Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 67: The colour sequence secret

Published 19th January, 2024

Ella Hubber, Caroline Roper and Tom Lum from 'Let's Learn Everything' face questions about confectionery companies, Covid conditions and culinary choices.

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: Nota, Ólafur Waage, Donald Honeycutt, Ivo, Sergi Monserrat Mascaró. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom Scott:Which candy company was started by Hans Riegel in Bonn?

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

On the show today, I am ever so slightly nervous because the team from Let's Learn Everything the podcast have returned.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:And there is a certain end-of-term chaos energy going on here. I mean, I say return. They just haven't left the Zoom calls from the last time they were here.
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Caroline:Please let us go, Tom, please.
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Tom Scott:Oh, see, that switched from friendly to dark very quickly. This is what I'm worried about.

First up, Caroline Roper!
Caroline:Hello! (giggles)
Tom Scott:Welcome back.
Caroline:I'm bringing the dark energy straight off the bat, you know. I'm here for it.
Tom Scott:Okay, so I've worked this out. Caroline, tell us what the podcast's about.
Caroline:Oh, it's about a little bit of everything. We cover one big science topic every single week, we cover one question topic that one of the other hosts brings, and we cover a miscellaneous topic, but none of us know what we're going to be talking about that episode. It's really, really fun.
Tom Scott:And one of those people who doesn't know what the others are going to be talking about is Ella Hubber.
Tom Scott:How are you doing? Welcome back to the show.
Ella:I'm so good, Tom. I'm just ready to... yeah, finally finish this.
SFX:(group laughs uproariously)
Tom Scott:Again, it just sounds like there's a Highlander thing going on there. And I just... So, for your side, what have you been talking about recently? What have you been learning?
Ella:We just did our two year and 50th episode anniversary special thing.
Tom Scott:Congratulations.
Ella:And we talked about the Ig Nobel prizes, which obviously everyone loves, but we do a real deep dive into it. And it was the most joyful experience ever, so I really recommend it.
Tom Scott:And the final third of Let's Learn Everything, Tom Lum!
Tom Lum:Hi, I've been enjoying Zoom imprisonment. It's pretty nice, actually.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:That now sounds like something from a superhero film. It's just a, or a Doctor Who episode where it's just the box that you're trapped in.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Caroline:(gasps) That's nice.
Tom Scott:So from you, Tom, where can people find the podcast?
Tom Lum:You can find us— Hey, you're listening to a podcast right now. Use that thingy. It's called Let's Learn Everything. We have, and you can find all our socials and stuff there. It was a great time.

And also I gotta say, a lot of folks from the show have found us and have said very nice things in our Discord, and we appreciate it a ton.
Tom Scott:And just a reminder to all of you to listen out for our mystery prize competition. If you think you've spotted the secret word, just stand up and yell the words "I'm a cuckoo" at any time. Don't ask me what the prize is, it's a mystery.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:I'm going to start you off with the first question, which was sent in by Ivo.

In 1925, locals at Tipperary Hill in Syracuse, New York, threw stones at the newly installed stoplight. After three years of vandalism, the local authority did something that placated the locals. What was it?

I'll say that again.

