Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 45: Mission to nowhere

Published 18th August, 2023

Ruth Amos and Shawn Brown ('Kids Invent Stuff') and Dani Siller ('Escape This Podcast') face questions about bread balls, maligned musicals and profitable postage.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITED BY: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Dani Siller, Francesco Cusimano, Ethan Uyeda. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Why does some pizza parlours give away a free dough ball with every pizza?

The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

On today's show, we are joined by three guests who have degrees in quick wit, and a Masters in repartee, and PhDs in lightning fast comebacks. And their student loans must not be worth it.

We have, first of all, from Kids Invent Stuff, Ruth Amos.
Ruth:Hi. Thanks for having me.
Tom:Welcome back to the show. It's good to have you back. How was it last time? You were a first-timer. How did it feel?
Ruth:It was great. I couldn't think straight 'cause I was like, "Hang on a minute, where are we going with this?" But yes, it was great, and I loved it, and I'm back for more!
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom:Thank you for being so enthusiastic there. Also joining from Kids Invent Stuff, the other half of the channel, Shawn Brown, how are you feeling about it?
Shawn:Good, yeah, I enjoyed it last time. I didn't have any idea what to expect. In fact, I never even watched or listened to it. So I was going in blind. So now I at least have some— a vague sense of what I've let myself in for. And yes, I'm excited. I feel less like a rookie now, marginally.
Tom:Well, thank you very much for coming in, despite all that. You should also talk a little bit about Kids Invent Stuff, 'cause I do like the format. What are you working on between now and whenever this episode comes out?
Shawn:So we're currently editing a video where we built a kid's idea for a vegetable launcher. So it's a cannon that fires fruits and vegetables, that we had a lot of fun testing recently. My dog Luna, my Labrador, was particularly excited about the kind of games of chase involving various root vegetables and things. So yeah, that's currently what we're working on. But yeah, bringing kids' inventions to life is our specialty.
Tom:Well, you and Ruth are now both old hands with the show, so thank you for coming back. Also, joining us again is one of our regulars from Escape This Podcast, Dani Siller.
Dani:And don't worry, Tom, I listen to the show.
Dani:But, Shawn... on my whatever-th visit this is to the show, you still feel like a rookie the entire time. I still have no idea what I'm doing. But thank you for having me back, Tom. I appreciate it.
Tom:(laughs) Well, it's good to have you back. It's good to have all of you back. Thank you very much.

On this show, our questions take our guests on the scenic route around the foothills of Mount Logic. And sometimes I'm on the same journey too. Which is a worry because I have forgotten my crampons. So before someone falls into the valley of despair, let's trek to question one, which is:

An American inventor sells clocks that lose 39 minutes every day. Who is his most famous customer?

One more time.

