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Can you separate the artist from the work? How do bugs survive microwaves? Will we ever be a perfectly unified planet? And more!

Sarah's cookies! https://digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/sarah755035

NerdCon: Nerdfighteria: www.nerdconnerdfighteria.com/
Email your questions: hankandjohn@gmail.com

  Introduction (0:00)


Hank: Hello! And, welcome to Dear Hank and John!

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

Hank: It's a comedy podcast where me and my brother, John, we answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the weeks news from both Mars and AFC Wimbleton. How you doing, John?

John: I am doing... alright. I'm alright.

Hank: Yeah?

John: Uh, you know Hank, as you-- as you may be aware, I am a semi-professional player of the video game Fifa.

Hank: Mmhm

John: And the two star players, uh, on my team, AFC Wimbleton, uh, are named John Green and John Green. They're two people who are married to each other, they, uh, co-parent a child named JJ. And, uh, I just, uh, I just received terrible, terrible news--

Hank: Uh oh.

John: That bald John Green broke his ankle--

Hank: Oh gosh!

John: Uh, and he's out for three months. He's out for three months.

Hank: Oh man. Oh...

John: And I, I just don't have a really deep squad--

Hank: *laughs*

John: Because, uh, you know, it's AFC Wimbleton.

Hank: Yeah.

John: Yeah, we don't have a ton of money, and we can't afford to lose a player like bald John Green, so I'm furious with the Oxford United player who made that horrible tackle, I'm furious with the referee for not making it a red card tackle, I'm just, I'm just annoyed.

Hank: Oof!

John: But other than that, I'm doing well. How are you?

Hank: Oh, well if it's in the game, John, it's in the game. I'm good. I have a sore throat and I'm worried that it's gonna get worse. I--I feel like I'm at the stage where it's like, "Oh! I'm getting sick aren't I. Uh, what should I do to prevent this from happening? Take all of the pills that don't do anything, quick!" And so I do that, and then I get sick anyway because the pills don't actually do anything, but they sure are marketed to make us think that they do, uh, and also we will do anything to prevent the sickness. So I'm having that moment, and I just, I just, uh, took three very large pills that smelled like the inside of a pipe, and now, uh, I've got my fingers crossed.

John: Alright. Sounds good.

Hank: *laughs*

John: You want a short poem for the day?

Hank: Tell me a short poem.

John: This poem's from Richard Brautigan. Several people have asked me why I've never read a Richard Brautigan poem--he did write a lot of short poems. This one is called, uh, Love Poem.


"It's so nice
to wake up in the morning
all alone
and not have to tell somebody
you love them
when you don't love them
any more."

Hank: *laughs*

John: Love Poem, by Richard Brautigan, that's my kind of love poem, Hank.

Hank: Ah, goodness.

John: Yeah, Hank, you know, I just got back from an amazing vacation with Sarah. We were in Jamaica for five days. We had an awesome time. We love going to Jamaica. Uh, and I am so incredibly lucky to like my spouse. It's such, it's the--

Hank: Yeah...

John: Biggest thing in a human life, I think. For me, at least.

Hank: Yeah, Katherine and I, uh, you'll have, if you watch Vlogbrothers, you'll have seen this video already, but I, just last night, we recorded a video where, uh, we taste test, uh, Valentines Day candy together.

John: Uh huh.

Hank: And I, uh, was just watching that video, you know, as I was editing it, and I was like, "Boy! Do I like her!" *laughs*

John: Yeah, that's something that, uh, Richard Brautigan never really had in his life. I think he was married four times.

Hank: Mm

John: And never particularly successfully. And--And he died in his forties. So, yeah... we got, uh, we--we've gotten very lucky Hank. Let's answer some questions from our listeners.

 Question 1 (3:23)


Hank: Oh, first I want to start out with, I guess this is a question but it is in regards to the last pod in which Andrea asks, specifically to John, "In this week's pod--" last week's pod-- "You informed Dahlia that you are really, really not a liberal, but then you and Hank both go on to state so many liberal positions that you agree with, so in what sense are you a conservative? Is it like taxes? Or what? Please explain," and then Andrea has put a pumpkin with, uh, the Linux penguin carved into it as her sign off.

John: Wow...

Hank: Yes.

John: That's a very, that's a solid sign off. 

Hank: --Solid sign off.

John: So Hank is a proper liberal. Right? Wouldn't you say that, Hank?

Hank: Well, uh, I mean I'm further left of you. Probably. But--but if

John: Yeah, I'd say you're essentially a communist.

Hank: *laughs*

John: Whereas I believe in markets. I believe that the reason refrigerators are inexpensive today, and why so many of us are able to enjoy them is because, uh, markets and competition. And I really do think that in many ways markets enrich our lives, I think that they are a part of why poverty has gone down a lot in the last hundred years, and so I do believe that markets can solve a lot of problems. I--I also think that there are places that markets clearly fail, especially healthcare. Markets are terrible at dealing with healthcare. They are terrible at dealing with crime. They are terrible at dealing with national defense. There're a bunch of things that markets aren't good at, but, uh, I do believe in them, uh, probably more than, uh, more than you do.

