Dear Hank and John and Roman

Roman Mars:
This is not 99% Invisible, but I’m still Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
Every time my kids get in the car with me, the first thing they do is they crank up the AC. The kids run hot, I can’t explain it, it doesn’t matter what the weather’s like outside. That’s what they do. And then the next thing they do is they ask, “Can we turn on Dear Hank & John?” Dear Hank & John is an advice podcast featuring Hank Green and John Green, who I’m guessing you already know. They are both YouTube pioneers, educators, podcasters, number one bestselling authors. And they’re just also simply great and kind people whose creative output and charity make the world a better place. The Dear Hank & John podcast is my twin’s favorite. And so when I noticed that the show sometimes has guest hosts, I offered myself up as a substitute, if nothing else, just to impress my kids. I had such a good time and we covered a lot of design and science stuff, I’d like to share it with you. Enjoy.

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Hank Green:
Hello and welcome to Dear Hank & John!

Roman Mars:
Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear Hank & Roman, I don’t need to be first. I’m just happy to be here.

Hank Green:
It’s a podcast where two brothers — and sometimes a brother and a guest — answer your questions, give you dubious advice and bring you all the week’s news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Roman, I heard that once you were at a bar and you were ordering drinks and you just held up two fingers and then the waiter brought you five drinks. Do you know why?

Roman Mars:
Because I’m Roman Mars.

Hank Green:
Because he thought you’re using roman numerals, because it looks like V.

Roman Mars:
I love it. It works out.

Hank Green:
I’m sure that everyone always thinks you’re using roman numerals. I didn’t even think about the fact that your name was Roman Mars until I was writing that joke. I was like, wow, Roman Mars. What a name?

Roman Mars:
Well, thank you.

Hank Green:
I’m a big fan of Mars. Is Mars a Roman God or is he Greek?

Roman Mars:
Mars is a Roman God, I think Ares is the equivalent in Greek mythology. Yeah.

Hank Green:
That’s definitely something you should know.

Roman Mars:
It is, yeah. When most people are making fun of my name, they’ll say, “Oh, is it 99% Invisible with Greek Ares?” That’s what they usually do when they’re trying to do a little thing. Yeah.

Hank Green:
Well, I’m glad I didn’t do that. I could easily have come up with that joke, but I didn’t, it didn’t even occur to me. Roman Mars is the host of 99% Invisible, a legendary podcast that continues to make lots of really amazing content. Whenever I think to myself, “I’m bored, I don’t have anything to do,” I think, “but I haven’t listened to every episode of 99% Invisible.” So there is acres of curiosity and happiness to be had just around the corner, all I have to do is push six buttons in a row.

Roman Mars:
It does require six buttons, unfortunately, these days still. But still, yeah, I’m grateful you listen. That’s great. Well-

Hank Green:
I should be able to set up some shortcut where I can just tap my glasses and your voice begins.

Roman Mars:
Well, I should say that Dear Hank & John is like…. between me and my twins, we listen to this in the car exclusively. And this is a very big deal show to them. They do not listen to 99% Invisible, they have no interest in it whatsoever. They only listen to Dear Hank & John. So this is a real honor to be here and they will be so excited.

Hank Green:
That’s very cool. Well, that is an honor to be your family podcast. How old are they?

Roman Mars:
They’re 15 years old. I have twins, Mazlo & Carver, they’re 15 years old.

Hank Green:
I haven’t come up with one for my five year old yet, because our tastes do not consistently overlap when it comes to podcasts unfortunately.

Roman Mars:
Or many things I would imagine.

Hank Green:
Yeah. A lot of the music he likes, I’m like, “Wow, that’s great.”

Roman Mars:
I didn’t get a true love for pop music, like kind of teeny pop music, until my kids entered into that age of five, six. And those Disney channel theme songs they’re like, “These are really good.”

Hank Green:
Somebody worked really hard on this. There’s no doubt in my mind that there were experts involved.

Roman Mars:
Exactly.

Hank Green:
I like that about your work too, that it reminds me that there are experts involved in so much and that oftentimes I will see a decision that was made. And before listening to 99% Invisible, I might look at that and be like, “What a stupid thing that choice was.” But now I listen and I’m like, “I bet there was a very good reason why they did it that way.”

Roman Mars:
Yeah. That’s the premise of the show or why it’s called 99% Invisible. It’s about design is that most of the time when it’s good design, you don’t notice it. It’s invisible. The things that work you don’t notice and the things you bang your head up against, you do notice. And so, you run across bad design a little bit more, there’s more friction with bad design and you think about it and hate it and stuff like that. And it is probably likely that there is a good amount of thought that went into even the ones that you don’t like for some other reason, some other-

Hank Green:
Yeah. It’s bad for me, but it’s probably good for the flow of water or something because it turns out it’s important. Gosh, it turns out it’s really important to get the water out of the cities.

Roman Mars:
It is. That’s one of the most important things.

Hank Green:
Very expensive problem. So I’ve learned a great deal from you and I appreciate… And also I’ve learned a lot from just how you work and the work that you do and the creative enterprise that you have created. I love hearing from a variety of voices on 99PI, and that you have been able to take this thing that was in your head and make it a thing that other people can do as well.

Roman Mars:
Oh, thank you.

Hank Green:
It seems like that’s the case anyway, I assume that you don’t have 100% control over everything that happens on the podcast.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. No, we try to build a little community around people and promote people and I’m just a huge fan of podcasting and radio in general. I got into this because I really truly loved it. I love the sound of people’s voices, I love them talking, I love learning new things. I’m a sponge for that stuff, and so anytime we can create more of that in the world, I’m super happy or promote whatever it is, it makes me really pleased.