An American inventor sells clocks that lose 39 minutes every day. Who is his most famous customer?
Dani:39 minutes per day. And this is very useful for, it sounds like one person.
Ruth:Or one industry?
Shawn:Who benefits from the loss of time?
Ruth:Oh, well, that's a deeper philosophical question.
Dani:Was this written in the present tense?
Tom:Yes, it was.
Shawn:Hmm, interesting.
Ruth:The only thing I know about clocks changing time is to do with when they go into space or something. And I'm like, but I'm pretty sure it's not 39 minutes. I'm pretty sure it's fractions of a second.
Dani:If you add up enough fractions of a second.
Ruth:Yeah, but they lose 39 minutes across every day. Is that right?
Tom:Yeah, that's right.
Shawn:Hmm. 'Cause if we're not talking bullet trains and relativity...
Tom:We're not, but... you're not starting far away from the answer here.
Dani:So is it likely that travel is an important feature of this? Again though, time zones where 39 minutes could be relevant? Oh my god, Ruth, please. You sound...
Ruth:No, I was literally, oh, turn. And then I was like, hang on a minute. Where is there a time zone that's that small of a difference? I mean, I don't know. I was thinking going from... the Channel Tunnel or something. But then I'm like, that's not 39 minutes.
Tom:This isn't Einsteinian relativity either. I think I remember reading once that the amount of time that's different for a train driver or something like that over the course of their life is... some tiny, tiny, tiny, almost unmeasurable fraction of a second. So yeah, not 39 minutes a day, but you're surprisingly close with that sort of wild swing there, Ruth.
Dani:Is it just some one poor individual somewhere who lives in a bizarre geographic place where for some reason, a journey they have to take of some sort, or a task that they have to do... It would be convenient for them to have this happen?
Tom:Oh, I'm keeping my mouth shut, 'cause you're really...
Dani:Oh, by all means, say yes. I have no follow-up. I'm hoping that someone does.
Tom:'Cause I listen back to these episodes before they go out, just to, you know, double-check everything. And sometimes, I'm listening back, and I hear someone say that, and it's like, oh yeah, no, that's, in hindsight, that's gonna sound like a bit of genius. And I can't give you any feedback on it without giving it away.
Ruth:Oh, is it like, I don't know, what— I'm trying to think of things you do... that might change time. So is it something to do with diving? If you dive down, or if you...
Tom:Your first guess was a lot closer. By which I mean—
Ruth:Space, space is better.
Tom:Literally a lot closer.
Shawn:So we're not talking— It's interesting, isn't it? 'Cause we're talking about losing time, rather than a time difference.
Ruth:Oh yeah, 'cause I was gonna say, what's the time difference on the...
Dani:Space stations or something like that.
Ruth:Space station. I was like, what's it called? Yeah, but— Oh, oh, Tom's pulling a funny face.
Dani:That has some sort of near-Earth orbit. I assume it's time of doing a full rotation. I don't know how it works. I wanna say, "Oh yes. I imagine that would be closer to 39 minutes less per day." I couldn't tell you if that's true or not.
Tom:I'm really glad that I was the one who got given this question, 'cause I'm that sort of annoying space nerd who would've got that immediately, because I know how long it takes the International Space Station to orbit, and it's about 90 minutes.
Tom:So that's not quite right. But you are edging ever closer... quite literally in terms of where you're talking about to the correct solutions.
Ruth:Some sort of satellite? Is it to do with something that— a clock that's needed to measure some sort of satellite GPS thing or something? I'm trying to think, what else is out there in space? I can't remember. I'm pretty sure there's no one that lives on the moon or Mars yet. I'm pretty sure we sorted that.
Tom:You sure about that?
Ruth:Are there people who live on the moon? Is it the man in the moon's clock?
Tom:Oh, you... (grumbles) Ah, you're getting really close. You're getting really close. So, I think you can probably solve who their customer is.
Tom:These clocks are being sold by Brian Mumford of Mumford Microsystems to NASA. I believe they're also available to other folks, but NASA buys these clocks.
Ruth:Charging a fortune per clock to stay in business.
Dani:Oh, I can only imagine.
Ruth:Is it to do with... a moon day? Are you measuring a moon day?
Dani:It is that, because isn't it the thing of, hey, an Earth day is 24 hours, and it just so happens that the moon is basically the same, so the rotations sort of rotate together?
Tom:It's not the moon. It's...
Tom:Mars. Absolutely right. So these sit in the control rooms for the Martian rover.
Ruth:Of course there's no people! The robots are up there. Of course!
Dani:I didn't think of the robot people. Robots—
Ruth:I didn't think of the robot people.
Dani:Robots wasn't the answer last time we did one of these together. Why should it have been the answer this time?
Shawn:Let's just guess robot every time.
Tom:That's why when you said, it's for some individual out there in space, I was like, oh, you're nearly there! You're so nearly there.
Ruth:I always forget about the robots, and that's the soundbite they'll use when they come and kill us all.
SFX:(Tom and Dani laugh)
Tom:So yes, these clocks are manufactured for NASA so that they can keep in time with the rovers on Mars.

All of our guests have brought a question with them. Dani, this one's yours.
Dani:It is very much mine, because I wrote this one. So...
Dani:Take an appropriate amount of time with it guys, if you please.
Ruth:Yeah. If we know the answer, let's leave it a bit longer, just so Dani's like, "Yes!"
Dani:In their day, the British musical pair Gilbert and Sullivan were wildly popular in the US, with their work performed to packed audiences. Why weren't they happy about this?

One more time.

