Freakonomics Radio Live: “The World’s a Mess. But Oysters, They Hold it Down.”

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Alex Guarnaschelli and Stephen Dubner play Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. (Photo: Lucy Sutton)

Celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli joins us to co-host an evening of delicious fact-finding: where a trillion oysters went, whether a soda tax can work, and how beer helped build an empire. Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri is our real-time fact-checker.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or elsewhere. Below is an edited transcript of the episode. 

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This is a bonus episode of Freakonomics Radio Live. It’s the non-fiction game show we call Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. This was recently recorded in New York. If you’d like to attend a future show or be on a future show, visit freakonomics.com/live. We’ll be back in New York on March 8th and 9th, at City Winery; and in May, we’re coming to California: in San Francisco on May 16, at the Nourse Theater, in partnership with KQED; and in Los Angeles on May 18th, at the Ace Hotel Theater, in partnership with KCRW.

DUBNER: Good evening, this is Freakonomics Radio Live! Tonight we’re at Joe’s Pub in New York City and joining me as co-host is the chef, cookbook author, and beloved judge on the Food Network show Chopped, would you please welcome Alex Guarnaschelli. Alex, very happy to have you here. I’d like to tell everybody what we know about you so far. We know that you currently host the web series “Fix Me a Plate.” We know that your website has a section called foraging about the foods you love to forage for, and that you listed there fiddlehead ferns, fresh ginger, and cheeseburgers.

GUARNASCHELLI: They’re highly forageable.

DUBNER: They are mostly found in wooded areas; where do the cheeseburgers come from?

GUARNASCHELLI: No, you just have to eat a lot of cheeseburgers to find the good ones. I mean, sometimes if you’re digging through grass and rocks and trees to find edible things in Central Park, that’s one type of foraging, and the other is when you eat a series of disappointing cheeseburgers and you have to root around in every area to find a good one.

DUBNER: And where’s your favorite cheeseburger?

GUARNASCHELLI: Oh my God. It depends, I mean I’m a Gemini. I could be in many different moods. I would say for me, I’m a J.G. Melon gal.

DUBNER: Alex, so that’s a little bit of what we know about you. Why don’t you tell us something we don’t yet know about you.

GUARNASCHELLI: Certain foods make me very anxious when I see them and when I have to cook them or eat them, and I often eat food on television. Patty pan squash, risotto, and mussels make me extremely anxious.

DUBNER: They make you anxious in the “I’ve eaten them before and things didn’t end well way,” or …?

GUARNASCHELLI: No, that would be my marriage. Pretty much in every form. I worked in a restaurant in Paris, Guy Savoy, for almost 6 years. I worked for Daniel Boulud for two and a half. And in that time I cooked mussels and risotto the entire time. Every night. Every day, and when I see the arborio rice on the shelf in the supermarket or I see the mussels at the seafood joint, I just start to twitch. I have to leave the aisle abruptly and go immediately to the ice cream freezer and buy several pints of ice cream.

DUBNER: Alex, happy to have you here tonight for Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. So here’s the way it works: guests will come on stage to tell us some interesting fact or idea or story. Given your credentials we’ve asked them to focus tonight on food and drink. You and I can then ask them anything we want. And at the end of the show, our live audience will pick a winner. The audience will vote on these three very simple criteria: No. 1, did the guest tell us something we truly did not know? No. 2 was it worth knowing? And No. 3, was it demonstrably true?

So to help with that demonstrably true part would you please welcome our real-time fact checker Alexandra Petri. Alexandra is a Washington Post columnist who’s also a past champion of the O. Henry Pun-Off. Alexandra, we know that you were once baptized into a cult just because you didn’t like to say no, and that your father was a U.S. Congressman from Wisconsin, which explains most of the things I just mentioned, perhaps. So what’s up with you these days, Alexandra?

PETRI: Oh well, not too much. I did just get married, which was fun, and I learned the origin of what tying the knot is. It’s apparently when the priest wraps his stole around your hands, you’ve tied the knot. But this is also from a minister who said that “Episcopalian marriage means that there’s one morning when you’re going to wake up and look at the other person and realize you no longer love them. And when that day comes, you have to keep being polite to them.” So, this was before the wedding. We’re like, “All right, well, so, we’ll see how it goes.”

GUARNASCHELLI: Time for cocktails.

DUBNER: Well, we love you Alex. We love both the Alexes. It’s time now to play Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Would you all please welcome our first guest, Pete Malinowski. So Pete, it says here that you live in New York. You work on Governor’s Island. You look to be — I’m going to put you roughly early 30’s, mid-30’s?

MALINOWSKI: Mid-30’s.

DUBNER: Okay, so I’m ready. So are Alex Guarnaschelli and Alexandra Petri. What do you know that’s worth knowing that you think we don’t know?

MALINOWSKI: So before pizza and bagels, what was the original food that made New York City famous, put New York City on the map?

DUBNER: You sure should know that, chef lady.

GUARNASCHELLI: Yes, I have no idea. Pickled herring.

MALINOWSKI: That’s a good guess.

PETRI: Regular herring.

GUARNASCHELLI: I don’t know, pretzels. Is it Dutch?

DUBNER: Was it rats? Rats are more recent.

MALINOWSKI: Not rats, not pretzels.

GUARNASCHELLI: Is it Dutch in nature?

MALINOWSKI: It’s not Dutch, it’s sort of universal in nature. They’re everywhere. Were everywhere.

DUBNER: The flesh of people from New Jersey.

MALINOWSKI: This is pre-New Jersey.

GUARNASCHELLI: Too early for the darkness, a little later.

DUBNER: Can I ask you a leading question? I don’t know much about Delmonico’s. You probably do, Alex.

GUARNASCHELLI: I do, in fact. All the dishes that were made famous there. Yeah. I mean, for example a Delmonico steak which is a rib eye. Famously they used to deliver the meat almost whole right out in the street and cut the Delmonico steak for Delmonico’s, which is just a fancy way of saying rib eye, but it sounds cool.

DUBNER: Yeah.

GUARNASCHELLI: Lobster Newburg.

DUBNER: So Delmonico’s as I understand it was —

GUARNASCHELLI: Baked Alaska.

DUBNER: The first, or one of the first fine dining restaurants in New York, and I assume the U.S.

GUARNASCHELLI: Yes, and it’s great still.

DUBNER: So would this food have been served at a place like that?

MALINOWSKI: Absolutely.

GUARNASCHELLI: So it’s a dish.

MALINOWSKI: It’s not a dish.

GUARNASCHELLI: So it’s an ingredient.

MALINOWSKI: Oh yeah, it can be an ingredient usually served by itself at places like Delmonico’s.

