Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 50: Undercover sunburn

Published 22nd September, 2023

Caroline Roper, Ella Hubber and Tom Lum from 'Let's Learn Everything!' face questions about story studies, Disney descriptions and pictorial publicity.

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: Ian Richens, Sean Anderson, Bob. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom Scott:Which 1989 live-action Disney film has a grammatical mistake in its title?

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

Welcome to the show. The script here says that I need to read this in a pirate accent, and for historical reasons, I refuse to do that. So, ahoy me hearties, and welcome aboard the good ship Lateral. You'll be setting sail on a journey that'll shiver your timbers and your brain cells.

Joining us for this episode, we have...
SFX:(guests giggling)
Tom Scott:Back again, the crew from Let's Learn Everything, the podcast. And it is always a little bit of chaos trying to introduce a podcast with three hosts. Someone's got to take priority, and it's going to be...

You know what? We're gonna go in alphabetical order. Caroline Roper, how are you doing?
Caroline:I'm doing so good. Thank you very much. If not a little bit sweaty, with it being so warm here today in the UK.
Ella:Great, nice.
SFX:(Ella and Tom Scott laugh)
Caroline:Yeah, you're so welcome, everyone.
Tom Lum:My sweat is all from nerves. I'm ready to go.
Caroline:Aww. (laughs)
Tom Lum:I've been working out mentally.
Ella:It's because he knows he's gonna lose!
Tom Lum:(chuckles)
Caroline:Haah! (giggles)
Tom Scott:Which brings us on to Ella Hubber. I'm going to ask, what have you learned since the last time we were on the show?
Ella:On our podcast, Let's Learn Everything, we learn everything. So I have in fact learnt... everything? I would say, just everything.
Tom Scott:Mission accomplished.
Ella:Yep, I'm gonna make this show very difficult for everyone, because I know all the answers.
Caroline:Wow, this is some real fighting talk from you today.
Tom Scott:And rounding out the trio, Tom Lum. How are you doing?
Tom Lum:Shiver me brain cells!
Tom Scott:I knew that was coming, I knew it. Someone was going to.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Ella laugh)
Tom Lum:I don't know. I guess it's good that now... now Tom Scott knows who I am as a person to expect that, I guess by episode three! There's nothing to hide.
Tom Scott:Is that a self-burn? I don't know.
Tom Lum:Oh yeah. (wheezes)
Caroline:The last time we were here... Was it the last time we were here? The last time we spoke, Tom, you said something about our Tom, which I've kept with me, which was the sentence "I'm not rewarding that,"
Tom Scott:Oh yeah! (laughs)
Tom Lum:(hyena-laughs)
Caroline:which has just...
Caroline:It's become a part of my vocabulary. You know, when a therapist tells you how to communicate something with your problematic family member? That's what you did for me. (laughs)
Ella:We do that every episode now, whenever Tom makes a joke like that, so...
SFX:(both Toms laugh)
Caroline:Yeah, yeah. So thank you. (giggles)
Tom Scott:Right, well if...
Tom Lum:Good to be back.
Tom Scott:If we're all ready... Avast, let us raise the jolly roger of curiosity as we embark on a quest that'll make your noggin dance a jig. I will not forgive the script writer for that. We start off with question one.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Question one was sent in by Bob. Thank you very much.

The phrase 'dragging your feet' is usually associated with being unwilling to do something. However, tourists in Florida and California are often advised to drag their feet, and they're usually happy to comply. Why?

I'll give you that one more time.