In their day, the British musical pair Gilbert and Sullivan were wildly popular in the US, with their work performed to packed audiences. Why weren't they happy about this?
Tom:I have to back outta this question.
Tom:Because 20 years ago, I dunno if it still does, my university had a Gilbert and Sullivan Society. I knew a couple of people who were in it, and while I was never on stage performing myself, I know this story, so I am gonna sit out.
Ruth:He knows the story and every word to to The Pirates of Penzance.
Dani:I have been in Pirates of Penzance. It's a good one. And it's— Yeah it's— Oh, it's such a good one to sing.
Tom:After the closing credits of this episode, there will be an entire sing-along of Modern Major-General. Just to let you know, that's gonna be tacked onto the end of this.
Dani:Isn't it nine years ago? Let's see if I remember.
Ruth:Is it to do... How many Americans am I gonna offend this episode, is the question? Is it to do with... the calibre of audience or the calibre of performer?
Dani:So basically trying to decide how much was it they didn't like Americans.
Ruth:(laughs) Yes!
Dani:I'll give you two plenty of time to talk about it. It's only, it's just the two of you.
Shawn:Is it a sound thing? Is it like that they— Did it ruin the acoustics, having a really packed space? I mean, that seems like the opposite of what it would do, but... Does it— Was there a practical musical problem with having lots of people there?
Dani:Oh no, it was packed audiences, 'cause the music sounded wonderful. They were very talented.
Dani:And as far as I know, the theatres were built great.
Ruth:Was it the fact that they were really popular, but they weren't the ones performing? That feels like the sort of thing, like a writer of their thing would... I mean, yeah, they were... Upset by—
Dani:They were the mus— They were the creators. So, I'm not aware if they were ever the performers on stage as well. That's not what I would've associated them with.
Tom:I'm not gonna claim I'm a Gilbert and Sullivan expert, but I'm pretty sure they didn't perform.
Ruth:No, I just, I'm trying to think of the, you know, whether it was an ego thing of like, oh, they love it, but it's not— Ooh, it's not our version. Did they change the words? 'Cause that really annoys us.
Dani:Oh, have you ever looked at that? I know that they have it with Harry Potter books. I'm not sure how many other books they have this with. You can find a side-by-side version of all the changes that they made going to American things. And some of it is a little bit heartbreaking. Some of it is just baffling. They change things and you go, I don't— I had no idea that apparently, that was going to be a linguistic confusion. Those are just normal words.
Tom:We get complaints at this podcast whether I do the thing where I translate words for Americans, or whether I don't. If I say a British word and then translate it for Americans, I get comp— And also, it's North Americans, or it's the rest of the world. I get complaints if I make that translation, because I'm being patronising. And I get complaints if I don't, because they can't understand the questions!
Shawn:So I suppose the question is, is there a little known Gilbert and Sullivan track called like The Color of Aluminum or something that we dunno about, and they didn't change it?
Tom:No, but that does still scan to Pirates of Penzance.
Shawn:(laughs) It does. That's true.
Dani:They were not specifically annoyed that... some lyrics got changed or anything.
Ruth:(gasp) Did they not get royalties? Did they not get paid for it? Is it to do with the fact that their copyright or something, like they should have made a fortune and they never did?
Dani:That is exactly what was going on. Why? Why was this happening? Why wasn't they making money, even though they were packed audiences?
Ruth:Because copyright didn't— No, copyright did exist then.
Dani:You're basically there. While you're right, copyright did exist back then, international copyright, a little bit more of an issue.
Ruth:Oh, I see. So it was protected the UK, not in America. So the Americans were like, "Great, we can make a fortune."
Dani:Exactly, if they got performed once in the UK, somehow all of the music, all of the information just went straight across the ocean. And hundreds of different theatre groups were performing these things, and Gilbert and Sullivan themselves, not happy about it. And this was a common thing. There's a transcript somewhere of Charles Dickens complaining about this being a big problem. So it was not just them, it was all of the writing fields.
Dani:So yes, Gilbert and Sullivan, despite their wild popularity in the US, were not happy, 'cause they weren't getting any money. International copyright didn't exist yet.
Tom:Next one's from me, sent in by Ethan Uyeda. Thank you, Ethan.

In the film Top Gun: Maverick, a computer screen reveals that there is an enemy base at 48 degrees, 52.6 minutes south, 123 degrees, 23.6 minutes west. Why was this specific location chosen?

One more time.

