Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 33: Crooked camel competitions

Published 26th May, 2023

Bill Sunderland and Dani Siller (from 'Escape This Podcast') and Amelie Brodeur face questions about colour-coded kindness, curious keypads and cosmic kit.

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: Jewis Tough, Jasper Bodycombe, Robert Waelder, Peter Scandrett. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Sapphire gemstones occur in a variety of colours, apart from one that can't be bought. 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 where three guests are going to drive at high speed towards a wall of difficult problems. It's a lateral thinking car crash in slow motion. And we start by meeting:
Tom:From Escape This Podcast, returning to the show, our regular Bill Sunderland.
Bill:Hello! I'm excited to be back.
Tom:Last time, there was less character work than usual from you. We had a long Who's On First riff, but at no point do we meet a strange character that you were improvving off the spot.
Bill:Well, you know, you said to me, "I hate your character work. I never want to see it again. No more Herr Nobody nonsense. Just stick to the facts!" And I stuck to the facts.
Tom:(chuckles) None of that's true. But you know what, it's still plausible. Also from Escape This Podcast, Dani Siller.
Dani:Hello, hello. He's actually covering for me. I'm the one who did that offscreen. I'm the one who told him all of those things.
Tom:(laughs) And rounding out the trio for today, from The Flute Channel, and frankly, a world-class flutist in her own right, Amelie Brodeur.
Amelie:Hi. Thanks for having me.
Tom:Thank you for coming back. Welcome back on the show. How was it last time? It was your first time here. How did you find it?
Amelie:Oh, I loved it. Very, very funny. And my opponents are very good. I was impressed.
Bill:Whoa, hold on a second.
Bill:Wait, no, we're all working together here. We're not your opponents!
Amelie:It's a very poor source of word! I was looking for a better word, but whatever.
Bill:The only real opponent is Tom Scott.
Tom:Yeah, I prefer it when the players are playing against each other, 'cause that way you're not ganging up on me!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:Our game is all about ignoring convention and connecting the dots in whatever way we like. Even if it means we end up with a mad scribble, instead of the unicorn we're looking for. And we start with question number one.

This has been sent in by Peter Scandrett, so thank you for this.

The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, England has to do something for a reason that the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia does not. What is it?

So one more time.

