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How does public domain work? What is the most common name in human history? Why do we sleep in the dark? What's up with epigraphs in books? When does researching become spying? How are categories useful? Hank Green and John Green have answers!

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 (00:00) to (02:00)


Hank: Hello, and welcome to Dear Hank and John

John: Or as I like 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 Wimbeldon. John!

J: Yeah

H: You know, we had a pretty good childhood, remember when Dad used to take us to that hill and put us in tires and roll us down the hill?

J: Only vaguely

H: Yeah, those were Good years

J: I really--did he do that? I don't actually remember that.

H: No. I mean i do kind of vaguely remember being inside a tire at some point in my life but I don't think I was rolled down a hill in one.

J: I had so much childhood and I have so few memories of it that I just assume whatever somebody tells me is true. You know? Like -- 

H: Remember when Dad used to put us in tires and roll us -- I mean,  actually now that I've said it out loud I don't know whether or not that happened.

J: I was a child for thousands and thousands of days and I have like seven memories, so, who knows.

H: John, I did this gag a while back, we made a video on our Bizarre Beasts Youtube channel,, where we talked about binterongs, and binterongs' pee smells a little bit like buttered popcorn -- 

J: Yeah, I know

H: -- which is real weird. And a person who works at a wildlife place where they have wild animals, including a binterong, sent me a jar of binterong pee. And, like, this is great! It means I can, as a part of this thing, smell the binterong pee and tell you what it actually smells like to me, not just like that you've heard this but that this is like a direct report with a man holding a jar with a towel in it that is soaked in the scent of a binterong.

J: Oh boy

H: And it's a good gag! It's a good thing where I'm a content creator and I will do what it takes to create a content, but I do not know what to do with this jar of binterong smell! It's been sitting on my desk now for like a month and a half! 

John Green: Well..

Hank Green: It's been sitting on my desk now for like a- like a month and a half. 

John Green: I've got a solution. It's not like, you have an actual organism that you're going to like mess up the Montana wilderness or whatever by introducing this new kind of tree frog. 

Hank Green: Yeah. [small laugh] 

John Green: It's a liquid like you just pour it out and then you wash extensively, wash out the container. 

Hank Green: Oh, it's [Wheezing laugh] not a, it's not like just a jar of pee, it’s like a jar of the towel that the binturong peed on.

John Green: Oh

Hank Green: But it is like- there's like a dewy inside just because-. 

John Green: OK, 

Hank Green: it was warmer wherever it was then where it is now 

John Green: OK, I have a new idea then, which is that you need to dig a hole and you need to bury it. 

Hank Green: [Chuckling] 

John Green: You need to have a kind of a series of farewell rituals that the whole family participates in and then you bury it. We have recently buried- 

Hank Green: Do you want to smell it? 

John Green: No. 

Hank Green: I can send it to you  

John Green: Oh no, thank you. I appreciate the gesture, but I'm good I- [sigh] I'm all full up on

Hank Green: [Wheezing laugh]

John Green:  other organisms' pee right now. 

Hank Green: Just just jars of things- just jars of things. I am kind of, you know, I like a little bit having a bunch of weird stuff. I've got two decapitated bobble Johns. 

John Green: Yeah, 

Hank Green: It's just over the years all of my bobble heads- 

John Green: Those aren't that weird actually. The bobble head versions of me I would say 95% of them have been accidentally or purposefully decapitated.

Hank Green: Yeah they- they do have a seeming just a weakness at the neck I suppose. 

John Green: Yeah, well, the whole underlying problem with bobbleheads, right, is that they're a little top heavy. 

Hank Green: Yeah, [laugh] well we wanted to make it accurate and you and I both also have weaknesses at the neck. 

John Green: It's true. 

Hank Green: And, the rest of our bodies too.  

 (3:45) to (9:55)

Question one: Public domain

John Green: This first question comes from Scott. (We're going to answer some questions from our listeners because that's what we do on the podcast). Scott writes: [reading] Dear John and Hank, what's the deal with works entering the public domain? 

Hank Green: hm

John Green: [Continuing] What does that phrase even mean? Does it just mean that like everyone owns it now? Like I recently purchased a new copy of Dracula that $12.00 had to go to someone right?

Hank Green: [Laughing]

John Green: [Continuing reading] I get that I'm paying for, like printing and binding and whatnot, but could I just legally print my own copies of Dracula and sell them? 

John Green: Yes.  

Hank Green: YES!

John Green: You could.

Hank Green: Yes, in fact, we've thought about doing that. 

John Green: Yeah, we've thought about doing a series of public domain, like beautiful books that are expensive and that people buy and then we give all the money to charity. 

Hank Green: Yeah 

John Green: But then... that seems like a lot of work 

Hank Green: [Llaughing]

John Green: And actually publishing...  

Hank Green: It's also hard. 

John Green: Yeah, publishing is really difficult. The margins- 

Hank Green: Yeah

John Green: The profit margins aren't that great because of the aforementioned binding and whatnot. 

