Previous: 260: His One Loamy Weakness
Next: 262: The Old Ramen Factory



View count:22
Last sync:
Why is fire shaped like fire? What Halloween costumes work with a mask? Why do dumpsters all smell the same? How do I stop getting voting ads now that I've decided to vote? Will humans someday run out of dirt? Who had the idea for keys? Can you cook pasta in something besides water? Is it a bad sign if no ads show up in an ad break? Hank Green and John Green have answers!

If you're in need of dubious advice, email us at

Join us for monthly livestreams and an exclusive weekly podcast at

Follow us on Twitter!

 (00:00) to (02:00) [Dear Hank and John intro music]

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

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

H: It's a podcast where two brothers answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. John, do you know how the Romans would cut their pizzas? 

J: How?

H: With Little Caesars!

(Both laugh)

J: I'm--

H: Happy Pizzamas, John!

J: I'm very vulnerable right now to bad jokes. I'm taking my laughs where I can get them. It's been a little bit of a challenging week here at the Green household, and that is also a top-notch joke. 

H: Yes, I'm glad to have some pizza jokes for you!

J: It is indeed Pizzamas in our community, which means that it's a two-week period where Hank and I make videos back and forth to each other on our YouTube channel, vlogbrothers, every day, just like it was 2007 again, and we raise money for charity by selling a variety of different items featuring my, uh, face with a mustache. In fact, Hank, as I am making this podcast, I don't know if you can hear it, (Hank laughs) but I still have my annual Pizzamas mustache. I don't know it's affecting my intonation at all, but it's there!

H: I remember the conversation with you when you were like, "Oh God Pizzamas is coming up, I have to decide if I'm gonna do the mustache."

J: Yeah.

H: And then I--I seemed to, like, have put it in my mind that you weren't gonna do it, and that that's why you weren't, like, growing out a beard, which you have to do in order to get a mustache. But then, like, suddenly, it was there! It just arrived!

J: Yeah. Well at this point, I don't wanna brag, but I've reached a level of maturity where I know how many weeks of beard--

H: Mm.

 J: --I need to have a really horrifying mustache. (02:00) to (04:00) H: Yeah.

J: If you go too long, the mustache actually looks pretty good.

(Hank laughs)

J: And if you don't go long enough, the mustache doesn't look like much at all.

H: Right.

J: But if you're going to get to that "worst possible mustache" mustache I'm relying on for Pizzamas--

H: Yeah. Right. 

J: I know exactly how many days of beard I need, and I don't wanna brag, but I think I crushed it this year. You can go to to see for yourself, but I think--

H: You've got the perfect--

J: I think I hit it out of the park.

H: Yeah. What I've never seen, John, and what I want to see is--is, like, you with the, like, the full year mustache. Like, the kinda mustache--

J: Yeah.

H: --where, like, the mustache hairs on the top have to, like, sit on the mustache hairs on the bottom, so there's like an inch--

J: Mm-hmm.

H: --of, like, it's just going out before it gets to the end of the mustache. 

J: Yeah.

H: That's what I wanna see on your face, and I don't think that it's ever gonna happen.

J: No. 

H: Because, like, you don't get one of those mustaches without a looot of commitment. 

J: Yeah, well also it would be really bad for my marriage.

(Hank laughs)

H: And also-- 

J: And--

H: Eating food. It'd be hard-- bad for that. 

J: And potentially for my relationship with my children. Last night I was reading Alice a book, and I said, "On a scale of 1-10, Alice, what do you think of the mustache? And she said, "I guess a 3?" and she paused and said, "Well, really a 2," (Hank laughs) "but I don't want to hurt your feelings."

(Both laugh)

H: Yeah! Well John, I'm excited, uh, for-- for Pizzamas, and we are in the midst of it now, and, uh, and this is the last episode of Dear Hank and John that will remind you that you can go get stuff at, which is our new Pizzamas website, and if you wait until next Monday, when the next episode comes out, will be closed! It'll be over! This is a two-week experience, and then it ends!

J: And you never ever get any of the amazing 2020 Pizzamas stuff ever again in your entire life, including the ridiculous and terrifying Pizzamas 2020 mask.

 H: (Laughing) Oh God. All right, John. (04:00) to (06:00) H: Here is a question from Molly, who asks: 

"Dear Hank and John, 

Why does fire have such a specific shape? When you make a fire, it almost looks like a leaf, or as if it's climbing! Why is it like that? I'm staring at a fire right now and I can't stop thinking about it. Please help. 

Like the country, 


What? Like, what-- is there a country called Molly (Mali)? 

J: Yeah the one in West Africa. It's spelled differently. 

H: Ooooh, I see, yes, there is. 

J: Yeah.

H: John, looking at a fire is one of my favorite things, and it is remarkable for how long you can do it.