The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, England has to do something for a reason that the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia does not. What is it?
Dani:Oh boy. Do either of you know anything about the Lovell Telescope, first of all?
Amelie:Sadly, no.
Bill:I've never heard of it. The Parkes Telescope, that's the dish, right?
Dani:Yeah, we've heard of it. Sadly outside of the movie, The Dish, I don't know much about it.
Bill:Amelie, we're Australians. We've heard of this, what this is. Do you know what this is? The Parkes Tele—
Bill:Okay. Neither do I really. But it's just a big satellite dish, isn't it?
Dani:Yeah. Just a huge one.
Bill:Yeah, there's a classic Australian film called The Dish about the Parkes Telescope. And I think I saw it when I was a child. That's all I've got.
Tom:It is one of the sites where the moon landing footage was received on Earth. That's what it's best known for. So it's big. It is... the size of... a very large radio telescope. I started that analogy, and I didn't know where it was going.
Bill:Tom, don't you have a video of you walking around the dish?
Tom:I mean, I wasn't gonna name-drop that in. But yes, I might have visited there a few weeks ago. I might have been able to stand on the surface of the dish as it moved. So yeah, giant steerable radio telescope, that's maybe... I'd guess about 50 metres across. But I'm probably out by almost an order of magnitude there, but it's a big ol' bowl.
Dani:But this feels like we're coming up with new things for the Parkes Telescope to do, like, oh, they've gotta wash people's footprints off it every so often and things like that.
Tom:They once played cricket on that dish.
Amelie:It might be something to do with different hemispheres, so like...
Bill:Yeah, yeah, 'cause that's a clear difference.
Amelie:Capped in different zones. I don't know.
Dani:Are they both— I don't know the purposes of different telescopes all that much. Are they... what they're even pointing at over time? This is not my field.
Bill:Does anyone— Did anyone get a better read on how this sentence was constructed? It has to turn for the same reason that Parkes' one doesn't have to turn? Is this where I'm at?
Dani:It just has to do something, wasn't it?
Tom:The Lovell Telescope, which is as famous in Britain as Parkes is in Australia...
Tom:...has to do something for a reason that Parkes doesn't. And they are very similar in— I'm sure the radio astronomy nerds will be angry at me. There are many no doubt incredibly important differences between them. But from a layperson's perspective, they're two big radio telescopes.
Bill:Neil deGrasse Tyson is composing his tweet right now.
SFX:(others laugh)
Bill:So it— there is a singular reason... Well, there's a singular thing that means that the Lovell Telescope does something, and that Parkes doesn't.
Bill:There's a connected reasoning that makes one do something and one not do something.
Bill:Oh, Amelie, I do like the hemispheres idea. I think I like your hemisphere theory of Earth.
Amelie:Yeah. (chuckles) I don't know. But is it... They're similar, but they do have that one difference?
Tom:I'm sure they've got a few differences, but they—
Amelie:But that's the one— We're looking for one difference.
Amelie:In their— in what they're doing? It doesn't have to do with their geography?
Bill:That's the sound of a man who thinks it slightly has to do with their geography, but he doesn't want to give it away!
SFX:(group laughs)
Tom:If you put the two dishes next to each other, they'd either both have to do this, or neither have to do this. So it is about where they are, rather than some aspect of the dish itself.
Bill:Are they both observing as a telescope would? Are they both observing the same thing, and one of them has to do something and the other doesn't?
Tom:I'm not sure they can observe the same thing. If they ever can, it's gonna be very close to the equator.
Bill:Yeah, that's true.
Tom:'Cause they really are on other sides of the planet.
Bill:Yeah, okay, okay.
Amelie:So I guess we're on the right track.
Bill:Yes, except our tracks are leading everywhere. (laughs)
Dani:So now we've got these other geographic things. So we've got northern, southern hemisphere. We've also got, when I think of— Look, to be honest, when I think of a lot of things in the UK, I think, oh, that's the zero time zone.
Bill:Yeah, we are time zone.
Dani:And could time be a factor? Is it just one of them has to turn on their night vision goggles if they're both looking at something at the same time?
Bill:Everything in space needs night vision goggles!
Tom:(laughs) They are radio telescopes. So in this case, they're not physical observing.
Dani:Whatever! They're night-sound telescopes.
Tom:Sorry. Sorry to be all Neil deGrasse Tyson here!
Amelie:Are they... they're capturing sound. They're not emitting anything. They're just—
Bill:Oh, radio waves, yeah.
Tom:Yeah, they're pulling in radio waves from out there in space. So it is a big dish with an antenna at the focal point.
Amelie:Are the space stations communicating with them?
Tom:Oh god, I get to give a really technical answer to this. I'm gonna skip over and say, no, it's nothing to do with—
Amelie:Nothing to do with the space stations, okay.
Tom:No, no.
Bill:Is it to do with the actual process of being a radio telescope looking into space, or is it about the geopolitics of once the Australian station gets data, it has to convert it to a different standard that matches the British one that it doesn't have to do? Is it about Earth politics?
Tom:It is an annoyingly simple answer. You don't need to know anything about radio astronomy or astronomy, or frankly, the stars in general to know this one.
Bill:Is the repository for all of this information the Lovell Telescope? Does it not need to send stuff anywhere else, but everyone has to send it to them?
Tom:No, in fact, you don't need to know anything. You already know everything you need to know about all these telescopes to work it out.
Amelie:Is it just that they wanna cover more area and so that's why... No?
Tom:You were almost on the right lines earlier when you were working out that yeah, one's in the UK, one's in Australia. There's some differences there.
Dani:Put down the umbrellas, 'cause it was raining more in the UK.
Tom:Oh, you are very close with that.
Dani:Oh, come on, really?
Tom:You're very close!
Bill:It's too hot in Australia.
Dani:There are too many clouds in the UK.
Bill:They don't have to hire someone to shoot kangaroos.
Tom:You're naming all the types of weather apart from the right one.
Dani:Snow, snow!
Tom:Which means...?
Dani:They've gotta... snow melts... somehow.
Dani:They have to salt it.
Tom:It's a big movable dish!
Dani:Oh, they gotta tilt it down. They gotta tip it.
Bill:Ah, they tip it!
Dani:The old telescope tip.
Tom:Once or twice a year... the Lovell Telescope has to tip out the snow from its side. They go vertical, they point it vaguely in the direction of the sun, but not too close so it doesn't fry any instruments, and they let the snow melt away and out of the bowl, which Parkes, in the middle of the heat of Australia, doesn't have to do.
Bill:Now Amelie, you live in a snow country, so I am putting all the blame on you.
Amelie:Yeah, I should have thought of that.
Bill:This is the competitive spirit that you asked for, Amelie.
SFX:(group laughing)
Amelie:Today I taught someone how to walk on the ice without falling.
Dani:Ooh, that's impressive.
Tom:Oh, I wish I knew that. I've been through once. Oh wait, without falling through or without falling over? 'Cause I've fallen through.
Amelie:Just falling on your back.
Amelie:Yeah, 'cause this poor kid was just arrived here a few weeks ago from a place where there's no snow. And he was like, "I'm always falling." I said, you have to walk like a penguin. So if you ever walk on ice, walk like a penguin, just a bit tilted forward.
Bill:The kid arrives. He falls over immediately and sees Amelie just gracefully waddling across the ice, playing a flute. "Oh, well you can't do this yet, kid? Welcome to Canada."
SFX:(group giggling)
Tom:Yes, the Lovell Telescope in England occasionally has to go on its side and tip out the snow.

Our first guest question comes from Amelie today. Whenever you're ready, take it away.
Amelie:Okay, so this listener question has been sent in by Jasper, aged six.

In which sport do you have to colour-code your equipment for the benefit of your opponent?

