asahifuji — I'm probably mispronouncing or mis-emphasizing that — who became Japan's grand champion of sumo at the age of 30. So...
Tom:The Sea Slug is one of the wrestlers. The Salt Shaker is either one of the wrestlers or literally the salt shaker. And the circle is the sumo ring.
Jade:I see.
Jade:It all makes sense.
Luke:What an introduction.
Tom:You really did get thrown ironically at the deep end, given how dry that question turned out to be.
Luke:From submarine to Japanese sumo culture. Love that.
Corry:Look, I'm just glad that being a weeb finally paid off for me.
Corry:You know?
SFX:(snorting and laughter)
Tom:Now, it's time for one of our guests to bring a question. As always, I haven't seen it. I don't know the question. I don't know the answer. I'm gonna be playing along with everyone else.

We're gonna start with Corry. This one's on you. What's your question, please?
Corry:Why does a list of number one albums for the official UK music charts have no entry for the year 1959?
Luke:'Cause the charts didn't exist yet.
Tom:It wasn't soon before that. I think I think it was the early '50s the charts started actually, Luke.
Luke:Okay, well I do happen to know that the charts didn't used to be charts of music. They used to be charts of sheet music. I dunno if that's relevant in any way. Maybe there was a paper shortage.
SFX:(Tom and Corry laughing)
Corry:Do you know what? I'll say that sheet music is somewhat on the right track, I think. Like tangent— very tangentially.
Luke:Was there some kind of general strike of musicians, like there are screenwriter strikes in Hollywood?
Tom:Is there a musicians' union? I feel like there should be a musician's union, but..
Luke:Well, there's like performing right society. That's not really a union, but it's representative of sorts.
Tom:Actually, yeah, there is. And I'm also thinking, so the charts... I mean, the charts are meaningless these days. This is harsh to the charts, but I don't think they've really meant much since buying records got replaced with streaming.
Luke:Well, did you see Josh Pieters' new video, in which he successfully bought his way into the UK Top 40 by just getting 5,000 downloads on a rubbish song he made?
Tom:Oh, I'm glad someone's finally done that. I've had that idea in my head for ages, and I didn't wanna be that much of a jerk, but I know Josh has no problem with irritating people for a thing. I would be too awkward to pull that off.
Jade:Wait, Corry. Can you say the question again?
Corry:Yeah, so why does a list of number one albums for the official UK music charts have no entry for the year 1959?
Luke:Now that's incredible because the charts are every week, and so that's 52 weeks where there were no charts. So that's particularly—
Tom:Wait, did you say— Did you say albums?
Corry:Albums, yes, albums.
Luke:Oh, because it was an album. It was sheet music already, back then.
SFX:(group laughing)
Corry:Okay... Don't let the sheet music confuse you. When I say tangential, I mean so incredibly tangential. I probably should not have mentioned it.
Tom:This is what I've had to learn over the last few episodes.
Luke:Jade, was it you who, or was it Tom who said, everyone.. said... did you say albums?
Jade:Well, I was just wondering, is it always an album that needs to be on the list?
Luke:No, there are songs in the UK Top 40.
Jade:Maybe it was a single, or it was an instrumental, and that's what he meant by sheet music. I wondering, what about this sheet music thing?
Corry:I feel so bad about the sheet music thing. Like, it's so unrelated. It's unrelated.
Corry:It is definitely about albums, and the albums were bought and sold entirely normally throughout that entire time.
Luke:Corry, were there any entries for the year 1958?
Corry:Yes, so...
Corry:There are a number of albums that were listed for both 1958 and 1960. It's just 1959.
Tom:For the entire year?
Corry:Yeah. So on this list of number one albums for the entire year, there is no entry for 1959.
Luke:Corry, thinking laterally here, as is the assignment... Were there chart recordings for albums in the year 1959? They're just not on the list that you have?
Corry:Yeah, absolutely. So...
Corry:The albums were compiled entirely normally during 1959. It's just on this list of number one albums for the official UK album charts, there is no entry for 1959.
Jade:Was the album controversial?
Corry:No, there's— The album was not controversial at all. None of— Well, none of the number one albums for that year were controversial at all.
Tom:So there should have been a set of results every week, right? There should have been an album chart... weekly. Is this like, best album of 1959?
Corry:It was recorded normally every single week, yeah. So it's not just one album for the entire year. There would've been 52 separate times that it was recorded.
Luke:Does anyone know anything significant that happened in 1959?
Tom:I dunno, let me run through the entire lyrics of "We Didn't Start the Fire." It'll be in there somewhere. One of the verses is '59.

