Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 8: What Liechtenstein shares with England

Published 2nd December, 2022

Brady Haran, Mary Spender and Eric Johnson face questions about an unwanted win, a gruesome graveyard and a lucky performance.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT & EDITED BY: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITOR: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Josh Halbur, Ben Justice, Lewis Tough, Arun Uttamchandani, Eglė Vaškevičiūtė. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:What's the link between a gallon of water and Jane Austen? The answer to that very British question at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Three very smart cookies are joining me today and hoping not to crumble under the weight of some lateral thinking questions. Joining me today are: from the Follow Friday podcast, Eric Johnson.
Tom:Musician, YouTuber, singer-songwriter Mary Spender.
Tom:And from just far too many YouTube channels and podcasts to count, Brady Haran.
Brady:Thank you for having me.
Tom:Thank you very much for joining me. This is a game where there are no points. There are no prizes, but reputation and bragging rights. But there are some rather difficult lateral thinking questions, and we start with this:

What unusual event happens just before England play Liechtenstein at a soccer match?

I'll give you that again.

What unusual event happens just before England play Liechtenstein at a soccer match?
Brady:I think I might know this.
Brady:I think I might know.
Tom:Okay, so we know what happens here.
Brady:Yep, I step back.
Tom:You step back. If you want to get that immediately, if you have paper and pen, write it down. We'll take your word for it, but...
Brady:No, no. I'll write it down.
Tom:You write that one down.
Brady:But if I'm wrong, I missed out on all the fun of the game.
Tom:Oh yeah.
Brady:But I think I need to step back.
Tom:If you're wrong, we get to roundly mock you. Like this is a gamble you're taking. We absolutely—
Eric:Sounds like a win-win to me.
Brady:Well, the other side of the gamble is I just say it, and if I'm right, I ruin it.
Tom:Oh no, at this point, Brady, you are committed. And it's the only way you can look— It's the only way on the show that you can look vaguely foolish. Good luck to you. Eric and Mary, this one's for you.
Brady:Oh no, I'm not sure.
Tom:What unusual happens just before England play Liechtenstein at a soccer match?
Eric:Mary, I have some very bad news for you, which is I know nothing about soccer. So you are so screwed.
Mary:Well, I know nothing about soccer either, so... Can I ask what year it was?
Tom:This would happen whenever England play Liechtenstein. I mean in the last century. Since professional football became a thing.
Eric:Okay. And so it's— So—
Mary:It would happen whenever they played.
Eric:And it's like a very small country, right? Like it... So...
Tom:If I remember right, Snoop Dogg once tried to rent the entirety of Liechtenstein for a music video shoot, which is—
Mary:Of course he did.
Eric:That sounds right.
Mary:Of course. Well, it's on my list of to-do thing, you know, to do for the next music video.
Tom:Rent a country, yeah.
Eric:Rent a country.
Mary:Rent a country.
Tom:I don't think he actually managed to. I think he asked if he could.
Mary:Well, I will manage to. That is my new objective. Was there something unfortunately embarrassing with the audience, or it would always happen so they would come to see something between the spectators?
Tom:I mean, if you don't have faith in the behaviour of English fans, yeah, this would probably end up being quite awkward. It's happened twice in 2004, as part of the qualifying stages for Euro 2004.
Eric:I don't know the colors of Liechtenstein's flag, but I'm wondering if it has something to do with like maybe trading jerseys? Like maybe if they have the same team colors, and then everyone takes off their shirts and trades them or something like that. Something to do with like the color of what the fans are wearing. 'Cause it's a fan activity.
Mary:Is it something that I will be ashamed of my...