The phrase 'dragging your feet' is usually associated with being unwilling to do something. However, tourists in Florida and California are often advised to drag their feet, and they are usually happy to comply. Why, me hearties?
Tom Lum:Sand worms.
Ella:S— Ooh.
Tom Lum:From Dune, this is like the worm dance that you have to do... so that they don't sense you.
Ella:Attracting sandworms. Oh, oh, I see, no. You want to keep them away.
Tom Lum:Uh-huh, yeah, that one.
Ella:Is it on the beach? Because it feels like it should be on the beach. It's something about, you know, like...
Tom Lum:That's California, Florida, right?
Caroline:Is it something to do with electricity going through the ground? Because I know—
Tom Lum:I— No, I—
Caroline:No, hear me out. Hear me out.
Ella:You're staticking up the ground.
Caroline:(laughs) No, no, no, no, no. 'Cause if an electrical— a live wire hits the ground, you're fine if you stand still, because both of your feet make a circuit. The electricity travels through your body. But as soon as you break that circuit, that's when you become at risk, basically. So you can't—
Ella:So what you're saying is Florida and California are just absolutely covered in live wires everywhere, sticking out the ground.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Caroline:Yeah, all the time, everywhere. (laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:I mean, I believe it for Florida, but I... How does that work?
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:I didn't know that. And what if two parts of the ground are at different potentials? Then if you take two—
Tom Lum:I believe you're supposed to scurry like this. Like your feet side by side.
Tom Scott:I was gonna say that doesn't make sense. Then I remembered there's... There's a place I've been to in Chicago, where there is the fish barrier, the electric fish barrier. They have to let shipping thru a canal in the Great Lakes, but they can't let invasive carp through. So this whole section of the waterway is electrified.
Tom Lum:I'm sorry... what?
Caroline:(gasps) Whaat?
Tom Scott:So the, there is— So I got a safety booklet on arrival. And one of the things was, don't touch two metal things at the same time. You can touch one metal thing, and you can touch the other metal thing, but there might be—
Tom Scott:There shouldn't be. But in the event that there's been a bit of leakage of voltage from somewhere, then you could technically create a difference in potential by touching two things. So I was going to say, oh, that doesn't make sense. But yeah, I guess if you've got two legs, and the electricity might decide to go that way. However, nothing to do with electricity. You are right about the beaches though.
Ella:Beaches, okay.
Tom Lum:Well, I was gonna say, 'cause California is the live wire state, right? I think.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom Lum:As the only American here, I can confirm that. (wheezes)
Ella:And I believe you.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:So there is sandworms. Beaches.
Ella:Yeah, okay, so is there something... I'm trying to think of... Florida has a big seaweed problem from the Sargasso Sea. And so maybe it's some kind of clearing, dragging your feet through the seaweed, clearing it up, you're kicking it off.
Caroline:The most inefficient beach clean ever is what you're suggesting basically. I love it.
Ella:Yeah, basically. But that doesn't happen in California.
Tom Scott:The thing is, Tom... and I don't know how many people out there got the Dune reference, but... you're not that far away with sandworms.
Tom Lum:Oh, then it's the Arrakis people. Is it not? Or is it the...
SFX:(Ella and Tom Scott laugh)
Tom Lum:some other Dune reference character?
Tom Scott:Throughout this run of shows... my lack of classic literature knowledge and classic sci-fi and fantasy literature knowledge keeps getting showed up, 'cause I screwed up a Lord of the Rings reference the other show.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Ella gasp)
Tom Scott:And now I've gotta admit, I couldn't get into Dune either.
Tom Lum:Unforgivable. (wheezes)
Ella:I don't like Dune. There's too much lore. I'm gonna get attacked by the nerds now.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:I'm a nerd, I promise! Okay, so, okay, we've got sand— No, we don't have sandworms. We have— Is it like some kind of shell creature that needs to breathe?
Tom Lum:Ooh, ooh.
Caroline:Ooh, you see, I was thinking. Is stepping, like drawing too much attention to you in some way? And is shuffling making you less obvious to an animal of some sort, maybe?
Tom Lum:Well I'm trying to think, what's in common between California and Florida? I want to say... I mean when you said Florida, I assumed gators of some kind, maybe would be not... But if it's a beach animal... I'm trying to think, yeah, seashell. Could it be... a jellyfish? Those are the live wires of the sea.
Ella:No, I think it's something that— Surely something that's burrowing.
Tom Scott:Yep.
Tom Lum:Ooh.
Caroline:Oh, ooh.
Tom Scott:I mean, at this point it is kind of 'name sea creatures', 'cause you've got essentially every element of this. This is something that tourists will want to avoid, and the vibrations of you dragging your feet through the ground are more likely to scare it off.
Ella:I have no idea what animal it could be. A crab?
Tom Lum:Crab...
Tom Scott:I like how both of you went to crab at the same time there. I'm not sure why.
Tom Lum:That's classic carcinization, baby. Everything goes to crabs.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Oh, we're not explaining that joke. Y'all can google that one.
Tom Lum:If you can read Dune, you can read about that joke.
SFX:(both Toms laugh)
Tom Scott:Sooner or later, everything evolves into a crab.
Ella:I would assume it's— I was thinking because of Pinchy. They be pinching, you know? But, I guess not. Something—
Tom Lum:Prairie dogs? Do we know— Can we guess the gene? Is it a mammal? Is it a sea creature?
Ella:Please, let us out of our misery.
Tom Scott:Stingrays.
Tom Lum:Ohh.
Tom Scott:They bury themselves in the sand just a few feet from the shore. And if you step on them, they'll sting you.
Tom Lum:No... no good.
Tom Scott:But if you drag your feet along... they'll probably get scared and move away.
Tom Scott:So yeah, I thought I would cut short the game of guess every sea creature there. But...
Tom Scott:But yes, you pretty much got it. Honestly, Tom, you got it with sandworms right at the start.
Ella:Tsk, ugh. So put down one for Tom.
Tom Lum:Do a little dance for the audio listeners. Doing a little dance.
Caroline:(laughs) Yeah!
Tom Scott:Yes, tourists in California and Florida are advised to do the stingray shuffle so they don't get stung.

Each of the Let's Learn Everything crew have brought a question along. So, we're gonna start with Ella. What have you got?
Ella:This question has been sent in by an anonymous listener.

In 1996, the painting Eileen by R. Angelo Le was stolen from the MOBA gallery in Boston. Why did the museum offer $6.50 in reward money?

And once more.

