Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 56: World-famous battery packs

Published 3rd November, 2023

Caroline Roper, Ella Hubber and Tom Lum from 'Let's Learn Everything!' face questions about eccentric earrings, dawdling deliveries and cattle calculations.

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: Sayan Chaudhry, Georgi, Jaime Nufio. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom Scott:Why does the Austrian music group, Das Erste Wiener Gemüseorchester, give their audience soup after every performance?

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

Take half a pound of creativity, five ounces of playfulness, and a teaspoon of creative flair, and what do you get? If it's anything like my cooking, it'll be burnt and taste of cardboard. But luckily, our guests today
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:are a surefire recipe for success. Joining us again, we have the crew from Let's Learn Everything, the podcast, and we start today... Let's go with Ella. How are you doing?
Ella:I'm... excellent. Thank you for asking.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:What are you working on right now? What is gonna be in the future as we record this, but in the past as people listen to this episode?
Ella:I cannot tell you because every time we do a topic on the podcast, it's a surprise to the other two guests.
Tom Scott:Oh, okay. You have to go in completely cold. There's no—
Tom Scott:Caroline Roper, second person of Let's Learn Everything. Have you ever come up with a topic and then found out that one of the other members of the team is also doing that topic?
Caroline:We've not— well, we've had something very, very close before. So we have people outside of the three of us to check our topics for us, so that we still don't know what each of the topics are going to be, but they make sure we don't have too much overlap. Apart from one time, where me and Ella were both like, "You know what? We're not gonna check our episodes today. Ah, who needs to do that?" And what was it we both ended up talking about, Ella?
Ella:I did— You did the pill.
Caroline:I did do the pill, yeah.
Ella:And I did menstrual products. And the overlap between those are surprisingly similar, historically.
Tom Lum:But then it just becomes a themed episode. Accidentally.
Caroline:Yeah! (giggles)
Tom Scott:(laughs) And the third member of the team. Honestly, I've got no segue that leads in from the pill and menstrual products into this introduction, so please welcome
Tom Scott:the third member of the team, Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Well, let me tell you, Tom, my question for that did not smoothly transition between those. I think my question for there was, what are the two highest mountains on the world— on Earth? It was a very... (laughs) math, trigonometric, calculating heights of things thing. It was like a little break between the two. So, yeah.
Tom Scott:Well, good luck to all three of you. Welcome back to the show. This is where we try to matchmake quirky questions with unexpected solutions. So, let's see if it's going to be love at first insight. I'm gonna start you off with question one.
Tom Lum:Ahh.
Tom Scott:This question was sent in by Georgi. Thank you very much.

Shortly after a safe landing, a pilot has the back of their shirt cut off. Why?

One more time.

