Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 74: 122,667 miles

Published 8th March, 2024

Ella Hubber, Caroline Roper and Tom Lum from 'Let's Learn Everything' face questions about cycling coercion, hoovering hacks and disproportionate drinks.

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: Arwid, Robert Risack. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom Scott:When flustered one morning, why did Jane put some stockings on the end of her vacuum cleaner?

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

Welcome and thank you for listening to Lateral. Your download means that we are one step closer to our goal of beating the Relaxing White Noise podcast in the charts.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Although, when I read out the questions on this show, I often hear hissing noises too.

Let's meet our guests. It is the return of all the team from Let's Learn Everything.

We'll start today with Ella Hubber.
Ella:What's up, Tom Scott?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:I just... Normally I ask a question at this point, don't I? Normally I tee you up with something. I just said your name.
Tom Lum:But now we ask you a question!
SFX:(laughter continues)
Tom Scott:This is the last one we're recording in this block, and there is – as there always seems to be when y'all are around – this kind of just chaotic end-of-term energy.

That's what I said last time. I'm saying it again now.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:It's gonna be one of those shows. Tom Lum, there, chiming in.
Tom Lum:(stammers) And how are you, Tom?
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:How are things?
Tom Scott:Holding it together. Holding it together.

I saw a thing the other day that said, you know, "How are you?"

It's like, "Absolutely terrible, but for the purposes of this conversation, I'm fine. How are you?"
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:I'm delighted to be here.
Caroline:I'm like, I got called a kissass last time for being nice.
SFX:(others laughing)
Caroline:What's this?
Tom Scott:In the very last word said on the show, I did my outro, and there was just a quiet "kissass" that came at the end from Ella.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Please welcome, someone who is making defiantly sure they're not a kissass, Caroline Roper.
Caroline:Hello there. (laughs)
Tom Scott:How are you doing, Caroline?
Caroline:I'm doing so great compared to everybody else, apparently.
SFX:(scattered laughing)
Caroline:So, can't complain.
Tom Scott:Alright, well, it has been a while since you're on the show.

Your show is Let's Learn Everything. (laughs) Let's see what you've learned since then.
Tom Scott:Good luck to all three of you.

And for those concerned by Tom Lum's enthusiastic performances on Lateral before, please be assured that we do have our usual oxygen tent and resus unit on standby.
Tom Lum:(laughs loudly)
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Tom Scott:Let's see if we can— No, he's—
Ella:Oh, he's gone. He's gone.
Tom Scott:You can tell when it goes echoey and he's away from the mic. I appreciate the professionalism of not clipping the mic by yelling directly into it.
Tom Lum:Oh, I would I would destroy this. I would obliterate the microphone.
Tom Scott:Let's see if we can make it through question one safely, which goes like this:

Thank you to Robert Risack for sending this question in.

In which sport can you cross the start line many times if you want, but can't cross the end line?

I'll say that again.

In which sport can you cross the start line many times if you want, but can't cross the end line?
Tom Lum:I just want you to know, my mental picture was like a 100-metre dash. But then when you said you can't cross the end line—
Ella:Just going back and forth?
Tom Lum:No-no-no-no! No-no-no-no. What I saw was... When you said you can't cross the end line, I just, a brick wall appeared at the end line, and I ran into it!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:We've actually, I think, had that question on here before.

And the answer for that is that it's certain types of swimming races, like relays, where you very much cross the start line, but actually the finish line is the wall of the pool, so you can't technically cross it.
Tom Scott:In this case, it's not a swimming pool, and you can cross the start line many times if you want.
Caroline:And is it just one person crossing the start line each time, or is it a team of people?
Tom Scott:It's not a team sport.
Ella:If you can't cross the finish line, then how do we know when the thing is finished? That is what I'm thinking.
Tom Lum:I'm also still... I'm still picturing the runner on the 100-metre line, and they run and they go, "Can I take that again? One more time. We're just going to go back to the start."

"Can I go real quick? Okay."
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:"This is better. Nope. One more, one more, one more."

I'm thinking of a wall of some kind, but also is it— do we— Do we know if this is an esoteric sport, or if this is a regular—

Did you say Olympics?
Tom Scott:You will all know this sport.
Ella:Oh, d—oh.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Ella:Time for some listing.
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom Lum:No, no, no.
Tom Scott:This is not the bog snorkeling championships. This is not the cheese rolling down the hill. This is...
Caroline:Oh, disappointing.
Tom Scott:This is a legitimate sport with an international federation.
Ella:Cheese rolling is a legitimate sport, Tom.
Tom Scott:Okay, I realised the minute I said legitimate sport. This is a...
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:It's the sort of sport that has an international federation and that sort of thing.
Tom Lum:Okay, okay.
Caroline:I guess that counts, sure.
Ella:Okay, you can cross the start many times.
Caroline:So, is it something that you could maybe redo multiple times, but you've got to... pick your preferred time, and you can only pick one, or something like that?
Tom Lum:Cross the start many... Is it like a thing that doesn't have an end, like race car racing? Maybe technically, you're across the 'start line'?
Ella:That definitely has a finish line.
Tom Lum:But if it's a loop, then it's the start you're crossing.
Ella:Oh, I see. This finish line is the start line as well. No, 'cause that's like... There's so many races that must have that.
Tom Lum:Yeah. I'm just thinking, is it a race? Do we know if it's a race?
Tom Scott:I never said it was a race.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Caroline:That's good.
Tom Scott:I said it was a sport.
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Ella:And it's not a team sport.
Tom Lum:Start line, I'm thinking, maybe like a shot put, is that what I'm thinking? Something where there's a line that you can't...

