Lateral with Tom Scott

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

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Episode 80: The identical trainers

Published 19th April, 2024

Ella Hubber, Caroline Roper and Tom Lum from 'Let's Learn Everything' face questions about forgetful fumbles, Chinese contraptions and tender timings.

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: Gerhard Catarius, Jacob, Aidan Crellen, Bart Verbanck. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom Scott:What gadget for removing irritation translates to "not seeking help from others" in Chinese?

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

(miming phone call) Okay. Yep. Gotta go now. Yeah.
SFX:(guests cracking up)
Tom Scott:Yeah, we're just about to start the show.
Ella:It's actually really rude.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Scott:No, no, no. You put the phone down first.

No, no, you do it.
SFX:(guests giggling)
Tom Scott:Okay. No— Bye. Bye. Bye.

Sorry about that, just putting in my pizza order for later.
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Tom Scott:Here for a slice of banter on this week's show, we have the team from from Let's Learn Everything.
Ella:That's stupid.
Tom Scott:Who apparently found that joke far funnier than I did. Thank you for the raucous support there.
Tom Lum:That was great.
Caroline:For me, it was how much of a Tom Lum joke that was
Ella:There you go.
Caroline:from someone else. (laughs)
Tom Lum:Well, yeah, maybe that's why.

For me, it was the commitment to a visual bit on an audio media.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Did I need to have one of my headphones out and a phone to my face?

It helped the character. It helped my motivation, Miss Darling.
Tom Lum:(wheezes, claps)
Ella:It was believable.
Tom Scott:We should introduce yourselves. I mean, you are regulars here. It's always a joy to have you on.

But let's start with Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Hi, I'm Tom Lum. That's me.
SFX:(group cracks up)
Tom Lum:I get worse at it every time!
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Tom Scott:You know what? That's all the introduction you're getting.

I was going to ask you about— We're moving on.
Tom Lum:No, better luck next time.
Tom Scott:Caroline Roper, how are you doing?
Caroline:I'm doing good, thank you. Thank you so much for having us back. It's lovely to be here.
Tom Scott:Well, it's always a pleasure. I think I made a cameo in your Christmas special as one of the people sending in facts, so...
Tom Lum:Woo!
Tom Scott:Lovely to be there.
Caroline:Ahh, yes!
Ella:Yeah, thank you.
Caroline:Ah, so good.
Tom Scott:Plug the podcast. What have you been up to?
Caroline:Oh gosh, what have we been up to?

Nothing new. We've been carrying on with the same old, same old recently. We have been covering—
Ella:God, good selling, Caroline. Jesus!
Caroline:Hey! You get nothing but consistency from us, okay?
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Also here, from Let's Learn Everything, and with a black cat perched just behind her, Ella Hubber.
Ella:(to cat) Hello.

Hi, I'm Ella. I'm... also one of the hosts of this perfectly adequate podcast.
SFX:(others laughing uproariously)
Tom Lum:We also— We just had an amazing investigative climate journalist on for a really fun episode.
Caroline:We did do that.
Ella:Oh yeah, we do serious stuff too now.
Ella:Since we were last on.
Tom Lum:Yeah, from the podcast that you had to be the first person to say the name of, Tom, that's what you expect.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:We're too focused on the science. We're not great at the other stuff, the introduction.
Tom Scott:Well, good luck to all three of you. Welcome back to the show.

Our questions are very much like pizzas, because they're hot to handle, a bit cheesy, and hard to digest. And while you argue about what toppings you want, I will deliver the first question, which is:

This question was sent in by Bart Verbanck. Thank you, Bart.

Since coming home from a work trip, Mike has a tendency to drop things by accident. Why?

I'll say that again.

Since coming home from a work trip, Mike has a tendency to drop things by accident. Why?
Caroline:How long ago did he go on this work trip? How long has he been back? Has he just gotten back? Is he still carrying stuff?
Ella:Oh no, I thought you were thinking he's been gone for 20 years, and he's now aged.
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Tom Lum:Everything's chan— Ooh, Ella!
Caroline:Oh, I like that!
Tom Lum:Writing the short, two-sentence horror stories. Short stories here.
Tom Lum:My first thought is maybe they were on a boat? And so they have land legs, you know, and so they're a little loose on dropping stuff.

Or, late shift at the butter factory.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Ella:(chuckles flatly)
Caroline:My guess is maybe they're an astronaut, and now their grip strength is worse.
Ella:Oh yeah, we learnt, you know, muscle mass massively decreases.
Tom Lum:Not even, not even. I'm gonna call this.

It's not even their grip strength. It's just they're used to letting go of things because of zero gravity.
Caroline:(gasps) And it stick— Oh yeah!
Ella:Oh yeah, so every time he goes to brush his teeth, and then he just lets everything just fall to the ground.
Caroline:And he just has to let go, and it just stays there, yeah.
Tom Lum:He just has to be used to it.
Tom Scott:Yes, you have absolutely nailed it.
SFX:(guests cheering)
Tom Lum:He worked at the butter factory in space for 20 years.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't— I would have held that in if I thought that was the right answer.
Tom Scott:Oh no, no, that was a great bit of teamwork and deduction, thank you. It's nice when we get the first one just out of the way. That's brilliant.
Tom Scott:Yeah, Mike is an astronaut.

He's just come back from a mission on the ISS. He's having difficulty readjusting to objects obeying the laws of gravity.