Tom:I don't think you need particular soccer knowledge for this one. You need to know vaguely about what would— what happens at sporting events, but it's not a specifically soccer thing, this.
Mary:Drinking, clothing, singing songs.
Tom:I do like the idea of swapping jerseys and colours, but in that case they, they would be wearing a different kit. There is a rule that you don't have clashing kit, you have an away kit.
Mary:Did it happen between the football teams, the two teams, or did it happen between the two sets of fans?
Tom:It was a part of the event, is the best way to describe that.
Mary:And it happened twice in 2004.
Tom:Just before they played each time.
Mary:So some kind of entertainment before they went on the pitch?
Tom:I mean, Brady's starting to get a slightly smug expression on his face. So I think he's nailed it. Yeah.
Brady:There is a chance of getting this one, I think. This is almost your wheelhouse, Mary.
Tom:Yeah, it's not, I wouldn't quite classify it as entertainment, but certainly there's—
Mary:Is there something to do with the national anthem?
Tom:Ah, yes. What might that be?
Eric:Did their national anthems have the same melody maybe? So they're playing the same tune twice, 'cause it's an instrumental version?
Tom:You are absolutely right. Brady, let's see what's on your card.
Brady:I wrote 'same anthems'.
Tom:You are absolutely right. I love the teamwork between the two of you there as well. Yes, they both use the same tune. England has God Save the Queen. Liechtenstein has Oben am jungen Rhein, which is "High on the Young Rhine."
Brady:It's by Snoop Dogg.
Tom:There we go! Thank you Brady. I was... I read that off my notes, and my brain just couldn't quite complete the joke there. Yeah, you also have Norway's royal anthem, the same tune, and the American patriotic song, My Country 'Tis of Thee. They are all the same tune. There's a hundred composers who've ripped that off.
Eric:We learned My Country 'Tis of Thee in elementary school, and at some point someone told me that it was specifically kind of a little bit of a middle finger back at the UK after the whole independence affair. That basically the words were rewritten as a way of claiming what was a very good melody, and just making sure no one here knew God Save the Queen.
Mary:Well, a virtual high five, Eric. (soft humming) Yay, teamwork.
Tom:I mean, does that, I mean, these days, they'd presumably get sued over it. I assume that like musicians' copyright is now, you're not gonna be reusing anyone's melodies.
Mary:It depends how old it is, I think. Copyright laws, I think it's after 70 years. If it's older than 70 years, you can...
Tom:I think that, I mean, I know it's a complicated number there. Oh, I know we can use the old stuff, but I'm getting at this point, no composer's gonna just take someone's melody and change the lyrics to it.
Mary:I think they literally could.
Tom:Depending on how old the melody is in the first place.
Brady:I mean, Liechtenstein did.
Mary:But yeah, if you— If you took an Ed Sheeran song and then tried to, I think he'd come after you because he's... People have gone after him, but... I don't think you're gonna use an Ed Sheeran song.
Tom:That was just the really threatening idea of Ed Sheeran just coming after me.
Eric:And now please rise for the national anthem, which is The Shape of You.
Brady:But if they actually made an Ed Sheeran song their national anthem... And that's like the whole country. Where's he gonna sue them? Like, what jurisdiction? The country's not gonna you know, they're like, "You can't sue us in our country."
Tom:Didn't that just happen with the Australian Aboriginal flag?
Tom:The flag of the— Aboriginal Australian flag is copyrighted. Or at least it was because it's a modern design. And in a lot of countries, I think like the US, simple geometric design you can't really copyright it. Australian law, you absolutely can, and people slapping it on merchandise were getting cease and desists. And I think this year, the Australian government has actually just bought the copyright to it, which is still like kind of complicated because that is not the right people to own it, according to a lot of folks. This is a complicated issue that I don't understand, and we'll just step in a minefield on.