Hank Green:
Speaking of design, I have a question. It comes from Chrissy who asks, “Hi guys,” and that was not specific. Chrissy didn’t know who she was going to reach. “So there are a ton of people in the world who do not enjoy the task of flossing or brushing their teeth. Do you think it would be possible to create a Roomba for teeth for all of us lazy people out there? I get that it would be expensive to accidentally swallow a tiny robot, but there must be a way nine out of 10 dentists recommend, Chrissy.” I don’t think it’s a good idea to have it be a tiny robot.

Roman Mars:
No, I don’t think so either.

Hank Green:
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea. In fact, I was like, somebody must have thought of this. Somebody said to themselves, the toothbrush is 500 years old, there has to be a better way to do it. And indeed, I can’t remember what it was called, but it looks like a mouth guard that you stick in and it’s on a wand. And then it just jiggles and then you turn it upside down and it jiggles your bottom teeth and you’re done in 30 seconds it says. It’s, in part, pitched as an efficiency play where it’s like — “You spend too much time. Are you tired of all the time you waste, a minute a day brushing your teeth? Cut it at half!” And also it’s pitched as “your children are terrible at this, don’t let them be.”

Roman Mars:
Yeah. The idea of a robot violating your personal body space to make you floss seems like a big mistake. But there have been real changes in toothbrushes, in particular. For a long time, toothbrushes were really skinny. The handles were really skinny and the big innovation in a toothbrush design was the Reach toothbrush in the ’70s that it was angled like a dental-

Hank Green:
Do you remember the advertisements?

Roman Mars:
I kind of do…

Hank Green:
“You can either get a flip top head or you can get a Reach toothbrush.”

Roman Mars:
Right. But those were made to look like dental tools that somebody else used on you, not for you to hold in your hand. They were like a weird– it was mainly using the aesthetics of a dental tool. And then much later on they came up with the fat handle toothbrushes because they realized that hand anesthesiologist felt that toothbrushes were like a little too narrow and they would roll in your hand and stuff like that. And fat toothbrushes came around and the big objection to fat toothbrushes was that a lot of mid-century modern homes had actual toothbrush holders in your bathroom that were built in by the construction company and they didn’t fit.

Hank Green:
Yeah. It was a tile that was meant to modularly exist with all the other tiles.

Roman Mars:
But those did not fit that toothbrush.

Hank Green:
Yeah. And you can’t just go get an angle grinder and just open it up a little bit.

Roman Mars:
No. And so that was a big moment of friction when they introduced the fat handled toothbrush. And I remember when the fat handle toothbrush came out, the company that released them, actually, you could mail in for a little stand to put your toothbrush on in case your home didn’t have the right size toothbrush holder. So these are the cascading effects of any type of device that you get and how it interacts with the rest of the built world is a fascinating thing.

Hank Green:
Yeah. And now you can use that little toothbrush holder to hold your mouth scrubber on the end of a wand that you just shove into your mouth and sit there, while you, I assume, listen to 99% Invisible.

Roman Mars:
The big mistake here is efficiency. I’ve never seen anyone create enough efficiency in the life to do something really great with that. So just take your time, do your toothbrush. I find that I floss a lot more when I have some kind of dental problem and I think that flossing is going to keep me from the edge of oblivion.

Hank Green:
Right. That’s probably the wrong way to do it, but yeah, I agree.

Roman Mars:
Exactly. But that’s it, and that’s the only thing that gets me to floss.

Hank Green:
I understand you. I floss two weeks after and two weeks before any dental appointment, and that is it. Real strategy. All right, Roman, I have another question for you. It’s from Edward who asks “Dear Hank & Roman, I understand that Hubble’s law of cosmic expansion says that all galaxies are expanding away from each other, do you? I understand that. I understand that someone has told me this, but is there anything between the galaxies, are there any lone planets or dust, or is it just completely empty space? And if there was anything, how would we know? Do we have any proof that the space between galaxies isn’t just filled with a bunch of chickens? Maybe that’s why all the galaxies are expanding. It’s the chickens that’s scaring the galaxies away, not an ed letter, but an ed word, it’s Edward.”

Roman Mars:
This is all you, Hank.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Do you know that the galaxies are moving apart from each other?

Roman Mars:
Yes. That I know.

Hank Green:
Do you know that mostly it’s space between galaxies and not galaxy?

Roman Mars:
Yes.

Hank Green:
And there’s a lot more stuff in a galaxy than there is stuff in a similar sized area where there wouldn’t be a galaxy.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. That all makes sense to me.

Hank Green:
All of these things are clear. Yeah. Got us all that far. See often you hear cubic meters of space. So in the intergalactic medium, is what it’s called there, there’s maybe one particle per cubic meter. And that’s almost always a hydrogen ion. So it’s just a proton. There’s like one proton per cubic meter, which is about as empty as you get in our universe, which isn’t completely empty. There’s a proton there and a cubic meter is an understandable volume. You can picture it in your head if you know what a meter is, it’s’ pretty big.

Roman Mars:
That’s denser than I thought, actually.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Well, you may be imagining a proton is bigger than it is.

Roman Mars:
That’s probably true. I can see it written on a piece of paper. No, but that makes sense to me. That’s an understandable unit of-

Hank Green:
Yeah. And we know about this because we can see, when we look at distant stuff, we can see a little less of it than we otherwise would be able to because there’s a lot of cubic meters between us and there. And there are enough of these protons to absorb just a little bit of the light that’s coming off of a quasar from a long way away. The question of whether it’s full of chickens is an interesting one though, because it’s definitely not full of chickens, in that if you were a chicken, you could see another chicken. To me, a chicken being close enough to another chicken to be like, “There’s my other space chicken friend, Alfred,” it’s not that full of chickens. But there is a number of chickens that could be in the intergalactic medium that we wouldn’t notice. I don’t know how big that number is, but I bet it’s bigger than you’d think. Well, that’s the only thing that this question made me think, is how many chickens would it have to be before we noticed?

Roman Mars:
It could be full of chickens. We just haven’t trained the telescope in the right location yet.