Shortly after a safe landing, a pilot has the back of their shirt cut off. Why?
Ella:Is this a—
Caroline:They're so sweaty from the stress of it.
Tom Lum:I was gonna say.
Ella:Is it every time, or is this a sometimes thing that happens? 'Cause I don't feel like pilots are buying shirts for... every day.
Caroline:Every flight?
Ella:Every flight.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Ella:That doesn't seem practical. Oh, is the type of pilot...
Ella:It's a fighter plane pilot or something.
Tom Lum:Oh, wait, that might actually be, yeah, 'cause if you're super secured into your seat, maybe you would need to...
Caroline:Oh, be physically removed out of it. Yeah, for safety.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Caroline:We're not getting anything, so I'm assuming that's not right.
Ella:Absolutely no reaction from Tom.
Tom Scott:Well, you just keep coming up with good ideas, and I don't wanna break the flow?
Tom Lum:Were they— Was it— Oh, I'll throw in a few bad ones if you want, then.
Tom Lum:Was it like they were hanging their jersey from the rafters because they did a really good job, and so they cut it up and then they put it up on top of the...
Tom Scott:Sorry, the rafters of the plane? I mean, it's rare that I just question a guess like that, but I'm not entirely certain planes have rafters!
Tom Lum:That's what they do in sports, right? All-time jerseys, they retire them.
Tom Scott:Honestly, the closest answer there is probably Tom's. Not in the sense of rafters or anything like that... but there's something special going on here.
Tom Lum:(Tom Lum wheezes)
Tom Lum:Well, well, well. (laughs)
SFX:(Ella and Caroline sigh)
Ella:Now I'm thrown right off. The flow is gone.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:Was it like a Sully Sullenberger situation? A landing that was spectacular, and they wanted to commemorate it somehow? Is it actually— My thought was sweat, maybe. It was such a stressful flight, and they sweated clean through, and they wanted to keep that for some reason.
Tom Scott:It would have been a very stressful flight. I mean, unless they were very, very good, it would have been a very stressful flight.
Tom Lum:(Tom Lum laughs)
Tom Scott:It's not quite that reason. It's not sweat. But it is commemorating something.
Tom Lum:Is it a space pilot? Or is it a regular commercial aircraft?
Tom Scott:Regular pilot.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Ella:Commemorate— So they got it. They had it cut off them for commemorative reasons. They d— They successfully landed the plane, but they died. And so... (snickers)
Tom Scott:Oh!
Caroline:(cackles heartily)
Tom Scott:Okay, first half of that, great.
Tom Lum:I don't know how that factors into...
SFX:(Caroline and both Toms laugh)
Ella:Well they... It's like, you know, an EMT thing where they have to cut through your clothes, to resuscitate you.
Tom Lum:Ahh.
Caroline:Ohhh. I love the thought process there, Ella. That was really something.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella chuckle)
Caroline:Is it something to do with the pilot? Is it their last flight or something like that?
Tom Lum:Oh yeah.
Tom Scott:Very close. Well, also the exact opposite, but very close.
Ella:It's their first flight. It's their only flight. Because they are a monkey.
SFX:(group laughs uproariously)
Tom Lum:Ella?
Caroline:(giggles profusely)
Tom Scott:The car's going right on target. I'm just gonna hold it here. We're gonna be fine. No, just swerve off at the end there!
Tom Lum:I gotta say, adopt the Ella strategy, which is, say something extremely logical, so that you start nodding at the end and be like, "And also he was a man made of eels."
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:Is it the only time you're allowed to do that flight? Can you only do that flight once for some reason, because it's so stressful?
Tom Scott:It's more by definition. You can't do this more than once.
Tom Scott:You're right, it's a first for something. It's a first for this pilot.
Caroline:First time flying on their own?
Tom Scott:First time flying on their own. Yes.
Tom Scott:So...
Tom Scott:It is an aviation tradition that after someone's first solo flight, in commemoration, the back of their shirt is cut off. So the last part is, why? Where did that come from?
Tom Lum:Yeah...
Ella:Where did it come from, historically? Is it because the first time someone ever flew alone, they... (Ella cracks up)
Tom Lum:It ripped... It was such a close call that somehow...
Caroline:My thought was do they use the shirt and then stitch it to the seat of the plane or something like that, you know?
Tom Scott:They do keep it. It can get signed by the instructor, have markings on it. It's very much a... You're proud of this as your first flight. Think back to where the tradition might have come from, what planes might have looked like back then. And what technology we didn't have.
Caroline:Seatbelts. Did they tie them to the seat?
Tom Scott:(Tom Scott laughs)
Caroline:(Caroline giggles)
Tom Lum:Flags or indicators? Maybe they had to rip it off to signal something to other planes or to tell which way the wind was going?
Tom Scott:Not to other planes, they're not waving it out. It was only cut off when they got back down, and they knew it wasn't gonna be needed anymore.
Tom Scott:Oh, crikey, no. No, no.
Caroline:No? Aw.
Tom Lum:(Tom Lum laughs uproariously)
Ella:A single strip of fabric?
Caroline:Just a bit of... No, my thought was a parachute sewn into your shirt somehow, and then you'd have to cut to get out of that.
Tom Scott:I want you to picture the scene. You've got an old propeller plane, maybe it's a biplane, something like that. You've got the student in front, on the controls. You've got the instructor behind them. And it's open air, lot of noise, 1930s, '40s, '50s? What might that shirt tail have done?
Ella:It was used— Oh, was the— Oh! Okay, was the instructor sat behind, and they would pull on the shirt to tell them what to do?
Tom Scott:Yep, exactly that. Because they didn't have radio.
Tom Lum:Wow!
Caroline:(Caroline gasps)
Tom Scott:The only way that the instructor
Tom Lum:Ohh.
Tom Scott:could get the student's attention was by grabbing the back of their shirt and pulling on it.
Tom Lum:(Tom Lum laughs, applauds)
Tom Scott:Because there's so much noise and so much wind and so much everything. So the tradition became
Tom Lum:No way!
Tom Scott:The plane landed after the first solo flight, the instructor would come up and ceremonially cut off that shirt tail because they knew they didn't need it anymore.
Tom Lum:That's so cute!
Caroline:That's so sweet!
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Caroline:(Caroline laughs)
Tom Scott:Tom, we go to you for the next question. What have you got?
Tom Lum:Alright.

When opportunity strikes, birds of prey can be very resourceful. It has been known for a black kite to pick up a branch, fly to a new area of grassland, and then have a full stomach a few minutes later. How?

I'll read that again.