In 1996, the painting Eileen by R. Angelo Le was stolen from the MOBA gallery in Boston. Why did the museum offer $6.50 in reward money?
Tom Lum:Really didn't like that painting. Not a good painting.
Caroline:Oooh. I'm thinking, was it... stolen without any provenance? And therefore was useless or worthless?
Tom Lum:Oh, interesting.
Ella:What's prov— What does provenance mean?
Caroline:So, without any proof of the background of the painting, so where it came from, where it had been bought from before. To prove that it was a valuable painting.
Ella:That is a good idea, but no.
Tom Lum:Is this one of those things where 'painting' is very loose, and it's a wet floor sign or something that was stolen that was 'painted'?
Ella:It is a painting.
Tom Scott:I mean, I know there is art that is less a physical object and more a set of instructions for the gallery. But the exact object doesn't matter. They just have to go out and buy this thing and this thing and this thing and set it up, and now you have that painting, that artwork on display.
Tom Lum:Yeah, there's that wonderful art installation. "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in LA) where it's just a pile of wrapped candy. That is the weight of the artist's lover who was deteriorating of HIV/AIDS. And so when people take it – and they're encouraged to – it represents the deterioration. And so it's just a pile of candy. And so, that's a great insight. Maybe it is something like... But painting is interesting, right? It's not like...
Tom Scott:I've seen the artwork, and it's... You walk in, and it's a pile of candy. And then you read the thing next to it, and it's suddenly heartbreaking. It's a lot.
Tom Lum:It's really amazing.
Ella:Jesus. Keep it light, guys.
Tom Scott:Yeah, sorry.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Ella:Well, it's a painting. So, as nice as the idea is...
Tom Lum:But it could be, maybe it's one where someone does thousands and thousands of paintings as part of the thing. Or they draw it themselves in the moment. It's like a sketch artist person does it.
Ella:No, it's just one.
Tom Lum:Is the dollar amount specif— very specific? Is there a code in the...
Ella:No, there is nothing special about the value.
Tom Scott:Huh.
Ella:But it is important that it is a low figure.
Caroline:Was the painting not valued at anything? Was this the price of the frame it was in?
Ella:Oh, you know what? I don't know if it was the price of the frame it was in, but the value of the painting is legitimately low.
Tom Scott:It's just a bad painting. It's just really, really bad.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Scott:The museum is required to put it on display because of some money from a benefactor.
Tom Lum:Someone's nephew.
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Caroline:Yes! Yeah, yeah.
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Tom Scott:I remember reading about that. There's at least one art gallery where they have a whole room dedicated to someone's art. And I can't remember the name, and it would probably be slanderous to say someone's actual name here. But the reason that room is there is because they or their family or their... Or I think the painter might be deceased now, and it's their child or something, gave an enormous amount of money and basically propped up the entire gallery financially on the requirement that there is one room dedicated to this person's art.
Tom Lum:Oh my gosh.
Ella:Well, Tom...
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Ella:(wheezes) You're...
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Ella:...kind of almost there. If you disregard the end bit. Just that start bit.
Tom Scott:It's just really bad. It's just really bad art.
Ella:It is really—
Tom Scott:Wait, wait! No, hold on. What— MOBA?
Ella:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom Scott:It's the Museum of Bad Art in Boston. I've heard of that.
Tom Lum:Oh my god!
Caroline:No way! (laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:You could have actually worded it out! Tom, at the start, you weren't wrong. You just followed the wrong clues. It was a red herring!
Ella:You got it. You got it.
Tom Scott:I remember reading that. That was on my list of potential places to film once. I can't remember why I didn't go for it, but yeah. Museum of Bad Art, somewhere in Boston.
Ella:Yes, that's it. The Museum of Bad Art.
Tom Lum:That's amazing.
Ella:Like everything in the gallery, it was a terrible piece of art. Actually, Eileen had already been fished out of the trash and slashed with a knife even before the museum had acquired it.
Tom Lum:(laughs) For it to have been found in the trash and slashed, that's amazing.
Tom Lum:Again, that's great provenance, Caroline.
Ella:And the painting was actually returned in 2006. So someone didn't want it.
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Tom Lum:(claps)
Ella:So yeah, the painting Eileen – like everything else in the gallery – was just a terrible piece of art.
Tom Scott:Next question then, folks.

Most mornings, Cathy puts on a thin layer of SPF30 sunscreen before starting her job. She does this even though she knows she will not be outdoors for the vast majority of her shift. Why?

One more time.