Hank Green:
Well, again, it wouldn’t be full. If it was full of chickens, they would crush themselves into a black hole because that is how gravity works over time. But if it was a few-

Roman Mars:
Yeah, some appreciable amount of chickens.

Hank Green:
Yeah. I bet you could have like two chickens per cubic light year, no problem.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. That would be a whole lot of chickens.

Hank Green:
And that would be a lot of chickens in the galaxy! But anyway, there are other things, so it’s not just protons. So that’s the average density, so also there will be rogue stars in the intergalactic medium that have been ejected from their galaxies. There will be rogue planets that have been ejected from their galaxies. That is very cool to think about that there are almost definitely star systems in our universe with no stars in the sky because they are that far away from any galaxy. So instead of looking up and seeing stars, they look up and they see pure velvet black with maybe a couple of smudges of distant galaxies.

Roman Mars:
And then hopefully at some point they see a chicken, just floating by. Wouldn’t that be so surprising if all the time you saw velvety black and then just a chicken floated by? How much would that change your world?

Hank Green:
It’d be a big deal. It’d be a really big deal. It would especially be a big deal if it were anatomically and genetically a chicken, that would really throw us for a loop. We’d have a lot of rethinking to do. This next question, Roman, is from Seth, who asks “Dear Hank & Roman, we often hear the phrase as science continues to advance, this problem will be easier to solve. What exactly are these scientific advancements that are always supposedly happening and who is doing the advancing of them? Is it scientists or engineers, or is it maybe computers? I haven’t listened back far enough yet to understand pumpkins and penguins so pears and porcupines, Seth.” When Roman emailed me about maybe coming on the podcast, he signed off P&P Roman, which was pretty great. That’s just to let you know I am a real fan, I’m not pretending.

Roman Mars:
That’s right.

Hank Green:
Roman, what does that mean? Do you have an idea of how progress occurs?

Roman Mars:
Scientific advancement?

Hank Green:
Because you think about this in a historical way?

Roman Mars:
Yeah. Well, usually a scientific advancement is a kind of iterative process and we get a narrow window into those moments of punctuation when things really advance and they percolate up into the consciousness of popular culture. I would say that, how does scientific advancements, I think one is computing power is a huge one that changed the way that we can crunch enough numbers to come out with things to model. And I think that’s a big part of how advancement happens. I’m trying to think of other techniques. There’s often these just gigantic movements. Like right before I started grad school, while I was in college and studying genetics, PCR, Preliminary Chain Reactions, just started as a technique to amplify DNA. And it was this revolution in how people understood DNA and the different assays you could create to study small samples of DNA. And it is basically a technique that they took to become this incredible scientific tool. And these things just crop up and happen, and then all of a sudden your ability to examine new things is just increased just exponentially.

Hank Green:
Yeah. And then you combine that technology with advances in computing technology with maybe even advances in how do you organize and manage human technology and connect humans who are in far away places who wouldn’t normally be sharing research technology and all that stuff adds on to each other. But the weird thing is that there is a sense in the way that we talk about it, that all of these things are inevitabilities and then progress occurs and that our understanding of the universe continues, but every single one of those things was done by a person.

Roman Mars:
Oh, for sure.

Hank Green:
Every one of the computers was programmed by a person. And we know that objectively, but it is often talked about as something that just happened. And I think we talk about it that way, because it wasn’t done by any one person. And so it just seems like it was something that just happened because it was done by tens of thousands of people. And so if there was a story where one lab came together, and you can tell that story with PCR, you can tell the story of how that happened. And for example, a great example of this is the story of how an mRNA protein manufacturing process works, where you deliver mRNA into a cell and the cell manufactures the protein that you want it to or that the doctor wants it to.

Hank Green:
And that is a many decades long process of figuring out how that works. And it allowed us to create COVID vaccines really fast that were really effective that have saved millions and millions of lives. But there isn’t a person who was responsible for that. And there wasn’t a lab, there wasn’t a school, it was a truly international and whole species endeavor to figure that out. And so it seems inevitable and it seems like something that just happens when really it is a… And you can speed these things up by having more people dedicating more time to doing these kinds of things.

Roman Mars:
Totally. And that’s one of the best parts about progress in science. And one of the things that on the show that I do, we don’t tend to cover new design. It’s basically a history show wrapped up in this idea because I’m much more interested in the effects of these types of things rather than in what it says about us as humans in society, than the story of a great person coming up with a great thing. Sometimes those stories are fun to listen to, but they don’t really tell you the whole story of most things when it comes to progress.

Hank Green:
Yeah. I have a question here, it’s from Alice, and I don’t have an answer. I have a couple of answers that I think are probably bogus. “Dear Hank & Roman, what was the first thing bought on the internet? And more importantly, I think for this conversation, do you remember the first thing you ever bought online? Yours from the information superhighway, Alice.” Good ol’ information superhighway. It is quite a highway. I feel like maybe we need a speed limit. In fact, sometimes I do have a speed limit. When I’m on vacation, the Internet’s really bad at the hotel I’m at or on an airplane and the Internet’s really slow or I don’t want to pay for it, but I still have my computer I’m like, actually this might be better. 56K might have been the ideal speed for information to enter into my device. Maybe we should stick with that.

Roman Mars:
Limiting the pipeline just changes what you decide that you’re going to, it really-

Hank Green:
I feel like it makes me more productive. I looked this up a little bit and there was one source said that it was likely a bag of marijuana, which was not surprising. That does seem like probably the… And then another was telling me that it was a CD, a music disc that was sold in 1994 for $12 and something. And I was like, definitely not 1994.

Roman Mars:
It has to be between two professors at UC so and so, and whatever.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Back when it was the Internet, but not the World Wide Web. And I’m sure people were doing transactional stuff on bulletin boards before the web was really a thing. Do you remember what the first thing you bought was? Because I do.

Roman Mars:
Oh, interesting. Well, why don’t you tell me yours while I think of mine, because I think I know what mine might be.

