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What do I do while people are singing "Happy Birthday"? What are mushrooms even? Is it okay to want people to not be wrong? And more!

 (00:00) to (02:00)

H: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John.

J: Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank.

H: It's a comedy podcast where me, Hank Green, and my brother, John, we answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon.  The first thing that I say on this podcast after the intro is, "John, how are you doing?"

J: I'm doing wonderfully, and I'll tell you why.  It's a very simple thing, but it's a huge deal.  Hank, for the first time in the history of our podcast, last week, we made no major errors.

H: Like we got no--we got no correction e-mails?  

J: We got some correction e-mails from people pointing out that the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is not actually about accountants, but I thought that was clear in context, so I think that we technically, no corrections, no flaws, a flawless performance last week from both Hank and John.  I can guarantee you one thing: that won't happen again this week.

H: Oh, no, no, definitely not.  We're gonna do our best to make as many mistakes as possible.  You know, John, I got a correction on Twitter.

J: Oh no!

H: From somebody who said that I mispronounced LaCroix, but in fact I did not!

J: Ah!  

H: Oddly enough, so I also thought that LaCroix was pronounced 'LaCroix' because it's got all those extra letters in it, so I figured that it was French, but in fact, LaCroix is made in America by the St. Croix River, which is spelled C-R-O-I-X and is pronounced 'Croix' soooo...yep.  It's Ameri--it's not French and they say on the website, it says right there, it's pronounced 'LaCroix' like 'Enjoy' apparently.

J: Ohh, that's adorable and wonderful news, because it means that I still--I get to read an actual short poem today instead of a short poem of correction which I'm very excited about.

H: Alright.  Do it.

J: Alright, Hank, I thought I'd read a little bit of a dark poem, but you know, this is a comedy podcast about death, so here's Complete Destruction by William Carlos Williams. 

 (02:00) to (04:00)

"It was an icy day.  We buried the cat then took her box and set fire to it in the backyard.  Those fleas that escaped earth and fire died by the cold."  Complete Destruction, by William Carlos Williams.  

H: You know, John, I have some trivia about William Carlos Williams to get us started.

J: I probably know it.  Was it that he was a physician and often wrote his poems on prescription pads?

H: Nope.  Um, it is about how he was a physician.  He believed, and he prescribed, in addition to prescribing poems, he prescribed yogurt baths.

J: Well, uh, follow up point.  While William Carlos Williams was probably wrong about yogurt baths, he was right about yogurt.  Lots of probiotics, or at least some yogurt has probiotics in it.

H: Yeah, yeah, in fact, he would also, he would often recommend that people would get yogurt enemas. 

J: Oh boy.  Okay.  Let's move on to some questions from our listeners.  

H: J-John, the thing that I'm doing right now, John, is making up fake stuff so that people--


H: --have stuff to give us corrections on.  I thought that you would catch on to that.

J: OHHHHH, no, no, no, no, no.  No.  But you can't--you can't correct yourself mid-pod, it ruins it.  

H: Right.

J: Also, people who stopped listening the moment you said 'yogurt enemas' are now going to walk around for the rest of their lives and be like, you know that guy who wrote the Red Wheelbarrow?  You won't believe this, but--

H: Yeah, I guess we can't--I thought that it was completely unbelievable, but you never know.  

J: Oh, I totally bought it, because, you know, like, 20th century medicine, especially pre-World War II was bananas.  Sometimes literally.  
H: Uh, well, John, before we get to the questions, I just wanna say the word LaCroix a couple more times in an effort to maybe clue in LaCroix that there might be a podcast interested in sponsorship, though I'll be honest, while I have brand affinity for LaCroix and I would not, for example, work with Dasani Sparkling Water because like, you can't get in on this thing, I'm sorry, you know, major cola brands.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

This is gonna have to be a separate thing that you will not, and in fact, there's Dasani Sparkling Water in my office right now and I'm very angry about it, but Polar, that would also be fine.  Seagrams, totally down with that.  Any of you guys wanna reach out, I'm a big sparkling water fan and I think it's all about, you know, the fact that sugar is gonna kill you if you--it's just a dangerous substance that is very addictive and that I love very much.

J: I agree with you almost 100%, Hank, the only thing that I disagree with is that, like, I think there are some configurations of sugar than can actually, of course, be really helpful.  You know, there are times when you need those quick simple carbohydrates.

H: Oh, sure.

J: And I think dismissing that entirely, you know, dismisses the nutritional value of Snickers bars, and that's offensive to me personally.

H: You know, John?  Ahh, I see, I see what you're saying here.  Well, I think that maybe we should leave this conversation up to Dr. Aaron Carroll at Healthcare Triage,, we're just leveraging things to promote more things.  We're never gonna get into questions.

J: Our constant begging for corporate sponsorship is the most reprehensible part of this podcast, and that's really saying something.  
H: Alright, John, I've got a question, it's from Emma, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, My birthday was a few days ago and I got a bunch of great shirts from"  Oh, Emma, you know how to get a question answered.  You know how to get a question answered on Dear Hank and John, don't you?  But Emma continues, "However, I need some advice.  What is the appropriate etiquette when people are singing Happy Birthday to you?  Do you smile and nod?  Do you sing along and sing Happy Birthday to yourself?  Or do you just sit there?  I have no idea what to do to avoid the awkward birthday scenario.  Any advice, even dubious, is welcome."  