Most mornings, Cathy puts on a thin layer of SPF30 sunscreen before starting her job. She does this even though she knows she will not be outdoors for the vast majority of her shift. Why?
Ella:Now... I want to start by saying that I wear SPF30 every single day, even though I live in the UK, and it's often cloudy.
Caroline:Me too. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom Scott:And you should, yes, and I should as well, but...
Ella:'Cause I will be young forever.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Caroline:Absolutely, yes.
Tom Lum:Is that the answer, Tom, is that is Cathy is a regular human being who should be doing this like everyone else?
Ella:Yeah, that's the answer.
SFX:(Ella and both Toms laugh)
Tom Scott:I think if you knew you were going to be absolutely indoors for all your shift, all day... you may not choose to do that.
Tom Scott:You should. But you may not choose to do that.
Ella:So, there's some UV in her workplace.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Caroline:My immediate thought is, does she work in an illegal plant farm of some sort?
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Caroline:(giggles) You know?
Tom Scott:It's fine, you can say marijuana. We're okay. Particularly for the...
Ella:'Illegal plant farm'.
Tom Scott:Particularly for the Americans in this call, we definitely can.
Tom Lum:(giggles)
Tom Scott:Well, depends where you are, I guess.
Caroline:Does she grow weed for a living?
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Tom Lum:(sputters)
Tom Scott:She does not, in this case.
Tom Scott:I'm also not sure if that's the same UV.
Tom Lum:Yeah, I wonder.
Caroline:Does she grow a legal plant farm of some sort? Go the opposite way. Does she do some weird indoor farming? Weird is not the right word. You know what I mean.
Tom Scott:(chuckles) No, not in this case.
Tom Lum:So we just did a misc recently about... Caroline did about the Radium Girls. And so we learned a lot about radioactivity. And so my wonder is if it's something... I don't know if that's the same thing necessarily though. But I don't know if there could be something... I'm picturing... a science... a plant of some kind, a... I think it's a laboratory, right? And some experiment, maybe.
Ella:Yeah, I don't, I feel like I don't think that radium... I don't think that SPF can stop any level of radioactivity. So let's not... (laughs)
Tom Lum:Even 30?
SFX:(guests snickering)
Tom Scott:It might help against alpha radiation, possibly? 'Cause that doesn't penetrate the skin at all. That can be stopped by a sheet of paper. So I guess in theory...
Tom Lum:Right.
Tom Scott:A sunblock might be able to protect you against alpha? But in this case, it's UV rays.
Ella:Yes, okay, so, when I was— I used to work in a lab. And we had UV lights to clean...
Tom Lum:Oh?
Ella:To sterilise things. Like the hoods we used to work in. Is it that kind of thing? Is it a big— to sterilise something?
Caroline:Is it UV from the sun? Or is it UV from somewhere else?
Tom Scott:It is UV from the sun, yes. And surprisingly... the windows in her workplace don't provide protection from this. Not completely.
Tom Lum:I was gonna say it's like a rave, and they just have really bright UV lights, and it's dangerous.
Ella:It's indoors.
Tom Lum:So it is sunlight from indoors. It's a mirror factory, could have been.
Tom Scott:Having recently visited a mirror factory... that's not UV light. That's gonna be argon and plasma and atomised metals, but I don't think that's UV light.
Ella:Yeah, god, Tom, you're so dumb.
Tom Lum:Right, yeah, which I was— Oh, you're right, and I did know that. I knew all that, yeah.
Caroline:(laughs uproariously) Yeah, obviously.
Tom Scott:They do use it for sterilisation, things like that. I'm being a bit of a dick there who just wanted to namedrop that I'd recently been to a mirror factory, but...
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:I was gonna say, that's the only reason why that answer is stupid. Not for any other.
SFX:(Caroline and both Toms laugh)
Tom Lum:Gosh!
Caroline:Is it that she just works in a normal office, but her chair is just in a really sunny spot?
Tom Scott:Her chair is in a very sunny spot.
Caroline:Oh, okay then. (giggles)
Ella:It's her job about being, she has to be in that spot.
Tom Scott:Oh yeah.
Caroline:Does she test sun creams?
Tom Lum:That would be... I really hope it's not that, 'cause we should have guessed that from the start.
Tom Scott:Bear in mind, and this is very carefully phrased... She will not be outdoors.
Tom Lum:Is she an indoor lifeguard? Or something like that?
Tom Scott:Sometimes, someone gives an alternate answer to the question that in theory could work. There are some... I dunno, water parks, things out there which deliberately have UV transparent glass so people can get a tan.
Tom Lum:Wow.
Tom Scott:I think there are probably more people doing this job than there would be lifeguards in places like that. In fact, I'm certain there are more people doing this job.
Caroline:Oh, wow!
Tom Scott:I think the grand total of worldwide lifeguards in places that have deliberately had UV transparent glass is probably less than 100. Certainly less than 1,000, I can tell you, there's more than 1,000 people doing her job.
Tom Lum:Does she have to look out at something is what I'm wondering.
Tom Scott:Oh yeah.
Ella:Oh, it's on a boat, maybe?
Tom Lum:Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! Is she an air traffic controller?
Tom Scott:Oh, you know sometimes, you just aim for it, aim for it, and swerved at the last second.
Tom Lum:Pilot!
Tom Scott:Pilot, there we go!
Ella:Oh, of course!
Tom Lum:Yeah! Ohh!
Caroline:Well done.
Ella:They don't have any windows that— Surely they should put some kind of protective filter on these windows.
Tom Lum:Well, so they can get a tan.
Tom Scott:You would think that there would be full UV protection for pilots through that glass. And... there is some. But the UV at that altitude, so high up, is so strong...
Tom Lum:Oh right!
Tom Scott:...that without tinting the windows so much that they couldn't see at night, there's only so much they can do.
Ella:That is strange.
Tom Lum:That's so interesting.
Tom Scott:So there was a study in 2014 that said pilots and flight attendants are twice as likely to get melanoma as most people.
Tom Lum:Oh, man.
Tom Scott:Also, truck drivers, but only on the side of their face that faces the window.
Ella:Yeah, I've seen... This is one of the reasons why I started wearing sun cream every day. 'Cause I've seen that viral picture of a woman truck driver leaning out of a car— of a van and having just one side of her face... Just, I'm like, freaked me out. It freaked me out.
Tom Lum:(chuckles)
Tom Scott:It's just, I wear contact lenses. And so, I don't know if anyone has ever got sunblock behind a contact lens, but it is the worst.
SFX:(guests gasp)
Caroline:Stop, it's the worst!
Tom Lum:Any time I get smudges on my glasses from sunscreen, I'm not gonna take that for granted. I'm like, that's fine, I can wash that off.
Ella:I can see far, yeah.
SFX:(Ella and Tom Lum crack up)
Caroline:Thanks, Ella.
Tom Lum:Have you tried having good genes, Tom?
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Have you tried not spending your childhood indoors, often staring at a screen?
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Tom Scott:Tom, the next question is yours. Over to you.
Tom Lum:Alright. This question was sent in by Sean Anderson. And I'm so glad you did, 'cause I love this one.