I take issue with that note, because they have always been obeying the laws of gravity. It's just that everything else around them...
Tom Scott:was also obeying the laws of gravity at the same speed.
Tom Lum:When you say learning how— that objects "obey the laws of gravity", it sounds like they're relearning object permanence. It's like, "Man, I've really had to learn it. I'm sorry, I forget sometimes."
Tom Scott:There is quite a famous comedy sketch about this, of an astronaut just repeatedly... trying to demonstrate something with a pen and being surprised that it's not there.
Tom Lum:(laughs heartily)
Tom Scott:That one is fictional, but there is the true story of Joe Edwards who was pilot of the Space Shuttle in 1998, who let go of a cup of lemonade when asked to take off his shoes before a medical examination.

So it is actually a thing that happens. Just not quite to the extent that that sketch happens.

We rattle straight on then to our first guest question, and we'll go over to Ella.
Ella:This question has been sent in by an anonymous listener.

Between 1997 and 2006, why could you be certain that most 20-year-old men in Singapore owned a pair of New Balance trainers?
Tom Lum:Huhhh...
Ella:Once more.

Between 1997 and 2006, why could you be certain that most 20-year-old men in Singapore owned a pair of New Balance trainers?
Tom Lum:Tom, you had a joyful look on your face, and I thought that meant you knew it. But instead it was the joy of being like, "What on earth?"
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:"What is happening?"
Tom Scott:Unfortunately, I do know this one.

So, Tom and Caroline, this is over to you.
Tom Lum:Okay, alright.
Ella:Okay, guys, come on.
Caroline:Was somebody giving them away for free at one point?
Tom Lum:The year's 2000–2001, right?
Ella:It's 1997 to 2006.
Tom Lum:To 2006, okay. The internet is a thing.

Oh, it's because they all realize that it's one of the best shoes. It's, you know, you got good sporty. It's a good all-around shoe. That's the only reason why.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:And today's sponsor is New Balance.
Tom Scott:Has someone else taken out an ad read on this show without my knowledge?
Tom Lum:Yeah, sorry. Are we not allowed? Are we not allowed to do that?
Tom Scott:No.
Tom Lum:Should I not have?
Tom Scott:If you're getting paid for it?

Absolutely not. We want a cut of that.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh uproariously)
Tom Scott:If you just happen to enjoy New Balance trainers, good luck to you.
Tom Lum:We're a New Balance family.
Tom Scott:That's not a bad scam, is it? Get product placements in on other people's—
Ella:Oh yeah!
Tom Lum:On other podcasts! Ohh!
Tom Scott:Although... Having said that, that's basically just the talk show circuit, isn't it?

You've got a product to promote, fine. I am famous enough to— I will deign to appear on your late night talk show. Plug my movie.
Ella:I am currently product placing right now because I am wearing a hat for our podcast.
Tom Lum:Hello, where did you get that amazing hat from?
Ella:Okay, okay, just let me quickly.

Tom, you were kind of— Although you're not there, you were kind of right on the idea that quality is important.
Tom Lum:Oh? Oh, oh, maybe they're made there? And then they can get them hot off the presses or something like that?
Ella:It's not like...
Tom Lum:Or they can assure—
Ella:...fruit, you know? (wheezes) Shoes, trainers can travel fine.
SFX:(guests laughing uproariously)
Tom Lum:"Oh, these have gone bad. They've turned green already."
Tom Scott:You just want those shoes where they're just straight out of the factory. Still warm. Just mold them to your feet.
Caroline:Ooh, that new shoe smell. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom Lum:I do, 'cause when it comes to guitars, I know that... there's one make of guitar from Gibson or Epiphone where after a certain year, they switched from making them in Korea to Mexico, I think, and there are people who are ride or die on either side being like, "You gotta get it from this place, 'cause they did it better back then" or something like that. So—
Ella:It's not the location.
Tom Lum:And you— And quality is interesting because my other thought was this is some... this is some lottery thing.

It's like a Willy Wonka shoe situation.
Ella:No, because most 20-year-old men in Singapore are wearing these. Or owned a pair, at least.
Caroline:Is it...
Ella:Around this time.
Caroline:something like... My... You're saying most 20-year-old men. Is there— Is that a demographic of people who do a specific type of job, and therefore having this shoe is better? Oh, oh, oh, okay, Ella! (laughs heartily)
Ella:I'm trying not to say anything because Tom Scott does this where he just lets us ask questions until we run ourselves in circles, but I can't help but make a face.
Tom Scott:It's really easy to get into, where you just keep asking individual questions, and... What's better is when there's discussion, there's conversation, and someone goes, "Oh, he's an astronaut."
SFX:(guests laughing)
Ella:Okay, converse.
Tom Lum:Oh, so they're Converse.
SFX:(others groan)
Tom Lum:I thought they were New Balance.
Tom Scott:Well done, that was very clever.
Caroline:Oh dear.
Tom Scott:That's what friends of mine call a 'golf clap pun'. It's, "Yeah, well done". (golf claps)
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:Is it not even a profession? Is it just lifestyle differences?

Were more people walking at that point, and therefore New Balances were seen as the best shoe for doing that?
Ella:It wasn't a fad around the time.
Tom Lum:Is this a tax-related or import-related— Maybe they were cheap because they could— They were imported under a different category or something like that?
Caroline:Or is it the opposite that so many people worked for New Balance that they were giving the shoes out for free?