J: Alright, Hank, when it comes to this stuff and also so much other stuff, I look to the Queen of England, because like, everytime the Queen of England appears in public, it's sort of similar to what it's like on your birthday when people are singing Happy Birthday to you, like, everybody's paying a lot of attention to the Queen of England, everybody's always singing a song that has her name in it, called 'God Save the Queen', and the way that she responds is smiling, the occasional wave, so I think when people are singing you Happy Birthday, you just smile, you listen, you're attentive, you try to make eye contact with as many people as possible but not in a creepy way, and then at an opportune moment, maybe when they say your name in the Happy Birthday song, you know, Happy birthday to Emma, that's when you go for the just for the real relaxed queen wave.  

 (06:00) to (08:00)

H: I--don't you just like, d--

J: I'm doing it right now, you can't see me, but I've got a fricking amazing Queen Elizabeth wave.

H: I was doing it too, honestly, I--I couldn't not, as you were saying it.  We're, just, John and I are sitting in different parts of America right now, making our hands do dumb stuff.  I--

J: No, there's nothing dumb about the Queen wave. 

H: I apologize, John.  I apologize for insulting the Queen wave.  I know that you are a big fan of the Queen wave and that you have a poster on your wall that says 'The Queen Wave' and it's just the Queen's hand and it's framed and it's got like a thousand dollar frame around it and it used to hang in a gallery of Queen waves and I know it's a big deal in your life, but so I deeply apologize.  

J: I mean, I know you're trying to create a world in which people will correct us, but th--everything you just said is true.  Uh, I am like a proper monarchist.  I don't think it's adequate just for the Queen to be seen as the head of state.  I think the Queen should be the Queen of the World.  Like, I think she should be the person who decides what is done in the world at all times.

H: Well, I honestly think that it would be pretty cool to have a world royal, and the Queen is as close as we have for sure.

J: Yeah.

H: But just not necessarily somebody who makes decisions, but somebody that we're all just sort of like, there for, and we're like, you know, that's a cool thing that we've got a World Queen and they have this, you know, sort of, like, fantastically large stipend but not sort of, like, any larger than any other rich person, but we all sort of see them as, you know, the royalty.  I think that's a good idea, and I would like to nominate my wife.  

J: Awwwww, that's very sweet, but unfortunately, that job is already taken by the great Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, and stop trying to dethrone her.  She is the greatest monarch of our time.  Or any time.  

H: She's very great, she's pretty great.  

J: I'm a little concerned that we've gotten somewhat away from the question.  

H: Right, well, I--well, we all do this.  Next time you're at a birthday party, with someone that you respect and think is--they're comfortable in every situation, just watch them and see what they do, 'cause I don't even know.  I'm just, like, I'm like, focusonthecake focusonthecake focusonthecake.  

J: Yeah, but you don't, you don't sing along to your own birthday song.

H: No.  Does the queen sing God Save the Queen, 'cause that would be funny.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

J: I don't know if the Queen sings God Save the Queen, because I've kinda set myself up rhetorically during this bit--

H: She's like, mouthing along with it.  --to be an expert.  

J: To make it seem like I know a lot about the Queen when in fact, the major things I know about her are that she is English and that she is old.  
H: And then a bunch of people seem to really like her.  Alright, John, do you wanna k--I honestly don't have any other--I just wanted to do the DFTBA call out, John, it's the only reason Emma got her answer questioned.  

J: You know what you can get at, Hank, that I keep meaning to mention is AFC Wimbledon scarves that are genuinely awesome and the money--the royalties from the scarves go to AFC Wimbledon, and they're only like, $10 or something, so yeah, while we're selling out, go to and get an AFC Wimbledon scarf.  Okay, we have another question, this one comes from Tim, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, When I recently went to a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I immediately realized that the majority of the people there were senior citizens.  I'm currently 19, which means there were few people of my age attending the concert.  My question is, what kind of music do you think those currently in their teens will be listening to in the future?

 (10:00) to (12:00)

Will we be seeing an elderly Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, or even Hank Green performing at Carnegie Hall in the distant future?  Will people listen to classical music in 2066?"  

H: Oh.  I would be happy to play Carnegie Hall in 2066, and in fact, I would like to reach out to Carnegie Hall right now and say, "Can I book a date sometime in 2066?  Do you have anything available, and is it possible I could lock in a rate right now?"  

J: I mean, uh, let's face it, Hank.  The reason, the main reason it would be awesome for you to play Carnegie Hall in 2066 is that it would mean that you're still alive.  

H: I would only be 86!  There's a pretty good chance I'll be alive when I'm 86.  I don't know that I'll be able to, like--

J: Oh, you're such an optimist.

H: I don't know if I'll be able to stand up in front of a room for an hour and not poop my pants, but you know, I'll be alive.  

J: Ohhh.

H: You know, just like, play one song and be like, I'll be right back, young folks.  You know, young 50 year olds and 60 year olds.  

J: I like this question...

H: I'm gonna go take care of some business.

J: I liked this question because I, of course, wondered this when I was a teenager and now I find myself 20 years removed from teenagerness and what has happened in our case, Hank, is that the bands that we thought were too, like, cool and progressive and important to ever be considered classic rock or oldies, nonetheless are now oldies.

H: Yes, very much.

J: Like, we are now as far removed from Nirvana's Nevermind as teenage-me was from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  

H: That is something else.

J: So what happens is that the music you like gets normalized and it starts playing in grocery stores and a new generation of old people will like classical music in 20 years and 40 years and 60 years, because I don't think people like classical music because it was popular when they were young, 'cause it wasn't.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

I think they like classical music because as they get older, they, you know, just value and treasure more on average, that's my guess, anyway.