But there's a start line, and there is an end line.
Tom Scott:Yes.
Tom Lum:Are those just the names for them maybe? So it's like... I'm trying to think. If they were the net and the backline in tennis or something like that?
Ella:I'm thinking maybe something like a long jump or a triple jump where you have multiple goes crossing that line, but the end is technically, no one's ever going to reach that.
Tom Lum:Oh yeah, there's no end!
Ella:There is an end, but it's too far.
Caroline:And you only reach it when you're exiting after you've done your jump or something.
Tom Scott:You don't cross the start line many times there. You're kind of re-running when you're doing that.
Tom Scott:You can cross the start line—
Ella:It's during the same round of sports that you're doing this over and over.
Tom Scott:And you can cross the start line in either direction.
Tom Lum:Ohh!
Caroline:Is it the classic game of bulldog in the school playground?
Tom Scott:No...?

I'm putting a question mark on the end of that 'cause you're thinking more along the right lines of what sort of contest it is.
Ella:Of bulldog?
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:No, it's not even close to that, but... But if you played the same version of bulldog that my school did... it's weirdly closer than any of the racing things you've mentioned.
Caroline:I hate that I'm weirdly close. That's really annoying 'cause I feel like that's made me even less sure.
Tom Lum:Do I— Is it— Should I know what that is? Is that a regional thing?
Tom Scott:Oh.
Ella:Oh yeah.
Tom Scott:Okay, does someone wanna describe bulldog for the Americans?
Ella:Well, the way we played bulldog was to... stand in a line on either side, so you have a line of kids facing each other.
Tom Lum:We called that red rover, I think.
Ella:Oh, and then you run at full force towards each other, trying to get through.
Tom Lum:Good to know that's universal, just a different name.
Tom Scott:Yeah.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Tom Lum:In football, is there... American football... the

I don't know... a start you can cross. Is it a physical line?
Tom Scott:Yes, it is a physical line.
Tom Scott:I think the key thing to take away from the bulldog reference is that they're facing each other.
Tom Scott:Tell me more.
Tom Lum:Oh, doi!
Tom Lum:Am I correct that you start... You have a starting line, but you can move back and forth around it?
Tom Scott:Yep.
Tom Lum:I don't know about the end line though. Is that— Would that disqualify you?
Ella:Their line, the line on your opponent's side you can't cross for some reason, because it's too, it's off the grid, off the playing field.
Tom Scott:Yep, so it's called a piste, the playing field.

The starting line is the en garde line, which is just far enough apart that the... swords, épées? The pointy things can't touch.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:It's legal to move backwards and forwards across that en garde line as much as you want, but if you go over the end line at the end of the piste by putting both feet behind it, if you've retreated too far, then your opponent gets the point.
Tom Lum:Ahh.
Caroline:That's clever.
Tom Lum:I do wish you had phrased it at the start as, "You can cross the en garde line as many times as you want."
Tom Scott:That would've made that a lot easier.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:A little easier!
Tom Scott:There is a reason I didn't say finish line. Because it's not. It's the end of the piste to the end line.
Tom Lum:Ohh, yeah. That's good, that's good.
Tom Scott:Over to Tom Lum for the next question. Whenever you're ready.
Tom Lum:You can buy three similar drinks at a bar in the Philippines. The single shot of rum version costs 60 pesos, the double shot is 50 pesos, and the triple is 40 pesos. The type of rum and shot size is consistent. What is the reason for this?

I'll say that again.

You can buy three similar drinks at a bar in the Philippines. The single shot of rum version costs 60 pesos, the double shot is 50, and the triple is 40 pesos. The type of rum and shot size is consistent. What is the reason for this?
Ella:I have a really good guess, and I'm worried that I'm right. Which, it sounds so cocky.
Tom Scott:Here's the thing, so do I.
Caroline:Oh? I'll start then. Is it the type of liquor?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Hi, Caroline, how are you doing? What's up?
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:I was gonna say, is it the type of mixer is the more expensive of the drink?
Tom Scott:That's what I was going to say.
Ella:That's what I was going to say.
Tom Scott:Have we got it?
Caroline:Is that...?
Tom Lum:Yeah.
Tom Scott:Yeah, okay.
Caroline:Oh, okay.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:You both really backed yourselves. I was really like, this can't be it, can it? (laughs)
Tom Lum:Do you know what drink it is?
Tom Scott:We all successfully worked out the first bit, which is that the mixer's more expensive. It's a shot of rum and some more stuff.

