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Creator / Tom Scott

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And that is something you might not have known!

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Tom Scott is an English YouTuber known for the Citation Needed series created with The Technical Difficulties. While at uni, he formed the TechDefs originally as a radio group consisting of Tom's friends Chris Joel, Gary Brannan, and Matt Gray. Most of their material are panel games, where they can show off their one-of-a-kind sense of collective humor. Tom has a degree in linguistics, but also regularly makes videos about computers, engineering, history, and many other topics. He and fellow youtuber Matt Gray had a series called The Park Bench, on their shared YouTube channel Matt and Tom, where they talk about experiences and what happened behind the scenes on their videos, on a park bench.

Tom also maintains his own YouTube channel, Tom Scott, with his own musings on society and technology as well as a variety of video series (with and without The Technical Difficulties):

  • The Technical Difficulties (2010), a three-show pilot of a potential live-action adaptation of their university radio show. Unusually for the TechDifs, this show was more of a talk/sketch show.
  • Reverse Trivia Podcast (2012-2014), where Tom takes a deck of classic trivia cards, reads out an answer and the gang tries to guess the question.
  • Citation Needed (2014-2018), where Tom pulls up a Wikipedia article and challenges the rest to guess who or what the article is about. Easily their most successful series so far.
  • Two of These People Are Lying (2019-2021), where Chris, Gary and Matt all give three different definitions of a given subject, and Tom has to pick which one is the true definition.
  • Things You Might Not Know, where Tom discusses cool factoids and information.
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  • Amazing Places, where Tom visits and discusses interesting attractions or geographical oddities in the world, mostly in Europe, Canada, and the US.
  • Built for Science, where Tom visits facilities designed to help understand and better the world around us.
  • The Basics, computer science issues and challenges explained by Tom.
  • , videos from any of several possible futures where technological advancement has surpassed social growth.
  • How to be Popular on the Internet, Tom discussing his personal experience with his occasional flirts with virality on the internet, and his more general online popularity.
  • Tom's Language Files, a series where Tom discusses quirks in human language. Originally posted from 2013-2015, it was revived in 2019 in conjunction with a new book by Gretchen McCulloch titled Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of the Language.
  • Game On, Lateral, and The Game Garage, other, smaller game shows hosted by Tom.
  • Money, a Nebula original game show with elements of The Genius.
  • Disconnected, in a social distancing world, Tom brings three video chats to the Broadcast Tower for a quiz show with an elimination twist...

In 2021, he launched an additional channel, Tom Scott plus, which features team-ups with other Youtubers for videos in which Tom does things he's never tried before (ranging from mundane tasks like blind-flying a light aircraft to dangerous challenges like riding a bicycle for the first time).

And these are some tropes you might not have known:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Discussed briefly in "Why Shakespeare Could Never Have Been French", the topic of which was lexical stress.
    Tom: "And if you put the stress on the wrong sylLABle, it sounds ridiCUlous."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Tom Scott mentions that the bottom of his list of best things included many nasty diseases, unpleasant concepts... and one of the Twilight movies.
  • Asbestos-Free Cereal: Discussed in "The Hidden Rules of Conversation", including a link to the trope-naming xkcd comic.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
  • Bilingual Bonus: Though Tom himself only knows English fluently, his series on linguistics have some fun things written in other languages for those who know them. For example, in "Ghoti and the Ministry of Helth" he shows a series of three cards written in Quikscript (a new alphabet script created to replace the Latin alphabet for English in the 1920's), English, and Hindi while talking about how learning how to use different sets of squiggles is time-consuming for adults. The English card reads "Deciphering the non-Latin 'sets of squiggles' is left as an exercise to the reader"; should the viewer take the time to translate, the Quikscript card is revealed to have the first three lines of the chorus from "Never Gonna Give You Up" while the Hindi card reads "You know Hindi! That's awesome! Unfortunately I don't, I used an automatic translator."
  • Bookends: Lateral starts with Team Terminator (Kat and Helen Arney) against Team Viva la Vida (Simon Clark and Sally Le Page). The grand finale is a rematch between these two.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In a video on virtual private networks, he concludes that the people who most have a genuine need of one are (a) people who need to learn about things their oppressive society discourages, (b) people circumventing region-based content restrictions, and (c) people doing crimes — or, as he summarizes, "gay people, pirates, assassins, and gay pirate assassins".