In the film Top Gun: Maverick, a computer screen reveals that there is an enemy base at 48 degrees, 52.6 minutes south, 123 degrees, 23.6 minutes west. Why was this specific location chosen?
Dani:Alright. Are we thinking there is something special that's located there, that would just be a funny, nice position to have an enemy? Or do you think there is some code hidden in the numbers that we should be trying to solve right now?
Ruth:Well, I didn't write them down, so hopefully someone else did. (giggles)
Dani:I'm on it.
Shawn:Is it like... Could it be like... the phone numbers they have for TV that are specific ones that are used for TV or for films? So could it be that, that is like the middle of the ocean? So if someone was to just randomly bomb it for, because he saw it in the show, it wouldn't actually be a bit of land?
Ruth:Or it's the director's home address.
Shawn:He wants to be bombed.
Tom:Here's the thing. One of you two has just nailed that location.
Tom:It is either the director's home address or the point in the middle of the ocean. So—
Ruth:Let's bomb 'em both and see what happens.
Dani:Were they trying to be responsible or funny? This is what we're going with here.
Tom:The only things you need to work this out, just to help the folks listening at home. The only things you need are the 48 degrees south, 123 degrees west. So based on geography, which of those do you think it is?
Dani:That's very far west.
Shawn:The 48 south, probably.
Tom:48 south, 123 west.
Dani:Anyone have a good idea on their own coordinates as a starting point?
Ruth:Nope, no idea where I am in the world. I barely know what time it is. (laughs)
Tom:Just take a punt. 48 degrees south of the equator, 123 degrees west of Greenwich. Middle of the ocean, or director's house? Shawn, pick one.
Shawn:Middle of the ocean.
Ruth:Director's house.
Dani:This is horrible. Middle of the ocean.
Tom:Middle of the ocean's correct. It is actually Point Nemo. It is the position furthest from any land.
Ruth:Well actually, the director lives on a boat, and that's where the boat currently is.
Dani:Yeah, I plumped with a guess that the director was probably a Northern Hemisphere person, so that's why I went with ocean. But I didn't consider the boat problem.
Tom:So that's the point identified. It's Point Nemo. But the question is, why was that specific location chosen?
Ruth:Is it some Easter egg to do with... either so the rest of the film or the series, or some sort of, I don't know— Were they going all Taylor Swift, and they're dropping them Easter eggs in the film for all those die hard fans?
Tom:It's Top Gun, not Die Hard. Sorry!
SFX:(group laughing)
Ruth:Oh yeah, sorry.
Tom:Sorry. I saw an open goal.
Dani:You got her!
Tom:I'm just like, I might as well tap that one in.
Ruth:It was great. You've gotta take the openings. You've gotta take them.
Dani:The one thing I know about Top Gun: Maverick is that apparently they were very vague about who this, the enemy was. So I wonder if they were being as locationally vague, as far away from any real location that 'an enemy' might live as possible.
Ruth:So they don't offend anyone.
Tom:Yep, it's the point furthest from land. The point furthest from where there could be any enemy bases. So they just decided, you know what? We're gonna have the graphics there. So we deliberately keep the enemy as vague as possible, even for the nerds who are freeze-framing.
Tom:Shawn, the next question is yours. Over to you.
Shawn:Okay, so this is a listener question that's been sent in by Francesco Cusimano. And the question is that:

In 2023, protestors against an unpopular reform graffitied the numbers 64, 62, and 60 in specific locations around Paris. Where were these numbers seen?