We're back to here. I'm so sorry.
Tom Lum:Let's see.
Caroline:Were every other shoe available just awful in comparison?
Ella:I think just try and think about the age of the... men.
Tom Lum:Was a famous Minecraft YouTuber wearing them?
Ella:It was 1997 to 2006.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:It was an early pioneering Minecraft YouTuber.
Tom Scott:No, you're before both Minecraft and YouTube there, Tom.
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Tom Scott:They were recording themselves building Lego on VHS.
Tom Lum:Yes.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:They're like, "One day. I was born in the wrong time. I would have been huge!"
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:Was it a movie star, an athlete, someone that—
Caroline:No, 'cause Ella said it wasn't a fad, which makes me think it's none of— It wasn't a celebrity-endorsed thing. It's about like... the shoe itself.
Tom Lum:Could it be like, does it have a secondary use? Were they using it for just using it, wearing them?
Ella:For what?
Caroline:Those shoes that have the little toy in the heel. Could people keep their really chunky phones as the sole of the shoe for a bit? No? Okay.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella giggle)
Ella:Okay. Let's circle back around. You've said... You've said, Caroline specifically, why they might all be wearing the same shoe.
Caroline:For work? In some way?
Tom Lum:Do they not leave any marks or something if you work somewhere where you need to be quiet, or you need to not leave shoe marks? Why do you wear New Balances?
Ella:Why would most men, young men in one country, be wearing the same thing?
Tom Lum:Was— Wait. Were they given for the army or something? Was it a mandatory year for the army?
Ella:Yeah, yeah. They were trainers supplied for military service between 1997 and 2006.
Tom Lum:Oh boy.
Ella:So the age is because in Singapore, male citizens and permanent residents start a two-year period of military service at the age of 18. And that just happened to be— The New Balances just happened to be the shoes that were provided in that period. They've changed now. They're New Balance or Asics since 2001.
Tom Scott:I couldn't have named New Balance or any specific shoe, but you said "20-year-old men in Singapore all have the same thing."

"Well, I know something about Singapore." That's gonna be military service.
Tom Lum:That's Tom's lateral brain for you, my guy.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:That should be their new logo though on the New Balances, is:

"Trusted by the Singaporean Army since these years and that year."
Tom Scott:(laughs) But not trusted by the Singaporean Army since 2006. We're not sure why.
Tom Lum:Yeah, we don't include that part. There's no reason why. Those were the best years for that.
Tom Scott:Next one's from me, folks. Good luck.

Which statue could alternatively be represented by Squidward Tentacles, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Hello Kitty, in that order?
Tom Lum:In that order?
Tom Scott:I'll say that again.

Which statue could alternatively be represented by Squidward Tentacles, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Hello Kitty, in that order?
Caroline:Who's Dr. Bunsen Honeydew?
Ella:Yeah, that's tripping me up.
Tom Lum:That's the one that's losing me.
Tom Scott:Oh, okay, this is one of those questions.
Tom Lum:And then meanwhile, yeah. Someone else is like, "Who's Squidward Tentacles?"
Tom Scott:Yep.
Ella:They must be... It must be an animal. Sounds like a rabbit, I would assume, but...
Tom Lum:Yeah, I was like, is this a hydra, is there?
Tom Scott:I think you can work this out without knowing who Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is. I think the other two are enough to get this.

So I'm not going to answer that question for you right away.
Ella:Okay, an... an octopus and a cat.
Tom Lum:You said sequentially. And at first, I thought it was like, all these characters have posed as Michelangelo's David or something like that.
Tom Lum:I was like, that's the commonality. But...
Ella:I was trying to think if it was like, a horoscope or something. Not horoscopes really, Chinese New Year. If there were like— But I don't think an octopus is one of the animals.
Tom Lum:No.
Caroline:Mm, no.
Tom Lum:What's... It does sound like a monstrosity. This is also, I gotta say, Tom. This is one of those questions where we're gonna look back at all of our guesses and then laugh at our interpretations where I'm like, "It looks like a monstrosity"

and it's going to be like, you know, like the... Mary with Jesus or something.