  • Brits Love Tea: Averted. At the end of his video explaining in detail how to make an International Standard cup of tea, Tom nonchalantly mentions that he doesn't even like tea.
  • Broken Record:
  • Corpsing: In How Weird Is My Audience? Tom polled people to give a suitable name to a particularly scruffy-looking owl. At the end of the segment, he rattles off a list of outliers such as Clovenhorn, Destroyer of Mars, Baron Von Murderpillow, and Miss Scarlet Blumburton of East London, without too much trouble. He starts to break with the penultimate name on the list (XxX_The_-Mouse_Killer_69_XxX) and absolutely loses it with the final name: Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
    • Neither he or Matt can keep a straight face in the aforementioned Park Bench Public Apology.
  • Curtains Match the Window: Not so much in his earlier videos but starting around 2014 his hair started going from brown to blond. In bright lighting it appears the same colour as his eyes, which are greenish-grey.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: So You've Learned to Teleport. A video that could be the Trope Codifier for the trope, as he explains how someone with the power of teleportation could literally become a billionaire overnight... instead of taking the tired old route of becoming a supervillain. The specific example that Tom notes is using large and dense objects to extort the governments of the world.
  • Crossover: If Educational Videos Were Filmed Like Music Videos features an appearance from music YouTuber doddleoddle to act as a channel cross-promotion and as part of a demonstration to the common tropes played out in music videos.
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: Discussed in "How The 90s VHS Look Works". Tom talks about how the colour resolution is less than the brightness resolution, how wrinkles in the tape produce lines in the picture, how specks of dust create random dots on the picture, and many other things about why VHS looks the way it does
  • Didn't See That Coming: Tom and Matt didn't think a social media app based exclusively on emoji would need a swear filter. They were very wrong.
    Tom: So many eggplant emojis.
  • Don't Try This at Home: A video in which Tom is set on fire as part of a stunt begins with an intro that emphasizes that the video was filmed under the supervision of a specialist stunt team who are experts specifically in setting people on fire safely. The intro ends with Tom saying, "Do not try this anywhere."
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The premises for Things You Might Not Know, Amazing Places, and Built for Science are rather self-explanatory.
    • From a meta perspective, one of Tom's videos discusses entropy, automation, Twitter bots, and other related topics. As an example of the phenomena he discusses, he titled the video "This Video Has [X] Views" and wrote a script to update the title to reflect the current view count that he admits will break at some point. Not only is this Tom's most viewed by quite a long way due to the inherent Streisand Effect nature of viewers keeping tabs of the video title, but the script is still working flawlessly as of December 2021.
  • Failure Gambit: After losing a bet of who would win the 2010 Super Bowl, he ran for Parliament. He ran for London and Westminster as a pirate character, and knew that he wouldn't affect the elections in any way. He lost.
  • Gilligan Cut: "Is The Most Northern Part Of Iceland Still There?" is about the island of Kolbeinsey, the northernmost point in Iceland for several centuries but has been subject to rapid erosion due to being a basalt formation from a volcanic eruption as well as sea erosion; its article on That Other Wiki mentioned that it was expected to disappear completely by 2020 when the video was filmed (short answer: the island's still there; the Wikipedia article has since been updated to mention Tom's escapade showing it's still there as of August 2020). While he's taking a walk near the Icelandic town of Akureyri, he mentions there's no way for a tourist to take a boat out to Kolbeinsey (about 100 miles/160 kilometers north of where he's walking) and the only way to see if it's still there is to charter a plane.
    (Video cuts to him walking towards a plane)
    Tom: So I chartered a plane!
  • Grammar Nazi: Defied for the most part. In his series of videos about linguistics, he describes himself as a descriptivist which means he explains the grammar rules of a language but doesn't insist that they should be followed; he focuses on whether someone could be understood. However, he makes an exception for the gender-neutral pronoun "they", and takes exception to languages like German and Spanish that use different genders for a wide array of subjects. He is run over by a bus sent by the Descriptivist Mafia at the end of that video.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Slips into this for around 30 seconds in "Why Shakespeare Could Never Have Been French", to explain how iambic pentameter works.