Hank: Uh...yeah, I--I have actually come around more to, especially since, you know, running several businesses of my own, there are times that I'm like, "Boy! These government regulations sure do keep small businesses down!" Uh, and I, like--

John: Uh, yeah.

Hank: I, like, there are times that are--that are like that, um, but there--there's also like what I find extraordinarily frustrating more than anything about running a small business is knowing that I pay much higher corporate taxes than Apple and Google do. And I, just take that. I find it extraordinarily frustrating, like why do we subsidize these massive companies while my company pays 40% corporate tax? And, uh

John: Yeah, I mean, the other thing about that is, corporate taxes in the US, I agree, are too high, which is not a--

Hank: Liberal point

John: Commonly held liberal position--

Hank: *laughs* Yeah

John: Although actually, President Obama felt that corporate taxes in the US were too high. Uh, I--I think that the great thing about small businesses is they create more jobs per dollar of revenue than large businesses do so, Hank and I, uh, privately have always said that we want to ensure that no matter how big or small our enterprise is, that it, uh, employs more people per dollar of revenue than Pepsi does.

Hank: Mhm

John: And, uh, we are, we are good on that front.

Hank: Yupp

John: Um, because small businesses are just, uh, they're better at employing people. They're better, I think, on average, in terms of, uh, wages, as well. Uh, and I do think that the-- too often, that the system is a little bit biased against, uh, small businesses.

Hank: Yes.

John: And that is another place where I probably fall a little right from center. Um, that said, there's a lot of things that are politicized in our current, uh, political discourse that I just don't think should be political issues. Like, I don't think that, uh, climate change is a political issue. I think maybe we can, uh, have political disagreements about how government can best contribute to solving the problem of climate change, but I don't think whether climate change is happening and is caused by humans is, uh, a political topic. I also think that, you know, for a long time we didn't politicize refugee resettlement.

Hank: Mhm

John: And, we didn't politicize foreign aid, and now we do. And, I, I don't think that those are particularly political issues. I think, um, I think there's a weird left-right divide that doesn't need to exist on those issues. So, there's a lot of issues where I just feel like, you know, Hank and I both maybe just don't fall-- just don't, don't see these things as political--

Hank: Mhmm

John: the way they are politicized in our current discourse.

Hank: Yes, it's very frustrating to watch something that-- go from being, like, uh, very few people know about this at all, the people who know about it realize that it's quite good and, uh, or it needs to be dealt with, or whatever it is, um, and then suddenly, like, somebody finds it and is like, "ah, I can score points with this one. Let's, quick, turn it into an issue."

John: Right. 

Hank: Um, on either side. Either they're, they're saying like, "I want to turn this into an issue." Like, "I'm the champion and defender of this." Um, or saying like "I have found this issue, and I, I want to tell the world about what a terrible thing it is."

John: Yeah.

Hank: Um--

John: Yeah, in general it's--

Hank: And, um-- And, then it scores-- it scores the points, and the entire topic becomes, like, just another thing on the long list of things that, like, you're suppose to, like, sign up for one side or the other on.

John: Yeah, I think that's a lot of my frustration right now is just that we aren't, uh-- a lot times I feel like we're not taking this issues particularly seriously. Like, they're being treated as opportunities to score points rather than as places where we need to have difficult discussions. Healthcare is probably the biggest example of that in the United States right now, where, you know, nobody's being very serious about the healthcare conversation. Because, the truth is, it's extremely complicated and it involves big, big trade offs. Uh, and, we're going to have to make this trade off or that trade off, and we've got to talk about it that way instead of pretending that--

Hank: Yeah

John: --that there's some easy solution that won't result in pain for anybody.

 Question 2 (9:05)


Hank: Well, I got another question, John. This one is from Amber, and it's also for you. So I feel like sometimes I only read the questions that are for me, but I want to give you one, John. Amber says, "hello brothers. My favorite author is Charles Bukowski. I unashamedly love his dark humor and honest writing style, and yet, when my friends read his books, because I've told them how much I like them, they come back and assume more about my personality and opinions because of my affinity towards him. Am I a bad person for reading books written by a bad person? Should I find a new favorite author? Should D. H. Lawrence take the number one place to compensate for my embarrassment? Dubious advice is welcome with open arms. Sent as to be received lovingly, Amber UK."

John: Oh, this is a tough one, Hank. I mean, there's two questions inside of this question. One is, you know, can you separate the artist from the work? Uh, is it possible to love something beautiful written by a deeply flawed or broken person? And I think the answer to that is yes, although it's complicated, and I no longer labor under the delusion that I used to that, uh, we can completely separate the author from their work. Uh, that, however, does not really apply to Charles Bukowski, because his writing is very sexist and racist, uh, just as he himself was as a person. Um, so it's-- this is, I think, a somewhat different question. You know, I read Charles Bukowski when I was in high school, and I really liked, uh, faucets of his work. It felt like honest and raw to me in a way that most other fiction and poetry didn't feel. You know, it had that, um, that beat poet vibe, but even more down on its luck, and, uh, something about that really resonated with me, so I definitely get what you're saying, Amber. I do think, you know, looking back now on Bukowski's work, that it is deeply racist and misogynistic, and that is destructive to the social order. Uh, so I think that your friends concerns are legitimate, and I, um, think this is a tough question. I think it's really, really hard to, uh, navigate this, but I think if you can understand why people are hurt by it, or feel that it is cruel to them, or feel like it's cruel to people who are vulnerable, then I think that may go a long way toward assuaging some of the fears and concerns that you have, and that your friends have. 