And we're gonna be like, "Oh, we didn't mean that. We didn't mean that. Sorry."
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:No, I'll stand by that.
SFX:(laughter intensifies)
Ella:So... Is it, yeah, in that— Because the question said in that order, not...
Ella:But all together in that order? Are they holding hands? You know, like...
Tom Lum:(laughs uproariously)
Caroline:Cute, cute.
Tom Scott:It's a statue, so it is going to be in that order spatially rather than temporally.
Tom Lum:I love, just somewhere in New Jersey, there's a statue of just Squidward and Hello Kitty holding hands.
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:That's so cute.
Ella:(giggles) That would be cute.
Tom Lum:Octopus, anthropomorphic little cat...
Tom Scott:And something in between them.
Tom Lum:Is it Medusa involved? Because octopus, hair, snake. That's snake, I'm so dumb.
Ella:That's snakes.
Tom Lum:Please, oh, oh man.
Caroline:(laughs heartily)
Tom Lum:♪ Oh, I thought I was so smart for a second ♪
Ella:I cannot move past the idea of a hybrid creature between these three things. I cannot get past this.
Tom Lum:Yeah, yeah, chimera.
Caroline:Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I also wonder if the original statue is even an animal or if it's the person who... Not the person who created all of these things, but... were they the founder of something that then led to all of these things being created?
Ella:Yeah, I think they— I mean, Hello Kitty and SpongeBob, etc.
Tom Scott:Alright, I'll clue you in that Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is the scientist from the Muppets.
Tom Lum:Ohh! Right.
Tom Scott:If you've seen the Muppets, there's the short scientist and then his tall assistant Beaker that goes "meep meep meep meep" and keeps getting hurt.
Tom Lum:Meep meep meep meep.
Tom Scott:It's the one that isn't Beaker in that pair is Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.
Ella:(snickers) Is there a statue of a scientist with an octopus and a cat? That is— My brain is so linear.
Ella:Which is ironic for this show!
Tom Lum:Yeah.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Honestly... Linear is kind of the right tack to take here. If you line those three up in that order, you could argue they represent this statue.
Tom Lum:Squid science cat. Squi-squa-squi-squicas—
Ella:But do they have to be lined up side by side? Or are you looking head-on at them, so you see the cat at the front?
Ella:(cracks up)
Tom Scott:Left to right. I think I'll clue you in at this point. Left to right.
Tom Lum:Squidward science cat... Squidward Muppet cat.
Tom Scott:Think more about what they look like.
Tom Lum:Tall and tentacles, the legs. If you have eight legs. If you're a scientist. If you got a little bow, and you're cute.
Caroline:I really wish I could visualise things right now.
Ella:Oh yeah, Caroline has aphantasia, so...
Tom Scott:Here is a clue. That won't help!
SFX:(Tom and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:That will be incredibly unhelpful for this question.
SFX:(group laughing)
Caroline:There's a reason I'm so quiet right now, 'cause I just can't— I'm like, I can't participate in this. I can't see things.
Ella:Maybe draw something, Caroline.
Tom Lum:Yeah, that could help.
Caroline:My A level in art is going to be so helpful right now.
Tom Scott:Depending on how accurately you remember those characters, it may well help.
Ella:I'm really stumped. This is...
Tom Scott:They all have something in common. Or rather they're all lacking something.
Tom Lum:Oh?
SFX:(Tom and Ella crack up)
Ella:Is that right?
Tom Lum:I think? I think I was right on that.
Tom Scott:I'm pretty sure Hello Kitty wears trousers, or wears...
Ella:I don't think she does.
Caroline:Doesn't she wear a little dress though? Which then negates the need for trousers?
Tom Lum:So is that the answer?
Tom Scott:(snickers) No, no, no it's not.
SFX:(Caroline and Ella laugh)
Ella:Are you drawing it, Tom? I need to— I'm—
Tom Scott:A good way into this would be... Hello Kitty quite famously doesn't have something.
Tom Lum:A mouth?
Tom Scott:A mouth.
Tom Lum:I have no mouth, and I must scream?
Ella:Oh my— Oh it's see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.
Tom Scott:Yes!
Caroline:Oh my goodness!
Tom Scott:Yeah, talk it through, Ella. Talk it through.
Tom Lum:No ears?
Ella:Squidward has no ears, hear no evil. I don't— I guess the Bunsen has no mouth?
Tom Scott:A Muppet with no eyes.
Tom Lum:No eyes?
Ella:With no eyes. Oh, so see no evil. And then Hello Kitty has no mouth. So, say no evil.
Tom Scott:It is the three wise monkeys.
Tom Scott:Yep. Squidward has no ears, so hear no evil.

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew has no eyes, so see no evil.

Hello Kitty has no mouth, so speak no evil.

And that is the old saying, the ornament.

I thought that might be the way into the question. I thought that was one thing there, that even if you don't know the Muppets, and even if you haven't seen SpongeBob, there might be a trivia fact about Hello Kitty that'll get you in there.
Tom Lum:That she famously has no mouth and must scream.
SFX:(group chuckling)
Tom Scott:Tom, over to you for the next question.
Tom Lum:This question has been sent in by Aidan Crellen.

In the Xbox game SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, speedrunners—
Tom Lum:speedrunners found that it was possible to skip certain sections. Repeatedly pausing the game made it lag on purpose. What bizarre strategy did one gamer find to make this glitch happen consistently?

I'll read it again.

In the Xbox game SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, speedrunners found that it was possible to skip certain sections. Repeatedly pausing the game made it lag on purpose. What bizarre strategy did one gamer find to make this glitch happen consistently?
Caroline:Ella, this is right up your alley as a fan of watching speedrunners. Does this give anything to you?
Ella:I think... the problem is... when we've had a speedrunning question before when we were on, and it was so... not something I ever would have thought of.
Caroline:Oh yeah!
Ella:'Cause it was very practical.
Tom Lum:Famously, yeah.
Tom Scott:And as I said back then, I know nothing about video games, so I can follow that up with, (laughs) I know nothing about SpongeBob SquarePants.

So, I'm basically useless on this question.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Lum:Every speedrunning tactic is like a new Lateral question. Where it's like, it's just an entirely... Yeah, I can't say any more. But I'm excited for y'all to guess at this.
Ella:What console did you say this was on? Did you?
Tom Lum:Xbox.
Ella:Xbox, okay, so...
Tom Lum:The original Xbox, I believe.
Ella:Pausing is the start button. And the strategy... Is the strategy to do with... Is it... (sigh) I'm just gonna ask. No, 'cause... I don't know if it's a practical thing or not. Was their cat walking over their, you know, controller, and that's how they realised it happened? Or is this a strategy that they're using consistently and they just have to do it all the time?
Tom Scott:Because I do know there used to be those controllers you could buy that would repeatedly send button presses for you, so you didn't have to hammer the fire button.

I remember those for Nintendo 64, because a friend had one when I was a kid.
Tom Scott:If you just wanted to fire a lot, you could just hit the turbo button. But I don't think there was ever a turbo start button or anything like that.
Ella:Yeah, it's like gluing down the start button, so it just repeatedly...
Tom Lum:On the scale of turbo button to a cat stepped on my controller...

it's actually more a cat stepped on my controller.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:This is a weird one.
Caroline:(laughs) Was this something that one person in particular was doing, or was this something that this person was doing, and then it became avail—
Caroline:Everybody then started doing it?
Tom Lum:It's that sort of a thing.
Tom Scott:You need to repeatedly, quickly hit the start button then. You need to just keep bashing that as fast as possible during some sequence of the game.
Tom Lum:I'll be honest, Tom, that's sort of the baseline strat for this.