I repeat:

In which sport do you have to colour-code your equipment for the benefit of your opponent?
Tom:Did— Was that aged six? Because that is one of the best questions we've had in terms of intro. That's amazing!
Dani:It's so simple! But I have no idea.
Tom:That's so good.
Bill:Feel free to cut this callback... But I would say chess. As we've figured out in last episode, it's quite important.
SFX:(group laughing)
Dani:I mean, most sports that I can think of do have colour-coding in some fashion or another.
Bill:Like for, yeah, for players. Are players equipment? Is player in equipment in a sport?
Tom:That's for the benefit of both teams. Like soccer teams wear different colours, so both teams can figure out who's where.
Amelie:On what team, yeah.
Bill:What would you need to colour-code for your opponent?
Tom:Also, equipment. Not clothing, equipment.
Amelie:Yeah, equipment.
Bill:One of my first thoughts, right— because if you're mentioning it's for your opponent specifically, is sports where you have asynchronous equipment?
Bill:So like in cricket, you have asynchronous equipment, because whoever has the bat at one point in time, the other team will not. Whoever has the ball, the other team will not. There is explicitly... if you colour-code the bats in cricket, that is explicitly for the other, you know, It affects peop— the two teams differently. How many sports with asynchronous equipment, and a phrase that I am enjoying saying, can we name?
Tom:I was thinking it was more like... not fencing 'cause that doesn't have much colour-coding in it, but something where you actually have to fight your opponent. So the clues are on your own body?
Dani:Like paintball?
Bill:Oh, that's true. You probably would colour-code your paintballs.
Tom:If you're on a— No, 'cause you know if you've been hit or not. That'll help in case of friendly fire, but... "I'm out, who shot— Someone on my own team shot me." That's not for the benefit of the opponent. I went paintballing once a while back on a stag-do. So bachelor party, for the Americans. And at one point, they lined up all the people who were there for birthdays or— like the bachelor, the stag, whoever... and just did a firing squad on the assumption
SFX:(Dani and Bill laugh)
Tom:that everyone would kind of go easy on them, and that shortly afterwards, they'd all run away. And they all did run away... apart from one, who was our bachelor in our group, our stag, who just kind of... took it for some reason?
Bill:"Come on, you cockroaches!"
Tom:Well after a couple of seconds, we sort of went, "Ha ha, that's it, that's enough." And everyone else in the group is, "You're still firing. Why are you still firing at him?"
Dani:He had to limp down the aisle on the day of the wedding.
Tom:Man ended up with a just black and blue. It was a few weeks before, thankfully, but he's never really forgave us for that one. Sorry, that was an unnecessary anecdote about paintball, which is clearly not the right answer here.
Bill:Now do some character work.
Tom:(chuckles) Okay, you've gotta colour-code equipment.
Amelie:You were in the right lane when you said something like fencing where you...
Amelie:But it's not that, but I mean... I don't wanna say too much. You can ask me questions.
Dani:Oh yeah.
Bill:Is it like a one-on-one sport? Is it like...
Bill:One person versus— okay.
Bill:I'm back to chess.
Tom:So it's a one-on-one sport, and presumably it's your own... Is it like your own body, or are you holding something that's colour-coded?
Amelie:You're holding something.
Tom:Okay, what do you— So I was thinking fencing. What other sort of dueling sports are there?
Amelie:It's not like dueling per se, but...
Amelie:It's two people.
Bill:Are you both trying to get each other, or are you both trying to get something else? If it were archery and you're both firing at the same target. Could it be archery? Is it just colour-coded arrows?
Amelie:You're against each other.
Tom:Oh, 'cause I was briefly thinking biathlon there. 'Cause then, you've gotta work out what colour your target is, versus your opponents, but that's not right. That's not a one-on-one sport either.
Bill:Let's change tact, what sports do six year olds watch?
Tom:Oh, that's a good point! Okay.
Amelie:Or play, or even play.
Bill:Or play!
Tom:Oh, hold on. Is this like a video game question?
Bill:See what Tom thinks about kids? None of them are out there playing sports anymore.
Tom:I was thinking Fortnite or something like that, where you have colour or silhouettes or hitboxes or something like that to work out where you are, so your opponent can see you, but okay, no, it's an actual physical sport, okay.
Bill:Should we play 20 sports questions? Can this sport be played in the Olympics?
Amelie:I'm not sure.
Bill:Let's take a break while Amelie googles all Olympic sports.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Amelie:The colours help warn you about something.
Bill:Warn you, that something's about to be thrown at you? Would you throw the coloured equipment at somebody else?
Amelie:You keep the coloured equipment.
Dani:I'm so frustrated!
Amelie:But your opponent can see it.
Bill:Is it capture the flag?
Amelie:No. Do you want another clue?
Tom:Yeah, we're gonna need one.
Bill:Yeah, but let's, but we'll cut it outta the episode, so we seem smart.
SFX:(group laughing)
Amelie:The opponent's equipment has two main colours.
Bill:Rival barbers. They're two poles spinning, spinning.
Dani:Is it— it's one-on-one. Does only one of these people at any given time have the coloured thing or things, or do both people at the same time have it?
Amelie:They both have one.
Bill:What about jousting?
Dani:Different colours.
Bill:A big bi-coloured lance. As you ride down.
Dani:That's my nominated sport for six year olds.
Amelie:What's jousting?
Bill:Six year olds love to joust! With two knights. Riding down their horses and jousting and falling off.
Amelie:On their dad's shoulders or something, no?
Bill:Yeah, dad shoulder jousting is the best six year old sport!
Tom:Okay, okay. So... you— Are you telling your opponent where it's safe to hit, or where the target positions are?
Amelie:No. You want another clue?
Tom:Ugh, yes.
Bill:Yeah, one more.
Amelie:Traditionally the colours were black and red, but that's recently changed.
Dani:Black and red makes me think... it makes me think boxing.
Bill:"Here's a warning. I'm gonna hit ya."
Tom:So is it a fighting sport? Are people coming into contact here?
Amelie:It's a racket sport.
Tom:A racket sport?!
Bill:Is it a— do— Okay, do you colour-code... What? What are some racket sports? We got tennis. We got squash.
Tom:We got badminton.
Bill:We got jai alai.
Amelie:You might have played it in high school sometimes, or...
Bill:Table tennis.
Dani:Oh, you're right. They're red and black, aren't they?
Bill:The paddles are red and black.
Dani:For forehand, backhand.
Bill:Yeah. 'Cause you get to— you can see the orientation of the paddle.
Tom:Oh my god, that's why they're colored?!
Amelie:Yeah, and they don't have the same texture. So the rebound is different. So you're—
Dani:Oh boy.
Bill:So I've— There's a great ping-pong anime by Masaaki Yuasa. It's a fantastic anime called Ping Pong. And everybody should go and watch it. But they get so intense in that they're just like, "This side is red. Pips in at this angle. And on this side, it's the pips out. But I've shaved the pips down to this." And they get so obsessed with the texture of their ping-pong paddles.
Tom:We had to get that by running through all the racket sports.
Bill:That's how you play the game!
Tom:I didn't know that's why the paddles were coloured that way. I didn't know there was anything to do with that.
Dani:I had a table tennis table growing up.
Amelie:Yeah, and now you can have different colours that have different... different texture. And so, this way they know, "Oh, it's blue. It means it's gonna be faster or slower."
Bill:Can you imagine being at a— I mean, obviously there are plenty of people who are, but being at that high level of ping pong, where you are like, "Wait a minute, what colour was that paddle? It flashed at me. Gotta calculate, what's the difference in trajectory? How's that gonna affect the roll? A blue paddle, oh my gosh, it's gonna be spinning this much. I better get to this side of the table." That's some intense table tennis.
Tom:Meanwhile, there's just anime lines going in the background as a slow motion animated shot comes in. Specifically of you, Bill, just to be clear. This is you starring in your own ping pong anime here.
Bill:I dunno why you'd make any different kind of show.
Amelie:The regulations of the International Table Tennis Federation allow players to have different surfaces on either side of the bat. Each surface would impart a different spin or speed on the ball. The player can flip the bat during play to vary their returns. However, the two sides must be colour-coded so that the opponent can anticipate the type of shot coming towards them. One side must be black, and until 2021, the other side had to be red. However, blue, green, purple, and pink are now allowed as the other colour.
Tom:Good luck, folks. Next question's from me.