So in 2023, protestors against an unpopular reform graffitied the numbers 64, 62, and 60 in specific locations around Paris. Where were these numbers seen?
Tom:We have a lot of questions on this show that start with 'in' and a year. Because they're normally historical. So I was all ready for a historical question there. Then you said 2023.
Dani:Now, does that make you feel good, or does that make you panic? Where do you lie on the current events/ historical events spectrum?
Tom:So I think I know what the protest would've been. And that is the French pension age protests. You're nodding along there, Dani.
Dani:Yeah, they just raised their retirement age to 67 or something like that, didn't they? And it was not— People were not happy about it.
Ruth:But the question is, where can it be seen from, right?
Dani:Oh yeah. Again, this is good starting information. I have no idea where it goes.
Shawn:So you hit the nail on the head with those numbers representing ages, and the relationship there to the... France's retirement age.
Tom:I think it's actually going up from 60 to 64, isn't it? 'Cause the French retirement age is...
Tom:...far below Britain's. Mostly because anytime they try and raise it, there are massive protests and strikes.
Ruth:So that would make sense with the 60, 62, 64, right? If it was going from 60 to 64.
Dani:It makes sense. You could well be right.
Shawn:Yeah. So, so yeah. You're sort of firmly hitting the nail on the head there. So it used to be 60. In 2010, they changed it to 62. And then in 2023, this year, they are trying to raise it to... a bit further to 64. But where? Where were these numbers seen?
Tom:French stereotype— on a guillotine.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ruth:But I was gonna say, if I was gonna protest, the only number I'd want to survive is 60. 'Cause you probably wanna push it back to 60, right? So where is there somewhere where you could— I mean, you could destroy the 62, 64. That's my thinking, is if I was gonna protest, I would want the numbers 62 and 64 to dramatically, I don't know, explode or something. But it's not my protest, so I don't know.
Shawn:Oh, it's a good way of thinking though. You're sort of thinking about them being located in sort of strategic places where it would have a visual impact. You're definitely on the—
Tom:It's a bit late to put them on Notre Dame. That's a few years old now.
SFX:(group snickers)
Tom:Sorry, a Notre Dame fire joke there. Sorry, you know, casual joke about disasters in Paris.
Dani:Man, a lot of these are, I don't wanna say more cheerful. I feel like I went in the morbid direction for it. I went straight to, oh, they went to cemeteries, and they found all the records of like average lifespan, and they went, oh, you wanna raise our retirement age to 64? Look at the average lifespan only being 62 just a couple of decades ago.
Tom:Oh, that is morbid.
Dani:Yeah, right?
Ruth:I mean what we're learning from this episode is they should hire us to do their campaigns, 'cause we're coming up with some great ideas.
Tom:'Cause we'll graffiti gravestones.
Ruth:Yeah, if anyone wants to talk, yeah. Dani and I are ready for a little bit of consultation on how you should rebel.
Dani:There's just not enough marketing in cemeteries these days. Okay, where would these numbers be good? Speed limits? That could be a 60.
Shawn:Ooh, ooh, you're—
Ruth:Ooh, like on the roads.
Shawn:Ooh, you're very warm there. I'll give you that.
Ruth:What is the national speed limit in France?
Tom:I should know that. I've driven there. (laughs nervously) In cities, it's gonna be lower. In cities, it's gonna be something like 50. But next to roads, road signs, some sort of infrastructure.
Ruth:Because they're kilometres, right?
Dani:Oh, they are? Okay.
Tom:Yeah they're kilomet— Everywhere that is not Britain or America is kilometres.
Ruth:So, but you could easily change a 50 kilometre sign to read 60, 62, or 64, right?
Tom:Yeah, you want them to get destroyed somehow.
Ruth:I mean, do you? I mean, I might have— That might not be true. I'm just thinking if I was gonna do it as a statement... I would want them to get destroyed.
Shawn:So, you're super warm. I'm gonna give you a little clue, in that it only works because there's exactly three numbers. That's a little clue for you, but you're obviously on the right track. It's not speed limits.
Dani:Oh, was it traffic lights? Green, 60 is okay.
Dani:62, ooh, I don't know about that.
Shawn:Yeah, absolutely hit the nail on the head. So, it is indeed traffic lights. So... Protestors wrote numbers on local traffic lights of 60 in green, 62 in amber, and 64 in red, which is a brilliant bit of data visualisation using public infrastructure.
Tom:I mean data visualisation using public infrastructure is basically my dream YouTube channel there. You've summed up what I do, so thank you for that.
Dani:Protestors make the best performance art and street art, don't they?
Shawn:They really do.
Tom:My next question then. Iga is famous for supplying breadsticks and bagels. She can give a maximum of two per person, usually to women. She once gave a breadstick and a bagel to Madison, but she was not best pleased. Why? So one more time. Iga is famous for supplying breadsticks and bagels. She can give a maximum of two per person, usually to women. She once gave a breadstick and a bagel to Madison, but she was not best pleased about it. Why?
Ruth:'Cause she's allergic to gluten, like me and Matt. That's what we bond over, the lack of gluten in our food.