Hank Green: Yeah, there's a- there's a lot that goes into it. I mean especially to make something that's attractive. But even to make something that's readable, like book design is… hard. 

John Green: It's a lot of work. 

Hank Green: I don't understand why it's so hard, but I tried to do it once and I was like oh my God, this is a high skill job. It's one of those things that's like, it would- you would imagine putting words on a piece of paper in a way that is attractive would be something that you would be able to do... 

John Green: No. 

Hank Green: But it is not!

John Green: Nope.

Hank Green: You have to have a lot of skill to do it well. 

John Green: Yeah, and a lot of training as well I think, so-

Hank Green: Yeah-

John Green: That- that's one reason. The other thing to remember in this Scott is that, like as a rule, the author doesn't get that much of the cost of a book. 

Hank Green: Right.

John Green: Like the money that goes to the author is not that large a percentage of the book cost, and so removing that which is what happens when a book enters the public domain doesn't shave that much off the cost of a book. Now there are, like Dover Thrift editions and stuff that costs like 2 or $3 and that you know are made to be as inexpensive as possible or smallest possible margins. The least space between lines etc. 

Hank Green: Yeah,  

John Green: But in general this stuff costs money. Interestingly, even Ebooks kind of cost money.

John Green: Like it's still a fair amount of work. 

Hank Green: Yeah it's work to prepare them to be an Ebook. Once it- once they are an Ebook, it is basically free to make like, another copy, which is the nice thing about Ebooks. But- but this is why you can download- like you could for example download Dracula for free, no problem. But getting a physical copy, especially if it's going to look nice, costs money in the same way that, like my book, costs money but you know, minus the $0.50 or whatever I'd make on a paperback. 

John Green: I have often been asked how I feel about the prospect of my work someday entering the public domain and the answer is that I feel… delighted. If my-

Hank Green: [Sighing] Yeah.

John Green: If there's a single person who wants to read my books the day after they enter the public domain, dead me is going to be so happy. 

Hank Green: [Laugh] I mean, it really should happen sooner and there's interesting effects right? Like, the first Agatha Christie books are now entering the public domain, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been for a long, long time, and that's why there's so many Sherlock things. 

John Green: Yep. 

Hank Green: Yeah, and much fewer Poirot and Miss Marple things. Like you can- like you can make a Sherlock thing. YOU! Right now, you can go and make a Sherlock thing. You can sell it, you can write Sherlock fanfiction and put it in a book and sell it to a person, in a way that you can't with you know anything that's not in the public domain, which is why there is like Sherlock, the TV show. And there's like the British Sherlock show in the American Sherlock show. And there's like Sherlock, with Robert Downey Junior, and they're all different Sherlock's, but you can do that because it's in the public domain. It isn't just like I can print a copy of a Sherlock Holmes book, which I could do, or record an audio book of it like I could do all of those things-

John Green: Right. 

Hank Green: But I can also use that character-

John Green: Yup

Hank Green: And that allows for all this freedom and all this creation that otherwise wouldn't happen- it allows Sherlock Holmes to continue living new lives. Which I think is just so exciting.

John Green: Yeah, and really, I think what most creators would like the most is not for their descendants to make the most possible money from their intellectual property, but to have the work survive, to have, you know the work and the characters be in conversation with the present in some way. Like what you really want is for people to continue to care about your work, because that kind of keeps the stories alive and contemporary even as they age and so I yeah, I agree like I would be happy if my work went into the public domain. In, you know, less than 90 years or whatever the current number is. 

Hank Green: Yeah, and I don't think that either of us have created characters that will live the way that Sherlock did, but-

John Green: [Laughing] 

Hank Green: But there are-

John Green: [Overlapping] You think? [laughing]  

Hank Green: but I think that there are lots of characters out there like that that are not that are not able to live that life. 

John Green: Right, yeah, for sure. 

Hank Green: And lots of stories that- that you know, for example, the people who are really big about preventing works from going into the public domain like Disney, like they had lots of stories that they profited off of that were not- that were released in the public domain like Peter Pan like-

John Green: Cinderella, Snow White I mean the list is literally endless. 

Hank Green: Yeah, it's- it was all of their original things or just things that have already been created. They were in the public domain, they made them and now they're like actually I'm not so sure that you can make that now because we kind of have- are kind of the people who made Peter Pan Peter Pan. Of course it looks like Peter Pan things. 

John Green: Right, yeah, but they get annoyed when you try to make a Snow White thing that's too much like their Snow White thing. 

Hank Green: Right. So that's the deal with the public domain and I believe very strongly that things should enter the public domain sooner. 

John Green: That said, Hank, you and I could both release our work into the public domain if we wanted to, and we choose not to so... 

Hank Green: Yeah, well I've only had like five years

John Green: Let’s not bathe ourselves in glory here. 

Hank Green: [Laughing]

John Green: I'm not ready to now part ways with Looking for Alaska just yet. I may get there, but not today. 