Hank Green:
I might trigger something for you. I was on CompuServe or possibly America Online, I think it was CompuServe, which would be cooler.

Roman Mars:
If you say so.

Hank Green:
And I sent a $5 bill in an envelope through the mail to acquire a “Magic: The Gathering” playing card.

Roman Mars:
Wow. Pretty good.

Hank Green:
Which was a lot cheaper than it would’ve cost if I’d gone to Enterprise 1701, which was the dork store in my neighborhood where they sold “Magic: The Gathering,” which I believe they eventually did have to change that name because I’m pretty sure they were not affiliated with the Star Trek folks.

Roman Mars:
I think mine is pretty similar. I mail ordered things a lot because I was super into zines and punk rock, seven inch singles and CDs and stuff like this. And so when the internet came to me at school, it was all about trying to find some cassette tape from a punk band in Gilroy, California that I just needed to have. So my guess is I’m almost 100% sure it was some zine, some kind of punk rock zine, because I was always looking for new ways. And the first things I ever did when I was online was look up guitar tabs for how to play… I just printed out guitar tabs just to learn how to play songs. And that’s what I used 90% of my internet time when I first found it.

Roman Mars:
But this does remind me of something. So I started grad school in 1994 and there was some email at Oberlin before, but no World Wide Web basically. And I was in my lab and we had internet and I was talking with one of my professors and I was mentioning how I was basically downloading guitar tabs and just looking up things and downloading little snippets of songs or whatever. And he said to me, “Yeah, it’s really distracting. So what you should do is take the weekend and go through the whole internet and just get it out of your system and be done with it. And then you can just get back to work.” So that was his recommendation that you could just take the weekend and just be done.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Just finish it. I’ve had this with books before where I’ve been really distracted thinking all the time and I just finished the book and then I’m less obsessed with it. So do that with the internet.

Roman Mars:
Exactly. And-

Hank Green:
I was thinking about scrolling all the way to the bottom of TikTok. I think I’m going to try to do it, I think I’m going to try to get to the end.

Roman Mars:
But that’ll give you some… the questioner asker Alice, some notion of what the internet was like then, that it was not a completely laughable thought, even though it was a laughable thought, that you could just get through the entire internet in a weekend, because somebody smart who had a PhD told me that that was what should happen.

Hank Green:
So I just got interested in the card that I bought for or $5 in 1995 probably is when this was. And it was called a Sengir Vampire. And if I had had it from the alpha edition, which was 1993, which I did not, that card would be today worth $1,200. But I had the revised, which I remember I got it from the revised edition of “Magic: The Gathering.” And that card is today worth 23 cents.

Roman Mars:
Wow. That’s a big drop off.

Hank Green:
So as with most things, the one that you have probably wasn’t that valuable.

Roman Mars:
My kids play “Magic: The Gathering,” one of them in particular is pretty obsessed. And every time I get them a box or a pack of something they’ll go through and assess their values, which is a huge part I think of “Magic: The Gathering” is just assessing the values and they’ll say, “Well, this one is worth $30 and almost pays for the whole box.” And I was like, “It’s only worth $30 if you sell it or do something instead of keep it in a pile in your room.”

Hank Green:
So go immediately. And also you can’t sell it for $30 because you don’t own a store.

Roman Mars:
Exactly. So the assessed values about your cards have always been somewhat dubious to me.

Hank Green:
Yeah. I was legitimately surprised when I saw that you could get it for 23 cents, which is kind of sad to me.

Roman Mars:
That is, you’ve lost a lot on that investment.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Do you want to give some real advice, Roman?

Roman Mars:
Yeah, sure. Let’s do it.

Hank Green:
This from Steffy I think, who asks “Dear Hank & Roman, I am a high school senior planning to go to college next year and I’ve narrowed down my decision to two schools. They are both large in-state university with a variety of majors in programs that I am interested in and they both have good food. How should I choose between these two very similar schools? Stefinitely stumped Steffy.” It was Steffy because stefinitely makes me think it was Steffy. What do you do in this situation? You got two options there, the same. You have to choose between them because I know what I do.

Roman Mars:
Oh, interesting. So I’m hoping that she went to both of them just to check them out because there’s more than just food.

Hank Green:
Just go, just spend a little time there.

Roman Mars:
Because there’s a vibe at each of them. So how would you choose between two similar or almost the same things?

Hank Green:
There’s a vibe, but here’s what I’ll say about my experience at my very small school is that there was a lot of vibes. So you go and hang out with one group of people, it’s a very different vibe from a different group. There was probably like 40 different distinct vibes at a school of 2000 people. So here’s what I do, when I’m at a restaurant and all the stuff looks good and I’m having a hard time, I pick the cheaper one. So I think there probably will be a slightly, you apply to both these schools, at some point, somebody’s going to tell you how much they cost. And I think you should go with the cheaper one. I think we don’t do this enough, especially with education. I don’t think we buy on price, but we should do it more, we should put some pressure on these institutions to maybe think about how much they’re charging rather than all of the different food options they provide. Because the current trajectory is that they’re just going to keep charging more forever because apparently we don’t care, but I think we should care.

Roman Mars:
I think that’s totally true. I think I would be much more inclined to think about the area around the town. So I went to-

Hank Green:
I thought about this too, Roman, and then I remember my college experience when I never left campus.

Roman Mars:
I really did. So I went to grad school at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. And I went to Athens, Georgia to go to Athens, Georgia, as much as I went to go to grad school. I had a major professor that I was following and I wanted to do research in his lab, but I would say, get the local paper or I guess probably not local paper anymore, but get some kind of information-

Hank Green:
Go to the local website that they have, go to the town.com

Roman Mars:
And compare the two as to what band or activity or thing is happening next. Just what’s your favorite something that you would love to go to. And that was a huge part of my grad school experience, less so college because I was at Oberlin and Oberlin’s its own community. You can get out of Oberlin, Ohio, but it’s its own thing. But if you’re in a town which most of these big schools are in a bigger city or a bigger town often are, look for an activity and see which one guides you a little bit as is a band is coming through, a comedian coming through something like that. Because that’s one of the things that I just loved about that time in my life was doing that stuff. But I think mostly whatever you choose is going to be fine.