When opportunity strikes, birds of prey can be very resourceful. It has been known for a black kite to pick up a kite, fly to a new area of grassland, and then have a full stomach a few minutes later. How?
Caroline:It went around stabbing everything with its stick.
SFX:(both Toms wheeze)
Caroline:No? What?
Ella:It's a payment. A payment to another animal in exchange for food.
Ella:If a kite brought me a stick, I would feed it.
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Caroline:Wait, so was the stick used to impersonate a snake? And then when the kite dropped it, animals would scatter and move around so the kite would see the animals then, and then attack them?
Tom Lum:There's a part of that that is very spot on, but I won't say what.
Tom Scott:Augh.
Tom Lum:Because I think you guys have got the— I think yeah, Caroline, being the ecology person, I think will hit this eventually. Tom, I don't know if you have any guesses.
Tom Scott:Is it trying to attract animals with this, or act as a decoy? Is it flushing creatures out of hiding?
Tom Lum:Yes, I will say that.
Ella:It's flushing them out.
Tom Lum:The black kite's preferred prey is small animals.
Tom Scott:So it's trying to flush mice out of burrows, or rabbits out of burrows, or something like that.
Caroline:Would it literally stick the stick into burrows to try and... move rodents out of them?
Tom Lum:No, it's something... I will say this. Even though its prey is small animals... it's causing a big thing to happen.
Ella:Is it in water?
Tom Lum:You're on a similar track, where it is sort of a chain of events that happens.
Ella:If you drop a stick, a different animal comes? And gets, and grabs it, and that...
Tom Scott:It destroys a beaver dam. And the beavers all come out to fix it.
Caroline:(Caroline cackles)
Tom Scott:Meanwhile, downstream, someone's getting flushed out, and that— No, never mind. One stick won't do that.
Tom Lum:And then we've got Johnny with the getaway car! No, it's perfect!
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom Lum:It is a criminal act. (cracks up)
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Okay!
Tom Lum:I can confirm that!
Ella:Wait, so does it involve humans in some way, then?
Tom Lum:It doesn't, no. That's a good insight, but no.
Tom Scott:Oh, I thought it might be dropping it on a cage and breaking glass, and the animals get out and...
Caroline:Mhm, mhm.
Ella:Is it something to do with vibrations of the stick?
Tom Lum:No.
Tom Scott:Wait. It picked up a branch... dropped it in another field, right?
Tom Lum:Mhm.
Ella:(gasp) Oh!
Tom Scott:I assumed that the full stomach was from a field, but... Oh, Ella's got it.
Ella:It's stolen the branch from another bird's nest? Or...
Tom Lum:Oh, no.
Tom Scott:Or it stored— I assumed that the animals were gonna be in the field that it was dropping the branch in... but maybe the animals are coming from where it's stolen the branch from to try and get it back.
Tom Lum:You guys are circling around crimes, but you haven't named the right crime yet.
Tom Scott:Vandalism. Arson. Petty theft. Tax fraud.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Ella:Well, it's, the stick is on fire. And... you drop it in a field with grass, and it burns everything, and the animals all flee.
Tom Lum:Ella, you are correct.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Ella gasp)
Caroline:No way!
Tom Lum:Tom said it! It is arson!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:So, they set fire to grasslands, causing a stampede. Which then just routes out all the animals. I looked into this, 'cause I didn't believe it myself. There is literally a paper titled, Intentional Fire Spreading By "Firehawk" Raptors in Northern Australia.
Tom Lum:You know, there is some debate about... It could possibly be unintentional. They go to pick up a branch, thinking it's a prey, and then it happens to be on fire and dropping it. But there are... It's a super interesting phenomena, because it is so... hard to believe! And there's a ton of indigenous ecological knowledge about this. But there's also a lot of people who are like, "No way. Why that's, there's no way." And they don't consider it when they consider firefighting, which is interesting.
Caroline:Can you imagine trying to research this? Because you have to wait for an animal to do that basically, and then just hope that you're there to watch it. That must be so hard to study.
Tom Lum:Yes. (laughs)
Tom Lum:So basically when a bushfire is happening, a black kite will pick up a flaming branch and fly to a different grassland to start a new fire. This causes a stampede. The larger animals will trample the smaller ones, which the kite can then pick up easily.
Caroline:Oh, wow, okay.
Tom Lum:Yeah. Kites circle around over carcasses to catch insects, or they swoop down to pick up small animals off the floor. They pass their catch into their beaks midair. So they don't actually have to land.

And this is amazing. The toy kites used by children on a windy day get their name from these birds.
Tom Scott:Thank you to Jaime Nufio for sending this question in.

The Graflex Speed Graphic camera was popular with photojournalists in the 1940s. Though obsolete, the battery holder for the flash gun is now worth hundreds of dollars thanks to a 1977 event. What was it?
Tom Lum:I know the answer.
Tom Scott:Oh, Tom. You already, you know it.
Tom Lum:Oh yeah.
Tom Scott:Alright, Tom, you get to sit out of this one. I'll give the other two the question one more time.

The Graflex Speed Graphic camera was popular with photojournalists in the 1940s. Though obsolete, the battery holder for the flash gun is now worth hundreds of dollars thanks to a 1977 event. What is it?

Caroline, Ella, good luck!
Ella:The holder for the flash gun, you said? Not the...
Tom Scott:The battery holder for the flash gun.
Caroline:The battery holder?
Ella:Okay, so I think, off the top of my head, I would guess that it is a specific shape... and was used in an outfit for a movie. '77, what's that? Some kind of Star Wars time?
Ella:There's a Star War happening.
Caroline:Well, because this is, when I was working at the science museum, we had a bunch of plane engines, and parts of the plane engines were used in Star Wars as various droids and stuff like that. So that's not completely out of reach.
Tom Scott:It's not even slightly out of reach. It's entirely correct.
Tom Scott:But can you name the part of the outfit? What specifically is a battery holder for a flash gun in Star Wars?
Ella:How big is it? It can't be huge, maybe... 10 centimetres of battery?
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Ella:It's a gun on a stormtrooper's— A stormtrooper's gun or something? Something on a droid.