J: Yeah, so one of my all-time favorite books, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, has in it a drug that causes you to want to do nothing other than to stare into the flames of fire.

H: Mm-hmm.

J: Which does seem really, just, realistic to me because every time I stare into a fire, I think, "I do not get tired of doing this ever," which is weird because I get tired of every other form of staring in the natural world. (Hank laughs) And secondly, I think this is, like, the oldest form of human entertainment. 

H: (Laughs) Just looking into the fire. Yeah!

J: Yeah we've been doing this for so long that like, I think it's deep. I think it's deep down that I like looking at flames. 

H:  Mm-hmm. It does make me wonder if like-- if I did it every day, would I eventually be like, "Ugh, another fire." But I don't know, maybe not! It's really cool that it's always different. It looks very interesting. 

J: Yeah, it's always changing. But why does it appear to sort of lick up into the sky, or to have that sort of leaf structure? 

H: Yeah.

J: Is there a chemical reason?                                                                   

H: Uh, there-- it's a physical reason. So, it's basically a reverse teardrop. So like the fire is going up and as it goes up, the convection currents, like, sort of push the heat into a narrower and narrower, uh, band. 

J: Mm.

 H: And of course, this is because fire is made of gas, not liquid, it's much less uniform than if it were-- than like a teardrop is, or a raindrop in that, like, very specific raindrop shape.  (06:00) to (08:00) H: Um, but it's basically that, but like much more dynamic, because it's a gas, and convection currents are very stochastic, very random. So, uh, which is why fire never looks the same-- ever. You [unclear] get it once, you'll never see it look that way again, which is great. But there's lots of air moving around, and there's-- the certain air that is very hot wants to get up. So you're seeing the air currents that are created by the heat of fire.

J: That's really cool. That-- now it's going to be even more fun for me to look into a fire! All right, this next question comes from Elise who writes, 

"Dear John and Hank, 

Obviously none of us are going out to Halloween parties this year. RIGHT, everybody?"

H: Right, everybody?

(Both laugh) 

J: Nice work there, Elise. 

"... But I work at a library, which will be open on that spookiest of holidays, and it's typical for staff working to dress up. I need to be wearing a mask while in my costume, obviously, but I feel like just a rubber Party City mask is probably not going to do the job."

H: (Laughs) No.

J: (continues reading) "Now, dressing up as a doctor or nurse could be in poor taste, or maybe not-- I don't really know-- it's just sort of bleak, though." (Hank laughs) "What's a fun, creative costume I can incorporate a mask into, so that I'm not just a cartoon character who happens to also be wearing a mask? I'm kind of low on ideas and I need something fun. 

When you rent an apartment, you sign,


H: Nice! (laughing) Well, so first of all, I think that it's fine to be like, "I'm gonna be Ted Theodore Logan of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but, during the pandemic, and so Ted is wearing a mask.

J: Exactly.

H: Like, Ted would wear a mask!

J: Yeah.

H: 'Cause Ted wants to-- people to be awesome to each other. So--

J: I'm dressed up as the dude in Big Lebowski, and, just as the dude would in 2020, I'm wearing a mask.

H: So I think that that's fine. I think that there will be lots of Halloween costumes that incorporate masks intentionally, and lots that are just, like, "Look. I--I am Bart Simpson but masked."

 J: Yeah, or you could go with another hyper-contemporary costume, Elise. Like, um, Tiffany, who's saying "I think we're alone now." (08:00) to (10:00) H: (Laughing) But masked!

J: That's a joke-- that's a joke just for Hank. Nobody who listens to this podcast remembers that song except for Hank.

H: I loved that song. Yeah, our--

J: (overlapping) It was my first-- that was the first vinyl record I bought with my own money, was Tiffany's album. I desperately wish I still had it. Like, how come I held on to all this stuff from childhood, but not Tiffany's classic "I Think We're Alone Now?"

H: Oh, God, who else? Uh, I mean, so there are some, like, plenty of, uh, heroes who wear masks. 

J: Yeah.

H: You could have, uh, all the people from the Watchman television show wore masks. 

J: (overlapping) Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

H: There's that going on. And also, you can wear things that have masks, but then wear a mask under the mask, and then no one will see the mask, because you'll be, like, you know, Richard Nixon or whatever. Like the-- those terrible, rubbery masks that people put on over their heads. 

J: That reminds me that a friend of mine has a kid who told them, "I want to dress up like, uh, like one of those, um, bird people." And the friend was like, "What d-- what do you mean?" "Like, like where you have a big crow head." 

H: Ohhh. 

J: And the friend was like, "You want to dress up like a plague doctor?" (Hank laughing) And the-- the kid was like,  "Is that what they're called?"

H: (Laughs) Yeah, plague doctor works!

