Throwback: V’s Secret Friend, Hank Green
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In this fun past episode of V Interesting, V chats with Hank Green, the founder of VidCon and a true Renaissance man. Hank is a familiar voice to everyone who watched Crash Course educational YouTube videos in school, and he’s also well known for energizing a brigade of Nerdfighters, vlogging with his brother, writing books, and TikToking up a storm. Hank, who’s been a content machine since the early 90s, talks about his successful online journey of making science less boring and more accessible. He shares what determines how much you make on social media platforms, and addresses how he’s filled gaps within the industry that allow video creators to connect and develop relationships. Plus, answers to pressing science questions like why humans have butt hair!
Follow Hank Green on Twitter and Instagram at @HankGreen
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V Spehar, Hank Green
V Spehar 00:00
Welcome to Friday episodes. Our favorite day of the week here on V INTERESTING because we get to double down with some of our favorite people and today, we will be spending the day with content creator extraordinaire, Hank Green.
V Spehar 00:21
Hank is a popular blogger, author and science communicator, his internet creation steep back to the early 1990s. In fact, he may have even taught you biology through his entertaining YouTube explainers or thought provoking TikTok videos. He’s also done a ton of cool things with his brother John on their YouTube channel Crash Course. And yes, John Green is the guy who wrote The Fault in Our Stars, there is truly nothing this family can’t do. They’re like brothers and a multimedia Empire just all rolled into one. But today, we are here to talk about Hank, Hank is the CEO of Complexity, and the education platform you’ll find in every high school in America and DFTBA.com, his merch platform, because over achiever, of course, he’s also a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of VidCon, the largest industry and then convention for online video that is happening. You guessed it, right now, I’m actually here. Right. Now. We’re going to talk a little bit about VidCon. But we’re also going to answer your tough, weird, and frankly, a little dark questions about science. Thank you so much for being here. You have been so kind to me. And since I started my Creator journey, and just like included me in so many things, and I’m just so excited that you are letting me include you over here.
Hank Green 01:42
Yeah, thank you. I’m happy to be here. Thanks for asking.
V Spehar 01:46
So you have sort of learned to brand yourself as a stem guy. And you’ve essentially become what we all lovingly refer to as the Bill Nye of our generation. Can you talk just a little bit?
Hank Green 01:59
I don’t think it’s our generation. I think Bill Nye is the generation is the Bill Nye of my generation. I don’t know how old you are.
V Spehar 02:06
Hank Green 02:07
Okay, then Bill Nye is the Bill Nye of our generation.
V Spehar 02:09
It is, yes.
Hank Green 02:11
Yes. But I was lucky to get to get a space in the science communication lane, which I happily occupy.
V Spehar 02:18
Yeah. So where did that passion for science come from?
Hank Green 02:21
Oh, for I don’t know, having good science teachers, my dad was certainly important in that, as was my mom, my dad, when I was growing up was the state director of the Nature Conservancy in Florida. So that meant that he was working with sort of field scientists a lot. And he’d like, you know, he was a good dad, he takes me out and be like, here’s how the scientists do the science. And I’m like, wow, it’s way more boring than I thought it would be. If you only hear about the results, you don’t hear about the years of work that go into the results. Where you just digging holes. And that, but also that meant that, you know, I had exposure to that and was interested in it. And they, my teachers, and my parents very much indulged me. And I loved I loved it. I loved science fiction; I have had a subscription to Scientific American magazine. Since I was maybe 15. Still have it still really good to gray magazine, I still have one thing made of dead trees that comes to my house every month.
V Spehar 03:25
I appreciate the classic news of that there’s something about holding the tree that helps you be closer to science when reading about science.
Hank Green 03:32
I mean, it sort of like convinces me that I should read more of it.
V Spehar 03:35
And your brother was very into this too. Or was it like a competitive thing? Like who was daddy’s better geek? Or like what was the competition like? Because I’m my father’s favorite son. And I have a brother. So I know what that’s like.
Hank Green 03:51
I think that they always they, I once said, I don’t feel like our parents have a favorite. And he was like, that is such a favorite child thing to think.
V Spehar 04:01
It’s because you’re the favorite.
Hank Green 04:02
Yeah. The dynamic was very much not competitive in that way. Like John was never into science. I was always into science. He was always writing, fiction and poetry and you know, reading James Joyce and I was like, never going to never I still will never read James Joyce, though. I’m sure it’s very good.
V Spehar 04:27
That’s what’s so great about you. And John is the tag team. It’s like one of you is like super literacy guy. The other guy is super science guy and together, great date.
Hank Green 04:37
It is actually it turned out to be a very good set of a sort of a very good differentiation for us to have, especially when we started a crash course where it was like you did science stuff. I’ll do the humanity stuff. And we’ll go.