H: Yeah, I mean, I think that it takes a certain amount of exposure and also patience to enjoy classical music in a fast-paced world where there's lots of new music always coming out, and I have found myself enjoying classical music more.  Still not listening to classical music stations or anything, but I can see myself in 30 years doing it, and I listen to jazz more, and I also think that we are all very lucky though it might seem a little bit unpleasant, you know, that moment when you hear 21 Pilots on the oldies station is when you know, that you know, at least you didn't die!  You might be old now, but what's the alternative?  The alternative is that you didn't make it this far!  

J: That's true.  At least you made it to become an oldie.  

H: Oh, that's gonna be something, John.

J: I don't know.  It's--there's no easy way to get old, though, Hank.  It's just--it's an undignified process.

H: Oh yeah.  Well, you know, yes, but I think that you can--there are ways to find dignity.  There are lots of dignified old people.  

J: Yeah, I'm just saying for me, I suspect that it's gonna--I'm gonna lack--I don't have a ton of dignity as it is.  I'm not going into middle age with like, you know, overwhelming amounts of dignity, so I'm a little concerned.

H: Well, I think it's something you might develop.  You don't--you might not have dignity right now, John, but maybe it's something that you're gonna have in the future, right?  Maybe?  Little bit?

J: Ugh.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.  Let's move on to another question.

H: I will also keep my fingers crossed for your dignity, John.  This one is from Hayley who asks, "Dear Hank and John, What food group do mushrooms fall into?  They don't seem like they would be fruits or vegetables, but then I looked up in the dictionary the definition of a vegetable, and it claims that all plants used as food are vegetables, which would make fruits also vegetables?  Basically, I'm very confused and hoping that you can clear some things up for me."  What do you think, John?

J: Yeah, no, this is a common question.

H: Oh, is it?

J: And the answer, of course, is that mushrooms are not food.

H: That's definitely not true.  

 (14:00) to (16:00)

J: Oh no, it is.  You can--I mean, you can eat mushrooms in the same sense that like, you know, you can Legos if you want to, but it doesn't make it food.  

H: Uh, well, the thing that makes mushrooms food is that they contain calories.  You can just eat mushrooms and survive.  I mean, not forever, but for longer than if you were just eating Legos.  

J: Mm, I think you could probably live for a few months on Legos.  I'd like to see some science on how long you can live on Legos.  

H: I think you'd need a new pair of teeth pretty quick.  Uhh, or maybe a new colon.  Did I say 'pair of teeth'?

J: Okay, I didn't pick the best non-food item, I'll admit, okay.  Like, obviously, if I could go back and pick a better example of a non-food item, I would.  Like, for instance, notebook paper would have been better, because that is more easily digestible than Legos.  

H: Yeah, you can at least swallow it.

J: But I'm stickin' with Legos.

H: Okay, we'll stick with Legos.

J: I'm gonna say Legos have calories, you could eat them, and they would provide some level of sustenance for some period of time.

H: Well, I d--

J: And that is a hill that I am ready to fight and die on.

H: You know, it depends on the Lego, John.  If it's been sitting in a box for a long time, maybe there are some bugs hiding in the little nooks and crannies of the Legos.  There may be some, some calories in Legos.  

J: I think if you water it down enough, it'll get mushy, but let's get back to Hayley's question.  Hank, are mushrooms vegetables or fruits or is this all a construct and none of it actually matters?

H: Well, yeah, I mean, it depends on who you ask.  I mean, it is, of course, all a construct and none of it really matters, which is, you know, the definition of life on Earth here as a human, but mushrooms, they are their own thing, as you say, according to the dictionary.  Any plant that you can eat is "a vegetable", but mushrooms are not plants, they are fungi.

 (16:00) to (18:00)

They are a whole different part of the biological tree.  They broke off from the rest of all, like, animals.  They broke off from animals after we broke off from plants, so we are more closely related to funguses than we are to, than we are to plants.  But--

J: Wow.

H: But, I did look this up, and the USDA, which decides, to some extent, what is a, you know, counts as a food group, you know, is what we're talking about, we're not talking about, like, biological classification, we're talking about food groups, the USDA says that they are a vegetable.  That they--that eating mushrooms falls into your fruits and vegetables category for the day, and this is because the USDA stands for US Department of Agriculture and there is a department of the United States government that is responsible for deciding what we eat, and they do not represent Americans, they represent  Americans who grow food, and I think this is extremely strange that it is basically--this is an organization that is out for the--basically, to cater to the interests of farmers, and they're telling people what to eat, not for the health of the people, but for the health of the agriculture industry.  This is very weird, and so they put it--you know, things like, you know, you're drinking like, orange juice and it tells you that it's a certain number of servings of fruit.   That's--those servings of fruit are about sales of oranges, not about the personal health of the individual.  It is--it is ludicrous and something that infuriates me whenever I see people talk about servings of fruits and vegetables, but yes, they--fungi are regulated by the USDA, and they were like, put us in there somewhere, people have to like, have a reason to eat mushrooms, and they go in the fruits and vegetables, 'cause they serve a lot of the same purpose.  They're healthy, they're low-calorie, they have high fiber, and they have a lot of vitamins and minerals.  They're very good for you, and in case anyone was wondering, John and I completely disagree about this, and they are delicious.  

 (18:00) to (20:00)

I love mushrooms!

J: Oh, God.

H: I don't love all mushrooms.

J: They taste like the dirt from which they came.  