In 1925, locals at Tipperary Hill in Syracuse, New York, threw stones at the newly installed stoplight. After three years of vandalism, the local authority did something that placated the locals. What was it?
Ella:Get rid of the stoplight and let people drive wildly through a junction...
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Ella:smashing into one another.
Tom Lum:This is, well, I was about to say this is infuriating because very soon I'm going to go see Hank Green do stand-up in Syracuse. And I was about to be like: Oh, I definitely would have heard it there. And then I would have known. What? I'm not gonna— Why would I learn that fact there?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:"Hey, by the way, did you see that old stoplight? They placated us. It's great."
Tom Scott:There was a British comedian— Well, there still is as far as I know, he's still around, called Mark Steel, who did a show for radio in the UK, where he went and did a custom stand-up set for small towns. He would turn up, spend a few days talking to locals and researching the town, and then do just hyper-local stand-up specifically for there.
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Tom Scott:And honestly, I can see Hank doing that. I can see Hank looking up facts about Syracuse just so he can drop them in.
Caroline:Yeah. (giggles)
Ella:You could always heckle him with this fact, Tom.
Tom Scott:Hah!
Tom Lum:You're right, it's not a— It's a gift what you've given me, Tom, and I appreciate it.
Tom Lum:And of course, the answer is...
Tom Lum:I thought that would work.
Tom Scott:Nice try, nice try.
Ella:Ah, we'll get you one day.
Tom Lum:Was it though? Was it a nice try?
Ella:Okay, so just to be clear, this is— Is it a traffic light?
Tom Scott:Yes, yeah. Brits would call it a traffic light, yeah.
Ella:Fine, sorry.
Tom Lum:They were throwing stones at it?
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Ella:It was the wrong colours. It was just like, it was three reds. No one ever went anywhere.
Caroline:What year was this? Was this 1925?
Tom Scott:1925.
Caroline:How many traffic lights existed before that?
Tom Lum:Great question, Caroline.
Ella:It was the devil's, it was the devil's work.
Tom Lum:I was gonna say!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:Oh, Caroline!
Ella:It was too bright?
Caroline:I'm just thinking, were they angry that it was there, full stop? Was it like, a jaywalking law was then put into place or something, and... with the traffic light being there meant that it was more enforceable, so they were really mad at it and were like, "No, I want to get hit by a car by walking across the road when I shouldn't"?
Tom Scott:(laughs) I mean, that does sound American.
Ella:It made noise! It made noise! Like a Mario Kart start line thing, you know?
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:And they were like, that's annoying!
Tom Scott:This stoplight is being dangled by a little guy on a cloud. It's just not helpful. They were taking umbrage at something. You're right they were mad at something about this light.
Ella:So I'm just throwing out everything. It went too fast. It was too slow. It's... No, agh!
Caroline:In terms of placating the people around them, was it something that they physically did to the traffic light to change it?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Caroline:Or was it someth— Yes, it was? Okay, interesting.
Tom Scott:And earlier, Ella, you were saying colours.
Tom Scott:You were throwing out everything, and I'll give you colours.
Ella:Thank you, okay.
Tom Lum:I'm wondering, is this something that was with early traffic lights? Was Caroline onto something with that?
Tom Lum:Was it a... a fumble in our first draft of what traffic lights were? Or was it a regional thing or a specific thing?
Tom Scott:The traffic light stands there to this day. And even if it's been replaced, they've done the same thing to all its successors.
Caroline:Oh, okay. So is this something that's uniquely... about this traffic light that other traffic lights don't have?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Caroline:Interesting. So this wasn't like, oh, we've put a traffic light in for the first time ever. Oh, no, we found a horrible issue with it. Let's change it. This is... just for this traffic light. Okay.
Ella:It was a flag. The colours was— It represented a flag of a state or a town that they didn't like.
Tom Lum:It was like a Yankees flag, or... I'm sorry, it was like a Red Sox flag.
Ella:Was it a country they didn't like? Because it's the '20s, so war, I'm thinking. So the German flag, for example.
Tom Scott:So, I'll give you the first bit of the question again. In 1925, locals at Tipperary Hill in Syracuse, New York.
Ella:Tipperary. Like... Ireland?
Tom Scott:Ireland.
Ella:It was the Irish flag? Wait, it wasn't the— It was the British flag colours?
Tom Lum:Red, green, yellow?
Tom Scott:This was a regular traffic light. You got red at the top, you got yellow in the middle, you got green at the bottom.
Ella:Red, yellow, green is... not the Irish flag. So, they wanted the Irish flag. They were like, how dare this not be the Irish flag?
Tom Scott:The Irish flag was invented in the 19th century, but the design doesn't matter here. Green is Ireland's colour. There's some history here, and I'm recording this in a studio in Ireland with an Irish technician watching me, so I'm saying absolutely nothing more about this.
Ella:So it's not about it being— Oh no, you said it's about it being— Tipperary being Irish. So, It was about, it was— When did Ireland split into the Republic and Northern Ireland, does that matter? Maybe the flag, when they were—
Tom Scott:You've basically got everything at this point. You've pretty much got it. What might the locals of Irish descent be angry about?
Ella:I assumed it was like the Union, something about the Union Jack. Oh, is it?
Tom Scott:Yep.
Ella:So the red.
Tom Scott:The red is England's colour.
Tom Lum:Is it above green?
Tom Lum:Is that like a...
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Tom Lum:No.
Tom Scott:Keep talking, Tom.
Tom Lum:They wanted green at the top, because it was...
Caroline:No way.
Tom Scott:Yep.
Caroline:Oh my goodness! (laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:So what did they do to fix it?
Caroline:They swap it around.
Tom Scott:Yeah. They've turned the lights upside down.
Tom Lum:They turned it upside down.
Tom Scott:Yep.
Caroline:Wow! (laughs)
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Tom Scott:The locals, who were all Irish immigrants or Irish descent, did not like the symbolism of this new traffic light that the English red was on the top, and the Irish green was on the bottom. So they kept breaking it.

And the local council was like, "We're just gonna fix it, they'll give up."

And they did not give up, and the traffic light was turned upside down and remains upside down to this day.
Tom Lum:Oh my gosh! I gotta, wait, I gotta find it! I wanna see if I can get a picture of it. That's amazing!
Caroline:Oh my god, yes please!
Tom Lum:Also, great teamwork on that one y'all. I feel like it, 'cause it's the fact that it was a new-ish thing, because that it was...
Ella:Teamwork? Sorry. Sorry, teamwork?
SFX:(both Toms laugh)
Ella:Did I just come up with all of the ideas?
Tom Lum:No, you're right, Ella. I was the one who said the correct answer at the end. So you're right, it is mine.
Tom Scott:Each of our guests has brought a question with them. We're going to start today with Caroline.
Caroline:This question has been sent in by Ólafur Waage.

In June of 2020, two people arrived in a country with strict COVID screening protocols. Even though they had travelled there directly from another country, they were not put through any kind of COVID check. Why?

I'll say that again.

In June of 2020, two people arrived in a country with strict COVID screening protocols. Even though they had travelled there directly from another country, they were not put through any kind of COVID check. Why?
Ella:They were dead.
Tom Scott:(chuckles)
Caroline:(laughs hysterically)
Tom Lum:That's a good classic riddle answer. Nine times out of ten.
Tom Scott:I know it's not this because it was only one person, but there was someone during lockdown in the UK who wanted to get to the Isle of Man, which just had the strictest lockdown. I think they didn't get COVID for about 18 months or something like that because they had the single— It's just an island. They check everyone who came in and went out. They just didn't get it.