 (9:55) to (15:18)

Question two: Most popular name of all time

Hank Green: This next question, John, comes from Sarabeth who asks: [reading] Dear Hank and John, I was thinking the other day about how many people have been named Jose and I was wondering what is the most common name ever in the world, not just people living right now, but if you look at names throughout all of history, what name has been used the most? 
I will never be the most common Sarabeth. 

Hank Green: Hey, you don't know that, there is a long future for humanity ahead. I am hoping and maybe Sarabeth is really going to catch on and there will be billions of you someday. John, I found this question fascinating when I did a little bit of research 'cause I was like I don't know, maybe somebody knows the answer to this. Not only does know the answer to this, no one could know the answer to this and two different people could come up with very different- different answers. Because do you count Joe’s as Jose's, do you count Sarahs with an H or without an H? Do you- do you only use English or do you look at all of the languages? Do you consider the same name the same name if it isn't, you know basically the same in one language from another, or it's pretty different like James- 

John Green: Right, like is John Giovanni?

Hank Green: Exactly like very different names, but are they are the same name. So it's impossible to know because there are lots of subjective decisions that you would have to make, 

John Green: Yeah, 

Hank Green: Which also it's kind of beautiful to me that they're- like it turns out that this thing that we would think is pretty objective turns out to would really require a lot of subjective decision-making on the part of the person doing the study and that is often the case when we're studying things like this. Sociological things where people, and like- in and the way that people have done these analysis, they often say… they often only count like individual spellings. And so, like for example, Oliver would get a preference because there's really only one way to spell Oliver. But Mohammed would not get a preference and might rank higher than Oliver, but it's actually way down the list because there's like 3 or 4 different common ways to spell it. 

John Green: Yeah, yeah, there are different ways to transliterate different names, but then also as names spread among languages those names can be spelled or pronounced differently. I think though, that we also can't know because we don't know the names of almost everyone who ever lived. 

Hank Green: That's the other thing. 

John Green: There’s this common misconception that there are like a huge percentage of the people who ever lived are currently alive because population growth has been quite dramatic. You know, like, and that's true. I mean, the global population has been doubling faster and faster overtime and- but 93 to 95, maybe 97 billion people have have lived, of whom like 7 billion are currently alive and only like 40 or 50 billion lived in the last 100 years, 

John Green: Right

Hank Green: But- and also if you go back a couple or few 100 years we just don't know what those people's names were. Like not very many places have good records. You could do it in like, Ireland and that's it.  

John Green: Not only that, 99.9% of human history occurred more than 2500 years ago. 

Hank Green: [Laughing] Yeah

John Green: Almost the whole time we've been here, we know quite little about- at least in terms of like, what everybody's name was. 

Hank Green: Oh God, I would love to know what somebody's name was 50,000 years ago. Wouldn't that be cool to know? 

John Green: Yeah, I mean, we're not even totally sure that people had names 50,000 years. 

Hank Green: I mean, I- they must have had something like names and like we're always like caveman Grug and Oug and I'm like, no, they would've had beautiful names. 

John Green: Or not, I mean there's a lot of like beautiful languages out there, Hank, but like maybe it all sounded like Dutch and it just sounded like they were all clearing their throats. 

Hank Green: [Laughing] Wow, gosh!  

John Green: Oh, that's honestly all the Dutch people listening are just nodding in acknowledgement. They know. It's not a bad thing. It's a great language, it's extremely expressive. It's just like a lot of [clearing throat sound] 

Hank Green: Alright, keep going John and you know more about the Dutch than I do. You live there for awhile.

John Green: I'm sorry if I hurt any Dodge peoples feelings by saying that the language involves a lot of [clearing throat sound], but it does. 

Hank Green: [Laughs] 

John Green: I mean look American English to be clear, is hideous. 

Hank Green: [Laughing]

John Green: I'm aware, like I hear when British people do American accents I'm always like, oh, ehm, that's what we sound like. 

Hank Green: We do make a lot ehh noises. 

[Both brothers doing “eh” and other vaguely related noises] 

Hank Green: [Laugh]

John Green: It's also flat and nasally. [said in an exaggerated flat and nasally voice respectively]

Hank Green: We get our ideas across. [exaggerated american accent] I'd like a hamburger. 

John Green: [exaggerated american accent] I believe in capitalism. 

Hank Green: [Laughing a lot] 

John Green: I believe that banks should never be regulated. 

Hank Green: [Laughing even harder] I don't have enough cars. 

John Green: [bursts out laughing] Do you have any mayonnaise for this sandwich? 

Hank Green: [still laughing] All right, all right. That's a little too close to home. 

[Both laughing] 

Hank Green: The American accent. 

John Green: That's what we sound like to the rest of the world, Hank. 

[Both still laughing a bit] 

 (15:18) to (18:53)

Question three: Why do we sleep better in the dark?

