Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 76: The man who ate snow

Published 22nd March, 2024

Sam Reich, Ashley Hamer and Adam Savage face questions about visual vistas, ridiculous running and film phobias.

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: Andy Blackett, Eetu Makkonen. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Which 1958 film should have been called 'Acrophobia'?

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

In my secret lab each night, I've been perfecting the formula for the panel show lineup, and I've finally cracked it.

Let me introduce you to the greatest assembly of brains since Frankenstein's monster. We start with:

someone from Tested, formerly of Mythbusters. How do you want to be introduced, Mr. Adam Savage?
Adam:(laughs) Maker, permission machine, science communicator.
Tom:That is a really good lineup. Thank you for being part of the show.

How are you doing? How is stuff out at the workshop?
Adam:Stuff at the workshop could not be better. The Tested team is firing on all cylinders. We have just had a really, really great year. And it has been a real delight.
Tom:Can you give us a hint what you're working on? It's gonna be a month or two before this comes out. What's in the works for you at the moment?
Adam:Well, currently I have just received the sort of most important model making racks in history for me. And that will be a whole set of videos around that. These were... 50 years old and they're part of a storied franchise, and I've just received them and have to integrate them into the shop.

And on the side, I'm also repeatedly replicating the British crown jewels for some reason, because I can't stop.
Tom:(laughs) For a heist. That must be for a heist.
Sam:Are you going to participate in a heist? It's gotta be a heist.
SFX:(Tom and Ashley laugh)
Adam:I find them both compelling and appalling at the same time, and that's my favorite kind of object.
Sam:I don't know, this sounds like the beginning of an Ocean's Eleven.
SFX:(Tom and Adam laugh)
Tom:Next up, we have: podcaster, writer, saxophonist, and host of Taboo Science, Ashley Hamer.
Ashley:Hello! I'm so excited to be here.
Tom:Thank you so much for joining us.

I mean, I can't really ask you how the workshop's going, but how is everything you're working on at the moment going?
Ashley:It's going great. I'm working on a new season of Taboo Science.

Taboo Science basically examines different taboos through a scientific lens. So things like cannibalism, necrophilia you know, tamer stuff like obesity and... And asexuality was one of the most popular episodes. But I'm working on a themed season for season four, and I'm really excited about it.
Tom:Well, very best of luck on the show today.

Our last member of the trio of the three new players that we have for this episode, we have from...

Well, I can say it now. From Dropout rather than CollegeHumor. The name has changed. Congratulations on that.

We have Sam Reich. How are you doing?
Sam:I'm doing great, Tom. Thank you so much for having me. Really excited and ...unqualified to be here today.
Tom:(laughs) No, I said before recording that I'm worried about the three minds we have here today. I am just a little bit concerned that all these questions are just gonna get blasted through immediately.

As we record this, you have just dropped the trailer for Very Important People.
Sam:This is true. We're in a development sprint. We've got all sorts of exciting stuff coming to Dropout in the next six to eight months. New shows.

If you're a subscriber, it's going to be a... wonderful, wild time. And if you're not, what are you doing?
Tom:(laughs) That is the most effective plug we've had in the intros. Well done.

Well, I'm sure you all have the personal chemistry needed to combat today's questions, which, as always, are far from elementary.

I didn't write that. The first one is this:

Susan invited two men to her house. They weren't entertainers, yet one wore roller skates while the other wore stilts. What were they doing?

And I'll say that again.

Susan invited two men to her house. They weren't entertainers, yet one wore roller skates while the other wore stilts. What were they doing?
Sam:There's a big block of ice in the middle of the room, and when it melts— no.
SFX:(others laughing)
Sam:The doctor was the boy's mother.
Tom:And they cooked the murder weapon afterwards, yeah.
Ashley:My first thought is that they're going to repair something. Like one of them has to get way up high, and one of them has to move really fast.
Adam:Well, and I can tell you, having been someone who's repaired stuff up high... I have used stilts in a non-entertainment fashion, and the stilts that I use that way are painter's stilts, which I have also actually worn for entertainment purposes. I've worn them in costumes... so that I could get an extra couple of feet.
Tom:Is there a difference between normal stilts and painter's stilts?
Adam:Well, so circus stilts tend to be single poles strapped to the— strapped to your calf. And so that's a balancing act.

And painter's stilts tend to actually have a full foot platform ...that actually moves with the foot so that a non-trained circus performer can actually put them on their legs and walk around safely.
Tom:That's also the difference between a regular unicycle and a painter's unicycle. They're just really careful.
SFX:(others laughing)
Adam:As someone who rides unicycles... That landed. I love it.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Of course I was in the juggling society when I was at university. Look at me.
Adam:Dude, yeah.
Ashley:(chuckles flatly)
Tom:It was just an increasingly obscure series of wheeled contraptions arrived.

Someone got good at the unicycle, so then they got good at the unicycle but without anything to sit on.

