Tom Scott

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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“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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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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In Ocado’s grocery warehouses, thousands of mechanical boxes move on the Hive. Are they all individual robots? Or is this one giant hive mind? • Thanks to Ocado: https://www.ocadogroup.com/technology/technology-pioneers (this video is not sponsored, and they had no editorial control). Reference: Strandwitz P. (2018). Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain research, 1693(Pt B), 128–133.
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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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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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Near Bodø in Norway, there’s the strongest tidal current in the world: Saltstraumen Maelstrom, a constantly-changing rush of whirlpools, boils and vortices. It might not be quite the whirlpools of myth and legend, but it’s still an impressive sight to see. I’m at http://tomscott.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at http://facebook.com/tomscott and on Snapchat
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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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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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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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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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GPT-3: not quite up to the task. Yet. • ElectroBOOM: https://youtube.com/electroboom • Answer in Progress: https://youtube.com/answerinprogress • hbomberguy: https://youtube.com/hbomberguy • MrBeast: https://youtube.com/mrbeast6000 Includes text generated by OpenAI’s GPT-3 at my request: https://openai.com • OpenAI had no control or sign-off on this video, although I agreed to abide by their ethical guidelines and social media policy.
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Grey? Blue? Purple? It can look different, depending on the context. Let’s talk about color perception, color temperature, and the history of laundry. Atmospheric opacity image from ESA/Hubble (F. Granato): https://www.eso.org/public/images/atm_opacity/ – image licensed under CC by 4.0 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ The optical illusion is original, but based on the work of David Novick: https://twitter.com/novickprof/status/1139342022551191553 More
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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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I didn’t even realise that “low explosives” were a thing; let’s talk about deflagration, detonation, and how high explosives can actually be safer. • Thanks to Steve from Live Action FX: http://liveactionfx.com/ Filmed safely: https://www.tomscott.com/safe/ Camera: Simon Temple http://templefreelance.co.uk Edited by 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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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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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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Explosions on film are made to look good: fireballs and flame. In reality, though, they’re a bit disappointing. Here’s how Hollywood does it. • Produced with an experienced, professional pyrotechnician. Do not attempt. Thanks to Steve from Live Action FX: http://liveactionfx.com/ Filmed safely: https://www.tomscott.com/safe/ Camera: Simon Temple http://templefreelance.co.uk Edited by Michelle Martin: https://twitter.com/mrsmmartin I’m at
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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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4 minutes remaining. Then 15 seconds. Then 5 hours. Why can’t computers just tell you how long something’s going to take? • MORE BASICS: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL96C35uN7xGLLeET0dOWaKHkAlPsrkcha Written with Sean Elliott https://twitter.com/SeanMElliott/ • Graphics by William Marler https://wmad.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 tomscottgo
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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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“Non-brewed condiment” is what they call it: it’s chemically very similar to proper vinegar, a mixture of ethanoic acid, colourings and flavourings, but it’s put together by just combining simple chemicals rather than brewing. Hardly anyone knows, and those that do know don’t generally care; so here’s my question. Does it matter? Thanks to Matt
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Olds Engineering, a traditional workshop and foundry, sits in Maryborough, Australia. It’s not the sort of place you’d expect to find a new industrial invention in the 21st century: and yet the Olds Elevator, patented by Peter Olds, is just that. More about Olds Engineering: https://www.olds.com.au/ and the Olds Elevator: https://www.oldselevator.com/ Edited by Michelle Martin
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http://tomscott.com – http://twitter.com/tomscott WITH THANKS TO: Colin Furze – http://youtube.com/colinfurze – for letting me try his Magneto shoes, and Matt Gray – http://mattg.co.uk – on camera! “Fail-safe” doesn’t mean “we have a backup”, it means “if this fails, nobody gets hurt”. So I went to see the master of inventions that aren’t failsafe, Colin Furze,
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On the river Rhine in Switzerland, there are reaction ferries: boats with no engine, no paddles, no onboard motive power at all. Here’s how they work — and a question about what other simple ideas are out there. 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
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Many people sent me this story: it covers my favourite topics of power grids and temporal anomalies. But when the mainstream press have already covered it, how could I add something more? The answer: by adding another pet topic, Unnecessary British Patriotism. And a teasmade. Press release: https://www.entsoe.eu/news-events/announcements/announcements-archive/Pages/News/2018-03-06-press-release-continuing-frequency-deviation-in-the-continental-european-power-system.aspx Teasmade: http://amzn.to/2oYrvxb [aff. link] Update, April 8th
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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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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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Tim Berners-Lee envisioned a “universal information system”. What went wrong? • MORE BASICS: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL96C35uN7xGLLeET0dOWaKHkAlPsrkcha Written with Sean Elliott https://twitter.com/SeanMElliott/ • Camera by Tomek • Graphics by William Marler https://wmad.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 tomscottgo
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Britain has some of the strongest product placement rules in the world – and it means YouTube vloggers have to declare their advertising before you click on the video. Why? And what did it mean for our version of The Price is Right? Thank you to Rob (http://twitter.com/readwriteerase) for stepping in as camera operator at
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