But there was one guy who saw 20 miles of ocean and was like, "My girlfriend is on the Isle of Man. I am taking a jet ski."
SFX:(Ella and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:Wow.
Tom Scott:20 miles on a jet ski to the Isle of Man. Yeah, someone spotted him. He didn't get away with it, but it was a wonderful story.
Tom Lum:(snickers)
Tom Scott:Technically he was not put through the COVID protocols, but also he was then arrested, so there is that.
Ella:Off the back of that, is it something like they came from a place where there was no other people? Like, they're from an island where they were the only two, so they can't have possibly have gotten COVID.
Caroline:No, but the jet ski thing isn't super far off.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Ella:Wait, you said they flew?
Caroline:Did I?
Ella:Oh, did you not? Oh.
Caroline:Did I?
Tom Lum:Wait, my hunch might have been wrong. Can I— Caroline— So it's not from an isolated place that they were coming from?
Caroline:No, it's not.
Tom Lum:Okay. I was, I thought I was really clever. I thought it might be from Antarctica or something. They might be—
Caroline:No. People in Antarctica had to stay there for— So if they were working down there on a temporary contract, they had to stay. My, a colleague of mine at work used to work in Antarctica, and she had to stay out there for 18 months or something.
Tom Lum:Oh my gosh!
Caroline:Yeah, even though she was only meant to be there for six. So no, it's not because of that. You'd think they don't have COVID in Antarctica. They were taking it really, really seriously because to get back again, you'd have to interact with a lot of people, so it was best to keep them safe rather than...
Tom Lum:So it's not to deal with isolation. And swimming was close, and they didn't fly. They were people, right?
Ella:That was definitely in the question that they were people.
Caroline:They were, it was two people.
Ella:Human people.
Caroline:Human beings were involved in this story, yes. (giggles)
Tom Scott:Should they have gone through the COVID protocols? Were they doing the end run around it with the jet ski? Or was the government just like, no, you've been in space. You've been somewhere you clearly don't have it.
Caroline:Oh! So they weren't in space. But there was a reason why.
Tom Lum:Were they in low Earth orbit?
Caroline:No, Tom, they weren't in low earth orbit.
Ella:They were deep underground.
Caroline:They weren't deep underground.
Ella:Just the opposite.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:No, they weren't deep underground.
Ella:They had travelled up from the Earth's core.
Tom Scott:They had drilled a hole all the way through, from New Zealand to Spain, just right through the centre. Just evacuated it of all air and just kind of plunge down, grabbed on the other side.
Tom Lum:Were they... Was there something special or in particular about the people? Were they— Could they have been— I'm trying to think of—
Ella:Dead. (cracks up)
Tom Lum:They might've had antibodies or something. You've said that, Ella.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Ella:I'm just going to keep on doing it.
Tom Lum:Did they have potentially... Something about them that my thought might be relevant to finding a vaccine or something like that, or, or—
Caroline:Any other people who are in the same situation as them probably would have also not had to go through the COVID test.
Tom Lum:Were they famous podcasters?
Caroline:What, like you, Tom Lum?
Tom Lum:You said it, you said it, you said it.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Caroline:I will say... what measures could people take to... Or what was happening to people when they were entering countries that had...
Tom Scott:Oh, have you ever had a COVID test administered by someone else?
Ella:Right at the start, yeah.
Tom Scott:I went into Iceland just after it opened, and I was first or second off the plane, and they had 200 people to go through, and... Oh, that was...
Ella:Oh no.
Tom Scott:Buy me dinner first. That was...
Tom Lum:Like, doot, doot, doot, doot, doot.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:I sat down, just like, "Right, put your head back."

"Guuhh! Okay, thanks, thanks."
SFX:(guests wincing)
Tom Scott:Next morning, I get a text message, "All clear."

"Right, thank you for that."
SFX:(guests giggling)
Tom Lum:And also you have a lot of great brain cells that they analysed.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom Scott:So... Had they been in isolation through something else? COVID protocols were generally you had to isolate.
Tom Lum:That's so clever.
Tom Scott:They'd isolated just by virtue of where they were, who they were.
Ella:Their job required isolation.
Tom Lum:Was it the MrBeast challenge?
Caroline:It wasn't what their job was.
Tom Scott:Is this the folks who were rowing the Atlantic or something like that? They'd been so isolated for so long. They arrived and they'd been away from the world, 'cause they were just on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic trying to get across.
Caroline:Yeah, really, really close. So they had travelled from Sweden to Iceland on a type of boat called a schooner. And that journey had taken them 16 days, so they didn't have to go through any of the isolation in the country that they were going to.
Tom Lum:Ohh!
Tom Scott:That's lovely.
Caroline:There you go.
Ella:That makes sense.
Caroline:Yeah, so they had spent 16 days by sea, by themselves, so effectively, they had already quarantined sufficiently for the country that they were going into, which was Iceland.
Tom Lum:(laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:And someone still stuck a swab up their nose on entry.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:So yeah, there you have it. The reason that they didn't have to go through any COVID checks was because their journey from Sweden to Iceland had taken them 16 days on a schooner.
Tom Scott:Good luck folks. Here's the next one.

In a well-known industry, these can change colour on a daily or even hourly basis to avoid confusion. They start white, but then turn blue, pink, yellow, green, goldenrod, buff, salmon, and cherry. What are they?

I'll say that again.

In a well-known industry, these can change colour on a daily or even hourly basis to avoid confusion. They start white, but then turn blue, pink, yellow, green, goldenrod, buff, salmon, and cherry. What are they?
Tom Lum:Karate belts.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:On an hourly basis.
Tom Lum:Yeah, speedrun, of course, yeah.
Caroline:If you hadn't mentioned the fact that it was to avoid confusion, I would say something like, in diagnostic radiography, where isn't it some practitioners or nurses have to have colour-changing tags on them to show how much radiation they're being exposed to?