Hank Green:
This is the thing. There is no decision that impacted me more in the rest of my life than where I went to college. But at the same time, it wasn’t that important of a decision, I don’t know. I would’ve had a very different life, but there was no way for me to know what the right call was and really I went to the school that gave me the most money. I wanted to go to school in Florida because there was a Florida specific scholarship and I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school and I went to the one that gave me the most money.

Roman Mars:
I think that’s great, that’s-

Hank Green:
And that accepted me because several of them didn’t.

Roman Mars:
You should definitely go to the one that accepts you.

Hank Green:
Yeah. All right. I have a question from Greta. I hope that you can advise me because my strategies are not good on this. “Dear Hank & Roman, I’m currently trying to pack for a seven day family vacation to Hawaii.” Congratulations, this sounds lovely. “My parents are set on not checking any bags and this is proving to be a challenge for me. I’m very prepared. I’m often referred to as the mom friend. However, this seems to be a downfall in my current situation. I know that both of you have done a fair amount of traveling” — this is for Hank & John, but it’s true of both of us as well — “and I was hoping that you could give me some advice for how to pack lightly and still be well prepared. I’m not great, but Greta.” See, I cannot give good advice here because my strategy is to be deeply unprepared for every situation and have my wife be like, “You didn’t bring sunscreen. You didn’t bring that, no ibuprofen at all?” I was like, “No, let’s sell that in Hawaii.” I can get that for a dramatically increased price when I arrive in Hawaii.

Roman Mars:
That’s the one thing, the psychological pressure release valve of this is you always have the ability to just buy the thing, especially if you’re going to Hawaii.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Sometimes you don’t, there are things that you can’t. Your prescription drugs, you need to bring those because it’s a pain in the butt to buy them when you go someplace else.

Roman Mars:
Focus on everything that you can’t possibly get in other places when you’re packing is one thing.

Hank Green:
Have a list of those things.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. You just roll things tightly-

Hank Green:
Tight rolls. Yeah.

Roman Mars:
-is a big one. Focus on the things you need. I just did a vacation to Hawaii with only carry-on bags and it worked out okay. You don’t need a lot of things, you just need a couple of swimsuits and a couple of… some clothes. And most places have, if you stay in Airbnb, have places to wash things or whatever. Or you can take one of those fantastic outdoor showers and so you rinse your stuff off. Just like hanging over the balcony and you’re going to be just fine. This does make me think this obsession with only carrying on our bags is one that I don’t quite understand unless you’re changing a lot of planes because like you’re on vacation. When we travel for work-

Hank Green:
Well, it’s a cost. It’s extra money now. It didn’t used to, but now it does.

Roman Mars:
And this is the thing. This is a whole system that needs to be redesigned because we are incentivizing the wrong-

Hank Green:
Now we’ve found some bad design, and Roman Mars is here to tell you about it.

Roman Mars:
I’m here to tell you about the bad design. We are incentivizing the wrong behavior. We should be paying to carry on bags and it should be free to check your bags because everything about the process of carrying on a bag — getting through security, getting on first, placed in the overhead bin, all of that-

Hank Green:
And the part where suddenly you’ve gotten too many bags on the plane and there’s no more space for them. So everybody’s like, what do we do? You got to bring the bags forward and find somebody to handle it. It’s wasting everybody’s time.

Roman Mars:
This whole thing should be flipped. And as much as you want to make Steffy choose between her two colleges of choice because which one’s cheaper, and you just want to force the system to value cheaper education, I want to force the system to change so that checked bags are free and carry on bags cost money, because it would totally change air travel. It would be so much better. I do not want to get on a plane first, but I pay to get on a plane first because of my stupid carry on bag. I want to pay to get on the plane last.

Hank Green:
Because I’m going to be on there a long time.

Roman Mars:
I hate being on a plane, but the only reason that incentivizes me to get on a plane first is that stupid carry on bag. And if we just change the whole value proposition of this, air travel will be so much better for everybody. So I say, stand your ground.

Hank Green:
Protest.

Roman Mars:
Put as much as you want.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Put all your carry-on bags into one big bag.

Roman Mars:
And check that thing. If you’re not changing planes a lot, you’re going to be fine. Just… I want carry ons to go away.

Hank Green:
Yeah. Oh, I would much rather get on a plane and check all my bags and just have my backpack with my computer in it, so much easier. Yeah, that’s what I do when I can do it for sure. But look, Greta is in their parents’ house and they’re going by their parents’ rules.

Roman Mars:
“As long as you’re living under my house, you will not check a bag.”

Hank Green:
“As long as you are living in the basement, underneath the house part of my house, the cupboard under the stairs…”

Roman Mars:
Just tightly roll things, split things between… It was a big moment for me, I have the personal item. You get two, you get your personal item and you get your roller bag — is to take those soft items from your suitcase that won’t close in your roller bag suitcase, and just stuff them in your backpack. It’s like split up the ideas.

Hank Green:
My backpack is always full of socks because I’ve got my camera in there and my laptop in there. And there’s hard things and I’m like, “No, you got to throw in some padding.” It’s like the styrofoam peanuts, except it’s my socks.

Roman Mars:
And you always wear the bulkiest items. Like if-

Hank Green:
Wear the bulkiest items or this is a thing that I actually did take me a little while to learn. You don’t have to bring all the bulkiest, some stuff takes up more space. So just look and see like, oh, that hoodie’s thinner than that hoodie. And also I’m going to Hawaii, so why am I bringing a hoodie?

Roman Mars:
I wear boots. Since I was a punk rock kid, I always liked to wear boots. And so I feel comfortable in boots and so you wear the boots, you don’t pack the boots. That’s just the way it is.