A lightsaber! A lightsaber base! (wheezes)
Tom Scott:I was about to say a more elegant weapon from a more civilised age.
Ella:Of course. Oh, really?
Caroline:Oh, that's so cool!
Tom Scott:That is the base of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. It is a battery holder from a flash gun from a 1940s camera.
Caroline:I just want to say, Ella, that was incredible. That you were just like, maybe it could be this thing, from this, and you were absolutely spot on.
Ella:That was lateral. That was lateral thinking.
Tom Lum:Hey! (wheezes)
Tom Scott:And Caroline, you're also right. Obi Wan Kenobi's lightsaber began its life as a balance pipe from a Rolls Royce jet engine.
Caroline:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom Lum:No way!
Tom Scott:With that wonderful bit of deduction, Ella, we'll move straight on to your question.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:Go for it.

In medieval times, why was it important for cooks to be students of religion as well?

Once more.

In medieval times, why was it important for cooks to be students of religion as well?
Caroline:In terms of growing the good crops. Was it something that only churches had access to, maybe?
Tom Scott:That still sounds like a euphemism for marijuana.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:I know that's from a previous episode, but...
Tom Lum:You gotta stop, please!
Tom Scott:"Growing the good crops" really sounds like a euphemism.
Caroline:The real good crops, you know?
SFX:(guests laughing)
Ella:I like that idea of sacred knowledge. But no, not quite.
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Tom Lum:I mean, because there's tons of resources attached to the church at the time. So I'm wondering if it's even something like being able to learn how to read or something like that.
Caroline:Or maybe if you want to be a professional cook, you have to be paid to do that. So would the church be the... group to have the resources for that?
Ella:No, this is, you don't have to work for the church.
Tom Lum:What was the phrasing again? A scholar of... A student of the church?
Ella:Yes, student of religion.
Tom Scott:Could this be a language thing? One of my standard go-to linguistic anecdotes is that in English, we order food in French, basically. And we talk about animals in English. You order beef.
Tom Lum:Right.
Tom Scott:But when you're talking about the animal, it's a cow. Like pork and pig. Apart from chicken, 'cause that was poor people's food. So that's all English.
Tom Lum:Oh?
Tom Scott:And I'm trying to work out if there's something in the religious background there about the words, but that wouldn't affect your cookery skills, right? You could still identify... what food was.
Caroline:Well, yeah, so when you say "they are a cook," does that mean a professional cook? 'Cause obviously, lots of people are cooking.
Ella:No, they don't. You don't have to be a professional cook.
Tom Lum:Yeah, I was wondering if this is a graveyard-cemetery distinction, where it's like you're only, I'm wondering, is this a social thing, or is this more of a—
Tom Scott:Wait, sorry. Graveyard-cemetery distinction?
Tom Lum:Graveyards are attached to churches, I believe, and cemeteries are not?
Tom Scott:Huh.
Ella:You don't have to have this faith. You don't have to be religious. You just have to understand something about the religion.
Tom Scott:This isn't like a religious dietary restriction thing, presumably, 'cause this is medieval times, and the vast majority of the UK did not have dietary restrictions for religion there. Apart from not eating meat on Fridays?
Ella:Nothing to do with that.
Tom Lum:Ooh.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Ella:I think, you know, if you think this is medieval times, what equipment would you not have had when you were cooking, that... It's not specialised equipment. It's something you would need to know when you're cooking.
Tom Scott:Hygiene?
Tom Lum:Water, running water.
Caroline:Pots, pans? Fire?
Tom Lum:Yeah, heat, pans... The knife, the fancy chef's hat that can hide a rat inside to help you cook.
Caroline:That is very important, yeah.
Ella:It's nothing that you actually cook with.
Caroline:Okay... Books? Is it cookbooks?
Ella:No, but there's something in that, because when you're using a cookbook, what's something really important as part of...
Caroline:The ability to read.
Tom Lum:An open area with candles?
Ella:No, no, no. Back to the reci— Back to the cookbook, back to the recipes. What do they tell you?
Tom Lum:Does it say identify animals?
Tom Scott:Measurements.
Tom Lum:Oh, scales?
Ella:No, no, no, no. Keep down there. Keep down that way.
Caroline:The ingredients?
Tom Lum:Measuring cups?
Ella:You've said everything in a recipe, but the thing that I—
Caroline:The order to cook things in?
Tom Lum:Numbers? Math?
Tom Scott:The amount of time you have to cook things for.
Ella:Yes, the amount of time you have to cook things for.
Tom Lum:Hourglasses, candles that they had to...
Caroline:How to tell the time?
Ella:Yes. Yes. How do they tell the time?
Tom Scott:What? Are we blanking on this? Is this general knowledge we should all know? What on earth does a student of religion know about time, that regular people don't?
Tom Lum:So you can measure time with the burning of a candle. It's not super accurate, with...