J: Yowzers!

H: Yeah.

J:  Yeah! So go-- You know what? That's it. We did it, Elise. Go as a plague doctor. It's not appropriate for nine-year-olds, but you're gonna crush it out there as a plague doctor.

H: (Wheezing) Oh my god. (Normal voice) Uhhh, there's gonna be a lot of plague doctors this year, John.

J: I mean, as long as they're celebrating in a safe and socially distanced way.  

H: (overlapping) Yeah. Oh, lord.

J: That's great.

 H: The other thing I'll say, Elise, is that I've just gone to a website where there are a bunch of masks that you can buy that are super weird, and festive, and could incorporate easily into Halloween costumes. There's sequined masks, and there's studded masks. There's Burberry masks and Jack Skellington masks. And so you can-- (10:00) to (12:00) H: can build your costume around your mask!

J: That's great!

H: Or just wear a mask and be like,  "That's my costume. I didn't wanna work hard."

All right, John, here's another question. This one's from Caroline who asks, 

"Dear Hank and John,

Why do dumpsters all smell the same, even though they all have different stuff in them? Some dumpsters can smell worse than others--" 

J: (overlapping) Wow.

H: "...but all generally smell the same to me. Is there some explanation?

Pumpkins and penguins,


J: Wow. I never knew that until it was pointed out to me, but it's so true. From my--

H: (overlapping) There is a dumpster smell. 

J: --garbage can to, like, the largest dumpster I've ever been near, they all have the same smell.

H: They have a-- There is a smell that is dumpster. Which is interesting.

J: Yeah!

H: I would not say that all dumpsters smell the same. Having been a person who's spent a fair amount of time around them. I--

J: Hank used to rescue electronics and textbooks and repurpose them and sell them on eBay. It was part of the business that we here at Dear Hank and John know best for the part of the business where he stole all of my baseball cards and sold them on eBay. 

H: (Laughs) So, I did not find those in a dumpster. 

J: Nope! 

H: Um, but yeah, like-- like-- 

J: You found them inside of individually--

H: Ok! We got it! (laughing)

J: --packaged, laminated, because they were all in mint condition, including--

H: (under John as he continues) Well that's why they sold for so much!

J: --the entire starting lineup of the 1986 Chicago Cubs. What were we talking about?

H: (overlapping) John, you really-- you really got me started on my business career, and I appreciate it. That's the kind of--

J: Well-- 

H: That's the kind of assistance that big brothers do and that little brothers appreciate for their whole lives. So thank you.

J: (overlapping) Mm-hmm. You're welcome. 

H: (laughs) There. See? 

J: You're welcome.

 H: All right. So there are certainly dumpsters that don't smell bad at all. Like, office building dumpsters don't tend to have much of a smell, and then, like, a sushi place's dumpster is going to smell terrible. And I actually found a Reddit thread from a garbage person who talks about all the different smells of different kinds of dumpsters, and that, you know, restaurant dumpsters tend to have stronger smells than, you know, your average dumpster.  (12:00) to (14:00) H: But. I think there is something to the dumpster smell, and I-- here's what I think the dumpster smell is. I think the dumpster smell is a lot of food that's a little bit old, so like that smell.

J: Mm-hmm.

H: And add on to that a little bit of food that's very old. 

J: Right.

H: Which is just the stuff that's, like, stuck to the bottom.

J: It's the cake-- the stuff that's caked--

H: Yeah, it doesn't come out.

J: --to the various walls.

H: Yeah.

J: Right.

H: When it gets dumped.

J: So I think it's mostly that smell, actually. Because, for reasons we don't need to get into the exact details of, I once had about a third of a Big Mac, um, underneath my bed for about nine months.

H: Uh-huh.

J: And it smelled similarly. (Hank laughs) It smelled like a dumpster, but in a smaller package.

H: Yeah, okay. Yeah. Speaking of which, if-- if at all possible, someone could have a talk--

J: Yeah.

H: --with the worms that crawl into my office to die, that would be great.

J: Ugh.

H: Because they don't smell good.

J: Yeah I have that same issue, actually, in my basement. It's like the worms think to themselves, "Well, it's time to go. (sighs) And I know how I want to do it. I want to do it in a way that slightly inconveniences John." 

H: (laughs) Yeah. Like, every once in a while I come into my office and I'm like, "It kind of smells in here. I wonder, like-- I guess I'm just a funky dude," and then I clean. Because you know-- it smells, I'll clean, and then I'm like, "No, it was all the goddamn worms in the corners!"

J: (laughs) I-- I look forward to all the emails that we're gonna get about how the fact that we have worms in our basements are symptomatic of some horrible disaster. Anyway, this next question comes from Kavita who writes, 

"Dear John and Hank,

I'm a sophomore in college, and I've been 18 for less than a year."