Dani:I mean, I think we're missing the obvious here, which is that Madison was a robot.
SFX:(Tom and Shawn laugh)
Shawn:The answer to everything.
Ruth:Robot's always the answer, right? That's what we've decided. Robot's always the answer.
Dani:And I would not be happy about someone giving away my bread to robots. I feel like that is the real serious step in the uprising.
Shawn:Was Madison upset because the small print wasn't specific, and she was expecting two breadsticks and two bagels, not just one breadstick and one bagel?
Tom:I think she'd have been less happy with more breadsticks and bagels there.
Ruth:Is Madison a thing that is allergic to it, in the sense of not a person? Are there animals that are allergic to breadsticks and bagels?
Tom:I'm gonna let y'all talk about this for a little while first.
Dani:You don't wanna let me talk too much about this, because I hear breadsticks and bagels being sold mostly to women, and I'm going straight to the erotic bakery.
Tom:Oh my god. Okay, no. I don't want you to continue talking about this.
SFX:(both laughing)
Shawn:I need clarification on the existence of the erotic bakery. Is this a thing?
Dani:I could tell you stories for days, but apparently it'll have to wait till we're off the air.
Tom:That sound you can hear is the sound of this section hitting the cutting room floor at speed.
Shawn:This is our protest, Dani, just carry on. This is our form of protest. We just said protest is the most creative form of expression. So right now I want you to tell me in excruciating detail about the erotic bakery.
Dani:I promise you all of my information is once again from the Simpsons episode about it.
Shawn:That makes perfect sense.
Tom:I'll try and drag this back. Madison and Iga are real people.
Dani:I wondered, those were very specific names to have chosen.
Tom:They are, aren't they? They really are.
Ruth:And are we talking about actual bread and bagels, or is this another thing?
Tom:And that's the question I was hoping someone was gonna ask.
Dani:Oh no. Where are not real or metaphorical bread and bagels found?
Ruth:Is it a code name for something else? Hmm.
Shawn:Hmm, interesting.
Ruth:You can have two of one? I didn't make notes.
Dani:Yeah, what were these products? How closely should we have paid attention to exactly what the products were and the numbers?
Tom:The numbers are less important. The products are very significant. Breadstick and bagel.
Ruth:When you don't want them. You don't want breadstick and bagel.
Tom:No, you wouldn't want those.
Ruth:But you can give the two to a person, right? Is that what it said in the question?
Dani:Is it relevant that a breadstick and a bagel look like ones and zeros?
Tom:Oh, that's very relevant, Dani.
Dani:Oh boy.
Dani:So you can give out two things, and this person got a one and a zero, and that stinks. I assume it's the zero that's the problem? Or is it the combination? What do we think?
Tom:Neither of them are very good.
Dani:Oh? I wonder what would be a good option.
Ruth:All I can think of is code or binary, when we're talking about ones and zeros, and I'm trying to work out why giving some code would be bad. (giggles)
Shawn:I think more people would take up careers in computing.
Tom:The best possible option would be a six. I'll tell you, this is not about computing. We have perhaps picked three not particularly good folks for this question to get aimed at.
Shawn:How dare you.
Dani:Oh dear.
Ruth:The best option would be a six? Is this some sort— Is this in a game?
Dani:Oh, we've already made clear that we don't gamble enough, isn't— haven't we?
Ruth:Oh, yeah, are we gambling, or are we D&D-ing? Where are we on the scale?
Shawn:Is this about Magic: The Gathering?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:I love that we've got you three here for this question. 'Cause again, you have immediately gone to completely the wrong things out of the world. Outta that Trivial Pursuit thing that is sports and leisure. You have gone for entirely the wrong part of that pie.
Dani:Ah, yes.
Ruth:Is it a sport thing?
Tom:Yes, it's a sport thing.
Ruth:Is it like, I don't know. What has weird names of things like... golf, cricket, I don't know, tennis? What else has got a weird thing? Oh, one nil, one...
Tom:Keep going.
Ruth:Tennis is, one loaf.
Dani:Oh. Oh, oh, okay.
Tom:And the best option there is a six.
Dani:Ugh. You know what's so frustrating?
Dani:I just went, we think these are real people. Iga. I only know one Iga, Iga Świątek. And well, that's not gonna be relevant at all.
Tom:Yeah, that is very, very relevant. Who is Iga Świątek?
Dani:I am not very good with my nationalities, but I believe she's a pretty top tennis player, and the Madison may be Madison Keys, the American?
Tom:Madison Keys, yep. This is a sports question. Sorry.
Ruth:Oh, no!
Tom:So what—
Ruth:We don't do that.
Tom:What is Iga's Bakery... and why do people not like getting breadsticks and bagels from it?
Ruth:Does this mean how many points you can score against her?
Tom:Yep. A 6-0 score in a set of tennis is called a bagel. A 6-1 score is a breadstick. And Iga is famous—
Dani:I got that wrong at a trivia a month ago!
Ruth:I mean, I was thinking food. I was thinking coding. I was like, why have you given us the sports?
Tom:Yeah, I can even tell you the game. This was 16th of March, 2022. She beat Keys 6-1, 6-nil at Indian Wells. Is it 6-nil or 6-love when you're on sets? Honestly, I don't know. (laughs) We've got a load of non-sport people, and I got the sports question to give you. So, sorry for that, folks, but yes.