Hank: I, yeah. I have to say that I am no good at this question, 'cause I know nothing about Charles Bukowski.

John: I also wasn't very good at it, Hank, but listen, if people want good advice, they go to other podcasts. 

Hank: I, uh, I, I do think that there's, uh, like reading things-- it's so hard for me to read something that is opinionated and appealing, without sort of somewhat incorporating the opinion and being like, "I do kinda get where you're coming from." Um, and, uh, and-- so that's, that's a hard thing for me, where it's like, like, my brain just can't deal with the fact that I, like, disagree with the perspective, but I really like the writing. Um, and, and so, like, I start to get swayed over, and I think that's the sort of dangerous thing. Um, and--

John: I completely agree. I think that's a great point.

 Question 3 (12:53)


Hank: Do you want to ask me a science question, John? Since, I asked you a literature question.

John: Sure, I want to ask you a science question, Hank. This is something of a social science question, though.

Hank: Oh, god.

John: It comes from Christina, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I'm from Finland, and I have a question related to your new president. I'm angry that I need to pay attention to what the president of the United States is doing."

Hank: This isn't a science question!

John: It is a science question. It's a history question. "He's not my president, and I feel like I shouldn't have to care about what he does; however, his policies have a wide, international impact, and it seems like he's f-ing up the entire planet. Um, I'm actually worries about him starting the next World War, or him not stopping Russia from starting it." I don't know why you would be worried about that in Finland. Uh, "and if the problem is not going to be World War, then maybe it's his climate change policies and his delusional opposition to science in general. It seems pretty bad. Why does any country have this much power over the rest of the world? I think it's unfair. Is it unreasonable of me to think so? Our prime minister is a complete idiot, but at least he can only ruin his own country, not anyone else's. Hopefully we're still alive when your next podcast is suppose to air, Christina."

Hank: Oh man, there's a lot to go over here. First of all, the part where John said, "it is a science question. It's history."

John: Yes.

Hank: Everything.

John: The history of man.

Hank: Everything is science.  First of all, I mean, I feel like there's a big difference between what has been done and what we're afraid will be done and getting those two things locked together as if they are one thing, like, yes, we need to be concerned about what may be done and this person does not seem to me to be the best maker of decisions, but there is a difference between what has been done and what we are afraid might be done and it seems like you have lumped those into one thing as if the things that we are afraid are going to happen have already happened and that's a really scary way of looking at the world.  

John: Right. The risk of catastrophizing is that it also deflects attention away from what's actually happening.  I think we have a strong independent judiciary in the United States.  I think we--separations of power still function in our government.  I don't think that a world war is necessarily on the horizon, but I do think that there are lots of legitimate concerns about what's happening right now and we need to be serious about them.  That said, I think that if you live in Finland, your life on average is pretty good, except for the weather, and I think that in eight years or four years or two years or maybe even just like, six months, your life will on average still be pretty good.

Hank: Yeah.

John: And so I would try to take some solace in that, but it is difficult to have your life deeply affected by politicians who you did not choose.  However, that is a much bigger problem for, I think, like people living in refugee camps in Kenya right now than it is for the vast majority of us, so I wanna focus on the people who are being directly affected by the current policies.  

Hank: Yeah, it is a strange thing, though, that America is so powerful that the people who vote in America have impacts on pretty much everybody and that is a reason why we have to vote carefully and also vote, but I am happy to be an American citizen because that is not the case for me. At least I get to vote in the elections that affect the whole world but I will say that I would rather it be America than some other really powerful countries.  I don't know if that's just me being biased, but if we're gonna have--

John: No.

Hank: Yeah.  You--

John: If it's gonna be us or Putin, I'd prefer us.  

Hank: Yeah.

John: Marginally. There's one other thing I wanted to say here, Hank, which is there's this great quote from, the theologian, Miroslav Volf, that I think about in this context and that my therapist shared with me recently: "Politics touches everything, but politics isn't everything.  Not by a long shot."  

 Question 4 (17:07)


Hank: I like it.  John, I'm gonna ask this question that you've got highlighted right in there because I figure that means you want me to ask it.  It's from Amelia who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I live in Toronto.  I've noticed that on major streets--"

John: Oh, God, Amelia, please take us in. Just can we please come and visit?  Can you just--is it possible that we could just--can you get me off of the list that says that I'm not welcome in Canada, please, Amelia, please? Do you work for Justin Trudeau? Can you talk to someone?  I'm sorry, what is the question?

Hank: "The streetlights alternate sides on major streets, while on residential streets, they're all on the same side.  The thing is, on my street, the streetlights are on the south side until mid-block and then they switch sides, now they're on the north side.  This is madness.  Can you help me shed some light (smiley-face) on this issue?  Who decides these things?  Is there any regularity at all in streetlight placing? Is it different where you guys live?" And then Amelia says "memento mori" as a sign-off.