H: Not a huge fan of those, like, button ones that they--that they like slice up on the pizzas, I don't love those ones, but there's so many different kinds of mushrooms with so many different kinds of flavors and a really great meat alternative as well, because they also have a lot of protein, but they're just a great food.  They're a great food and don't diss mushrooms, John, but you can diss the USDA and I will.

J: I just wanna clarify one thing, Hank, which is that not all of the dietary guidelines released by the government are released by the USDA, there are now, for instance, there is the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which you can find their dietary guidelines at

H: Oh.  Well, look at you!  That feels like a really good corporate sponsor there, John, seems like something we shouldn't be ashamed of.

J: Oh man, if would just send me 378 healthy bodies, that would be amazing!

H: You just like, pop into one, get it really unhealthy, pop into the next one, get that one really unhealthy.

J: Yep, exactly.

H: You've got a lot of Snickers bars to go through, John.  Well.

J: How do you eat 378 Snickers bars in two days?  Well, I'll tell you what the key is, being able to inhabit 14 bodies each day.  

H: You've gotta--yeah, you need a lot more Snickers bars now that you have 378 human bodies to go through.  

J: Alright, Hank, I have another question.  This one comes from Brendan, who asks, "Why do eyebrows matter so much to people?  I mean, they're literally just little strips of body hair above your eyes and so many people are obsessed with them.  I just don't understand why they matter so much."  Hank, you might guess why I wanted to ask this question.  It's because lots of people in comments of our YouTube videos are talking about my eyebrows and how they are reportedly thinning.  It is super annoying and it reminds me that if I were a woman on the internet instead of a man, I would be subjected to constant endless analyses of my physical body in ways that I would find completely destructive and would make it impossible for me to continue making things on the internet.

 (20:00) to (22:00)

So, um, uh, yeah, that's totally why I'm asking this question.  

H: I knew nothing about--I had never thought about your eyebrows until I watched that video, and then I was like, spent the whole--'cause I like, looked at the comments, people talking about your eyebrows, and I look at your eyebrows, and I'm like, ah, yeah, they are kind of weird.  Then I looked at my video and I was like, my eyebrows are kinda weird, too, they're pretty far apart.  We've got pretty far apart eyebrows, John.  We've got that thing going where our eyebrows are pretty far apart.

J: Right, and then you start to get in this, like, cycle of panic where you're like, oh, that's it, my career is over, my eyebrows are further apart than they used to be, and uh, boy, you know, like, on--

H: How do you wax?  How do you wax eyebrows?  Someone get me a candle!  How does this work?

J: Uh, no, I do--so I do pull my eyebrow hair out sometimes compulsively as part of this OCD thing that I have, but um, but I haven't lately.  It's been pretty well controlled actually, so it's curious to me that now is the time that it's coming up, but I don't know why they matter so much to people, Brendan, except that I think it frames the eyes for people and people like looking at eyes.  That's where people are usually looking.  They're looking at the thing that's looking at them, and so the eyebrows are sorta in your peripheral vision if you're staring intently into someone's eyes, so that's my theory about it, but I don't know, man, I also feel like eyebrows are a little overrated.

H: Yeah, I mean, faces are nice.  We like them.  And it is interesting that we have eyebrows at all.  They seem to be not just physically functional, but also socially functional.  It's a--it's one of the adaptations that we have that seems clear that it is a thing that we have for to help communication, and so to express emotion and even communicate nonverbally or over long distances and so like, we've developed these things to increase our ability to read the cues of other humans, which helped us be humans, and that's weird.  

 (22:00) to (24:00)

That's a cool thing that we have these structures on our faces that, if you like, took them out of context, would be quite weird, like, it's just this fuzzy thing that like, sits on top of your browline, it's these little caterpillars that you got up there, that's weird, that's weird.  Just like, you know, how many of the--if you took if out of context, of our body parts are weird.  Like, one of the things that I find most terrifying in the world, John, is thinking about animals with human hands on them instead of having feet, so like, if you think about like a horse with human hands, it's just like aahahahhaughhh.  Like, human hands are kind of terrifying when they're anywhere except on a human body.  Uh, yeah, but you know, it's all, it's all a construct and I wish that we didn't analyze ourselves so harshly, John, as people.  

J: I do occasionally have these moments, I don't know if you have these moments, Hank, where I'm able to zoom out and see human bodies like the way other animals might see them.

H: Yes.  Yeah, yeah, that's--yeah.

J: Or at least, like, in a way that doesn't feel like human to me, and I'm always just like, look at these--look at these ludicrous bodies and these weird people obsessing over them.  Like, they're so concerned with their bodies.  It's amazing.  

H: Yeah, yeah, I do have those moments.  It's like when you say a word long enough and you're like, this word doesn't actually--it's not a word.

J: Yeah.

H: It's like, when you, like, if you can get into the right mind, you're like, that is a weird shape for a thing to be!  

J: Yeah.

H: Look at people!  They're so weird!

J: They are weird.

H: And naked hairless things!

J: Yeah, yeah, I think it's mostly our lack of fur that I find so distressing.  We're very weird looking, like, just you know, if you compare us to all the other apes, we're by far the weirdest ones.  Like, apes must look at us, like, I bet like, an orangutan looks at a chimpanzee and is like, yeah, I get it.  

 (24:00) to (26:00)

I get it.  You're not bad.  And then an orangutan looks at a human and it's just like what is going on with you, man??  

H: What is this?  What did you do??  What happened, man?!  

J: You're kinda disgusting.

