Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 61: Instruments made by insects

Published 8th December, 2023

Evan & Katelyn Heling and Emily Calandrelli face questions about growing gains, wrong watches and cat calamaties.

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: Francisco Jordão, R.Y., Harry, Jeff Wagg, Bruce, Thomas Dean. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Generally speaking, what starts at 20 and turns into 32?

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

Welcome to the panel game that's a little bit like a zombie survival film. Our questions stagger in awkward directions while licking their lips at the sight of brains. So it's barbed wire baseball bats at the ready while I introduce you to our guests. We start:

from Emily's Wonder Lab on Netflix and newly published author Emily Calandrelli. How are you doing?
Emily:Good, how are you? Thanks for having me.
Tom:I'm doing well. We've got a brand new set of guests on today's show. None of you have ever played the game before, which always makes me a little bit nervous, but I think we're gonna smash it out the park this time.

I said new author, knowing that you wanted to plug the book, and she's completely forgot to plug the book. Plug the book, Emily! Now's a good time to plug the book.
Emily:Yes, so I have the sixth book in my Ada Lace adventures that just came out. It's Ada Lace Gets Famous. This is a book series for kids ages 6 to 10, and it features a little girl named Ada Lace who loves all things science and tech, and she solves problems with mostly gadgets that she builds herself. It's like a nerdier version of Nancy Drew.
Tom:I suspect that might be a little bit autobiographical? Just, based on yourself, just a touch?
Emily:Oh, it is maybe aspirational biographical. Like a girl that I wish that I was like when I was a kid.
Tom:The other reason I'm slightly nervous about today's episode is our other two players are a married couple in the same room, on the same connection to call into this show. And you're leaning on each other's shoulders. It's adorable, but I feel like you might run away with this today. You're in close proximity here. Evan and Katelyn, welcome to the show.
Evan:Thanks for having us. No, we're going to aim
Katelyn:Thank you.
Evan:...all of our secret answers and hints away from each other.
Evan:We're adversaries.
Tom:Alright. Thank you very much for coming on. I think the first time I saw your YouTube channel, you were building the world's brightest lightsaber.
Katelyn:(snickers) Yeah, we like to make things together. They're usually not practical things, but we try to make stuff that we would have the most fun with.
Katelyn:Like a giant, bright lightsaber.
Evan:Or the world's biggest laptop. It's a lot of fun.
Tom:Very best of luck to all of you today.

The answer to a Lateral question is a little like the far side of the moon. You know it must exist, but very few people have seen it with their own eyes. And with that, we're gonna take off in three, two, one...

With a question that's been sent in by Bruce in Cornwall.

The 477 bus in Northumberland runs once or twice a day, twice a week. The bus begins its run at one of seven different times, seemingly at random. Why does it have such an odd timetable?

I'll say that one more time.

The 477 bus in Northumberland runs once or twice a day, twice a week. The bus begins its run at one of seven different times, seemingly at random. Why does it have such an odd timetable?
Evan:I feel like I'm back in school, which is a fun and scary feeling.
SFX:(Tom and Evan laugh)
Katelyn:Yeah, I know.
Emily:I've got that... SAT test anxiety going on.
Evan:Yeah, but this is fun. I love the puzzle.
Emily:It only runs twice a week? Is that what you said?
Tom:Yeah, twice a week, once or twice a day, seemingly at random.
Emily:Is it like sunrise and sunset?
Evan:What if it's an airplane that lands very rarely, and the airplane— and the bus needs to take the passengers from one place to another place, but the plane lands at random times? It seems like there must be some sort of trigger. And that trigger is the random thing. You know what I mean?
Emily:Well, sunset and sunrise happen slightly differently at a slightly different time every day.
Evan:Once or twice a day, twice per week.
Tom:And it begins its run at one of seven different times, seemingly at random.
Katelyn:One of seven— So there's only seven different times. I wonder if that seven is key.
Evan:Yeah. And is the location of this event notable?
Tom:Yeah, anyone in the Northumberland area – which is sort of northeast of the United Kingdom – if you're in that area, you will already be screaming the answer.
Tom:I suspect our producer may have lined this question up for a show with three Americans in it.
SFX:(Katelyn and Evan laugh heartily)
Evan:Alright, so there's—
Tom:If one of you's Canadian, I'm so apologetic for getting that wrong.
Evan:Let's see.
Katelyn:So it's something local.
Emily:There's seven different times. But there's seven precise times that it can happen. But the choice of when it leaves, which time that is, it seems random.
Tom:Yeah, and I'm not saying much, because between you all, you're vaguely starting to approach the answer.
Katelyn:Okay. I'm also thinking because it can happen once or twice, I feel like that might rule out something like the... sunset/sunrise, because why would that— why would it be once or twice? So what would happen sometimes one time, sometimes two times?
Evan:Twice a week? Is it something like a ferry?
Emily:Oh, a boat. I was like, a fairy princess?
SFX:(others laughing)
Katelyn:It's magical?
Evan:It's magical?
Emily:Is it magic?
Katelyn:Yeah, is it magic though? We can't rule that out.
SFX:(laughter trails off)
Tom:It could run seven days a week. It's actually just a tourist route, and it happens to run on these days.
Emily:Is it something with the tides? Tides coming in?
Tom:That's why I kept my mouth shut, 'cause you said sun, and that wasn't quite the right astronomical body, but...
Emily:But something celestial, based on... Okay.
Evan:So it has to do with the tides.
Emily:So maybe it's a ferry. Maybe it's a ferry, maybe it's based on the tides. Maybe it's a boat, and it can only leave during high tide or something.
Tom:It is an actual bus, but you're nearly there.
Emily:Oh, a bus.
Katelyn:I mean, is there a bridge that is underwater at high tide?
Tom:Yes, there is. Spot on. This is...
Emily:♪ Da-da-da-da ♪
Tom:This is the causeway across the sea to Lindisfarne – or Holy Island – in the northeast. And it is quite a famous causeway in Britain that more or less twice a day gets covered by the tide. And that time shifts by about an hour each day.