Hourglasses, sundials, church bells.
Ella:I'll say it's not physical. It's not physical.
Caroline:It's not physical. It's the knowledge that you would have.
Tom Scott:You would know how long the Lord's Prayer is.
Tom Scott:And that's exactly one minute...
Tom Lum:No...!
Caroline:No way!
Tom Scott:You cook something for the duration of so many Lord's Prayers.
Ella:Yeah, that is exactly it, Tom.
Tom Lum:(applauds) Tom!
Tom Scott:There's something in my head about an old medieval cookbook, where it said something like... would be to fry for so many minutes. It was like, put on the stove and say three Lord's Prayers or something like that.
Ella:Yes, it's basically that. So, cooking times were often specified in terms of the number of times it took to say a common prayer. It doesn't necessarily have to be the Lord's Prayer. So for example, one recipe book, On the Subject of Cooking, written by Martino da Como of Italy says, "Cook for the time it takes to recite two Pater Nosters."
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Ella:One good example here is, for pancakes, one Hail Mary on the waffle iron, which is 15 seconds.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:They had waffle irons, but they didn't have hourglasses.
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Ella:I should clarify, they had them, but... sand timers and water clocks were too expensive. At least accurate ones were too expensive for most people.
Tom Lum:Also for short periods of time like that.
Ella:Exactly, although there is a recipe here which is for 20 to 25 minutes, which is for bread dough, and you would do one entire Rosary. That doesn't seem practical to me.
Tom Lum:Holy moly. Yeah, you should just do one quarter of a Let's Learn Everything podcast.
Tom Scott:That's an idea, a recipe podcast that's not religious, but you just start on, and you cook along with it. And there's some entertainment, and in about five minutes, it's, "Oh, you need to do that now."
Ella:Oh, that's a great idea.
Caroline:Such a good idea. (laughs)
Tom Scott:Next one's from me. Good luck, folks.

In a flat, open field with no obstructions, Angus can see the same number of cows and bulls. In the same field, Daisy can see twice as many bulls as cows. You would disagree with them both. How many bulls and cows are there?
Ella:Oh, no, this is a maths question!
Tom Scott:I knew we were gonna get that! I'll say it one more time.

In a flat, open field with no obstructions, Angus can see the same number of cows and bulls. In the same field, Daisy can see twice as many bulls as cows. And you would disagree with them both. How many bulls and cows are there?
Tom Lum:I think I might know the answer to this?
Caroline:No way. Are they just really bad at identifying them?
Ella:Yeah, is it a matter of perspective?
Caroline:It's hard, you know?
Tom Scott:I mean, it sort of is a matter of perspective, but there's no visual tricks involved.
Tom Lum:Is there a hint in the names?
Tom Scott:See, I thought as soon as I saw this question, someone's gonna get the hint in the names. Yes, there is, Tom.
Ella:Oh, what are their names? Angus, Daisy...
Tom Scott:Angus and Daisy.
Caroline:Wait! Are the other people who are seeing the cows, they're cows?
Tom Scott:Yes! I knew it!
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:I saw that question, and I thought, they're gonna get that one on the names. Yes.
Caroline:That's so clever!
Tom Scott:Yes. You have worked out the trick in the question. It is that Angus is a bull, and Daisy is a cow. So you know what? I'm gonna give you the maths problem from that.
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Caroline:Ooh, okay, okay.
Tom Scott:Angus can see the same number of cows and bulls. Daisy can see twice as many bulls as cows. And you would disagree with them both. Now, I realise that, in audio, this is a tricky one.
Ella:I would like to say I'm opting out of this question immediately, 'cause I hate maths so much.
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Caroline:I would like to say... how distressed the three of us look. Actually, no, me and Ella look quite distressed. Tom Lum looks like he's about to really enjoy trying to figure this out.
Tom Lum:I got visual cows in my brain 24/7. That's how I do most math.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Caroline:I can't visualise things! This isn't fair.
Ella:Oh yeah.
Tom Lum:Angus is looking at three cows and three other bulls.
Caroline:Why three?
Tom Lum:And so he sees an equal amount.
Ella:Oh, you're starting at a base of an equal amount.
Tom Lum:I guess that's true. I guess it could be a different amount.
Ella:I would like to say Caroline has... Caroline has aphantasia. So Caroline literally cannot picture things.
Caroline:I'm literally drawing it on a Post-It note right now.
Tom Lum:I'm rotating these cows in my brain like it's nobody's business. Just for fun.
Tom Scott:Keep going, Tom, keep going. You were starting on—
Tom Lum:3 cows and 3 bulls. So, Angus is one of them.
Ella:No, cause Angus can see an equal number of— So there has to be—
Tom Lum:So there's two cows and three bulls then. So, Angus is one of them, and so he sees two cows and two bulls. And then if Daisy is one of the cows, then she sees...
Tom Scott:She sees twice as many bulls as cows.
Tom Lum:One cow and three bulls. Okay, so I goofed it then.
Caroline:So it's gotta be... four... bulls... and three... No... yes! Four bulls and three cows because the...
Tom Lum:Caroline got it.
Caroline:Angus is seeing himself, so he's seeing three other bulls and then three cows, but whichever the other name was—
Tom Lum:Daisy.
Caroline:Daisy can see two other cows and, including Angus, four.
Ella:Four bulls.
Caroline:Literally had to draw that on a Post-It note to figure it out.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:What I love is, Tom, you started so strong. You just went, "Yeah, so Angus can see three and three." I'm like, "Oh, he's got it immediately and intuitively."
Tom Lum:And then I lost it.
Tom Scott:Then you just veered off and lost faith in it, and Caroline swooped in.
Tom Lum:I became Ang— You know what? I became Angus. I was too lost in it. I was...
Tom Lum:I couldn't remove myself. I was too impassioned.
Caroline:I just had to sit quietly for a second to come back.
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom Lum:Yeah, we cut it out. We spent an hour doing that drawing on the chalkboard.
Tom Scott:Yes, Angus and Daisy are a bull and a cow respectively, and the answer to the mathematical trick is four bulls and three cows.