J: First off, Kavita, no bragging. 

H: (laughs) Are you bragging just because-- is just being young bragging to you now?

J: Yeah, yeah yeah. Yeah, don't brag about being 18. Okay?

H: Don't come to me with your age!

 J: Yeah!  (14:00) to (16:00) J: You've al--  You've already hurt my feelings, Kavita, and we're not even a full sentence into your question. Not since my daughter said that my mustache was a two have I felt so called out. (Hank laughs)

"I've been 18 for less than a year, and I've been excitedly and not so patiently waiting till the day when I can vote, and I very much plan to do so when I get my mail-in ballot. Yet still, on every social media platform I use, they keep telling me to vote. I understand that it is important to reach the young people and whatnot, but it's getting quite annoying. How can I make it known that I am going to vote," (Hank laughs) "so that the FBI agent who is watching over me, and presumably personalizing my ads for me, sends other ads my way? 

A newbie Nerdfighter,


H: Oh boy. Uh, this is-- so-- just as an example, I recently bought a Chevy Volt, John. I went ahead and did it.

J: Congratulations!

H: I got a 2015 Chevy Volt. It hasn't arrived yet, but it's on its way.

J: Good-- It's a good year.

H: And, uh, yeah, no recalls on that one. And--

J: Yeah, it's good vintage.

H: I, uh, am still getting ads for Chevy Volts! And I'm, like, "Look! Like, I know these aren't cheap ads, because a car is a big purchase, and so these are expensive advertisements, and like-- like-- if you are so all-knowing, Internet, notice when I buy something!" And stop_-

J: Yeah.

H: --because I'm not getting another Chevy Volt.

 J: This reminds me of my all-time favorite tweet, from April 6, 2018: some would argue, the peak of Twitter (pauses), written by someone named Jack Raynor: "Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one (laughing). Necessity, not desire (Hank laughs). I do not collect toilet seats. (starts laughing, Hank laughs harder) I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I'm not gonna think-- (pauses as both keep laughing) 'Oh, go on then. Just one more toilet seat. I'll treat myself!'" (16:00) to (18:00) H: Ai yai yai.

J: Oh yeah, like the-- the ads are so good, you know? They're so perfect, except when it comes to knowing that, like--

H: Yeah.

J: --me buying one toilet seat is actually sure evidence that I am no longer in the market.

H: Yeah. Yes.

J: And I'm not gonna be in the market hopefully for many years.

H: But Kavita, we have no idea. We have no idea if you're gonna vote or not, just by your social media profile. And that's good.

J: Right.

H: This is good. We want to live in a world where the government and the social media companies don't know whether or not we're going to vote.

J: Boy, do we.

H: But yeah, so you-- you are experiencing us trying to reach, or [not] us-- people trying to reach people like you. And, uh, and there are also people like you who are not, uh, made up their mind about whether they're gonna vote, or they don't have a voting plan, and so we have to-- and so they're gonna continue to try to reach them.

J: I know it's annoying. It will end. It will end in less than a month, but in the meantime, maybe if you can, take the opportunity to try to make sure that people who maybe aren't seeing those ads or aren't affected by them--

H: Mm.

J: --also have an opportunity to vote. This next question comes from Yvette who writes, "Dear John and Hank, 

I'm a high school government teacher--"

Yvette, thank you. While we're talking about voting, high school government teachers are incredibly important to the future of our country. Or another country if you live in a different country, Yvette, I don't know why I presumed you were American (Hank laughs). But anyway, thank you. (continues reading)

"Occasionally, my students will ask me a question that both makes me marvel at their curiosity, and also makes me question everything around me. The other day, a student asked me if humans will one day run out of dirt. I, of course, had no idea how to answer this question, and told them that I would get back to them ASAP.

Soil and soylent,


H: Oh, well. Um--

J: I mean in some ways, yes.

H: Yeah.

 J: And in other ways, no. (18:00) to (20:00) J: It depends on what you define as dirt.

H: Right. So, here's the situation. Um, topsoil is renewable. Like it is a thing that is created by the biosphere and geosphere of Earth. So it is something that, you know, is constantly being replenished and there is more and more of it. However at the same time, various agricultural techniques decrease the amount of topsoil. That topsoil will run off, and right now we are kind of "using it"-- in quotation marks. It's not like it gets, like, sucked up into the plants and we eat it or anything, it's just like, through the process of agriculture, there is less and less topsoil when you do certain kinds of agriculture. We are using it faster than it is replenishing itself. It takes a long-- it's surprising! It's-- dirt is actually very complicated. It takes a long time for dirt, uh, especially what we consider to be topsoil, to, uh, to be created. And kind of create itself, because it needs-- like dirt is more-- it's easier to create dirt when you already have some dirt, and stuff like that. And so this is a concern. The UN's food and agriculture organization has warned that, like we could run out of topsoil in the next 60 years. That affects how water works, it affects carbon dioxide absorption, it of course affects how much food we can make.