So the bus schedule is: pick a time when the bus can actually get over, and more importantly, can get back.
Katelyn:That's so interesting!
Evan:I have to admit, at the beginning of this, I gave us slim chances of getting this right.
SFX:(group laughing)
Evan:This is so random. I'm really happy we did. Good job, team.
Emily:Yeah, that was really good teamwork.
Tom:I was panicking that we were gonna be done in 60 seconds as soon as Emily said sunrise. I was like, well, we've solved it here.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:It's worth looking up at some point footage from this because it is, at low tide, Just a pathway that's... you know, had a road built over it. It was an old pilgrims' path many, many years ago. But then the water starts arriving and starts flooding it, and there is always some idiot who's got stuck on the other side who thinks they can make it across in their car.

And most of the time, they can. And then about once a month, the Coast Guard have to arrive for someone who has had to leave their swamped car and run up to one of the safety towers, just to stop them being swept away.
Evan:Oh my gosh!
Emily:Why don't they build a new bridge?
Tom:I think it's partly tradition, and partly because the island's kind of got this historic mystery air about it. I think they quite like the fact that this is only accessible at certain times.
Evan:Now, do they have to scrape the road every now and then from, you know, mold and other things building up because it could be slick?
Katelyn:Because of the water?
Tom:I'd guess so, yeah. I've not thought about that.
Evan:That's crazy.
Emily:Yeah, yeah. Corrosion is a thing.
Emily:It seems... structurally unsound. (snickers)
Tom:I mean, I've been there. There's just a big old sign next to it with a load of tide times and very big warnings on it that you have to hope that people read.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Tom:So yes, the 477 bus in Northumberland only runs at certain times because otherwise, it'll get a bit wet.

Each of our guests has brought a question. I don't know the question. I don't know the answers. And we're going to start today with Katelyn. Whenever you're ready.
Katelyn:Okay. Yeah.
Tom:(laughs) Evan is hiding his gaze on the other side of the screen.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn giggle)
Katelyn:Okay, so this question was submitted by Harry from Christchurch.

A 2013 study found that unusually, the more an operator used this highly specialised robot, the less effective they became at carrying out their job objectively. What is this robot used for?

I'll read it one more time.

A 2013 study found that unusually, the more an operator used this highly specialised robot, the less effective they became at carrying out their job objectively. What is the robot used for?
Evan:'Objectively' I think might be one of the key words here.
Tom:My first thought was that it was a sport thing. That it was something like Hawk-Eye in cricket, or tennis, the line judge thing. That the more the operator starts to rely on it, the less they actually start to be able to make the call about whether the ball's in or out.

But, also, I went for the cricket reference first. Sorry folks.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Katelyn is not immediately nodding at me, so I suspect I'm wrong.
Evan:She has a good poker face. I wouldn't put it past—
Evan:You could have gotten it spot on, and she's just playing it cool.
Katelyn:I want you each to have a chance to chime in a little bit before I give too much. I wanna see where this goes.
Emily:Yeah, I was thinking sort of like AI, ChatGPT-style robot, but 2013 study makes me think that that's probably not it. Can we ask if it is sports related?
Katelyn:It's not sports related, and Evan is correct in focusing on that word 'objectively'.
Tom:It also said robot, and not... 'sensor system' or something like that. The Hawk-Eye system is not a robot. It'd be cooler if it was, but it's not. It's cameras and algorithms.
Emily:Is it a physical robot?
Katelyn:It is a physical robot.
Evan:So it's interesting because it's a physical robot doing something where there's an objective outcome, not a technical outcome. So it's not assembling. It's not, you know, doing anything where it's technically correct or wrong. It's objective, and that's the thing that really—
Katelyn:Let me just clarify, 'cause there's a lot of... 'they's in my question. The less effective the operator becomes at carrying out their job.
Evan:So the operator of the robot becomes less and less objective as they use this robot.
Tom:Oh, now I'm just stuck on giant mecha Gundam suits from anime. Just big ol' exoskeleton that's... Ah, but that's still not a robot.
Katelyn:This is a job that... there's a clear advantage to doing it with a robot.
Evan:Okay. Is it a remote-operated vehicle, or is the person operating it locally?
Katelyn:It is remote.
Tom:So what jobs need robots?
Emily:Agriculture uses drones. But... objective... And I'm wondering, does it have to do with grading applicants for something, and... But a physical robot to grade?
Tom:(laughs) University admissions at MIT are now actually just graded by a giant robot reaching in and just sweeping people into one bin or another.
Evan:(laughs heartily)
Katelyn:I will say... the reason that the... doing their job objectively becomes an issue is not because they lose the skill. The operator doesn't necessarily lose the skill to do that job. It's not like they become reliant on the robot.
Evan:I've just been hanging on to this. I don't— It's kind of a dark thing, but I think, you know, UAVs and... you know, military people operating—
Tom:If our producers have put a question about drone strikes in this episode, I'll be stunned!
Emily:Oh yeah.
Tom:That does not—
Evan:I don't think that everyone— I don't think that anyone's going there, you know, 'cause there's some ethical concerns there and everything, but I'm just going to kind of set that aside and move on. 'Cause that's where I kind of went because you can't be so removed.
Emily:Yeah, well, there's also if you get too much information about something, like if you are military-related, but also UFO-related. If you have too many image sensors around a base, and you get too much data on objects that are moving, you're going to get animals and cars and things that are just not relevant. And if you have a robot helping you with that, getting more UFO data makes you maybe less objective at identifying what's relevant.