At Saudi Arabia's popular King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, camel owners competed for a slice of 66 million dollars in prize money. However, in 2021, sixteen camels had to be ejected from the festival for a problem that has affected the festival in recent years. What?

One more time.

At Saudi Arabia's popular King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, camel owners competed for a slice of 66 million dollars in prize money. However, in 2021, sixteen camels had to be ejected from the festival for a problem that has affected the festival in recent years. What?
Dani:Now, I don't remember hearing too much about how many camels got COVID. So I'm going to assume that it's something we should ask, "What an earth happens at a camel festival?" instead.
Amelie:Are there plastic surgeons for camels?
Bill:(laughs) This is the wildest question!
Amelie:I dunno, if it's millions of dollars, you might get a plastic surgeon for your camel, to make the, have the—
Amelie:best looking camel and get the money. I don't know.
Dani:Eyelash implants for your camel!
Bill:(gasps) Camels do have pretty nice eyelashes.
Bill:The other piece of wording that I found interesting in the question was that it wasn't— they're not competing for 66 million. They were competing for a slice of this, of a 66 million dollar prize pool.
Dani:So multiple camels can win.
Bill:Is it a camel pizza making competition?
Tom:Amelie, you are much, much closer than you might think with that answer.
Tom:And Bill, you're right. There are all sorts of prizes here. So, Amelie...
Tom:It's not quite plastic surgery... But you have skipped through most of the hints that I've got in my notes here, and you are already dialing into what was done to these camels to make them more likely to win.
Bill:Okay, so... Okay, so we're doing surgery on camels to win a slice of $66 million.
Dani:I was then going to suggest, were some of them not actually camels? They were just disguised horses.
SFX:(group laughing)
Bill:Just surgically putting humps on horses.
Dani:A big problem plaguing this festival.
Bill:"Wait a minute! This is just another horse! You put eyelashes on a horse. You made think it was a camel." Okay, so what do you— Surely right... Amelie, you seem to go straight to, it's a camel beauty competition. Like Crufts, but for camels.
Dani:Yeah, is that right?
Bill:Or is that what— It's not a camel race? Because my first thought was a race. They're racing the camels.
Tom:There are many things that are part of this event. But apparently, this was the beauty contest. Beauty is a strong term. You are right that it is in the same kind of vein as Crufts and dog shows. They are looking for certain attributes that are the perfect, the platonic ideal of camel is what they're looking for.
Amelie:I guess it's either like a type of surgery or some makeup or something like that that's not allowed?
Tom:Yeah, honestly, if you were finding this after 15 minutes of discussion, I'd give you the points already. Not that there are points, but I'd give you— But you know what, you honed in so fast that I'm looking for a specific thing here.
Dani:Did they have a preference of what they found more beautiful in a camel for dromedary versus Bactrian? Number of humps.
Tom:According to my notes, they're looking for long, droopy lips, a big nose, and a shapely hump.
Dani:A shapely hump.
Bill:Because this was my question. I think we should all go around in a circle, and start to list off what we think are the main features of a camel that one would judge. Hump is my first port of call.
Amelie:Maybe they got hump enhancements.
Tom:You are...
Bill:Getting injections into their humps.
Tom:...dancing 'round the right answer! It's even to the point of injections. You've got that right, Bill.
Dani:Is it— did they Botox?
Tom:And Dani puts it in the net! It is Botoxing camels.
Dani:Now hang on, hang on. For their droopy lips or for their shapely hump?
Tom:Lips apparently.
Dani:That makes sense, but I won't deny I'm disappointed.
Amelie:Poor camels. There's no lengths that, you know, humans will be ready to do anything, you know?
Tom:Yeah. Other camels were disqualified for artificially enlarged body parts that were using rubber bands to restrict blood flow. So there was all sorts of... I guess doping is the wrong term, but artificial enhancement of camels. Because if you give someone that big a prize pot, there is a motivation for doing it.
Bill:Tom, you have ruined my mental picture right now, because all I'm picturing— Have you seen those videos where they just keep putting rubber bands around a watermelon until it explodes? But on a camel's hump.
Tom:Oh no!
Bill:You've ruined the internet for me! You've ruined my brain! Why did I agree to come on this show, where Tom Scott makes you ruin camels? Welcome to Tom Scott Ruins Camels.
Tom:No, that's on you. That's on you and your brain, that is.
Bill:(cackles) "I take no responsibility!"
Tom:The Camel Festival had sixteen camels disqualified, because they had been given Botox.