DUBNER: What do you mean by it’s a dish. What does that mean?

GUARNASCHELLI: Meaning it’s a composed dish like Lobster Newberg or Baked Alaska or crême brûlée or—

DUBNER: And you’re saying it’s not that, it’s something that served on its own.

MALINOWSKI: It’s not that, and it would’ve been served at Delmonico’s and at fine dining restaurants and at carts throughout the city.

GUARNASCHELLI: Oysters.

MALINOWSKI: Oysters.

DUBNER: Hey. Well, that makes sense now that my smart friend here says it so—

GUARNASCHELLI: I liked herring.

DUBNER: Do you have anything to do with oysters?

MALINOWSKI: I do. So can I give you a little background on oysters in New York Harbor?

DUBNER: Can’t say no to that. Yeah.

MALINOWSKI: So 400 years ago when Europeans first arrived, New York Harbor was totally full of oysters. So there was hundreds of thousands of acres of oysters in New York Harbor, and those oysters provided habitat for all kinds of different animals. And that available animal protein is what made New York City so successful to begin with. And those oysters became famous. They were shipped all over the world. People came to New York City to eat the oysters and they were food for rich and poor alike. And the saying goes that oyster carts used to be as ubiquitous as hot dog carts are today.

GUARNASCHELLI: Multiple types of oysters?

MALINOWSKI: Well, they were all New York oysters. Now—

DUBNER: There were no Wellfleet oysters in New York, you’re saying.

MALINOWSKI: Exactly. There were some local varieties like Gowanus Bay oysters and things like that.

DUBNER: Oh that has the opposite of a good ring to it, doesn’t it? For those of you who do not live in New York, Gawanas Bay is — how shall we say—

MALINOWSKI: One of the most polluted waterways in the country, but it used to be a tidal creek that was surrounded by wetlands and was a—

DUBNER: The oysters went where? We just ate them all.

MALINOWSKI: We ate them. In about a hundred years, we harvested trillions and trillions of oysters from New York Harbor, removed the habitat from the harbor. You can think of oyster reefs just like a coral reef or a salt marsh or a forest. They provide the three-dimensional structure for the ecosystem. And we remove that, we cut the ecosystem off at the knees. And then there were no more oysters, no more fish.

DUBNER: Are you some sort of an oyster advocate?

GUARNASCHELLI: Well, they are great for keeping water clean. They’re filters. The world’s a mess. But oysters, they hold it down.

MALINOWSKI: They hold it down, yeah. Oysters are tracked pretty well from farms. But as far as what I do, I run a nonprofit based on Governor’s Island and we restore oyster reefs to New York Harbor. And we do all that work with public school students. So we teach teenagers how to scuba dive, drive boats, design and weld underwater reef infrastructure, grow oysters, and do science experiments on the reefs that we’re installing throughout the harbor.

DUBNER: That sounds very noble. Is this primarily an environmental or conservation effort or a commercial effort?

MALINOWSKI: So right now it’s illegal to harvest oysters from New York Harbor. The water’s not clean enough. Our effort is an education and restoration initiative. We’re trying to restore the habitat. We can start having the conversation about eating the oysters as soon as we stop pouring raw sewage into the harbor.

DUBNER: Oh, well.

GUARNASCHELLI: You’re so nit-picky.

DUBNER: Does that mean we still put a lot of raw sewage in New York Harbor?

MALINOWSKI: It’s against the law. It’s a violation of the Clean Water Act which is now 50 years old.

PETRI: Happy birthday.

MALINOWSKI: And it’s the reason that we as New Yorkers are denied access to the greatest natural resource where we live. Right the water is polluted, we can’t touch it. We can’t eat the oysters, we can’t eat the fish, because it’s still contaminated with human waste, which is a problem you typically associate with developing countries. But here in the greatest city in the world, that’s why we can’t eat the oysters.

DUBNER: What is your project called?

MALINOWSKI: It’s called the Billion Oyster Project.

DUBNER: So, “billion” sounds like a lot but you were saying that there were trillions harvested, yeah?

MALINOWSKI: Yeah. So our billion oysters are a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what used to be there.

DUBNER: How many have you grown so far?

MALINOWSKI: About 28 million we’ve put down in the harbor.

DUBNER: Oh, so you’re getting there. Now, there are roughly 350 million people, maybe, in America. So, everybody could have three oysters after you grow a billion.

MALINOWSKI: Yeah.

DUBNER: That’s nice. What do we know about the share of Americans who have eaten, let’s say, an oyster in the past 12 months?

MALINOWSKI: That’s a great question. I have no idea. I know that New Yorkers used to average hundreds per year, per capita.

GUARNASCHELLI: When you shuck an oyster too you’re supposed to, they say, pour that first liquor that’s in the shell when you shuck it out. And then what it does is it refills automatically almost like when you take water from a cooler and you can then just take another cup, and that second liquor — as they call it, liquor — is supposed to be sweeter.

DUBNER: What about the famous aphrodisiac idea?

GUARNASCHELLI: I don’t know. Take a while to get there, my friend.

DUBNER: Would a billion oysters do something though?

GUARNASCHELLI: Worth a try.

DUBNER: You mentioned our water is not the cleanest. Is it substantially cleaner than, let’s say, 50 years ago?

MALINOWSKI: That’s a great question, and it actually is much cleaner. And so we think of New York Harbor as clean most of the time. By E.P.A. standards, it’s swimmable and fishable most days of the year. So, if it was a beach it would be open. The problem is that every time it rains, we have that same sewage problem that comes out in the harbor. So most days of the year — we swim in New York Harbor, we train teenagers to scuba dive in New York Harbor. It’s a safe place to do those activities, unless it rains.

GUARNASCHELLI: I can’t think of many things I’d less like to do.

MALINOWSKI: That’s interestingly a big part of the work that we do is combat that sense that New York Harbor is a gross and polluted place. If you’ve ever been to Jamaica Bay, a 22,000-acre national park that you can get to via subway and where you can see dolphins and wading birds and occasionally whales, and you see bluefish and false albacore and all of these diving birds going after bait fish. That happens every day here in New York City.

DUBNER: Are there real albacore?

MALINOWSKI: False albacore are smaller. And they’re not a food fish. It’s more of a game fish. But they’re —

DUBNER: But it’s still an albacore.

MALINOWSKI: I don’t think it is.

GUARNASCHELLI: It’s like trying to get into a nightclub when you’re 14. The albacore is not quite there.

DUBNER: So how do you actually grow oysters?

MALINOWSKI: Well the process starts by collecting shells from restaurants. We collect shells from about 80 restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan and get about 8,000 pounds of shell a week.