But again, that's sensors, not a robot.
Katelyn:I will say that you're not totally off-base with the warfare.
Tom:Oh, wow!
Evan:Really? Wow!
SFX:(uncomfortable laughing)
Tom:Alright, this is gonna be a very difficult question to tread a line on from now on, okay.
Katelyn:To help you guys out. It's kind of wholesome.
Katelyn:I know, it's—
Evan:Wholesome and warfare.
Evan:That's really interesting.
Katelyn:I'm throwing you a weird combo here.
Tom:What jobs use robots and fit all those criteria?
Evan:So it is remotely operated, and it's a physical robot. It has to do with war, and it's wholesome.
Tom:Or bomb disposal? 'Cause bomb disposal robots are a thing.
Evan:It could be bomb disposal.
Tom:But I don't know how you would objectively—
Evan:(gasp) Wait! Wait!
Evan:I think I might have it, based on an article I read a long time ago. People who operate bomb disposal robots form an emotional connection with their bomb disposal robots.
Evan:Yes, because they like their robots! And they form a bond with them, and they feel saddened when the robot dies. So they may take maybe less risks because they don't want the robot to blow up when they're disposing the bomb.
Katelyn:You got it!
SFX:(group cheering and applauding)
Evan:Oh my gosh!
Katelyn:Yeah! So yeah, the answer is bomb defusal, and it's basically exactly what you said. A study found that operators anthropomorphize their robots. They give them names. Often the names will be like their girlfriend's name or like a pet name. They treat them like a person... and they build an attachment to them. And over time, they start to get wary about putting them into harm's way.

So, yeah, there's a study. They interviewed 23 explosive ordnance personnel, and the soldiers admitted they felt frustration, anger, even sadness, if a field robot was destroyed.
Evan:Wow! That's interesting!
Tom:I remember reading the phrase somewhere, and I cannot think of the source of this, but just, humans will pair-bond with anything.
Tom:You just give a thing a name and a couple of eyes, and humans will just go, "Yep, I love that now."
Evan:Yeah, well we... If you can zoom in on our feed right here. Guess what our microphones have?
Tom:Oh, googly eyes.
Katelyn:Eyes and faces. Yeah, we tend to do that. The majority of our, especially our large tools all have googly eyes and they get names. So, I so related to this story.
SFX:(both laughing)
Emily:I can't believe you randomly read an article that is useful at this moment in your life right now. That was perfect timing.
Evan:I just really like robots. And technically when one of our projects, we needed a mobile remote-operated base.
Katelyn:We're building a car for our cat.
Evan:We were building a remote operated car for our cat. So we could drive it around.
Emily:As one does.
Evan:And guess what I found online for a reasonable price? The base of a bomb disposal robot.
Tom:Oh wow!
SFX:(Tom and Evan laugh)
Katelyn:So we do—
Tom:What happened to the rest of the robo— Actually never mind. I know what happened to the rest of the robot.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Katelyn:We just used the base.
Evan:We just used the base. Yeah, yeah. It was a stock base.
Katelyn:So, bomb defusal robot operators develop an emotional attachment to their robots, and it causes them to perform their job less objectively.
Katelyn:It's crazy.
Tom:Thank you to Jeff Wagg for sending in this next question.

What musical instrument is largely made by insects?

I'll give you that one more time.