J: Great.

H: So, sorry to give you another thing to worry about! Um, but--

J: Yeah, I didn't have that on my-- I didn't add that on my bingo card, um, but I'll be sure to put it on there.

H: But there are a number of, uh, ways to have topsoil reduction happen less. And I think that, you know, I think in the next-- in the latter half of my life, which I'm entering, that we will see a lot of new ways to make food that will be a lot more sustainable, and might even open up some land that was once agricultural to being natural again.

J: I disagree with the notion that you are now entering the second half of your life.

 H: What, because I've-- I entered it a little while ago? (20:00) to (22:00) J: Well, because you don't know! It seems very presumptuous.

H: (Laughs) That's true. I just--

J: (overlapping) It's possible you entered the second half of your life, like, six or seven years ago.

H: It's true, John. Thanks for BRINGING IT UP! 

J: But it's also possible that you're not going to enter the second half of your life for another like, 13 years.

H: Yeah, but, like, it's not possible that I'm going to enter the second half of my life in... (pauses) like, 30 years.

J: I mean it is possible, it's just--

H: It's just very unlikely.

J: Let's-- let's be honest. My point is only that ya don't know where you are--

H: (overlapping) That's right.

J: In the timeline. 

H: I don't. 

J: Like we don't know where we are in the timeline of our species.

H: Oh, god.

J: You don't know where you are in the timeline of your own life.

H: Your country.

J: We don't know!

H: Yeah. 

J: We need to-- oh. Oh boy. Oh boy. (Hank laughs) He went there. First he sells--

H: I mean, you went plenty of places first!

J: You know what I was thinking about recently, Hank? And I don't want to take it to too dark of a place, but I was thinking recently that the last tweet, the last Facebook post, and the last email--

H: Mm-hmm.

J: --will almost certainly not be sent by a person.

H: Oh, it's probably true. Huh.

(Both pause)

J: Anyway, we got another question (Hank laughs)-- this one's from Lydia. Who writes,

"Dear John and Hank--" 

H: Oh, god.

J: " --who had the idea for keys?"

H: Ohh!

J: "I was thinking about keys and how cool they actually are, and how, like, before them you couldn't lock your dwelling. I assume doors came before keys, so how did people protect their homes?

Keyin' to know the answer,


H: Well, John, they have the-- when do you think? Can you give me like a rough, like, century or even millennia when you think keys happened?

J: So I know that, like, a thousand years ago, if you lived in a French village--

H: Yeah.

J: --like, one way that people would check in on you would just be to, like, lift up your roof. (Hank laughs as John continues) And they'd just like lift up your roof and they'd be like, "How's it-- how's it going?" and you'd be like "Oh, pretty good, you know, it's uh--"

 H: "Hey, Jean-Paul!" (laughing) (22:00) to (24:00) J: "--just a (Hank continues laughing) --just another full moon here in 9th century France." So I'm going to guess that keys were invented-- but on the other hand, like, castles maybe had keys.

H: (overlapping) Mm. Yeah.

J: I'm gonna guess that keys were invented in the year 622 CE.

H: 4000 BC.

J: D'ohh! I was really close! I was on the right track.

H: (laughing) Yeah, the oldest key lock we know of is from Mesopotamia, so modern-day Iraq. It had-- it was a pin lock. The key itself was wooden, but the pins were brass, and to make the key, you would ca-- you, like, had an artisan that would carve the key. Now, it's wild to me that, like, locks happened in concert with civilization. With like--

J: Right.

H: --the first food storage--

J: Yeah.

H: --the first, like, concentration-- like, you know, see, like, real leaps in concentration of power that happened in Mesopotamia. And, uh, yeah! And before that, your lock was just an armed guard. But, uh, but yeah, they made a lock.

J: Wow. 

H: And it worked and it is extant (pronounced ex-TANT). Like, it still exists.

J: I've always said extant (pronounced EX-tint), but I think that either way is probably acceptable, which reminds me, actually, that today's podcast is brought to you by keys! Keys! There's one from 6,000 years ago that is ex-TANT or EX-tint. 

H: This podcast is also brought to you by fire. Fire! LOOK AT MEEEE. (both laughing)

J: We're only having podcast sponsors today from-- from the broadest possible. Today's podcast is also brought to you by targeted toilet seat ads. Targeted toilet seat ads: No really, once I've bought one, I--I have the one that I need.

H: And also this podcast is brought to you by vote!

Both: Vote! 

J: Please vote. If we can get one email from one person--

H: Yeah.