But yeah. I don't think you can just steal a pop song as your national anthem and claim, "No, it's our anthem now."
Eric:Only one way to find out.
Tom:I think... Although I do like that idea, because I like the idea of Ed Sheeran as a copyright claimant going up against a nuclear power.
Brady:Nice. I'd back Ed Sheeran.
Mary:Yeah, yeah.
Tom:But yes, the answer is the same national anthem theme is played twice: once for England, once for Liechtenstein, and I just have the horrible feeling that the England fans sing along to both.

We now go to a question from one of our guests. Mary, kick us off this time. What question have you got for us?
Mary:In 1861, a Frenchman won something and became a soldier. In 1891, he won it again and became a painter. What did this famous person win twice?
Eric:And he became those things as a result of winning whatever the thing is?
Tom:That's a terrible lottery.
Brady:A soldier?
Tom:Is there cause and effect there?
Mary:Well it's a particular concept that he won.
Mary:So I don't think it led to him...
Tom:Alright. That's fine. You don't need to give us too many hints. We gotta stumble around in the dark for a while first.
Mary:Well, I don't wanna burst your bubble, but you did just sort of, kind of hit it on the head with one word.
Eric:There's a lottery.
Tom:You're kidding.
Mary:You absolutely nailed it. I do have a spare—
Brady:You just won the lottery, Tom! You just won the lottery.
Tom:I was making a terrible joke! That can't possibly... Okay, no, we, okay. So that's a big hint. We've gotta still figure something out here.
Brady:Why would winning the lottery make you... or a lottery, make you become a soldier and then a painter? Is it like just... Well, maybe in those days, you could buy a commission if you got lots of money. So he bought a commission into the military and then... and then when he won a lot more money, he was like, "Oh, I don't need a job anymore. Now I can just do what I want, and I wanna paint."
Tom:That's true, 'cause you—
Eric:That's my thought too.
Tom:You could take— you could join the military as an... I dunno what the French ranks would be, but very low down. Or you could pay for a commission position. That was right, wasn't it?
Brady:You could do it in Britain. I dunno if you could do it in France. That's my guess, but...
Tom:Yeah. I mean, the other thing is that it could be a draft. It could be like the US had a... Well, in the US, for the Vietnam War, had the draft lottery, and someone, it was by birthday I think, or something like that.
Brady:So maybe they were two different lotteries. Maybe the second lottery he won, got him out of the military. So he got drafted in 1861, and then he won a whole stack of money in 1891.
Tom:So he is like, "I can get outta the military now and paint..."
Eric:I also wonder though, the idea that he became a painter after winning the second lottery makes me think that maybe it was some sort of government arts program where it was like, everyone who wants to get an education in the arts, you enter into this lottery, and if you win, we will send you to this great art school that you couldn't get into on your own merits maybe.
Tom:I mean, that sounds like a lovely program. I somehow doubt it, but...
Eric:I don't know, it's France, you know. They actually have culture there.
Tom:I don't know whether to be insulted by that. Oh wait, yeah. The question was who was he, wasn't it?
Mary:Who was he?
Tom:Oh, okay.
Brady: Oh, right.
Eric:I thought we were trying to— Oh, okay.
Mary:What did this famous person win twice? So who is the famous person, and what did they win twice?
Brady:Mary, did he win the same thing, or did he win two different things?
Mary:It's the concept that he won.
Tom:So it is a lottery or a drawing or something like that.
Mary:Yeah, but they're not necessarily the same lottery.
Tom:I mean, famous French people in the late 19th century is not one of my specialist subjects.
Brady:No, no, I've got no safe chance.
Mary:Well, there's a hint. You know, he won it again and became a painter. That helps decide.
Mary:A French painter.
Tom:Oh god, it's not...
Brady:That's the problem.
Tom:That's the problem. You've got three people with no art knowledge here.
Eric:Yeah, what about... The one who's a little person. Wasn't Degas, was it? No. I can't remember his name.
Brady:I just don't know the years for all the famous painters.
Tom:I don't. Monet? No.
Mary:Oh, well, yes.
Tom:That was my—
Mary:Yes, it was Monet.
Tom:How do I keep stumbling this? I just literally...
Mary:You are laterally thinking.
Tom:I didn't even know Monet was a soldier.
Mary:Well, okay, so the answer, Claude Monet, won a lottery twice. Won a lottery twice, not the lottery. In 1861, Claude Monet drew an unlucky number in the lottery system, used to determine who would be chosen for seven years of military service in Algeria. He only served for one year, since he contracted typhoid in 1862, and his art brought him outta the army after that. But in 1891, so 30 years later, he won 100,000 francs in the French National Lottery. This allowed him to quit his job as a messenger and become a painter full-time.
Tom:That's a lovely question.
Eric:The lottery: not always evil.
Brady:Would you just use the word 'win' for being drafted, in any way? I'm not sure you would.
Tom:Next question is from me. Good luck.

Why did many people, including Franz Kafka, queue up to look at a blank wall?