But that's very much a safety thing rather than avoiding getting confused.
Ella:But doesn't it add a bit of like fun if you have to guess how much radiation you've been exposed to?
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:Oh, is that high or low?
Caroline:I've put the confusion MT.
Tom Scott:I feel like—
Caroline:Ooh salmon, am I about to die? What's gonna happen?
Tom Scott:I feel like those tags are also like, "Have I got too much radiation? Yes/no." You— Probably too many colours.
Caroline:Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Ella:Ah, I've had a charteuse amount of radiation today.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Because I'm wondering if, because if it was a daily, I would, you know, there's tons of things that do stuff like that. The museums will do that for little tags, and then theme parks or festivals, concerts will do color-changing stuff, so that's what my, where my brain goes to. But knowing this podcast, I'm gonna promptly delete all that.
Caroline:How many different colours were there? Sorry.
Tom Scott:I mean, I'll say a lot.
Caroline:A lot?
Tom Lum:Okay.
Tom Scott:They start white, and then we've got a sequence of colours. Blue, pink, yellow, green, goldenrod, buff, salmon, and cherry.
Tom Lum:Will people... Will one person use multiple, or is it to distinguish throughout the day different people? I'm trying to wonder.
Caroline:Could one person have something that changed colour throughout the day?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Caroline:Interesting. Okay.
Tom Lum:Also, the phrase well-known field is what's...
Tom Lum:Lawyer, doctor.
Tom Scott:Oh no. We're not playing guess the industry here. There's too many of those.
Ella:I feel like at least once an episode that we've done with you, we just list everything, and then you go, and you just give up and say, yeah, it's one of those.
Tom Scott:It's one of those. It's not one of those. I'll tell you, it's not lawyer or doctor.
Tom Lum:Oh, okay.
Tom Scott:It's a fairly low-tech solution to a problem that might be confusing.
Ella:Okay, so let's go through everything that could be confusing.
SFX:(guests laugh uproariously)
Caroline:The thing that's changing colour, is it a tag or an accessory that somebody wears that's visible to other people, or is it something that they have for themself?
Ella:Yeah, tool.
Caroline:Personally, yeah.
Tom Scott:That's a very difficult question to answer because it's kind of neither of those things. It is...
Tom Scott:It's certainly not worn.
Caroline:It's not worn!
Tom Scott:But you would be able to see it if someone else had it.
Tom Lum:Does it have to do with food production at all? I'm trying to think, that's a thing that might be, require an hourly— You might need to tag animals, or...
Ella:Oh, if you're sorting and you need to...
Tom Scott:I kind of wish you'd completed that thought there, Ella. It was, it was...
Ella:Oh, okay. So if you're— Say you're on just an assembly line, and there's batches of things coming in, it would've been my thought. And so every time you finish a batch, you go into another colour.
Tom Lum:Is the specific colour relevant to the tag?
Tom Scott:The specific colour isn't relevant. You don't need to know what the sequence is. Although, a lot of people do know this sequence. Where else might you have heard the words goldenrod and buff? Those colours are used in kinda very specific contexts.
Caroline:My brain went to making crayons. You know?
Tom Lum:Ooh.
Caroline:And the colour production. 'Cause they, isn't it like they use the same infrastructure to make it all, they just change the specific colour of the batch, and therefore you'd need something to indicate what colour is being produced at that time?
Tom Scott:You are close in the sense that... I think the best way I can phrase this is that you are in the world of stationery. And that's a big kind of narrow down that I can give you there.
Caroline:Oh, delightful! Okay. Oh, Ella, do you want to start listing out different types of stationery?
SFX:(group laughs uproariously)
Ella:I was already doing it in my head.
Tom Lum:The way, we approached this like a DDoS attack. We're just constantly buffeting Tom with answers.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:I'm now looking around my desk being like, what stationery do I have here that could change colour?
Tom Lum:Paper, wrapping paper?
Tom Scott:Paper. Goldenrod and buff are colours that stationers particularly use for colours of paper.
Tom Lum:Santa's factory.
Tom Lum:Alright, next question.
Tom Scott:Goldenrod is kind of a golden yellow, and buff is kinda this brownish yellow like it hasn't been bleached properly.
Ella:So they're printing— Are they, they're printing on the paper at different times of day or something like that, and that, but for whatever reason, the job means that they're changing. They need to keep the times really separate.
Tom Scott:So how might this avoid confusion?
Ella:Yeah, like a schedule, or a menu?
Caroline:Oh, it's a thing— Something's being printed onto it. And is it that thing which is then avoiding confusion?
Tom Scott:Yep.
Caroline:Interesting, okay.
Ella:And they each represent a different time, perhaps.
Caroline:Is it a different step in the process, or is it a different... set of instructions that somebody has to follow?
Tom Scott:Oh, yes. I'll go— I'll let you have a set of instructions. It's, in a very weird sense, it's a set of instructions that people have to follow.
Caroline:Oh, thank you, Tom.
Tom Scott:That get updated as time goes on.
Caroline:And this is a well-known profession of some sort.
Tom Scott:Yep, one that needs to regularly update text on paper, and hand it out to everyone around.
Caroline:We're so stumped on this one.
Ella:This one's hard.
Caroline:Yeah. This one's really—
Ella:Or is it not?
Tom Lum:News reporters?
Tom Scott:Just gonna rustle my paper a little here.
Tom Lum:Lines? Scripts!
Tom Scott:Scripts!
Tom Scott:What's going on?
Tom Lum:Okay, why? Why do they—
Ella:A script that would be changing through the day.
Tom Scott:Yep.
Tom Lum:For different— Is it for different scenes? So that, you know, everyone's on the same page?
Tom Scott:Tom, you've used exactly the right words. It's so that everyone is on the same page.
Tom Lum:Okay, literal.
Tom Scott:Literally.
Caroline:Wait, so going through the script to make sure that you're on the same— so everybody knows that they're on the same page as each other in the script by just looking around at what colour everybody's got?
Tom Scott:Looking at the colour. And if someone has an outdated script, then the colour will be wrong and obvious to everyone.
Tom Lum:Ohh!
Ella:I think I've seen people using these, and wondered why there were different colours and just not thought about it past that.
Tom Scott:That is the pattern. Mostly Hollywood, but if you use Final Draft screenwriting software, it'll use these colours in this order.
Tom Lum:Really?
Tom Scott:You will have the blue, the pink, the yellow, the green, the goldenrod, the buff, the salmon, and the cherry.