V Spehar 04:51
And for folks who, like are familiar with your work, which I truly cannot think of anybody who wouldn’t be. You’ve been content machines. Since the 90s, you run the YouTube channels, you’ve got online companies, like you just said Crash Course. And you’re creating educational videos, you’ve written books, like, how did you get started on this? Just in general?
Hank Green 05:12
I don’t know, there’s always there’s got to be some kind of deep seated need for attention that has to be there. Right? I think that all the creators have that. Not that. Not that there was a reason a lot of people are like, it’s because I was ignored as a child, which I was not, I was very, very happy childhood Very good.
V Spehar 05:30
Another way we know that you’re the favorite. Yes.
Hank Green 05:36
But I did, I mean, I did feel pressure to be successful, that I mean, by society, by family, by whatever. And that has meant like, following whatever it is that’s working, and not being so interested in whether or not it’s almost like the part where it’s working, is more important than what exactly the thing is, for me, which is not the case for everybody. But it’s the case for some people, the part where it works is the is the part that drives me forward. So I chase whatever’s working. And then sometimes not. Sometimes you have to start from scratch, like with books, but the sort of online media thing very much started as you know, I made a website, and people wanted the website. And that was good. That was a good rush, people were reading the things that I wrote. And then I started another website, and then another website. And then when John was like, we should make this videos on this new thing called YouTube in 2007, which had been around for like a year, we were going to try that out. And also, I would was would do, and probably still would do whatever my older brother told me is cool. But that was very much the dynamic, then if John was like, this thing is cool. I was like, I agree, this band is good. I will listen to everything they ever made. It was kind of that situation. Not that he’s ever led me astray, like he’s very good taste in music.
V Spehar 07:03
That’s a good, that’s such a great point on just having a sibling and the importance of having siblings, for those of us that are so lucky to have them, that you do just get this immediate friend, right. It’s your friend for life. Like I always say like, because I have my sister, if I don’t have any other friends, she’ll just have to pick up their slack. And that’s always good. You got like a sense of security that you don’t otherwise have. And they just guide you into these things. It sounds like you didn’t go into it with any intention necessarily of being TikTok famous or YouTube famous, you just went into it with curiosity. And like, I’m going to hang out with my brother and see what happens.
Hank Green 07:39
I think that we had an idea that YouTube was going to be bigger next year than it was this year, I don’t think that we had an idea that that would continue to be the trend for the next 15 years. But I knew that something really interesting was going on, just from sort of having a cursory understanding of how the early history of television went, was like, ah, if there aren’t people saying, what, like, if there isn’t a limited quantity of access to channels through which video can flow, that changes everything, everything’s out the window, like that is completely if it’s, if the technology is there to make video more easily. And the technology is there to distribute whatever amount of video there is, everything’s out the window, nothing’s the same. No one knows what it’s gonna be. But it’s not going to be what it was. That’s very much how it felt to me. And a lot of people were like, stop, stop, like, and I’m wrong about stuff so much. But I was super right about that. And so I didn’t, I certainly didn’t imagine what it would be. But I had a strong feeling that it was going to be a big deal.
V Spehar 08:52
And it was, and then there have been platforms that have come after that, that do you find yourself hearing about a new platform, and you’re like, I’m gonna get on that right away. Because again, it is about almost, it’s almost as much about being first as it is about being talented.
Hank Green 09:06
I don’t know. So, like, I downloaded musically back when it was musically and I was like, this is not a place for me. And then when I when like people started this, remember with this with vine, when people started to say you need to be on vine, vine is going to be a big deal. And I you know, I went and I looked at vines, and I was like, yeah, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on here. But I never did vine, because while I did a little bit, but I never, like lean into Vine one because the stuff that I did didn’t take off at all. Like it didn’t get like, you know, people weren’t enthusiastic about it. And second, it was it’s actually really hard to make good content in six seconds. And it’s also not like what I do even 15 or a minute, was 15-30 or a minute like, like tick tock has sort of expanded into seemed like that’s, you know, that’s not enough to do what I want to do? It turns out that it was, but what really changed it was, I think honestly, I posted some content and like within the first five videos something did really well. And that’s like TikTok superpower when it’s like here, I would like you to have this brain candy of success, get addicted to it. And I use platforms that I enjoy using and I enjoy using TikTok I do not use Facebook because I find it except for you know, like the way that a normal human would use Facebook to connect with friends. Because I find it as a creator a just a deeply miserable experience to use Facebook. On TikTok, it’s like constant like cool, like people I think are cool interacting with my content. Lots of people I don’t know interacting with my content, my content getting sucked into areas of TikTok it’s never been sucked into before and like having that experience not knowing what’s going on not knowing why think succeed, it’s such a casino environment it’s like you might as well block out the windows take out the clocks and make the carpet patterns really busy. So that we don’t know that the time is passing. It’s a slot machine for creators. And like I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. But it certainly works.