This was sort of something that made that work even more consistently, right?
Caroline:I see.
Tom Lum:Repeatedly pausing the game made it lag on purpose, but this allowed that to happen more consistently. And I will say, Tom, I think you will have some info on this, because this is sort of a hardware-y thing.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Caroline:So was it like, if you did it at a specific point in the game, like during a cutscene or something like that, would it then make it lag more? Or is it specifically in the gameplay itself?
Tom Lum:It's more general purpose than that, because I think you can use this glitch in multiple places.
Tom Scott:If you want something to lag more... then there's a few ways to do that. This is just general computer stuff.

You can put more stuff on screen. You can have more things for the computer to deal with.

You could also do stuff in the background.

An Xbox is just a PC with some extra stuff grafted on, or less stuff grafted on it, one of those two things. So you could run...
Tom Lum:Don't let the console people hear you.
Tom Scott:(snickers) You could run—
Tom Lum:An Xbox is special, and it's better than PlayStation and computers.
Tom Scott:You could run additional stuff in the background.

Or you could just heat it up. It's a computer. If it runs too hot, it will slow stuff down, so you could just put your Xbox on top of a heater and get it close to the maximum operating temperature so the chip throttles down, and that makes it lag more.
Tom Lum:You're getting there... But it's dumber.
Tom Scott:It's— Okay!
Ella:You de—
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:You deliberately scratch up the CD.
SFX:(Tom Scott and Caroline gasp)
Ella:So it's rubbish.
Tom Lum:Ella, you're correct.
Tom Scott:Oh!
Tom Lum:You're so— You're 90% there.
Tom Scott:Okay, okay.
Tom Lum:It's just a slight minor detail.
Tom Scott:You can't easily have a scratched data disk. An audio CD can skip sometimes, or the laser will lose its focus, but it can usually come back.
Tom Lum:Exactly.
Tom Scott:But data, you'll lose a lot of stuff. But some old games used to work...
Tom Lum:Right, so you can't just scratch it.
Tom Scott:Some old games used to work that you had a different data and audio section. The data would load in, and then it would just play the music off the disc. But that wouldn't cause that.
Caroline:Would doing something really dumb like... smearing it in Vaseline or something like that cause this issue, you know?
Tom Lum:Caroline, you're... Basically, I'm not gonna make you guys guess it. There is one specific person who is attributed to licking their disc to smudge it.
SFX:(others clamouring)
Caroline:Oh my goodness!
Tom Scott:Ohh...
Caroline:(belly laughs)
Ella:Come on, man.
Tom Lum:But Tom, you're right on the money because this isn't something that you can permanently damage it like a vinyl record.

This is something that you just have to make it a little harder to read so that maybe 50% of the time, it doesn't read correctly.

So yeah, the way a lag glitch works is if you lag the game enough, if you make the game wait two seconds, the physics engine is going to be like, "Oh man, two seconds have passed, and I haven't run anything." And so it'll try to do... less good physics and less good math.

And one of the theories is that when you were pausing the game, it would— when you unpause the game, it would read the music from the disc, and so if you could make it harder to read... it would lag the game more consistently.

There is, I think...
Ella:That's so good.
Caroline:Oh, wow.
Ella:I mean, it's gross, but it's good.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:That's a slogan. And I don't know what it's a slogan for!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:I don't know, Cheetos or something. Something like a messy food or something.
Tom Lum:Well, I say that. Along with all great speedrunning stories, this is attributed to 'swagmasterdoritos', I believe.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Caroline:Oh, fantastic. Oh, brilliant. (laughs)
Tom Lum:And I think they would use... thumbprints in a pattern became the more consistent way to do it besides licking the disc.
Caroline:Yeah, yeah. (laughs)
Tom Lum:And a lot of this info came from a great video from Shift on YouTube, who talks about this speedrunning strat.
Ella:I know we're done with the question, but just quickly, normally when you start the time on a speedrun, you start it from where it can be... you can lose time.

So I would think that you would have to— They would have to recall themselves putting the thumbprints on the disc because technically you can lose time by doing that.
Caroline:Oh yeah!
Tom Scott:Alright, good luck with this one.

In 1676, why did Robert Hooke publish a nonsense word, spelt "ceiiinosssttuv"?

You do not need to write this down.
Tom Lum:Thank you. (snickers)
Tom Scott:In 1676, why did Robert Hooke publish a nonsense word, spelt "ceiiinosssttuv"?
Tom Lum:That was very, very sing-songy. I liked that.
Tom Scott:No, it just had a certain amount of poetry, the way I said it. There's a triple-I and a triple-S in there, and it kind of had a cadence to it.
Tom Lum:♪ C-E-I-I-I N-O-S-S-S ♪
Tom Scott:(snickers) Right? I still have the jingles for the phone-in numbers for kids TV shows in the '90s in my head, because they were always just played out multiple times a show.
Ella:We don't need to remember what the word is, so...
Caroline:So that means it's not like... a different word that's jumbled up or something like that.
Ella:Yeah. What— Where did he publish it?
Tom Scott:I just said you don't need to write that down. I didn't say the letters weren't important. I'm just saying you don't need to...
Ella:Well then I do need to write it down, Tom!
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Lum:Who was the author again? I apologize.
Tom Scott:Robert Hooke.
Tom Lum:I was too... Robert Hooke.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:Well, is this a classic Lateral
Tom Scott:Hey, the jingle worked! You can remember it!
Caroline:Yeah! (laughs)
Tom Lum:I did. Yeah. 1-877-Kars-for-Kids, baby.
Tom Scott:Oh, don't get me started. That's a crime.
Tom Lum:Is this... (laughs)
Tom Scott:It's one of those things where if I'm driving in the US, and I hear just one note of that, it's like an instant reflex to go and slam the radio off button. It's, that's...
Ella:(chuckles snidely)
Tom Scott:It's full-on Demolished Man earworm. It's awful.
Tom Lum:I listen to a lot of podcasts from LA, and there's a regional jingle for the county of Van Nuys, and I have that now. That's how pervasive they are.