What musical instrument is largely made by insects?
Katelyn:My first instinct is like, is there something that insects produce physically? You know, like spiders have, you know, silk string. Is there something that the insects produce... that goes into making this instrument?
Evan:Well, I'm wondering, do humans play this instrument, or does nature play this instrument? And 'instrument' is a little bit interpretive. Is it wind blowing through an anthill, and all of the things whistle or something like that? Or is it something that a human plays? 'Cause technically... it could be defined either way.
Tom:I'll put you out of your misery on this one. It is, at least, a human-played instrument.
Evan:Alright, alright. Now, you said largely made by insects, or completely made?
Tom:Yeah. Largely.
Evan:Largely, okay.
Emily:I wonder if there's some sort of horn instrument that's created by... I don't know, something that... just has that sort of shape of like small on one end, large on the other... and is maybe not the most common of instruments that you'd find in a wind ensemble or a concert band. But well, maybe that's a good question. Is it something you would find in a high school concert band?
Tom:I'm not giving you any more hints now, 'cause it's like that first question where I'm just shutting up. 'Cause it turns out we've got a really, really good team of players here. It's not even meant to be a competitive thing, but somehow, y'all are managing it!
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Katelyn:I'm almost picturing you know when anteaters, you know, stick their long tongues into those tubes to get the ants, those specific type of anthills that are long and tubular.
Katelyn:Can you play that as an instrument?
Evan:Or is it an element in an instrument? You know, those rain making things?
Katelyn:A didgeridoo.
Emily:Didgeridoo, yeah.
Evan:Is it? I don't know. The one where you turn it upside down?
Katelyn:You're thinking of something else. I'm thinking of a didgeridoo.
Evan:And all of like the things rain down?
Emily:Yeah, I'm thinking the didgeridoo.
Tom:Why are you thinking the didgeridoo?
Emily:'Cause it looks like an instrument that could be made by...
Emily:It looks very neat. Is it a didgeridoo?
Tom:It's a didgeridoo! You've got it. You've got it that quickly. It's a didgeridoo!
Emily:Well done, Katelyn.
Tom:(laughs) I will ask you for a little bit more. Why, how, what's the process there?
Katelyn:Oh, I was just guessing 'cause it looks really organic.
Tom:Yeah. It does.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:So, what's it made from? How are the insects making that?
Emily:Well, I mean, does the didgeridoo originate in Australia?
Emily:Is that where it's from? Where is the...
Emily:Australia? So, big Australian ants. (chuckles)
Tom:Termites, actually.
Emily:Termites, oh, they eat away the inside of bark.
Emily:And then what's left is a didgeridoo. Is that...?
Tom:The tree falls. The termites hollow out the log, and what you have there is most of the way to a didgeridoo. There's still obviously a lot of work done by humans to tune it, to make it from there, but the basic form of a traditional didgeridoo is a hollowed-out log made by termites.

Emily, over to you for the next question.
Katelyn:Okay, so this question has been sent in by RY.

Near the end of the Fantasmic! nighttime show at Disney's Hollywood Studios, why does one cast member have to do a procedure called 'bagging the fish'?

Near the end of the show Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios, why does one cast member have to do a procedure called 'bagging the fish'?

I worked at Disney World when I was in college, 'cause I thought I wanted to be a Disney Imagineer. And so I spent six months working in Disney World as a cast member there. So I have a lot of very unique Disney knowledge, and this was one of them. It's a good one.
Tom:So, I've seen Fantasmic!. And, it is a big nighttime spectacle in a big kind of amphitheatre. And there are water projection screens and explosions on a mountaintop, and you have Mickey Mouse in full Sorcerer's Apprentice gear, firing off pyrotechnics from a wand.

It's one of the few times I actually kind of fell for the Disney magic. There is a... I don't even know if the show's still going, but there is just a gag at the end of it, where there is basically a teleportation effect. Because there is a puff of smoke, and Mickey Mouse disappears from one part of the stage, and appears on top of the mountain, or maybe the other way around.

And for two seconds, my brain went... "How did they do that?!"

It's two Mickey Mouse suits. It's a character. That's not a person. But for like, two seconds, my brain was like a child going, "That's magic! How'd they do that?" It's another Mickey Mouse suit.

But you know, just for a moment.
Evan:Love that.
Tom:So, my reason for going on the long rant there is, it is a big stage show set on a fibreglass mountain with water effects and pyro effects and a load of fully costumed cast members.
Katelyn:So where is this water pumped from? Is it from a big pond or lake, or is it all underground tubes, or is that relevant?
Evan:Katelyn, are you imagining someone literally picking up real fish? Maybe.
SFX:(group laughing)
Evan:See, I'm thinking of it like... Because I know that Disney likes to, you know, sugarcoat all of the things that they kind of do and everything. So 'bagging the fish' could mean fish, or it could mean anything else.
Katelyn:That's true.
Evan:You know, it could be the fireworks. It could be trash. It could be all sorts of things.
Katelyn:It could be picking up trash.
Tom:Is Fantasmic! the show where the dragon caught on fire recently? I remember seeing that. There was a...