John: That's my favorite sign-off we've ever had in the history of Dear Hank and John.  I'm signing off all of my emails "Memento Mori" from now on.  You know what that means, right?

Hank: I just Googled it.  It means "Remember that you have to die."  

John: That's right.  It's the best sign-off.  I mean, why would you ever sign off an email "Best wishes" ever again when you can just "Memento Mori" it and put the email recipient right in the place where they need to be?  Anyway, Hank, why do streetlights change places?  I only wanted to read this question because of the sign-off.  

Hank: And I almost missed it!  There are places, John, where a train going across a national border will have to be removed from the train tracks, have new wheels put on it, and then put back onto the differently gauged train tracks that are a different width apart because one country started their train tracks and the other country started their train tracks and they were like, oh, we have to bring them together but they were like, oh, we've got all these train tracks that are different sizes in our countries.  There's only one solution and it's to change the wheels on all the trains.

John: What does that have to do with streetlights?

Hank: Streetlights are not that big of a deal!  I'm just not super concerned about the streetlights.  

John: Oh, so you're just not answering the question.

Hank: They were doing the streetlights on one side of the street and like, they were coming down and they were like, oh, but back there, when we started the streetlights, like, 50 miles away on that side of the town, we did it on the other street and then like it met halfway in the middle of the block here, on Amelia's block, I'm not super concerned about that.  It's a thing that happened but it is not--I just--I'm not concerned.  I do, in my residential neighborhood, there's one streetlight per block on the intersection and no on the street at all.  So that's how it is for me, Amelia.

John: Um, that's a very long explanation for an answer that is basically "I don't know." But yeah, we don't know, Amelia.

Hank: No, it's not 'I don't know', it's--John, John, John, it's not 'I don't know'.  It's 'I don't care'.

John: Okay.  We don't know and we don't care, Amelia, but memento mori! 

Hank: *laughing*

 Question 5 (20:20)


John: Alright, Hank, I've got another question.  This one comes from Sarah who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I'm a Girl Scout in the midst of cookie season."  Oh man.

Hank: Oh man.

John: Oh, that's my favorite time of year.  "And a controversial one at that."  Why is this a controversial cookie season?  Oh, no, Hank, we don't even know the controversy.  It's possible that we're wading deeply into something that we don't understand but we're just gonna do what we usually do and move forward in ignorance.

Hank: In ignorance.

John: "I'm trying to sell Girl Scout cookies is the point.  I've run across several problems, such as a foot of snow and the fact that people are less likely to buy cookies from a teenager than a cute little kid.  My initial idea was to send you guys the link to my cookie website so you could share it in exchange for a shipment of 478 boxes of cookies delivered to John or Hank's office."  Mm, I mean, if you've gotta choose, Sarah, choose mine.  "I told this idea to my parents and they responded that they weren't interested in investing $2,390 plus shipping to secure a sponsorship deal, which was disappointing but in hindsight, I probably should have done the math beforehand."

Hank: I don't know.  I think it probably--yeah.

John: "So instead of offering cookies, I ask if you could share the link to my cookie website and instead of promoting the cookies, promote the donation of cookies.  The boxes of cookies donated would go to a local food pantry.  While cookies are not necessarily nutritious, they are a rare treat to people who depend on food from these types of places.  My website is--" Everybody get ready to write this down.

Hank: Alright, read it for me.

John: If you're in your car, get your pencil ready.

Hank: Don't do that.

John: Pull over.  

Hank: Nope.

John: Open up the notes app on your phone.  digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/sarah755035.  They made that easy, I mean, how could I forget that URL? It's basically Google.com.  "Note: cookie sales end March 12th and the link will become inactive after that."  So, I think this is a lovely idea, Hank. Let us go buy some Girl Scout cookies and ship them to food pantries around the country.  I think that's a lovely idea.  

Hank: Let's do it.  Let's do it, John.  

John: I think we're ready to move on to the next question.

Hank: I just had, for the first time in my life, a Nerd Rope, and what a Nerd Rope is, what a Nerd Rope is, is it's basically like a, you know like how, there are those Twizzlers that aren't Twizzlers and you can like pull 'em off like strings from the other--

John: *gasp* Oh my God, made of Nerds?  With Nerd flavoring?

Hank: Yeah, no, and then they dip that into something sticky and then they roll that around in a bunch of Nerds.  

John: Oh my God.  Oh my God.

Hank: And I'm like, can I get 478 of those?  'Cause I will totally sponsor--it's really good.

John: Oh my God, that sounds amazing.  That sounds amazing.  

Hank: Yeah.

John: Wow.  I bet it's an excellent source of Vitamin C as well.

Hank: You know, on the back of the packaging, it said, "A thoughtful portion is one half a Rope," and I was like, well, thank you for letting me know, Nerd Rope.  I have come to you for thoughtful portioning.  That's why I bought this thing that's made of only sugar.  

John: I mean, my reaction to that would just be like, you know what?  You know what I didn't ask?  I didn't ask what a (bleep) thoughtful portion would be.  Alright?  So don't go interjecting your (bleep) thoughts about what constitutes a thoughtful portion of Nerd Rope.  I'm gonna have no--you know when I'm gonna stop eating this Nerd Rope?  When my stomach hurts.