I'll give you that again. Why did many people, including Franz Kafka, queue up to look at a blank wall?
Mary:Some kind of trendy art piece or something?
Eric:Yeah, some sort of modern art.
Brady:Yeah, that seems, feels too obvious.
Mary:Well, that's the aim of my game. Be very obvious.
Tom:It just worked for me.
Eric:I mean, we don't know what color the wall was. It's a blank wall, but we don't know if it's necessarily a white wall. It could be some specific color. Maybe it could be like a newly invented pigment?
Mary:The darkest black.
Eric:Yeah, something like that.
Mary:Anish Kapoor.
Eric:Or it could be, I guess like a stone wall could still be blank if it's not painted or adorned otherwise. So it could be something interesting about the type of material used to build the wall.
Brady:I feel like there's a double meaning to the blank wall. I feel like there's more to this blank wall than we're— We're taking it too literally, the blank wall.
Mary:Is the blank wall then screened upon by some a film?
Tom:No, it is very literally a blank wall.
Tom:There's... How do I phrase this? I'll just leave you with that. No, it is very literally a blank wall.
Brady:Is it a wall of some import?
Tom:That's an... I can't answer that without giving away more!
Brady:Do you think it's the Berlin Wall? Is that a blank wall?
Tom:I'm not sure Franz Kafka lines up with the dates for the Berlin Wall.
Brady:Oh no, yeah. Franz Kafka, yeah.
Tom:Franz Kafka himself is not relevant to the question. That's just trying to give you a vague kind of area and time.
Mary:Lined up just there. Oh, oh, wait.
Brady:Great Wall of China?
Mary:Mine's quite sinister. My answer's quite sinister. Is it a sinister answer?
Tom:I mean, Franz Kafka is quite sinister, but...
Mary:Yes. Did people line up...?
Tom:Oh, no. I know where you're going with that. And... no. But yeah, something bad had happened. Not that bad, but something bad had happened.
Mary:It's not like me being a child and being told to stand up against the wall because I'd been naughty? With my face facing the wall. I was on timeout or something.
Eric:Franz Kafka stole his mother's cookies, and he was facing the blank wall.
Tom:That is a very, very modern art experience, that. You just line up and you just stare at that wall for five minutes. Honestly, you could probably charge admission to that, surely.
Mary:I know, I think I will.
Eric:Call it, "Think about what you've done."
Brady:Did the walls stay blank?
Tom:For a little while, yes. For about a year. This was 1911, 1912. For over a year, that wall stayed blank. It didn't used to be. And it wasn't afterwards, but for more than a year, it was blank.
Mary:How long did people stand in front of it?
Tom:I mean, not particularly long. There were a lot of people standing in front of it, but they didn't need to be there for too long.
Brady:So, was the wall blocking admission to something?
Tom:No, you're in the right area with art, by the way.
Mary:Was it the Mona Lisa being missing or something?
Mary:Was it?
Mary:Oh my god, I was lit—
Brady:Was it the Mona Lisa stolen?
Tom:Don't know where that came from all of a sudden, yes.
Brady:I'm so jealous because I just spent all— I saw the Mona Lisa last week, and I would've spent three or four hours reading about the theft of the Mona Lisa, and I never once came across Franz Kafka.
Mary:So they went, oh, I don't even know the story. I feel like I do know the story, but I don't know the story.
Brady:Is it the theft of the Mona Lisa?
Mary:The Mona— The Mona Lisa was— Oh, was it stolen or was it just preserved in the war?
Tom:No, it was stolen. August 21st, 1911.
Brady:Yeah, and it was gone for ages until they got it back.
Mary:And so people still went to visit the blank wall?
Brady:Well, it was the Louvre.
Tom:This is where the Mona Lisa was stolen. That's your new tourist attraction.
Brady:'Cause the Mona Lisa wasn't famous at that point. It was actually quite an obscure painting.
Brady:Well, not obscure, but it was not a famous painting. And it was the theft of the Mona Lisa, and its disappearance for a year, that generated all the buzz around her, and it became now it's famous because, partly because it got stolen.
Mary:I am so proud of myself. I am now officially smug.
Tom:We've all had our moments.
Brady:It was a guy who thought it should be repatriated to Italy, wasn't it? 'Cause da Vinci painted it.
Tom:Yeah, it was Vincenzo Peruggia was his name. I don't know why I bothered rolling that R, it's Italian. That was the wrong accent to do it in anyway. But yes, he revealed he had the painting just over two years later. But by that point, the Louvre had given up and hung a different portrait in its place.
Tom:So yes, for roughly a year, there was a blank wall. This is where the Mona Lisa used to be, and people queued up for it.
Brady:It was actually, though, a— It wasn't like it is now, where it has its own wall. It was actually like a series of paintings. It was like painting, painting, painting, blank space, painting, painting, painting. So it was such an unimportant painting. It just sat amongst the others.

But yeah. Oh, well done Mary. But I'm mad at myself about that, 'cause I was just reading about it.
Mary:Don't you think with the influence we could have... What boring painting should we now make the new Mona Lisa, where it's like, hang on a minute.
Tom:Do you know anyone?
Mary:This is kind of like a...
Tom:Or do you know anyone who's a painter? 'Cause you could make them very rich.
Mary:I actually do know a painter.
Tom:Steal one of their paintings and make a news story about it.
Mary:Yeah. Yeah.
Brady:Hang on. Last time we were on the show, didn't we plot to form a gang and commit theft? And now we're doing it again!
Tom:Heist team!
Mary:It's just, we are just a heist movie. I think, yeah, I want to ruin my reputation online.
Brady:I tell, can I say one last thing about the Mona Lisa? 'Cause I'm full of Mona Lisa information at the moment.
Tom:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Brady:If you wanna see something interesting, go and Google the back of the Mona Lisa. It's really interesting seeing the back of famous paintings, and there are lots of pictures online of what the Mona Lisa looks like on the other side. It's really interesting on the, like on the the wooden back, more interesting than you'd think.
Mary:Have you ever watched those documentaries where they do literally like x-ray paintings and show what was underneath? Oh my god, it's so fascinating. Wow.
Brady:They've done that to the Mona Lisa so many times. It must be radioactive by now.
Tom:Time for another question from one of our guests. Eric, it's on you this time. What do you have for us?
Eric:Alright, I have a question about Turkey.

In the district of Eyüp — E-Y-U - with a little umlaut - P, I don't know how to pronounce that — in Istanbul, Turkey, there is an old, grand cemetery that houses the graves of rulers, religious leaders, military commanders, intellectuals, and artists. On a hill, just beside here, lies a separate graveyard with blank headstones. What type of people were buried there?