For the first time, something went wrong in a Disney park in quite a spectacular way. And of course everyone's on TikTok now, if you're a kid going there. So there are 30 different angles of a dragon having a bit more fire than it's supposed to for a while.
Katelyn:I think that was at Disneyland.
Tom:That was Disneyland, okay.
Emily:But, I think a relevant emergency scenario.
Tom:Yeah, it's gotta be like a safety thing or something like that. For fireworks, or pyro, or...
Evan:Now I wonder, is this a specific procedure for just this show? Or is this something that they do for all shows, or at the end of any show?
Emily:I think particularly relevant for this show.
Katelyn:Are there real fish involved?
Evan:I don't know if we can ask that question. That's very specific.
Tom:Oh no, I think I can answer that. If there are, they're not visible to the audience. If they are, they've been snuck in by a cast member into the pool, and they're going to be terrified a lot of the time. But it's gotta be something that's in the water or around the water, presumably.
Katelyn:Yeah, I do like the idea of it being a euphemism for something else.
Evan:'Cause even bagging could technically not be an actual bag, you know? Bagging the fish could— doesn't actually mean bagging...
Evan:Something, and fish is something. Bagging the fish could mean... collecting money that fell on the ground. You know, it could be... I guess I'm still thinking of collecting, though.
Tom:Bagging is a euphemism that hunters will use for if you've successfully shot something. You can say you've bagged a few ducks. Which, it's not Donald. Let's put it that way.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Tom:But, if you're out hunting, your bag is what you've caught. So it could be that they're trying to... find or track or grab something that could get away.
Evan:Oh. Emily is smiling in a way.
SFX:(group laughing)
Emily:Can I...? I feel like we're dancing around a lot of things. I would say there is a bag involved.
Tom:And it's gotta be something that's in the water, 'cause fish.
Emily:It is not in the water. There is a bag involved.
Tom:I can't think of any Disney fishes. The Little Mermaid is the only one that...
Katelyn:Oh... Flounder.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Evan:It's like, bag Flounder, no.
Emily:You are so close! You are so close! It is...
Evan:Keep on going, keep on going.
Tom:Fantasmic! has a parade of all the movie characters.
Tom:Oh, it could be the Little Mermaid. It could be as simple as... You can't walk with a Little Mermaid costume on.
Tom:And it's gonna be very wet, because... particularly if she's near the water... Do they have to... put the Little Mermaid actor in a bag to get her safely off the stage or something like that?
Evan:Fish can't walk. Does it have to do with fish not being able to walk?
Emily:It does.
Katelyn:Okay, is it— Does it have to do with the costume?
Emily:Yes, you already got the right character. And you already have the fact that they can't walk. It's the reason the bagging is taking place, which is relevant.
Evan:Okay, so, Disney doesn't like... their hero characters that are in costume acting out of character. They don't want Flounder to be seeing sprouting legs and walking off. So bagging the fish is cast members... secreting away... Flounder.
Tom:No, it's gonna be the Little Mermaid. It's not gonna be Flounder. Flounder's gonna be a fish on a stick. It's gonna be Ariel. It's gotta be Ariel.
Katelyn:Yeah, it's gotta be main character.
Evan:Main character. Okay.
Katelyn:Yeah, yeah. But I think you're onto something. I think it's how they transport her from the show to some sort of backstage area because she can't walk in her costume. And if she's seen with legs, it's gonna ruin the magic.
Emily:Can you describe the Fantasmic! show again, briefly?
Tom:Fibreglass mountain, pyrotechnics, water... a big parade of characters. Is it something to do with pyrotechnic safety?
Emily:Yes, it is.
Tom:Can she not run away if something goes wrong with the pyro?
Emily:It's mostly, it's not necessarily related to running away. It's mostly related to the pyro itself.
Tom:It's just that it's too unsafe for the Little Mermaid who cannot walk to be near the pyro. So she's literally just kind of picked up by cast members and taken somewhere safe.
Emily:Not picked up. She's left there. She's connected to the boat in some way. It's too hard to move her. So instead...
Tom:Just literally put a cover over the boat. Just make sure the audience can't see her anymore and protect her from any flying pyro.
Katelyn:Oh, is it like a fireproof blanket?
Tom:Put a fireproof blanket over Ariel! Oh my god!
Emily:(dinging) You are bagging the fish with a fireproof bag to protect her from the pyrotechnics.
Tom:I assumed they just moved her out the way. They just put a cover over her.
Emily:They can't, she's connected to the boat. So they literally just put a bag over her whole body.
Katelyn:I want to see that happening! I'm sure they try to do it out of the way.
Emily:There's videos online of very sneaky, good camera people finding the bagging of the fish. So you can find videos of this online, which is pretty cool.
Katelyn:Oh, I love that. And I love the name for it too.
Evan:And what a coincidence that you were the one with the question and the full, complete knowledge of the answer. If it had been flipped, the whole show would have been shot.
Emily:Yep, I know. It would have been a very quick answer.

But yes, so there is something near the end of Fantasmic! night show at Disney's Hollywood Studio called 'bagging the fish', which is simply just putting a fireproof bag over Ariel, because she is attached to the boat, has fins, and cannot move.
Evan:(eager clapping)
Katelyn:Love it.
Tom:Thank you to Thomas Dean for sending this question in.

Sam buys a new analogue watch when commuting to work. It seems to work fine for a few hours, until she realises later that it has accidentally been set to the wrong time of day. How could she tell?