Hank: Yeah.  It's like when Netflix is like, "Are you still watching Jane the Virgin?" and I'm like, "Yes.  Yes, I AM still watching Jane the Virgin, Netflix!  Why are you trying to shame me?  It's a good show!"

John: Yeah.  Yeah.  Like, all I'm doing is using your service.  (Bleep)  Sorry, I don't know why I started cursing so much in the last five minutes.  

 Question 6 (24:11)


Hank: I've got--there are two really good science questions here that you are refusing to read, so I'm going to read one of them.  I read you a literature question, John!  

John: Yeah, that's not really a literature question.  That was more of a minefield that you were asking me to navigate.  Anyway, what's your science question?

Hank: Alright, this one's from Jamie, who asks, "Dearest Misters Green, Are bugs are susceptible to microwaves as humans are?  I was microwaving some instant noodles and after the four long minutes it took to sufficiently cook them, I went to take the noodles out and noticed a small gnat-like creature still alive and crawling in the microwave. I know that the meshy cage on the inside protects humans outside from the microwaves, but this little bug had no such protection.  Did I just give that bug radiation poisoning?  Feeling incredibly guilty until proven innocent, Jamie."  Peoples' sign offs are getting really good.

John: Before you answer this question, I just want to tell you what I think probably happened and then you can tell me if I'm right.

Hank: Mhmm.

John: I think that when Jamie hit start on the microwave, there was no living thing in the microwave but then the radiation caused a living thing to come into existence out of the noodles.

Hank: Uh.  No.  Um, I have--

John: Alright, well, I did my best.  I did my best.  That was my best guess, that like, doesn't radiation cause--

Hank: Bugs.

John: --like, evolution or something?  I saw The Fly.  I saw the movie The Fly.  That's what I'm basing this on.

Hank: Uh, there was already a fly in there with Jeff Goldblum, John.

John: It's been a while since I saw it, to be perfectly honest.  

Hank: So, first I have good news for you, Jamie.  Probably.  You didn't--you very, very small chance, well, you definitely didn't give the bug radiation poisoning.  Radiation poisoning is caused by a different type of radiation than comes out of a microwave.  If the bug survived, there's a good chance that the bug's gonna be fine. You could have killed the bug, but you didn't and I have to say, I did a little bit of research, I'm not sure, and neither is anyone else, and this is a known phenomenon that like an ant in a microwave will not get killed.  They think maybe it's because the wavelength of microwaves is large enough that it doesn't really interact with like, if you had a big box of ants, they would get hot, but one ant doesn't get hot, but there's also the possibility that there are areas inside of the microwave that don't really get hit with microwaves as much, which is why there's a--it's sort of like a field inside of the thing and there are hot areas and cold areas of like, microwave concentration, which is why the, like, the little turntable spins to get your food to like, hit all of the good, good areas of the microwave, and maybe the gnat was just hanging out in like, a pocket that didn't have so much microwave radiation, but, but, the good news is that you should feel innocent because you accidentally almost killed a gnat but you didn't, the gnat was fine and will be fine and in the future, check to make sure that there's no fruit flies hanging out inside of your microwave.

John: I mean, I would argue that the microwave failed to do its job, which was to sanitize the situation, right?  Like, what I'm really asking a microwave to do, ultimately, is not to heat my food.  I'm asking it to make my food clean and you've really upset something that's fundamental to my understanding of the universe just now, which is that microwaves make my food not poisonous.  So.  Let's just move on.

Hank: Uh, well, if you microwave it long enough, that will happen, just because of the food will get hot and the hot will kill--like, if the ant was inside your burrito, then the ant would die, because it would get super hot in the burrito and then death ant, but the ant's hanging out where there's less stuff--like, it's--it's--really, like, it's remarkable that this is a known phenomenon that we do not have the answer to and I love that.  There's--

John: It seems like there's a lot of known phenomena we don't have the answer to.

Hank: There's so much science out there that we could get to the bottom of and we just need people who are curious, you know, like Jamie, maybe doing a little bit of science, so maybe, maybe what you should do is put up like, start doing some tests.  Get a bunch of ants, put 'em in your microwave, see what happens.  Don't do that.

 Question 7 (28:46)


John: Don't do that. That's terrible advice. Let's move on to another question, Hank.  This question is from Ken, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I turn 70 this year and I've written and fought and marched for human rights, civil rights, clean water and clean air for more than 50 years, and what I sought looked so close and now it's just crumbling around me.  I need some dubious advice.  How do I get out of bed, gird up my loins, and take up the fight again when it's obvious that so many people don't share my views and will never ever do so, no matter how convincing my arguments are?  I await your dubious advice."  Ken, here is my advice.  I don't know what Hank is gonna say, but my advice is that the arc of history is very long and if you look at where the world was 70 years ago when you were born, more people have more rights, fewer people live in poverty, human lives are longer and healthier and more productive and better educated than they were 20 years ago or 50 years ago and that is partly due to your activism and so it has not been for naught and it still isn't.