Is it like when you have a magazine? This is— This dates me. When you used to buy magazines in actual shops, and you would, like... November's magazine would be on sale from October the 5th, because they wanted to make it last for as long as— and look as— wanted to have as long a shelf life as possible. And like, they just decided that the 1959 albums were in 19—

That was stupid as soon as I started it!
Jade:It wasn't stupid. I think I had something— was thinking something similar... that maybe it's written across some pieces of paper or something, and I don't know, in the cutting, it got cut out or something.
Corry:So when I say it's to do with the way that the list is written, I mean more in the way that... entries for the list are made. Rather than literally what it's written on.
Tom:And that would— If it was an annual chart, and they decided to slip by one, or something like that, that would make sense. Like, you had a 1958 chart. And then they were like, "Oh, that actually turns out, that's actually for 1957, 'cause we compiled 'em at the end of the year" or something like that. But they slipped by a few days and missed a year, or something like that.
Corry:That's— I would say that's almost on the right track. It's in a similar vein to the actual reason. I can give you another hint, but this might really give it away.
Tom:I mean, at this point, unless— Jade, have you got anything?
Jade:I'm pretty lost. I'm so lost right now. I'm thinking, is it to do with computers or typewriters or handwritten? Like, I'm pretty lost.
Corry:Okay, so I'll just do the question again, and I'll add a hint into it.

So, on a list of number one albums for the official UK music charts, there is no entry for the year 1959, and that has to do with the way that they write the list, and when they decide to add new entries onto that list.
Tom:Oh, were there no...? Were there only 1958 albums popular in 19—? Did no one release any good music in 1959? And so they just...
Jade:Well, there were too many good albums?
Corry:The exact opposite of that.
Luke:Every single one was a draw.
Jade:Every single one was a—
SFX:(group giggling)
Tom:Connect the dots for us, Corry. Just connect the dots.
Corry:This is—
Luke:No good music was sold in 1959.
Jade:The exact opposite of all of the albums were good, is that none of the albums were good.
Corry:There was one good album in that for the entirety of the year. There was only one album that was number one on that chart, and it came into the charts, it came to number one on the charts in the year 1958.
Luke:Oh my gosh.
Corry:So since there were no new albums that were number one for 1959, there was no entry for 1959.
Jade:Oh, so there had to be new albums?
Luke:Because it was just number one for 60 weeks, starting at the end of 1958 and ending at the start of 1960.
Corry:Yeah, so the soundtrack to the musical South Pacific was number one for that entire year. It came in— yeah.
Luke:Oh my—
SFX:(Corry and Luke laughing)
Corry:It came in on—
Tom:There just wasn't any other number one!
Corry:No, it came in on November 2nd, 1958, and then it was knocked off on March 6th, 1960. So for that entire year, then a couple months, there was no new album at number one.
Tom:So there were new albums. They went into the charts. They just didn't make it to number one. So you can't put a definition of number one album there, 'cause it was number one from 1958 on. Ohh!
Tom:50, what, 60 weeks of the same album at number one. People just kept buying that!
Corry:Yeah, yeah. I mean it was because it was from a really popular musical. So everyone just really loved it.
Luke:But it's also up against every album ever. So I think that does qualify for: there was no very good music in 1959.
SFX:(Corry and Jade laughing)
Corry:See, I was thinking that there was just one, such a good piece of music, that everything else just paled in comparison.
Luke:Well, that's the optimistic way of looking at it.
Corry:So there was only one particular album, the soundtrack to South Pacific, that was number one for the entirety of the year 1959. So you couldn't add a 'new entry' to that list, because there was no new entry for 1959.
Tom:Right, the next question is from me. Good luck.

In 2019, people who were looking to improve their drinking habits went to a section of an Asda supermarket in Britain. However, around a third of the people who went were confused — or, at best, amused — when they saw this sign. What was on the sign?

I'll give you that again.