Hank Green:
Yeah. I get around all of this by wearing the same outfit four or five days in a row, which is not what Greta wants to hear because that’s not going to be helpful for them.

Roman Mars:
And it really is what vacation is for is to do things that you wouldn’t necessarily normally do and you’ll be fine. Hawaii’s a chill place to wear the same thing over and over again.

Hank Green:
And also they’ve got stuff for sale.

Roman Mars:
They do.

Hank Green:
Which reminds me, this podcast is brought to you by Hawaii. They would like you to buy whatever you want there. They’ve got everything, they think you shouldn’t bring anything in your carry on. Just come buy everything, get a suitcase while you’re there and bring it back.

Roman Mars:
This podcast is also sponsored by Mid-Century Modern Toothbrush Holders. They’re very skinny.

Hank Green:
Bad idea. Also, this podcast is brought to you by the cheapest entree on the menu. You’ll see it on Hank Green’s plate every time.

Roman Mars:
This podcast is also sponsored by that one space chicken. When you’re looking out into the velvety blackness and you see that one space chicken, your life will be made.

[BREAK]

Hank Green:
Nothing we’ll ever look the same again. All right, before we go to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, I want to ask a couple of more questions. Do you use Twitter Roman?

Roman Mars:
I do.

Hank Green:
Can I ask you a Twitter question?

Roman Mars:
Yeah, sure. Go for it.

Hank Green:
Okay. This is from Nathan who asks, “What is Twitter? I don’t have any social media and my parents and friends never had Twitter, so I don’t really have any frame of reference for what it is. What does everybody do on Twitter? Is it important? Well, why does it seem like all the famous people are on Twitter and why are they always seem to be arguing about stuff? The best I can come up with is a name-than specific sign-off Na-than.” Trying to get something in there. Anyway, what is Twitter?

Hank Green:
“What is Twitter, what does one do on Twitter? Is it very important?” Those are my two favorite parts of the question. “What does one do on Twitter?” Here’s what one does on Twitter. You send out short thoughts that are less than 280 characters, which is like probably three sentences max. And then you send them out and then people have responses to your short thoughts. And then you have a conversation that is limited in how much you could say at a time, which is maybe not the best way to do it, but it does create us a particular dynamic that is very Twitter. Is it important, Roman?

Roman Mars:
I’m going to say no in the capital I, important-ness of things. If it did not exist, would the world move on pretty much as it is? And I would say it would. However, as a source of misinformation and there was some different, very important people who were denied Twitter at different times and it seemed to matter a lot. So in that sense, it is important. Were it all to disappear, I don’t think the world would change all that appreciably and if that’s how you measure importance, but it’s hard to measure importance.

Hank Green:
That’s a good measure of importance. What is the thing that would matter the most if it disappeared, aside from air? That would be the main one, if the atmosphere disappeared… So the atmosphere’s very important.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. Well, besides things like gravity and whatever, I would say like internal combustion, that would change the world.

Hank Green:
Yeah. That would definitely have some problems. Yeah. If internal combustion engines disappeared or all of the gasoline disappeared, it would all stop working pretty fast.

Roman Mars:
Or plastics, things like that would be.

Hank Green:
Yeah, the computers would all stop working if there were no plastics really immediately, silicon.

Roman Mars:
So with Twitter, a lot of people on Twitter, they probably don’t need to be on Twitter, although famous and important people that you reference. That’s like you camp out a spot, even if you don’t really need to and most of them really don’t. I find that people go through those cycles of using Twitter when they need to promote versus times when they don’t. And-

Hank Green:
Yeah. I’d like to think of myself as that kind of person, but in fact, I’m a person who has used Twitter pretty much every day for pretty much the last 10 years.

Roman Mars:
To me, it’s the most natural social media platform. I’m not on Facebook. I don’t think visually, so I’m not very good at Instagram either. And to me it’s the most broadcasting, which is my natural state of things. And as long as it stays in the realm of broadcasting, I have a thought, I present it, I’ll take some feedback and engage with some of it, but it is not a two way communication device. And when it does, that’s when I think Twitter really breaks down. And if you can just treat it as a place to just put this missive out into the world of your thoughts and it amuses yourself and amuses a few others, that’s the idealized form of what Twitter is.

Hank Green:
Yeah. You know how you can have “away” statuses, there’s away, but then there’s versions of away. I think I should have Twitter statuses and one of them should be, I’m talking, not listening. That’s where I’m at right now, whatever you say, I’m not going to respond to it because I’m just talking, I’m not listening. But then there should also be another one that’s I’m just listening, I’m not talking which maybe more people should be in that mode more often. It’s a really interesting thing that Twitter is, and I think you put your finger on something there, which is that it is a broadcast platform. It’s not really a social media in that you’re trying to reach the people who you are social with.

Hank Green:
You’re not trying to reach friends or family like Instagram or Facebook might be more set up for. So it is definitely a broadcast and it is also, all of these things are so informed by their core audiences. And oftentimes those are informed by who signed up first. So a lot of the structure of it is based on who was there first and what grew out of that. Now it’s not all, there’s certainly lots of different sections and vibes on Twitter, but there are a lot of people who think that Twitter is very important because they are a part of a group of people who imagine themselves as very important, just like politicians and journalists and people who do the broadcasting thing.

Hank Green:
And they all kind of have to be on Twitter. They are talking to each other, they are understanding what people are interested in and talking about so that they can talk about those things in their news articles and op-eds, and continue this part of the world’s progress in imagining things differently. And that is important, but it also, I feel like it has coasted off on its own into a land that is pretty different from where a lot of people are. But if you’re a news consumer, a person who consumes a lot of news, then you have coasted off into that land along with them, which I certainly have.

Roman Mars:
Same. I use it as a filtering device for what people are talking about. Although it has a real hit/miss ratio that gets really skewed sometimes based off of that. But what is the article everyone’s talking about for one thing, but then occasionally something will trend and it’s trending because it’s trending and it’s trending because it’s trending because it’s trending. And everyone needs to comment on a thing and maybe people don’t need to comment as much about anything.