And then they got good at what they called 'the impossible wheel', which was just a wheel with two pegs sticking out of it instead of pedals.

And at some point, someone was able to get that around the hall.
Sam:I love that there's still innovation going on in the circus game.
Sam:That, you know, there's—
Adam:One of my most foundational memories was being 15 and going to the International Jugglers Convention because it was in the town next to mine.

This is like 1983. And the Swedish unicycling team did not get to perform their act on stage because they had booked something right after. And we went too long.

So the Swedish unicycling team said, "Meet us in the gym." And we went to the gym, and they did their routine on the bleachers.
Adam:Bouncing up and down the bleacher stairs. They did their stage routine.
Sam:That's amazing.
Tom:You have correctly identified the painter. That is absolutely right. It is a way that painters get stuff up high. That bit's right.

What about the roller skates?
Adam:Roller skates?! The person is wearing roller skates.
Ashley:Does it measure if something's uneven? Like, you know, you roll a marble, and the floor tilts a little?
Adam:He's also said skates, but I'm not sure he said that they're on feet.
Tom:Oh, no, I did— Well, I say, I said, "wore roller skates".
Ashley:Oh, okay.
Adam:Oh you said "wore roller skates". Okay, so we do—

'Cause I was thinking of a mechanic's creeper, right? Like the tiny dolly, a mechanic lies flat on their back on to go underneath the car, but that's clearly—
Tom:I did not know that was called a creeper.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Adam:Maybe it's no longer called a creeper.
Sam:There's only... When I think about someone wearing roller skates in a... utilitarian way... where my mind immediately goes is, they're the dolly somehow. Do you know what I mean? They're... It was important for something to be on wheels to move about.
Sam:The only— 'Cause the only other... (chuckles) the only other cartoonish situation that comes to mind is that the paint is somehow on the roller skates, which makes no sense.

I think my brain is going Looney Tunes.
Adam:Oh no, but that sounds like I would love to test that out. That sounds like a fun day.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom:Down in my notes, it says, this is a personal anecdote. This is not some ephemeral thing that happened.

This is, someone our question writer knows actually had a builder turn up with roller skates to do this.
Adam:Then... Actually I'm going to... I would tend to drift back towards painting and say that on roller skates, you could have a really good way of laying down the tape on a long wall, for instance.
Ashley:Or even doing a really straight line of paint without the tape. I mean tape or paint.
Tom:Yeah, I'm gonna give you that. That's close enough. It is... moreso plastering and things like that to get a consistent, smooth surface at a consistent speed, but yeah. The roller skates are there because it's smoother than walking.
Ashley:Wait, but where— How do they combine with the stilts? Are they on—
Tom:They are not both wearing the same things. Although I would pay to see that!
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:That, that is a circus trick.
Sam:That's... That's an insurance issue at that point.
Ashley:It is.
Tom:The entire juggling convention is an insurance issue. I know the people who had to sort the insurance for the British one of that once. It's a lot.
Adam:Oh my goodness.
Sam:If two painters showed up to my home, one in roller skates and the other on stilts, I'd be like, yeah, you do my roof with the help of an elephant. Great.
Tom:Each of our guests has brought a question along with them.

Sam, we're gonna start with you.
Sam:Incredible. Role as host, how I feel most natural.
Sam:Your question is:

In a suburban Berlin park, why do people repeatedly vandalise an unremarkable statue of a jaguar every time it's restored?


In a suburban Berlin park, why do people repeatedly vandalise an unremarkable statue of a jaguar every time it's restored?
Ashley:I just want to say I really appreciate the California pronunciation of jaguarjag-wire.
Tom:(laughs) And I really appreciated the California pronunciation of jaguarjag-yu-er. So just...
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:Solid work already.
Sam:Something for everybody.
Tom:My first thought went to the statue in Glasgow, and I cannot remember which statue it is. It's fairly near the city centre, which always has a traffic cone on its head. At some point...
Sam:(laughs heartily)
Tom:It's a guy on a horse in Glasgow, and any time that traffic cone is removed... We don't know who puts it up. It's whichever drunk person happens to come by next. But there is consistently a traffic cone on the head.

But the reason behind that is, it's funny. As far as I know, there's no reason behind that other than it's funny.
SFX:(Sam and Ashley laugh)
Tom:Oh, thank you, producer David. It's the Duke of Wellington statue.
Ashley:Is it sports-related? I know, I mean, I lived in Chicago for ten years. All of the statues have different... sports hats. Gosh, hats.
Ashley:Shows how much I watch sports. (laughs)

You know, they've got helmets.
Sam:Right there with you.
Ashley:They've got jerseys on.
Ashley:Is it like that?
Tom:Wait, do they dress up the statues for sports events?
Ashley:Oh, yeah, if you go into the Field Museum, you'll see some of the dinosaurs are wearing...
Ashley:Bulls jerseys and things, yeah. (chuckles)
Sam:As a comedian, I just can't tell you how— I just can't let you get away with 'sports hats'. That's the best thing I've ever heard in my life.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:And also clearly they're big fans of Jacksonville. So it's the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ashley:Oh, exactly. Out in Berlin, they love it.
Sam:I will say, Tom is correct in the sense that the reason for this being vandalized is probably that it's funny, at least in part.
Adam:'Cause I was thinking it was a political thing at first.