  • Iconic Outfit:
    • Is seen mainly wearing red T-shirts or gray hoodies in his videos.
    • He's also had one he's since retired: his "Nordic" hoodie. In 2013 he retired it, in front of a live audience at Thinking Digital by telling the hoodie's life story, and then lighting it on fire.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In his talk titled "Single Point of Failure: The (Fictional) Day Google Forgot To Check Passwords", the one who causes the eponymous Point of Failure causes such in order for news the elite would rather stay buried to come to lightnote . The last time Tom talks of her, he mentions she went to catch a flight out of the country, presumably to avoid the consequences of this action. Until the very end of the talk, where he reveals she was arrested at the airport; her flight was delayed as the airport systems, like a lot of modern infrastructure, ran the very same Google programs her actions forced offline.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Tom always wears a red T-shirt, blue jeans, and a grey hoodie. He liked red, and after working on a TV show, he found that wearing identical clothes was better for continuity, so all red it was.
  • LOL, 69: A completely accidental example when he ran a poll that tried to rank things to figure out what is the best thing based on online user participation (from a curated list of things that left off items like groups of people because that would have been major Flame Bait) and then randomly comparing one to another in a series to see which item does the best overall. Out of a total of 7,188 things, the highest-rated sex-related thing was "orgasm" which got...69th place. Tom swears he didn't make that up.
  • Loophole Abuse: Discussed in "Five Things You Can't Do On British Television": There's a law against hypnotising the audience on British television... but there's also ways to get around that, and brings up a 2009 special where magician Derren Brown uses (literal) textbook hypnotic techniques on the viewing audience, but since he never claimed it was hypnosis it wasn't technically against said law.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In "Why This British Crossroads Is So Dangerous", five vehicles in the background ignore the crossroad's stop signs as Tom explains how deadly that junction's blind spot is.
  • Mood Whiplash: In Stealing Our Friend's Brain Backup PRANK (GONE WRONG!!!) 🤯🤯🤯, after Tom's comforting and relaxed voice in the intro, it goes straight to two people screaming their heads off.
    Tom: This is a YouTube video from a future. Not the future, just a future.
    (intense music, gunshot plays)
    Aaron: AHHHHH! Jesus Christ!!
  • Nu Speling: Tom discusses how spelling has diverged in different parts of the English-speaking world over different times in "Ghoti and the Ministry of Helth", such as "today" being spelled "to-day" in the past.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: In Accidental Emoji Expert, Tom notes that The Unicode Consortium sounds like a name for a mysterious group of villains, but really they handle the way computers deal with text and languages. Or, as the internet seems to think, just emoji.
  • The Oner: Probably the most recognisable aspect of his style. He will often cut to B-roll footage of whatever he's talking about, but if a video consists of just him talking at a camera, he will more often than not deliver his script in a single, unbroken take. A notable example of that, the whole Will YouTube Ever Run Out Of Video IDs? video is over five minutes long and was completed in one take, as Tom enthusiastically celebrates at its end. He does it again in "Why You Can't Buy Dasani Water in Britain", though it is sadly undermined by people honking their horns at him while driving by.
  • Perpetual Motion Machine: Discussed in "Wheels, Bombs, and Perpetual Motion Machines". Tom not only shows a machine kept in the Royal Institution's archives to demonstrate the flaws of one possible design, but also discusses in clear terms why it wouldn't work. Dispensing with the physics and thermodynamics explanations, Tom states that such a machine would be able to power progressively larger machines until the energy output could affect Earth's rotation, and such a machine connected to itself would effectively become a bomb.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: The lack of subtitles in Youtube videos really sets him off.
    Tom: (mockingly) "Oh look at me, I've bought a Lamborghini!" (normal) "Buy some damn subtitles."
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Inverted. Colour-wise (see Iconic Outfit) Tom wears red and Matt wears blue. However, as seen on Matt and Tom and Citation Needed, Tom is usually the calmer one while Matt is the one that gets stuck in 2-minute giggle loops.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: So You've Learned to Teleport also discusses the beneficial ways that a teleporting superhero could benefit human society, ranging from generating free electricity to kickstarting human colonization of space.