This is Iga's Bakery because Iga Świątek is known for giving out breadsticks and bagels, ones and zeros, to her opponents.
Dani:It's phenomenal, just the effect that sports can have on trivia people. Tennis is the only sport that I do pay attention to. And I watched the Australian Open. I know some of these people. Apparently I haven't learned the language though.
Shawn:It's also amazing the effect that conversation about breadsticks and bagels are gonna have on my stomach. I'm starving now.
Tom:Honestly, if you hear growling, that is my stomach. That just started up during that question.

Ruth, it's over to you. What's your question?
Ruth:Okay, so...

On the 8th of January 1993, stamp collectors posted items bearing a popular stamp to incorrect addresses, hoping that something highly appropriate would add value to it. What was it?

On the 8th of January 1993, stamp collectors posted items bearing a popular stamp to incorrect addresses, hoping that something highly appropriate would add value to it. What was it?
Tom:I think I know this one. I'm gonna sit out. I'm gonna sit out, and if I'm wrong... you can all shame me for it later. But I think I'm gonna sit out.
Shawn:So we can narrow it down by something that Tom Scott might know.
SFX:(others laughing)
Shawn:What could— I mean that really narrows it down, doesn't it?
Dani:Alright, so what happens when you send something to a wrong address? My first thought here, you would write, "Not at this address" on the envelope. But then I thought there's also "Return to sender," and that sounds more like a cool phrase that people would know about. Is there something that would fit if you put "Return to sender" on it?
Ruth:You're heading in the right direction.
Shawn:What— So you— But it has to be something specifically that only happens when it gets returned. Because otherwise you would just post it to your mate, and then they give it to you, so... It needs to be something that is specific to... specific to getting it sent back. So is there some kind of stamp? Some kind of rubber stamp, ink stamp?
Dani:I don't know what those sorts of stamps would look like, but they sound useful. We still get old people who own this apartment's mail.
Ruth:You're heading in the right direction.
Dani:8th of January 1993.
Ruth:Yeah, 8th of January 1993. I don't think you need any more help. I feel like you're heading in the right direction. If you talk it out, I think you'll probably get it.
Dani:Ugh, alright. Well, that date I'm sure was important, but... That wouldn't have been written somewhere on the envelope, would it? They don't do that on envelopes anywhere, right?
Shawn:They do, don't they, in the postmark? It'll often have the date, won't it?
Dani:Oh, interesting.
Shawn:So was there something— What happened on that date?
Dani:What was going on in 1993? And as a two year old, bit of a blind spot of mine.
Shawn:I didn't have much on you of my extra year. As a three year old, I wasn't really kind of really up on current affairs.
Ruth:So, the stamping question... was for someone's birthday.
Ruth:So it's not so much about the date, but what was someone's birthday on that date? Which probably actually doesn't help you really. So there we go. (giggles)
Shawn:I mean, I guess— I suppose the things, the obvious things aren't there, I suppose. Like it's, who's on a stamp? It's a normal stamp. So it's the Queen, isn't it? So was it the Queen's birthday?
Ruth:Is it a normal stamp?
Shawn:Didn't they say it was a fairly ordinary stamp?
Ruth:They said it was a popular stamp.
Shawn:A popular, okay. Not just any old stamp.
Ruth:Don't assume that this is a British stamp.
Shawn:Oh, that narrows it.
Dani:I was wondering, because again, not an area that I would've known. Now here, our stamps are changing all the time. So, I don't have a consistent image to rely upon. So what would've been popular to put on a stamp design in 1993? Is it just gonna be another person? Is it something pop culturey? Did someone die?
Ruth:Is there a link? So you've already spoken about... what people might be doing by sending it to an incorrect address. Is there a way that those things might... be entwined?
Dani:Do people have a 'return to sender' stamp or something along those lines? Was that a song?
Shawn:♪ Return to Sender ♪