And then I was thinking of the bull down at Wall Street. But the only vandalism it suffers is it's got really shiny balls.
Tom:(laughs) Yes. Yes.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:There's a lot of statues like that in the world.
Adam:(laughs) Yeah!
Adam:It's the statue equivalent of a desire path is what it is.
Tom:(laughs) Right?
SFX:(Sam and Ashley chuckle)
Tom:This is a Berlin park, and it's a statue of a jaguar. So it's not...
Sam:Of a big cat. Which, which... Which could be another way in here to a solution is thinking about... thinking about that species and, you know, what family of cat it belongs to.
Tom:(sighs) I'm trying to think of anything to do with Berlin or landmarks.

The only things I know in Berlin are Hitler's big lump of concrete. Which I've never done a video on because it's just a big lump of concrete.
Tom:There's a story there.

They built it as testing for something, and no one can knock it down because it's literally just an enormous, building-size solid lump of concrete.

And the other thing is Berlin Airport, which is just very late and not that good.

But none of that has anything to do with... Why would you protest—
Sam:I'm taking all of my cues from you here, Tom, in terms of hints and how to go about them.

You'd be specifically wrong to look at Berlin for your reason why.

In fact, you would sooner look... to Hollywood.
Tom:Oh, this is someone who hosts a game show or two.
SFX:(group laughing)
Adam:To Hollywood. It gets ve— I mean— Does it get a little kitty collar? Every— Does someone keep buying it a little diamond collar?
Sam:It does not wear anything.
Ashley:I mean, I'm thinking of the MGM lion? Mmnyuh? I don't know why. There's nothing else there. I just said a word.
Sam:Great start.
Sam:No, you— Think less industry, and more just... you know, properties.
Tom:Is this thing walking? Is it rearing up or something like that?
Ashley:Is it the Pink Panther? That they painted pink?
Sam:It is the Pink Panther!
SFX:(group shouting)
Sam:My god, Ashley!
Sam:From two to ten!
Ashley:(laughs) Yeah! I got it!
Adam:That's crazy.
Tom:Do they paint it pink repeatedly?
Sam:They paint it pink repeatedly, and every time it's set back to normal, someone new comes along and makes it pink again.
Ashley:I love that.
Adam:Oh my god. My question now is...

Is it that special paint that was formulated to not be sold to the guy who's got the license to use Vantablack?
Tom:I filmed with that!
SFX:(Adam and Sam laugh)
Tom:I filmed with the guy and all his colours. It's a brilliant scheme.

He's a great publicist for the pigments he makes, which is I think how he funds all the art. He's got a great pigment shop. It's wonderful.

And just getting into an art beef with Anish Kapoor and banning specifically that one guy from buying his paint. It's just wonderful.
Adam:I'm so here for that kind of beef.
Sam:The sculpture is by Heinrich Drake. It's called Jaguar.

The jaguar is a type of panther. And locals keep painting it pink, no matter how many times it's reset to black.
Tom:Thank you to an anonymous listener for this question.

In 1959, the US Post Office Department entered into a government collaboration to deliver mail from an isolated office 100 miles away. This service could deliver 3,000 letters in 22 minutes. What method was used?

And one more time.

In 1959, the US Post Office Department entered into a government collaboration to deliver mail from an isolated office 100 miles away. This service could deliver 3,000 letters in 22 minutes. What method was used?
Sam:Santa Claus.
SFX:(Adam and Tom laugh)
Ashley:Immediately what I thought.
Adam:I think of one government department helping another government department, and I have this overarching suspicion that it's a proof of concept.
Tom:Yes, and I suspect, Adam, you might know this one, if you're already thinking.
Adam:I don't actually, off the top of my head, no. But I'm— I just think about when g—

When different departments collaborate, it's usually because one wants to make a point.
Tom:Ohh, okay.
Ashley:It's gotta be the military, right?
Sam:100%. Where my mind immediately goes is a giant... Dumbo Drop of letters. That amount of letters in such a short amount of time.
Ashley:I was thinking those vacuum tubes that you see in banks. Just like (imitates zipping)
Adam:There's apparently still a network of those in midtown Manhattan.
Tom:Yeah, just, they're not in use anymore.

There's one in Prague that's also out of service.

I visited one once in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is used for sending small samples of radioactive stuff from a particle accelerator to a hospital two, three kilometres away.
Tom:They use it for medical imaging. That's how you use some medical imaging stuff, you use short-lived radioactive isotopes.