But as someone who doesn't drink, I'm probably not going to be that good at working out what this drink is.
Ella:Is there another alcohol in the drink?
Tom Scott:There used to be a thing at a bar in York, called the Hell Shot, which...
Caroline:Oh no.
Tom banned by the local council as a condition of them getting their liquor license renewed because it was a shot of basically everything they wanted from behind the bar with a bit more absinthe poured on top. And it was not cheap.
Tom Lum:(gasps)
Tom Scott:And it was just basically a lot of pure alcohol. And of course the students ordered it all the time on dares.
Caroline:That sounds like the most student-y thing I've ever heard, to be honest.
Tom Scott:Right?
Ella:That's a universal story, Tom, because I went to university in Sheffield, and in one of the clubs there—
Tom Scott:(laughs) Of course in Sheffield!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:No, sorry, not— There wasn't a slight on you for Sheffield. I mean, it was a slight on Sheffield. Like, of course that exists in Sheffield.
Ella:I take both offensively.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:But they had a 'quad vod' drink.
Ella:So four shots of vodka. And I— And they— The council was like, you cannot do that anymore, so they just did a triple with a shot on the side.
Tom Scott:There were a lot of legends about it. I never actually saw anyone order one myself, and I didn't have sensible friends, so...
Tom Lum:(sputters)
Ella:Tom Lum looks horrified over British drinking culture right now. It is horrifying.
Tom Lum:I just love the creativity of the drink math.

And, I will say, I feel like now, at first, I thought you guys might've had this right away, but now I will see. And also the best part about this is the more creative drinks you come up with, the more bars that are listening can make these things.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:So if you come up with these lateral drinks, that's a great idea.
Tom Scott:Yeah, actually. We still need to work out why this mixer is so expensive.
Caroline:Yeah, does it have gold leaf in it or something?
Ella:(snickers) Gold leaf.
Tom Scott:Oh, that's Jagermeister, isn't it? Doesn't that have gold? There is a liquor with...
Tom Lum:There is one that does, yeah.
Tom Scott:I don't think it's Jagermeister. Something else has gold leaf dissolved in it.
Caroline:Huh. Is it like a champagne or something? Really annoying like that.
Ella:It's like a spritz with a...
Tom Lum:I want you guys to be creative for a bit, because you got a head start on the first part of this.
Caroline:Oh thank you. (laughs uproariously)
Ella:Alright. Is it like... you know, some... (snickers) crushed up rhino horn or something?
Tom Scott:Oh...
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:Is it an alcoholic drink that... somebody who does drink might drink a bit more regularly, or is it something a bit more obscure?
Ella:Oh yeah.
Tom Scott:'Cause if you're asking us to name every substance, we can try that.
Caroline:We can go there, that's fine.
Tom Lum:Oh, Tom Scott's joined the list side, now that the tables have turned.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:I don't wanna give too much away, but yes, you will all have heard of this drink.
Tom Scott:Rum...
Ella:I don't drink a lot of rum-based cocktails.
Ella:So I'm gonna find this tough.
Tom Scott:It can't be rum and Coke, because I can't see Coke ever being that expensive.
Caroline:Is it rum and Coke?
Tom Scott:Even if you're trying to import the proper Coke that has sugar instead of...

Okay, if you're thinking about cocaine now, then that's very different, but...
Caroline:That's where my brain was going with that one, but...
Ella:Maybe it's that the mix— It's a really common drink, but the mixer is really hard to get into the Philippines. It's illegal, or...
Ella:Or it's a very high cost of importing it.
Tom Scott:Ooh.
Caroline:(gasps) Oh, that's such a good point! So, is it a more... high percentage spirit of some sort?
Tom Lum:No, it isn't. In fact, it's a zero percent, and you guys have— If you piece together all your answers, you've said it.
Ella:Coke is really expensive to get in the Philippines.
Tom Lum:It sure is.
Ella:That's crazy.
Tom Scott:What?
Ella:How expensive?
Tom Lum:So—
Ella:Or rum is really cheap.
Tom Lum:It's a combination of both.
Caroline:Both? Yeah.
Tom Lum:Yeah. So you can order a glass of rum and Coke containing one, two, or three shots of rum.

However, Coca-Cola is a relatively expensive import and costs more than the rum itself.

As the single rum and Coke only contains one shot of rum, the rest of the glass has to be filled with cola, the more expensive ingredient.
Caroline:That's really interesting.
Tom Lum:When you said champagne, Caroline, I was like, yes, the champagne of sodas.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Good luck, folks. Next question:

Jackie's car had travelled a total of 122,667 miles over its long life. Having waited for this exact moment, she did something to the car that would give amusement some days later. What did she do, and why?

I'll say that again.