Is there a 'Return to Sender' stamp, and was it Elvis?
Dani:Oh, okay. That's who did the song, is it?
Ruth:Correct, correct! So, stamp collectors hoped that the US Postal Service would rubber stamp the item "Return to sender". And they have a lovely red with a little point thing, which is the title, obviously, of Elvis's famous hit. And then that it get returned to them. And a first-day cover... So this was a stamp released to mark his 58th birthday, and a first-day cover bearing the Elvis stamp under a 'Return to Sender' rubber mark went on sale on eBay for 90 dollars. Which is back in 1993. I think that's, yeah. That's a significant amount of money. So, yeah, so they sent them out hoping that they'd get stamped with 'Return to Sender', and they would become worth a lot more money.
Dani:Sport followed by music. Well played.
Tom:(laughs) What got me was the look on your face, Dani. Oh, that's who did the songs. Okay, that's the key bit.
Dani:(laughs) Yep.
Shawn:Did my impression not kind of yield that already? Didn't you already know from me just loosely saying the lyrics in a vaguely musical way?
Tom:Here's the thing. There won't be a performance of Return to Sender after the credits on this one. Because we don't have the copyright to that. Gilbert and Sullivan, out of copyright.
Dani:Oh yeah.
Tom:We can do that.

One last thing then. At the start of the show, I asked why some pizza parlours give away a free dough ball with every pizza?

Before I give the answer, does anyone wanna take a quick guess at that?
Dani:I have one guess for it. And it relates to how much my dog loves empty pizza boxes. Does that feel related?
Tom:It's something to do with the box.
Ruth:Is it to do with if it's on the top of the pizza, it stops the pizza getting squashed?
Tom:Yep, it is a replacement for that little plastic pizza table that a load of pizza parlours put in the middle of the pizza, in order to stop the box crushing it. Absolutely right.

With that, thank you very much to our players. Let's find out what's going on in your lives.

We'll start with Ruth.
Ruth:Hey, yeah. If you wanna watch crazy invention ideas that've been designed by kids brought to life, then check us out over on Kids Invent Stuff.
Tom:And you know what? I'm gonna go in a completely illogical order, Dani.
Dani:(snickers) So I make podcasts, versions of escape rooms, and we actually have an Itch page where we give away all of those notes to you, so that you can play them yourself with friends at home. And that's at
Tom:And Shawn.
Shawn:So Ruth said about our videos, which people can watch, but if people know of any kids who might like their invention ideas brought to life, then you can send 'em to our website,, where 4–11 year olds can send us their ideas for a chance to have their invention built on our YouTube channel.
Tom:And if you wanna send in your questions for this show or just find out more, you can do that at There are video highlights every week at, and we are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere.

With that, thank you very much to Shawn Brown.
Shawn:Amazing to be here.
Tom:Ruth Amos.
Ruth:Thanks for having me.
Tom:And Dani Siller.
Dani:Thank you so much. It's wonderful.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.

Oh hell. (sighs)

♪ I...

Am the very model of a modern major-general

I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral

I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical

from Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical ♪

(sharp inhale)

♪ I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical

About binomial theorem I'm teaming with a lot of news

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse ♪
Dani:♪ With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse

Many cheerful facts about the square of the hypote-potenuse ♪
Tom:Aaagh, that's where I run out! That's where I run out. Sorry.
Ruth:Oh, you were doing so well, so well!
Shawn:Smashed it.
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