Tom Scott

The Brünnlisau shooting range in Switzerland has its targets on the other side of a major road. And it’s safe. Here’s how and why. Thanks to everyone at the Schiessanlage Brünnlisau! Camera: Alicja Pahl Producer: Sebastian Capeda at Viven https://viven.ch Editor: Michelle Martin https://twitter.com/mrsmmartin I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at https://facebook.com/tomscott
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http://tomscott.com – @tomscott – A message from the Interstellar Safety Council. What if the rest of the universe wasn’t built on “survival of the fittest”? The post and discussion that inspired this: http://bogleech.tumblr.com/post/56211923819/its-funny-how-science-fiction-universes-so-often
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On a little canal off the Elbe river in Germany, sits the McBoat: the world’s only paddle-through McDonalds. It seemed like the sort of thing I should investigate. Camera operator: Richard Bielau Producer: Maximilian Thesseling of Klein Aber https://kleinaber.de/ I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at https://facebook.com/tomscott and on Instagram as tomscottgo
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An elevator that can go smoothly from horizontal to vertical isn’t possible… right? Turns out that the conventional wisdom is wrong, and the Schmid Peoplemover has been doing that for many years. Camera: Moritz Janisch Producer: Marcel Fenchel https://www.fenchel-janisch.com/ Engineering consultant: Calum Douglas Animation: Pete McPartlan I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook
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One comma can make a lot of difference. Language is ambiguous — but in some very specific ways. Here’s how. Written with GRETCHEN MCCULLOCH: http://gretchenmcculloch.com – http://twitter.com/GretchenAMcC [Update: her book BECAUSE INTERNET is out July 2019! https://gretchenmcculloch.com/book/ ] More from Gretchen at ALL THINGS LINGUISTIC: http://allthingslinguistic.com – http://twitter.com/AllThingsLing BONUS LINK: Garden Path Sentence Shirts: http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/118396390957/garden-path-sentence-shirts-a-story
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The Nürburgring Nordschleife is the longest permanent racetrack in the world: 21km of unforgiving blind corners and hills, nicknamed “the Green Hell”. Oh, and some days, it’s also just a public toll road with no speed limit. More about the Ring: https://www.nuerburgring.de/en.html About “Touristenfahrten”, Tourist Drives: https://nuerburgring.de/driving/touristdrives Driver: Andy Gülden Camera: Moritz Janisch Producer: Marcel
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Over the Manchester Ship Canal, you’ll find the Hulmes Ferry, the Thelwall Ferry, and the Warburton Toll Bridge. They’re all strange in their own way, all under the control of one company, and all dating back to old laws and legal documents from a hundred years ago. I was in the area, so I stopped
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NERC’s Space Geodesy Facility, hidden away in the English countryside, fires lasers at satellites. Because it turns out that knowing a satellite’s position exactly is really, really difficult. More about the Facility: http://sgf.rgo.ac.uk/ Thanks to Jay Dickieson for the suggestion! I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at https://facebook.com/tomscott and on Instagram as
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The flight between Papa Westray and Westray takes 80-90 seconds and covers about 2km. Why does it exist? And what’s it like? On a rainy day in the Orkney Islands, I went to find out. Thanks to Sam from Wendover Productions! https://www.youtube.com/wendoverproductions I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at https://facebook.com/tomscott and on
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Dinorwig Power Station, otherwise known as Electric Mountain, is a pumped-storage hydro station in Llanberis, Wales. And yes: it’s Britain’s largest battery. Here’s how it works, and why some of the things you think you know about TV pickups might not be so true any more. Thanks to all the Engie team! More about them:
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The Orkney Islands, off the northern tip of Scotland, have so much electricity that it’s actually a problem. Here’s why: and here’s what they’re doing about it. • This video has a correction: Hornsdale Power Reserve didn’t catch fire! It was the newer Victorian Big Battery, near Geelong. Complete blunder on my part, apologies to
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Ness of Brodgar, in Orkney, is one of the most important archaeological sites in western Europe. This week, it was covered by old, worn-out tires. Here’s why. ■ Thanks to the Ness team! More about them, volunteering, and donating: https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/ I’m at https://tomscott.com on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at https://facebook.com/tomscott and on Instagram as
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On the south-east coast of England sits Covehithe: a little Suffolk village going back at least a thousand years. By the end of the century, it’ll likely have fallen into the sea. Here’s why no-one’s planning to save it. Filmed safely: https://www.tomscott.com/safe/ SOURCES: Shoreline Management Plans: https://www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/environment/coastal-management/shoreline-management-plans/ http://www.suffolksmp2.org.uk/actionplan/docs/2.%20Kessingland%20to%20Covehithe.pdf https://web.archive.org/web/20140221104223/http://www.suffolksmp2.org.uk/publicdocuments/finalsmp/Section%204_Policy%20Development%20Zones/PDZ2v9.pdf Article: https://web.archive.org/web/20160913051551/http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/covehithe_landowner_raises_fears_over_coastal_defence_proposals_1_1111983 I’m at https://tomscott.com on