So they either have to put it in a van and truck it 20 minutes down the road, or put it in a sample tube and... (whoo-pop) all the way down, two and a half minutes. It's amazing.
Sam:Good sound effect.
Tom:(laughs) Thank you! I was proud of that sound effect.
SFX:(group laughing)
Adam:Is it like a underwater torpedo kind of delivery service?
Adam:I'm thinking about getting something to a remote location.
Tom:You are getting very close, very quickly here. You're right. It's the military. 100% spot on there, actually.
Sam:It's gotta be.
Adam:(cracks up)
Tom:And you've... You've run through most of it here.
Sam:Is it, is it— I mean, off of Adam, is it something to do with attaching communication... to a weapon? Is it... Is it, you know, we put a— (cracks up) We put a letter to mom on a bomb.
Sam:Or on a torp—
Adam:The military sees everything as a ham— The military is a hammer, and everything is a nail. So all they know how to do is shoot stuff. So clearly they've figured out how to shoot communications.
SFX:(guests laughing)
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Sam:You'll get your letter. You won't survive to read it.
SFX:(laughter continues)
Adam:Exactly! "Hold on, let me pull your Christmas card out of my chest."
Tom:This service could deliver 3,000 letters in 22 minutes... over 100 miles.
Sam:An hour.
Tom:No, no, no. 100 miles in 22 minutes.
Sam:In 22 min— (wheezes)
Adam:So, I'm actually going to tell you, given stuff we did on Mythbusters, that to travel 100 miles... it probably went into the— at— high into the atmosphere to make that parabolic arc.
Tom:This is rocket mail. This is putting mail inside a missile as an attempt to deliver.
Tom:Where was the post office? 'Cause you—
Tom:You nearly said this, Adam. You kinda joked about this, and you were nearly there.
Adam:Oh, is it the Bering Strait? Is it...
Tom:Not exactly the Bering Strait, but you're right that it was not launched from land.
Adam:Oh, wow!
Sam:Oh? From the Navy?
Tom:From the Navy. To the Navy as well, actually.

The missile successfully landed at a Navy station in Maryport, Florida.

I feel like "successfully landed" is doing a lot of work there.
Sam:(wheezes) Yeah! I was about to say, when you say "missile successfully landed"...
Sam:(laughs) Does that mean "people successfully shot at"?
Tom:(chuckles) Yeah.
Ashley:Wait, how many letters are we talking, wait. This is, all the letters go at the same time, right? We're not distributing them.
Tom:3,000 letters, one missile. 8th of June 1959, including a letter from President Eisenhower.

So the only piece of this puzzle we're missing is: where was the post office?
Ashley:Okay, so 100 miles from Florida.
Sam:100 miles.
Ashley:And probably underwater.
Ashley:But where?
Tom:Underwater is the correct thing there.
Ashley:Oh, that's it. That's the answer.
Adam:A submarine!
Sam:From a sub!
Tom:They designated the submarine a post office and launched 3,000 letters in one missile at a Navy base.

And it did work. It actually technically did work.

Britain had some experiments with rocket mail as well. There was a brief fad for it that unfortunately never took off because then we got to the 1960s. And launching missiles became a lot more of a problem than it might otherwise have been.
Sam:Now, I haven't been around very long, but that has got to be the coolest post office to ever exist.
Adam:But the post office has always been way out at the vanguard of the explored. So I actually think that cool post offices is a crowded field with a— some research.
Tom:I mean, that's also a pretty good documentary series, if anyone wants to do that as a YouTube series or something.

Track down the old post office. Track down the folks who take post on mule down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Adam:I mean, that's the thing is that there's exploring the thing for the first time. And then there's the first time you need to actually get a letter there, that speaks to a certain level of establishment.
Sam:Yeah. Wow.
Tom:So yes, 1959, the US Post Office Department fired mail in a missile.

Ashley, over to you for the next question.
Ashley:This question has been sent in by Andy Blackett.

On the 13th of October 2022, Tom Hollins completed a marathon run in 112 hours, 5 minutes. He had no physical disadvantages, nor did he carry or wear anything that would slow him down, yet his achievement was widely celebrated. Why?

And I will read that again.