Jackie's car had travelled a total of 122,667 miles.
Tom Lum:(snickers)
Tom Scott:Pens and paper coming out now.
Tom Lum:Yep.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:...over its long life. Having waited for this exact moment, she did something to the car that would give amusement some days later. What did she do, and why?
Ella:Upside down, it smells boobies.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Two episodes in a row! Two episodes in a row.
Tom Lum:And they flipped the car upside down, so that it would read...
SFX:(laughter continues)
Ella:Could you just say the number again, Tom, please?
Tom Scott:122,667.
Ella:Yeah, it's not like 420,666 or something fun, y'know?
SFX:(both Toms snicker)
Ella:I assume it has to do with the number that— I mean, obviously this isn't the question.
Tom Lum:Or it could be a total— But it could be a total— it could be a... Something completely... Well, do we know the make of the car?
Tom Scott:Make of the car doesn't matter.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Caroline:All my brain is giving me right now is that they stuck googly eyes on in some capacity to make it a face, and I can't move past that. So I have to say it out loud just to get it out there, you know?
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Ella:Is this... This isn't Roman numerals again, is it? 'Cause I can't go through that.
Tom Scott:(laughs) This isn't Roman numerals. This isn't like the last one. This is not Roman numerals. I promise you.
Tom Lum:Saved us a few minutes of frantically trying.
Tom Scott:Although I am now trying to think of any car manufacturer that I can spell out with Roman numerals, and I can't quite find one.
Tom Lum:(snickers)
Caroline:But also, this isn't the final number, because the final number is going to happen in a few days' time.
Tom Scott:Oh, for god's sake! Sorry, the producer has just yelled "CIVIC" at me.
Tom Scott:Thank you, yes, that's... (sighs)
Tom Lum:God, your team, wow.
Tom Scott:Fast, he's fast!
Tom Lum:(applauds) Big, big props to the team, wow.
Caroline:So, what's coming up? So, what?
Ella:Yeah, is the number— Is she going to change— The number itself is important.
Tom Lum:122... Is it a reference to something?
Ella:Is it a reference to a date?
Tom Lum:The only the, first thing my brain goes to with like mileage counts is the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where they think about going in reverse.
Ella:Yeah, they roll it back.
Tom Lum:But yeah, yeah, yeah. So I don't know if it was a reference to that or something.
Tom Scott:It's not a reference to that, but you are thinking along sort of the right lines.
Caroline:And this is the only time in this car's mileage, that it could possibly be? It's not like, "Oh, it's going to have 69 on the end of it. Ha ha ha, funny."
Tom Lum:Ha ha ha.
Caroline:Ha ha ha.
Tom Scott:It's the only time that you could do this.
Tom Lum:Hundred, one, two, two. Three, four, five— 1-2-3-4-5-6?
Tom Scott:Keep talking.
Tom Lum:Seven?
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Eight, nine.
Tom Scott:Let me rephrase the question. Keep thinking out loud about that. Not just—
Tom Lum:Does it just go 1-2-3-4-5-6?
Ella:No, it's a sequence of numbers that is... that is funny.
Caroline:And did you say that they put something on the car to make it amusing?
Tom Scott:No, they did something to the car.
Caroline:They did something to the car?
Tom Scott:So Tom, you've basically got it. What do you do at 122,667 ...if you want to line that up?
Tom Lum:You drive... a certain amount of numbers to make it 123,456?
Tom Scott:Mhm. Little bit of arithmetic, if anyone wants to do some quick maths on this. Figure out the difference.
Caroline:Oh, no, I don't.
Ella:(bleep) you.
Tom Scott:Okay, given... I will be your calculator for you, 'cause you've basically got it. And I'll tell you that the difference—
Tom Lum:They drove 789 miles?
Tom Scott:—is 789 miles. Exactly right. Which means in total, you get...?
Tom Lum:One hundred twent— One-two— 123,456. 1-2-3-4-5-6?
Tom Scott:And underneath it?
Caroline:And underneath it?
Tom Lum:7-8-9! Whoa!
Ella:Okay, that did not deserve that level of precision.
Tom Lum:Because they drove 789 miles!
Tom Scott:Tom, you've got it. You reset the trip counter at 122,667.
Tom Lum:Yes! Okay.
Tom Scott:And you will line up for 123,456 – 789.0. You will get the full sequence.

Ella, over to you for the next question.
Ella:The candelabra tree is a species of screw palm that grows in tropical parts of Africa. Why might a farmer be delighted to find it growing on their land?

I'll say that again.

The candelabra tree is a species of screw palm that grows in tropical parts of Africa. Why might a farmer be delighted to find it growing on their land?
Caroline:Is it something about how fertile the soil is? So it has to be really good quality to be able to grow there?
Ella:Soil is... kind of something.
Caroline:Does it mean that they have soil, full stop?
Ella:"They have soil"?
Ella:Oh, I think all trees need soil.
Tom Scott:It only grows in just ideal conditions. Just the perfect— It's a complete jerk of a tree.