Caroline, next one is yours.
Caroline:Let's do it. So this question has been sent in by Sayan Chaudhry.

Shortly after a September 2016 announcement, the company M3D released a design for some earrings. They are truncated cones, with a 1-inch opening at the wider end. How did they help reduce anxiety?

I'll say it again.

Shortly after a September 2016 announcement, the company M3D released a design for some earrings. They are truncated cones, with a 1-inch opening at the wider end. How do they help reduce anxiety?
Tom Scott:I was thinking earplugs.
Caroline:Wait, so the earring itself is an earplug?
Ella:Yeah, you just flip it up into your ears.
Tom Scott:Or if you want to be really clever, you just kick your head in just the right way, and whoop, boop, ball in a cup. Earplug in the ear hole.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:We're an ideas factory on this podcast. What's going on with...
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:So that's a really good idea, but that's not the answer.
Tom Scott:Also 1-inch hole, that's a... That's quite a big earplug, that is.
Caroline:Mhm, that would be a lot.
Ella:What's a truncated cone? Can someone describe that shape to me? 'Cause I don't know.
Tom Lum:It's a cone that's squished, right?
Tom Scott:Oh no, no, with the top chopped off.
Caroline:So without the pointy end, so it's...
Tom Lum:A dog bowl shape
Ella:kind of a thing, right, I guess?
Caroline:Kind of, yeah, yeah.
Ella:Is it a whistle?
Caroline:No, no, it's not a whistle.
Ella:Does it have functionality? I feel like, to reduce anxiety.
Tom Scott:It must have.
Tom Lum:It's gotta, right?
Caroline:What do you mean by functionality?
Tom Scott:It reduces anxiety, that's its function.
Caroline:That's its... That's what it does. That's the impact it has at the end. But is that its original function, to reduce anxiety? It wasn't designed specifically to reduce anxiety.
Tom Scott:You store your keys in it somehow, and anytime you wonder if you've lost your keys at home, then you can just feel your earrings, and there's your key. Doesn't work with a 1-inch hole.
Caroline:Now, Tom, that was... You went for the dumb answer, but you're kind of not too far off. You know?
Tom Scott:Oh, okay.
Ella:You can store something in it then? Something that's important to you?
Tom Scott:Really?
Caroline:Yeah, yeah.
Tom Lum:Do they just hang, they just... doop into little sockets there?
Caroline:Yeah, so you just put them in, yeah. 'Cause what was released at the same time?
Tom Lum:Oh, right. The year, yeah. That should have been the...
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:2016.
Caroline:In September of 2016, the iPhone 7 was launched. Alongside this, Apple unveiled their new wireless AirPods. People were worried that these could fall out or get lost, stuff like that. So to help prevent this, these earrings kinda take the form of a little basket. Which could then catch your AirPods if they fell out.
Tom Scott:Awh.
Ella:Oh, it's a bas— Okay, so they're not— Even in my head, I'm thinking they're dangling down, and somehow there's some kind of...
Tom Scott:It's a storage container. Yeah, in my head, you're locking it in, and... It's literally to catch your AirPod if it falls out.
Caroline:Ohhh! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is why there's that 1-inch opening
Tom Scott:so that if you're... the bottom of the AirPod
Caroline:could then fall into it and get caught by it.
Tom Scott:I was seeing the cone as being the other way up. I was seeing it as a cone pointing upwards. It's not, it's a cone pointing down!
Tom Lum:I was also. That makes a lot more sense, yeah. Maybe we aren't clever product designers actually.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:But that makes sense about why you would think it would be something to plug your ears with, if that was the way around, that it was, you know.
Ella:I haven't seen what these look like, but I can imagine they look ridiculous.
Tom Lum:(laughs) I mean, I don't see them around. This is the first I'm hearing of it.
Caroline:I like my fun earrings. I don't know if I would wear these as a fashion accessory, but that's just me, y'know? So, in September of 2016, the iPhone 7 was launched. At the same time, AirPods were released, so these earrings were designed to catch your AirPods if they fall out of your ears.
Tom Scott:We have rattled through the questions in this episode, so we have the rare shiny bonus question here.
SFX:(guests gasp)
Caroline:How exciting!
Tom Scott:In the US, what are delivered at a rate of 0.4172 Miles per hour?