In 2019, people who were looking to improve their drinking habits went to a section of an Asda supermarket in Britain. However, about a third of people were confused — or, at best, amused — when they saw this sign. What was on the sign?
Jade:So first, can I ask, what is an Asda?
Jade:A shop?
Tom:They are owned by Walmart.
Jade:So it's like a Walmart. Okay.
Tom:It is a big-box supermarket store. And I'm gonna apologise. This is quite a British question. So you may be at a disadvantage here, Jade. Sorry about that.
Jade:(laughs) That's okay.
Luke:So I'm guessing from what you've said that... Okay, you've said separately, people who are looking to improve their alcohol habit go to this area, but one third are disappointed or find it funny. So there's something about the sign that can be misconstrued, which means that about a third of the people who go towards that sign aren't actually intending to reduce their alcohol intake. But they were intending to get something else.
Tom:So I find this fascinating, Luke. You've picked up, I said, "improve their drinking habits," and you have translated that to "reduce their alcohol intake." And here's the thing. It's absolutely correct!
Tom:You just steamrolled over a whole load of red herrings that we put in that question!
Tom:Also, I'm not sure steamrolling over red herrings is a good metaphor. But you know what?
Luke:It's metaphor.
Tom:We'll stick with it.
Corry:So people that wanted to improve their drinking habits, they went to Asda, and they saw a sign that was amusing or confusing.
Tom:For about a third of the people there.
Luke:Okay, is it something like it said, 'free alcohol' rather than 'alcohol-free'.
Tom:Again, Luke you've just got it. So...
Jade: Wow.
Tom:Yeah, no, you just—
Luke:Oh my god, I'm so sorry.
Tom:You're steamrolling through these questions. It's excellent. You've missed one bit, and there's one bit in here that we've carefully... elided in the question here, when I said it was an Asda supermarket in Britain. You're even right about the words they mixed up. 'Alcohol free', instead it was 'free alcohol'. Why—?
Corry:Was it in Wales?
Tom:And that's the game!
Luke:Ah, you genius!
Tom:Sorry, Jade. You just...
Luke:Well done!
Tom:There was one British person making just incredible deductions there.
Jade:It was fun to see those deductions. I was like, wow.
Jade:He's on the ball, this guy.
Tom:Just straight through, this was... I'm gonna mispronounce this. Apologies to any Welsh listeners. I have it as "alcohol am ddim", which is "alcohol free". Literally, it means... "alcohol" "free". Not, free— It's not free of alcohol. The alcohol is just free.
Luke:So is this like a translation error, like when you see a Chinese shop with a sign that says "translation server not available"?
Tom:Well, that's actually happened in Wales for road signs as well.
Luke:Oh my god!
Corry:Are you telling me they put road signs through Google Translate? And that's how they make them?
Tom:It actually said, "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." In Welsh. Because they'd sent the message. They'd got the reply. They'd put the reply on the sign. It's fine.
Jade:But wait, if it was in Wales, why were one third of people confused?
Tom:Because only about one third of people in Wales speak Welsh.
SFX:(others gasping)
Jade:Oh, okay.
Jade:I see, I see.
Tom:Or, in that region of Wales. 'Cause I know someone's gonna call me out in the statistics on that one. Yeah, I mean, I got nothing to add on that. We have hit every single note on that question very quickly. It was a sign in a Welsh supermarket that said "free alcohol" instead of "alcohol-free". Which means we roll onto Jade's question. Jade, what have you brought?
Jade:In The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the gang of boys on a faraway island start a fire. What's the problem with this scene?