Hank Green:
I just want to button that, it changes my Twitter handle to Hank Green, just listening.

Roman Mars:
I’m on here just-

Hank Green:
I’m not in a talking mode.

Roman Mars:
Leave the message after the beep.

Hank Green:
Yeah. This turned all of Twitter into an answering machine. Although I read whatever’s on Twitter three days later, oh man, that would be a great Twitter. Just show me Twitter three days later where I’m like, I can’t do anything about it now. It’s done, happened. It’s way less stressful that way. That’s how everything used to be. It was the news three days later, because I had to get on a horse to get to you.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. It changes your dynamic with current events when you just wait and just see how things play out. And I think that’s probably a good thing. Some things, like it’s good to know that President Lincoln has been shot pretty immediately, but a few things it would be good if maybe you just let them digest instead of reacting to them. And Twitter facilitates that quick reaction and I don’t know if it’s really that helpful.

Hank Green:
This next question comes from Peter, who asks, “Dear Hank & Roman, with all the news and excitement around the James Webb Space Telescope, it reminded me of a question my wife wanted to ask you what’s the difference between a telescope and a camera?” Interesting. “Dubious rumination is highly encouraged and desired not tailed with cotton, Peter pumpkin purveyor.”

Roman Mars:
Well, just capturing the image that’s the real difference.

Hank Green:
Yeah. So what you are thinking is that a DSLR is a camera, but it’s not really. It’s a camera attached to a lens. And the camera is the part that does the image capturing. So the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb both have a number of different cameras or image detecting devices. And then they have a big set of lenses on the outside. But this is the question that you may be asking, what’s the difference between all the lenses on a camera and all the lenses on a telescope or all the lenses on a microscope. And the answer to that is (flustered sound)…..

Roman Mars:
Yeah. They’re kind of all the same thing.

Hank Green:
Yeah. They’re kind of all the same thing that they do… Basically, what are they being used for is the difference, which I hadn’t thought about until I read that question. I was like, oh, so I kind of have a telescope. It’s just not a very good one and it sits on top of my camera. I thought for a second, oh, a telescope, you can look through it and see with your eye. But no, because obviously the Hubble Space Telescope, I cannot peep through and see with my eye. No one is doing that.

Roman Mars:
It would be impressive.

Hank Green:
At L2 with the Webb, and I’m out there beyond the orbit of the moon, hanging out, looking through. Doing the Galileo thing, drawing pictures and sending them back to earth. I like that-

Roman Mars:
It’d be a good job.

Hank Green:
You’d be the first person to see the chicken at least.

Roman Mars:
See the chickens, exactly. And you could tweet about it, it could be perfect.

Hank Green:
That’s all you could do. You can’t come back to do interviews or you could do an interview, you’d have to go up in front of the telescope and it could take a video of you. But you have to be pretty far away or you’d be out of focus. Roman, I want to ask you one more question because I want to know if you know this story and this seems like, even though it’s not really about design, it seems like a 99% Invisible story. Janine asks, “Dear Green guys, when I was younger, I had the pleasure of experiencing the seemingly ubiquitous experience of owning a colony of sea monkeys. The eggs came in a pouch and you would put in water and eventually little specs began to swim around.” Yeah, I know how sea monkeys work! “How does this become a thing and do sea monkeys naturally occur in nature? Why do they come in little pouches that are given to irresponsible children? I need to know. Not quite a sea monkey queen Janine.” Do you know anything about sea monkeys?

Roman Mars:
I don’t have this story at my fingertips. I know that sea monkeys are brine shrimp. They go through a stage where they can be desiccated and still be viable. You add water to them, they open up. That’s all I know. Why they were given to children and why they drew cute faces on them is not something I’m familiar with.

Hank Green:
Yeah. It was just a marketing thing. This guy figured out that you could combine sea monkeys and sea monkey food into a pouch and that their eggs would hatch. So we did an episode of “Journey to the Microcosmos” about this and we kept going further and further down the rabbit hole. And it turns out that this guy is… was a legit Nazi. The sea monkeys guy took that money that he made from sea monkeys, and he did almost exclusively Nazi stuff with it. In fact, he ended up being in legal trouble for arms stuff. So the most innocuous thing you can imagine, the sea monkey got milkshake ducked.

Roman Mars:
Wow. I need to know more about this story. I’m going to go find more about that, that’s amazing.

Hank Green:
Yeah. I was very surprised myself. It was initially called “Instant Life” and it was sold for 49 cents, but this guy changed the name to Sea-Monkeys in 1962. And then he figured out that comic book marketing was a really inexpensive way to reach a lot of people. And he became the quintessential comic book marketer in the ’60s and ’70s. So I also had sea monkeys growing up. Did you have sea monkeys?

Roman Mars:
I never had them. They didn’t ever really appeal to me, but other stuff that it shared the page with on the back of the comic book I desperately wanted. I never could get those either, but x-ray specs and various other decoder rings and stuff. I wanted every single one of those things, never managed to get those in my hands.

Hank Green:
Yeah. It feels a little bit like buying something on the internet.

Roman Mars:
It’s very similar.

Hank Green:
Back in the day, when you put a crisp $5 bill into an envelope, put a stamp on it and mailed it to some other child who had a playing card you wanted?

Roman Mars:
That’s a good time. Well-concealed cash is how I did my first transactions across state lines.

Hank Green:
All right, Roman, it’s time for the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. If you haven’t listened to this podcast because you’re just a Roman Mars fan, AFC Wimbledon is a third tier English soccer team that my brother is obsessed with. And Mars is a planet, it’s the fourth planet. It’s cold, it’s dusty, it’s red. I know vaguely about AFC Wimbledon because I was at my mom’s 70th birthday party recently, and so I was hanging out with John. And the news is bad, they have-

Roman Mars:
Oh no, this whole year has been a real roller coaster because at the very beginning, it was like the first year in which there was no relegation risk and everything was going well. It was a lot of ties, but things were going well. And I was following along and then pick up in the last few months and it’s just scary.