I'll give you that one more time.

Sam buys a new analogue watch when commuting to work. It seems to work fine for a few hours until she realises later that it has accidentally been set to the wrong time of day. How could she tell?
Evan:She drove past a clock?
Evan:I don't know.
Emily:She looked at her phone.
SFX:(Tom and Evan laugh)
Evan:But it says, it seems to be working fine initially. So, that must mean that the hands are moving and everything. It seems like the answer's too simple.
Evan:How do we complicate it?
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:You have accidentally – in a bit of wordplay – which will make people who know about watches absolutely joyful, you just kind of accidentally said the right answer, but I can't tell you why yet.
Katelyn:Okay, so it has to do with the hands of the clock moving.
Katelyn:No, okay. (laughs)
Tom:The hands of the clock were moving.
Emily:Does it have to do— Is it a specific type of watch that only operates... when something is happening? Like if you wind it up, or if you are moving?
Tom:It's a fairly normal analogue watch.
Emily:Normal watch.
Tom:I realise they're slightly outdated these days, but this is not a special, weird watch. There were those watches when I was young. There was a fad for them where they claimed they would never stop because it charged itself off your body movement.
Evan:Yeah, they still have those while you walk.
Evan:It kind of winds to some degree.
Tom:Yeah, could have been one of those. Could have not been, doesn't matter. It is your standard analogue watch.
Evan:But irrelevant to this discussion. Okay, okay.
Emily:Was it like she noticed the sun at noon was not directly overhead, and looked at her watch, and it said 2 pm or something?
Tom:No, but she did only notice this... about the end of the morning.
Evan:It was working for a while. It seemed to be working for a while.
Emily:Was it just set— Well, there's not AM and PM on the watches there.
Evan:One thing that an analog watch can't do that digital watches and phones and other things can, is phones can adjust based on time zones. Now, if there was someone in Europe who might commute across a time zone... In America, it's a bit harder, perhaps.
Katelyn:You could be close.
Evan:You could be close, yeah. So anywhere, I guess.
Tom:You could be in Indiana and have to do it three times on a one-hour drive.
SFX:(scattered chuckling)
Evan:Yeah, so—
Tom:Sorry, unnecessary burn on Indiana's complicated time zones there, which just annoyed me a while back. Sorry, let's just...
Emily:That's a fun fact.
Evan:Does it have to do with time zones, though?
Tom:Not really, no.
Evan:Not really, okay.
Katelyn:What about a daylight savings time? 'Cause that's another thing that a digital... On your phone, it would adjust, and your analog watch would not. But usually that happens at 2 am.
Evan:Yeah, it does happen.
Katelyn:Is when they change the clocks back. So that doesn't really work with the timing of a morning commute. Hmm. Man, I really thought you were onto something with the time zones.
Evan:I thought I was onto something with the time zones. I was like, I have it!
Emily:But to be clear, all of these could be right answers. I feel like they successfully...
Tom:No, I'm not sure they could. 'Cause the phrasing is, she realises later that it has been accidentally set to the wrong time of day.
Evan:Ohhh! That's interesting. That changes a lot.
Katelyn:So it's not that it was right, and then she realized it was... It's not that it was right, and then it changed, and was no longer right. It's that—
Evan:It seems to be working correctly for a period of time, and then she realized that it had been set at the wrong time.
Katelyn:Yeah, so she might've set it. There might be a reason why she accidentally set it wrong and didn't realize 'til later.
Emily:I mean, yeah, but daylight savings, that would work, because you— It's like the sun doesn't rise until later, or it rises earlier. So you sort of realize later in the morning, "Oh... it must be a different time of day now"...? No, no, no, no.
Tom:You did say, Emily, that analogue watches don't have AM and PM, and you're right that generally they don't. But that's a little bit closer than you might think.
Katelyn:Does it have military time?
Tom:Standard analogue watch.
Evan:Some watches do have an AM and PM flip. That analog flips between AM and PM. But I don't think that that's it either.
Tom:It'd be really obvious though. You'd buy the watch, you'd look at it. It says 8:15 pm, and you're like, "Oh no, it's 8:15 am."
Tom:So it's not quite that. But that might be what's wrong with it. Why might you notice that later?
Emily:It's not where she lives, where the sun sets at odd hours?
Tom:The thing I picked up on earlier, Evan, which is this sort of nerdy thing that I know, and I sort of have to apologise for knowing this, is you said, "Is there something that complicates it?"