H: Are you okay?  Do you need to--

J: Did you commit some kind of original sin?  Turns out, yes.  

H: Alright, this question is from Paul, John, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, There are hand soaps and there are facial soaps.  Is it really necessary that I have both?  I think that I wash my hands and face a healthy amount and always use one or the other.  I feel like having two is unnecessary.  Does it really matter which one I use?  Is there any real evidence for having different soaps for different body parts?" 

J: Hank, I'm gonna be honest with you and say that this question falls way out of my fields of expertise.  

H: Well, it is different.  I will say that those soaps are different.  They are different things, you know, like, soap at its very basic is just a detergent agent.  You know, if you just have like, the cheapest off the shelf like, dish soap, it's just detergent, and that, you know, like, bangs up and breaks stuff and it makes it easier to wash oils in particular off of things, but also other, like, just anything, and that's like what soap used to be, and we have added things to soap, and that's, those things that we add, make them more expensive, and so the basic idea is that handsoap is a more, like, more primitive, I don't know, that might not be the right word, primitive kind of soap that since your hands are pretty tough and they can handle it, but face soap might have some, like, less of the detergent.  It might have more of some things like conditioners that sort of replace the oils that they might wash away from your face and make your face not feel all dry and gross, and that's obviously the same thing with shampoo.  It has, it has, you know, detergent to get rid of all the stuff, but then it actually replaces some of the stuff that it got rid of with some basically, like, you know, conditioning agents that are, in a way, they're like a new kind of oil that you are putting back into your hair to replace the oil that you just stripped away, and there's also all kinds of other stuff.

 (26:00) to (28:00)

You know, you might have moisturizers, you might have like, sudsing compounds that make it look sudsier and so you can like, feel it and like, enjoy the sudsy feeling, which doesn't actually have anything to do with the soapiness.  Soap chemistry is fascinating, and there are lots, there's lots that go into the different kinds of soaps that we have, which is why face soap, which is trying to be more careful with your skin, might be much more expensive than hand soap.  Also, of course, the marketing that goes into that is expensive as well.  So, there is a difference, but if you wash your face with hand soap and that doesn't bother you, don't spend extra money on face soap, and certainly do not wash your hands with face soap unless you have really sensitive skin, because that's just gonna put a hole right in your bank account, it's gonna be a hole in your pocket for the rest of your life.  That was my answer, I've had a lot of coffee today, John.

J: So, can I basically do whatever feels good when it comes to soap?

H: You know, John, do whatever feels good when it comes to soap.

J: Oh, that's--that's good to hear, 'cause I have often wondered about and worried about that, like, am I doing some damage to my skin and it's good to hear that uh, if it feels alright, I probably am alright, and it's nice to hear that from a beauty expert like yourself, Hank.  This next question comes from Jethro, who asks, "Dear John and Hank, A friend of a friend believes the Earth is flat.  They are clearly wrong," strong agree, "but I wanna know what you guys think.  How can I best argue against them when they say science and politicians are lying to them?  They also say they should be allowed to believe whatever they want and who am I to stop them?  Am I right to want other people not to be wrong?"

H: No.  No.  

J: Oh, this seems to me a question that is not really about whether the Earth is flat but instead about this weird post-fact world that we are living in where memes have taken on a kind of truth to them that is totally disconnected from what I think of as reality. 

 (28:00) to (30:00)

H: Yes.  This is an interesting question, 'cause there's the first part, which is like, how can I argue with this person who clearly just wants to argue and that's like, that's their main goal in having this ludicrous belief, which, don't.

J: Right.  Yep.

H: And then the other one is like, how do I come to terms with the fact that like, being wrong, like, like, isn't there just something wrong with being wrong?  And can't we agree on that?

J: Right.  Right.  Right.  This idea that like, uh, that people say, well, I should be allowed to believe whatever I want, it's very difficult to disagree with that.  I totally agree with you, like, don't get in arguments with people who just say things to be provocative, like, I used to work with someone who would regularly say that Abraham Lincoln was the worst American president, and there's only one reason to say that, right, which is to try to start an argument.  You know, anytime anybody would bring up the 19th century, they would be like, well, as you know, Abraham Lincoln was the worst American president, you know, and that's just like a dot dot dot and then you have to be like--

H: You know, I don't--

J: Mm, I--mm, I mean--he wasn't.  He wasn't.  He wasn't the worst.  It's probably in the top two, probably top one.  Anyway.  

H: Yeah.

J: As you can tell, I'm still a little annoyed about that, and but I just--it is--it's really difficult--you can't engage with people, I don't think it's effective to engage with people when they're merely being provocateurs, because of the 'never wrestle with a pig' axiom, you know, you get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.  The problem is that we seem to be living in this time where both wrestling with the pig and not wrestling with the pig are equally ineffective, and I feel totally powerless and clueless about how we're supposed to be proceeding as people who believe in science and people who believe in facts and I just feel like we've become unmoored from what I think of as like, fundamental reality, and it freaks me out and I don't know what to do about it.

 (30:00) to (32:00)

Yeah, I mean, there's this great thing that happened, called the Enlightenment, where we kind of all finally agreed that there was a way to get to objective knowledge and had a path to that, and it's almost like there's, at the moment, some kind of anti-enlightenment happening, and I agree that like--

J: Right, it's more than anti-intellectualism, right?

H: Yeah.

J: Like, it goes deeper than anti-intellectualism.  Claiming the Earth is flat is not just a rejection of the sort of like, you know, intellectual elite, it's a rejection of fairly fundamental observable knowledge.  