So one more time, I'll read that again.

In the district of Eyüp, in Istanbul, Turkey, there's an old grand cemetery that houses the graves of rulers, religious leaders, military commanders, intellectuals, and artists. On a hill, just beside here, lies a separate graveyard with blank headstones. What type of people were buried there?
Tom:I think I might know this one. I might have to recuse myself here.
Eric:Gotta write it down.
Tom:But I might be setting myself up for a fall. I'm not sure.
Eric:Brady and Mary, I think it's on you.
Mary:Well, I would just think of the stereotypical unmarked... tombstones if they don't know the names of the dead.
Brady:Yeah, like, you know, unknown soldiers sort of thing.
Eric:I can tell you that the headstones were deliberately left blank when they were installed.
Tom:Wait, did Brady just not get it with soldiers there?
Eric:No he did not.
Tom:Well, I get to be the foolish one!
Eric:Welcome back, Tom.
Tom:I was like, I thought I knew this story, and I thought it was the graveyard that's technically in another country or something like that. And I got it completely wrong! So, I am the foolish one today! Sorry, that's on me.
Mary:That is hardly foolish.
Brady:You're back in the game, Tom.
Mary:You're back in the game.
Brady:You can help us again.
Tom:I am, but with egg on my face. That's on me.
Mary:Intentionally blank. So were they... naughty? Had they been, did they...
Brady:Had they not paid for something?
Eric:No, it's not a result of a debt.
Brady:'Cause when you go to the Royal Society, they have the people who've been elected fellows of this esteemed science institution in this book. And sometimes you go through all the old names, like Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren on there. And occasionally you'll see a name that literally has just been crossed out. They've all signed the book, they've all put their autograph in the book, and someone's crossed out, and you're like, why'd that person get crossed out? Nine times out of ten, it's 'cause they didn't pay their dues.
Mary:I've got a very cynical answer.
Eric:Go ahead.
Mary:If everyone was, you know, an artist or... what was the list of people in the marked? All the creatives?
Eric:Yeah, the other cemetery has rulers, religious leaders, military commanders, intellectuals and artists.
Mary:So I would assume they're all men. Was it their wives in the unmarked, or...? That's very dark.
Eric:No, we're getting a little bit colder.
Mary:Okay, that's too cold. Okay, good. I'm glad.
Eric:A little bit colder.
Mary:That's a cynical answer.
Brady:Is there some kind of religion or people with some kind of belief that don't like their name to be memorialised?
Eric:No, so I would say this is more political than it is religious. And I'll tell you has something to do with the people who were buried in the second cemetery. They performed a job during the Ottoman era. They'd all done a particular job, I should say.
Tom:I've got...
Mary:Ooh, had they murdered the other people?
Brady:Was not having their name... for protective reasons, or was it a sign of disrespect to them?
Eric:Very good thought.
Tom:He's not answering that one. It's just a very good thought!
Eric:Who would need to be protected?
Brady:Yeah, so they could be spies or...
Tom:They don't need to be protected, but their families need to be protected?
Brady:'Cause if your Uncle Bill was a spy or... you know, in the secret, some secret organisation.
Eric:Very warm. You're getting much warmer.
Brady:Like the stars they have at the Pentagon for CIA agents who die in service, and they can't name them and they've just got that wall of stars.
Eric:The last clue I have for you here is
Brady:— you're very close here — Some families would have borne a specific grudge towards these people. Any guesses?
Tom:I mean, I feel like I'm walking on a minefield here, 'cause I do not know enough about the history and politics of that area.
Mary:So did they do the killing? I dunno why I just keep going on about this.
Brady:Like executioners.
Tom:Is there a murd— Is there death involved here, Eric?
Eric:I think Mary started to get it, and then Brady said, the magic word, which is—
Brady:They were executioners.
Eric:People could only be buried at the executioners' cemetery at night. Their headstones were left blank to reduce the chance of retaliation by the families of any of the people they had killed. A few of the executioners' graves still exist to this day.
Tom:That is the bleakest question we've had in a while.
Mary:Ooh, so it was dark. It was dark. I went dark.
Tom:Yeah, no. You had exactly the right instinct there, Mary. Again, I wrote the wrong thing down, so I get the shame on me for this question. But yeah, congratulations. I think that is a bleak question.
Mary:Oof. Well done.
Eric:So to wrap up, in the district of Eyüp in Istanbul, Turkey, there's two cemeteries. One has all the rulers and religious leaders and so on. But next to it, there's a separate graveyard with blank headstones, which is full of executioners. They were buried at night, and they were left blank to reduce the risk of revenge.
Tom:One question remaining from a guest, and one big question left from me. If you're all ready:

Suzanne Asbury-Oliver can only write about seven letters at a time in the ten minutes available. She must do so in mirror writing, and she finds 'S' and 'W' the hardest. What is her job?