Our next question is from Bill. Whenever you're ready.

In 2005, an establishment in Boise, Idaho managed to stay open by selling a basic pencil and sketch pad for $15. However, a certain demographic was still very happy to pay for it. Why?

I'll read that one again.

In 2005, an establishment in Boise, Idaho managed to stay open by selling a basic pencil and sketch pad for $15. However, a certain demographic was still very happy to pay for it. Why?
Dani:Now, I read something that sounds potentially related. So I'm not gonna say, "Oh, I've got this." But... Ooh, I'm gonna be cagey just in case.
Tom:It's got to be either alcohol or marijuana or a strip club. Surely.
Tom:We're in Idaho. It's a conservative state. Although, I mean, to be fair, Boise is a big city and probably is actually quite liberal I think. So I have a feeling this is someone doing an end run around the law. It's one of those...
Dani:That's what I was thinking as well.
Amelie:Is it because they were not allowed to sell their real things? So they would say that they're selling that, but in reality... it was like—
Bill:Yes, you're in the right sort of idea there, yes.
Amelie:Okay that's why you were saying marijuana maybe.
Tom:Yeah if this was the 1930s, it would've been Prohibition and alcohol. And, you know, you ferment the notepad for a few months, and it gives you alcohol at the end of it. But it's... I don't know, it can't be rolling papers for spliffs, but it's gotta be something like that, surely.
Dani:So am I under the impression that $15 in the long distant time of 2005, that would've been quite expensive for a pencil and sketch pad of these, of the types that they were selling.
Bill:Yes, these are more expensive. If you wanted just a pencil and a sketch pad, you'd go somewhere else and get them for a few dollars.
Tom:Here's my thought. I'm going to assume that it's 2005 Idaho. Out of the list of alcohol, marijuana, and strip club, I'm gonna assume that it's a strip club, and they are selling it as a life drawing class. That you go in, and—
Dani:That would be clever.
Tom:Under than $15 is not, that's not right. No, that'll be $50–60. So that's gotta be more than that, surely.
Bill:Well actually, Tom... you've hit the nail on the head. It it a—
Bill:There was no— At no point was it like, "Oh, let's take the paper and turn it into moonshine, or use it to roll up—" No, it was, they used the sketch paper for sketching. It was illegal to be running a strip club. So there was a law that banned total nudity in public, which threatened to shut down strip clubs. But there was an exemption for plays and for life drawing, for art classes. So you arrive at the strip club, they pay you a far too expensive pencil and sketch pad. And at that point, "No, no, no. We're just drawing life models. It's art. We're not just going to a strip club." And yeah, that was their way of getting around the ban.
Dani:The similar one that I had heard just recently was for marijuana, where places couldn't— you couldn't sell marijuana, but you could have marijuana. So they would just be selling expensive paper and pencils and saying, "And also, here's a free gift with every purchase."
Bill:That's how they get ya.
Tom:It tends not to survive courts of law, that. It tends to be someone who's got a brilliant idea that then just meets a judge who just goes, "No. Come on."
Bill:It's like the Sovereign Citizens of strip clubs.
SFX:(others laugh)
Tom:The way you said that in my head, it's a TV series like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Bill:"Welcome to Sovereign Citizens of Strip Clubs. I'm Michael, but I don't have a real government identity. I'm a person, not a personage, and you can't charge me with crimes."
Tom:"And also now I'm taking off my clothes."
Dani:Why are we giving this idea away for free?
SFX:(group laughing)
Bill:So, yes. Because of a law banning total nudity in public, a strip club in Boise, Idaho, got around the law by selling pencils and sketchpads for nude life art to bypass that ban.
Tom:Next question then, folks. In 2009, Stansted Airport in London had to repaint something overnight due to forces beyond its control. It will be 56 years before it'll have to do that again. What was it, and why had it changed? I'll say that again. In 2009, Stansted Airport in London had to repaint something overnight due to forces beyond its control. It'll be 56 years before they'll have to do that again. What was it and why had it changed?
Dani:56 years from 2009 or from now?
Tom:From 2009. I assume, actually. (chuckles) I don't know the answer to that. It'll be a while. It'll be the middle of the century before they have to do that.
Bill:So they have to repaint for something that seems like it might happen periodically. Every 56-ish years... something happens. He's like, "Well, can't control it. Gotta repaint an airport." Hey Tom, I think you may have read the question wrong, 'cause that doesn't make any sense.
SFX:(group laughing)
Dani:Also, how many airports does London have? I didn't realise I'd be finding a new one.