And those are kept in stock so they can say, "Alright, yeah, here's the pink revision." And everyone around can see every actor is on the pink version that's just changed.
Ella:We should have gotten that sooner.
SFX:(both Toms laugh)
Ella:That felt like defeat.
Tom Scott:Tom, over to you.
Tom Lum:This question has been sent in by Donald Honeycutt.

In 1891, undertaker Almon Strowger noticed a drop-off in business caused by a competitor's wife. What did he patent to get his own back?

I'll say that again.

In 1891, undertaker Almon Strowger noticed a drop-off in business caused by a competitor's wife. What did he patent to get his own back?
Ella:Strowger. Okay. (sighs) Nothing, I've got nothing.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:The last one was so stressful, that we're all just like...
Tom Scott:Yep.
Ella:Really stressed.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Scott:Okay, it's a question about death.
Caroline:Ella, we're finally here. This is your time. Let's go.
Ella:(wheezes) Yeah.
Tom Scott:What was the competitor's wife doing? Was she making the funeral more comfortable for the mourners? Was she...
Caroline:Was she dressing up real hot? Which made more people want to go.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:Really exciting, 'cause that's a whole thing in some funeral industries, is putting on huge almost carnival-esque things for people's funerals. So, could be. Something along those lines. Is it, Tom?
Tom Lum:No.
Caroline:No, perfect.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Ella:That tiny whisper. No. No.
Caroline:No. (giggles)
Tom Lum:I just wanted it to be true. No, but no.
Caroline:I appreciate that.
Tom Scott:What if it's the safety coffin? That was a Victorian thing. That was about that time.
Ella:Oh, the bell.
Tom Scott:This was the coffin with a bell attached and a string inside the coffin. So if you were put in the ground prematurely, you would pull the string and ring the bell and someone would come to your rescue.
Ella:Yeah, so the once—
Caroline:Elsewhere creepypastas about that ruined my growing up years, honestly, horrifying. I don't want to think about it.
Tom Scott:And it happened to the competitor's wife? That was the— No, that wouldn't cause a drop off.
Ella:The wife, the competitor's wife said, I will roam the graveyards checking that you're dead.
Tom Scott:Ohh.
SFX:(Ella and Caroline snicker)
Caroline:Is the competitor's wife alive in this scenario?
Tom Lum:Yes.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Tom Scott:Never mind the safety coffin then. That fell apart.
Caroline:(laughs) And is it something that she's actively doing, or is it something like—
Tom Lum:She is actively doing something.
Caroline:Is she keeping people alive somehow?
Tom Scott:Oh my god—!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:God, maybe she's a really good doctor or something, you know?
Tom Lum:(belly laughs)
Tom Scott:You know what he patented? The gun.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:So... I'll give this hint because I feel like you'll still have some trouble getting to it for a thing, for a question literally about an undertaker, it does not— The patent does not have a ton to do with death.
Tom Scott:Huh.
Tom Lum:More with the business. And I'll say the year would probably give a bit of a hinge.
Tom Scott:1891.
Tom Lum:A rough...
Tom Scott:Now, normally when I bring up a year, and it's you three on, I feel old because it's something from the 1990s, none of y'all get it. But in this case it's 1891. We're all on the same page.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Ella:Tom Scott, ancient being.
Tom Scott:Thanks. Rub it in.
Ella:Okay, so... Maybe it's about attracting people to the business. I don't know, is it like a...
Caroline:Is it more aggressive? 'Cause, okay, also the whole idea of having to actually have a funeral is a recently— or having people in coffins before they were buried is a relatively recent thing. Is it something to do with, we will store your deceased, or we will provide additional services?
Tom Lum:It really doesn't have to do a ton with the undertaking. I will say Ella has a great question, which is sort of like, was this okay? I was like, this... She shouldn't have been doing this. This isn't like... "Oh, it's a clever thing." It's like, there's some insider something happening here.
Ella:It was—
Ella:Was she, I don't know, baking cakes and taking it to families?
Tom Lum:I'll give one more sort of hint around the time, in that I think the competitor's wife is sort of a hint here because this was something that was predominantly done by women at this time.
Tom Scott:Oh, okay.
Ella:She was giving birth? (wheezes baffled)
Caroline:Did they start doing, I forget what they're called, the little, the... Was she a typist of some sort? And she was typing up information about the deceased?
Tom Lum:No, but you're in that ballpark of sort of professions that women had at that time.
Ella:She was a receptionist. She's picking up the phone?
Caroline:(gasps) Was she the one answering the phone?
Tom Scott:The answering machine!
Tom Lum:She wasn't... How would someone use phone technology at the time to steal business?
Ella:Cold calling. She was cold calling people.
Tom Lum:No, no.
Tom Scott:No, she was a phone operator. She was the person on the switchboard.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella gasp)
Tom Scott:She was plugging and unplugging.
Caroline:That's so sneaky!
Tom Scott:And if someone called up asking for one funeral director, she just connected them to the other one.
Ella:That's so good!
Ella:Honestly, honestly, we support women's wrongs.
Tom Lum:(sputters)
Caroline:(laughs) I was gonna say, wasn't the follow up, the second part of this, how was it combatted?
Tom Lum:Yes.
Caroline:So, how do you deal with that?
Tom Scott:He invented the automatic telephone exchange.
Tom Lum:Sure did.
Ella:So he patented the automatic telephone exchange?
Caroline:Shut up.
Ella:Because he didn't get business.
Caroline:That's how we got that? Are you kidding me?
Ella:That's good.
Tom Lum:Strowger patented electromechanical switches that could connect callers to the desired number without the need for humans. This, of course, revolutionized... Aside from helping his business, revolutionized the telephone industry and made it possible for millions of people to have access to the telephone service and get buried where they wanted to be buried.
Tom Scott:And put his competitor's wife out of a job.
Caroline:I was just gonna say that! (laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:Uh-huh!