John Green: This next question comes from Grace who writes: [Reading] Dear John and Hank, (I didn't know the answer to this, Hank I don't know if you know the answer, but I thought it was interesting question) Why do we sleep in the dark like if it's night outside and our bodies know it's night and were tired and all that, why do we still sleep better with the lights out? 

Amazingly grace. 

Hank Green: Oh, Grace this, is you're going to have to- we're all going to have to get used to this thing that is hard to believe that we are not in control of our bodies and that there are lots of things happening way beyond our notice and completely out of our control. And one of those things is that dark makes us sleepy and light makes us less sleepy. Even in situations where we would like to be sleeping and we take that information in through our eyes and we get that both through our eyelids a little bit. But also when we sort of like rouse throughout the night and take in a little bit of light by opening our eyes a little bit. In ways that we would never notice unless there is a bunch of light that would wake us up. So our circadian rhythms, which defines when we get sleepy and how well we sleep and how stressed out we are during sleep times are controlled by the amount of light that we perceive and only through our eyes. It seems like there is, with some thought that maybe our skin, because there are compounds in our skin that respond like chemically respond to light. But it appears that people who like blind people who have can sense no light. Basically, their circadian rhythms are not affected by the presence or absence of light, so it's just what we are seeing and we are not in control of it and we are not aware of it. But it is a thing and why evolutionarily is a separate question but physiologically, it is a rigid system. 

John Green: Let me ask you a follow up question. Is there any way that a nocturnal animal, in your opinion could ever become like the sentient dominant species on the planet- 

Hank Green: Well, sure. 

John Green: or is being nocturnal just kind of an inherent problem. 

Hank Green: Well, I think absolutely they could, but also their- nocturnal isn't actually that common of a trait like where they are asleep all day and awake all night. Mostly what we have are- is dire anality (?) where what we think of as nocturnal species are active a little bit for awhile after night and then they go to back to bed. But yeah, I don't see why- I don't see why not, especially like they've got other ways of sensing the world around them. The question that keeps me up at night is whether that could happen to an organism that exists under the water,

John Green: A superior fish being if you will 

Hank Green: [Laughing] Exactly. And I think about that all the time, specifically with octopuses more than fish these days, 'cause I think it's like honestly now that I'm a little bit grown, I think that a superior fish being would be much less likely than a superior cephalopod being. 

John Green: That seems very possible to me. 

Hank Green: They could do so much, they're so smart. 

John Green: I read this book called “At Day's Close”. The history of night time that talks about what night was like in medieval Eurasia for people like in, you know, like say the 10th century and people used to wake up for an hour or so at night- 

Hank Green: Yeah,  

John Green: and it was this separate period of consciousness and wakefulness, when different things happened that just doesn't exist anymore, which I find quite strange. 

Hank Green: Yeah, well, we got better systems now I guess. 

John Green: I guess that's true, I mean, to some extent-

Hank Green: It’s not like as much to take care of in the middle of the night like it used to be that you get cold and you have to put another log on the fire at least. 

John Green: All kinds of things. 

 (18:53) to (29:10)

Question four: Epigraphs

Hank Green: John, this next question comes from Clara and I'm asking it because like- I- there are so many things that I should know and that I shouldn't be embarrassed to ask, including this one: [reading] Dear Hank and John, why are there poems and quotes from other works in fiction books-

John Green: [laughs]

Hank Green: [continues reading] in between chapters in the beginning, etc. How did that become a thing? How does an author choose them and do I have to read them? [laugh] I guess they might establish themes, but I must admit that I sometimes just skip 'em if I want to keep reading the story. Re-listening to old episodes always calms my anxiety, so thanks, Clara from Berlin.  

John Green: This is a great question, actually. I read a book called “The Art of the Epigraph” by Rosemary Ahern where I learned a lot about epigraphs. 

Hank Green: Course you did- 

John Green: They really rose in prominence during the 18th century when writing and reading became more universal experiences in large parts of the world, because before that, like there's just like when you were reading, say Ovid, there was just an expectation that you'd also read a bunch of other, you know, Roman poets and so they would make references and assume that you knew them-

Hank Green: Right

John Green: And then there was this sort of tradition of collecting quotations from a lifetime of reading like the most famous example of this is this book, "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" that it's like 2000 pages long and has thousands and thousands of quotes. 

Hank Green: Would it be like a big deal if you were a writer? Would you be like fishing for a Bartlett's mention? 

John Green: Oh, for sure. I mean, that's being mentioned in Bartlett's even like 20 years ago was as close as most writers could expect to come to immortality. 

Hank Green: [Laughing] Okay

John Green: It's wild how fast that changed. I mean, I still have three or four editions of Bartlett's, but now of course, like if you want to quote the Internet has them. They aren't accurate-

Hank Green: [Laugh]

John Green: but they have them. So the use of these epigraphs is partly to talk about theme, or to set a tone or to make reference to something that the book or the story or the chapter is a response to. It's also often used as a way of trying to like set expectations or put yourself as a writer in a certain category. But the thing that I found so so interesting about this is that almost from the moment epigraphs began to be used in fiction books, novelists began making up epigraphs,

Hank Green: Ohhhh yeah!