On the 13th of October 2022, Tom Hollins completed a marathon run in 112 hours, 5 minutes. He had no physical disadvantages, nor did he carry or wear anything that would slow him down, yet his achievement was widely celebrated. Why?
Sam:Because... Tom Holland is Spider-Man.
Adam:Yeah, I was gonna say.
SFX:(Tom, Adam, and Ashley laugh)
Tom:You said Tom Holland, and then there was an 'S' on the end of it. I think there was an 'S' on the end of it.
Ashley:I'm sorry. Tom Hollins. Hollins.
Sam:Well, that's disappointing.
Ashley:Maybe that's why. I just had Spider-Man on the brain.
Adam:So he was, he had no physical infirmity. So we're not talking about someone who pushed a wheelchair o'er the length of a marathon.
Adam:He was not carrying anything.
Sam:Right, 100 hours is a long time.
Tom:I feel like I could do a marathon in 100 hours.
Adam:It's 50 times the length of time it should take, right? 40 times.
Sam:I think that it's meaningfully slower than walking a marathon.
Tom:Yeah, 'cause your walking speed's about three or four miles an hour. So even, you know, 26 miles and a bit, that's still going to be... a day.
Adam:Yeah, it's a quarter of a mile per hour.
Tom:Did something interrupt him? (laughs) Did he get two miles into the course... have a medical emergency, get shipped to hospital...
Tom:Come back later... and just start running again?
Sam:Great theory.
Tom:And just, yeah, technically. Technically it worked.
Ashley:So he did this— All of this was on purpose. And it did involve running a lot more than 26 miles.
Tom:Oh, okay.
Sam:He maybe made it to the end of the marathon, turned back before crossing the finish line, and did it all over again?
Tom:He's a mathematician, and he's actually doing a Zeno's Paradox thing, where he does half a marathon, and then a quarter marathon, and then an eighth of a marathon, and then...
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:And eventually...
Sam:Diminishing returns.
Tom:Eventually he actually found the point where it got close enough for all practical purposes.
Adam:And Matt Parker went there, and... (laughs)
Tom:Yep, yep, absolutely.
Sam:Does it have anything to do with him almost finishing and then not?
Adam:Was he using his feet?
Ashley:He was.
Tom:He's inside a giant Zorb ball, and it just keeps spinning around as he goes.
Sam:That's great too.
Adam:Was he dancing? Was he flossing all the way to the finish line?
Ashley:He was running.
Tom:We're meant to be discussing this, and we're just throwing out bizarre ways you can get terrible world records!
Sam:(cackles) So he wasn't, when you say he was running, were his limbs being moved by other people?
Sam:In a sort of a bad improv exercise kind of way.
Tom:(laughs) You said he managed way more than 26 miles. So he's just taken a really inefficient... route for some reason.

Why in my head is this like the New York marathon and he's gone down all the city blocks on the way side-to-side to the marathon point, but...
Sam:Did he take an unusual route?
Ashley:Yes, I would say the word 'inefficient' that Tom used is a really good one.
Sam:Mm. So some specific kind of inefficiency related to the route of the marathon.
Adam:What, was he in a giant hamster wheel?
SFX:(guys laughing)
Ashley:No, he was not.
Sam:That was just going back.
Adam:I can't not think of big inventions!
Ashley:I know.
SFX:(Adam and Sam laugh)
Tom:There's got to be a reason behind it as well. There's gotta be something he's doing.
Sam:For sure, for sure.
Tom:Did he... Did he have a GPS tracker on, and he's just drawing out the word 'marathon' in enormous letters with the route he's taking?
Ashley:I love that, but no. That's not it.
Adam:Does the location of the marathon matter?
Tom:Yeah, I thought it was New York, and I don't know why I thought that.
Ashley:No, it's not. It's not New York. And the location does matter. You wouldn't be able to do this everywhere.
Ashley:It doesn't really matter. The city does— or the—
Sam:Doesn't matter. Got it, got it, got it.
Ashley:Yeah, it just— The... type of place it is matters.
Sam:Does it have anything to do with landmarks?
Adam:Oh, did he take the standard marathon route, or did he run there underwater?
Ashley:No, it was all on land.
Adam:This is fascinating.
Ashley:Only one component of his run... counted towards the total.

And I would think about, you were saying someone had a GPS watch. I know I use a GPS watch. It'll give you a lot of different stats about what your run entailed. I would think about those other stats.
Sam:Oh, did he, did he... try to do it without his heart rate going over a certain amount or something like that?
Ashley:No, no.
Adam:Oh, that's a good question though.
Tom:It's gonna give you speed, blood oxygen.
Adam:Was he doing burpees? Was he taking a step and then going down and doing a pushup and back up?
Sam:So painful.
Ashley:Oh god.
Sam:So painful.
Tom:He was on the International Space Station, and he had to just keep running until the orbit took him over the exact point of...
Tom:Agh! This is infuriating. We've got so many good ideas for bad challenges, and...
Ashley:So what— Think about what kind of terrain this would entail. I mean, think of different kinds of terrain you could run a marathon on.
Tom:It's ice, and his feet just kept slipping.
Tom:It's sand, and he's— His feet just keep slipping.
Sam:Sand is good.
Adam:Sand. Pavement. Grass. Gravel.
Ashley:We talked about... We talked about doing burpees and how painful that would be. This way of running a marathon is incredibly painful.
Sam:Hot coals.
Ashley:(laughs) No, no.
Ashley:No, no. It is painful and it would make you run for more than 26 miles.
Adam:Running in circles just occurred to me. But that doesn't track. On his hand— Not on his hands. He's using his feet. We've established that.
Ashley:How is the 26 miles measured?
Tom:Oh my go— no! He didn't go the long way 'round?
Sam:Around the world?!
Tom:Around the world. That he started at the start point, he ended at the end point, but he went the entire circumference of the world around.
Tom:Aauugh! I thought I had that!
SFX:(Tom and Adam clap)
Sam:(laughs heartily)
Adam:That was really good!
Sam:That's so cool!
Adam:You had me! I was in!
Ashley:Okay, so let me— I'm gonna, I'm gonna— I'm gonna brag for a second.