I'll say that again.

In the US, what are delivered at a rate of 0.4172 Miles per hour?
Caroline:So, is it a human person delivering these?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Caroline:Okay. 'Cause my brain was immediately like, we're working the snails today, aren't we? We're going for it.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:For anyone who knew the answer to that straight off, your question was wonderful, and there's a reason I just gave a very decisive answer there.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Ella:Oh, because there could be some kind of... Okay.
Tom Lum:What was it again? I apologize for that.
Tom Scott:Delivered at a rate of 0.4172 Miles per hour.
Ella:0.4172 miles. So it's about half a mile... an hour.
Caroline:Is it something that has to be moved very, very carefully?
Ella:Yeah, something fragile.
Tom Scott:You'd wanna be careful with this, yeah. It's quite fragile.
Tom Lum:A child is delivered. In the delivery room.
Ella:Ohh! They— Sorry, they're shooting out at half a mile an hour? That does not sound good.
Tom Scott:I don't know where 'child' suddenly came from there, Tom, but you're not wrong.
Caroline:Oh, no, okay.
Tom Lum:Delivery. I thought, you know in the delivery room.
Ella:Yeah, labour.
Caroline:Is it panda births? 'Cause they shoot out!
Ella:Are they delivered by humans?
Caroline:Well, sometimes they are. (giggles) It's just labour. Is it just labour?
Tom Scott:The question does say in the US. And you're right, it's that kind of delivery. I don't know where that came from, Tom, but you're absolutely spot on. There's one other thing in this question.
Tom Lum:It's just the word delivery.
Ella:'Cause, oh, it's the US specifically. Why is it so quick?
Tom Lum:Is it like our stork system that we have? Sorry, we have that in the US. We have the storks that deliver babies...
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Caroline:It's part of your healthcare, right?
Tom Lum:Yeah, mom told me. (laughs) That's for real!
Tom Scott:You should see the bill!
Tom Lum:Oh my god!
Tom Lum:Alright.
Tom Scott:Sorry. That's a terrible pun, but I am so proud of that! That was full dad joke!
Tom Lum:Wooow!
Tom Scott:I felt that one gearing up. Oh, we got a joke here. We got a joke!
Tom Lum:I think you get my position on the podcast. I think I'm gonna retire.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:Why would it be... I wonder if that's fast or slow then. It seems to me like it's fast. I thought they'd come out very, very slowly. Could it be in a... happening on a... in an ambulance?
Tom Lum:That's why it's moving at that speed? Or moving?
Ella:Is it the charge per the room? You want to get it out quicker?
Caroline:(guffaws) Is it about a piece of technology that's...
Tom Scott:It's a very specific number, that is. 0.4172 miles per hour.
Ella:If I change that to the metric system, will it make more sense to me? (wheezes)
Tom Scott:(snickers) If you change it to the metric system, it won't work at all. In fact, I can tell you it's delivered at zero kilometres per hour.
Tom Lum:What?
Ella:Wait, but, so—
Tom Lum:Is this a rounding error due to... measurements?
Tom Scott:You're gonna hate me.
Tom Lum:Or something like that?
Tom Scott:You're gonna absolutely hate me.
Caroline:Oh no. (giggles)
Tom Lum:You say that after saying the bill pun, so I can't believe—
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Scott laugh uproariously)
Tom Lum:What could possibly be worse?
Caroline:Wow, we're all silent. This has really stumped us. (giggles)
Tom Lum:Is there a minimum number it has to be, or something like...
Tom Scott:It's 0.4172 Miles per hour and zero kilometres per hour.
Tom Lum:What on earth?
Ella:Babies are delivered at.
Tom Scott:Mhm.
Ella:Oh, it's something about the earth turning? (wheezes) I don't know.
Tom Lum:Is it?
Ella:Earthquakes? I'm going way off track here.
Tom Scott:At some point a lightbulb is gonna come on, and I'm going to string this one out.
Tom Lum:Okay, this is so interesting.
Caroline:Is it like, if you line all of the babies up into a row per hour, that's how far you could get?
Tom Scott:It's a word one, this. This is a wordplay one.
Caroline:It's a word one.
Tom Lum:Oh gosh.
Ella:Miles... It's something to do with...
Caroline:Something about the word... Is it something about the word 'delivered' in this scenario?
Tom Lum:Is it the name Miles?
SFX:(Caroline and Ella gasp)
Tom Scott:It's the name Miles.
Caroline:Oh no.
Tom Lum:(laughs) Oh, Tom!
Tom Scott:It's 0.4172 Miles per hour. I could also say 3,657.5 Miles per year.
Tom Lum:(slow claps)
Tom Scott:The 107th most popular name for male babies.
Tom Lum:(distant yelling)
Tom Scott:And that means 0.4172 Miles per hour.
Ella:You're right, Tom. I do hate you.
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Tom Scott:In hindsight, I should have said you're gonna be so angry at our question writers.
Ella:(chuckles snidely)
Tom Lum:(laughs) No, it's you. No.
Caroline:Oh, that's who you want us to blame, is it? Okay, okay.
Ella:No, it's you. It's you.
Tom Lum:Yeah. No kilometres per hour.
Ella:Well, you don't know if there's any... There could be babies called Kilometer in the United States.
Tom Lum:Yeah! We'll prove you wrong!
Tom Scott:The final bit of the show, then. You're still angry about that last one.
Ella:I'm so mad.
Caroline:I'm so angry! I'm like, why did we agree to come back if that's what we're gonna get?
SFX:(group laughs hysterically)
Tom Scott:The question I gave the audience at the start.