It's the equivalent of that house plant you've got that requires exactly the right amount of water all the time.
Caroline:I'm looking at that house plant now. Yeah, yeah, I know that feeling.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:And meanwhile, I'm of course looking out at my candelabra tree. It's doing pretty good.
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom Lum:Another foot it grew. Wow, that's amazing.
Ella:Tom, I know you don't have a candelabra tree, 'cause you wouldn't be here.
Tom Lum:New York City, baby. (laughs) It's concrete and pigeons.
Ella:No, that's not—
Tom Lum:Is there something with the candelabra tree? Are you giving me a hint? Is that what's happening?
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Caroline:Oh, oh, okay. (laughs) So...
Tom Lum:Is there a hint in the name? Is there a... 'Cause it's a very...
Tom Lum:...distinctive name, okay.
Caroline:Yeah, is there something about the tree that makes the tree very valuable? So they could go and sell the leaves or the fruits or something like that?
Tom Lum:Yeah, that was my second thought, yeah.
Tom Scott:But if you did that, you'd farm it.
Tom Scott:If it was that valuable, you would just take some cuttings, plant some more.
Tom Lum:Could this be a near-extinct species or something like that?
Tom Scott:There's a reward for it from the... botanists' society.
Caroline:Can it, if you take cuttings of the tree, and put it into the soil, or dead leaves or something like that, does that then increase the fertility of the soil around it?
Ella:I'm going to say the tree has no special properties itself.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Ella:I mean, it can be used for some medicinal purposes, but that's not anything to do with why you would want to see this tree.
Tom Lum:Is there a regional law or something related to this? Like, you...

Or I guess, well, I forget someone said if there was a reward or something for it, for finding this tree. Is it native to this area?
Tom Scott:A superstition? Some luck?
Ella:It's very real... what the good— It's very real.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline crack up)
Ella:The delight that seeing this tree would bring is a real, tangible thing.
Tom Lum:Okay, okay.
Tom Scott:It's not a superstitious thing. It's a, this will actually cause a benefit.
Tom Scott:But they find it growing.
Tom Lum:Is it very small, very big? I guess you said nothing special about the tree necessarily, the property.
Caroline:Is it the mode of seed transport that's important? So the animal or the...
Tom Lum:Oh, is it, yeah, like a civet coffee kind of situation going on maybe with the soil? You said soil was a hint, so...
Tom Scott:It means that it's been transferred by some interesting animal or valuable animal that you now know is in your area?
Ella:No, no, you did— Valuable's... That's a good word. (wheezes)
Tom Scott:Huh.
Tom Lum:(wheezes) Interesting.
Ella:It's nothing to do with animals.
Tom Scott:Its sap is pure gold. No...
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Caroline:Wait, Ella's eyebrows.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:I shouldn't... My facial expressions are giving things away. I need to cover my face.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:Is it about where it grows, the soil? It grows where there is...
Caroline:Is it about the sap, in some capacity?
Ella:No, no, there's the tree— Nothing special about the tree.
Ella:Toms... You're on it. It's the soil.
Tom Scott:It's valuable, or it's...
Ella:It is not valuable.
Tom Lum:Or it grows over something valuable? Is it likely to grow over minerals, or...
Ella:Yeah, Tom.
Tom Scott:Is it like those trees where truffles grow underneath them?
Tom Lum:(gasps)
Tom Scott:Or something like that?
Ella:You are on the right lines.
Tom Lum:Ohh.
Ella:It thrives in a very particular type of soil.
Caroline:Does it replace nitrogen? Or things like that into the soil?
Tom Lum:I can't think of anything more than truffles. Is it something artificial, like minerals and gold? Actually? Is it actually gold?
Ella:It's not gold.
Tom Lum:Diamonds?
Tom Scott:It's a way of telling that there's some mineral underneath that you might be able to mine.
Tom Scott:It only grows where... Right, so you wouldn't plant it just all over your land, because...
Caroline:Because then you can't see it, yeah.
Tom Scott:But randomly, there might be...
Tom Lum:So, is it diamonds? Is it to— Does that mean there's going to be diamonds below it?
Ella:The candelabra tree indicates the possible presence of diamonds.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline gasp)
Tom Scott:Wow!
Caroline:That's really cool!
Ella:So, it thrives on sites containing the igneous rock kimberlite, which is the result of volcanic eruptions. And volcanic eruptions push diamonds hundreds of miles up to the Earth's surface. So the tree's indicating that that land contains diamonds.
Caroline:That's so cool.
Tom Scott:Okay, here we go.

Victoria was on her bike in Spain when a German cyclist forced her to ride along the Côte d'Azur – somewhere she didn't want to be. After stopping a couple of times, the German woman had left upset, while Victoria was very happy. Why?

I'll say that again.

Victoria was on her bike in Spain when a German cyclist forced her to ride along the Côte d'Azur – somewhere she didn't want to be. After stopping a couple of times, the German woman had left upset, while Victoria was very happy. Why?
Caroline:Were they... Was there something to find on this route? And Victoria got very successful in finding it, and the other woman was really annoyed that she didn't have any luck?
Ella:I feel like there's significance to the fact that the woman is German.
Ella:That doesn't feel—
Tom Lum:Spain also. I don't know if these areas...
Ella:Do we know the nationality of the first woman? Does that matter?
Tom Scott:It doesn't matter to the question, but we do know the nationality.
Ella:Okay. But the nationality of the German woman was important for some reason.
Tom Lum:So, and I'm trying to think what... the bike has to do. It makes me think... there's something to reach or something to travel very quickly. There's something to cross.

Maybe it could be a border crossing, but also this... The other woman was there to be annoyed at this. So I'm trying to wonder what...