The Strowger switch was first installed in La Porte, Indiana in 1892, quickly became the standard telephone switching technology, and remained in use for much of the 20th century.
Ella:That's a real good one.
Caroline:That's incredible.
Tom Scott:Thank you to Sergi Monserrat Mascaró for sending the next question in.

You're watching a Premier League football match taking place in England. The game hasn't started yet, but the scoreboard already indicates 54 and 1,101. Why?
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Tom Scott:I'll say that again.

You're watching a Premier League football match taking place in England. The game hasn't started yet, but the scoreboard already indicates 54 and 1,101. Why?
Ella:(sigh) This is...
Caroline:It's not showing... the score of that match, I would hope.
Tom Lum:Yeah, I was going to say, "Oh, it's a carryover from a different thing," but I doubt it with that.
Caroline:Is it something to do with the amount of time that that team has played that season so far?
Tom Lum:Ooh, yeah.
Caroline:That feels like a lot of minutes.
Tom Lum:I'm wondering if it's functional or if it's just a cute thing for either to celebrate a person or an event.
Ella:I'm really struggling this episode.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Then our question editor is doing his job!
Tom Lum:Was anyone dead?
Tom Scott:You're gonna hate this one, by the way. I'm just gonna say, this isn't a, you're gonna kick yourself. You're gonna genuinely want to do harm to the question editor for allowing this one through.

Congratulations, Sergi. Sergi has written an incredible question here. It's wonderful, I love it.

And you're gonna hate both him and our editor.
Ella:Ugh, I'm getting flashbacks to the Paris Casino question. I can't do this again.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:That makes it sound like you went there and had a horrible time. "Not the casino! Oh, the lights!"
Ella:I did have a horrible time.
Caroline:Is it something to do with the players?
Tom Scott:Not the players, no.
Ella:The fans?
Caroline:Is it something to do with the referees?
Tom Scott:Are we just running through everything?
Ella:Oh no, yeah, we can't do this.
Tom Lum:Is it measuring time? I know that there's a clock in New York City that displays just a bunch of random numbers, but it's technically a clock that counts up or down to something or something or another and it always confuses people.

They only did this one time, Tom? Was this a special thing, or does this always happen?
Tom Scott:This will happen occasionally.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Tom Scott:Once a year, maybe twice a year. I'm not entirely sure on my football league rules, but it'll happen.
Caroline:And is this at every single club that this— It'll happen at each club once per year?
Tom Scott:No.
Caroline:Or is it just— No, so it's just randomly one... Is that the same club every time it happens?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Ella:Oh, so, okay, so the teams are important.
Tom Scott:The teams are important. I was waiting for you to get 'round to that one, and we went after referees.
Ella:Okay, Premier League.
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Ella:(wheezes) I'm about to list every team, Tom!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:The only thing I know is about AFC Wimbledon from John Green, so— but I don't think that will be helpful, no.
Tom Scott:Rather than list every team, if I tell you you're watching this match on the television, that will make a difference.
Ella:(scoff) Does it?
Tom Lum:Does it spell something out if you turn it upside down? Is it one of those
Tom Lum:Like a calculator joke?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:You're along the right lines, Tom. It's not turning it upside down, but this, it's that sort of trick to this question.
Caroline:Is it a more well-known team, then, because it's the team that's on the telly?
Tom Scott:These are very well-known teams, yeah.
Caroline:Okay, yeah.
Tom Scott:54 and 1,101.
Tom Lum:5-4-1-1-0-1.
Tom Scott:No, fifty-four and one thousand, one hundred and one.
Tom Lum:And so it's displayed on the screen.
Tom Scott:There is a very specific note on my question that says, "please read out the second number as one thousand, one hundred and one." 'Cause as you suspected, it's on the scoreboard, but it's not the score.
Tom Lum:One thousand, one hundred and one.
Caroline:So is it written out... the words "one thousand, one hundred and one" somewhere on the scoreboard?
Tom Scott:Nope, but you, again, you're thinking in the right area. What else might be on that scoreboard?
Tom Lum:Does it represent the number of teams? The age of the, how long this thing has been around? Or what year it was founded, what year?
Tom Scott:No, we said it's always these teams.
Ella:Yes, Liverpool was founded in 54 BC.
Tom Scott:And Liverpool's one of the teams.
Caroline:(gasp) Shut up!
Tom Scott:I wasn't gonna let you scattergun all the teams, but it's the first one you've mentioned. It happens to be one of them, so I'll give you that.
Tom Lum:Oh, great, because Ella had a lot of jokes lined up for the rest to poke at that.
Tom Scott:It's a jerk of a question, this really is.
Tom Lum:Is it a punny thing with the way that you say the words? It makes it sound like the name of a team or something?
Ella:Is someone willing to do a Liverpudlian accent? 'Cause I'd like to hear it.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:I'm not going to.
Caroline:I'm definitely not going to.
Tom Scott:Have a think about how that might appear on the TV coverage, on the scoreboard, on that little bug in the corner.
Caroline:No, it's going to... Is that how the shortened versions of the— 'Cause the teams, it'll say— Oh, I'm trying to figure out how to say this. It'll have the letters that represent the team on that. And this is something, and that—
Tom Lum:It's S–A, because five–four...
Caroline:Oh, so what are the letters that represent Liverpool when you're, when they're playing? And it's just on, in the corner of the screen, and you can't see the full word Liverpool.
Tom Scott:Yep, it's gonna be three letters.
Ella:SAL... I've written it out on a piece of paper.
Tom Scott:I'd write out the three letters for Liverpool if I were you.
Tom Lum:L–V–P?
Tom Scott:L–I–V.
Caroline:Oh, okay, yeah.
Tom Scott:Tell you the other one's Manchester City, which is M–C–I.
Ella:M–C–I. We're all writing now.
Tom Lum:Hold on, wait. The Zodiac Killer is located at... Oh my god! Oh my gosh! We've decoded it!
Ella:Cause, okay, so MCI... Okay, so it's a date.
Tom Lum:Is it Roman numerals?
Tom Scott:Tom...?
Tom Lum:Oh my god, wait. Oh, oh, is it? Oh, oh my god, does it represent— Oh my gosh, wait! So it, it, those, those, that's, sorry. If you turn those numerals into Roman numerals, does it spell MCI and LIV?
Tom Scott:LIV, Liverpool is 54 in Roman numerals. MCI, Manchester City is 1,101. That's why I kept correcting you when you were putting the digits out.
Tom Lum:Ohh!
Caroline:Oh my goodness!
Ella:You know what's so frustrating about this? Is at the start, I thought, if this is a Roman numeral question, Tom's... It would be better if Tom Scott was answering this, because you would have already figured it out. And I was like, I'm not going to get it because I don't understand it.
Tom Scott:It's a classic puzzle thing, You change the numbers to the letter. Any time you see C or M in a question, your brain goes 100, 1,000, something like that.