V Spehar 11:20
When you’re hot, you’re hot. It is dopamine hit after dopamine hit, show girl after show girl, casino win after win. It’s got everything, right? Well, we’ve got almost everything here including an attempt to explain beat poop and the mysteries of butt hair more with Hank Green after this. We are back with Hank Green. Hank, earlier this year, he made a video about the different ways that platforms pay their creators, specifically how YouTube does it versus TikTok, can you just kind of like recap that for us?
Hank Green 12:08
Sure. Yeah. So the way that creators are paid by TikTok is there’s an amount of money that at this point is a mysterious amount, though initially, they said how much it was. And then every day that is like over a year, every day, that amount of money is divided into 365th. And then that amount of money is distributed amongst everybody who’s a part of the TikTok creator fund, based on how like basically how much time people spend on their content. So if you have on that day, a video that goes super viral, you can make up, you know, a larger percentage of that amount. And you’re splitting it with everybody else in the fund. And so what that means is that the amount that tick tock pays per day is the same every day no matter what. So if there’s 10 times more views on TikTok that day, you make 10 times less money per view, because they’re just more and as more and more people show up on the platform. TikTok makes more and more money, but it’s sharing the same amount of money as they sell more advertisements, they make more money, but it’s sharing the same amount of money. So, creators bring more people onto the platform, TikTok is every day, it’s the top app in the App Store, they’re becoming more and more successful, but they’re paying out exactly the same amount of money every day. Whereas on YouTube, creators get a 55% cut of all advertisements that play on their videos, that’s the deal. And so if like I have, so not only if I have a video that goes viral, if I have a video goes viral amongst people who are more valued by advertisers, or I’m talking about a topic that is more valued by advertisers, all that stuff goes into making more or less money. So, if you have an audience that unlike so there’s unfairnesses to this, of course, if you have an audience that is lower income, if you have an audience that’s less desirable to advertisers, if you have a younger audience, if you have a more South American audience, for instance, all these things mean that you make less money, because you are getting a cut of what YouTube makes. Whereas, you know, if you’re making stuff that’s really brand safe, like I do, and it’s a bunch of college bound or college, like people currently in college, which, you know, crash courses, stuff is Crash Course has some of the highest ad rates I’ve ever seen on YouTube for that reason, and super brand safe, super good halo for the brand to be associated with and like most of the people are college educated or college bound. And that matter, all that stuff matters a lot to advertisers so there’s like unfairness is there. But overall, the amount of the percentage of YouTube’s money that goes to creators is about 55%. There’s some reasons why it’s not exactly 55%, but it’s about 55%. And the percentage of TikTok’s money that goes to creators is a mystery. But according to my calculations is a 10th of that probably.
V Spehar 14:57
Woefully low, woefully low No, you just said that you do a lot of brand safe content. But I want to push back on that Hank Green because I have watched your videos, and you answer some of the most insane and unhinged questions I’ve ever heard. Why do humans have butt crack hair? And what would bee poop?
Hank Green 15:19
Well, I mean, both of those are brand safe. I mean, it’s just that’s the human body. There’s sometimes there’s hair and the butt crack is a mystery that everybody wants to know the answer to and bee poop is just bee poop. The answer
V Spehar 15:34
to why do humans have butt crack hair is truly I believe you said like, because there’s nowhere else for to go. It just has to go somewhere.
Hank Green 15:41
What? No. It isn’t known. So there’s several different theories. But I think that the, in my head, the leading theory is that it’s for anti-chafing. So the individual hairs can roll around each other, they also get coated with sebaceous wax. So that there is sort of like a little bit. It’s like a lubricant, almost. And it’s like they’re there to hold the lubricant. And also to roll across each other, like almost like long skinny ball bearings, so that you don’t get your butt crack doesn’t get chafed as much, which I feel like it’d be really easy to do you just go to a marathon and you ask people how much trouble they have with chafing. And then you ask them how much ass crack here they have. And you hope that they answer you accurately. Which that I say it is not easy, because like how do you know, where you fall on the butt hair bell curve.
V Spehar 16:43
I mean, I think a good audience to survey could be folks who are on tear taking testosterone because one of the major side effects is an increase of butt crack here, which is very concerning. It’s one of the least fun parts.
Hank Green 16:55
We finally have the experiment, we’re ready, be like has chafing improve?
V Spehar 17:03
I need to know this guy’s and also does is that why men have nipple hair? Does that have to do with chafing? Is this all for us to be able to run more quickly?
Hank Green 17:12
No, I think typical hair is purely aesthetic.
V Spehar 17:14
Just something to do.
Hank Green 17:18
The ladies loved it. It just kept on happening.