Was there a race, but— And also, she didn't want to go?
Ella:I don't— What's it called? The Côte...
Tom Scott:Côte d'Azur.
Ella:d'Azur. Is this... I don't know anything about this area of the world, unfortunately.
Tom Lum:So the German woman warned Victoria not to, or...
Tom Scott:Forced her to ride along the Côte d'Azur.
Caroline:Victoria didn't want to go there, yeah.
Ella:But they were on a tandem bicycle, so they have to go together.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:(laughs) It's obviously not right.
Tom Lum:Sorry, I made a face like, "Ahh?"
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Ella:Oh, is that it?
Tom Lum:It was just such a wonderful image.
Tom Lum:Imagine the person behind you just being like, "You gotta go, keep going!" It's like, "No!"
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:Did Victoria not want to go there because it was unsafe for some reason?
Tom Lum:Yeah, that was...
Tom Scott:It's not unsafe... but it's somewhere you definitely don't want to go.
Caroline:Reputation-wise? You wouldn't want to be seen there for some reason?
Tom Lum:Was the German woman playing a trick, or genuinely trying to help? And Victoria was happy at the end.
Caroline:Was Victoria happy then because she was proved right?
Tom Scott:Yes, yep.
Caroline:About it being bad.
Tom Scott:Victoria was in the right.
Caroline:Okay. Okay.
Tom Lum:Did Victoria take a tumble, and then was very smug on the way back, like, "Told you so"?
Tom Scott:No...
Caroline:(laughs uproariously)
Tom Lum:This is interesting!
Tom Scott:But there is that sort of... thing going on here.
Tom Lum:Yeah, yeah.
Ella:They were chased away from the area due to... (snickers) anti-German sentiment. I don't know what I'm saying.
Tom Scott:I will say that the Côte d'Azur is not the famous one in France.
Ella:You said it's in Spain.
Tom Scott:Mmm, I did say it's in Spain.
Caroline:Wait, so the German woman thought that she was going to the famous Côte d'Azur in France. And then realised that that's not where they were?
Tom Scott:Oh no, they both knew exactly what was going on. I'm just saying that when I say Côte d'Azur, it's not the one in France.
Tom Lum:Okay, okay.
Caroline:Okay. Was there something... unsavoury on display in some way that the German woman didn't realise she was going to see?
Tom Scott:Not in this case, no.
Tom Scott:Neither of them were really going very far.
Tom Lum:Mmm.
Tom Lum:I'm picturing it in my mind. "Don't— You must go on this path." "Oh, I don't want to!" Something happens.
Tom Lum:Something happens.
Caroline:"Hahaha, I'm happy!"
Tom Lum:"Hahaha, I'm happy!" "Oh, and I'm upset!"
Tom Scott:Your—
Tom Scott:Your mind's eye picture is almost certainly wrong, because this is a very trickily phrased question.
Ella:Oh, okay. Could you—
Caroline:Ohh... ohh.
Tom Lum:Ohh... alright.
Ella:"Nah, it's one of these!"
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Ella:Okay. Could you do it again? That might help us.
Tom Scott:Okay, yeah.
Tom Lum:Yes, let's focus on the words.
Tom Scott:Victoria was on her bike in Spain when a German cyclist forced her to ride along the Côte d'Azur – somewhere she didn't want to be. After stopping a couple of times, the German woman had left upset, while Victoria was very happy. Why?
Caroline:I feel like that didn't help.
Tom Lum:Are they... They're on their bikes, and they're riding them.
Tom Scott:Yeah, I'll give you that much. That's definitely happening.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Tom Scott:There's not a word in this question that's a lie. It's just omitted a few things.
Tom Lum:Is it indoors or something? Could it be a... not a typical road?
Tom Lum:Is the Côte d'Azur maybe like a boat?
Tom Scott:Ohh!
Tom Lum:Or the...
Tom Scott:So... no, unfortunately. But indoor, definitely right on this.
Caroline:Ohh! Okay.
Tom Lum:Okay.
Tom Scott:Your picture is missing one key fact about this. Why might they be cycling?
Tom Lum:Could it be a racetrack?
Ella:It's a velodrome.
Tom Scott:It's a velodrome.
Tom Lum:Are they racing?
Caroline:No way.
Tom Scott:They are racing.
Tom Lum:Did this person say, "You should join in this race," and then they ended up crushing them?
Tom Scott:Oh, not quite.
Caroline:Did she come second?
Tom Lum:Not quite?
Caroline:And Victoria came first?
Tom Scott:I'll give you the situation again.

Victoria was on her bike in Spain when a German cyclist forced her to ride along the Côte d'Azur, the blue coast, the azure coast. Why didn't she want to be there? And why might she have been happy at the end?
Tom Lum:Is she famous?
Tom Scott:Yes. Victoria is Victoria Pendleton, the noted British cyclist.
Tom Lum:Did they... Did Victoria show up the person and take all the attention away or something like that, maybe, or...

It was like a, "No, I don't want to bike," but then when they did, was it like a relay or something?