Tom:There's a Jay Foreman video all about this, but the... Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted. Technically Southend, I think that's closed now. And if you really, really push it, Oxford, which for a while tried to be London Oxford Airport, and they're not fooling anyone. Oh, also London City. So at least five, maybe more.
Bill:Too many airports.
Amelie:Did they repaint the inside or the outside?
Tom:It's outside.
Dani:But I'm feeling cryptic vibes here. Would other airports have had to change whatever this is, do you reckon?
Tom:This is less cryptic vibes, and me just avoiding giving too much of a clue too early. There is a certain demographic of my listeners right now that know this because of someone else's video, and will be spending the next five minutes or so just repeatedly screaming it at the speaker. So... good luck.
Dani:So we're just telling on ourselves.
Bill:Well, yeah, that's a good question, Amelie, that it's like it's outside or inside. Because outside, you can start to think about weather or things that happened, you know, something from the outside that caused, like it could have been damage in some form that they have to paint over.
Bill:Every 56 years... A particular comet flies overhead and the colour of the comet mixes with the colour of the paint, and the paint shrivels and burns away. And they said, "Why did we use comet paint?" And then they fix it and, and then they painted the same comet paint. I don't know why they wouldn't just use normal paint, but 56 years later they're gonna have to do it again.
Tom:So, Bill... Obviously none of that's right. That's not even close, but... on a purely...
Dani:Spiritual level?
Tom:Yes, on a spiritual level, you are closer than you think.
Tom:When you say forces beyond their control...
Amelie:Does it have anything to do with birds? I don't know why I have a bird vibe.
Bill:Yeah, birds jumped into my head as well! I pictured a migration.
Dani:Oh, the 56 year migration patterns.
Bill:Yeah, they fly to right over the airport, and all the birds poop at once and cover the airport.
Amelie:That's the image I had!
Bill:Yeah, right? It's like all these Canada geese every 56 years think, "Let's go to London. It'd be nice. It's been 56 years." They fly over, and they poop on an airport.
Tom:I mean, there are those insects. Cicadas, locust things that...
Tom:...hatch every seven or 13 years.
Dani:Oh, yep.
Tom:It's not completely out the question, that. Unfortunately not.
Bill:Every 56 years, the goose trees hatch, and all the geese come out.
Tom:Also, I think those cicadas are based on prime numbers. I think it's seven and 13 because it means that they don't tend to interact with cycles of predators or something like— I remember something vaguely about that.
Dani:That's good.
Bill:It's actually just 'cause they're big nerds. All cicadas, huge nerds.
Dani:So my one thought, and I'm a little bit afraid 'cause this is going into areas that I don't know very well, but we seem to be pinpointing the word 'forces'. So I wondered, is this magnetic shifts or something? Is this when the poles change?
Bill:Oh, what, what? And it strips the paint from the building?
Dani:No, that's not what I meant.
Bill:No, 'cause they're painted for like—
Tom:Sorry, that was— To use a soccer metaphor, that was a perfect cross from the corner... into the nine yard box.
Dani:I'm passing it to you!
Tom:You're right there... and just completely swings and misses, and it goes off into the crowd!
Bill:So, you acting again, it's about painting to line up with the magnetic— to what new north is. Because it's like north is slightly different.
Dani:Something like that.
Tom:Yes, that's the forces beyond their control. So, what are they painting and why?
Amelie:We know that they're painting the outside of the airport. But you want us to be more specific?
Tom:No, they're painting something.
Bill:Oh no, they're painting something else.
Tom:They're painting a specific— They're not just, "Oh god, the magnetic poles have shifted a little. We're gonna have to whitewash the outside of the airport again." This is a very specific thing that's being painted.
Bill:Okay. Allow me to take a dip into the pool of Tom Scott viewers that he was talking about earlier... I think are the ones who are also CGP Grey viewers.
Tom:There we go.
Bill:'Cause I feel like—
Dani:We have seen this.
Bill:CGP Grey did a fantastic video, but it was... all about the very specific ways in which runways are marked and numbered and painted. And it's to do with north-south orientation and angles and all that sort of nonsense. So when it changes, I guess I have to update their runways to be like, "Oh, okay! Hey, all of your equipment says something different now. Let me fix the runways."
Dani:Yeah, you can't go on runway 36 if you're coming in at a bearing of 38 now or something.
Tom:Yep, you've got it. So, runway numbers are based on the compass bearings that they're on. So, if it's a bearing of 234, they'll round it to 230 and then drop the zero. So that would be 23. And then occasionally, the magnetic north pole will move enough that the airport has to go out, scrub off the old runway number, and paint in 22 or 24 or something like that, because it doesn't match up anymore.