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Gricean Maxims are a vital part of how we understand each other: a set of… well, maybe “rules” is a bit strong. They’re guidelines that we follow without realising it. And it’s the reason that “asbestos-free cereal” sounds suspicious. Written with Molly Ruhl and Gretchen McCulloch. Gretchen’s podcast Lingthusiasm is at http://lingthusiasm.com/ Gretchen’s book BECAUSE
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On the German coast of the Baltic Sea, there’s a tourist attraction that I think is very strange: the “Tauchgondel”, a room that sinks under the waves and lets you go diving… without getting wet. More about the Tauchgondel: https://www.tauchgondel.de/ Filmed safely: https://www.tomscott.com/safe/ Camera operator: Richard Bielau Production team: Klein Aber https://kleinaber.de/ Thanks to Letizia
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It’s been all over the British news today: developer Paul Price found a bug in photo-crap-maker Moonpig’s site, one that might have exposed three million users’ personal information. Paul’s got a great technical post about it at https://www.darkport.co.uk/blog/moonpig-vulnerability/ — but there’s no decent non-techie explanation except for the one-paragraph summaries in newspapers. It was a
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http://tomscott.com – http://twitter.com/tomscott – A guide for the newly empowered, courtesy of the Superhero Help Academic Foundation Trust, Education Division. Sure, you could jump a few places and fight crime: or you could take over the world. Thanks to YouTube Space London, who offered me time on their science lab set — and thanks to
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“Hello!” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!” These are all phatic expressions, and people can argue about them. Pull down the description for the references! MORE LANGUAGE FILES: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL96C35uN7xGLDEnHuhD7CTZES3KXFnwm0 Written with Gretchen McCulloch and Molly Ruhl. Gretchen’s new book, BECAUSE INTERNET, is available now: 🇺🇸 US: https://amzn.to/30tLpjT 🇨🇦 CA: https://amzn.to/2JsTYWH 🇬🇧 UK: https://amzn.to/31K8eRD (Those are affiliate links
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The mysterious YouTube algorithm. It’s confused people for years, and will continue to do so. So why isn’t YouTube more transparent? It used to be that they wouldn’t tell anyone how it works – but now, it’s that they can’t. Let’s talk about deep learning algorithms, neural networks, and search engine optimisation. CREDITS: Thanks to
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The Berkeley Pit, in Butte, Montana, was once the richest hill on Earth: the Anaconda Copper Mine. Now: it’s not all that rich, and it’s not much of a hill. Instead, it’s a toxic pit filled with sulfuric acid. Thanks to the Montana Resources team: https://www.montanaresources.com/ REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING: “10,000 miles of tunnels”: https://mtstandard.com/news/local/new-map-plots-butte-underground/article_f1de51e2-948f-5634-9aa0-87ad730d9cfd.html
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What do you do with a disused phone box? And can they help save lives? • Thanks to the Community Heartbeat Trust: https://www.communityheartbeat.org.uk/ • and the East of England Ambulance Service: https://www.eastamb.nhs.uk/ Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, help save lives: but they need to be in an obvious, easy-to-access, public place that’s protected from the
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Barra Airport, in Na h-Eileanan Siar in the west of Scotland, is unique: it’s the only commercial airport where the runway’s made of sand, and tide covers it up twice a day. Here’s how it works. Thanks to all the team at Barra Airport: https://www.hial.co.uk/barra-airport I chartered with Hebridean Air Services from Oban: https://www.hebrideanair.co.uk/ Scheduled
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http://tomscott.com – http://twitter.com/tomscott – In a disused quarry at Harpur Hill, near Buxton, there’s a bright blue lagoon. It looks like a perfect place to cool off in summer. And it is, if you enjoy skin irritation and fungal infections. But the strange thing is: I arrived expecting to find it black, not blue… Why
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Gruinard Island, in the north-west of Scotland, was where Britain tested its biological weapons. That story’s been told many times: but I found something in the archives that I don’t think anyone’s ever noticed before. Thanks to the boat crew and voice artists! Location fixer: Vikki McCraw at Locations 365 http://www.locations365.co.uk/ SOURCES from the National
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Some languages have longer words than others — but that’s not just a simple choice. There’s a lot of different ways to mix up morphemes, even if they all mean the same thing in the end. Written with GRETCHEN MCCULLOCH: http://gretchenmcculloch.com – http://twitter.com/GretchenAMcC [Update: her book BECAUSE INTERNET is out July 2019! https://gretchenmcculloch.com/book/ ] More