  • Retraux: The opening and ending of How the 90s VHS Look Works are produced as a 90s TV programme, complete with aforementioned Deliberate VHS Quality and a Continuity Announcement at the end.
    • One segment of YouTube's Copyright System Isn't Broken, The World's Is is presented in simulated 240p quality and a 4:3 aspect ratio as Tom discusses YouTube's earliest days.
  • Rule of Funny: Tom admits that some of his bodged inventions and ideas were based entirely on "it seemed like a funny idea." This included a social media app where only emoji were usable, and a livestream consisting purely of the livestream's chat being printed and immediately shredded, just because he could.
    • In his Accidental Emoji Expert talk, Tom briefly nods to this as a reason why emoji suddenly exploded with popularity with the release of the iPhone.
    • Why did Tom build a 1927 patent for a lie detector that amounted to little more than "show the person a skeleton and ask them to tell the truth"? Because he could.
  • Rule of Three: In "YouTubers have to declare ads. Why doesn't anyone else?", Tom showcases several instances of product placement in shows and music videos. After showcasing a product placement for Subway, Tom appears with a sandwich in his hand, which he takes a bite from. After showcasing a product placement for Sonic, the sandwich switches to a milkshake, which he takes a sip from. After showcasing a product placement for Vape, the milkshake switches to a vape pen,note  which he takes a drag from, before having a violent coughing fit and cutting to a different take.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: The topic of "Why Web Filters Don't Work: Penistone and the Scunthorpe Problem".
  • Shout-Out:
  • Special Guest:
  • Springtime for Hitler: How he got elected as Student President at the University of York, in the personification as a pirate. He got connected with the American founders of "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and created the persona "Mad Cap'n Tom". Eventually got into radio interviews and children's TV programmes and even going to Alton Towers Theme Park. While he was in another country, a friend of his filled an application in for him as a candidate. He went through with it, including joke proposals and wanted to lose by one vote, just to mess with everyone. He won, and aggravated the other serious candidates.
  • Strictly Formula: "The Islands With Too Much Power" starts with Tom saying "I'm standing somewhere windswept and talking about infrastructure. Yes, I have a style."
  • Take That!:
    • In his lecture on "There is No Algorithm for Truth", Tom points out before the presentation that Google indirectly pays his rent via the ads he runs on the videos, specifically the money comes from Google Ireland. For those that don't follow, the "Google Ireland" part is a jab at Google using Irish banks as a Tax Haven.
    • Tom's video on determining "the best thing" through an online poll has a collective one delivered by his audience. At the bottom of the list are a lot of nasty diseases and unpleasant concepts, as well as one of the Twilight movies.
    • After determining that the 1927 Lie Detector Skeleton does not work, Tom concludes that it's just like all the other lie detectors in that way.
  • Trolling Creator:
    • In his video Will YouTube Ever Run Out Of Video IDs?, he shows the URL "" as an example YouTube URL. You have to deliberately type that URL into the address bar, but if you do, you'll have been tricked by one of the sneakiest Rickrolls on YouTube.
    • At the end of his video Why Old Screens Make A ᴴᶦᵍʰ ᴾᶦᵗᶜʰᵉᵈ Noise, there's a Morse code in high frequency tones, it says "Never gonna give you up''.
    • His Thinking Digital 2009 talk on graphs included a red and green pie chart about red-green colourblindness, and a moment where he suddenly goes quiet and looking awkwardly at the back of the room. The next slide is a percentage of "Audience members who look away if you look over their shoulder and trail off."
  • Unflinching Walk: Done at the end of his video explaining the differences between "real" explosions (engineered with powerful explosives, meant to induce severe damage) and "movie" explosions (engineered for visual flair, but causing minimal damage). Tom grins cheerfully as he detonates the explosives for the "movie" version, staring unflinchingly at the camera as a massive ball of fire forms behind him.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed in Stealing Our Friend's Brain Backup PRANK (GONE WRONG!!!) 🤯🤯🤯, a potential future where a prank channel star sees torturing an artifical intelligence copy of their roommate as hilarious content. His accomplice clearly starts having second thoughts at one point.