DUBNER: Wait but they don’t have oysters in them anymore, right? These are empty shells.

MALINOWSKI: Empty shells.

GUARNASCHELLI: He’s building condominiums.

MALINOWSKI: Exactly, exactly. So we take the shells and we bring them into our lab, and then we collect wild oysters from around the harbor, bring them into the lab, trick them into thinking it’s spring by warming the water up, and then the oysters spawn. They release their eggs and sperm into the water, we fertilize the eggs, grow the larvae, get the larvae to attach on the shells that we’ve collected from restaurants. Grow them in the lab for a couple of weeks, and then put them down in reef structures that we’ve put around the harbor.

DUBNER: Amazing. Alexandra Petri, Pete Malinowski here has been telling us about a project that he— Do you run this project?

MALINOWSKI: I’m the executive director, so I run the project.

DUBNER: Executive director of the Billion Oyster Project, talks about how there were trillions, etc. First of all, is he lying to us tonight? And second of all, do you have anything further to add about oysterdom?

PETRI: No, it checks out. You are not lying. One fun thing: so we were looking up the famed aphrodisiac properties of the oyster, and apparently, Casanova, the 18th-century sort of roué, ate 50 oysters every morning for breakfast, like a full-level Gaston-type oyster-eating bonanza to increase his stamina. Miss Piggy, on the other hand, was not a big fan. She said it was like eating something slimy served in an ashtray. So. We’ve got some differing viewpoints on the noble oyster.

DUBNER: Alexandra Petri thank you, and Pete Malinowski, thanks so much for playing Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Would you please welcome Christie Aschwanden. Christie, it says here you’re a science writer at FiveThirtyEight and the author of a book called Good To Go about the science of exercise recovery. And that you are a ski racer who also raises heritage poultry in Colorado. This is all true?

ASCHWANDEN: Very sexy.

DUBNER: So it sounds like you know a lot of stuff. What do you have for us tonight, Christie?

ASCHWANDEN: So at the 2002 Boston Marathon, there was a 28-year-old runner — this is quite tragic actually — who collapsed over the finish and later died. And it just so happened that at this very race there was a group of researchers from Harvard Medical School who were there taking physiological measurements from some of the runners. And they found that 13 percent of the runners that day were suffering from the same condition. What is it?

DUBNER: Had they been eating oysters from New York City perhaps?

ASCHWANDEN: That’s a good question. I didn’t see anything about oysters in the paper.

GUARNASCHELLI: Dehydration?

ASCHWANDEN: You’re getting warmer.

GUARNASCHELLI: So a deficiency of some kind?

ASCHWANDEN: No.

DUBNER: The opposite of a deficiency?

ASCHWANDEN: It’s a surplus. You’re getting close.

DUBNER: Is it a condition or is it something that they did?

ASCHWANDEN: It is a condition.

GUARNASCHELLI: They have too much of something in their bloodstream.

ASCHWANDEN: Um, yes.

GUARNASCHELLI: And your book was about exercise recovery?

ASCHWANDEN: So the title is called Good To Go because it’s all the things you do after exercise so you’re good to go for the next one.

GUARNASCHELLI: So no heat stroke, nothing basic like that.

ASCHWANDEN: No.

DUBNER: Did they over carbo load?

ASCHWANDEN: That’s a great question because there are a lot of people who might suggest that was the case, but no.

DUBNER: But they did too much of something.

ASCHWANDEN: Correct.

DUBNER: And they plainly don’t know they’re doing—

ASCHWANDEN: No they think they’re doing something very good.

DUBNER: Ahhh.

GUARNASCHELLI: They over-hydrated.

ASCHWANDEN: Yes.

DUBNER: They over-hydrated.

GUARNASCHELLI: That’s actually how Andy Warhol died.

DUBNER: Is that right?

GUARNASCHELLI: Overhydration.

ASCHWANDEN: Is that true?

GUARNASCHELLI: Yeah.

PETRI: That is not how I would have guessed Andy Warhol would have died.

DUBNER: So people are over hydrating. Tell us more about this please.

ASCHWANDEN: So it’s quite tragic really. So this runner that I was telling you about at Boston was actually a charity runner, had been raising money for a cause, trained very hard, and was getting all these messages, “You have to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.” You have to drink so much. And in fact what happened was she drank so much that her blood became too diluted. The technical term for this hyponatremia. It’s also called water intoxication. But basically what you’re doing is you drink so much water that your blood becomes too dilute. And what’s really interesting is a lot of the symptoms mimic dehydration.

So this very thing that they’re thinking, “Oh, I need to drink more so I don’t become dehydrated.” In fact they get these symptoms like dizziness, confusion, nausea, fatigue, all these things that mimic dehydration. And in fact there have been many documented cases where people at marathons and other sporting events are actually made worse because they collapse at the finish line and they give them an I.V., which is exactly the wrong thing. They’re actually making it worse ,and you can go into a coma, and what actually kills the person is brain swelling.

DUBNER: How much volume are we talking about here? How much water do you need to drink to get hyponatremia?

ASCHWANDEN: Basically, drinking more than when your thirst is quenched. The exact amount is going to depend on different factors. How big you are, things like that.

DUBNER: Is it a grotesque amount of water? Is it like drinking gallons and gallons and gallons?

ASCHWANDEN: Compared to what some of the guidelines have been in the past— Now this is changing, so basically, the situation that we’re in now is we have had decades of messaging to athletes saying, “You need to drink, you need to drink.” And at one point they had — I think I calculated in my book — that if you are drinking according to their hydration standards that someone running a three-hour marathon, which is actually quite fast, would have to drink the equivalent of a six pack of soda. That sort of volume, which is a lot, it’s more than you would be naturally inclined to drink if you were just drinking to thirst, which is in fact what you should be doing.

DUBNER: I’m not asking the following question because I dislike the New England Patriots. Which I do, but—

ASCHWANDEN: Oh I know where this is going.

DUBNER: But doesn’t Tom Brady have some drink-four-gallons-of-water-a-day routine?

ASCHWANDEN: Yes he does. He does. In fact he believes that his water drinking habit protects him from sunburn, which of course is not supported by science. I have not found a scientist or doctor who will back up that claim by Tom Brady. He has some recommendations about how much people should drink, which are not absolutely ridiculous, but they’re not necessary either. Let me put it to you this way: No one’s telling you, “Stephen, don’t wait till you’re tired to sleep. By the time you’re sleepy it’s too late.”