In The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the gang of boys on a faraway island start a fire. What's the problem with this scene?
Corry:Okay, so I have not seen or read The Lord of the Flies, but I have seen the Simpsons episode "Das Bus". In which...
SFX:(group laughing)
Corry:In which they Milhouse's glasses to start a fire.
Luke:This is like saying, "I've not seen Hamlet, but I have seen Toy Story."
SFX:(group laughing)
Corry:Actually, it would be The Lion King, which is also Hamlet.
Tom:I was gonna get you on that as well! I absolutely was!
Luke:I'm sorry.
Corry:And I also haven't read Hamlet, but I have seen The Lion King.
Tom:Toy Story is, of course, based on Titus Andronicus. Sorry, I can't say stuff like that without— 'cause audio listeners will be like, "Oh yeah, no, that makes—" No, that was absolutely just, I made that up. That was a lie.
Jade:You sounded confident.
Tom:That's the problem. I've got a British accent, and I sound confident. It just— You can get away with anything.
Luke:You've got ten years of being an authority on stuff, Tom. It's not gonna wane away like that is it?
Corry:I'm not gonna lie, Tom, I did believe you when you said that. I was really sitting there like, yeah.
Jade:I believed you as well! I was like, "Of course Tom knows this."
Tom:With great accent comes great responsibility apparently.
Jade:Anyway, Corry, you were actually on a really good track.
Corry:I'm worried I might actually have it. I worried I might have figured this out.
Tom:Oh, okay. Well... So, here's what happens in this case, Corry. If you want to take that gamble, you just step outta this question. If you've got pen and paper, write it down. We'll take your word for it, if not. And step out and let the two people who do not have the classic literature thing here. We're gonna try and work this out, Luke.
Luke:The classic literature thing.
Luke:The episode of The Simpsons that Corry has seen.
Tom:So it's gotta be something wrong with... the way they made the fire, presumably? 'Cause I wouldn't be like, "fire is impossible to make on island," 'cause I'm assuming... They made the fire, right? It's not like...
Jade:They made... They couldn't have made the fire.
Luke:I wonder if it's something to do with humidity. You wouldn't— Whatever method you're using, like rubbing sticks together or however you might start a fire
Luke:wouldn't work in the area of the world that Lord of the Flies is set. 'Cause it's very humid?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:We might keep bouncing that back and forth for a little while.
Jade:But, yeah. It has nothing to do with where they are in the world.
Tom:Alright, So I guess the fire-making technique wouldn't work or something like that.
Jade:Yes, you're on the right track.
Tom:So... I don't know. How do you— How do you make a fire, Luke? I've got no outdoors ability.
Luke:You get a magnifying glass, and you focus it on an ant.
SFX:(Tom and Corry laughing)
Tom:That got very specific!
Luke:Speaking from experience.
Corry:Luke, you're vegan, are you not?
Luke:I haven't always been vegan. No, I mean, I actually haven't ever done that, but I don't know if that works. So that might be a line of questioning.
Tom:And you rub two sticks together. Did they not have wood on the island? Did the author forget that there weren't any trees on the island? And then just describe them rubbing sticks together?
Luke:Well, there apparently isn't— It's not based on where they are.
Tom:Oh, yeah.
Luke:And there definitely are trees, from my GCSE memory of Lord of the Flies.
Tom:Well, you've actually studied— Okay. I haven't.
Jade:Oh, good. Okay.
Luke:I mean, I say I'm—
Jade:So, you've got no excuse!
Luke:I've blocked most of school out in my head, to be honest.
Tom:Well that's a damning indictment, isn't it? You said, "I've blocked most of school out," and two of the other people in here went, "Yeah, that's fair."
SFX:(group laughing)
Luke:So, okay. Are we on the right track, Jade, with the idea of a magnifying glass or kind of focusing light on a point to create a fire?
Jade:Yes, That is definitely on the right track.
Luke:Okay. Well, does that just not work?
Jade:It does work.
Tom:Wait, aren't the kid's glasses broken earlier? Isn't that a plot point?
Tom:Or am I confusing that with The Twilight Zone? I might be confusing that with The Twilight Zone.
Corry:An episode which I haven't seen, but also know about from The Simpsons, by the way. Just putting that out there.
SFX:(group laughing)
Jade:So a magnifying glass would work.
Luke:But a pair of glasses would not. Unless they were so extreme in their magnification, which nobody wears.
Tom:I mean...
Jade:A bit?
Luke:As in, nobody wears magnifying glasses on their face.
Jade:There's different reasons that people wear glasses.
Luke:(gasp) Okay! One of them is shortsighted and they need to be long sighted. Or one of them is long sighted, they need to be shortsighted.
Tom:Heyy! I was nowhere near that.
Tom:Corry, did you get it?
Corry:I'll just read out my notes verbatim. It says short-sight glasses are concave, not convex. Concave can't focus light that way. I might have got concave and convex the wrong way around. But the glasses can't focus light if you're shortsighted.
Jade:That's it. That's the one.
Tom:Nicely done. Did you get that from The Simpsons?
Corry:No, in The Simpsons, they use it like flint to make sparks. So The Simpsons fixed that problem.
Jade:They used Milhouse's glasses, and they just used it like flint?
Corry:Yeah. To make sparks and light a fire.
Tom:That's a Simpsons gag. That's 100% a Simpsons gag.
Jade:The problem with the scene was that Piggy was shortsighted, so his strongly diverging lenses wouldn't focus light.
Tom:So we go back to me for the next question. Good luck, folks.