I have run many marathons, and some marathons are harder than others.

What would that reason be? Why are they hard? Why are some—
Adam:Because of hills.
Sam:It's steep.
Tom:It's 26 miles vertical!

He had to go up and down and up and down to cover 26 vertical miles.
Ashley:Tom got it. It was measured vertically.
Sam:Oh my lord.
SFX:(Tom and Adam wheeze)
Tom:We got there.
Sam:We literally— We guessed giant hamster wheel before we guessed the Y axis!
SFX:(group laughing)
Adam:Z, the Z axis.
Sam:Z axis. Thank you.
Ashley:Woo, yeah, so, Tom Hollins ran over 193 miles so he could complete a vertical marathon – ie. a change in elevation of 26 miles, 385 yards.

Both the uphill and downhill leg counts, but only the vertical distance, like Tom said.

To achieve this, he ran up Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England – probably said that wrong – 223 times in a row. So he ran up the same hill more than 200 times.
Ashley:This is the equivalent vertical distance of 4.75 times the height of Mount Everest. He only allowed himself a couple of hours of sleep after each 'Everest'.

It's thought that this was the first time someone had achieved a quad-Everest distance in a running session.

More manageable vertical kilometre races are a popular format of running race.

So yeah, I looked up, I looked this guy up. He's a big trail runner, kind of mountain runner. He loves just running up things, so he did this.
Tom:Ultra-marathon runners are...
Ashley:They're, they are.
Tom:...a different breed.
Sam:Truly, truly.

Our next question comes from Eetu Makkonen. Thank you very much.

To become one of the best at what he did, Simo ate snow before doing his job. What was Simo famous for?

I'll say that again.

To become one of the best at what he did, Simo ate snow before doing his job. What was Simo famous for?
Ashley:Is Simo a dog?
Sam:(wheezes) I'm so stupid. But you said, what is he famous for? I said, eating snow.
SFX:(others laughing)
Sam:I'm just taking this at face value, Tom. I'm working with what you're giving me!
Tom:I mean... it is technically a correct answer to the question. It is not quite what I'm looking for.
Sam:Thank you!
Tom:Certainly not what he's most famous for.
Adam:I'm wondering if Simo is a sommelier, and this is how they cleanse their palate before tasting wine.
Sam:I love that. It's a little bit of sorbet.
Tom:It is very rare that I get to say to all three guests: No. I realise I'm supposed to yes-and at this point.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom:But once we get the full strikeout on the initial guesses...
Sam:I really thought Ashley had something.
Ashley:Yeah! I was thinking sled dog all the way. Okay.
Adam:Is it like... Does Simo operate a snow plow? And this is like the gladiator from Gladiator. He's got to smell the dirt before he goes to battle. He's got to eat the snow before he plows it.
Sam:(wheezes) Truly, truly the last question has put me in the headspace of just arbitrary human accomplishment
SFX:(Tom and Ashley laugh)
Sam:to the point where it's like, there could be any reason for this.
Tom:There is a logical progression for this one. This is something that, there's a few jumps to make, but... it might be good to think about reasons.
Sam:Got it.
Ashley:Does he eat something competitively?
Tom:Ah, no. The snow is the only eating part here.
Ashley:Only eating part, okay. So he doesn't eat hot peppers or anything like that, alright.
Sam:The only— The reason— The only logical reason that occurs to me to eat snow is for lack of another water source. That... right? Folks in the... a camping situation or an Arctic situation, a survival situation.
Tom:I will unfortunately tell you that the very first note on my script here is: He gained no nutritional or hydration benefit from the snow.
Adam:Actually, in point of fact, I was going to go on and say that eating snow is a terrible way to get water. If you're in need of water.
Adam:It's better than nothing, but it's hard to get enough water from eating snow if you're dehydrated.
Sam:Honestly, thank goodness Adam is here.
Sam:I just encouraged a bunch of kids to eat snow...
SFX:(others laughing)
Sam:And... You were there to undo my mistake.
Tom:So what other reasons might there be?
Adam:I mean, information from the eating of the snow. Could be its temperature, its consistency, its softness. So it— The texture of the snow or the taste of it could affect the job that Simo is about to do. They could be a skier.
Ashley:He could— He needs to tell the weather somehow or...
Sam:Oh, like... information about the...
Sam:About the content itself.
Sam:I mean, we're... Yeah, I mean, our reasons why are actually few because it's either for some scientific— If it's not to do with gaining any nutritional value, it's not a survival situation.
Tom:And it's not getting any information either. Although you could argue this was a survival situation, just not in the way you're thinking.
Sam:Oh, interesting. Not to get information. Means flavor? For pure pleasure.
Ashley:No information and no nutritional value. And no hydration. Why else would you do that?
Adam:So it's a ritual then. I would assume then if it's no information, then it is a ritualistic behavior. Or I feel like that leap could be made.
Tom:He's not taking in information, but he's making sure he's not giving it out either.
Sam:This is– And again, I think my comedy mind is going immediately to potty humor, but is there something to do with not the ingestion of the snow, but what comes out the other end that's significant?
Sam:This is a rhetorical question, Tom. I can see you wanting to steer me in—
Tom:The thing is, Sam. It's not completely wrong. The wrong words in that are "the other end".
Sam:The snow— It's something to do with— (wheezes) He's— Okay— He's building a snowman inside his body.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:It's more to do with what comes out.
Adam:But he said it might be considered a survival circumstance... under a certain frame of reference.
Tom:Simo is very famous in Finland, by the way, where he's from. This is a very famous person in Finland's modern history, reasonably modern history.
Ashley:It's like he's trying to go through the wilderness untracked, and he... He's not eating his pee snow, is he? That'd be awful.
Tom:Oh, you were so good until you went off with the whole pee snow thing there. Yes. Undetected—
SFX:(guests laughing)
Sam:A woman after my own heart, Ashley.
Tom:Undetected is a very key word here.
Ashley:Okay, okay. He wants to be undetec— But why? And what does eating snow do?
Sam:It's gotta be something to do with cooling himself down, right?
Sam:The— He ate— First of all. The big question here is obviously, who is Simo?
Adam:(stammers) To not show up on a... thermal imaging camera.
Tom:Adam, you are very close now. It's a little too early for thermal imaging cameras. This is 1939 to 1940, but very much to do with cooling down.
Sam:So Simo is absolutely a military someone.
Tom:Yes, yes. Hence survival situation.
Adam:And cooling themselves down so as to not be detectable. What could they detect him...
Tom:Cooling down his mouth.
Adam:Cool down his...
Tom:When I said, what comes out?
Tom:Smoke, vapour in the snow. Spot on.
Tom:So why is—
Adam:The snow in his mouth keeps the vapor from coming out of his mouth.