I'll give you that one more time.

Suzanne Asbury-Oliver can only write about seven letters at a time in the ten minutes available. She must do so in mirror writing, and finds 'S' and 'W' the hardest. What is her job?
Eric:I have a guess that I'm gonna write down.
Tom:Oh, not again, Eric! Are you—?
Eric:I'm not very confident in this one, if that helps. I'm not so confident.
Tom:Oh no, then talk it through. Talk it through.
Brady:Then play it through.
Eric:Okay. My thought is if you work in an office with labels of different offices in the building, and you have someone who's writing the name of the person and their occupation on the inside of the door. Wouldn't that have to be written backwards so that from the hallway, you can see what their name is and what they do?
Tom:But why only seven letters at a time, in the ten minutes she has available?
Mary:And it's not like a— So it's time sensitive. So it's not like a game show or... something that's time sensitive that you'd have to write. (gasp) Ooh. Is it something to do with winning a competition, that the names they have to engrave?
Brady:Engraving, I was thinking about engraving on trophies.
Brady:But I couldn't see the S— I can't see why you'd have to do that in mirror. And I can't see where the S and the W...
Mary:You have to do something backwards...
Tom:I mean, I imagine there is a competitive, like humans will will create competitions out of anything. So there probably is a competitive branch of this. But no, this is her job. She's not competing here. It is something she is hired to do.
Brady:Wonder, maybe it's like trophy engraving, like there's only a limited amount of space in one of those little labels at the bottom of a trophy saying who won something.
Tom:I mean, I did see when England won the Women's Euro, that just for a moment, they cut to the shot of the trophy being engraved live, and put that on the Jumbotron for the fans, who went even louder than they currently were. It is, but seven letters at a time. You're gonna have trouble if Switzerland win there.
Mary:Ooh, is it something to do with something setting, if she's only got ten minutes and it's going to set in the time, but she can only get seven letters? It's not like the Hollywood Walk of Fame or something— not that, but something like that along those lines where it's urgent.
Brady:Yeah. What's creating the time limit?
Mary:Yeah, something setting in concrete or something.
Tom:The medium— you're close there. The medium is creating the time limit for the writing.
Mary:What material sets in ten minutes?
Eric:I have another guess. What about, what if they're a skywriter? And they're drawing letters in the sky, and those only last for a few minutes, and then they get blown away by the wind?
Tom:You are absolutely right, Eric. Spot on. Suzanne Asbury-Oliver is the only active female professional skywriter. She's been employed to write 'Pepsi' in the sky around America for 25 years, among many other commissions. She has to write them back to front, so they look correct to the people on the ground.
Mary:Oh, and W would be terrifying.
Tom:W and S are really difficult to write. The slow writing speed isn't her own body. It's that she is pulling high-G aerobatic maneuvers in order to get the S and the W there.
Mary:How fascinating.
Tom:You are absolutely right. And yeah, she's got about 10 to 15 minutes, so if she's not done with seven letters or so by then, the first one's blown away.
Mary:Wow. And then it could spell something very, very bad.
Eric:I was once at Disney World, and I looked up in the sky and there was a skywriter up there. And it looked, when I first looked, It said, "Love Go". And I thought, oh wow. It's a board game enthusiast. But it was just someone in Florida who hired a plane to write "Love God", which is I think much, much less interesting.
Tom:There are also skywriting teams now who fly in formation, kind of seven planes next to each other, and then kind of drop pixels of smoke behind them to spell out letters.
Mary:Oh my lord.
Tom:Which... almost feels like cheating and it's presumably way more expensive than hiring one person, but they can just kind of put a whole message across the sky just by flying past.
Mary:When are you hiring someone to do that? Or have you already hired someone to do that? I feel like that's something you would've done already.
Tom:I mean that you're not wrong and— Oh, I need to go— Thank you, Mary. That is an idea for a video.
Mary:You're welcome. You can have that one for free.
Brady:You'll need to be in one of the planes though.
Mary:Yeah, can I come? Can I come be part of it?
Brady:Tom, if you could sky write anything over London tomorrow, what would you write?
Tom:Wow, I feel like I should have an answer for that and I really don't. My... the, devil on my shoulder is something like "Run!" Just as a general threat to cause chaos. I feel like that's the opposite of writing "love God" in the sky.
Mary:You'd be arrested.
Tom:Skywriting is currently illegal in the UK. There is a consultation going at the moment. My producer just sent me sent me a note. They are wondering if it could be legal in the UK soon, but right now the answer to what do I wanna write over London is nothing, 'cause I'd be arrested.