It's like, I don't even live there, and I now know Keyes on Van Nuys.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Tom Lum:♪ Keyes on Van Nuys ♪
Ella:Tom, you're really getting us off track, and I'm getting stressed.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:We haven't gone anywhere.
Tom Lum:Is this— Are these Roman numerals? A classic Lateral trick.
Ella:Yeah. Because that's always it. (snickers) It's always Roman numerals.
Tom Scott:Not all of these letters are Roman numerals, no.
Tom Lum:I was gonna say, some of those I don't remember being.
Tom Scott:Yeah, there's no N or T in Roman numerals that I know of.
Ella:Is it a chemical— No, way too early. No, it could be. Chemical element, formula.
Tom Lum:Ooh, I kinda like that.
Ella:I'm getting a subtle shake of the head.
SFX:(Ella and Tom Lum snicker)
Tom Lum:Published a word.
Ella:Is it like a key? A secret key to a book... where he buried his family treasure?
Tom Lum:They are in alphabetical order. I don't know if that's relevant.
Ella:Oh, oh, missing— Do the missing letters...
Tom Scott:(strains) They don't have to be in alphabetical order for this, but you're right, Tom. That is a bit of a clue.
Tom Lum:Interesting. Are they...
Tom Scott:And Ella, you said secret key.
Ella:Yeah, like a... I don't know the word for that. What's it called when you have a—
Tom Lum:Like a codex?
Ella:Yeah. Where did he publish it? Did we hear that? Is it a newspaper?
Tom Scott:I don't know where, but just generally published and made public.
Ella:Okay, because I wonder if he's like... Did anything happen important around that time? Was there a war happening? Probably, because it's that time...
Ella:of the world.
Tom Lum:A printing press thing, a dictionary thing, a book-related thing. A way to subtract—
Ella:Yeah, he just ran out— The keys on his typewriter just broke, and that's all he could type.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
Caroline:So, did he print those letters in that order?
Tom Scott:I don't know enough history to know whether that would be printing press or... or whether it would be handwritten and published out. My history dates aren't great. But it was more important that those letters got out into the world and had his name attached to them. And Ella, you said secret key.
Ella:I just don't know what the key would be for. Unless, well, what's... This is why I should've written the letters down, Tom.
Tom Scott:It would not make a blind bit of difference.
Tom Lum:C-E-I-I-I, N-O-S-S-S, T-T, U-V.
Tom Scott:I am astonished at how well that jingle worked, Tom. You weren't reading that.
Tom Lum:I wrote it down.
Tom Scott:Oh.
Tom Lum:No, I just defied your rules.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:He told me not to do something. I'm doing it.
Tom Scott:That wasn't a rule, I just said you didn't need to. You will not be able to deduce the meaning of this.
Caroline:Okay, so it's not like if you were to shuffle those letters around, they spell something else.
Tom Scott:That's not what I said. I just said you wouldn't be able to work this out.
Tom Lum:So maybe it is that.
Caroline:It's totally that. So it's like a secret key, and if you figure it out...
Ella:It's an anagram.
Tom Scott:It's an anagram, yes.
Tom Lum:It's... It's the location of the Declaration of Independence.
Tom Scott:Do not try to solve the anagram. You will not be able to solve the anagram.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Caroline:We're all looking at it.
Tom Lum:Hands up, I'm not working on it!
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom Scott:You may be able to find other bizarre anagrams in there, but you won't find the actual one, 'cause it's in Latin.
Caroline:Oh, okay, fair enough. That makes me feel better. Thank you for saying that. 'Cause I would just be staring at this for the next ten minutes otherwise.
Tom Scott:Does anyone know who Robert Hooke was?
Ella:No. (laughs)
Tom Scott:Okay.
Tom Lum:A pirate?
Ella:That does sound very pirate-y.
Tom Scott:You were just going off the word 'hook' there!
Tom Lum:No...! Robert! A famous, famously pirate-y name!
SFX:(Tom Lum and Caroline laugh)
Tom Scott:Robert Hooke was a scientist, and lots of other scientists use this technique as well.
Ella:But it's not chemical. It's not elements. Oh, it's Latin, oh.
Tom Lum:A scientific Latin anagram. Was this to make a patent for something, or to prove that you came up with something... but in a code?
Tom Scott:Yes. Yes, it was. Talk through it.
SFX:(Ella and Caroline gasp)
Tom Scott:Why might that be the case?
Tom Lum:You wanted to...
Ella:Edison is around stealing everyone's ideas.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Is this like... Sort of, is this the equivalence of holding a newspaper up in a picture or something?
Tom Scott:Yeah, Ella, Tom, between the two of you... It wasn't Edison. It's a little early for Edison. But yes, this was a way of him protecting his work and saying, "I got there first." But why wouldn't he just publish it?
Tom Lum:Is this a proof or a chemical thing that... he had to still figure it out to solidify it, or he wasn't sure?
Tom Scott:That's it. That's the missing piece. Yes.
Tom Scott:He needed to double-check his work. He'd had the idea.
Tom Lum:(wheezes)
Tom Scott:He'd done the first experiment.
Caroline:Oh wow!
Tom Scott:But this is the 17th century. There's a lot of scientists working on a lot of stuff. So he puts out this anagram.
Tom Lum:You could discover anything.
Tom Scott:Yep, it resolves to...
Tom Scott:I'm gonna butcher my Latin, because I don't know Latin pronunciation, but it resolves to "Ut tensio, sic vis", "As the extension, so the force".