On Sunday, June 6th, 1841, the famous English painter J.M.W. Turner rode a boat into the Thames and stayed there overnight. Why?

I'll give you that one more time.

On Sunday, June 6th, 1841, the famous English painter J.M.W. Turner rode a boat into the Thames and stayed there overnight. Why?
Jade:I was just gonna say, he lost his pencil in the water.
Tom:Someone dumped his entire art supplies just out into the Thames, and he's just fishing for brushes and pencils.
Luke:So when you say he stayed there overnight, he chose to stay there and just sat there?
Luke:Okay. So something must have been happening to the Thames. Was the level changing, or something like that?
Corry:Or it froze. Wait, no, this in June. Never mind.
SFX:(group laughing)
Corry:And the '40s, nevermind.
Tom:I'm not sure frost fairs were still a thing by 1841, but I think the frost fairs were done by then.
Corry:Okay, okay.
Jade:Was he painting? And he could only... get a good view of what he wanted to paint at the time or something?
Luke:(loud gasp) Was this around the time of the Great Fire of London?
Tom:You are roughly two centuries too late for that, unfortunately. Or fortunately, depending on how you think of it.
Luke:Fortunately for him, he was two centuries too late.
Tom:Well, I dunno, if you're in the middle of the Thames.
Luke:Yeah, that's true.
Tom:It is actually not to do with painting. He was a famous painter. That's probably why the story survived, but that's not why he was there.
Corry:Why would someone take a boat out into the middle of the Thames to stay there?
Luke:Probably some kind of ritual or something.
Jade:So this is again another thing, that I don't know Britain. There's no fish in the Thames, right?
Luke:If there are, they're not very healthy.
Tom:Certainly not in 1841.
Luke:There was once a whale in the Thames actually, Jade.
Jade:Oh wow, Okay.
Tom:Very lost, but yes.
Corry:Was it in 1841? Perhaps this was related.
Jade:Was he whaling? Yeah.
Corry:You did say he took a boat, right?
Corry:He's in a boat in the middle of the Thames.
Tom:And you would have to assume he dropped an anchor or something like that so he could just make sure he was there for the whole night.
Corry:And he was only there for one night. He went back in the following day.
Tom:Yep. He was just there overnight.
Luke:Okay. So I guess we are, at the moment, we're proceeding down the idea that he's on the Thames for a thing. But what if he's actually getting away from something on the land?
Luke:Which is where my Great Fire of London line of questioning was going, but clearly I did not listen in history.
Corry:I don't know anything about history, so I have no idea what was happening in 1841.
Tom:You're absolutely right that he was trying to avoid something. and he... Ritual's the wrong word, but it's vaguely along those lines. It's something that happens on a regular basis, and still happens occasionally to this day.
Jade:Like a holiday?
Luke:Is it like something to do with having to go to church?
Tom:It's an obligation, certainly.
Corry:Oh, was it—
Jade:A marriage, a wedding? He was running away from his wedding.
Tom:Oh, I love that story!
Corry:Was it conscription, to the army?
Tom:It was not that big an obligation. If it was conscription, he'd've had to stay out there for a long, long time. This was just—
Jade:He's like, "Oh, dodged conscription!"
Corry:Maybe they were more lax in 1841. I don't know.
Tom:Just swept through that area with the press gang for the Navy and just, "Not here today? Alright. Guess we're never coming back to London." No, in this case, he was absolutely trying to avoid something, and it was just on that night.
Jade:Someone's birthday? Maybe his mom's birthday?
Tom:It's an obligation that everyone had that night.
Corry:On the 6th of June.
Tom:6th of June, 1841.
Corry:Is it something to do with royalty maybe? No, there aren't any mass obligations for royalty. Never mind.
Tom:There aren't any obligations for— No. Sorry.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Slight republican jokes coming in here.
Luke:Oh my gosh, this is so hard.
Tom:So this is, again, a somewhat British question. This has happened every ten years for a long time, and the last one was last year, 2021.
Luke:A census?
Corry:Is it the census?
Tom:Yes! Yes, absolutely right.
Corry:Oh, okay.
Tom:It was a protest against the census. He didn't want to be counted. So he rode out into the middle of the Thames, so he couldn't be counted as staying anywhere.
Corry:I feel like if you see a bloke in the middle of the Thames, he's actually quite easy to count. You just spot him out there.
Corry:There he is, out there.
Luke:Add one.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:For bonus points that we just don't have, 1911. Someone tried the opposite. Does anyone know that story? They definitely wanted to be counted in the census.
Corry:Oh, did they not go to multiple different houses to be counted multiple times? I feel like I've heard this story somewhere, or a story like this somewhere.
Tom:She was counted twice. The 'she' is kind of important there as well.
Luke:Oh, was she counted as her maiden name and her married name?
Tom:No, this was Emily Davison, the suffragette, in 1911...
Tom:...who snuck into the Houses of Parliament... so that she could put down on the census that that was where she was on the night of the census in 1911.
Jade:People have very strong opinions about the census, I'm learning.
Tom:Yes, apparently so. I mean, I'm assuming there's an Australian one as well.
Jade:Yeah, we have one. Nothing so dramatic as the British stories though.
Tom:I mean, we just had a load of people putting their religion down as Jedi.
SFX:(group snickers and chuckles)
Corry:Tom, actually, as a practicing Jedi myself, I find that incredibly offensive.
Tom:I'm terribly sorry. May the Force to be with you.
Luke:How is one a practicing Jedi?
Corry:'Cause I'm not very good at it yet, Luke. I've still gotta practice.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Yes. J.M.W. Turner was trying to avoid the census by rowing into the middle of Thames on the night of June 6th, 1841. And he did avoid the census, but he did not avoid that story, putting him in the middle of the Thames in 1841 on a podcast a hundred and something years later.
Luke:Very much on the record.
Tom:Yeah. Luke, the last guest question of the show is yours. Go ahead.
Luke:Okay, this is what I got for you.