John Green: like George Eliot, for instance, used fictional epigraphs in her work that didn't acknowledge their fictionality- 

Hank Green: Interesting. 

John Green: So like so almost from the beginning, fiction writers were playing with the idea of like this is true, this isn't, and that's something that I liked so much that I did it in “The Fault In Our Stars.” Like there's a made up epigraph in the “The Fault In Our Stars”. I like epigraphs in general, I like the most when they're made up. 

Hank Green: [Laugh] I mean, yeah, I I love epigraphs in science fiction when it's a system of worldbuilding where you're like setting the stage and you're setting tone and like and you're also like creating the existence of a book, an important book, or an important thinker or author in that world who doesn't exist in our world. And it's always seemed to me a little bit pretentious-

John Green: Right,

Hank Green: especially because it's oftentimes it's like holy books or like just deeply important, meaningful works of philosophy in the universe of science fiction and then- but the author of the book is just writing this stuff that we are now supposed to as readers and, you know, we do- like imagine that as like world changing foundational philosophy for these people, but it's just like some guy named Frank came up with it. 

John Green: [Laugh} 

Hank Green: It, like he couldn't get away with it if outside of an epigraph, almost. 

John Green: Right, that's- that's exactly right, do you- you don't have epigraphs for either of your books do you? 

Hank Green: Nooo

John Green: I did not have 

Hank Green: [Interjects] Maybe?

John Green: God, I don't think you do. 

Hank Green: And I don’t think I do. 

John Green: I didn't have one for “Looking for Alaska” or “An Abundance of Katherines”. I had one for “Turtles all the way down” and then I had the made up one for “Fault in our Stars”. I had one for “Turtles all the way down” because- 

Hank Green: Just one at the beginning is that?  

John Green: Yeah, just yeah, one at the beginning, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills”, which is a Schopenhauer quote, which is you know, pretentious philosophy, but I wanted to have it because I didn't know how else to say this is a book that never mentions the phrase freewill that is about freewill, 

Hank Green: Right. 

John Green: Like I didn't know how else to say that in like maybe if the book is good enough it can do that on its own, but I think it's- I wanted to establish at the outset that like, for me, and for this book, the problem is not the question of will it's the question of being able to will what you will. There's a turtles all the way down element to freewill that I was also trying to explore alongside of, like you know, obsessiveness and recursion.

Hank Green: Right-

John Green: And so, that was like a super useful quote for me in thinking as I was writing the book, and so I decided to put it in the book. But I have often worried, like oh boy, it does- it does set a bit of a pretentious tone. 

Hank Green: Yeah, there is an element of pretention and like I didn't really get why until I wrote novels, but now when I read books that have epigraphs, I'm like are you just bragging that you've like- like read a bunch of cool books-

John Green: [Laughing]

Hank Green: like that's what it feels like that you like read it a sophisticated way that you like, even know about this quote, how do you know about this? And sometimes I'm like you deserve- you absolutely deserve. And like you know, oftentimes novelists are English professors or professors of writing at universities and so like they do a lot of reading, so it makes sense that they would have this, like big backlog of amazing thoughtful quotes. But like I don't have that. So if I did a bunch of- if I did epigraphs before every chapter, I'd be on like quotopedia or whatever every day-

John Green: [Laughs]

Hank Green: being like just type in death and see what good death quotes there are. Just cheat my way in. 

John Green: [Overlapping] You don't have like a-

John Green: [Alone] You don't have like a, like a Google Doc or a notebook you keep, like when you read a book that you love that- of lines from it. 

Hank Green: No God no, no John, all of my notebooks are full of like meetings from budget presentations. 

John Green: I mean "The Anthropocene Reviewed" book is probably 95% me taking that Google Doc-

Hank Green: [Chuckle]

John Green: and turning it into a book.  

Hank Green: Yeah, God.

John Green: It's just a stitch together of quotes that I love interspersed with a memoir. 

Hank Green: We're so- we have such similar paths, but such different minds. [Laugh] 

John Green: Yeah, although I will say that one thing I like about your writing Hank, that I try to emulate in my own is that even though you are pretentious, there's no like question about it-

Hank Green: [Chuckles]

John Green: you're a little bit pretentious as a writer. 

Hank Green: Of course 

John Green: You are also self aware like you, you understand what you're doing well enough to be able to make a little bit of fun of it, and the thing I find most unbearable about writers is when they they can't make fun of themselves like it's so cringey to me to hear and I won't name names, but like there are some very famous writers who genuinely think that they're geniuses and it's so uncomfortable. And it also just like it, tells a story to readers, that isn't true. It tells a story of like oh this, you know,

Hank Green: yeah. 