A Turkish newspaper advertisement featured a flesh coloured background behind a slightly lighter design that was 30 squares in height and width. Why did interested parties have to apply a little bit of effort?

And I'll read that again.

A Turkish newspaper advertisement featured a flesh-coloured background behind a slightly lighter design that was 30 squares in height and width. Why did interested parties have to apply a little effort?
Tom Scott:30 squares?
Ella:30 squares of what, of...
Tom Scott:My brain goes to a crossword.
Tom Scott:I feel like that— Because it's a newspaper advert. And I think crosswords are generally about that size. I'm like, I hear squares, effort, newspaper. My brain goes, crossword.
Tom Lum:(chuckles)
Caroline:(laughs) Yeah.
Tom Scott:Why it would be flesh-coloured, I don't know. And the idea of a flesh crossword sounds like something out of a Hellraiser movie.
Ella:Is it, is the colour... important to this? I mean, obviously you said flesh-coloured. Why would it not be? Why would you need to specify that otherwise?
Tom Lum:(laughs heartily)
Ella:It was, if not a crossword, some kind of other puzzle.
Caroline:When we say flesh... do we mean like the insidey flesh, or the skin flesh?
Tom Lum:Skin, skin.
Tom Scott:Standard Caucasian white guy flesh. Got it, okay.
Caroline:Oh, fantastic, okay. Perfect.
Tom Lum:Well, I will say that the, you know... It doesn't have to be any specific tone of flesh. Just flesh colored, skin colored.
Ella:Is it a makeup advert?
Tom Lum:That's interesting. Yeah, it's, you're all...
Ella:You can— You come to the sample that you can apply to the...
Tom Scott:Or just for sunblock, you know?
Tom Lum:Great.
Tom Scott:Specifically for pilots. They just drew a crossword on someone's back with sunblock, wiped it off afterwards, took a photo.
Ella:I'm just thinking if you, you know... in magazines and stuff... you can get samples of things. And so it could be like an application. If you're saying they had to apply a bit of pressure or... So it's colour, it's—
Tom Lum:They had to apply a bit of effort. Ella—
Ella:Colour changing, like heat?
Tom Lum:You guys are really circling around the... You're thinking in the right headspace of a fun interactive mechanic, but you're thinking of the wrong profession.
Caroline:The wrong profession? Are they checking their skin for something?
Tom Lum:No.
Ella:Okay, so, it's fun. (snickers)
Tom Scott:Interactive stuff that you can put in an advert. So, scratch and sniff?
Tom Scott:Some kind of maths puzzle you have to— A picrosspie-cross that works out— Or picrosspick-ross, I actually don't know. I've never heard that said out loud. But a design you have to work out and doodle. Wait. There was a thing MI5 did a while back, the British spy agency. Where they put out a job application that was essentially a series of puzzles you had to solve. Because they were looking for analysts and code breakers and things like that.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Tom Scott:I'm not sure if it was a job application, but it was a publicity stunt. They were like, this is the kind of person we want. So is it the Turkish intelligence agency asking people to solve this to find the address to apply to?
Tom Lum:So, you're very close, Tom again. You're— It is a sort of job test. But again, the wrong profession. You guys haven't mentioned it yet, which is very interesting. But you're so close that it is sort of like a kind of a puzzle like that. I'll also say, it's not a crossword. But it is squares. It is, again, 30 squares in height and width.
Tom Scott:The biggest and worst sudoku in the world.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Tom Lum:It's a test of skill for a profession.
Ella:I can only— I'm so focused on flesh. I cannot stop thinking about it.
Caroline:Yeah, yeah.
Tom Lum:Flesh is important.
Ella:Uh-huh. What, what—
Tom Scott:Surgeons.
Tom Scott:They're looking for surgeons. Someone with a steady hand.
Tom Lum:You're closer. You're closer.
Ella:Skin— Dermatologists?
Tom Scott:Tattoo artists.
Ella:Oh, a tattoo—
Tom Lum:Now, Tom...
Tom Lum:But the question is now... what were they... What are these squares?
Ella:It's a drawer— It's a drawing square that you can— you make some art in. I assume.
Tom Lum:It's more functional than that.
Ella:I cannot figure out what these squares do for a tattoo artist. What kind of skill would you... They have to apply a little effort. So they have to...
Tom Lum:They had to fill in these squares. But it's not a puzzle. It's... Once it's completed, it does something in a way.
Tom Scott:30 by 30. Is it a QR code?
Tom Lum:It sure is!
Caroline:(gasps) Oh my goodness!
Tom Scott:Because the lighter design doesn't scan. You have to fill in all the darker parts. If you have two similar— It's not because it— I'm assuming it was flesh because it was a tattoo artist.
Tom Lum:Mhm.
Tom Scott:And you need to have the patience to be able to fill in that grid well enough that your phone will scan it.
Tom Lum:And... Where do you think the QR code will lead you?
Ella:To the tattoo shop.
Tom Scott:Job application for the tattoo shop.
Tom Lum:Yep. The 2012 advert read, "New tattoo artists wanted. To apply, fill in the QR code carefully." And then yeah, using a black pen, you could fill it in. But yeah, and it's very interesting because... knowing about QR codes, they're actually known to be extremely resilient. So it's not actually an amazing test. 'Cause you could, you can literally smudge a portion of a QR code, or... You don't even have to do extremely straight lines. They're made to be extremely— There's tons of cool websites that show all the ways you can mess with them and still read them, but...
Ella:Yeah, that's what I was thinking. They're hoping people will be very precise, 'cause that's what you want from a tattoo artist. But it sounds like I could've just done any old rubbish to that and then been like, "I'm... I can have this job."
Tom Scott:All I did was open it in Photoshop, adjusted the contrast, scanned that, worked fine.
Tom Lum:So the tattoo artist had to color in the QR code to apply for a job.
Tom Scott:Next question's from me, folks. Good luck.