 J: -- who voted as a result of us asking them to vote-- 

H: Oh my god.

J: I will be so grateful.

 H: Yes. (24:00) to (26:00) H: Every email we get from somebody who's, like-- Yes! That's-- Like, that will fill my heart so much. That's like a day of life that we need right now.

J: Yeah. 

H: Like you will be the thing that makes our day better. That day.

J: Yeah. So, if you don't have a plan to vote, make a plan to vote, if only to make Hank happy.

H: (laughing) We'll be so happy. Make my day!

J: We also have a Project for Awesome message to read. It's from Jared from Ohio to Dwayne, Christina, Jason, Kat, Adam, and Erin.

"All three of my older brothers are getting married this year, so I guess they warrant a shout out! Congratulations, bros, to each of you and your wonderful brides to be, on finding love and companionship. May you only grow closer as the years go by. Through thick and thin, may this new chapter of your lives be the best one yet. Also, hi, Mom and Dad!"

H: Wow!

J: Hi, Jared's mom and dad.

H: That's wild.

J: That is-- that is wild.

H: Three brother marriages! I hope that's all gone as expected, I'm sure no hitches were in anybody's giddy up.

J: I hope it's gone as well as-- as can be expected, and safely.

H: Yes, exactly.


J: Looking for a new pulpy podcast? Dear Hank and John is supported by Dirt Cheap, a new podcast from Neon Hum Media that digs deep into the dollar bins of used bookstores and your grandmother's storage unit in search of sass and questionable grammar. Hosts Amanda Meadows and Jeffrey Golden bring these bizarre stories to life each week chapter by chapter with a heavy dose of humor and a dash of schadenfreude. Each season will explore a discarded pulp novel cold from the dustbin of literary history, re-enacting its pages through narration and sound design. In season one, they read the book Murder in the Glass Room, an LA noir novel that almost became a blockbuster film. Subscribe to follow and solve the murder mystery of season one by searching for Dirt Cheap in Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

 [END AD BREAK] (26:00) to (28:00)  H: John, this next question comes from Aeleen, who asks,

"Dear Hank and John, 

We commonly use water to make pasta--"

J: Yeah.

 H: (continues reading) "--presumably because it's widely available--"

J: Correct.

H: "--and non-toxic." (laughing) "but is there ano--"

J: Well, that's not the only reason.

H: "But is there another substance we could safely cook spaghetti in?

The stress is on the A and the E is silent,


J: Uhhh...

H: Ehhh… So there’s a--

J: Yes! Yes, but it--

H: (overlapping) I can only think of two edible liquids that aren't water. 

J: Well, there's a lot of edible liquids that aren't water. And you could-- (Hank makes noises of doubt) --make pasta with Gatorade. You could.

H: Well, Gatorade is water.

J: Okay. (laughing) I mean, it's not water--

H: (laughing) All right. We--

J: --as anyone who's ever drank both water and Gatorade can tell you. (Hank continues laughing)

H: Okay, I would-- (dissolves into laughter as John continues)

J: I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure that Gatorade is not water. Like when I turn on the tap and my home, orange Gatorade has yet to come out.

H: So I'm approaching this as a chemist.

J: What you're saying-- what you're saying, is that Gatorade is--

H: (overlapping) The liquid part of the Gatorade is the water.

J: I agree with that in the broadest strokes, yes.

H: Yes. Whereas there are two liquids that I could come up with, broadly, that are not made out of water. 

J: Milk?

H: Milk is also made out of water.

J: Okay, what do you got?

H: There's oil, which is also in milk, uh, so like liquid fats.

J: Uh huh.

H: And then there's ethanol. (both laugh) Which is, you know, pure grain alcohol Everclear, is what we're talking about.

J: And that that burns off pretty fast if you're trying to--

H: That's-- this is-- yeah.

J: (laughing) --boil pasta with it.

H: So I think that it won't be pastable to boil pasta-- did I say pastable? (both laugh) It will not be possible to boil pasta in oil--

J: Yeah.

H:  --and get pasta, just because I think that because oil is non-polar, I don't think that--that it-- that the pasta would, like, dissolve in the same way.

 J: No, I feel like if you do that you get deep fried pasta. (28:00) to (30:00) J: That's how you get fried pasta.

H: OooOOOh dang! Deep fried pasta! Invented today! It's the potato chip of tomorrow!

J:  (under Hank's previous sentence) It's-- no. I did-- to be clear, I did not invent that. (Hank finishes) I did not invent it.

H: Oh, sure.

J: I'm sure that it's been done, a lot, in a lot of state fairs around this great country. 

H: You probably [are] correct. Um, but-- but I am more interested in-- in the ethanol question, of whether I can have, just like extraordinarily intoxicating noodles? 

