Questions and Answers: Volume 20

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Podcast Transcript

The month of July is named after Julius Caesar. In 44 BC, after his assassination, the Roman Senate renamed the month of Quintilis after him in honor of the month he was born.

The fact that he was appointed dictator for life probably had something to do with it. 

All the emperors that came later never changed it, so instead of Quintilis, we have July. 

So stay tuned for the Quintilis episode of questions and answers on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.



Let’s jump right in. The first question comes from Nafeesah Scott, who asks, Hi Gary! I must just say thank you for such a great informative, and concise podcast about everything everywhere! I loved your recent episode on air conditioning. It got me thinking: what do you think are the top 3 contributors to the advancement of today’s world are?

That is a very difficult question. To use your example, air conditioners have indeed been very important to the creation of the modern world for all the reasons I mentioned in the episode. 

However, air conditioners are dependent on electricity—no electricity, no air conditioning. The same holds true for something like the internet. The internet, as important as it is, is predicated on computers, which is predicated on electricity. 

So, if I were to pick three things, electricity and electrification would have to be on that list. 

The next thing would probably have to be the development of the heat engine. I’m using “heat engine” as a catch-all for both the steam engine and the internal combustion engine, which, while different, have a similar lineage. This would cover most transportation and industrialization, as well as creating electricity. 

Finally, and I have covered this on several episodes, I’d have to include the development of germ theory. The discovery that microscopic organisms were responsible for most infectious diseases was the one thing that led to a dramatic drop in deaths and an increase in life expectancy. 

If you were to start civilization over from scratch, you could avoid centuries of human misery by just knowing the basics of these three things. 

Jesus Chan asks, Gary, hello again from South Texas. In several of the last episodes, you have mentioned that some things have been discovered simultaneously by different people in different places. To what do you attribute the independent development of similar ideas across isolated human societies such as agriculture, pyramids, calendars, weapons, etc? Is it Aliens, Collective Unconscious, Genetic Memory, or something else?

Jesus, I think the answer is actually really simple. I’ll answer the question by posing another question: why do dolphins and whales look like fish?

The answer is that similar problems will result in similar solutions. In the case of a dolphin and a fish, the problem of swimming in the water results in similar body types because that’s what works. 

The same is true for innovations. There are many ideas which were discovered indepenetnly in different places, at different times. A pyramid is nothing more than a shape. It is a cone with flat sides. Children playing in sand or mud could easily come up with the shape. 

If you were playing as a kid, you probably reinvented the lever just by playing around with sticks. 

Many times, the discoveries occurred centuries or even millennia apart from each other. Looking back, the difference between 7000 and 8000 years ago might not seem like much…..but it was 1000 years. 

Calendars are nothing more than people observing nature and the stars….and every culture and civilization were all looking at the exact same thing, so it should come as no surprise that they developed similar calendars based on the Earth, Moon, and Sun. 

Ancient people in Mesoamerica and in Mesopotamia developed agriculture, as did the people in West Africa and Papua New Guinea, but all of those places cultivated totally different crops that they had available. However, the basic idea of planting seeds to grow plants to eat was a pretty simple one that doesn’t require aliens. 

Wayne Rothe asks, I recently joined the Sour Toe Cocktail Club in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. Would you do it? Yes, my lips touched the toe.

Wayne, I am a three-time member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club.

For those of you who are wondering what a Sour Toe Cocktail is, it is a cocktail served at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon. It consists of alcohol of your choice….and a severed human toe.

I kid you not. 

I will leave this as a homework assignment for all of you, but the motto of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club is….”Drink it fast, or drink it slow; your lips must touch the toe.”

Kevin O’Keef asks Most of us that listen to your show clearly are lifelong learners and I know you have mentioned that this is one objective of your podcast- to have citizens throughout the world be more knowledgeable. Anyone that went to high school or college can relate to “cramming“ for a test. Weeks later everything that we learned is probably lost -again because content hasn’t been recycled or used or reflected on. What I’m getting at Gary -is since you have this huge volume of content that you’ve learned have you figured out how to retain a lot of this long-term? I know there’s no magic pill for this, but if students can use some tricks or strategies that you used, I’m sure we will all be more educated as a society and better for it. ?

Kevin, what you have identified is a HUGE problem. Whenever we hear people talk about education, they usually talk about students’ test scores. That is fine, but student test scores are not the goal of education. The goal is to produce knowledgeable and informed adults. 

The result of general knowledge tests given to adults is truly depressing. Most people, after years of education, come out of it having learned…..next to nothing. The average person couldn’t pass any final exam in any class they took past grade school. 

I could talk for hours on this subject, but here are some fundamental things I think. 

The first is that you are ultimately responsible for your education. If someone doesn’t want to learn, if they aren’t curious and don’t care, the best teachers cannot make them learn. You cannot inject knowledge into someone. If, however, someone wants to learn, such as the great 20th-century Indian mathematician Ramanujan, then it is hard to stop them from learning. 

Second, is that learning never ends. Never. Too many people think that learning is only done in a classroom when you are a child or a teenager. That is when classroom instruction ends, but that is not the end of learning. 

Third, is that you sometimes have to encounter things multiple times to make it stick. I took a trigonometry class in high school, which was nothing but memorizing things like the sine function was the opposite over the hypotenuse of a triangle. I took a physics class and didn’t know when to use the sine or cosine of something. 

Later on, someone explained the trigonometric functions using the unit circle….and everything clicked and suddenly made sense. Once I understood that I didn’t need to memorize everything, I could just figure it out from first principles. 