V Spehar 17:22
It’s like a wreath for your useless nipple. It’s just, oh my god, this is a wholesome show and then bee poop, I am interested in this, what’s the functionality of bee poop then?
Hank Green 17:37
Well, I mean, it’s the same functionality is all poop you eat stuff that you don’t want to keep inside of your body, or stuff gets used up and you don’t need one in your body anymore. So your digestive system is basically on the outside of your body. So like in a way, so a lot of the like it doesn’t really get absorbed into your body until it moves through the walls of your digestive tract. And then what is left afterward is like a lot of bacteria, a lot of like fiber front like indigestible fiber, a lot of like the waste of bacteria. And there’s also some stuff that gets secreted. That isn’t stuff you ate, it’s stuff that your body secretes into your, but anyway. But with bees, the thing that they eat that they can’t digest is pollen. So bees collect pollen and they do like stuff with pollen, but like they eat nectar. And oftentimes the nectar and the pollen are mixed together and so they will just eat the pollen and then they’ll get the nectar. They’ll like they have a special organ in their body that separates the nectar from the pollen. And then they just put the pollen right back at the end. And so that that’s actually that pollen could fertilize a flower if it poops on a flower, which sometimes they do and probably usually they don’t. But maybe I don’t know like there were bees mostly on flowers. I don’t think they like to poop inside of their houses.
V Spehar 18:54
I was wondering that I’m like, is there poo in the hives is getting a honey do you have to pay extra for that? Like I buy some bougie honey sometimes you know am I getting like a higher FICO be content like is that what makes it so sweet? We don’t know.
Hank Green 19:08
I bet that I think that anything with bees, you can sell it.
V Spehar 19:16
What do you think it is about your videos that resonate with so many people? Is that the education is that the way that you construct the video? Is it just your general likability and like enthusiasm? Is it all of that?
Hank Green 19:27
Yeah, I think that there is a, so sometimes people one of the thing a tip for creators never talk about the thing that people don’t like about you because then they’ll notice it more, but I’m okay at this point. And I sometimes people will tell me I’m a bit I’m a bit much and the reason why is because that is something that other people like so some people don’t like it other people don’t like it. This is a normal thing for creators you will not be universally appealing. And that is when I’m doing that I’m not thinking about it, I mostly I’m just actually excited. I think that obviously, like the, the, like having the camera on me might turn that up a couple notches. But, but I think that there is something to that part of it, I’m not much of a barrier, like me, people look at me and they don’t. And they say like that makes sense kind of. I think that this is a product like this because problems generally with content is like your brain is doing a bunch of subconscious work that you don’t know it’s doing. And when somebody is saying something and you don’t and you’re like, that doesn’t seem like the kind of person I would normally see making that kind of content, your brains doing all that work, and you’re not spending as much time to like enjoying the content. Like a lot of people will talk about this as like, terror a little about an individual, like the bias of the individual doesn’t allow you to enjoy science content from, you know, a Black woman the same way as you would from a White man. I like to think of that as like a normal human trait that being part of a society creates, and we need to learn it and live with it and not be ashamed of it or else we will just turn it into shame or anger and not be able to actually like work around it. TikTok has been really good about this. Because I have noticed that my science content does really well with women on TikTok, and it does not do well, with women, even on YouTube shorts, which is the exact same video in the exact same format. And on a different platform, now, TikTok is more female than YouTube is, but not like dramatically. It’s not like yeah, it’s not Yeah, it’s not like 90/10 and 10/90, or something. So I think that when we are asked to make a choice is actually the part where most bias is involved, because there’s so many choices available. Whereas on TikTok, when you just swipe, and suddenly, there is an excited person who maybe isn’t exactly what I would expect being excited about something I wouldn’t expect them to be excited about. I didn’t choose to enter into that situation. But like I am captured by it. And so it like what we are captured by as different from what we choose. And I think that that has actually allowed for a sort of broader diversity of successful people on that platform. So there are goods and bads all over the place. But so I think that that’s part of it. I think that, but I would what I would like to think is that I’m good at conveying complicated ideas simply, at leading people through my own curiosity and my own enthusiasm into their curiosity and enthusiasm, which we all have. We just maybe don’t know about it in the moment. And the thing of it is, I am that curious and excited.
V Spehar 22:49
Are there like other science guys still so pipe there because on my for you page, all of the science content, especially all of the like NASA or space content I get is women, you have like an Electric Cat or you have Astro Alexandra like I it’s almost all or space girl. I never really see men in the way that I did like when I was growing up and every single one of my science teachers except for […]. God loved […] was a man.