J: Oh, god. Oh, that'd be so gross.

H: And you are right that it would boil off really fast. Uh, ethanol has a really low boiling point, so you'd have to do it in a--

J: You'd need a gigantic vat.

H: No, I think you need a pressure cooker in order to get the ethanol hot enough to actually cook it.

J: Okay.

H: You have to increase the pressure so that the boiling point goes-- the boiling temperature increases.

J: Okay.

H: And so you need like a pressurized vat. The problem here is that-- do not, do not. Do. not. do this with a pressure--

J: Do not do this.

H: With a pressure cooker in your home. Because that pressure cooker is designed for water.

J: Don't do any of this. Alcohol is super flammable--

H: It is very flammable.

J: --this is-- everything about this idea is so bad.

H: Yes. But--

J: There's no part of exploring this that should be done by anyone who does not have a PhD--

H: Yes.

J: Not just in chemistry, but in this kind of chemistry. 

H: Exactly. So I would like that person (pauses) to make me booze noodles.

J: No. No. I don't even want to put that person at risk. Listen, if your person--

H: (overlapping) That-- it-- if you know the SOPs for how to get ethanol to a high temperature and pressure safely. Put. Pasta in it. For. ME.

J: (laughs) Hank's given up on the whole thing about how he'll be really happy if you just vote. (Hank laughs) Now will only be happy if you find a way to boil noodles in pure grain alcohol. (Hank keeps laughing).

 H: But no, seriously, do not do this in a home pressure cooker 'cause I'm pretty sure that it would create an explosion. (30:00) to (32:00) H: So, just for clarity, this-- this is not like a "Ah, wouldn't it be fun if we tried this?" No, it wouldn't. But... (pauses) I do want a booze noodle. 

J: Okay, before we get to the all-important news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, I want to answer this question from Daniel who writes, 

"Dear John and Hank,

I spend multiple hours a day listening to podcasts to help me cope with my anxiety, and recently I've noticed a theme of people cutting for an ad break, but no ads showing up." (Hank chuckles) "I assume this has something to do with the pandemic and the recession, but does this mean my favorite shows are at risk of disappearing altogether?

Pre-order the Anthropocene Reviewed book now,


J: Thank you, Daniel. (Hank laughs) That's very-- that's a great-- I really like your sign off.

H: (laughs) Well first, you do not have to be worried about this podcast, uh, which is extraordinarily inexpensive to make. Also, the money that it makes, almost all of it through Patreon and through advertising, goes to Complexly to help make stuff like Crash Course and SciShow and Eons and all those shows. Um, but the-- but yeah, so the way that this works, um, is like a lot of podcasts have switched over to dynamic ad insertions, which is how, like, YouTube ads work. And instead of, like, baking the advertisement into the podcast, which is the-- this is the case on our podcast, um, you, like-- we just sort of, like, stop, and then we record advertisements at different times, and based on who you are, based on where you are, uh, or just based on whether we have an ad to sell that week-- like oftentimes we just don't have-- like our inventory is not 100% full, then, uh, a piece of software will insert an ad into the episode. And it seems to me that since that's kind of taken over, I've had more experiences of just not getting an ad, and what that says to me is not so much that, like, this podcast doesn't have any ads, it's that, like,  they didn't have an ad for me, right at this moment.

J: Right.

 H: And that's probably okay. I think that the podcast advertising ecosystem, if you're worried about that, is mostly all right right now. There's definitely-- there was a pullback in the beginning. (32:00) to (34:00) H: Um, but there's a lot of businesses that are sort of, like, trying to figure out how to adapt to a new moment, and they have to communicate about how they might be changing. Or, you know, businesses that are well suited to this moment-- they want to communicate about their services, so our experience is that the podcast business is not hurting too much right now. Certainly compared to a lot of other businesses.

J: That said, Hank and I are considering buying out all the inventory on our own podcasts. (Hank laughs)

J: That's not a joke. 

H: I don't know if we're gonna--

J: I mean, Hank's laughing.

H: I don't know if we're gonna make it happen but I-- (laughs) I do see why--

J: Yeah.

H: I do see why you would want it to happen. It's an interesting idea. 

J: It's not just that I want it to happen, like, I feel like people who listen to our podcasts want ads that are targeted to, uh, them very specifically in the sense that they are about our work.

H: Indeed.

J: We hope to be able to do that at some point, but obviously, like, that's a lot of revenue that's coming in that's supporting other educational projects at Complexly, so we've got to do it carefully, but I really like the idea of only selling ad space on this podcast to, um, me. (Hank laughs)

H: We'll see what happens! John, is it time for the all-important news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon?

J: It is. Would you like to go first this week?