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http://tomscott.com – http://twitter.com/tomscott – There’s a strange avenue of trees in Richmond Park, ten miles from St Paul’s Cathedral; and an odd, wedge-shaped skyscraper in the city. At the New London Model, at the NLA Galleries at the Building Centre, I explain both of these. London is going vertical: but there are quite a few
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Decades before NASA’s Apollo program, the British Interplanetary Society wanted to go to the moon: in a spacesuit that looked like a suit of armour. Thanks to all the team at the National Space Centre: https://spacecentre.co.uk/ And to the British Interplanetary Society for their archive images: https://www.bis-space.com/ Drone filming by special permission of the National
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At the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, California, there sits a small teapot. It’s the world’s most famous teapot, after a computer graphics researcher called Martin Newell digitised it. You’ve probably seen it: here’s its story. And thanks to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California: you can visit them online here: http://www.computerhistory.org/
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In Helsingborg, Sweden, the Museum of Failure has just opened. It’s just one room, but inside, curator Samuel West has assembled some of the world’s greatest commercial disasters – and also a few things that just didn’t work out the way anyone planned. More about them: http://museumoffailure.se/ Edited by: Michelle Martin, @mrsmmartin I’m at http://tomscott.com
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I found an article that said “The microwave was invented to heat hamsters humanely in 1950s experiments.” And I thought, no it wasn’t. …was it? Pull down the description for thorough references and credits. Thanks to James Lovelock for his time! His latest book is Novacene: https://amzn.to/3hmKsWz [that is, of course, an Amazon affiliate link]
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Near the town of Herning in Denmark sits Elia, a giant metal dome sculpture by Ingvar Cronhammar that occasionally spouts flame. I reckon it’s the world’s most frustrating piece of art, and here’s why. Elia’s site: http://elia.dk I’m at http://tomscott.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at http://facebook.com/tomscott and on Snapchat and Instagram as tomscottgo
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http://tomscott.com – @tomscott – There are lots of interesting features in other languages, some of which English would really benefit from having. I’m going to talk about four of them: time-independence, clusivity, absolute direction, and evidentiality. Also, I’ve learned from last week: no irritating piano music this time! UNESCO list of endangered languages: http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/
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In the 1830s, two French brothers, François and Joseph Blanc, pulled off the first telecoms scam in history. The optical telegraph, a line of semaphore towers stretching from hilltop to hilltop, was for government use only: but something as simple as the law wasn’t going to get in their way. Thanks to Victoria Harrison for
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Ipley Cross, in the middle of the New Forest, is one of the most dangerous road junctions in Britain. Why? • Thanks to Bez, whoever you are: their definitive article on this junction is here: https://singletrackworld.com/2018/01/collision-course-why-this-type-of-road-junction-will-keep-killing-cyclists/ Edited by Michelle Martin https://twitter.com/mrsmmartin Graphics by Mat Hill https://mat-hill.xyz ADDITIONAL SOURCES: https://www.advertiserandtimes.co.uk/ipley-crossroads-campaign The UK government’s Traffic Signs Manual,
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Shakespeare sounds a certain way. Why? And why could it only work in English? • Written with Gretchen McCulloch of Lingthusiasm! Her podcast has an episode about how translators approach texts: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/632086691477323776/lingthusiasm-episode-49-how-translators-approach Gretchen’s book BECAUSE INTERNET, all about the evolution of internet language, is available: 🇺🇸 US: https://amzn.to/30tLpjT 🇨🇦 CA: https://amzn.to/2JsTYWH 🇬🇧 UK: https://amzn.to/31K8eRD (Those
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Go see William Osman’s video about building the car! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZK_fnS62Lk and thanks to Michael Reeves for being a guinea pig: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtHaxi4GTYDpJgMSGy7AeSw/ We built a car that you drive with real-life video game lag, and used it for an ill-advised, mostly-unscientific experiment about motion sickness. In case it wasn’t obvious: we did this in a
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Wind turbines have emergency exits, but they might not be for the reason you think. • Thanks to Octopus Energy: https://octopus.energy/octopus-fan-club/ (This video isn’t sponsored, but obviously they did let me go up their wind turbine.) Drone camera: Tom Francone Edited by Michelle Martin (@mrsmmartin) Thanks very much to all the team at Octopus Energy
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Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing. Thank you to Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles! Here are some of
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