Hank Green 23:15
Yep. Right. And like the legacy of the science guy like it’s literally in the name. You know, Mr. Wizard Beekman, Carl Sagan. You know, they all, Bill Nye, they all look the same. Like they were all like nerdy White guys. And you know, and I think that like, Yeah, and like happy to be a nerdy White guy in the space but also happy to be sharing that space with a lot of people. And, in general happy to be in a world where that because a lot of these barriers have been brought down. It isn’t about like, you know, Neil deGrasse Tyson gets to be the science guy now. It’s like Neil deGrasse Tyson gets to share science with like 300 other people who are, you know, enthusiastic faces of science and they all look different from each other.
V Spehar 24:06
This is a great time to take another quick pause but when we come back, it is VidCon week we’ll talk about the conferences origins and Hanks role in shaping everyday school curriculum specifically through the educational YouTube channel crash course keep listening.
V Spehar 24:38
You are also a person who is what I would describe as extremely available like for being the size Korea or the amount of work that you do. I’ve been able to get in touch with you like fairly easily you respond to people, you respond to comments, you’re constantly dwelling and stitching, people’s questions to you. You talk about your wife, you talked about your kid, you talk about your family, you’ve obviously put all of you and your brothers communications for an entire year on the internet? Can you talk to us a little bit about the rawness of being extremely available to people?
Hank Green 25:07
Um, I’m not as available. I don’t think I’m as available as you think I am. But who knows? Who knows which one of us is right? I’m certainly more available to you. So like, you’re basing this off of your experience. I’m, I’m pretty available to people whose content I really like. And there’s a big there’s a pretty wide spectrum of that, and there’s certainly people who DM me on TikTok who don’t get a rapid response. It’s not that I don’t like the content. It’s just like, you know, there’s all kinds of different stuff on the platform.
V Spehar 25:48
Hank Green, are you saying that we’re friends?
Hank Green 25:51
At this point?
V Spehar 25:57
I’m gonna take that, I’m gonna be like, my interpretation of Hank Green online was skewed by the fact that we are maybe secret friends. But more I’m thinking about, like, every time I’m watching your videos, there’s always like a comment. And the thing we’re like, I can tell that you or someone from your team has pulled this through and been like, we want to reach out to this person, we want to make this person’s question be answered. I just think that’s so cool.
Hank Green 26:18
Yeah. So I mean, one, I, you know, I want to make content on TikTok, I want to continue to make content on TikTok, I don’t want to sort of like disappear. And so I need to stuff to make content about. So people asking questions, and people tagging me in the comments to questions. And then my assistant finding those. And then DMing them to me, is a big part of how I make content. And so like I don’t, like I often don’t, you know, you don’t know, just like when you’re having a conversation, you don’t know your stories until somebody tells a similar story. And then you’re like, ah, I remember that time that I was at the dermatologist and this happened. And so, so I don’t know my stories until people ask the questions oftentimes. So I need that, now, one thing I will say is that everything you see, like all of me that you see on the internet is real, but not all of me is on the internet. So like nothing, nothing, I’m putting out there as fake, but you’re not getting everything. Like you, I will occasionally make a piece of content that involves my son, but like I don’t, I’m not asking him to perform. I don’t like to; his face isn’t in any of it. And like mostly what I want to do with that content is to some extent, to humanize to be like, hey, remember, I’m a person, because it’s good to do that sometimes because people can forget. And then the other piece is I do want to model like a good, productive father son relationship, because, you know, I, there are lots of people out there doing that. But like, I think that it’s a productive thing to do, to show people that, you know, the value of paying attention and the value of like loving a child and the value of having a child and all of that stuff.
V Spehar 28:15
Because we have to take the way that we’ve traditionally consumed public figures and change it, right? Because TikTok is what I like to call the community theater, social media platforms, because we want to see each other as ourself and like our own little play that we put on by ourselves. And that is such a stark difference from the way that we have been trained for decades and decades that no, no, these are the authority figures that the network has selected to tell you the news to educate you to entertain you. Or these are the celebrity figures that the music industry has selected to perform for you to influence the way that you experience culture and music. And you need to understand that they are untouchable, they are not real people. They are these figments that we have created in an image of perfection. And then we have reinforced that perfection on platforms like Instagram. And something I’m just learning about now and we’ll get to experience shortly is the convention side of the Creator universe VidCon something that you and your brother created, of course, can you talk about the importance of taking people out of the screen, putting them into the room and having the space where the creator and the audience all kind of mix together?