 H: I would be happy-- I'd be happy to do that. Many people thought this was going to be last week's Mars news, but it came in just a little bit too late. So. Mars, as you may have heard, John-- two years ago scientists reported that they had found a large saltwater lake under ice on Mars's South Pole, but we weren't sure exactly what it was. So researchers went back, gathered more data from the European Space Agency's Mars Express, which has, like, ground penetrating radar that bounces off the surface, but also off of stuff beneath the surface of Mars, and by studying how those waves bounce back, we can learn what's underneath the surface of Mars! Which is amazing!  (34:00) to (36:00) H: We use that on Earth all the time, for lots of different reasons, uh, [to] find subsurface glacier lakes is one way. Like, we could find water that way on Earth; we can also use it to-- for like mineral exploration kind of stuff. But from this, researchers were able to not only back up the 2018 discovery, but they found three more lakes! The lakes cover about 75,000--

J: Wow.

H: --square kilometers, the largest one around 70 kilometers across, so there is some-- a lot of discussion going on right now about what these lakes are. Are they actually lakes? Like, there's still a little bit of debate about, like, what other things could represent this kind of finding, but it seems very much like this is water. Like, liquid water. There's also-- how are they liquid? Uh, because this is-- it's cold. So either-- it may be some combination of warmth from geothermal activity, like, maybe there was, like, some kind of volcanic activity that happened down there [that] warmed some stuff up a lot-- like a million years ago or something, and it still hasn't re-frozen. Uh, because there's also all of these different salts in the water that raise the freezing temperature-- (corrects himself) that lower down the freezing temperature, so that even if it is very cold, it is hard for it to freeze.

J: Right. 

H: So, uh, it is not-- it is not a good place to find water that astronauts would use, because actually the frozen water on the surface is more pure than this water that would be-- you know, and it's easier to melt water than to purify it.

J: Mm-hmm.

H: But it might be a good place to look if you're gonna find, um, any signs of prehistoric life, or even current life on Mars.

J: (overlapping) They could still have life goin' on down there!

H: That's right. I mean, it would have to be very resilient to live at those temperatures and at those salinities, especially because this isn't, like, sodium chloride table salt, which is also hostile to life, but this is like even more hostile to life salts. 

J: Still, those are some big lakes.

 H: They are big lakes! (36:00) to (38:00) J: It's amazing.

H: Yeah!

J: It's a-- I mean, if you think about the way that we understood Mars--

H: I know.

J: At least the way I the way I understood Mars when I was a child, and the way we understand it now, it's just mind-blowing. It gives me so much hope about the future.

H: Yeah. 

J: Speaking of hope about the future, Hank, AFC Wimbledon-- (groans) suffered their first loss of the league one season to Accrington Stanley, a team that we are better than, but keep losing to. They've always been a team that we struggled against. No matter how good we are, no matter how bad they are, they always find a way. And, I felt like, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game, we were playing so well. We scored a goal-- Ryan Longman scored his second or third goal of the season-- it was a beauty, and then we just-- at the very end of the first half, we gave up two goals in quick succession, and we were never able to play well in the second half, never able to get back into the game. Accrington Stanley killed time really effectively, and we lost. So, it's frustrating to go from one-nil up to two-one down. That said, there are still, I think, promising signs about this year's Wimbledon team. Like, we look like we are playing as a team more, we look more effective in attack than we did last season. Like last season whenever we would score a goal, I would think to myself, "Well that was borderline miraculous!" 

H: Mm-hmm.

J: Or like, "Thank goodness for that random deflection!" (Hank laughs) And now I see actual plays, you know like--

H: Mm-hmm.

 J: --players running into space, passes meeting the players where they are-- I see hope, for lack of a better term. Wimbledon are now in 12th place in League One after four games. Obviously, it's still the beginning of the season. We've got, uh, 42 games to go if we end up playing all the way through the season, which, fingers crossed. But five points after four games, and in 12th place? I will take that all year long! Especially if the table freezes right where it is right now, because Wimbledon would finish in 12th, and the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes would finish in dead last.  (38:00) to (38:02) H: (Laughs) Oh Lord, John. That's a wild... wild story you've got us all invested in.

J: It's crazy that they still exist, even, let alone that they're in the same league.

[Dear Hank and John outro music begins under John as he continues] 

J: Anyway, thank you for podding with me, Hank, thanks to everybody for your questions. You can email us at 

H: We're off to go record our patreon-only podcasts, "This Week in Stuff," where we talk about something that is making us feel good right now, and that's available at This podcast is edited by Joseph "Tuna" Metesh, produced by Rosianna Halse Rojas and Sheridan Gibson, our communications coordinator is Julia Bluhm, our editorial assistant is Deboki Chakravarti, the music you're hearing now and at the beginning of the podcast is by the great Gunnarolla, and as they say in our hometown:

Both: Don't forget to be awesome!