And anything on a watch that is not the hands, any little detail, other thing it tells you, is called a complication.
Tom:And this watch has a complication, one of the most basic ones you could have. Most analogue watches have this.
Katelyn:Could it be that it wasn't that the time was set wrong? That maybe it was it has a complication of the date on it or something too, and the date was wrong?
Evan:Yeah, the date is one of the more common complications.
Tom:So think that one through.
Katelyn:So maybe she commuted to work and no one was there, and she was like, "Oh, it's Sunday"? (both laugh)
Tom:You're nearly there.
Katelyn:(gasps, hisses)
Evan:Okay, so... This person gets the watch. They set it to the correct time, and then they do something that would happen on a certain day and time, but it isn't happening this day because the date is incorrect.
Tom:The date was fine. She looks at it, she buys the watch. On commuting to work, it says 8:30 am... Thursday 20th, whatever it happens to be. Absolutely fine, absolutely correct. And a few hours later, it's not.
Evan:(gasps, snaps fingers) Complications on watches can't take into account leap years and other irregularity of dates.
Tom:I thought you'd got it! You haven't got it! I thought you were so close! We've seen that expression a couple of times. We've heard that in-gasp of air. And I really thought you got it. Emily, you mentioned noon. Evan, you've mentioned complications. Between you, you've got all the pieces.
Katelyn:So there's some sort of mix-up between noon and midnight?
Tom:Which means what happened to that watch?
Evan:Yes! Okay, so... Okay, okay, okay, alright. Let me say this in a clear and concise manner.
SFX:(group laughing)
Evan:So, someone bought a watch and looked at it, and it said, you know, 9:30 Thursday. And then by the time it was one, it said 1 am Friday, because the clock didn't have AM/PM markings. And therefore when it crossed midnight, she assumed it was going to be noon, but instead it was midnight. It changed to the next day. Therefore, she realized that the clock was set 12 hours off.
Tom:Is the correct answer.
Katelyn:(claps) Woo!
Tom:She looks at it. It says 8:30 on Thursday, because it's a 12-hour model. And then it gets to 11:55, 12:00, and that day starts shifting. And she's like, "Oh, it thinks it's midnight." There you go.
Katelyn:That's so... Oh, that's interesting.
Evan:(claps) She just needed one more complication.
Emily:I do not know enough about watches to appreciate this question.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Evan, the last big question of the show is yours. Over to you.
Evan:This question has been sent in by Francisco Jordão.

John hired a new cleaner to do the dirty jobs around the home that he didn't care for. He soon deduced that the cleaner owned a cat. How?

I'll read that one more time.

John hired a new cleaner to do the dirty jobs around the house he didn't care for. He soon deduced that the cleaner owned a cat. How?
Emily:The cleaner owned a cat.
Katelyn:So John owns the home.
Evan:John owns the home.
Katelyn:And he hired the cleaner, and he deduced that the cleaner owns a cat.
Evan:Yes, correct.
Tom:Do any of us own a cat?
Katelyn:We own a cat.
Tom:(laughs) Okay.
Emily:I'm allergic to cats.
SFX:(group laughing)
Katelyn:Evan is also allergic to cats.
Tom:Wait, Evan's allergic, but you still have a cat?
Katelyn:Yeah, the cat was mine before we started dating, and... we didn't find out he was allergic until... ten years into living together, so... Yeah, so we still have the cat.
Evan:I just deal with it.
Katelyn:But it makes me wonder, did John start sneezing?
Katelyn:Or having allergic reactions? Okay, dang it. That would have been too easy.
Evan:That would have been too easy.
Tom:So if you live in a house with a cat, you presumably do certain things or some things that people who don't own cats don't. And I guess the cleaner does this.
Katelyn:Were they very conscious of running the vacuum and— Oh, did they open the trash bags in the way that don't make a loud noise?
SFX:(Tom and Evan laugh)
Evan:No, it was subtle. It is a subtle thing.
Emily:Is it something about not letting animals escape? Like making sure that windows are closed or...
Evan:It doesn't say so, but we can assume that John doesn't have a cat. It doesn't have to do anything with John having a cat. It has to do with... what the cleaner did while cleaning... that made John think that the owner has a cat.
Emily:Did he throw out flowers or something that cats are allergic— or not— that are poisonous to cats? So you get rid of something that are poisonous to cats?
Evan:That might have been something that happened that could...
Katelyn:But it's not the answer?
Evan:It's not the answer.
Emily:It happened on a different day. But not this day.
SFX:(group laughing)
Katelyn:Did they vacuum the furniture? For cat hair?
Evan:Mmm, no.
Tom:Or vacuum in a particular way— I don't know why we're all stuck on vacuums. Are cats scared of vacuums?
Katelyn:Yeah, they are scared of vacuums. And when you open a trash bag, and you do a loud (imitates snap) They're scared of that.
Evan:Yeah. Now, I'll say this to help focus... this particular answer. 'Cause, I think you guys are pointing out, there's a lot of things that could happen. But there is one that this answer is looking for, and it has to do with a physical change in the house that was changed before and after the cleaner showed up.
Tom:Okay, there's only one cat owner here. What are your worries when you're cleaning?
Evan:(laughs) It's all on Katelyn!
Katelyn:Do they open all the blinds? Just enough for a cat to sit on the windowsill?
SFX:(Tom and Evan laugh)
Katelyn:I'm thinking of the things I do.
Evan:Yeah, I think this is interesting because we are in a situation where there are three contestants, and only one owns a cat.
Evan:I'm going to have to give that person a hint. It's nothing that we do.
Katelyn:Oh... oh.
Evan:It's something— I know. So I think that this is something that... maybe other people could guess too, but it has to do with the physical change around the house that you would do if you owned a cat.
Katelyn:Oh, that's 'cause all the things I'm thinking of are things I would do. You leave a little faucet on a dribble just in case they want a sip.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Or you would— Hold on, okay. Stuff I know about cats. Cats destroy stuff. Cats throw stuff off... Like, if there's a thing on a sideboard, a cat will knock it off and knock it down. If there are curtains, then a cat will claw at them. And maybe the cleaner pulled the curtains up off the floor. I just— Cats are small destructive chaos goblins, and...
Emily:Yeah, did it push all of the items to the back of the shelf or something? And all the picture frames.
Evan:Interestingly, Tom and Emily are more on the right track than Katelyn because we have a very sweet, gentle darling of a cat.
Katelyn:She's non-destructive.
Evan:She's non-destructive. But keep on going on the cat stereotypes.
Katelyn:Did— So did they drape blankets over the arms of couches to protect the corners of the couch?
Tom:Yeah, I was thinking avoiding scratching or something like that.
Katelyn:Cat stereotypes.
Tom:Okay, well let's— It could be— We're all assuming it's the living room. It could be the bathroom. It could be the kitchen.
Evan:I'm just going to give you the hint. It's the bathroom, 'cause... There is so much.
Evan:And I think that narrowing it, defining the puzzle—
Tom:There's an escape route from the bath, for in case the cat falls in.
SFX:(Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Emily:Maybe putting all the soaps underneath the sink... so that they don't knock off the soaps?
Tom:Oh, is there anything in the bathroom that's poisonous to cats or toxic or something? I mean, we were still on cats being destructive chaos goblins, but... is there something that a cat would not want? Like, the bath or shower or something like that?
Evan:You guys are navigating around the answer like we often do. I'll give you a hint, though. It has to do with the way something was positioned. You guys have talked about positioning things and everything.
Tom:Oh, they put the toilet roll the other way around so that if the cat starts batting at it, it just loops round and round and round and round instead of being pulled into a tiny thing on the floor.
Evan:(snap) Correct!
Tom:There we go!
Evan:Tom has the answer!
Tom:I've seen that. It's for cats and for if you've got toddlers in the house that might go in there, and they're just gonna grab the toilet roll and just spin it and spin it and spin it and spin it.