H: Yes.

J: --and it's imagining a world in which so many people are lying to you.  It just--that's what seems to weird to me about it.

H: Yeah, well, I mean, the thing, like flat Earthers honestly don't bother me because there aren't very many of them, and it's clearly ludicrous, but like, the, you know, people who deny the existence of global warming bother me.  Like, that--

J: Right.

H: That, it's just like, this is a thing that we are going to have to deal with as a species and the longer we argue about whether it exists, the less we're going to be able to do, and--

J: Right.

H: --and I think that there are a number of like, you know, it's almost as if data has become the enemy of the enlightenment, where there is so much data now that there will always be a study saying something--

J: Right.

H: --that is, you know, contrary to the big body, biggest body of evidence, and so you can latch onto those individual points, you know, and I will say that like, I don't think science has the solution for every problem.  I think that there are lots of good reasons to have other ways to examine the world, but I, you know, I am very--I'm a--you know, it's like a legitimate worry that I have right now and it stresses me out, this, you know--

 (32:00) to (34:00)

J: Oh yeah, no, it stresses me out too.  I also think that, you know, people end up not having these conversations like, across belief systems in ways that are really problematic, like, when we're talking about climate change being real, which it is and it's inarguable that it's real and it's inarguable that humans are causing it, we are 95% preaching to the choir, right?

H: Right.

J: Like, we are so siloed.  One of the shocking responses to the Nerdfighter census, at least to me, is that there are, you know, tens of thousands of people who filled out this census, and in the question, "Who do you plan to vote for for President?", Hilary Clinton is overwhelming in first place, Garry Johnson is in second place, Jill Stein is in third place, and Donald Trump got 4% support so far.

H: Yeah, yeah, and it--

J: From within people who identify as Nerdfighters.  I mean, that--that level of disconnect, like, that means that what I have always thought of as like a fairly inclusive community that's, you know, fairly representative of American life within certain, you know, age demographics, really isn't at all.

H: Yeah, the other thing is that 3% of those 4% said that they were begrudgingly supporting Donald Trump, because they saw him as the lesser of two evils.  Like, only 1% of our community is enthusiastic in their support for Donald Trump, and yet, uh, you know, 30% of likely voters are, and that is--

J: 40, 45% of likely voters, according to a poll that came out today.  It's very--it's a very weird time and um, and I agree with you, Hank, that data has in some ways become the enemy of science because it's so easy to cherrypick data now and it's really sad, and there's also, I think, I think something about the internet, and I worry that we feed into this a little bit, leads everybody to feel like they can become experts in something, and we feed into this a little bit, leads everybody to feel like they can become experts in something in 10-12 minutes, and I worry sometimes that we feed that belief, even though we try to be pretty careful because the belief itself seems to me really really destructive and really dangerous, because then you've got people who say, well, I know climate science is wrong because this person says it's wrong, and you know, here are two studies and that's that.

 (34:00) to (36:00)

It's really weird.  It's such a weird stressful time in American political life and you know, we are gonna--you and I personally, like, are much less at risk from this stuff than the people who are most in need of the protection of a government, and yeah, so, we're coming at this from a very privileged place, but it is scary I think no matter who you are.

H: Yeah, so Jethro, I think that the answer to your question is that you are right to want other people to not be wrong, but that we do not know how to get the world to a place where we can have those conversations effectively.

J: Ohh, God, no, we really don't.

H: And let's just have silence for the next 45 seconds while we mourn.  You really messed up our groove there, Jethro!  We were having a good time!  

J: Today's podcast is brought to you by the darkness.  The darkness: encroaching.  

H: Today's podcast is also brought to you by mushrooms.  They are not a vegetable, not a fruit, not even a plant, but they are a vegetable.  
J: That's actually a really good tagline for mushrooms.  Mushrooms: not a vegetable, not a fruit, just a vegetable.  

 (36:00) to (38:00)

And of course, today's podcast is also brought to you by the Queen wave.  The Queen wave: the number one way to make sure that people understand that you appreciate the Happy Birthday song.

H: And finally this podcast is brought to you by 378 healthy human bodies, delivered straight to your door from  

J: Man, poor  They're tryin'.  They're tryin'.  

H: That's what they do, right?  


J: I sort of feel like we've pulled ourselves out of the darkness from Jethro's question, but only sort of.  Let's move on to another question, Hank.  

H: Only sort of.

J: This question comes from Sahitya, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I'm currently in the process of applying to medical school, and like many people I know, I've had negative experiences with healthcare providers in the US.  It's alarmingly common for patients to feel dehumanized, dismissed, and ignored.  I know both of you have spoken about your experiences with chronic illness and John has talked about his experience as a hospital chaplain.  What ways have you seen healthcare professionals provide compassionate care?"  I should say that while I have had some negative experiences with my care, definitely, I've also had a lot of really, really positive ones.  I have a awesome doctor and I've had a few great ER visits.  My neurologist, when I had viral meningitis, was just amazing.  Just, like, let us now pause to give thanks for my amazing neurologist when I had meningitis.  I think usually when I've had not great care, and I don't know how you feel about this, Hank, but I usually feel like it's because a hard job, like, providing medical care is really really hard, and on a second by second basis, it's almost impossible to remember that each of these people, when you're going from person to person to person, that each of these people is under a tremendous amount of stress, that they're having a really difficult day in their lives, and to try to be as patient and careful as you need to be is really, really hard, and I think everybody's gonna fail at it sometimes.  It's just, you know, the important thing I think is remembering that, yeah, that these are human beings and that the care that you're providing, the medical side of it, is important, but making sure that people understand that they feel safe, that they know what's happening, that's as important as the medical part, I think, in a lot of cases.