I mean, our bodies are really sophisticated machines. When you need more water you become thirsty. And it sort of drives you to drink. And when you drink beyond thirst you’re sort of going beyond that and screwing up all these mechanisms that your body has to keep everything in check and in balance.

GUARNASCHELLI: What do you think about the idea that sometimes we eat because we think we’re hungry but that thirst may actually be a bigger culprit?

ASCHWANDEN: I have yet to find any evidence that that’s the case. At the same time, I think that hunger and things like this are very cultural driven too, and so it’s hard to distinguish some of these things. But there’s not a physiological reason that would say that you’re experiencing hunger that’s actual thirst. But one thing that is very interesting about thirst is: have you ever been, I don’t know, hiking in the desert say?

DUBNER: No.

ASCHWANDEN: Okay.

GUARNASCHELLI: Yeah that’s a no for me too.

ASCHWANDEN: All right. Well, I’m also a runner and a cyclist and I’ve been out there when it’s really hot. And you get really really thirsty and you get that, especially if it’s like a really cold glass of water. Oh my god, it tastes so good, that is the best tasting water you will ever try. Whereas if you’re just at home, you’re sort of well hydrated drinking some water, sometimes it doesn’t taste that good.

Well it turns out there’s a physiological reason for that. There are actually receptors in your throat that are responsible for this. So it’s actually true that water tastes better when you’re thirsty. And if you’re already well hydrated and not really in need of more water, it may in fact not taste that good. And you’re sort of not going to be driven to believe that it’s tasting so good that you want to drink another liter.

DUBNER: Let me ask you this, Christie: No. 1, do a lot of elite athletes make this error? Because I would like to think that they’re not.

ASCHWANDEN: Is Tom Brady elite?

GUARNASCHELLI: Yes, Tom Brady is elite.

ASCHWANDEN: Okay.

DUBNER: I’m asking in the course of events if you’re a professional or elite athlete, do a lot of them over hydrate generally. That’s part No. 1, and part No. 2 is, whether that’s true or not, are there other things you know that even elite athletes do kind of “wrong” based on what you know about the science of recovery?

ASCHWANDEN: Absolutely. So the answer to the first question is generally no. So the people that have died of hyponatremia, you had asked about dehydration. I have been unable to find a documented case where an athlete died of dehydration like on the sports field or in a marathon, whereas multiple people have died of hyponatremia. But most of these people are not elite athletes, and most of the clinical cases where someone is ending up in the hospital, are not elite runners.

And in fact one of the reasons researchers think that it’s becoming more common is not just because of all this bad messaging, but also because there are more people doing marathons. And there are people that are doing them much slower. So if you are out there for say six hours or five hours doing a marathon

DUBNER: You have more time to drink.

ASCHWANDEN: You have more time to drink. So, interesting fact. I’m not sure about the very last world record in the marathon, but the one before that, the guy who set the world record, according to these standards — there are standards that say you should weigh yourself before and after exercise if you don’t want to lose more than x percent of your body weight or you’re dehydrated and that’s going to hurt your performance — well in his case he was very, very dangerously dehydrated according to those rules when he set the world record.

And what’s sort of been documented is adaptive dehydration. And it looks as though at elite levels in particular when someone is exercising very hard that the body’s really coping with that by shutting down some of these processes. So your kidneys actually have a way of making sure that the hydration level in your blood is at the right level. And when you are exercising hard it kind of notices that, and it changes the things that it’s doing knowing that you’re not going to be taking in a lot more water and things like that.

So basically, people that are exercising or competing at an elite level are maybe a little less prone to it. But the other thing is most people in most sports are not out there where they don’t have access to water and things, so it really is possible to drink to thirst and that’s all you have to do.

DUBNER: So I’m curious if, when you go see a marathon, you see the big table set up with thousands of cups of water. And it doesn’t look like anyone can hydrate too much really in that case but, is there any kind of movement in the marathoning community or elsewhere to invoke this message and try to have people consume less, or is it not really that big of a problem?

ASCHWANDEN: So, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence that people are trying to make people consume less water and less drinks.

DUBNER: So it’s a very rare problem that people are drinking so much that they’re doing damage to themselves, correct?

ASCHWANDEN: It’s rare, but I mean when you have people dying that’s probably not rare enough.

GUARNASCHELLI: You’re also speaking from a position where you think this should never happen.

ASCHWANDEN: Right. I mean all we need to do — so there’s this message out there that says, “By the time you’re thirsty it’s too late,” which is just like I said, no one tells you by the time you’re sleepy—

DUBNER: Is that a Gatorade message by chance? Who is responsible for that?

ASCHWANDEN: That’s an interesting question. There is an incredible amount of marketing around this and not just by sports drinks companies. I mean you can’t go anywhere these days right—

DUBNER: It’s big water.

ASCHWANDEN: Yeah, it’s big water. It’s a conspiracy by big water and they just want to make you pee a lot. I think maybe like the toilet industry—

DUBNER: Maybe it’s big toilet, yeah big water and big toilet are working together.

GUARNASCHELLI: And then we have oysters again if we stop peeing, so there’s that.

DUBNER: So this is really interesting. Alexandra Petri, over-hydration, the dangers thereof. Tell us what you know.

PETRI: Well it seems it check out, which blows my mind. Apparently the whole thing where it’s like, you should drink eight glasses of water a day, there’s also no science behind that.

ASCHWANDEN: Completely unsubstantiated. It’s one of those facts someone said at one time decades ago and then it just propagates. It’s like the lifespan of bulls— on the Internet.

PETRI: No, which is good because I feel like drinking eight glasses of water a day is a lifetime commitment. Now I’m regretting having guzzled down half the water bottle in front of me. But I did check on the Andy Warhol thing. And that is what his estate says, they allege that he had been over-fluided when he died. So dang. Yeah. I checked also on the whole Tom Brady, does water protect you from the sun. And if you are in water—

ASCHWANDEN: Right.

PETRI: —under a meter of water, then the rays get refracted by 40 percent or something and your U.V. radiation can be decreased. But you have to physically be in water.

GUARNASCHELLI: We could put all the athletes in the New York Harbor.

DUBNER: So interesting and thank you so much for playing, Christie Aschwanden. Thank you very much. Would you please welcome our next guests, it’s a pair: Cynthia Graber and Nikki Twilley. Come on up. I understand you’re both journalists and that you co-host the Gastropod podcast which is about the science and history of food, which sounds fantastical. Wow us please with your wisdom; what do you have?

TWILLEY: Despite huge and extremely well-funded opposition from the industry, there are now soda taxes in dozens of places in the world. And so our question for you is, okay, do these soda taxes work, and are they the best thing we can do?