Hank: Yeah, Ken, thank you, first of all, and I'm looking forward to fighting for clean water and clean air for, you know, the next 50 years as well, though I'm probably not gonna make it that long, am I?  It's okay.

John: I like your odds for 50 years.

Hank: Okay.  Alright.  Wow.

John: How old are you?

Hank: 36?  

John: I don't think you're 36, buddy, are you?  God, I'm so old.

Hank: Yeah, I think so.

John: Yeah, I like your odds for 50 years.  I don't love my odds for 50 years, but that does remind me, Hank, that today's podcast is brought to you by memento mori.  Memento mori: you're gonna die.  

Hank: Today's podcast is also brought to you by the Jeff Goldblum movie The Fly.  John hasn't seen it in a while, but he's pretty sure he knows some stuff about microwaves now.  

John: And of course, today's podcast is brought to you by the nation of Finland.  The nation of Finland: deliciously close to Russia.  

Hank: And this podcast is brought to you by those trains where they have to stop the train at the border of countries, take the train off the tracks, put new wheels on the train so they can fit on the train tracks from the other country.  Those train traaaaacks. 

John: That was a good one, Hank.  That was really--that was solid.  That's gonna go down in history as one of the best.  Hank, let's answer one more question before we get to the--

Hank: I had something else I wanted to say to Ken.  You didn't let me finish my thing to Ken.  

John: Alright.

Hank: You launched right into sponsorships and I just wanted to say that we are all going to be fighting for things that we will never see and that is how like, to me, being a human isn't about like, getting to a place that like, when I die, I can feel good about where we ended up.  Humanity is about always making progress forever and so knowing that the work is never going to be done, but it's gonna be better if you take the average over a long period of time, and I think that that is the case and I think that we are gonna have to keep working toward that goal and the--and if you're gonna accomplish your biggest goals before you die, then your biggest goals aren't big enough. 

 Question 8 (32:02)


John: I love that, Hank.  I also wanna end on a note of optimism or hope or at least to define maybe what optimism looks like for us, Hank, with this Star Trek question from Frances, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, In Star Trek and other utopian science fiction content, the idea that the Earth unifies into one country is a popular one and it's sort of the endgame for our society.  This seems shocking to me.  Clearly there will never be a time when every person agrees on most ideas.  We've seen what happens when countries with different beliefs and values are forced together and this seems like the only way a truly unified country of the Earth would happen.  In my opinion, the endgame would be lots of small countries all unified in a simpler way, like the United Nations.  My question is, what do you think the endgame is in terms of countries?  Will we one day be a perfectly unified planet?  A critical space nerd, Frances."  

Hank: Mmmm, I don't know, man.

John: Well, in Star Trek, it's worth noting that the only reason that we have a unified planet is because we don't have a unified galaxy.  

Hank: Yeah, so like, you got people you're worried about, and you're like, okay, we need to consolidate and be like, okay, well, but to be clear, there's like, in Star Trek, it's not just the unified planet, it's the United Federation of Planets, so there are--there are planets in planets all with their own, you know like, but, yes.  They do have common enemies and they will fight together against those common enemies and that is kind of the thing like, you know, there have been lots of times when like, disparate groups banded together because they were faced by some outside threat, and that's sort of like the story--

John: Right, but that's not the only story of why people have come together--

Hank: Yes.

John: --in larger and larger groups, like, I think maybe what Frances isn't considering is that for most of human history, the largest group of humans was like, a hundred or two hundred people, and then in the last 10,000 years, our groups have gotten progressively bigger and bigger and bigger, where now, we have groups that are 1.4 billion people or 1 billion people that all identify as part of the same country. To me, there's no reason why we can't have one group that identifies as human instead of--there's no reason why that trend can't continue except for maybe the lack of a common enemy being something to hold us together, but I don't think that's the only thing that holds cultures and groups together, so I do think it's possible that we could have one big human group in the future.  

Hank: I also think it's possible.  I think that the, like, there are a couple of unifying forces.  One is that there are better ways to live that are objectively better and we've seen that and that was part of, you know, the end of the Cold War was, you know, just how much better things got in the US and again, John and I are gonna show a little bit of our more conservative stripe here because capitalism was working so well in the US and communism was not working particularly well in Russia.  Now, you can argue that that was not because of communism, it was because of corruption, but um, but like, the nice thing about capitalism is it sort of like, has its own systems built into it that prevent certain kinds of corruption.  Certainly not all corruption!  

John: Not really.

Hank: Certainly not all corruption.

John: Not truly.

Hank: Well, maybe not corruption then, but things--ahh, I don't know, John.  

John: I don't know either, but I think you're right in general that human lives have improved faster since 1990 than in any point in all of human history, so something's working.