 (38:00) to (40:00)

H: And I feel like, and I don't know if this is accurate, but like, in my experience with doctors, I feel like there is training that goes on to help them with this stuff, that to get better at it and to keep, you know--

J: Yeah, but it's not always adequate training.  Like, I remember when I was--

H: Sure, sure.

J: When I was a hospital chaplain, I remember a doctor like, pulled me out of a room with a family and she was a very young doctor, and she was like, I can't do this.  And I was like, excuse me?  And she was like, I can't talk to them right now.  And I was like, what do you mean?  And she was like, can you just tell them?  And I was like, no.  

H: I'm not a doctor, I'm just--

J: I was like, I literally, I literally can't, because of the law.  We're gonna have to like, man up and do this together.  

H: Yeah, I mean, I do see it as like there's a very weird thing, being a doctor--

J: It's so hard.

H: --where you go through, you go through so much education so that you can be a good doctor, and then you are also expected to provide excellent customer support, and--

J: Yeah.

H: --those are different skillsets, and it can often be like, did I spend all of this time ju--like, becoming, you know, like, becoming this, like a doctor, in order to get yelled at by someone, because I made a mistake, which I'm gonna do sometimes.

J: Right, yeah, there's the like, there's the organic chemistry side of being a doctor or any healthcare professional really, and then there's the side where you just--yeah, I mean, that stuff is so stressful.  Ahh, yeah, anyway, thank you for applying to medical school.  We wish you luck.  Hank and I would both be terrible doctors.

H: Yeah, I mean, yeah.  

 (40:00) to (42:00)

I think as long as you're thinking about it, then that's a really good sign, and my experience is having--I have also had really great doctors and have very few nasty things to say about them, but I, you know, I think that that is also true of most of the interactions I have in my life, so I think that, you know, like, the bad experiences tend to stick out in peoples' heads and then there are some people who have lots of bad experiences because they themselves are just very difficult people to work with, and that is not not a thing.

J: That is also true, although it should also be noted that this is another place where being white and male is provably--

H: Yeah, that is true.  That is true.

J: --easier.

H: And living in an affluent community where there is--are plenty of resources to support, you know, good hospitals with doctors who want to live in those communities, and it is a--it is a world of inequality and I'm on the good side of that curve.

J: Yeah, it is a very deep systemic thing, inequality, and it's like, really hard to even like, acknowledge or think about all the different ways that it factors into a human life, but I definitely feel that when I am at the hospital.  I definitely feel aware of it when I'm at the hospital.  Hank, I wanted to get to one last question, because it's just very important, before we get to the all-important news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon.  This question comes from Sarah, and she writes, "Dear John and Hank, Over the years, I've participated in many activities and sports that make me feel nervous prior to the activities, and along with feeling nervous, I always have to poop.  It's not just the gut clenching feeling.  I'll actually have to make a trip to the bathroom.  Several of my friends have also agreed that they get the nervous poops prior to an event, so I was wondering if you knew why this is?"  I like this question, and I like Sarah, because she had the courage to ask it.  

H: And not even anonymously, though Sarah's pretty anonymous.

J: Well, but I mean, she says that she talks to her friends about it, where she's just like, do you guys get the nervous poops?

 (42:00) to (44:00)

H: Yeah, I do, by the way, Sarah.

J: This is a real thing. This is a very, very real thing.

H: Yeah, and it seems to be a side effect of adrenaline. It makes you have to pee, it makes you have to poop. And, like, people will talk about reasons why this is a good thing if you are in a fight or flight situation. I just don't agree.

J: No, it's not good at all.

H: Never do I want to...I don't want another thing to have to start worrying about if about to get eaten by a tiger.

J: Totally agree.

H: And do you think it's not going to eat me just because I've got a little poop on my leg? No, it's gonna eat me. I'm food.

J: No, yeah I totally agree with you. I think that there is no evolutionary advantage in pooping the moment before you get attacked by a grizzly bear. There is this thing called the gut-brain axis, which I am totally fascinated by, where your gastrointestinal tract and your brain actually talk a lot to each other, a lot more than other parts of your body talk to your brain in many cases. And part of that also is that the bacteria in your gastronintestinal tract - I've been reading this great book called "I Contain Multitudes" that talks a lot about this - you know the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, like, give off different chemicals, and different signs, and so it may also be partly that. That when you get anxious, the gut-brain axis begins firing signals of anxiety back and forth until, ya know, suddenly you have to poop. But, it's ok, it's normal and I just hope that for your sake it doesn't interfere with your sports or other activities. Yeah.

H: The traditional medical explanation for this is that when adrenline starts running your body moves resources away from your core and into your limbs. Which are necessary for fighting and running and stuff. And also that's good for sports.

 (44:00) to (46:00)

But, and that means that it's moving resources away from your digestive system and it might think, like, oh, like, let's just abandon all of this and maybe things relax?  But also there's some amount, I think, of cramping that happens, so it's not just like that all your sphincters relax, it's all of the, like, there's like, some parastalysis waves of muscle contractions going down your colon being like, okay, let's empty this out 'cause we're not gonna deal with it, we don't wanna deal with this right now, we wanna deal with other things, there's gonna be other things to deal with, so let's just stop digesting right now, get rid of everything in the digestive system and not worry about that.

J: You're making me a little nervous just by talking about this.