DUBNER: Somehow by your cagey phrasing I’m going to say the answer is probably not. Or at least they don’t work the way they should.

TWILLEY: Could be a double bluff.

GUARNASCHELLI: We’re being soda shamed, I feel.

DUBNER: I feel we are too. I mean they just told us we can’t have water.

GRABER: But by the end of tonight you’re not gonna be able to drink anything.

DUBNER: Our oysters are literally full of s—. And now we can’t even have a soda. This is not the kind of food and drink show I imagined having when I threw this party.

PETRI: It’s against food and drink.

DUBNER: It really is, yeah.

GUARNASCHELLI: What is your position on what the soda tax should do? Stop people from drinking it?

GRABER: I mean, in an ideal world the soda tax is going to reduce the amount that we’re drinking sugary beverages, and it’s going to make us healthier, and hopefully at the end of it reduce obesity and incidences of diabetes and heart disease and other things that are associated with drinking sugary beverages.

DUBNER: Well, I recently spoke with the C.E.O. of PepsiCo, and she says it’s okay to drink soda. Do you dispute that?

TWILLEY: The C.E.O. of PepsiCo has a responsibility to shareholders. I only have a responsibility to truth as a journalist and therefore —

DUBNER: Do you work for public radio by any chance? Okay, so I’m very curious to know about soda taxes and they’re relatively new I gather. Right? And I’m really curious because I do know a tiny bit about taxes on other goods that are considered unhealthy, one that’s unilaterally now considered unhealthy, cigarettes. And I know that taxes in that case have often worked really well, but they have to be really high taxes. So I’m curious what you can tell us about soda taxes, how much they are, and to what degree they have worked or not.

GRABER: So in terms of the reduction of consumption, they do work. Yes, they are smaller taxes than cigarette taxes, which tend to be 3-to-400 percent. The one in Mexico is maybe about 10 percent. It’s not working quite as well as the one in Philly that started last year. That’s on average about 21 percent although when you get to a higher amount of soda, say two liters, that ends up being a 50 percent tax. And actually the data is just coming out of Philly and it looks like it’s a 57 percent reduction in the amount of soda that’s been consumed.

DUBNER: Oh, so it wasn’t a trick question. The answer is if a tax is relatively high, people consume less of it. Okay. If that’s the case though, are there people who then claim that this is the kind of regressive tax that we don’t like?

TWILLEY: Oh yeah. Probably the C.E.O. of PepsiCo but—

GUARNASCHELLI: What about water and juice to replace that. And isn’t that why so many soda companies are so gung ho on that or?

TWILLEY: Also true, people do substitute, so that’s something researchers are looking at. Okay, is the soda tax so great? It depends what you replace it with. Turns out in Mexico what researchers see is that people replace it with water. Hopefully not too much water. But some water. When they’re thirsty only.

DUBNER: So you’re saying that you’re finding, or researchers are finding that in some places the soda tax at a certain proportion will reduce consumption. But what about what people actually then care about, which is nutrition or health and obesity, let’s say.

GRABER: Okay, so this is interesting and as you can imagine a little bit complicated. Soda taxes do reduce diabetes and heart disease. Now, they don’t reduce overall obesity now, but they do slow the growth of obesity in the future. And this is actually really important because the incidence of obesity in the U.S. right now is about 39 percent. But it’s not slowing down. And a researcher we spoke to recently said that 2-year-olds today, his prediction based on the models of information that he has, by the time they hit 35, 59 percent of them will be obese. So the fact that a soda tax slows down the growth of obesity is actually really important.

DUBNER: Let me ask you this. What else has been shown to constrain soda consumption in addition to taxes?

TWILLEY: Well, so this is really interesting, this is new research coming out of Chile. They put a giant black octagon — like a stop sign — on foods, like soda, that have too much sugar, too many calories, too many saturated fats, foods with too much sodium. Foods can have multiple of these octagon labels. And then what they do is say foods with these octagon labels on them, you can’t have them in schools, they can’t advertise on TV when kids are watching. They can’t be associated with characters, so no more Tony the Tiger.

This started a year ago. The initial data is just being analyzed and Barry Popkin, who is a nutritionist and economist researching this, says this is the only thing that is actually going to reduce obesity, he thinks. So, it’s going to take a couple of years, but in the data he’s seeing now it’s not just slowing the growth it’s going to reduce because it’s changing the norms.

DUBNER: And what do researchers think is the mechanism by which the warning or, whatever, no-go sign is maybe more effective than taxes?

GRABER: Well it really does, as Nikki just said, it changes the norms, it changes discussions around food. It prevents the foods from being sold in schools, it prevents advertising to children. You don’t have these characters. And kids are actually — they did some focus groups — kids are actually saying to their parents, “don’t buy the foods with the warning labels.” And one girl he quoted to us said to her mom, “I want you to buy me salad as a snack instead.”

PETRI: What kids are they sampling?

GRABER: Chilean kids.

TWILLEY: But it’s working so well—

DUBNER: Would you trust any kid that ever asked for a salad? I’m just saying.

TWILLEY: But it’s working so well that other countries are queuing up to do this. So Canada, Israel, Peru, Brazil. And the soda companies are so upset about it that they are trying to finagle into our international trade agreements that companies aren’t allowed to use these kinds of labels if they want to be in the agreement. So, you can tell it’s working by how hard the companies are fighting.

GUARNASCHELLI: My dilemma is that—

DUBNER: You like soda?

GUARNASCHELLI: Yeah. I do. I’m sorry.

TWILLEY: It’s designed for you to like it.

GUARNASCHELLI: I think this is true. I think a really ice cold Coke, especially a Mexican Coke with sugar, that’s out of your fridge, that’s ice cold. When you have a hangover and you crack that sucker open and you guzzle that till you can’t breathe. I’m with it. I’m sorry. So my question is: how much of obesity is what we drink and not what we chew, and what does soda have to do with a bacon double cheeseburger at 9 a.m.?

GRABER: So this is also a really interesting and complicated question because it’s obesity and nobody has quite figured out how it all works. But it is clear, all the studies — that aren’t funded by industry — have shown that the more a population drinks sweetened beverages like soda, the heavier they are, the higher the B.M.I. The studies also show that the more soda a population drinks the more diabetes and heart disease.

And there is actually a really interesting reason for that. When we drink sweetened beverages, we don’t get full. It’s the only way we take in calories that it doesn’t prevent you from eating something else. The more soda you drink, you eat just as much food in the rest of your day, in the rest of your diet. So if you cut that out, you’re still going to get the same amount of calories. But if you drink that, again, you’re just going to eat as much as you would otherwise.