Hank Green:
Yeah. They are currently in the midst of the longest no win streak in the last like 10 years of their league. And they were up one to zero in the 80th minute and then they lost — soccer games by the way are 90 minutes long — they lost three to one.

Roman Mars:
Oh my goodness. That’s-

Hank Green:
So in the last 10 minutes, the other team scored three goals.

Roman Mars:
That’s heartbreaking.

Hank Green:
It’s heartbreaking. And I was in the house with John and he was like, “Good thing I don’t feel negative emotions about football outcomes anymore.”

Roman Mars:
So this whole season has been like a blown up game that Wimbledon plays because according to John it’s notorious for when they go up, they score first, then they lose. And the whole season they scored first and now-

Hank Green:
Yeah. They did well in the beginning and now they just-

Roman Mars:
Yeah. Well, it’s tough to hear.

Hank Green:
It’s not looking great. They’re still out of the relegation zone as of this recording, but only just… And I thought that they won that game because my dad said, “Oh, AFC Wimbledon won.” Because he just looked at it when there was 80 minutes in. And he was like, “Well, I assume it’s going to go out okay.” Anyway, it’s not great. But in the news from Mars, great news. Very exciting, very interesting. The Perseverance Rover is about to go on its first real long drive. So it’s been up there about a year, it’s about to drive up to a Delta that spilled into the crater that it’s in and to get there it has to drive around to this area that’s rocky and sandy they don’t want to drive on.

Hank Green:
It’s going to be a three mile long drive and they’re going to do that three mile long drive. They’re very specific about this in their language and how they talk about it. It’s going to be faster than any Rover has ever driven three miles before because they need it to sound like it’s quite fast and it is quite fast, but it is going to take 30 days to go three miles. But that’s very fast. And there will be some stops along the way. And it’s a lot faster than how Curiosity would do the same thing because Perseverance can actually drive itself a fair amount where you just say go here and it can look ahead of itself and choose a path that doesn’t have a bunch of rocks that it’s going to get stuck on or sand that’s going to get stuck on. So it knows more about how to do stuff and we don’t have to be in control of it as much, it’s really cool.

Roman Mars:
And the driving three miles is to get to this new place is to study something in particular. Is it just to do three miles, what is the…?

Hank Green:
No. Yeah, they won’t want to just make it go. It’s to get to the Delta. So a Delta, so this is where a river flowed into a lake basically, and that lays down layers and layers and layers of sediment and is a great place to see the geological history of the spot by all those different layers. It’s also potentially a great place to find things that you wouldn’t expect to see, whatever those may be. Obviously deltas are often a great place on earth to find fossils, to find evidence of previous biologies, which is a thing that Perseverance would love to have happen, to just find a chicken in there, but we’re not like a… NASA never sets that goal, because they’re not like we’re not trying it, but they’re all very curious about how common life is in the universe. And if it evolved twice in one solar system, that would be a pretty significant expansion of going from an end of one to an end of tho was a big deal.

Roman Mars:
That was a very big deal.

Hank Green:
You’re dealing with a universe this big, so who knows? And it’s a big solar system. There’s other places we haven’t been that are prime and interesting places for life to maybe happen. So they’re just harder to get to because they’re under giant sheets of ice around and moons around gas giants. But super stoked for the Perseverance team doing this drive. So keep your eye out over the next month. There’s going to be a lot of movement on Mars, you can check on the map at JPL’s website, just search for Rover drive probably. You can figure it out, you know how to use the internet. Roman, thank you so much for making a podcast with me. I assume that everybody who listens to this knows about 99% Invisible. But if you don’t, you’ve heard enough that you’re going to go check it out now I assume.

Roman Mars:
I would hope so. And I hope that anyone hearing this who is here because of me goes and checks out the rest of Dear Hank & John, because it really is the thing that gives my kids the most joy.

Hank Green:
That’s so cool.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I love it.

Hank Green:
Well, I’m happy that you have a productive relationship with your teenage sons. I am crossing my fingers that in 10 years I will productively listen to podcasts with a person who I have a good relationship with.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. It’s a nice thing. And it’s like one of those things that starts a little conversation. We hear a thing, then somebody reaches forward and pauses and give their answer of how many lemons a person would be made out of or something. And then they unpause it and we continue listening.

Hank Green:
If you’re listening, Mars’ twins, I want you to guess how many chickens you think there could be in a cubic light year before we’d notice.

Roman Mars:
That’s a good one.

Hank Green:
And then we can have some astrophysicists comment on that as well. I’d be very curious to find out.

Roman Mars:
It was a real pleasure. Thank you so much.

Hank Green:
If you want to send us questions, you can do that. Our email address is [email protected] We don’t have a podcast without your question, so we appreciate everybody who sends them in. This podcast is edited by Josef “Tuna” Metesh, it’s produced by Rosianna Halse Rojas, our communications coordinator is Julia Bluhm. Our editorial assistant, who helps me with things like the facts that I’m asked. We didn’t get to this question: What percent foot am I? What percent of my body is foot? The answer is about 3%. So Deboki helped answer that question for us, that’s why we need her. 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, don’t forget to be awesome.

[MUSIC]

Roman Mars:
Dear Hank and John is available wherever you get podcasts. It will make your life better. Definitely subscribe.

————-

CREDITS

Roman Mars:
99% Invisible is Delaney Hall, Kurt Kohlstedt, Martín Gonzalez, Swan Real, Emmett FitzGerald, Vivian Le, Joe Rosenberg, Chris Berube, Christopher Johnson, Lasha Madan, Jayson De Leon, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars.

We are a part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building — in beautiful uptown Oakland, California.

You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99pi at 99pi.org.

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