A random group of people read a short story individually. They generally like the story. A second random group of people read these paragraphs too, using the same paper and typeface. They like the story significantly more. Why?

I'll say that again.

A random group of people read a short story individually. They generally like the story. A second random group of people read these paragraphs too, using the same paper and typeface. They like the story significantly more. Why?
Ella:Okay, so both groups are random, so it's not about... their... you know, gender or age or anything like that.
Caroline:Is there a reasonable... Is there much of a time difference between these two groups reading these paragraphs?
Tom Scott:No, this was in the same study.
Tom Lum:It wasn't a joke that needed some more time to age?
Ella:Different time of day.
Tom Scott:No, this was in the same study. I will say it's a 2011 study in psychology. And the replication crisis has happened since then. So, treat this with a little bit of a pinch of salt. Not meaning to slander anyone there. Just saying, I don't know if this has ever been repeated by other researchers.
Tom Lum:Well, if someone wants to learn more about the replication crisis, they could listen to an episode of the podcast Let's Learn Everything.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:Great... plug.
Caroline:(sighs, then laughs)
Tom Lum:I find it interesting that you said, same paper and typeface. Specifying that specifically was interesting. I don't know if that's a red herring or...
Ella:Because if someone had read it in Comic Sans, they would have hated it, so...
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Tom Lum:(cackles, claps)
Caroline:Was the language the same?
Tom Scott:Yeah, a second random group of people read these paragraphs too.
Tom Lum:Is this a placebo of some kind?
Ella:Yeah, did they do something beforehand?
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Ella:That primes them for the story experience?
Tom Lum:What if they said beforehand in one group, it's like, this is going to be a really funny story, and then the other one they didn't? Something like that?
Tom Scott:You're getting very close there. It's not quite a priming effect, and I know from experience that priming effects are vastly overstated. But, you're along the right lines.
Ella:They paid them. They paid one of the groups.
Tom Scott:(laughs heartily)
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:I wouldn't expect that. Yeah.
Caroline:Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Tom Scott:There is a bit of a change to what was in front of them. And I'm being careful there, at this point. It's a very carefully worded question.
Caroline:Are the paragraphs in the same order each time?
Tom Scott:They are...? And there was an up-tone at the end of that sentence.
Caroline:So when you say in the same order, do you mean maybe the same order but reversed? Or something like that?
Tom Scott:There is a loophole in there somewhere. The second group did read the same paragraphs as the first. They were in the same order, but there is very deliberately a loophole there. And you were sort of dancing around it earlier. Oh, was it different punctuation?
Tom Lum:Was it all one line, versus being broken up into chunks?
Tom Scott:You know when you were like, they were just told this was going to be a funny joke? You were kind of along the right lines there, Tom.
Tom Lum:Uh-huh.
Tom Scott:They did read something that the first group didn't.
Ella:That there was a title? A different title, or...
Tom Lum:A review of it...
Ella:(snickers) A review.
Tom Scott:You're close. There's a key word you're looking for.
Ella:Oh, it was a summary?
Tom Scott:I mean, you could call it that. There's a word you're all dancing around.
Ella:A punchline.
Tom Scott:It did give away the punchline, which would be a...
Ella:An answer?
Tom Lum:A spoiler?
Tom Scott:Spoiler. Spot on.
Tom Scott:The second group had also been given a paragraph which spoiled the ending. And in 11 out of 12 of those stories... they preferred the spoiled version.
Caroline:Why? They picked 11 strange people for this study.
Tom Scott:11 stories. I don't know what the sample size was, which is also slightly questionable here. But the story goes that – no pun intended – 11 out of 12 of those stories were preferred when they had a spoiler.
Caroline:Ah, I see.
Tom Scott:If you want a theory that a psychologist pulled out of nowhere, people find it easier to understand the plot when they know what's coming? But... How much of this is replication crisis? How much of this is a very nice article that the BBC summarised in 2011? I couldn't tell you.
SFX:(guests laugh snidely)
Tom Lum:It feels antithetical to this podcast's format, you could say.
SFX:(both Toms laugh)
Tom Lum:You should try that with this episode. See how people like it.
Tom Scott:Caroline, the next question is yours. Whenever you're ready.
Caroline:This question has been sent in by Ian Richens.