DUBNER: And what about this idea that — we’ve probably all read the studies that show that people who drink diet soda gain no less weight than people who drink the same amount of sugary soda. What’s the story there? Is that — first of all is it true, do you know, and if so what’s the mechanism by which that happens?

TWILLEY: So there is a lot of new research on it and I am just going to take this opportunity to say we have an episode coming out in December and I’ll be able to tell you the answer then.

DUBNER: Is Chile indeed at the forefront of this experiment—

GUARNASCHELLI: They’re trying to sell all their wine, that’s what they’re doing.

TWILLEY: Some people do substitute alcohol.

GUARNASCHELLI: I want some American field work on this. I really do. You know what I mean?

TWILLEY: Most of the researchers think there’s no way we could get this through in America even though it’s shown to work much better than anything else.

DUBNER: Well industry has to agree/cooperate.

GRABER: So they managed to keep Colombia from enacting laws. But in Chile and in Mexico, they’ve had really strong coalitions as they went out to kind of stand up to industry. In Mexico the coalition was funded by Bloomberg Foundation. And in Chile the president was a former Minister of Health. So it was really important to the president and to all of the government.

DUBNER: Alexandra Petri, soda taxes and the efficacy thereof? What more can you say.

PETRI: Well, I was looking into studies about graphic off-putting labels in deterring people from doing things, they were trying this in France to discourage people from smoking. And they were doing their best to make really hideous graphic labels but they weren’t working, a.) because the people were set in their ways, and, b.) because they were like an image of a woman in a skull and everyone found it too beautiful. So you got to be careful not to do accidental art when you’re trying to tell people not to do a thing.

DUBNER: Cynthia and Nikki thanks for playing Tell Me Something I Don’t Know.

*      *      *

DUBNER: Before we get back to the game, we’ve got some FREAK-quently asked questions written just for you, Alex Guarnaschelli, you ready?

GUARNASCHELLI: Wow. Okay.

DUBNER: What’s one thing in your life you spend much too much on but don’t regret?

GUARNASCHELLI: Boyfriends.

DUBNER: Name a food that you love that most people hate.

GUARNASCHELLI: Liverwurst. I love liverwurst. It’s so good. God! There’s always one little sad package in the supermarket. In fact even sometimes I don’t want to I just buy it to like crusade for it.

DUBNER: Now, let me ask you conversely is there food that you hate that most people love?

GUARNASCHELLI: Yeah. Risotto. People are like, “Oh my god we are having risotto. This is so amazing, this is so good.” Disgusting to me. I want to die.

DUBNER: Best cuisine and why.

GUARNASCHELLI: Probably Chinese. Growing up, my father cooked a lot of Chinese food. My parents are both Italian. But, when you start with the fact that my father says the Chinese taught the Italians how to make pasta.

DUBNER: True?

PETRI: Ah—

DUBNER: True fact?

GUARNASCHELLI: I just think the way they use ingredients and flavors and textures is really amazing.

DUBNER: What do you collect and why?

GUARNASCHELLI: I collect American China. Because I just love it. Yard sales, estate sales, everything. But I won’t buy it if it’s not American, even if I love it. That’s all I collect, other than books, cookbooks.

DUBNER: And you write cookbooks. And your mom’s a very famous cookbook editor, yes?

GUARNASCHELLI: Yes, and I have discovered that my mother, in her very old-school New York apartment has approximately 50,000 books. Yeah.

DUBNER: Okay let’s finish up with a quick round of this or that.

GUARNASCHELLI: Okay.

DUBNER: Olive oil or butter.

GUARNASCHELLI: Yes.

PETRI: That’s true.

DUBNER: That was easy. Oysters, half-shell or deep fried?

GUARNASCHELLI: Half-shell.

DUBNER: And finally: so, we know that you grew up across the street directly across the street from the late, lamented Carnegie Deli.

GUARNASCHELLI: I did.

DUBNER: Imagine that it’s Brigadoon. And for one night it opens back up again.

GUARNASCHELLI: Oh my God.

DUBNER: And you’ve got a shot at one sandwich. What’s it going to be, corned beef, pastrami, or chicken liver?

GUARNASCHELLI: I can’t believe you just said that, because I thought you were going to let me pick. My favorite sandwich at the Carnegie, with a pickle on the side is, half corned beef, half pastrami on rye with a smear of chopped liver.

DUBNER: There you go.

GUARNASCHELLI: And that was some good stuff, but if I had to pick one, pastrami.

DUBNER: Nice. And a cardiogram for dessert. Very nicely done. Alex Guarnaschelli, thank you so much. Let’s get back to our game. Would you please welcome our next guest, Kaidi Wu. Hi Kaidi.

WU: Hello.

DUBNER: I understand you are a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Michigan. Yes?

WU: That’s right.

DUBNER: Sounds good. What do you have for us tonight?

WU: Okay, so I want you to picture a dark, gloomy sleep-deprived Monday morning. You’re in a hurry. You’re getting ready for work. Your spouse turns around and says, “Honey, can you cook two eggs for me? One sunny side up, one perfectly poached. Three pancakes: strawberry, blueberry, and Nutella flavored. Four strips of bacon, crispy and tender at the same time. And a glass of orange juice with five little ice cubes.” You looked at your spouse in disbelief and cooked for him anyway. What emotion are you feeling right now?

DUBNER: What emotion are you feeling? Probably there’s a better word in German somewhere between regret and hatred.

PETRI: I’m feeling confusion that I’ve somehow in this scenario married someone who wants to put ice cubes in his orange juice.

DUBNER: You’re saying there’s a name for this emotion — does it come from your your psych research, we gather?

WU: Sort of. It comes from a culture.

GUARNASCHELLI: Compliance.

WU: That’s better. Perhaps this will help you. What emotion is your spouse feeling?

DUBNER: Victory.

GUARNASCHELLI: I don’t know a word other than mommy.

DUBNER: Let me ask you a question. Is this an emotion that any one of us, Alex Guarnaschelli, Alexandra Petri, even I might have experienced in our lives?

WU: Were you born into a Japanese culture?

GUARNASCHELLI: Not at all.

DUBNER: So you’re saying that there is a particular emotion that one would experience if one were Japanese or ingrained in a Japanese culture that we don’t experience. Is that what you’re saying?

WU: That is correct.

GUARNASCHELLI: So we can’t actually identify this because we’re too busy drinking soda and not eating oysters.

WU: Because you speak English.

GUARNASCHELLI: Because we speak— So the word doesn’t exist in English?

WU: Yeah.

DUBNER: So what is the word?

WU: The word is called amae.

DUBNER: And only Japanese?

WU: Only Japanese. Except in midland English there’s a word called marty.