Was it a... biking competition?
Tom Scott:What's on a cycling track? Have a think about the velodrome.
Tom Lum:It's curved banks. It's making curves.
Tom Scott:Mhm.
Tom Lum:Could— Was Victoria in the race at all, or was she— okay.
Tom Scott:Yes, yep. So was the German woman.
Tom Lum:Okay, so they're both in the race. Did they knock the other person over or something? Did they bump on a...
Caroline:Did she push her into a certain part of the track that she didn't want to be in?
Tom Scott:Yep.
Tom Lum:Did she take up a lane, so then she had to be on the outside lane or something like that?
Tom Scott:I think you're close enough on this one. I think I'm gonna give you that.

The Côte d'Azur is the lowest part of the track. The blue part where you are not allowed to go.
Tom Lum:Oh my—!
Tom Scott:It's the out-of-bounds area. So now you've got that connection. What happened?
Tom Lum:So...
Ella:Oh, okay, she forced her onto the out-of-bounds area.
Tom Lum:Oh-oh-oh, and then she got disqualified or something, because that wasn't allowed.
Tom Scott:And the German woman was disqualified because she clashed into Victoria, pushed her onto the no-go area, and after an investigation...
Tom Lum:Oh my gosh, forced her onto...
Tom Scott:Victoria got the gold medal, and the German woman was disqualified.
Ella:Right! That's good. That was a well-worded question.
Caroline:That was a well-worded question!
Tom Lum:Wow!
Tom Scott:Caroline, over to you for the next one.
Caroline:Let's do it. This question has been sent in by Arwid.

Eccentric Chinese warlord Zhang Zongchang displayed his fearlessness by sitting in his own coffin and smoking a cigar.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Caroline:What resource problem did he have when he promoted his entire army, and how was it solved?

I'll say that one more time.

The eccentric Chinese warlord Zhang Zongchang displayed his fearlessness by sitting in his own coffin and smoking a cigar. What resource problem did he have when he promoted his entire army, and how was it solved?
Ella:He didn't have enough cigars for them to smoke in the coffins.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Ella:They were all like, "We're doing that too. That was badass."
Caroline:That was banging. Let's have more of that.
Tom Scott:Yep.
Caroline:Okay. (laughs)
Tom Lum:Resource problem. Every word of that, Caroline, was not what I was expecting the next one to be.
Caroline:Wasn't it a delightful one? Thank you so much, Arwid, for that question.
Tom Lum:How does smoking in your coffin as an eccentric warlord solve this resource problem?
Ella:Sorry, he promoted his entire army?
Caroline:His entire army, yes.
Tom Scott:And just to be clear, this is 'promoted' in the terms of increasing their rank, and not just giving them some advertising?
Caroline:It is in terms of increasing their rank, yes.
Ella:That he didn't have enough medals for them?
Tom Scott:Rank pips, stripes, something like that.
Caroline:Ella, you're spot on, yeah. So yeah, it is because they didn't have enough medals.
Tom Lum:To be promoted. What does that have to do with smoking in a coffin? That's relevant, right, I assume?
Caroline:That's such a good question, Tom.
Tom Scott:Oh...
Tom Lum:Was that just a cool fact that you wanted to tell us?
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:So the resource problem is the medal.

What could possibly be used to replace that, or what could be used to fill in that gap in the resources?
Ella:Gold coins? Chocolate coins?
Tom Scott:Coffin linings.
Caroline:No. A more sensible suggestion
Tom Lum:How many—
Caroline:...than chocolate coins, Ella.
Tom Lum:How many cigars you have you can smoke is your rank.
Tom Scott:You just get one of those cigar cutters and cut the cigar into many, many circles.
Tom Lum:Oh, I'm sorry. Hold on. This might be too eccentric, but could they burn you? With the cigar?
Caroline:No! I'm horrified and in love with that suggestion.
Tom Lum:They're eccentric!
Tom Lum:And they're an eccentric warlord!
Ella:Is it to do with the coffin stuff then?
Caroline:The coffin stuff is less relevant.
Tom Scott:The cigar stuff, on the other hand...
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Ella:Yeah, the number of cigars in your lapel.
Caroline:(scoffs) No.
Tom Scott:How can you make medals, or make something that stands in for a medal, using a cigar, or using a lighter, or using something that will leave you with a thing you can give out as a medal?
Tom Lum:Is it a physical thing, or did they just trust each other?
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Tom Lum:They're like, "He's so cool. I trust him to know. He probably knows. Look at him. He's in his own coffin!"
Caroline:They definitely were not trusting each other here. They needed those medals.
Ella:Wait, so they got the medals?
Tom Lum:Did they steal the medals from graves or something?
Ella:Dead people!
Caroline:Once again, it's not dead people.
Ella:Why do I say it in such an excited voice? Dead people!
Caroline:Yay, dead people!
Tom Lum:Yay!
Tom Scott:Occasionally on the show, people come up with taglines by accident. "Lateral, it's not dead people" isn't bad as these things go.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:Ah, I want that shirt. Medals.
Ella:I feel like I've pulled my weight in this question. Toms, get in there.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:Wait a minute. How big was this army? Is this like four people? Or is this...
SFX:(Ella and Caroline laugh)
Caroline:No, it was a considerably-sized army.
Tom Scott:Okay, and he's gotta give all of them a medal.
Tom Lum:There might've been... Also, is this something... violent happening is the answer, or is it more on the resource management answer?
Caroline:It's not— Nobody was getting stabbed or killed or maimed or marked in any way, Tom.
Tom Lum:Okay, okay, okay.
Caroline:Get the branding thing out of your head for this one. (laughs)
Ella:Okay, 'cause I was thinking maybe you just... kill a bunch of the people, then you have enough medals.
Tom Lum:Right. But it's just a resource thing?
Caroline:Yeah, the issue was probably that they weren't killing people here. Just throwing that curveball in.
Ella:Wha... what?
Tom Lum:Huh.
Tom Scott:Sorry, is the answer dead people, in that he just killed some of the army?
Caroline:No. Once again, no dead people involved in this.
Ella:Tom, stop trying to steal my answer!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Is it...
Caroline:So, cigarettes were pretty commonly smoked among his armies.
Tom Lum:Is it like, what you could smoke determined your rank?
Ella:Oh, yeah, cigars could be...
Caroline:Ah, that's a really good suggestion.
Tom Scott:Did cigarette packets used to come with something that could be used as a medal? Like the...
Ella:Oh my god, the foil from cigarette packets?
Ella:They use that to make medals? Oh my god, they have foil medals.
Caroline:Yeah, you are absolutely spot on there. Well done, Ella, pulling the weight of everybody.
Ella:I know, my chocolate coin medal thing wasn't that far off, right?
Tom Scott:Wasn't that silly.
Caroline:I had to put it down because you got the first part of it so quickly that it was like, "No we can't have this. We've gotta—" (laughs)