The GoldenEye 007 speedrunning community...
Tom Lum:Yeah!
Tom Scott:I'm just gonna sit out of this one. I got nothing.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Scott:I played it when I was 12, and... got nothing since then.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Caroline:Here's the question.

So the GoldenEye 007 speedrunning community became suspicious when players of a later N64 game, Perfect Dark, began to top the leaderboards. They used an undetectable technique that required no technical ability. What was it?
Tom Lum:Oh...
Caroline:One more time.

The GoldenEye 007 speedrunning community became suspicious when players of a later N64 game, Perfect Dark, began to top the leaderboards. They used an undetectable technique that required no technical ability. What was it?
Ella:Okay. So, first of all, I'll say straight away that Tom and I are big speedrunning fans.
Tom Scott:That Tom, that Tom. Not this Tom.
Ella:The other Tom.
Tom Scott:Younger Tom.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:Yeah. There's 100% been a YouTube thumbnail about this exact thing that I didn't click on. And now I wish I had.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:Tom Lum, what is that thing that you can do to... It's an assisted— A TAS, a TAS speedrun. Tool-assisted speedrun. Is it a TAS speedrun?
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Caroline:So it has nothing to do with hacking the game or doing anything like that.
Tom Lum:So it's some— And you said this is something to do with the sequel to GoldenEye, right? But people from the first game were the ones that caught it? Is that correct?
Caroline:I think it is people who were playing Perfect Dark.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Caroline:So Perfect Dark had something that GoldenEye did not.
Tom Scott:This is where old man Tom rises from his chair and sort of cracks his bones, and goes, "Back in my day..."
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:Back in my day, the N64 had a Rumble Pak. So it did. And the...
Tom Lum:(gasps)
Tom Scott:I think Perfect Dark came with a memory expansion module or something like that, but... The N64 had stuff you could physically plug into the back of the controller to do some stuff. Beyond that, I don't know, 'cause I never had an N64. My entire N64 knowledge comes from university and endless games of Mario Kart: Double Dash, which is the best Mario Kart. And I will broker no argument on this.
Tom Lum:This is correct.
Tom Lum:No, yeah. That's worth a dozen, Tom. Yeah, I'm wondering if it is some— I'm thinking it might be some hardware hack like that, where you can unplug, plug in to maybe reload a save, or to... Or maybe a second player?
Ella:Caroline said it's not... No hack.
Caroline:Yeah, so it was undetectable in that you could not tell what the trick was by watching a tape of a player's game. So you couldn't— If you were watching it on YouTube or something like that, you wouldn't be able to tell. If somebody had taped the game, you wouldn't be able to tell what the trick was.
Tom Lum:Having your older cousin do it, and then telling your friends that you did it.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Ella:Yeah, so it's something they're physically doing?
Tom Lum:Yeah, if it's something in the hardware, I assume you wouldn't be able to see that on the stream.
Caroline:Is it something in the hardware, Tom?
Tom Lum:It sounds like it's not? (wheezes)
Caroline:It sounds like it might not be.
Tom Scott:Is GoldenEye deterministic? So, does it have a random number generator in there that they're playing with somehow? 'Cause a lot of games... will just rely on a roll of the dice. Which I know from Matt Parker's video on Minecraft.
Caroline:No, nothing like that.
Ella:It's something about... It must be something about the way Perfect Dark works, that they have imported somehow.
Tom Lum:Does it have to do with the framerate?
Tom Lum:(scoffs) 'Cause some games, when you bump the framerate to above what they were gonna be played at, sometimes the logic... will run all the other code twice as well, if you double the framerate. I had a bug like that in my game actually. So I'm very familiar with that. I had to work with that issue before.
Tom Scott:Was it a physical accessory that came with Perfect Dark that they're using?
Caroline:So, it is something that... was a feature of Perfect Dark, which was not a feature of GoldenEye.
Ella:Of the game itself?
Caroline:Think about what you're doing in these games. What specifically are you playing?
Tom Lum:Oh, is it— Wait, wait, wait. Can I ask, is it a (stammers) toy gun accessory or something that you can point, maybe?
Caroline:It's not a toy gun, but you're getting— Oh, but that last thing that you said is along the right—
Tom Scott:What was that last thing?
Caroline:What was that last thing you said, Tom? That very last word that you said.
Tom Lum:Toy gun accessory or something?
Ella:Something. Great.
Caroline:You said something about pointing it.
Tom Lum:Mouse? Is it, you can use a mouse and keyboard?
Tom Scott:GoldenEye was a nightmare to aim in. I remember that. You had to hold down...
Caroline:(gasps) Yeah?
Tom Lum:Yeah?
Tom Scott:Assuming that the kids in the room have never played GoldenEye on an N64.
Tom Lum:Wait a second.
Tom Scott:It was a nightmare because they hadn't invented how to aim properly yet. And it was this horrible—
Tom Lum:Do you have two people, one person just aiming?
Caroline:No. You're so close though with the aiming problem. A feature that Perfect Dark had, that GoldenEye did not have.
Tom Scott:Auto-aim?
Caroline:No, not auto-aim, not quite.
Tom Lum:A sensitivity... to the aiming?
Caroline:I will give you a further clue. It was a... You needed a physical item to do this technique. Which you could maybe attach to your screen, or you could use it to adjust your screen somehow. Something like that.
Tom Lum:Brightness maybe?
Caroline:It's not quite that.
Tom Lum:It's not like the Duck Hunt little gun attachment thing, is it?
Caroline:No, so you're thinking too much of an attachment to the game. Think about less about something you could attach, like an attachment that you could buy. Maybe go more towards something you might have around your home. Some stationery that could help you out with this.
Tom Lum:Oh, oh! Did they tape something to the center of the screen to aim?
Tom Scott:They just added a crosshair! They just added a crosshair with a bit of...
Caroline:Yes! (giggles)
Tom Scott:(sighs)
Caroline:That's exactly what they did.
Ella:I have to assume that once the GoldenEye players realised that you could do that, they then started to get better again than the Perf— 'Cause that's just— It's not like there's anything particularly special about that.
Caroline:I assume so, I have no clue to be honest, if that's what they then went on to do, but that's certainly what players of Perfect Dark were doing.
Tom Scott:Aiming was a nightmare. I remember playing multiplayer GoldenEye.
Tom Scott:And you had two options. You either had to just line up correctly in the middle of the screen, so you knew you'd hit someone, or learn this incredibly intricate thing where you had to move with one thumb and then hold down a button and aim the crosshair with the other and hope it worked, and by that point, someone had shot you. Yeah, you just put a crosshair in the middle of this. Of course you do.
Caroline:Yeah. Uh-huh.
Tom Lum:I'm truly... I'm thinking— I'm in Caroline's shoes, thinking of all the times we were like, what if it has to do with interpolating the frame rate? And then if you do this thing.
Caroline:Right? (cackles)
Tom Lum:And it's just like, sticky note! On the screen!
Caroline:Just put a bit of Blu Tack in the middle of your screen. There you go.
Tom Lum:That's so interesting.
Ella:I won't lie. I spent so many hours watching Breath of the Wild speedruns over the last couple of months... that I could not even conceive that that might have been an option.
Tom Lum:That's so good, that's so good.
Tom Scott:At the start of the show, I asked:

Which 1989 live-action Disney film has a grammatical mistake in its title?

Assuming that most of our audience has already googled '1989 live-action Disney film', does anyone want to take a quick shot at which one it is?
Tom Lum:Is it because The Lion King is technically an elected democracy?
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:I'm trying to think.
Tom Scott:1989. It's a special effects based family film, and they used the past tense of a verb incorrectly.
Tom Lum:1989. Special effects, so was it 3D animated?
Tom Scott:No, but they had a 3D version in one of the theme parks later.
Tom Lum:Fascinating. Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast.
Tom Scott:Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Which should have been...
Tom Lum:Shrank!
Tom Scott:Honey, I Shrank the Kids. Or alternatively, if you feel like not blaming anyone, Honey, The Kids Have Been Shrunk.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:And we'd like to thank the YouTube commenter, Ontario Traffic Man, who complained that our title, 'The Furniture That Shrunk', was grammatically incorrect for inspiring that question. Thank you very much, Ontario Traffic Man. Thank you very much to all of our players.

Now, at this point, normally I hand over to each person individually to say what they're working on. But in this case... good luck. Someone take it. Tell us about the podcast.
Tom Lum:You— We have already talked about a lot of topics that are similar, like the replication crisis, in this episode. We host a science and comedy podcast called Let's Learn Everything. We learn about science and a little bit of everything else.
Tom Scott:Caroline, give us some topics.
Caroline:Oh, so recently we covered topics like talking about the Radium Girls. That was a recent miscellaneous topic. Ella covered the TB crisis, which was absolutely fascinating.
Ella:It's all very light. Very fun and light stuff we're doing.
Caroline:Yeah, you know, absolutely, right? Trying to think of one that Tom covered recently. Tom, what did you last cover?
Tom Lum:I did graffiti recently, and that was very fun. That was a big... Ah, that was awesome.
Caroline:Oh, you did! That was fantastic, yeah.
Tom Scott:And if you want to know more about this show, you can do that at, where you can also send in your own ideas for questions. We are at @lateralcast on pretty much every social network, and you can find video highlights every week at

With that, thank you very much to Caroline Roper.
Tom Scott:Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Shiver me brain cells!
Tom Scott:And... (sigh) Ella Hubber.
Tom Lum:(cackles)
SFX:(group laughing uproariously)
Tom Scott:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
Tom Lum:Oh...
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