DUBNER: But, so there’s a word, but what about the emotion itself? Is it like the umami of emotion?

GUARNASCHELLI: No the emotion is: am I really cooking this?

DUBNER: So this is fascinating if true. And Alexandra will get typing over there. So you’re suggesting that there are identifiable emotions that are essentially culturally dependent. Yes?

WU: Yes.

DUBNER: Okay. Tell us more about this, it’s interesting.

WU: Okay. So let’s define amae first. Amae is this pleasant sweet sensation you feel when you depend upon someone’s love and bask in their indulgence. What does it mean? So, for people to feel amae, three things must happen. Someone has to make an inappropriate request. Husband asked the wife to cook even though she’s in a hurry. Both people have to be in on the idea. He knows the request is inappropriate. She knows the request is inappropriate. He knows that she knows the request is inappropriate. She knows that he knows that she knows that he knows that she knows that the request is inappropriate.

DUBNER: It sounds like it’s only from the person who gets the breakfast is experiencing that emotion right? What’s the other one experiencing?

WU: The other person is feeling ideally immense joy and love and intimacy. Which is to say that you have to get the idea. That’s why both people have to be on the same page.

DUBNER: Is it immense joy built on the same concept of amae?

WU: Yes, because amae is an interpersonal emotion. You can’t experience amae in isolation.

DUBNER: What do you call the the idea of an emotion like that that is so culturally dependent? Is that common in the world?

WU: That is very common in the sense that there are 216 untranslatable words for well-being. Like gigil. It means the intense urge to pinch a baby’s cheek.

DUBNER: In what language?

WU: In Filipino.

DUBNER: And we don’t have that word.

WU: You don’t have that word.

DUBNER: So, are these just symptoms or consequences of language then, or is it deeper than that?

WU: It is deeper than that, in fact, and we have a word for that very concept called hypocognition.

DUBNER: Hypocognition.

WU: Exactly.

DUBNER: Hypo, not hyper, meaning the absence of cognition of a something, correct?

WU: Exactly.

DUBNER: Oh, so we have hypocognition toward amae.

WU: Yes.

DUBNER: Do the Japanese have hypercognition of amae?

WU: Ah that depends.

DUBNER: On what?

WU: On the degree to which they practice amae. I will give you this though. We as Americans have hypercognition of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Norwegians must experience winter blues by that standard but they don’t get depressed.

DUBNER: And that is a result of their hypocognition.

WU: Sort of. Or they can say that’s the result of our normalcy as opposed to the hypercognition of winter blues in America.

DUBNER: So, is there something that Americans experience emotionally more or very differently from other people?

WU: Yes. And if we were to use an example based on the very definition of hypocognition, when someone you love has died. How does it make you feel?

DUBNER: It depends who it was.

WU: If you ask Tahitians, they give you a very different response. They say I feel sick. I feel strange. I feel a sense of uncanny. What they don’t feel is grief. It’s not that they don’t experience pieces of grief. It is rather that they don’t have the overarching concept of grief to unite all of the symptoms. Same as Americans. We may experience amae. In fact, when your kid sits on your lap and says, “Daddy, play with me, play with me,” he knows it’s inappropriate but you don’t look at him and go, “Jerk face.” You say, “Oh, you’re annoying but in a very cute way. That’s my kid.” So that’s kind of—.

GUARNASCHELLI: Do you have children?

WU: I don’t.

GUARNASCHELLI: Asking for a friend. I think I watched my parents in amae all the time. My parents would have a fight. And every time my parents would have a fight, and generally when I was younger my dad he would always make her make a lemon dessert, a very complicated lemon dessert, like a Charlotte which is layers and layers of cake wrapped in curd, arranged in a glass dish filled with — I mean it took days. And then we just ate this dessert. And then the fight was over. And there was no talk. And I hate lemon desserts now. A lemon meringue pie is worse than risotto.

WU: But she made it out of love, presumably.

GUARNASCHELLI: The whole thing ended up, the net net: Love. Yeah. Net net.

DUBNER: Kaidi, can you give an example of hypercognition?

WU: Yes. The seasonal affective disorder is one. But the people who fall prey to hypercognition the most are experts. Experts know so much that they end up knowing very little. Doctors for example give diagnoses based on what they know. But they also give out diagnoses in terms of their own specialties. Cardiologists for example over-diagnose heart disease, as opposed to infectious disease experts who over-diagnose infectious diseases. Same with psychiatric clinicians who over-diagnose depression, which is really dangerous, as opposed to kind of general clinicians who under-diagnose depression.

DUBNER: So is what you’re describing different from just a general cognitive bias, like all the cognitive biases we’re aware of where, whether it’s recency or optimism or the endowment effect, is it really different than that? Is it kind of more like an emotional version of that, or is it substantially different?

WU: It is substantially different in the sense that hypocognition is something we don’t see. It’s not only something we don’t see, it’s something that we don’t see that we don’t see.

GUARNASCHELLI: It’s like mildew. So what do we do? I mean, now I’m freaked out. What do I do now? I’m overthinking this.

WU: You’re not actually, you’re onto a very good point.

GUARNASCHELLI: I’m hypercognitively ruminating. Help me.

WU: Philosophers debate about this and have talked about this for a long time. If we are so hypocognitive how are we still here? Why are we still alive?

DUBNER: Yeah.

GUARNASCHELLI: Opposable thumbs, no?

PETRI: Tell me, why are we here?

WU: It turns out that people make a lot of mistakes in life. For example people think that diseases were caused by miasma, which is a bad smell. People think that obesity is caused by breathing in beef odors.

GUARNASCHELLI and DUBNER: And soda.

WU: Which in turn led to kind of this obsession about hygiene and led to people probably eating less beef, which actually solved the problem. So, people can have the right conclusion without having the right rationale. People were hypocognitive. They still got things right.

DUBNER: Alexandra, I feel like you’ve got your work cut out for you, because we’ve learned about amae, and we’ve learned about hypo- and hypercognition.

PETRI: Well, this reminds me so much of what Donald Rumsfeld said about unknown unknowns. Going back to the philosophical question I feel like in the — you can go back in the dialogue, “Theaetetus” from Plato, where he has this one metaphor for knowledge and ignorance where you just have a giant cage full of ignorance birds and all the facts are either ignorance birds or knowledge birds. And if you grab an ignorance bird you don’t know if it’s the correct bird or not because you need to also be holding a knowledge bird to know if what you’re holding is an ignorance bird.