Hank Green 29:23
Yeah, I mean, I think that as creators, and especially as creators who don’t see a ton of it’s not like your life, like when you when you have 100,000 followers on TikTok your life changes that much functionally, you know, not like you get a bunch of money or you get a bunch of like deals or something. It’s just like, you know, even up to like 2 million and basically not a lot changes. Just you know, you people will recognize you but you don’t make, you’re not making more money. Like it’s really hard to sort of bridge to like make it to the point where you’re actually a professional creator, but, because there isn’t that much change that comes along with it, our minds tend to discount those numbers. And imagine that can’t actually be that many people. Like I understand that 100,000 People would fill, you know, like the largest stadium in America. And I understand that there, there are fewer than 100,000 people in my town, which is the third largest town in Montana, I understand that it’s a lot of people, but I don’t understand that it’s a lot of people until you’re in a room with 2000 of them, you know, or more than that. And that is, I think that that having that connection is really important to, to creators, I think it’s also really important to the industry, I think one of the great things about VidCon is that it has like a sort of the community track, which is for like audience and fans, that has the Creator track for creators and has the industry track all happening simultaneously, which is not easy thing to pull off. And the but that allows for the industry to understand kind of their place, which is not on top of all of these things, it’s kind of underneath all of it. And that, you know, and also that the people adding the value, certainly they add value, the people really creating the value or the audience’s and the creators. And I like for them to be in that space where they understand that, like they understand the magnitude of the energy that’s involved here.
V Spehar 31:29
Do you feel like VidCon, you’re a person who really knows how to fill the gaps, right? Like, you look at something and you’re like, there’s a gap here, and I’m going to fix and fill it. And that’s like what you did with the science content. One of our producers here at Donnie was when we said we were doing the Hank Green interview, she was like, oh my god, I remember watching his videos of my science class in history classes. That’s so incredible. I’m so excited. He’s gonna be here, too. He’s like everywhere. Is this part of like the ethos and overall goals of Hank Green? Or is this just like who you are? You’re just a gap filler. You’re just like, I see a need, I feel a need.
Hank Green 32:03
Well, I mean, that’s how you that’s how you do business. You create in content as well. You have to find, like a, you know, a break in the canopy where there’s some sunlight coming through to grow something new. And that. Yeah, and I definitely would VidCon 100% saw that, like, there was, I was like, somebody is going to make a convention in this space. And they’re going to do it in a way it’s going to make me so mad and frustrated, it’s gonna be like everything about its gonna piss me off. So I’m like, sort of, to some extent, I was like, I like I want to do this like, and I had been to lots of lots of conventions I love like anime conventions, Harry Potter conventions. I’ve been to like, automobiles stuff as a journalist. So I’ve been to lots of shows of various kinds, and new. And like, studied, some of them that had worked like Pax Penny Arcade Expo. And I was like, I think that we can do this. The only thing that’s, the only question that exists is will people show up? And so I emailed them, and they said, yes. And I was like, well, then that’s going to work. So I knew that there, I knew that it was gonna happen. And I was like, if I don’t do this, now, somebody else is going to do it very soon. And another and it turns out, other people have done it and done good YouTube conventions, and I didn’t hate them. The worry was a little unfounded. But mostly it was, you know, that that opportunity existed, and I very much wanted it, I wanted to have time to, like a big part of what’s valuable, about VidCon is hanging out with other creators. And just getting a chance to develop more like deeper relationships, which is so important in the creator community, because like, we don’t have, like, you know, musicians, labels, love them or hate them, they have a huge amount of control and a huge amount of power. And they can, and that causes problems. And they serve themselves a lot, but they also serve their artists. And so there’s an advantage there that online video creators don’t have, like there is no group of three companies that own 70% of the industry that can walk into the room with TikTok and say, like, we’re going to pull all of our YouTube creators off the platform unless you give them some money. We don’t have that. So we need to be at least talking to each other about our problems and about how we’ve solved our problems, how we support each other. And VidCon is good at that.
V Spehar 34:35
I want to ask you about supplementing for the education system, because if we’re going to talk about the government or mention them at all, we of course have to mention the Department of Education and some of the failings, not just in core curriculum and what the content of that curriculum is but also in methods. And did you start doing your programs to supplement the holes you saw in education? Are you hoping that this is something that sort of drives them towards changing their methods altogether.
Hank Green 35:04
We are divided up into 1000s of school districts, and they all govern themselves and they fund themselves autonomously. They all have different systems for how to fund themselves, they all have different, just like every state has a different system for how they draw the lines. And whether it’s like county by county, or school district by school district, or city by city, all very complex. And so there is no education system in America, there are 1000s of them. And, because of that, some states have developed like ways that you have, like have to do educational content, in order to be like a vendor for a school system. So that school system pays for that content. And all of that stuff is different in different states. And so it becomes this tremendous like an educational media company that sells to school systems, spends more time trying to make sure that they meet all of the standards than they do creating educational content. So the goal of Crash Course, is to just be there. Like we only have to be useful. And if we are useful than we are used. And if we’re not useful, then we’re not used. That’s it. And so, we didn’t really see any of that when we were making Crash Course we were like, wow, it’d be fun to make educational YouTube videos, if somebody paid us to do it. Because it’s hard. And so we got funding from Google to do it. But what it has led me to is there is a better way and the better way has to be being useful, but not required. And people using you when they find you useful and competing on that market, rather than competing on the market of trying to sell to school systems. And because we are not known like administrators, for the most part don’t even know about Crash Course, like they’re the last people to find out about it. Students find out about it first, teachers find out about it second, administrators find out about it last. And like that’s how that’s where I want to be, I want to be useful to the students, and the students tell their teachers, that’s the marketing funnel for us. Now, it’s hard because you got to figure out where to fund it instead of selling it. But that’s, we’re innovating in that space as much as we can.