Hank: Yeah, and I think that there are better systems and those--when the systems work, they can--like, the appeal of that, like the objective appeal of that is like, it exists, despite the fact that there are going to be lots of different reasons why we also want to be more insular and like, hang out with people who are more like us, but at the same time, I don't think that that means that like, a unified humanity would not have diversity.  It would have diversity of ideas and types of people and different systems and different economic systems, even the way that, you know, in a very small town like Missoula there are different economic systems and people, you know, interface with the economy in different ways on very small scales and also on global scales, so I think that perfectly unified is a weird, weird phrase.  I don't know that it accurately reflects, like, like, the actual goal of utopia, but I do think that a kind of utopia is possible, and I don't wanna lose that dream.  I feel like we kind of have as a species, you know, it was there for a while in the 70s and 60s and a little bit in the 80s, and then it just, you know, and now we're sort of, like, a little cynical, a little jaded, as, you know, as a culture, and the culture that I interface with, and I do want to keep the dream of utopia alive, and I think that there are utopias out there.  We just have to try and find them in the best ways we know how.  

John: Yeah, I mean, I'm a very pessimistic person in general, but I actually believe that the biggest problems that we face are solvable.  Like, I think that absolute poverty, for instance, is not inherent to human beings and I think we may--there are people listening to this podcast who, I hope and believe, will see a world a world within their lifetimes that--where absolute poverty is treated as abnormal and where, you know, under five child mortality is below 1% in every country in the world and that's not going to be easy to achieve but it's possible and I also believe that we can see a dramatic reduction in the number of conflict deaths.  I think we've already seen that in the last 50 years and so I am hopeful about humanity's ability to accomplish things together, because I think we've shown an ability to accomplish things together. 

 News from AFC Wimbledon (38:44)


John: Speaking of things that we've accomplished together, Hank, of course the greatest achievement in the history of our species was the reformation and then five promotions in nine years of AFC Wimbledon, the greatest fan-owned institution on Earth and I think it's time to move on to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon even though we have so many good questions that I still wanna answer, so I wanna, Hank, the news from AFC Wimbledon, I--I have to say something, which is that we received an email from Victoria, and she wrote, "Dear John and Hank, I'm a big fan of the podcast and I listen keenly every week.  However, as a citizen of the UK, there is something that I just cannot stand anymore."  I"m somewhat paraphrasing this email.  "As said in the news from AFC Wimbledon in Episode 79, they were supposed to play Gillingham, which John said was like .gif in that there's no known way to pronounce it correctly.  This is wrong.  It is pronounced Gillingham, soft g like jam and that's important because Gillingham, hard g like girl, is a different town in England."

Hank: Of course it is.

John: "Gillingham is in Dorset, whereas Gillingham, the football theme is from Kent," both of which sound like made-up regions of England that you can only access via magic, but yeah, so, it's very important apparently to pronounce Gillingham correctly, lest people think that I am referring to a different town, spelled the exact same way but pronounced differently. 

Hank: Oh my God.

John: With that noted, Hank, you will recall that AFC Wimbledon, after a scoreless draw on January 21st against Chesterfield had two consecutive games that were postponed thanks to one of the greatest institutions in football league one, which is of course, frozen pitch and/or waterlogged pitch.  However, eventually, things had to dry out and they did, just in time for AFC Wimbledon to play Sheffield United and perhaps we should have stuck with waterlogged pitch because we lost 4-0 and I have to say that scoreline from everything I read, rather flatters AFC Wimbledon.  It could have been much worse, so uh, Sheffield United is overwhelmingly the best team in league one this year, they're definitely gonna get promoted, or almost definitely.  They're very, very good and we are not at the moment very, very good.  We're down to 15th after 28 games, only nine points clear of the drop, so that's where things stand at the moment.  

Hank: Alright.

John: That was bad news.  Rosianna has just texted me to tell me that there is a third Gillingham with a--this one is also with a hard g.  It's in Norfolk.  There are three places in England named Gillingham.  I mean, Hank, correct me if I'm wrong here, I haven't been to England that often, but isn't it a country that's like, eight square miles big?  

Hank: It doesn't seem super huge to me.

John: How do you have three Gillinghams in eight miles?  

Hank: They--there's just a--it's very dense.  It's a dense country, John.  We're used to America, where you can like, walk for days and never see a human being.

John: Hank, the population of England is 53 million people.  That's about the same as the population of Indiana.

Hank: That is not true at all.

John: And by about the same, I mean within one order of magnitude.  

Hank: Yeah, what is the population of Indiana, John?  6.5 million people?

John: 6.6, thank you.  

Hank: Yeah.  It's a dense--it's a dense place and there's lots of little towns.  They're just close by by my standards, where the little towns, you know, you need to get in your car with like, some granola bars and make sure your gas tank's full.  I have news from Mars, John, if you are all interested in that, I know you aren't, but I'm going to tell you it anyway.

John: Tell me, I'm excited.  