Is he a sniper?
Tom:He is a sniper. He is—
Sam:(laughs uproariously)
Sam:Oh my god.
Tom:He is Simo Häyhä. He is the Finnish sniper known as the White Death in Finland.

He is famous in Finland to this day for being one of the deadliest snipers ever recorded from the Winter War between Russia and Finland.
Tom:And he would... camp out.
Sam:That is...
Tom:Keep the snow in his mouth or eat the snow. And there would not be vapour giving his position away to the enemy.
Adam:That border in Finland has yielded some hardcore humans. (laughs)
Tom:Yes, it has. Yes, it has.

Adam, the next question is yours. Whenever you're ready.
Adam:Alright, here we go.

Tennessee's tourism department installed telescopic viewfinders at several vistas around the state. An award-winning video shows people moved to tears after looking through these telescopic viewfinders. What caused this joyous reaction?

Tennessee's tourism department installed telescopic viewfinders at several vistas around the state. And an award-winning video shows people moved to tears after looking through them. What caused this joyous reaction?

These tears of joy, if you will?
Tom:The Tennessee Grand Canyon. It's just, it's staggering.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:It's just a thing unlike anywhere else in the world.

There is actually a Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. And it is unimpressive.
SFX:(group laughing)
Sam:It defies geologic... anything.
Sam:That there even is a canyon.
Tom:The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which I think is a real—

There's certainly a state up there with that.

It's not unimpressive. It's just they've sold it as the Grand Canyon, which it is not.
Adam:One of my key memories from childhood is a Flintstones episode where they visit the Grand Canyon on vacation, and it's just a little stream.
SFX:(group laughing)
Adam:I remember my brain being like, "Wait a minute!"
SFX:(Tom and Ashley laugh)
Ashley:Is it— I'm just thinking of the YouTube video of the double rainbow, and the guy crying. Is it something like that?
Tom:Someone just painted the rainbow onto the viewfinder of the telescope.
Adam:Though the landscapes were pretty, the—the subject matter of the landscapes is not material here.
Ashley:Okay. Oh, oh?
Tom:It's just a big sign that says "You have won a million dollars." You look through at the exactly the right place.
Sam:(laughs uproariously)
Adam:"You look fabulous." That's all it says. "You look great."
Tom:Awh. "You are loved."
Adam:"You are loved."
Sam:But, just to be clear... It's not what they're looking at?
Tom:It's not the landscape they're looking at.
Adam:It's not the landscape that they're looking at.
Tom:They actually just painted hot pepper sauce around the viewfinder.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:And it just moves them to tears. Just immediately.
Adam:Ink on a viewfinder, solid gold.
Sam:They would look through the viewfinder, and what they would see is viral videos of people being reunited with their pets after long periods of time.
Tom:Could it be that the landscape was spoiled somehow, or they put trash out there as an environmental message, and it moved people to tears? No.
Ashley:Is it wildlife? Is it maybe, it looks into a bald eagle nest or something?
Sam:Where my mind immediately goes is if it's not what they're looking at explicitly, that it's something to do with the viewfinder.
Adam:That is a reasonable path of inquiry.
Sam:Do you know, you ever... been to one of those, those lookouts that... Where it's like... (cracks up) "Universal Studios" and it's like, part of the viewfinder is the thing in the foreground. And it's like, you... (snickers) What you're...