V Spehar 37:14
Do you see that being as big a problem, as a lot of folks are worried about? Or do you think at the end of the day, folks will somehow come around and do the right thing and say I don’t want to live in a country with a bunch of kids who didn’t learn.
Hank Green 37:27
I do think it’s a huge problem. And I think it’s a huge problem. Because if you catch the 60%, most affluent kids, you catch 90% of the most powerful parents at this, the people who were really under serving, don’t have, 0 disenfranchised, they don’t have a lot of impact. They don’t have a lot of voice. You know, talk about people being silenced. And it’s like, maybe we should be thinking, instead of asking who’s being silenced, we should ask who we aren’t hearing from. And we aren’t really hearing from those people. And because they’re too damn busy and too stressed. Like they have too much to do to make, like the heating and the food happen in the same month. And I think that it would be very easy to go down a path where we say all right, public education is kind of secondary. Now we’re gonna have a lot of systems for teaching people. And what that means is that public education is only for the people who have the least. And then it gets easier and easier to give it less and less funding. And this isn’t like, bad for those students. It’s bad for America like.
V Spehar 38:38
It is, yeah. All right, friends, we are going to shift gears in just a moment, Hank is going to answer some of your burning science questions, and he’ll tell you which one of his videos has had the most impact. What’s a video of yours that you think is just been one of the most impactful ones something that somebody’s like you I watched this and it really hit me.
Hank Green 39:10
As far as crash course goes, I hear that most with our whole anatomy and physiology series, which is very helpful if you are getting a nursing degree or you’re a pre-med and which is a lot of people and it’s certainly a lot of like, we need more people doing that work. And that feels very good to me. And then in terms of like Vlog brothers is, is sort of more focused on like more broad how to be a person type stuff. And it’s really, by virtue of how all this stuff works. Like we end up with an audience that is kind of composed of people who are quite like us. And I think that people can have a hard time figuring out what like how to not be miserable right now. And so that that’s kind of the work that we have been trying to do recently, because it’s just the sort of like, it’s almost like a crisis. We’ve got the housing crisis, and you’ve got, you know, a student loan crisis, and you’ve got the climate crisis. That’s a big one. So there’s like, there’s like everything is, and it’s not like any of these things aren’t crazy. You know, and there’s just so much and we’re sort of asked by the world to care about all of the things.
V Spehar 40:32
I do have some questions from the audience in a lightning round for Hank Green, if you’re ready. Are you ready to set the timer? Here we go. People want to know, if a coin were to fall from the top of the Empire State Building, could it actually kill you?
Hank Green 40:47
I don’t think so. I don’t know what the terminal velocity of a coin would be. But it certainly I think that it would smart quite a bit. But like, there’s definitely, there’s definitely a size and shape of thing that’s between a coin and a bowling ball. And I might be surprised by how small that thing is. I don’t know what it is, though.
V Spehar 41:09
But for this moment, probably no. So one less thing to worry about it. Next question. These are dark, can you survive a lightning strike?
Hank Green 41:18
Oh, sure. People do all the time. There are all kinds of problems to surviving the lightning strike. You know, obviously, there’s a recovery period. But also it increases your chances of depression, which is really interesting, because it can mess with brain stuff. Also, it increased, this is my favorite lightning strike fact, getting struck by lightning increases your chances of getting struck by lightning again by a tremendous amount. And that is the correct face to make. Tell me what that face? So if you are that surprised, doesn’t make you, what does it make you think? What does that level of surprise make you think?
V Spehar 41:58
I would think like, man, if I had to do that one time, one should be enough. And so if it happened once, then is there like some residual lightning in me? And did I get a superpower in exchange? Because then I’m willing to do it twice. But like, that seems grossly unfair.
Hank Green 42:13
Indeed. So, you’re right, you went to supernatural and it’s supernatural, you ask yourself something must, something wrong must be happening here. And here’s the wrong thing. If you it is not that it makes you more, it’s not that it increases your chances. It’s that you were already living a lifestyle that made you more likely to get struck by lightning. And that is an identifying factor having gotten struck by lightning as an identifying factor for a person who was likely to get struck by lightning. And so it’s not that they are more likely, they were always more likely, and they remain more likely. But if you don’t get that data point until the first time you get struck by lightning.