It is a measure of elasticity that became known as Hooke's Law.

And that is him going... "I got there first."
Tom Lum:Wow.
Tom Scott:"If someone else out there figures this out, I can reveal the anagram and say actually, this shows I got here first."
Tom Lum:Holy moly!
Tom Lum:Oh, that rules!
Ella:I don't think that that's—
Caroline:That's really clever.
Ella:Is it? 'Cause I could say, I could bring out an anagram about anything and be like, "Yeah, I invented this thing first."
Tom Scott:You'd have to find something.
Tom Lum:Yeah, it is also just a phrase.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ella:It is a phrase.
Tom Scott:It needs to be difficult enough that someone's not gonna work out the anagram... but also simple enough that it is obviously just about that when it is resolved.
Ella:Right, okay.
Tom Scott:These days, people use computer algorithms to produce hashes of particular things. There's famously a couple of times someone has just tweeted out what looks like a random series of letters and numbers.

But it is a phrase that's been run through a particular cipher. So in future, they can prove that they knew a thing at a time.

Caroline, it is over to you.
Caroline:This question has been sent in by Jacob.

Lovers Katie and Richard hate to be apart, so they agree to think about each other at a memorable time before they go to sleep that evening. However, Katie does this exactly 49 minutes later than Richard. Why?

I'll say that again.

Lovers Katie and Richard hate to be apart, so they agree to think about each other at a memorable time before they go to sleep that evening. However, Katie does this exactly 49 minutes later than Richard. Why?
Tom Lum:Katie doesn't love Richard as much.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Katie's just—
Tom Lum:By 49 minutes.
Tom Scott:Katie's just really bad at time management.
Ella:Yeah. My immediate thought was time zones, but there's no 49-minute time zone that I can imagine.
Tom Scott:There is one 45-minute one, I think, somewhere, unofficially.
Ella:Is there?
Caroline:Is there?
Tom Scott:It's in the middle of Australia, and it was always going to be a video at some point if I ever got there, but it is two days' drive across the Nullarbor Plain.

And it's called the Nullarbor because there's nothing there! It's just a straight road for days.

And it's this little town that is on the border of two states and just split the difference between them and had an unofficial time zone.

(laughs) And it was not worth the effort to drive out there for one video that doesn't really have much visual about it.
Tom Scott:It's a very kind of early Tom Scott video with that.
Tom Lum:(guffaws) Well, here I am. And wouldn't you look at it? Look at the clock.
SFX:(guests laughing)
Tom Scott:Yeah, yeah. That's a short these days.
Tom Lum:(neighs)
Tom Scott:I was thinking sunset. I was thinking that they both agreed on sunset. But that seems like an obvious thing.
Tom Lum:Well, 'cause my— I was on the wording.

"Memorable event" I think is the phrase you used, "before bedtime". And so that does feel sunset-y.
Ella:Her watch was upside down, so she didn't read it properly.
Ella:I'm really bad at reading analogue, I'll be honest, so...
Tom Lum:Yeah, that's a classic Lateral thingy, is analog watch versus...
Caroline:Wait, what did you both just say?
Tom Lum:Analog watch?
Ella:Her watch was slow.
Tom Lum:(cracks up)
SFX:(Ella and Caroline laugh)
Tom Lum:Could it— Is it actually— I was gonna say it as a joke, I feel like that's a...
Ella:They were using a sundial, and like Tom said, the sun— they were in different places, and the sun hit it differently.
Caroline:(laughs) No, it was nothing like that.
Tom Scott:But analogue watch is close somehow.
Caroline:It's thinking about... types of watches or things like that, yeah.
Tom Scott:Is there any way you can accidentally have a clock upside down or something like that, and permute it... so that the numbers... accidentally read something similar? I don't know what that would be, and I—
Tom Lum:Ohh! You read the minute hand and hour hand backwards or something? You reverse them?
Ella:No, if it's a digital clock, it'd be six and... well, what's four upside down? That's not a thing, is it?
Tom Scott:But it doesn't have to be 49. It could be half... past.
Ella:Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, of course, yeah.
Tom Scott:It could be 18... I'm drawing this in front of me, and there's gotta be some sequence of numbers where if you read it upside down or in the mirror or something like that, it looks like it's 49 minutes later.
Caroline:So, I think I've sent you down a bit of a rabbit hole here by thinking specifically about analogue clocks.

You don't need to go quite that far down, but thinking about what they might be looking at rather than thinking about a specific time.