Yes, at some point, Sergi was watching the game and saw 'LIV MCI' and was like, those are Roman numerals.

Ella, over to you for the next question.
Ella:So this question has been sent in by Nota.

Having won a competition in 2004, a 'Räuberteller' can now be ordered from many German restaurants. It consists of three or four things that are difficult to eat. Even so, it's popular with parents. Why?
Tom Lum:(pants rapidly)
Caroline:Because it makes their child quiet. (laughs) Sorry!
Ella:I'll read that one more time.

Having won a competition in 2004, a 'Räuberteller' can now be ordered from many German restaurants. It consists of three or four things that are difficult to eat. Even so, it's popular with parents. Why?
Caroline:I stand by my answer. If you give it to a child, they'll be focusing on it for so long trying to eat it that it makes them real quiet. Or is it helping children with teething or something like that? It's something that needs a lot of chewing?
Tom Scott:Or it's just something to keep the kid distracted. It's a set of cutlery that they cannot possibly destroy or stab anyone with. I have apparently a low opinion of children.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Tom Lum:Oh, so do you think the competition was an invention?
Tom Lum:Did someone win Eurovision? And then because of that, they named something after something.
Tom Scott:Can I just clarify here? Is this a Räuberteller, or is it a Räuberteller, as a mass thing that can be ordered?
Ella:No, a Räuberteller.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Ella:Räuberteller is the name of the thing.
Tom Scott:Räuberteller, alright.
Tom Lum:And it's three objects?
Caroline:Three or four things.
Ella:Three or four things.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Caroline:It's ordered in Germany. Did it originate in Germany, or is it from—
Ella:Yeah, I mean, it's a German— If you spoke German, you would probably have got it by now.
Tom Scott:Yeah, I thought so.
Tom Lum:Ohh.
Caroline:Are these dishes that... people in the UK or America would eat, but just maybe not in the same format that they're eating it in Germany?
Tom Lum:Or is it entirely regional?
Ella:I mean I'm sure this is done elsewhere in the world.
Tom Scott:It can't be something edible. Three or four things that are difficult to eat. This has got to be something to... I think you're right, Caroline. It's gotta be to keep the kid quiet or out of the way or...
Tom Scott:...stop them roaming around and bothering other people and shouting. I have a low opinion of children.
SFX:(Ella and Caroline laugh)
Ella:Look you're along the right lines.
Ella:But it's more specific.
Tom Lum:At Cracker Barrel, they have that little pegboard game that's a classic. I'm trying to think if it's a...
Caroline:Do they need children to help them cook it?
Ella:Oh, that would be nice.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Caroline:Wouldn't that be lovely?
Tom Lum:Is the invention just a high chair that's just really high up so you don't have to hear them complain? Or you can keep them away?
Caroline:(giggles) We're being so mean to children.
Ella:Tom Scott, you mentioned something correct earlier.
Tom Scott:The way you said that, I thought I was in trouble.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:"Tom Scott, please report to the office. You've mentioned some of the correct answers."
Ella:Tom Lum, you just said it.
Tom Lum:Utensils, then.
Caroline:(gasp) Ohh?
Tom Scott:Okay.
Tom Lum:Are they just utensils that are... big and round so that they're not dangerous?
Ella:I mean, I don't think the type of utensils matter here, but they have utensils.
Caroline:Is the food made out of... Is the utensil made out of food?
Tom Lum:Utensils made out of food.
Ella:No, that's not it. In fact, it's kind of the... you know, it's not the opposite, but it would help prevent waste, if anything, than having more food there.
Tom Scott:Something to stop kids throwing the food on the ground?
Tom Scott:Fake food, so the kid thinks they've also got something to eat?
Ella:It's not, you're close, you're in the right lines. I mean, children still need to eat, don't they?
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:I mean, I guess, sure.
Tom Lum:Yes, yes.
Ella:I'll give you a clue. This might not be helpful, but do any of you play Settlers of Catan?
Tom Scott:Yes.
Tom Lum:Uh-hu—
Ella:There is a character in Catan.
Tom Scott:The robber.
Ella:The robber.
Tom Scott:It's a little black pawn that gets moved around the play board.
Tom Lum:What does that have to do with—
Tom Scott:What?
SFX:(group cracks up)
Ella:This is so, this clue has sent you off. Bring it back, so you've got utensils.
Tom Lum:Right, utensils?
Ella:And you've got— What does— In Catan, do you know what the robber is called?
Tom Lum:A pawn?
Tom Scott:No, I don't because I used to play it with someone who just referred to it as the 'Ow-oo-l' in that voice because it looks vaguely like the silhouette of an owl.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Is that the answer, Ella?
Ella:You're so close with Robber. Think about why I would be bringing that up.
Tom Lum:Is it the... stealing? They can't steal?
Tom Scott:It's so the kid can't steal food from other plates.
Tom Scott:It's a plate for the kid to have... so the kid can steal other people's food?
Tom Scott:How is that an invention? That's just if you're cheap and don't want to order a meal for your kid. Which, by the way, is entirely valid. The kid's not going to eat most of it anyway.
Caroline:Or it's really sneaky from the restaurant if you have to pay for that dish still.
Tom Lum:Wait, so it's a bowl? It's a plate? It's a...
Caroline:It's just a plate that you put food onto, basically?
Ella:It's a plate, knife, and a fork for children. That's it. Räuberteller, it means "thieves' plate". Because Räuber is what the robber is called in Catan, which is why I brought it up.
Tom Lum:Oh!
Ella:So when you choose—
Tom Lum:Sorry, we failed as nerds.
Ella:Yeah, yeah. When you choose this menu entry, you get just a small plate and some cutlery, and then children can use that to pinch food from what the adults are eating.
Tom Lum:You know, we really underestimated the children. We were like, oh little things to distract them, when really it was like, no, tools for them to grow as thieves.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:I've learned my lesson.
Tom Scott:Just one thing to wrap up then.