So, a PhD student got two tattoos, one in the middle of each inner forearm. They were circles of different sizes. Why?
Jade:I'm gonna guess when you put them together, they make an eight.
Tom:I dunno, so which PhD? I'm immediately trying to work out if this is like a physics thing. And then I remember I didn't really do physics, so... Because I remember going into physics exams, and trying to remember what the left hand and right hand rules were. and thinking... That's an aide-mémoire you take in. But I feel like you can't cheat by getting things tattooed on you in an exam?
Jade:Also, for a PhD, right?
Tom:Oh yeah.
Jade:And also just two circles as well. Like, how much is that gonna tell you?
Corry:Yeah, there's not a lot of information in a— What information is there in a circle though?
Jade:I mean, the radius and the diameter. I mean, there's pi, but that's in every circle, no matter its size.
Tom:Luke, could you just give us the question again quickly?
Luke:Okay, yes. It was: A PhD student got two tattoos, one on the middle of each forearm. They were circles of different sizes. Why?
Tom:I dunno why my brain went to the elbow, which'd just be a really painful tattoo. So it's there and there.
Jade:Yeah. Yeah. I would—
Luke:Well, so I will give you that it is not on the elbows. It's sort of on the forearm, on the soft side of the forearm.
Tom:So the fleshy bit just there.
Luke:Where you can feel your veins.
Corry:So you can look at it then?
Luke:So you can look at it. That would— Yes. Yes.
Jade:And they were just circles? 'Circle' isn't like something else?
Luke:It was just circles. Yes.
Jade:Literally circles.
Luke:Corry, you'd said so she could look at it. But, her looking at it was not the purpose of it.
Jade:Someone else looking at it.
Tom:Or comparing them against something? I realise that I may have sent us the wrong direction. 'Cause I said PhD. So I heard 'PhD' and just went, "Oh, there must be a physicist putting formulas down." This could be a liberal arts PhD for all we know.
Jade:It could, yeah. You're totally right.
Corry:Oh, well, but wait, Tom. You said something about the sizes. But we've got that the only difference between them is the size. And then Tom, you just said comparing. Maybe it's to compare the size of two different circles.
Luke:As in, to use as a reference for real world circles?
Corry:Hold on, wait. (laughs) Sorry. Yes. When I say two different circles, I mean two different circles in the real world.
Tom:Oh, okay. Now, we're all holding our arms up now and going... So—
Luke:Yes. Hold your arms up. And imagine you can see.
Jade:I was gonna say, I wanted to guess maybe like a medical PhD, and she's circling some important place in the vein or something like that.
Tom:I mean, people do get tattoos sometimes, on things that are about to be amputated.
Jade:"Oh, it goes here. The needle goes here."
Corry:"This one."
Tom:Are we talking like big circles, little circles? Do we know what size these things are?
Luke:Well, they are two different sizes. I would say one is little, relative to the arm, and one is fairly big, relative to the arm.
Tom:So maybe like you said, Jade, they're comparing against something in, maybe they're comparing against something in the real world?
Corry:Is it a physics degree? Or have we just made that up?
Luke:I will give you that it is relevant to physics.
Jade:Okay. I'm gonna say the Earth and the Moon.
Luke:Oh. Well. Oh, well that's— Yeah, Jade, you got it.
Tom:Oh, wow!
Jade:I was gonna say the Earth and the Moon, because people are really surprised at how far away they actually are from each other. So maybe it was, when she held out her arms, it was like the exact distance from the Earth to the Moon relative to their sizes. Jade, you've absolutely nailed it.
Luke:You absolutely nailed it.
Tom:That's such a good tattoo idea!
Jade:It is pretty good, right? Then you can show people. "Hey, this is actually how far away they are. Isn't that amazing?"
Tom:That's amazing.
Corry:That is so cool.
Luke:So yes, the sizes, the size difference between the two circles is the relative size between the Earth and the Moon. And exactly like you say, when you hold your arms out aside from each other, that is the relative positions of the Earth and the Moon. So you nailed it, Jade.
Tom:One last bit of business before we're done then. At the very start of the show, I gave the audience a question, which was:

Why are Swiss Army knives red?

Very quickly for the panel, does anyone know this one or have any guesses?
Jade:Something to do with the flag?
Luke:To hide the blood!
Corry:That's exactly what I was thinking, Luke.
Tom:What did you say, Jade?
Jade:I thought something to do with the flag. But they weren't invented in Switzerland, right?
Tom:It's not just, I mean— It is partly, I think, a patriotic link to Switzerland. They could have picked a few colours for this, but it's not just that.
Corry:Is it to fit the uniform, if it's a Swiss Army knife? Is that silly?
Tom:I don't think the Swiss army have big red uniforms. That would be dreadful camouflage.
Jade:Is it so it's easy to find? 'Cause red is quite eye catching.
Tom:You're on the right lines. Good to find in what?
Luke:In the dark.
Tom:Not quite sure that's how colour works.
Jade:Oh... on grass.
Tom:Nearly. It's Switzerland.
Corry:On ice?
Jade:In the snow?
Tom:Yes. You're both right. Jade, Corry, you both got that.
Tom:Swiss Army knives are red so you can find them in the snow.

So that is our show. Jade, let's start with you. What have you got going on? Where can people find you?
Jade:Yeah, so I run a YouTube channel called Up and Atom. We talk about math, physics, and computer science. And you can just find me on YouTube at Up and Atom.
Tom:Corry, go.
Corry:I'm Corry. You can find me at @notcorry everywhere.
Corry:Or you could check out my podcast with Luke, Sci Guys, at @SciGuysPod everywhere.
Tom:Which brings us to Luke.
Luke:And I am Luke, yes. I do the podcast Sci Guys with Corry. You can also find me at @LukeCutforth. And you can watch my first feature film, if you like, called The Drowning of Arthur Braxton.
Tom:Hey, congratulations.
Luke:Thank you.
Tom:How long's it been?
Luke:Six years! really stabbing that Swiss Army knife in there, aren't you there, Tom?
Tom:I couldn't resist the joke. Sorry.
Corry:Just twisting it. Oh lord.
Luke:It wasn't red enough.
Tom:First time I met you, you were talking about it, and like, that's partly sarcasm, and partly I'm just really proud to actually see it out winning awards. Seriously, congratulations.
Luke:Thank you.
Tom:That is our show for today. Congratulations to all of you.

If you wanna know more about the show, or you wanna submit an idea for a question, it's We are @lateralcast pretty much everywhere, and you can catch video highlights at

Thank you very much to Jade Tan-Holmes.
Jade:Thanks, Tom.
Tom:To Corry Will.
Corry:Thank you.
Tom:To Luke Cutforth.
Luke:Thank you.
Tom:I'm Tom Scott, and this has been Lateral.
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