But yeah, you are absolutely spot on.

They ran out of rank stars or medals because every time that Zhang Zongchang defeated a rival, he would absorb the troops of that rival into his own ranks, allowing them to keep his ranks.

But in order to prevent rebellion from his own soldiers, everybody in his army would get promoted, meaning that they didn't have enough of these medals or stars.

And because smoking was so prevalent among Chinese soldiers, they used the silver and gold paper inside of cigarettes to make these stars, basically.
Ella:Oh, dear.
Caroline:This is a really fun fact. Many of the officers would notice that their rank, their prize, their medal, would not even survive until the end of the promotion ceremony. So because it was made out of these really thin papers, it would disintegrate.
Tom Scott:The last part of the show then. At the top, I asked:

When flustered one morning, why did Jane put some stockings on the end of her vacuum cleaner?

I will also translate this as 'tights', for those of us who use 'stocking' as a word for different things. 'Pantyhose', if you're North American.

Any quick guesses from the panel?
Caroline:Should we all say it in unison?
Tom Scott:Oh, you all got this? Is this...
Caroline:I feel like this is.
Tom Lum:Wait, I don't know. Wait, I don't know. Am I—
Ella:Whatcha mean, you don't know? Surely you know.
Tom Lum:Is it to gather the dust, to collect the dust at the end?
Ella:Surely you want that to go into the vacuum cleaner.
Tom Lum:Yeah, but Lateral.
Ella:But if you didn't want something to go into a vacuum cleaner, Tom, but you wanted to use the vacuum cleaner anyway, you might do this.
Tom Lum:Oh, to scare a cat or something?
SFX:(Caroline and Ella whine)
Caroline:Oh, Tom!
Tom Scott:You're doing my job for me, Ella. Thank you.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella giggle)
Tom Scott:Caroline, Ella, tap it home.
Ella:It's to find her keys!
Tom Scott:(grimaces)
Ella:Or something like that.
Caroline:To find something like jewelry or something that she's lost, so it gets stuck into the pantyhose, tights, stockings without getting sucked into the vacuum.
Tom Scott:We have contact lens as being the thing that would be best to find that way. But yes, that's absolutely right.

Congratulations to all our players. Thank you very much, as ever, to the Let's Learn Everything team.

I mean, good luck. I'm just gonna let chaos reign. Plug your stuff, good luck!
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Ella:Ella in chaos.
Tom Lum:Welcome to Let's Learn Everything.
Guests:The show where we learn anything and everything interesting.
Tom Lum:You can come listen to our show. We are as chaotic as this, but we also cover real science stuff and also silly stuff.

We have covered topics as complex as how CRISPR could be used to help climate change, and as simple as just how much we love pigeons.
Ella:I love pigeons. Wait, no, Tom, Tom Scott's giving us the floor to just do a whole podcast. That was what I was—
Tom Scott:And that's our show for today! Well done, everyone!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:If you wanna know more about this show, you can do that at, where you can send in your own idea for questions.

You can find us at @lateralcast basically everywhere, and there are regular video highlights at

With thanks to the team from Let's Learn Everything, who are Caroline Roper...
Caroline:Whoop, whoop.
Tom Scott:Ella Hubber.
Ella:It was so good to be here, Tom.
Tom Scott:And Tom Lum!
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Ella:Thank you so much.
Tom Lum:Yay!
Caroline:I'm feeling personally attacked by you being nice to him right now, Ella.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:I'm Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
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