At the start of the show, I asked:

Which candy company was started by Hans Riegel in Bonn?

And Tom's eyes sort of lit up when I said that.
Tom Lum:Was it... a bon-bon?
Caroline:I feel like that's like when you go on QI and you say the really obvious answer and it goes (imitates klaxon)
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:That's a type of sweet. It's not a candy company. Hans Riegel in Bonn.
Tom Lum:Okay, so we turn that into Roman numerals real quick.
SFX:(group chuckles)
Tom Scott:It is some wordplay.
Tom Lum:It can't just be Kit Kats.
SFX:(both laugh)
Tom Lum:It's a good idea. Riegel—
Caroline:Bourbon? The biscuit company? I don't know.
Tom Scott:Keep going. Just keep going.
Tom Lum:Hans Riegel in Bonn. Bond–Re–Bond– Hand–Hans— Royal Hand?
Tom Scott:What were you doing there, Tom?
Tom Lum:Huh... I was...
Caroline:(laughs uproariously) The fear!
Tom Lum:...saying words. I was dissociating.
Tom Lum:Bond–hand–regal.
Tom Lum:Bond–Han– Re–Go–Bon–Hand—
Tom Scott:The thing is, you are saying almost the right answer. Just not necessarily in the right order.
Tom Lum:Lemme just—
Ella:Regal Hand Bond. Bon Regal Hand.
Caroline:Han Bon Ri-gal.
Tom Lum:Bon-bon Milky Ways.
Ella:This is, we are the worst. We are the worst.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:(babbles)
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:If I tell you it's a six letter name, does that help?
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Tom Lum:Thank you for asking.
Caroline:Oh, we're not going to be invited back, are we? This is it.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Ella:Han-bon, bon-han. Oh, oh, please put us out of our misery, Tom.
Tom Lum:Ha-ri-ri-ri- han-bon—
Tom Scott:What was that, Tom? Ha–Ha–
Tom Lum:–Ri-ra-ba. Hand-bar. Han—
Tom Lum:Oh, oh. Is it the first two letters of each?
Tom Scott:Which would make it...?
Tom Scott:Hans Riegel in Bonn.
Tom Lum:Haribo! Haribo! Haribo!
Caroline:No way!
Tom Lum:Oh, I love those.
Caroline:Oh my goodness!
Tom Lum:I didn't know that story. Wow.
Tom Scott:Yep, in 1920, Hans Riegel started a candy company in Bonn. He took those three syllables and made Haribo.
Ella:Oh, that was so easy, man. Oh god, this is a bad episode for you.
Tom Scott:There was a reason I was asking you to just keep slurring. And eventually, eventually we got there.

Thank you very much to all of our players. At this point I just hand over. Plug the show. Someone take it.
Tom Lum:Well, it's our show, It's Let's Learn Everything.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella wheeze)
Tom Lum:We've talked about— If you liked some of the phone stuff, we've talked about the history of recorded sound. We've talked about telephone music. We also recently had a friend of this show, Annie Rauwerda, on as a guest to talk about the history of Wikipedia. It's a great, silly time. We learn a lot, we laugh a lot, and yeah.
Tom Scott:Caroline, where can they find it?
Caroline:You can find us on basically all streaming platforms but we have a website as well, which is So you can find all of the episodes, as well as other things like our Discord server, so can come and say hi to us!
Tom Scott:Ella, is there anything they haven't covered?
Ella:No, that's fine.
Tom Scott:Cool!

If you want to know more about this show, you can go to, where you can also send in your own ideas for questions. You can find us at @lateralcast on social networks, and you can watch video highlights regularly at

Thank you very much to Ella Hubber.
Ella:See ya!
Tom Scott:Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Woo-woo!
Tom Scott:And Caroline Roper.
Caroline:Thank you so much for having us.
Tom Scott:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:(cracks up)
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