Alright, I'm describing this terribly, but it's like...
Sam:There are these little tourism things at Universal Studios and other theme parks where it's like a little rocket in the foreground. And then if you line up your camera just right, it'll look like you're witnessing a rocket launch, even though it's like a little foreground diorama.

Is it something to do with an optical illusion, Adam?
Adam:That's a fantastic question because the answer is complicated.

Yes... but...
Tom:They've painted something or added something into the viewfinder that... tells someone something, delivers news, delivers new stuff.

They're actually looking at a computer monitor that is changing the picture somehow.

I mean, it's a viral video, right? So they probably used actors to get the reactions.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:Says the cynic.
Adam:We are so cynical.
Sam:I'm with you Tom.
Ashley:Maybe it's multi— I like that line. I mean, maybe it's multimedia involved. Maybe there's music that moves people?
Sam:Love that.
Adam:Music is not involved in this, but the viewer's lenses do have a special feature.
Tom:Is it— Oh, it's—

I'm remembering those viral videos, people putting on the colourblindness glasses, the ones that shift the wavelengths of light a little, so if you're colourblind, you can actually start to see the difference between red and green or whichever colour. It doesn't repair colorblindness. It just makes it much less obvious, and the tears running down their faces as they're seeing colour.

Did they put those lenses in there so you could see the "fall colours" in quotes, properly or something like that?
Adam:That is precisely the answer, Tom. You've nailed it.
Adam:100 percent!
Sam:Wow! Tom!
Tom:Come on!
SFX:(Tom and Adam laugh)
Sam:My god!
Adam:That's precisely it.
Tom:It was purely off "viral video" and "tears in their eyes". And I just remember those kind of images. "Oh, I can see colour."

And, it's kind of seeing colour. It's more complicated than that, but... I mean, if you surprise someone with that.
Tom:If you just looked at what look like regular glasses and you put them on, and you have what feel like new colours to you... Oh, that's amazing!
Adam:A friend of mine actually was the show— head writer on The Big Bang Theory and they did that for one of the writers in the writers room.

And he said, there's a before and an after. They were all changed by witnessing the experience.
Sam:So does that suggest that... Even for folks who don't, are not colorblind, that looking through these lenses would enhance your experience of color?
Adam:No, one of the other hints that I had for you guys is that this only affects 5% of the people looking through the lens.
Tom:Oh, I'd have got it off that. I would have got it straight off that.
Adam:Also, most of the people affected by this are men, apparently.
Adam:Nicely done, Tom.

I love the fact that you got there from viral video, because of course, as a video producer, you are attuned to those things that have landed hard.
Tom:I've seen that too many times.
Sam:Wow, and of course my viral video interests are far too niche to be relevant here. I'm like, did they all look at Grimace Shake challenges?
SFX:(others laughing)
Tom:One last thing to do then. At the top of the show, I asked:

Which 1958 film should have been called 'Acrophobia'?

Before I give the audience the answer, does anyone want to take a quick guess at that?
Ashley:Oh, yeah.
Tom:Okay, Adam and Ashley are both going for it.
Ashley:Adam raising his hand.
Tom:Say it together. We'll see if you say the same thing.

Which, which actually, Vertigo was shot, I'm not kidding, less than 1,000 feet from where I am sitting is the Mission Dolores, which is the staircase from Vertigo.
Tom:Yep, it is wrongly associated with fear of heights. Fear of heights is acrophobia. Vertigo is going dizzy.

So yes, congratulations to all our players. Thank you very much for being part of the show. Let's find out: Where can people find out more about you? What's going on in your life?

We'll start with Ashley.
Ashley:@smashlyhamer on all the socials and the podcast is Taboo Science anywhere you get your podcasts.
Sam:@samreich on socials and for all your streaming entertainment needs.
Tom:And Adam.
Adam:I am @therealadamsavage on most socials. I'm @donttrythis on (bleep)-ter, and I'm Tested on YouTube.
Tom:And if you want to know more about this show, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere, and there are regular video highlights at

Thank you very much to Adam Savage.
Adam:Hey! Thank you for having me, Tom!
Tom:Sam Reich.
Sam:Thank you, Tom!
Tom:And Ashley Hamer.
Ashley:Thank you so much!
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
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