The last big question of the day then comes from Brady. What do you have?
Brady:Alright. What did Ronald Reagan do in 1939 that caused his own life to be saved in 1981? Let me say that again. Just so the gravity hits home. What did Ronald Reagan do in 1939 that caused his own life to be saved in 1981?
Tom:So in '81, was he the president then? I can't remember my presidential dates.
Eric:He was.
Eric:And I believe '81 is when there was an assassination attempt on his life. A guy tried to shoot, or a guy did shoot him. And he had to be rushed to emergency surgery. So he did something.
Mary:So did something happen... So it was '39 that something happened to him?
Eric:He did something.
Mary:He did something. Was it something internal that then blocked something? That's probably a bit weird.
Eric:Yeah. Like my first thought is, is he... Did he start wearing something in '39... that then he was wearing when he got shot? It blocked a bullet?
Tom:The movie version would be he joined the military, got some dog tags, and they magically deflected the bullet, but...
Tom:I mean, 1939 in America. He wouldn't have been going to war then.
Mary:Did he give up smoking or something, that then saved his life later?
Tom:Or took up smoking!
Mary:Or took up smoking that saved his—
Tom:The cigarette case deflected the bullet. Sorry, I'm getting stuck on deflected the bullet here, which didn't happen. He got shot.
Eric:Yeah, I know that the famous story from when he went into surgery is he was lucid enough to say to the surgeons who were about to operate on him, "I hope you all are Republicans." But the smoking thing is interesting, like maybe... Like if he stopped smoking, maybe... I don't know where he got shot. Maybe the bullet hit one of his lungs, but you only need one. So maybe that helped him survive?
Mary:Did he agree to be an organ donor... in 1939 and then...
Eric:Oh, interesting.
Mary:Not an organ donor, but recipient of organs?
Eric:I don't think you have to elect to be an organ recipient.
Tom:In '39, that wouldn't have been a thing. I was thinking like, did he have a kidney removed, and then there was a hole where...
Tom:But I don't think surgery in '39 was that good?
Brady:You guys are doing great work, and I love your work. But...
Mary:But we're wrong.
Brady:I think you're going down the wrong road.
Eric: Okay.
Brady:Let me tell you.
Tom:There's a third party involved here.
Brady:There's another person is involved.
Tom:Was Reagan in the military?
Brady:No, maybe you need to think about what Ronald Reagan was doing in 1939. And it wasn't in the military.
Eric:Yeah, maybe he was already an actor. Maybe he started acting in the '30s. But I don't know how that would've saved his life in '81 necessarily.
Tom:Did his movies inspire someone to become a doctor, and that doctor saved his life or something like that?
Brady:Oh, close.
Tom:But he was acting. He was— I dunno how old Reagan was. So...
Brady:He was acting.
Tom:He was acting in '39. That feels—
Brady:I mean, Tom you were impossibly close, Tom.
Tom:No, I'm just trying to work out the dates. And it just occurred to me— yes, of course Reagan was in Hollywood in '39. But that just seems almost too long ago for that.
Mary:So he inspired someone that then came to his rescue in... later on in his life?
Tom:The Secret Service agent?
Eric:So maybe he didn't inspire a doctor.
Brady:Oh, duh, I think Tom's mumbled something key.
Tom:The Secret Service agent, who... I mean, clearly didn't jump in front of a bullet for him.
Brady:Attacked the shooter? He indeed, you are correct, Tom. He inspired the Secret Service agent who saved his life. So in... Do you wanna guess how he inspired him?
Mary:Was it through a movie he inspired? He played a Secret Service agent?
Brady:It was through the movie. It was through a movie.
Eric:Is this the football movie with the Gipper where Reagan is...
Brady:It wasn't a football movie. It was a much more direct line. He starred in a movie called Code of the Secret Service.
Tom:Oh wow!
Brady:That apparently was a pretty terrible movie, but it inspired a chap named Jerry Parr to join the Secret Service. And Jerry Parr was the agent that played the crucial role in saving Ronald Reagan's life.
Brady:So, assassinations and attempted assassinations of US presidents is actually a bit of a specialist subject of mine, So I—
Tom:Most dangerous job in the world, isn't it? By, like, percentage.
Brady:I found this question completely fascinating. Obviously, Parr was the agent who pushed Reagan into the limousine on March 30th, 1981, when John Hinckley fired the shots at the president. And Parr's quick thinking was credited with saving his life. In fact... And he probably did save his life, but in fact it was when he got pushed into the limo that he got hit by the bullet, because the bullet that hit Reagan deflected off the car into the limousine and hit him. But if he hadn't been pushed by Parr, he probably would've been hit much more directly.

But the other thing that's interesting is then, they didn't actually think Reagan had been shot, and they were driving him back to the White House. And then he started bringing up some frothy blood. And it was Parr again who said, "Guys, we can't take him to the White House. We need to take him to a hospital." And that's even more credited with saving Reagan's life.