John Green: I am a famous writer because of my incredible talent and because the Muse whispers into my ear each morning the great love stories of our time and I want to be like no, you, no, you're just regular person. 

Hank Green: And, I mean, all of it, you come to understand, is you know, narrative building and so they want to build a story that people will understand as they read in the book about like the greatness of the author and lots of authors do that. And like I think that it can deepen your enjoyment of a book if you believe it. But we're kind of- we've moved out of that part of our history. Especially with like, I certainly could never make that case because like you've seen YouTube videos of me humping an elk statue, 

John Green: Right. 

Hank Green: Like I could never have pulled that off. 

John Green: I'm in the same boat: you have to be a little bit self aware because you know that people are like nah, I know that guy, he's an idiot. 

Hank Green: [Laughing] You've seen my Tiktok. 

John Green: Yeah

Hank Green: Yeah. 

[Both chuckling]

John Green: Hank, this all reminds me of a great story about William Faulkner-

Hank Green: [Laughing] Oh god,

John Green: So William Faulkner, who's an American novelist-

Hank Green: [Laughing even more] 

John Green: I don't even know if this story is true, but I'm going to tell it 

Hank Green: OK. 

John Green: William Faulkner is like bird hunting with the famous American actor, I don't even know who let's say Clark Gable-

Hank Green: [Bursts out laughing] 

John Green: And [Laughs], and they're talking about, there with a couple other people and they're talking about writing and Clark Gable says Mr. Faulkner, who are your favorite authors, and Faulkner says, I suppose, John Dos Passos and myself and Clark Gable says oh Mr Faulkner, you write and Faulkner says, yeah Mr Gable, what do you do? 

Hank Green: [Laughing] 

John Green: [Small chuckle] I mean that that is quite is- the crux of the story is correct, I've found it and um- 

John Green: Did I get it- did I miss the- did I get Clark Gable right? 

Hank Green: No, it wasn't even an actor. 

John Green: No! Ohh

Hank Green: It was a newspaper man. 

John Green: Dang, it's a much better story with Clark Gable than when it is- 

Hank Green: [Overlapping] Yeah it's- 

John Green: the journalist. 

Hank Green: And the quote was: “Do you write, Mr Faulkner?” And then he was [Laugh], and then he informed him that he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

John Green: Oh Dang, I guess that's a pretty good comeback to be like, I do.

Hank Green: [Laugh] 

John Green: Yes, and indeed an Academy in Sweden and acknowledged my contributions. 

Hank Green: Yeah, it's like when- it's like when people ask me if it's my first Vidcon 

[Both laughing]

John Green: [Overlapping] It's a well, it's- it's a. 

Hank Green: Well, if we have put- if we have- 

John Green: It's a little different- it's a little different when people ask you if it's your first Vidcon. 

[Hank laughs very hard]

Hank Green: [Loudly] If we have uh, aroused any suspicion that we might be humble people. 

John Green: [Laughing even harder]

Hank Green: We have now, completely like made clear that that was an illusion. 

John Green: That is your Nobel Prize Hank, is having founded Vidcon. That is- 

Hank Green: Look I got-

[Both burst out laughing again] 

Hank Green: It's something. 

 (29:10) to (30:33)

Joke credits

John Green: [Still laughing a bit] Which reminds me that today's podcast is brought to you by the Nobel Prize in literature: the Nobel Prize in literature, soon to be one, no question, no doubt, by Hank Green. 

Hank Green: This podcast is also brought to you by my new podcast where I just read Public Domain books and then question mark and then profit, I don't know. 

John Green: I still think that's a good idea. Today's podcast is also brought to you by superior cephalopod beings: superior cephalopod beings, far more realistic than superior fish beings. 

Hank Green: And finally, this podcast is brought to you by a pretentious epigraph: just any pretentious epigraph that shows how clever and well read the author is. 

John Green: You know the best one, the one that's in like fully 35% of literary novels is that George Eliot quote: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrels heartbeat and we should die of that roar, which lies on the other side of silence.” 

John Green: Which is a great, great line. 

Hank Green: Yeah, but you know it's overused 'cause I've heard it. 

[John laughs]

Hank Green: John, this next question comes from Caleb-

John Green: Hey, hey, hey Hank, do you want me to interspersed some quotes for my quote document through the rest of the podcast 'cause I'm happy to 

Hank Green: [chuckling] Yeah.

John Green: Yeah, great. 

Hank Green: Yeah, great just, at the end between- every between, every question from now on and before, before and after the news. 

John Green: Sure. 

 (30:33) to (32:26)

Question five: When does researching become spying?

Hank Green: John this next question comes from Caleb, who asks: [reading] Dear Hank and John, I'm researching my little brother. When does researching become spying? Caleb. 

Hank Green: I mean immediately right? 

John Green: Well no, 

Hank Green: Well, because you already know everything about your little brother, that- that you should know.