H: Do you not like the word parastalysis, because I love it.  Such a fun word.

J: That might be the problem.  It's more that I don't like imagining--I don't really like imagining what's happening on the inside of me very much, I find it deeply threatening to my sense of self.  

H: I have to have--

J: So with that said, let's move on to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, Hank, what's the news from Mars this week?

H: Okay.  Uh, if you, I don't know if you've seen if you follow me on Twitter or Tumblr, you probably have, Curiosity have sent back some images as it has begun to traverse away from the ancient lakebed that it has been hanging out in, into the mountains surrounding the lakebed, and as it has done that, the topography has become much more interesting and much cooler and the photographs that it's sending back have been gorgeous, and they just released a few of these that they did some good post-production on, showing not just, you know, really cool geographic landscapes and like, some vistas and you know, basically it looks a lot like sort of old, like, 1870s photographs of the American southwest, but also the like, taking close up shots of cliff faces that are very clearly layer after layer after layer like, hundreds of layers of sediment laid down likely either in a lake-like situation or in a stream situation, and that just--it isn't, like, the more time we spend on Mars, the more it's like, oh we thought that this was, you know, a place where there's, you know, no water and no life but for a long time there was a lot of water on the surface of Mars, and the more time we spend there, the more we see it, and also like, what that leads to is, you know, scientific interest for sure, but also like, the action of water in a geological system is also just aesthetically really pleasing, and even after that water has been gone for a long, long time, the forms that were left by that water spending time on the surface of the planet, doing cool things, remains just beautiful, and so like, as much as this news is not about the science of Mars, it's just about the aesthetics of Mars, I think everybody should look at those pictures because it's wonderful.

 (46:00) to (48:00)

It's wonderful to have such a high quality set of imaging systems on the surface of Mars right now, and also in such a geographically diverse and interesting place on the surface of Mars as well. 

J: Well, I have to say that I completely agree with you about how aesthetically beautiful it is to see the remnants of water's work on Earth or stone, so for once, I am pretty psyched to check out these Mars pictures, but I will emphasize that it's to take them without putting any human beings on Mars, at least until 2028 or later.  

H: And there's an article in the Wall Street Journal right now that compares these photographs to photographs from Timothy H. O'Sullivan, the 19th century philoso--er, photographer.  He might also have been a philosopher, you know.  

J: Aren't all photographers philosophers of a kind?  Um, well, the news from AFC Wimbledon is somewhat less aesthetically beautiful.  Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, 3-2 loss to Sheffield United last week.

H: Oof. 

J: Haaaah.  You know, uh, some encouraging news, this new player Dom Polion scored a goal.

 (48:00) to (50:00)

Tom Elliott came on in the second half and scored a goal, but the Dons defense continues to let in too many goals and playing from behind too often, giving up leads too often, we found all the major ways to lose, and right now, not at the very bottom where we were after the first couple games, so I guess that's good news, but with five points after seven games, AFC Wimbledon are 21st, which is the last relegation spot or the first relegation spot, so if the season were to end today, they would be relegated back to League Two.  Side note: a semi-related thing that would be of some interest to AFC Wimbledon fans, the franchise currently playing in Milton Keynes has played seven games and has only eight points, so is currently sitting in 15th place in League One, not too terribly far from AFC Wimbledon.  Swindon Town, a team that I used to play FIFA as for a long time, is in 16th, also having a difficult season in League One, so it's been, you know, it's been a long seven games, but hopefully, I don't know.  Yeah.  We'll see.  Ti--the season is long.  I get to go to a game soon, I'm excited about that.  

H: Um, good.  I'm also excited about that, and the chances of it being a really fantastic experience, though, John, seem low.

J: Oh wait, what's that?

H: I was just saying that you're probably gonna go to watch your team lose and I'm sorry.

J: Oh yeah, yeah.  I mean, statistically, that is probably what's going to happen, but you never know.  Anything is possible, and I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.

H: Alright, well, John, thank you for the news from AFC Wimbledon.  What did we learn today?

J: We learned that Abraham Lincoln was America's worst president, is the kind of thing you say if you want to start an argument.  

 (50:00) to (51:36)

H: We learned that humans are ugly, naked apes because of original sin.

J: I don't think that's actually what we learned.  We learned that old people will always like classical music.

H: And we learned that, of course, William Carlos Williams was a big proponent of taking baths in yogurt, warm yogurt, big tubs full of yogurt, and I'm totally not making that up at all.

J: It seems very plausible to me.  Thanks for listening. Hank, thank you for podding with me.  You can e-mail us at  You can also follow us on Patreon or support the podcast directly at  Again, our e-mail address is  Nicholas Jenkins edits our podcast.  Rosianna Halse Rojas helps out with questions.  Our theme music is by Gunnarolla.  I'm @johngreen on Twitter, Hank is @hankgreen on Twitter if you want to say hi to us there.  You can also use the hashtag #dearhankandjohn, we get some questions that way.  Thank you again for listening, and as we say in our hometown--

H: Wait!  Wait!  Wait, wait, wait, wait.  Wait, wait, wait.

J: Wait? Wait?  Wait?  Wait?

H: Also, starting this week, we have Victoria Bongiorno, who is running Dear Hank and John, helping out with the Patreon and with social media stuff and also various other things, taking over for Claudia is Victoria.  Hello, Victoria.

J: Thank you, Victoria.  I apologize for missing your name in your very first week on the job.  

H: And as they say in our hometown...

H&J: Don't forget to be awesome.