 News from Mars (42:47)


Hank: So, Mars, we have discovered through the great work of the Curiosity rover, was a very wet place for a long time, and it was wet with water wetness and that means that it was a warm place because water is only around when it is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.  The question, then, becomes why, how did that happen?  It's farther away from the Sun than we are here on Earth, how was there so much water for so long on the surface of this planet?  The obvious answer is that it's like Venus, or even like Earth, where it's being heated up by a blanket of Carbon Dioxide, so you've got Carbon Dioxide, the solar energy comes in, has a harder time coming out and then, you know, the whole planet gets warmer, but based on Curiosity's analysis of rocks around these wet areas, there's no evidence that there was carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at these times.  There, like, they were expecting to find certain chemicals, carbonates, that would be--that would have like, ended up in the soil and they're just not there, which makes them feel like maybe there wasn't a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which leads to like a huge question, like, what--how? This isn't like water that existed for a little while. Like, it was, you know, part of a volcanic eruption or something. It was, like, for a long, long time, potentially hundreds of millions of years. They're thinking maybe other greenhouse gases, like sulfur dioxide, or methane or nitric oxide, which are also really strong greenhouse gases. But, those greenhouse gases are reactive, and, uh, and they probably wouldn't hang out that long, unless there was some new input of them all the time. So, basically we have found, uh, that, like, with, you know, all this data from Curiosity, we have this very strong indication that there was a lot of liquid water for a long time, but not a lot of carbon dioxide, which makes-- is just like, how? Why? Could there have been liquid water all over the surface of this planet and a warm planet for so long without any of the atmospheric systems that we've come to know as the reasons why planets stay warm. That's a big, big question, and, uh, and hopefully as Curiosity and other missions continue to gather data, we can have a, uh, better idea of why that's happening, 'cause it is suddenly a huge mystery in Mars planet science.

John: So, Hank, if it was something other that carbon dioxide, does that also maybe mean that life wo-- if it developed, would have developed very differently, because it would have had different gases in the atmosphere or not necessarily?

Hank: Yes, it does mean that. Um, it also means potentially, like if it is methane, that, that methane could have been produced by the life. And, so the life was, itself, keeping the planet warm.

John: Oh! Oh.

Hank: Um, that's-- that is like a way out there theory, by the way, just to be clear. Also, if it was sulfur dioxide, and sulfur dioxide is a very reactive chemical that, um, that things can metabolize.

Hank: Um, so that could totally be a different way for life to work and to exists. 

John: Wow, so the idea is that the atmosphere would be--would need the life rather than the life needing the atmosphere, or I guess both.

Hank: Well, it would be both ways, yeah.

John: That's pretty cool though.

Hank: And that's also like, that's the case here on Earth, like, obviously we, like, humans could not exist if there were not plants, because there would be no oxygen, because oxygen is super reactive and it would go away really fast if it wasn't constantly being used.  

John: Well, we're doing our best, Hank, to find out what life would look like without plants.  We're trying.  I wanted to ask you one more question just because I do find that really, really interesting and weird and exciting.  I know that cows produce a lot of methane.  Is there a chance that there were ancient cows on Mars?

Hank: Well, interestingly, John, cows don't produce the methane.  The bacteria in their guts do, so bad news.

John: Gah!  So it would have been bacteria in the cow guts--Huhhhh!  What if cows only exist because bacteria from Mars came to Earth and then eventually colonized the guts of cows?  Possible?

Hank: Yeah, sure.  I'm into it.  Sure.  

John: I like that idea.  You know, Hank, I've done quite a bit of research on what would happen if different animals were completely sterilized of all the bacteria that colonized them because it's of great interest to me personally and professionally and humans would probably survive, although in an extremely damaged way.  Cows, however, would die definitely.

Hank: Oh yeah, they would die.  

John: They are hugely dependent on their gut microbes, whereas we are only very dependent on our gut microbes.

Hank: Yes, in fact, like, when babies are born, they don't have gut microbes and they survive for a little while before they start getting colonized, so it is possible, but yes, you would definitely be messed up and have a shortened life span.

 Conclusion (48:05)


John: Yes.  And on that note, Hank, what did we learn today?

Hank: Oh, God.

John: Everything and nothing.  Everything and nothing.

Hank: We learned that John would like to talk to a Canadian, just any Canadian, about whether or not they know their prime minister Justin, good ol' Justin, maybe they'd be interested in having a really quite successful author and podcaster to join their ranks.

John: Or just get me off of the list that doesn't let me into the country without going into a very unpleasant and scary interview process every single time.  I understand that I'm extremely lucky and I know Justin is probably listening to this, 'cause I know he's a huge fan of the pod, Hank, and it's a taxing job being the prime minister of Canada but it's not that taxing, it's only a nation of 30 million people, but 30 million and one if I have anything to say about it.  

Hank: What else did we learn, John?

John: God, we really didn't answer very many questions.  We learned that Hank does not care why street lights are on alternate sides of the street.

Hank: And we also learned that someone once considered sending us $2,400 of Girl Scout cookies and then didn't do it.  

John: And lastly and most importantly, Hank, we learned memento mori.

Hank: Memento mori, John.  

John: Thanks for podding with me, Hank.  Thanks to everybody for listening.  You can email us your questions at hankandjohn@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter, where I'm @johngreen and Hank is @hankgreen.  If you wanna use the #dearhankandjohn over at Twitter, we'll see your questions as well.  Our podcast is produced by Rosianna Halse Rojas and Sheridan Gibson.  Our editor is Nicholas Jenkins.  Victoria Bongiorno is our head of community and communications and our music is by the great gunnarolla.  Thanks to everybody for listening and everybody who helps out with the podcast and also everybody who supports us on Patreon where you can find our podcast.  Patreon.com/dearhankandjohn.  Thanks again for listening and as we say in our hometown...

Both: Don't forget to be awesome.