John Green: No, because if you're like interviewing your little brother, if you say hey, you know I want to get to know you a little bit better and I'm wondering if I can ask you a few questions: what's your favorite color? What do you want- you know,  what do you want to be when you grow up? Stuff like that, that's research. 

Hank Green: Uh huh. 

John Green: If you're like rifling through your little brother stuff, that's fine. 

Hank Green: What about asking questions of people in his life... without him knowing? 

John Green: O h, I think with a non famous person the line is whether or not they're aware of being researched. 

Hank Green: [Laughs]

John Green: And then I think with a famous person the line is hey are you like looking at me at a restaurant -which is spying- or like reading about them on Wikipedia which is researching? 

Hank Green: Umm, there's gotta be it that that was just two- it was just two examples. I want rules.

John Green: I don't have firm rules, Hank. 

Hank Green: I know that's the problem with the world. Like because ultimately if you're going to write a biography of a person, you do kind of have to do some more research, you're going to have to get like primary sources. And maybe if the person is dead, you're going to like read all their old letters, that feels like spying. 

John Green: Yeah, I think it's a place where it's really hard to know what the rules are, Hank which actually reminds me of something Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Journal- 

Hank Green: Oh God. 

John Green: “Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.” 

Hank Green: [Laughing] Wow, that's a hero. 

John Green: [Overlapping] I'm good all week, I’m here all week (?). 

Hank Green: Fantastic. 

John Green: Yeah, well-

Hank Green: what can you just answer questions from our listeners with just dope quotes? 

John Green: Well Hank, you know, William Carlos Williams says “no ideas but in things.” 

Hank Green: Well, let's have this be a thing then. 

John Green: [Chuckle] 

 (32:26) to (34:39)

Question six: Continents and categories 

Hank Green: This question comes from Sydney who asks: [Reading] Dear Hank and John, I'm a long time listener and I've noticed that you guys frequently talk about how arbitrary categories are. You've touched on why categories are flawed, but in what ways are they useful? Why do we have to group stuff together with stuff that is similar but not the same? Continents and categories, Sydney.

Hank Green: Can you do it? What do you got in there? 

John Green: Alright, Hank as Audre Lorde wrote, “it is through poetry that we give names to those ideas which are until the poem nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt”. And what I mean by that is that one of the main things categories can do is give us names and form for ideas that are difficult to find language for. Categories can be a way of creating language around something. The problem is when we forget that we are creating that language. 

Hank Green: Yeah, but it's, it's completely- it's completely understandable that we would have that reaction when language is so often the filter through which we understand our world. Just have to push against that. 

John Green: Yeah, it reminds me of something that Mary Oliver once wrote: 

Hank Green: Oh gosh. 

John Green: “This the one world we all belong to where everything sooner or later is part of everything else.” 

Hank Green: mhhhm 

John Green: There are no categories Hank because everything sooner or later is part of everything else. 

Hank Green: God John, I'm shocked like actually that- 

John Green: I can do this all day. 

Hank Green: That first quote, like I couldn't, I was, I did not believe that you're gonna be able to do that at all let alone find a quote that was like actually very apropos, and then that second one also very good in that moment. So I'm feeling outclassed, frankly, do you want to- 

John Green: [Bursts out laughing very hard] 

Hank Green: [continuing] do the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon? 

John Green: Yeah, but first I need to quote Pope John Paul the second. 

Hank Green: [High pitched laugh]

John Green: It is probably- unfortunately he never said this, which is a real bummer. He was a big football fan, but he probably never actually said: “Of all the unimportant things football is the most important,” but it's so true. And of course, of all the football teams, AFC Wimbledon is the most important. 

John Green: Hank! 

Hank Green: Yeah 

 (34:39) to (40:35)

News from Mars and AFC Wimbledon

John Green: [long sigh] It's not good. It's not a good situation in south London at the moment on a lot of levels haha. But the level at which we talk about on the podcast is the third tier English football level AFC Wimbledon have garnered just a single point, 1 draw from their last seven League games. That’s not good-

Hank Green: [Small chuckle] 

John Green: You want at least like one point per game on average. 

Hank Green: Uh huh 

John Green: You don't want one 7th of a point per game on average. 

Hank Green: [laugh, quietly] Oh God

John Green: So it's a really difficult time now. Obviously like a bunch of players having covid or having to self isolate during this period has not been helpful. 

Hank Green: mhm

John Green: But Yikes, it's not great, and it's definitely at this point capital W Worrisome. I would say that we're in a Level 3 or 4 emergency at this point. We're at the point where I feel like I need to- like open up the window from Level 3 and say like “buy some players!” and then Wimbledon shouts back: “We don't have any money-”

[Hank laughs] 

John Green: “Can you give us some?’ 

Hank Green: [Long sigh] I uh, I'm sorry. 

John Green: So that's not good but Hank, I have good news. 

Hank Green: Oh oh, OK. 

John Green: I have really good news, there's a knockout competition that AFC Wimbledon plays in. Unfortunately it's called the Papa John's trophy. 