So Parr kind of saved his life twice by pushing him out the way and by making the call to go to the hospital.

And another thing that I just found out today that I found bizarrely interesting was famously Hinckley was trying to assassinate Reagan 'cause he wanted to get the attention of Jodie Foster, the actress who he was infatuated with. And he thought doing something that grand would, you know, get her attention, which is obviously pretty misguided.

But I was reading about what Parr did later in life after he was a Secret Service agent, and he became a Christian pastor. But he also was an advisor on two Hollywood films: Line of Fire, which is about Secret Service agents, and bizarrely, Contact, which stars Jodie Foster. So he's the one that got to meet Jodie Foster.
Mary:Oh my god. Poor Jodie Foster.
Eric:And, you know what John Hinckley's up to now, I assume.
Tom:I mean, still in jail, I assume.
Brady:Did he get out recently? He got out, didn't he?
Eric:He's out, he's a musician with a YouTube channel. So he has a lot in common with half of this panel, or three quarters of this panel.
Mary:Are you, are you serious?
Eric:Yeah, I'm serious. He's now a musician. He does, like, I think, country music.

Last question of the day then. This is the one I asked to the audience just at the start. The quick question:

What's the link between a gallon of water and Jane Austen?

And this is a very British question, and honestly, I'm slightly angry about this question. So I'm just gonna go around the panel and see if we can work this out very quickly. What's the link between a gallon of water and Jane Austen?
Brady:I'm gonna, I'm gonna guess... that she was the first person to use it in writing. To write about...
Tom:A gallon of water?
Brady:Obviously not.
Mary:So, obviously not. How dare you.
Brady:Look of disdain on Tom's face.
Tom:Yeah, sorry. It was more that I couldn't think of anything to reply to that. Sorry, Brady, do you wanna gimme that again? I'll be nicer.
Brady:No, no. I want your natural reaction.
Mary:So she— Did she— Well, you're saying she was the first person to write it. Was it an actual measurement at that point?
Tom:I mean, this is from long after she died.
Tom:You can also link this with Charles Dickens and Florence Nightingale. Eric, like, good luck. This is an aggressively British question.
Eric:Thank you for not coming to me first. That's all I gotta say. No, I am completely stumped by this. I have no idea.
Mary:Aggressively British. Oh, I like that. That's gonna be my new band name.
Tom:You know what? I'm just gonna tell you the answer, and see if you can work it out. The answer is ten pounds.
Brady:Okay. So they've all been on the ten pound note?
Tom:A gallon of water hasn't been on the 10 pound note. Jane Austen has. So has Charles Dickinson and Florence Nightingale.
Eric:What if one of you produced a ten pound note now, and dumped a gallon of water on it? Then I think we'd be covered. They would both be on the ten pound note.
Brady:Well, how much is a gallon of water weigh? Does that weigh ten pounds?
Tom:Almost exactly ten pounds. There we go, Brady. That's the link. I— I—
Brady:Oh, now I get a smile outta you.
Tom:Yeah, I just, I got this question, and I'm like, "This is, This is gonna make everyone angry." And apparently it's mostly just me. Yes, a gallon of water weighs ten pounds. Jane Austen is on the ten pound note. I'm sorry.

Thank you very, very much to our panel. Eric, tell us what's going on in your life right now. What are you up to?
Eric:Yeah, I'm the host of a podcast called Follow Friday. It's currently on hiatus, but you can find it at And there is an episode where I interview Mr. Tom Scott from January 2022. And other than that, you can follow me on Twitter and Letterboxd at @HeyHeyESJ.
Tom:Mary, what's going on with you?
Mary:As always, I'm making YouTube videos on my YouTube channel, But I'm also starting to make live appearances again. So if you wanna see me in real life,
Tom:And Brady, plug your stuff.
Brady:I'm making a ridiculous number of videos and podcasts. If you go to, there's links there, and you'll see all the what's going on. Latest stuff, watch as many or as few as you like.
Tom:That's the most low-key sales pitch we've ever had in the outro. Thank you, Brady.
Mary:Is it when you start making so much content that you just end up cancelling yourself out, because you're not, you're just making too much and then...
Brady:Yeah. Just make sure you watch my stuff before you watch all that Hinckley rubbish.
Tom:Thank you very much. That is our show for today. Well done to all of our players. If you wanna know more about the show, or you want to send in your own questions, it is You can find us at @lateralcast basically everywhere, and you can watch video highlights at Thank you very much to Eric Johnson.
Eric:Thanks for having me.
Tom:Mary Spender.
Mary:Thank you.
Tom:And Brady Haran.
Brady:It has been an absolute honour.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, Brady's been sarcastic, and this has been Lateral. Thank you very much.
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