Dani, the last guest question of the show is all yours. Take it away.
Dani:This might be a bit of a callback to our last episode. (softly) Assuming it didn't get cut.

A crook, or a criminal, hangs around the entrance to an apartment block and observes one of the residents going inside. However, when he sees the electronic 'number pad' that secures the front door, he realises he's wasted his time. Why?

One more time.

A crook hangs around the entrance to an apartment block and observes one of the residents going inside. However, when he sees the electronic 'number pad' that secures the front door, he realises he's wasted his time. Why?
Tom:Is this literally the anecdote I did last time I was here?
Dani:He could get it to 50-50, but if he got it wrong once, the police would come. It is not that.
Bill:They'd be embarrassed, no. No, Tom, obviously this is Johnny No-Fingers who was casing the joint that, "Ah, I'm gonna get in there later. They're gonna have the door. It's gonna be unlocked. I'm gonna get in, I'm gonna— The only thing that could stop me is some kind of security device that requires me to use my fingers to push a pa— Oh no! It's an electronic lock! I'll never get in. Ah, Johnny No-Fingers loses again!"
Tom:The character work's back. It took two episodes, but the character work is back.
Bill:"I don't even know why I chose this career path! I got no fingers to hold the loot! What am I gonna do? I got a cash bag full of— I got of those big bags. There's a dollar sign on it. Keeps slipping outta my hands!"
Tom:Amelie, please save us from the shtick.
Dani:It was a natural career path 'cause he couldn't leave fingerprints anywhere.
Bill:That's why I chose it! "I thought I'd be safe, but I also can't do any crimes!"
Tom:Just to be clear, this is not the story I told last time about how the numbers are worn off, and he could just tell which numbers were being used a lot on the keypad?
Dani:No, 'cause that seems like it would be a bonus for him, if anything. But...
Amelie:Okay. So he saw the pad and he's like, "That's... I lost my time."
Dani:Yeah, he's not— and he hasn't wasted his time as in, "Oh, I could have done this much faster." He's wasted his time and is leaving.
Tom:Oh, right, okay. I misunderstood that. I assumed that it was a pad that you looked at and, "Oh, I don't need to have cased the joint at all. I could have just walked in."
Dani:Yes, I gathered that. I'm glad we clarified.
Bill:So, because if you were a thief, you went up to the pad, and then you saw that all the numbers, it was like a four digit code, but the label was, "Hey, the code is everybody's net worth." And you're like, "Four digit net worth? What am I gonna steal from these people?" And then he leaves. What kind of information... I'm setting up the question of what kind of information could you get from an electronic lock pad that would make you be like, "Ah, not worth breaking into"?
Tom:So there's something about the code or the way it's entered that means... Does it mean that you turn away, because you know there's nothing valuable in there, or you turn away because you know you will never make it inside or it's too secure?
Dani:Very fair question.
Bill:Or is it just one of those things like when you talk about security systems, a lot of security systems are set up to be like, "Oh, hey, these are— this is the security system, or there's a camera on you, or there's this, that, or the other." And half of those are lies, but they're there just specifically so that this happens, right? You go up to the lock and then you lean in. You look at it and it says, "This has a camera. We now have your face on camera." And you're like, "Bah, well, if I break in now... they got my face. I'm not Johnny No-Face. They can identify me by the face. That's my one weakness!" Is there something that's like, "Ha ha, if you do this crime, you're gonna get caught now"?
Dani:I wouldn't say that, no. And I think a little bit to focus on is, what was the criminal's plan initially? Based on what we heard, he observed one of the residents going inside... and then went to try it himself. So what was he planning on doing?
Amelie:So did he notice that that person maybe wasn't worth the risk?
Dani:No, the person didn't particularly matter. They were just a resident of this building.
Amelie:So it's really about the pad.
Dani:It is about the security.
Tom:So he is looking at the pad, and... I've assumed 'he', you know what? Not all criminals are men. They are shoulder—
Bill:Johnny No-Fingers is a real man's man.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:They're shoulder-surfing the password, or the passcode that goes in. I've realised that 'shoulder surfing' is a term from hacker movies in the '90s, but I'm gonna stick with it. To try and see what the code is that's being typed in. So... Could that code be a... Could that code convey information somehow? Could that code be a number that gives a clue about something?
Dani:I'm gonna go with, they were probably not quite shoulder surfing exactly. They probably— I assume they were wearing the full typical thief's getup, so they might have hung back a bit. They didn't wanna be seen quite that much.
Amelie:It's a normal pad with numbers?
Dani:Define normal.
Tom:Oh, come on!
Amelie:One to nine with a little star and a hashtag.
Dani:It does have the number zero to nine, plus the, you know— I guess a backspace and a yes button.
Tom:Oh, I feel like I've got nothing to grasp onto with this question.
Bill:Now you know how Johnny No-Fingers feels.
Tom:(laughs uproariously) God damnit! I hate that your callback worked that well! That's really annoying.
Dani:It is basically just as you are going through this picture in your head of exactly what is happening and exactly as he gets up to this number pad, something about your assumption about this visual might not be correct.
Bill:Amelie will know all about this. He got up to the pad and he was just like, "I can't put in this code 'cause these numbers are ridiculous." 'Cause they were all English translations of French numbers, where they were like, four tens and a 50? I'm like, no, I don't, I don't want, I want 90. You mean four tens and a couple of twenties? No, I don't—
Amelie:(giggles) Yeah, four 20s and a 10, exactly. That's how we say 90.
Bill:Four 20s and a 10.
SFX:(both giggling)
Tom:It's fine, you're not Danish. Danish is far worse.
Tom:I think the Danish for 70 is something like... three and a half 20s. Except the way to say 'three and a half' is 'four minus a half'.
Tom:So it's four minus a half times 20. I have done a video about this in the past. Now I can't remember the details. I apologise to the Danes for getting it wrong, but it's something like that. It's a weird—
Bill:I'll never apologize to the Danes.
Tom:Yeah, thank you to my producer, who's just fact checked me. Yeah, 97 in Danish is seven plus... minus a half plus five... times 20. That's the order in which you say the number. And of course, that's not what their brain's doing. You just hear it like any other number. But that's where the word comes from.
Bill:That's the words. So, yeah, is that it? Did we solve it?
Dani:On this number pad, the numbers do indeed look like numbers that you're familiar with.
Tom:Oh my god. We're gonna need more hints, Dani. We're completely...
Dani:Egh... Tell me what— yeah, what— Tell me in explicit detail what a normal number pad should look like.
Amelie:Okay, so you have little square metal numbers. You have the zero, and then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, I guess. And then here you have other little things. You said there was an arrow?
Dani:Amidst this... there have already been two things that are not true about this number pad.
Tom:Oh my god, okay.
Dani:That are related to each other.
Bill:So what's the layout of the numbers? Are they in a weird layout?
Bill:The zero's here, the one's here, the two's here.
Tom:And it doesn't have numbers on it, because...
Dani:It does have numbers on it.
Bill:It has zero to nine.
Dani:The other thing was, it is not those metal buttons that you might expect.
Bill:Is every button a fingerprint scanner?
Amelie:Yeah, that's what I was gonna say.
Dani:You're getting closer. It's not a fingerprint scanner. It is still, they need to input the correct number code to open this door, but you are blazing hot.
Amelie:So if you're not an authorised person, you wouldn't be able to activate that pad?
Dani:No, you could if you knew what you were doing. But the way this thief went about it, and the way he thought he could figure out what the code was, was not enough in order to get in there, in order to figure out what it was.
Bill:Is it one of those number pads where each button is actually its own little screen, and the numbers constantly change places all the time? So the one is here and then next time you go to put the code in, it's down here and it's up here? So you can't shoulder surf.
Dani:That is exactly what it is.
Dani:It wasn't about seeing the numbers. This thief tried to see the positions that the person's hand moved, but this is a little LCD screen lock, and so the numbers shift every time. So never will the wearing away of numbers be the problem.
Tom:I've even seen one of those. Damn it!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Bill:We won! Amelie, we did it. We beat Tom.
SFX:(group laughing)
Dani:In the last building that we lived in, it was a brand new building, which I don't know if it's the same way you live, but here that means loads of problems. Our key card would not let us swipe it to get into our building. We would always have to go in via the garage or via another building. But one day I got home at exactly the same time that a workman was arriving, and he had the special workman's code to get into the building. So I did a sneaky shoulder surf, and from then on never needed to use my keypass for the rest of the time we lived there. And we never got it functioning, so that keypad was all we had.
Tom:And that number was 24328, if anyone would like to get into 97 Acacia Avenue.
Dani:Well done. This thief realised he had wasted his time, because the keypad randomises the number positions each time you look at it.
Tom:Our last question then was the one that I asked the audience right at the very start of the show:

Sapphire gemstones occur in a variety of colours, except for one that can't be bought. Does anyone know what that is?

Do you wanna take a quick guess before we head onwards?
Dani:Is sapphires the one that... They're the same as rubies technically? So you can't find a red one, because that will always be listed as a ruby?
Tom:Absolutely right.
Dani:Oh, yes!
Bill:There we go!
Tom:Red sapphires are rubies, because they were discovered before chemical analysis figured out that they are actually just the same mineral.
Dani:I'm leaving now. Finishing on a high note. We're done. Mic drop.
Tom:On that high note, let's start with Amelie. Tell us what's going on in your life. Where can people find you?
Amelie:So you can find me on my YouTube channel, The Flute Channel, where you can listen to some flute or get better at playing the flute. And there's also The Flute Talk Podcast.
Tom:And next up, this time let's go to Bill first. Plug the podcast, plug what you're doing.
Bill:Yes, if you wanna check out other stuff that Dani and I are doing, you can check out Escape This Podcast where we have guests on to solve audio versions of escape rooms.
Tom:And the other half of that podcast is Dani Siller.
Dani:Our other one is Solve This Murder, where we create and then solve fictionalised crime, for when all the true crime becomes a little too real.
Tom:And if you wanna know more about this show, you can find us at, where you can send in a question of your own. You can find video highlights at, and we are @lateralcast pretty much everywhere. Thank you very much. It is goodbye from Bill Sunderland.
Bill:Good bye!
Tom:Dani Siller.
Dani:See you next time, I'm sure.
Tom:And Amelie Brodeur.
Amelie:Thanks for the game. It was very fun.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott and that was Lateral.
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