They weren't picking 11 pm. You know, they were looking at clocks.
Ella:Stars? Were they looking at a star?
Tom Lum:Was one of them in space, and they had time dilation?
Ella:Oh, see, they are.
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Scott laugh)
Ella:(chuckles) Were they in different places when a gravitational wave passed through them?
Tom Lum:(laughs)
Caroline:No, nothing that exciting, Ella. (laughs)
Tom Scott:And it's not my rotation thing. Okay, fine.
Caroline:No, it's not your rotation thing.
Ella:So it is to do with clocks. I've lost the plot.
Tom Lum:It's an event, a momentous event. Like New Year's Eve.
Caroline:It's not an event, Tom. It's a memorable time for them before they go to sleep that evening.
Tom Lum:Like 11:11?
Tom Lum:That's a cute time.
Caroline:Uh-huh, so...
Tom Scott:Oh! That would be 49 minutes before midnight.
Caroline:It's not the fact that it's just before midnight.
Tom Lum:That's wild, yeah, but—
Caroline:Thinking about different... Oh, I don't want to give too much away. But Tom, you're really, really close.
Tom Lum:Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom Scott:Which Tom?
Caroline:Tom Lum.
Caroline:Tom Lum Tom, yeah. One of them is looking at—

One of them has 11:11 as the time in their head.

Why might the other person not have that in their head?
Tom Lum:Did they think they meant "11. 11."?
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Lum:"Don't forget, it should be 11! 11!"
Tom Scott:These are digital clocks though, right? These are numbers?
Tom Lum:Oh.
Tom Scott:Okay.
Caroline:So why might they have different numbers in their head?
Ella:Oh, there is— They have different types of, you know, "military time", you know, 24-hour time versus 12-hour.
Tom Lum:Is that it?
Caroline:You are absolutely spot on.
Ella:23:11. Wait, that doesn't make sense.
Tom Lum:Yeah, that's more than 49 minutes. Right? 'Cause...
Caroline:Oh, I'll leave you to try and figure out that last little bit then.
Tom Lum:Yeah, how does that work with the... 24-hour versus...
Caroline:Think about 11:11. Think about what that number looks like when you're looking at it on a digital clock.
Tom Lum:I-I-I-I.
Ella:Unless it's 11—
Caroline:Think about it on a 12-hour clock. 11:11. What does that look like when you're looking on a clock?
Tom Scott:It's series of vertical lines. It's 1-1-1-1.
Caroline:1-1-1-1. Yeah, uh-huh.
Tom Lum:And then on a 24-hour clock, it would be... Is it 2-3-1-1?
Caroline:So, on 1-1-1-1... all of them are the same.
Tom Lum:Is it 23:23 or something? Or like 22:22?
Caroline:(gasps) What was that, Tom Lum?
Tom Lum:22:22?
Caroline:22:22, yeah! So, shall I explain it?
Tom Scott:Wait! Is—
Caroline:I feel like—
Tom Lum:Does one do it on 11:11, and one on 22:22?
Caroline:Yeah, absolutely spot on.
Tom Scott:Of course it is!

Because if you go the other way, I said it was 49 minutes before midnight. Of course it is. You go 49 minutes back, your two zeros change to 11. You go 49 minutes back from that, of course they're going to change to 2 and 2 as well.

I was right, I was going the wrong way.
Caroline:Yeah. Absolutely spot on. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so—
Tom Scott:When all the numbers are the same.
Caroline:When all of the numbers are the same, that was their memorable time. They had both agreed to look at the clock and think of each other when all of the numbers on the clock were the same.

One of them had a digital clock that was on the 12-hour clock. So it was 11:11. And the other had a 24-hour clock or a military clock. So that he looked at it at 22:22.
Ella:So it's 49 minutes apart.
Tom Lum:And they still made their love work in spite of that. In spite of their differences.
Ella:I cannot express how dissatisfied I feel doing so poorly.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:Ella... Listen Ella, love works in mysterious ways. When you find it, you know.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Scott:Which leaves us with the question from the start of the show.

Thank you to Gerhard Catarius for sending this in.

What gadget for removing irritation translates to "not seeking help from others" in Chinese?
Tom Lum:A backscratcher.
Tom Scott:Yes! It's a backscratcher.
Ella:Oh. (wheezes)
Tom Scott:Spot on, Tom!
Caroline:Oh... oh!
Ella:Wow, Tom, take all the fun out of it.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom Lum:It's genetic! (laughs uproariously, claps)
Tom Scott:Yeah, I asked our question team to double and triple and quadruple check this, because it sounds like one of those weird anecdotes about "Isn't the Chinese language funny?"

But no, the three characters in 'backscratcher', if you break it down, it is 'not', 'to seek', and 'person'. Not seeking help from others.
Ella:I do have that tattoo on me. So that makes sense.
Tom Scott:(laughs)
SFX:(Caroline and Tom Lum laugh)
Tom Lum:I literally was thinking back to my dad and my grandparents. (sobs)
Tom Lum:It might've actually helped! 'Cause that is— It's a thing, yeah.
Tom Scott:Thank you very much to all of our three players. Where can people find you? What's going on with your show?

We'll start today with Caroline.
Caroline:You can find us— We are Let's Learn Everything, and you can find our podcast, all of our socials, our Discord server on
Tom Scott:Tom, what kind of things can they find there?
Tom Lum:You can find a lot of stuff similar to the show.

We've covered birds in space. We've covered speedrunning. And very recently, we also talked about copyright. So that could be something similar to the—

We didn't cover that codex that Robert Hooke had, but we cover similar stuff.
Tom Scott:And Ella, you can't tell me what's coming up. Why not?
Ella:Because every episode, we surprise each other with wonderful and interesting science miscellaneous topics.
Tom Scott:And if you wanna know more about this show, you can do that at We are at @lateralcast basically everywhere on the internet, and you can see video highlights at

Thank you very much to Caroline Roper.
Tom Scott:Ella Hubber.
Tom Scott:Tom Lum.
Tom Lum:Wa-hoo!
Tom Scott:(snickers) I've been Tom Scott. That's been Mario. And this has been Lateral.
SFX:(group laughing)
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