Hank Green: Oh no 

John Green: You know it has a naming sponsor, and over the years it's had some good sponsors and now it's gotta really- somehow or another, AFC Wimbledon have managed to make it to the last eight of this competition. 

Hank Green: Weird

John Green: I know

Hank Green: One of the wrong games 

John Green: I am aware, we're definitely winning the wrong games, but we've beaten some pretty good teams on our way to the top eight and now, amazingly, Wimbledon are just two wins away from playing at Wembley-

[Hank laughing]

John Green: England's National Stadium in front of no fans for the Papa John's Trophy. A real thing that you can win in sports, but I mean, I think it's a real competition. And I mean, I guess we could theoretically win it. We don't know who we're playing in the next round yet that draw does not happen until January 23rd, but it could be Sunderland, which is this team that plays in the third tier of English football. Even though they have like 30,000 season ticket holders and pay individual players more than AFC Wimbledon's entire budget for the season.

Hank Green: [Chuckle] 

John Green: But it could also be in the next round, the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes. 

Hank Green: [Gasp] Really?

John Green: Yeah

Hank Green: [In disbelief] They also made it to the eight- 

John Green: They also- they also made it to the final eight. 

Hank Green: That's very weird 'cause they're not good either. 

John Green: [Agreeing] They're not good, but this is a competition -to be clear- that mostly pits not good teams against each other. 

Hank Green: Hm, yeah, OK. 

John Green: It used to be known as the Johnstones Paint Trophy, if you remember that from previous episodes of the pod because I know you have a photographic memory-

[Hank falls apart laughing]

John Green: [continues] of every time I talk about the news from AFC Wimbledon, you don't zone out at all. What's the news from Mars? 

Hank Green: The news from Mars is also some sad news that we have officially ended the professional career of the Insight Mole. So it is now just a piece of technology sitting on the surface of Mars that we're not going to try and do anything else with. So this thing the heat flow and physical properties package that was deployed as part of the Insight Lander to dig into Mars and learn about the- the planet, and it was supposed to go like really deep into the planet, tell us a bunch about how heat moves around inside of Mars, it would tell us a lot about the crust of Mars. Turns out the soil is tricky and probably what happened is that there's just not enough friction in the soil to hold it. And so it was just bouncing up and down in the ground and after all of the work that was done to try and get this thing down 10 feet, it only went down about 2 centimeters. So on January 9th the team decided to officially end the- end the mission, that part of the inside mission. Now always when you fail at something on Mars, well, not always, but often when you fail at something on Mars and in this case you do learn things: the structure of the soil, for example, we also learned that it's hard to get a digger in, so we would have to do that in a different way if we tried to do it in the future. And also we learned how to use the robotic arm of the Insight Lander and strange ways that it was not designed to do so maybe we will do that again in the future. It wasn't like it was just like a thing that just didn't even turn on and didn't do anything, we did get some useful data out of it, it just wasn't about the heat of the interior of Mars, which is what we were going for. Dang it!  

John Green: Yeah, it- that really is too bad because I know all those scientists like built the thing on Earth to try to figure out what the issues could be- 

Hank Green: Oh yeah, they worked hard. Uh huh 

John Green: [Frustrated noise], that's disappointing. So there's a lot we won't be learning about, like the seismic activity on Mars that we're hoping to better understand about Mars quakes? 

Hank Green: Yeah, but we still have good data on Mars quakes and insight is still one of the things that it does, is it is able to use earthquakes to sort of map the interior of Mars. This was like to be able to like detect how heat would move around inside of the planet, would tell us different things about the interior. 

John Green: It reminds me of something that Carl Sagan wrote once: “Maybe we're on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there, that the gates of the Wonder World are opening in our time, or maybe we're on Mars because we have to be, because there's a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process. We come after all from hunter-gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we've been wanderers and the next place to wander too is Mars.” 

Hank Green: [small laugh]

John Green: It's true

Hank Green: Great. He was good at that. 

John Green: That’s the next place to wander to Hank.

(Hank Green: He was good at that)

John Green:  But not not until at least 2028. That was the last thing that Carl Sagan said in that long quote about Mars.

[Hank laughs]

([End music starts)]

John Green: He said: “we should go to Mars. We should. It's so important. It is, but not until 2028.” -Carl Sagan. 

 (40:35) to (41:12)

Actual Credits

Hank Green: John, thank you for making a podcast with me, we're off to record our patreon only podcast this weekend: “Stuff” where we talk about stuff that we like this week. Hopefully there will be some of that and you can find out more at Hank and John and all that money goes to help fund all the things that we do at complexly. This podcast is edited by Joseph “Tuna” Metesh. It's produced by Rosiana Halse Rojas and Sheridan Gibson. Our communications coordinator is Julia Bloom. Our editorial assistant is Deboki Chakravarti, the music you’re hearing now and at the beginning of the podcasts is by the great Gunnarolla and as they say in our hometown- 

Both: Don't forget to be awesome!