And if you put the toilet paper with the loose end to the back, chances are, as they spin it, it's just gonna flap around instead of all unraveling on the ground.
Evan:Yes, correct. And you don't want that little dangling bit tempting them to start the whole process. And there's even products like cat-proof toilet roll holders that involve a special cover to prevent that from happening.
Evan:Now, I think the thing that threw Katelyn off is, our cat doesn't do that.
Katelyn:Yeah, being a cat owner was my weakness in this one.
Evan:You have to stereotype the cats and put them into a... assumed behavioral model to really get this answer.
SFX:(Tom and Katelyn laugh)
Emily:That animal has made you less objective at the job.
SFX:Yes! (Evan and Katelyn laugh)
Evan:So again, the answer was... The owner who hired the cleaner noticed that the cleaner flipped the toilet paper around the other way to prevent a cat from pulling on it. There you go.
Katelyn:So interesting.
Tom:One final thing then. At the start of the show, I asked:

Generally speaking, what starts at 20 and turns into 32?

Any guesses from our panel before I give the answer for the audience?
Evan:Humans. They grow up. At some point, they're 20, then they're 32.
Katelyn:That was also my question.
Tom:It is something human, yes. But it's gonna take a few years. Not 20 to 32 though.
Katelyn:Is it something about the size of humans?
Tom:Not the size. It's the number of something we have.
Emily:Oh, teeth?
Katelyn:Yeah, is it teeth?
Tom:Teeth is right!
Tom:Yeah, a typical human has 20 baby teeth by the time they're about two and a half. They start shedding, and... most people end up with 32 adult teeth.

With that, congratulations to all of you. Thank you very much. Where can people find you? What are you doing? What's going on in your lives?

We'll start with Emily, because it's easier to go to one person right now! Emily, where can people find you?
Emily:Yeah, I'm everywhere online at @TheSpaceGal. I'm an aerospace engineer, so most of the stuff that I talk about deals with space. And I have a new book series coming out with my Ada Lace adventures. It's the sixth book in the series called Ada Lace Gets Famous. And you can find me at
Tom:And normally, I throw to one person at this point. But you're in the same room. You can work it out between yourselves. Evan and Katelyn, where can people find you?
Evan:You can just search Evan and Katelyn, and we're on every platform. We just stuck with Evan and Katelyn because we couldn't choose one thing to do. Are we doing DIY? Are we doing video games? Are we, you know, doing ghost hunting? You know, it could be whatever we're feeling that day.
Katelyn:But mostly it's gonna be on YouTube. Yeah, so I would say search it there.
Tom:And if you wanna find out more about this show, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere, and there are video highlights multiple times a week at

With that, thank you very much to Evan and Katelyn.
Evan:Thanks for having us on.
Katelyn:Thank you.
Tom:And to Emily Calandrelli.
Emily:Thank you so much.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
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