V Spehar 42:47
Oh my god, that makes so much sense for so many things that happened to you, though. Next question on our lightning round.
Hank Green 42:55
Heat stroke is the same way, people always say getting heatstroke once makes you more likely to get it again. But no, you’re just susceptible to heatstroke.
V Spehar 43:01
You live in a place that’s really hot.
Hank Green 43:05
Also you might be like, sort of just genetically predisposed.
V Spehar 43:08
I bet you could have expected this. Why do beans make you pass gas.
Hank Green 43:15
There are some indigestible sugars on the surface of beans that so like to two sugar molecules bonded together in a way that our bodies can’t break apart and turn into energy. But microbes can and when they do that, they produce gas, which you’d have to fart out.
V Spehar 43:32
There we go. The follow up questions. The fart question was could poop power help heat a country? Could you use human toilet waste to make electricity?
Hank Green 43:44
Yeah, you can. It’s called I think a bio digester maybe. And it’s not usually used with human poop. But it is used with livestock waste, where you get it all together. And it’s more the microbes breaking the waste down. And then capturing the methane that comes off of it as bio methane, which would technically be carbon neutral because it was plants that created the sort of carbon bonds in the first place. And they need to do that they pulled co2 out of the air. Also, livestock manure is used all over the world has been since the beginning of livestock as a heating source. And not ideally, it would be better if we didn’t do that, because it’s not great to breathe in, just like wood. We shouldn’t be using wood for heating, but we still do in a lot of the world.
V Spehar 44:32
We do and a lot of people blame global warming on cow farts. So yeah, odd question here, really is focused on fart it’s a lot of farts. I have a very big male audience. I don’t know if you know that. Me and the boys. I’m so grateful for them. I don’t think people would expect that, I have a really big male audience and a lot of them are like military veterans and a lot of them are Midwestern. And we’re just, I’m so grateful to them. They send me the most hilarious DMs, this is the last question in this round, is, I’m seeing a lot of like meat substitutes. I’m seeing a lot of like the beyond burgers and stuff like that lab meat. What about insects? Could I survive on just eating insects instead of meat?
Hank Green 45:13
Oh, yeah, I mean, instead of meat for sure. I think that an all insect diet might leave you deficient in something. I don’t know what, but maybe not. I mean, insects have a lot of the amino acids we need a lot of the kind of lot of fat they got a lot of vitamins and minerals. But yeah, insects are a common source of nutrition and a lot of the world and have been in human history for a long time. We are, in America, we are among the exceptions and that there is like, I think zero insect in our diet at all, a lot of places have, you know, it’s just a normal part of the diet.
V Spehar 45:48
I did work for the economist, and they were hard pushing maybe like 5 or 6 years ago, crickets. We were really trying to get people to eat crickets.
Hank Green 45:55
Yeah, I’ve thought about this a lot. One of the things is also you need to feed animal protein to animals when you’re farming them. This is very true for like, a lot of fish. And a lot of the way that we do farmed like salmon right now is you catch wild sardines, and then you feed the wild sardines to the farmed salmon. So it’s still very impactful, especially because a lot of those sardines are farmed in places that are fished, in places that are over fished. And then you know, you’re taking away the food of the penguins, you don’t want to do that. So there’s been a lot of push toward trying to convert that to like fly larva, rather than sardines, which you maybe can’t do 100%. But you can do like a 50/50 mix, which would be great. Yeah.
V Spehar 46:45
Hank, I have again, smart people working on the problems. Yes, you can eat insects, but no, you cannot eat grass.
Hank Green 46:53
Well, you could, and actually we do because wheat and corn are both grasses.
V Spehar 46:57
Yes. But don’t eat your lawn grass. I like this. Hank Green, I have learned so much from you. And I’ve had such a blast just chatting with you mostly about farts, which I you know what I mean? Like it’s Friday, we need a fart joke Friday.
Hank Green 47:17
V Spehar 47:18
It’s Friday. We’re living our best life.
Hank Green 47:20
It’s the last thing on my schedule.
V Spehar 47:23
Well, I won’t keep you from it because I want you to go. You know, make yourself a science based cocktail or whatever it is that you’re potentially into. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I appreciate you so much your friendship, your knowledge, just the way that you interact with the world and make it a better place.
Hank Green 47:37
Thanks so much.
V Spehar 47:39
Thanks, Hank. That’s Hank Green. I am now off to VidCon you can follow my journey at VidCon at under the desk news. I will be here all weekend. Just yucking it up with some of the best content creators out there. I’m a little nervous, but I’m very excited. And as always, I’ll get to see you next Tuesday. We’ll be talking about the viral and very interesting news your brain didn’t even know it needed, till next time.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.