Previous: 2 Ways We're Bigger than We Think
Next: What are These Boys Doing??



View count:3,825
Last sync:
In which John considers a question from his 5-year-old nephew: Why do things exist? Why does anything exist? Why are we here? Also, chickens.

Subscribe to our newsletter!
And join the community at
Help transcribe videos -
Learn more about our project to help Partners in Health radically reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone:
If you're able to donate $2,000 or more to this effort, please join our matching fund:
John's twitter -
Hank's twitter -
Hank's tumblr -
Good Morning Hank, it's Tuesday. But this video isn't for you, it's for your son who recently asked "Why do things exist?" Which, buddy, is a really good question. And a really big one. One of the strange things about being human is that big questions occur to us even if they don't seem to affect our day to day lives. Like your question is about why does universe exist? And why does it have so much stuff in it? And why some of that stuff happens to be zinc and iron that we dig under the surface of the Earth to pull out and transform into a 1987 US mail truck Hot Wheels. But regardless of why zinc exists the Hot Wheels is still fun to play with, right? And this is one of my very favourite things about humans. We don't need to know why zinc exists in order for Hot Wheels to be fun to play with or for us to survive or whatever, but we still want to know. And I think this urge to know, even if we don't necessarily need to know in order to survive is kind of the human superpower. Okay, so let's begin with us. I'm not sure if this is news to you, but it continues to be weird to me. We are made out of the universe, even our thinking parts. Like you may hear the people and cat and the Earth are mostly made of stardust and that's actually very true. We are made out of stuff that stars produced a very long time ago as they burned. But while thinking about stars transforming into humans and US mail truck Hot Wheels is very interesting and important, it tells us about how things exist and what exists than why they exist. Like, we know that our planet which we call Earth is rotating around a star which we call the Sun and that star is one of billions in our Milky Way galaxy which is itself just one of billions of galaxies in the universe. We also know the universe, like good five year olds everywhere, follows a set of rules that shapes how it behaves and we know that the universe is expanding, that everything is getting further away from everything else at an accelerating rate. And we know that things are made out of atoms which are themselves made out of subatomic particles like protons and electrons. But why? Why do things exist? Hold on, I have to feed the chickens. By the way, do you know that after you make coffee, there's this stuff left over called coffee grounds that you can use as garden fertilizer or as a kind of kitty litter for your chicken coop. It's true! Say hello to the chickens. Greetings, chickens! It is I, your humble servant, here to exchange food for your eggs. So coffee gives us energy and then its remains give us happy chickens and gardens. Now I know what you're thinking, "But where can I get amazing coffee that's good for the people who drink it, and for the people who farm it and for the chickens?" So why do things exist? We don't know! We don't know why things exist. We are reasonably sure that a little less than 14 billion years ago, everything currently in our universe was in an unfathomably dense point of matter and then exploded into being which we call the Big Bang but we don't know why and we don't need to know why there is stuff in the universe at all. At least according to our current models, it is just as likely, maybe even more likely that the same universe could be created but without any matter in it. So, yeah. We don't know.  We don't know why there is as much stuff in the universe as there is instead of more or less stuff? And we don't know why the universe exists. Which, of course, also means that we don't know why we exist. So that's weird, but it's also kind of exciting because that means that the big questions, maybe even the biggest questions are still out there, waiting to be answered and you are one of the people exploring this question. Which I think is awesome. We are made out of universe. We are not observers of it, we are participants in it. And that's why I think your question is so beautiful, because you, my five year old nephew, are the universe trying to understand itself. Orin, I'll see your dad on Friday.
P.S: I'm pretty sure, it's illegal to market directly to you, but fortunately you don't drink coffee. Learn more about our new coffee subscription there. It's great coffee that you can feel great about.