Why does the Austrian music group Das Erste Wiener Gemüsterorchester give their audience soup after every performance?

Does anyone want to take a quick shot of that? Anyone who speaks German, despite my appalling pronunciation, will probably have got this already.
Caroline:Is it like, you're deliberately supposed to scream the lyrics, so you might need something to soothe your throat at the end of it?
Tom Lum:(gasp) That's clever! How sweet would that be? Does the type of soup matter?
Tom Scott:It is always roughly the same kind of soup, yes.
Ella:Is it German for "The Soup Orchestra"? Is it that simple?
Tom Scott:It's close. It's Das Erste Wiener Gemüseorchester. Again, I'm mispronouncing that. But yes, that is—
Ella:Wiener, is that...
Tom Scott:The First Vienna Something Orchestra.
Caroline:Eating orchestra?
Tom Lum:Soup? Do they play with soup? Do they use soup? Is it like... bowls or splashing?
Caroline:(gasps) Ohhh.
Tom Scott:Very close.
Caroline:Do they use cutlery to play all of their instruments?
Tom Scott:Also close.
Tom Lum:Is it made up of chefs in this orchestra?
Caroline:Do they all have to slurp at different pitches to make the music?
Ella:Eww, oh.
Tom Scott:Oh no. No, no they don't.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:And we've hit the bad ideas section of the show. (laughs)
Tom Lum:And would you like a demonstration of that, Tom and listeners?
Tom Scott:It's actually to prevent waste.
Ella:So they're using the soup in the orchestra?
Tom Scott:Not quite.
Ella:They're cooking?
Tom Lum:They are soup.
Caroline:They're making soup? During the show?
Tom Scott:After the show.
Caroline:They're chopping up vegetables whilst they're doing it.
Ella:They play vegetables?
Caroline:(gasp) Oh!
Tom Scott:They play vegetables. It is the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra.
Ella:Gemüse? Did you say Gemüse?
Tom Scott:Gemüse, or something... I have a phonetic pronunciation guide in front of me, and I'm just going to apologise to every German speaker in the world. Yes, they have carrot flutes, pumpkin drums, onion maracas, and leek violins, and in order to prevent waste, the audience gets soup at the end of the performance.
Ella:That's nice.
Tom Lum:That's amazing! Yeah, I guess you couldn't have a Stradivarius leek
Caroline:that has been, for a thousand—
Tom Scott:for hundreds of years, been passed down. (laughs)
Tom Lum:That's great!
Tom Scott:Last time, I think it was Tom who gave the plug for your podcast. So this time, we're gonna go to Ella. Tell us about Let's Learn Everything.
Ella:The three of us make up Let's Learn Everything, a science comedy podcast where we talk about science and also other miscellaneous things. For example...
Tom Scott:Caroline, give us some topics. I think that's what we did last time, but nevertheless, Caroline, give us some topics.
Caroline:We've talked about how fantastic pigeons are. We've talked about... Oh no, you see, Tom and Ella both told me to prep a list of episodes before,
SFX:(Tom Lum and Ella wheeze)
Caroline:and I didn't do that.
Ella:Tom! Tom Lum, go!
Caroline:Tom, you go for it.
Tom Lum:(laughs) We did a topic about bagged milk with a guest on this own very show itself. Sabrina Cruz hopped on once. We've talked about cosmic rays. We've talked about telephone music and emojis, things big and small and silly and everything in-between.
Ella:We've talked about the Eurovision Song Contest, the most important thing.
Caroline:We have.
Tom Lum:It was an amazing episode.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Tom Scott:Where can people find you?
Caroline:All of our socials are there.
Tom Scott:And that's our show for today. Thank you very much. Well done, everyone.

If you want to know more about this show or send in your own idea for a question, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere, and you can get video highlights at

Thank you very much to Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Woo!
Tom Scott:Caroline Roper.
Tom Scott:Ella Hubber.
Ella:Booyakasha. (cracks up)
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:Oh, regret!
Tom Scott:I'm Tom Scott. Oh, that's staying in. We're not editing that.
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Tom Scott:That's staying in. I'm Tom Scott, and this has been Lateral.
Ella:No! No!
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