Publishing encore episodes isn’t just a way for me to take a day off (although that is a big part of it). It is a way for people to hear something they might have last listened to one or two years ago and serve as a refresher. When I watch a movie or read a book a second time, I always pick up something new that I didn’t notice the first time. 

Today, there are many different ways you can learn almost any subject for free online. There are countless YouTube channels that will explain any topic, as well as articles and of course, podcasts. If you don’t understand it after consuming one source, go and check out another. 

Tim Manchester aks Can you go more into what exactly podcasting 2.0 is? I listen to your show on Spotify, am I missing out or robbing you of some benefit by not switching?

Tim, this is a great question. 

Podcasting was developed about 20 years ago by Adam Curry and Dave Weiner. They adapted RSS feeds, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, to audio and video files. 

RSS 2.0 is a new project, again involving Adam Curry, to expand the features available in podcasts. One of the big ones has been transcripts, but there are a host of other features.

The problem has been of a chicken and egg type. People need to use podcast players that support the new features, and podcast hosts need to support them as well. The hosts have no incentive to support the features if people aren’t using the players, and players have no incentive to adopt the features if the podcast hosts don’t support them. 

My podcast doesn’t support many of the new features because the show’s format doesn’t need them and because my host, Megaphone, doesn’t support them.

If you want to learn more, just go to podcasting2.org

Jerry Gardner asks, With the current heat wave in the United States, with all your world travels what is the hottest and coldest temperature you have personally experienced?

The hottest temperature was 50C or 122F which I encountered in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, one of the lowest and hottest places on Earth.

The coldest temperature would be around -50F or -45.5C, which I encountered in the winter in Dawson City, Yukon. 

John Fenlon aks Have you attended pro wrestling events outside of the US? Have you attended small indy events? Basically, what’s your favorite live wrestling memories?

I have not attended any outside the US, but I’d love to, especially in Japan or the UK. British fans are really some of the best wrestling fans in the world, and their ability to make chants is on a different level from everyone else.

I went to a ring of honor show in Minneapolis before I started traveling, and I remember Colt Cabana putting someone in a headlock for ten minutes, everyone booing, and then him mocking the crowd, saying he could do it all night. 

My favorite show was a WWE house show I saw at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Ric Flair was there, who grew up in the Twin Cities, and he cut a great heel promo on how he hated the town and left.

However, the main event was between Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin, who both wrestled at the amateur level for the University of Minnesota. For the first 10 minutes of the match, they wrestled for real, and everyone could tell what they were doing. They’d get the other into a hold and then break it and do it again, smiling at each other. After a while, the referee told them to get back on script, which they did. 

Janelle Alvstad-Mattson ask, Do you have recommendations for a lovely tropical-like beach destination, that is somehow magically not humid?

Yes, I do. The answer is Aruba. It’s basically a desert. 

Josh Gazo asks Gary while I really appreciated the cheeky Monty python reference a few months ago, I remain genuinely curious as to what is your favorite color. Not a sophisticated question, but one all the same ?

My favorite color is yellow. I have a yellow car. I had a yellow bag traveling around the world for years. Yellow, to me, is the color of adventure. 

Anson William Sheck asks What is the best way to support your (and other podcasts): downloads? Plays? Ratings?

Honestly, the best thing you can do is tell your friends. Podcasting isn’t like YouTube, where an algorithm shows people content based on what they’ve watched. It relies on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

Ratings and reviews always help, but people are more likely to listen to something recommended by their friends than anything else. 

Sophie Bass aks Who is your favorite painter? And why?

My favorite painter is a little-known painter by the name of Gerrit van Honthorst. He was a Dutch painter who lived in the 17th century.

I discovered him when I saw one of his paintings, one of my favorite, the Denial of Saint Peter, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. One of America’s most underappreciated museums. 

What grabbed me was his use of light. Many of his paintings are of people illuminated by candlelight. I’ve been to other museums around the world and even though I am far from an expert on him, I found myself being able to identify his work before I read the name of the painter. 

While you didn’t ask, I’ll add it anyhow: my favorite sculptor is Frederick Hart. He was a 20th-century American sculptor who pioneered working in acrylic. His work can be seen at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington as well as the National Cathedral.

Mark Hyman asks Have you considered compiling the transcripts from your most interesting and popular episodes into a book or publication for download? And where are the researchers and writers you planned to ease your podcast production burden? 

I have considered it, and if I did, I’d probably have to spend time editing the scripts. One of the reasons why I’m able to produce a show every day is because the ear is more forgiving than the eye. We talk and hear people speak in a first draft every day. However, when we read, we are more discerning.

I’d need to hire an editor to go over the scripts and edit them for print. 


As for the researchers, I haven’t found any yet, but to be fair, I also haven’t looked very hard. I did put out a job posting in one of the travel writer groups I’m in, and the responses I got back seemed to indicate that they just don’t understand what the show is about, and it would take them weeks to do what takes me a few hours.

Kyle Dunham asks Have you considered making merchandise available to the general public and not just to subscribers? Everything Everywhere Daily merch would make for nice gifts to fans of the show, and it would be fun to get the word out to more people about the podcast. Thanks for all you do.

I absolutely have considered it, along with a host of other projects like an ad-free subscription version of the show. The only reason things are available only on Patreon right now is because I didn’t have to do anything.

It all comes down to the same thing. Every day, my top priority is getting out the next episode. While I’d love to launch some of these other projects, ultimately, it has to take a back seat to the daily necessity of getting a show out the door. 

That concludes the questions and answers for this month. If you want to ask a question next month.