Anyway, and then the metaphor fell apart and he’s like we need to go back to the drawing board on this, Theaetetus. This is a bad metaphor. But the question remains, how could you know that you don’t know something? And on TV, hypercognition is just like, “Oh you’re a smart talking man.” So it’s like Spencer Reid on like Criminal Minds but he tends to be hypercognitive of his specialty as well because he’s like, “It’s definitely a serial killer,” and it’s like, maybe it wasn’t this time. I hope that answered your questions.

DUBNER: Yeah that really cleared up everything. Thank you so much. Kaidi Wu, thank you so much for playing Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. And would you please welcome our final guest tonight, Devin Briski. It says here that you write and produce the Religion and Socialism podcast and you also produce live conferences for Vox Media. You have the last slot tonight, so it better be good. Tell us something we don’t know please.

BRISKI: I have a question for you: which food or beverage item essentially paid for all of the wars that Britain fought during the 1700’s?

DUBNER: I’m going with oysters.

BRISKI: No.

GUARNASCHELLI: My knee jerk is tea.

BRISKI: No.

DUBNER: Soda pop.

BRISKI: No.

GUARNASCHELLI: Beer?

BRISKI: Yes it’s beer.

DUBNER: Oh! So the British, they pretty much love their beer. Safe to say.

BRISKI: Yes. And there’s a reason for that that.

DUBNER: Yeah, let’s hear it. Is it because they hate the French and the French had wine?

BRISKI: Actually, that’s why.

DUBNER: Oh. See ya later.

BRISKI: Yeah. So, basically 1600’s, prior to the Glorious Revolution, Britain actually imported a lot of very cheap wine by the barrel from France. 1688, Glorious Revolution happened. British parliament allied with the Protestant William of Orange from Netherlands. And they were at war with France, Catholic. They also became a constitutional monarchy so parliament had the power to tax. The first thing they did was put a tariff on French wine. The important thing about this tariff was that it was a volume tariff, rather than a value tariff. So that means every barrel of wine that comes in is taxed the same amount if it’s high end or low end. So it shifted demand so that the aristocracy could still afford their high end clarets from the Bordeaux region but there was no more by-the-barrel cheap wine for the masses.

DUBNER: Now, beer had been around for, I guess, millenia by this point. A lot of it in England already, yes? But how did it how did that change things then for beer in England?

BRISKI: So next thing that happened was the Industrial Revolution. So, previous to the Industrial Revolution the brewing industry was scattered across the countryside, small pubs that brewed their own beer. And during this time brewing was really a craft. During the 1700’s, the population of London tripled, there is the Industrial Revolution, there is a scientific revolution, and there rose a class of industrial brewers.

DUBNER: The brewing revolution. It became big and centralized?

BRISKI: Yes so it became very consolidated. There were 12 brewers that brewed most of the beer in London, which is unheard of, and they brewed it and sold it to the pubs. So it was a very consolidated industry and that meant fewer brewers. It was easier for the government to collect taxes from the brewers. And these brewers were extremely rich.

DUBNER: So the brewers are getting wealthy. What does this have to do with financing wars?

BRISKI: Well so, the brewers and the members of Parliament developed a very cozy relationship. It was kind of a revolving door during this period. There was a brewer in Parliament for basically the entire century. Basically the brewers established kind of a bargain with Parliament where they were protected from competition from cheap French wine. And in exchange they paid their taxes.

DUBNER: So are you saying that there’s beer and people like beer and they are going to continue to consume it even if it’s not really, really cheap, because it’s still a lot cheaper than French wine, which has a huge tariff now. And that Parliament could keep raising the taxes on beer and people would still keep buying it. But you’re saying those taxes then would be used specifically to fund a war effort?

BRISKI: Not specifically, but they were continuously raised because of the wars that England was fighting. So after the glorious revolution, for the next century and a half, England was at war with France for a majority of that period of time. So they kept raising the taxes to fight the war efforts and beer taxes were a very large share of the tax revenue. So the tax revenue that England took in during this time quadrupled.

DUBNER: I recall reading — and I’m curious if you know if this is true or not — that in the old days — let’s say whatever 18th, 19th century — water was not — I mean you think of London, you think of cholera — water was not reliable. And that pretty much everybody drank beer, including, children for breakfast. Now I’m guessing that was kind of nearish beer; do you know anything about that?

BRISKI: Basically they didn’t totally understand what made water okay to drink or not. So they knew beer was okay, it wouldn’t make them sick so yeah. So that’s partially why demand was so inelastic, and in general in Europe, alcohol is just very important in the evolution of governments.

DUBNER: Yeah, I’d say in many countries.

BRISKI: Yeah.

DUBNER: Alexandra Petri, Devin Briski has been telling us about how beer and the taxes thereupon helped fuel the British war effort for I guess centuries. Anything to add?

PETRI: Well Ben Franklin clearly didn’t realize that beer was secretly funding the war effort or he would have not said that beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.

DUBNER: He was just feeling some amae with God.

PETRI: But yeah, drink beer and fund all kinds of wars. Wow. That’s a slogan.

BRISKI: Drink beer, fund war.

DUBNER: Thank you so much. Devin, thanks for playing Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, great job. Can we please give one more hand to all our guests tonight? Thank you so much. It is time now for our live audience to pick a winner. So who will it be:

  • Pete Malinowski with “the Billion Oyster Project,”
  • Christie Aschwanden with “over hydration can be deadly,”
  • Cynthia Graber and Nikki Twilley with “the imperfect soda tax,”
  • Kaidi Wu with “amae and hypocognition,” or
  • Devin Briski with what we’ll call “beeronomics?”

DUBNER: And our grand prize winner tonight for telling us about the Billion Oyster Project, Pete Malinowski. Congratulations Pete, well done. To commemorate your victory, we’d like to present you with this Certificate of Impressive Knowledge. It reads “I, Stephen Dubner in consultation with Alex Guarnaschelli and Alexandra Petri do hereby vow that Pete Malinowski told us something that we did not know, for which we are eternally grateful.” Well done. And that’s our show for tonight. I hope we told you something you didn’t know. Huge thanks to Alex Guarnaschelli and Alexandra Petri, to our guests. And thanks especially to you for coming to play. “Tell Me Something

AUDIENCE: I Don’t Know!

DUBNER: Thank you so much.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know and Freakonomics Radio are produced by Stitcher and Dubner Productions. This episode was produced by Alison Craiglow, Harry Huggins, Zack Lapinski, Morgan Levey, Emma Morgenstern, Dan Dzula, and David Herman, who also composed our theme music. The Freakonomics Radio staff also includes Greg Rippin and Alvin Melathe. Thanks to our good friends at Qualtrics, whose online survey software is so helpful in putting on this show, and to Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater for hosting us.

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