Cover image of Think Again – a Big Think Podcast
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Rank #137 in Arts category

Arts
Science & Medicine
Society & Culture

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Updated 12 days ago

Rank #137 in Arts category

Arts
Science & Medicine
Society & Culture
Read more

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

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We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

iTunes Ratings

516 Ratings
Average Ratings
348
130
14
11
13

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
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A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.

Perfect

By Stas173739 - Aug 18 2018
Read more
This is so great. Especially love the scientists

iTunes Ratings

516 Ratings
Average Ratings
348
130
14
11
13

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
Read more
A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.

Perfect

By Stas173739 - Aug 18 2018
Read more
This is so great. Especially love the scientists
Cover image of Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Updated 12 days ago

Rank #137 in Arts category

Read more

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

207. Lisa Brennan-Jobs (writer) – on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad

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The first computer I ever had was the first Apple Macintosh, back in the mid 80’s. I can still remember the sense of friendly reassurance from that smiling little icon that popped up on the screen when you turned it on—a cute, tiny computer smiling back at you. This device, it suggested, knew you. Understood you. Was someone you could trust.

Since then, we’ve come a long way, baby. The cold, black, addictive rectangle in my pocket—a gleaming window into all the hopes and terrors of the known world—is a far cry from the early, friendly promises of that smiling machine on which I could magically paint things at the touch of a button.

My guest today, in a very different way, grew up in the long shadow of that same cultural trajectory. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was her dad. But like our relationship with the machines he helped unleash on the world, hers with him was deeply complicated. In her beautiful memoir Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs writes about his indifference, his attention, and her struggle to find herself in and outside of his shadow.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: None, due to tight taping time. 

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Aug 10 2019
47 mins
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206. Jenny Odell (artist) – attention as an act of resistance

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When I think of my childhood home in Bethesda, Maryland, depending on what kind of mood I’m in, I think either of the mall or of the woods. Although there were some fun moments looking at the inappropriate novelty items like at Spencer Gifts, such as edible underwear, the mall in my memory is a symbol of suburban anomie and alienation. A place, as my guest today would put it, without context.

The woods, on the other hand, were endless and full of surprises. We’d follow the twisting creek, overturn rocks to find crawfish, and eat sassafras leaves. Once we made Molotov cocktails out of my mom’s nail polish and threw them into the creek with pure, anarchic joy. In the woods, I was always, utterly present—connected to every sound and attuned to the slightest movement. In the mall, I was mostly conscious of whether or not my jacket looked cool.

I’m here today with Jenny Odell. She’s an artist and educator who grew up in Silicon Valley and teaches at Stanford, the heart of the attention economy that’s colonizing more and more of the cultural woods. She’s also an avid bird watcher—or “bird noticer”, as she might put it. Her wonderful new book HOW TO DO NOTHING: RESISTING THE ATTENTION ECONOMY is something like a primer for growing the woods inside the mall. It’s about carving out space for ourselves in a world that wants to put our time and our lives to other, more utilitarian uses. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Edward Slingerland on the Taoist concept of Wu Wei and how it plays out in Chinese business culture

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Aug 03 2019
52 mins
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205. Jeffrey Israel (religious studies scholar, old friend) – Private hate, public love, and everything in between

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A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam walk into a bar. No, wait. Imams don’t drink. Most rabbis don’t drink much either, come to think of it. Priests drink—at least in the movies—but mostly not in bars . . .

So maybe nobody walks into a bar? How, when, and where are we all supposed to figure out how to get along?

My guest today, who also happens to be an old, good friend of mine, has an answer, or several. He’s Jeffrey Israel—a professor of Religion at Williams College and the author of a new book Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion. He argues that pluralistic societies like the United States need two uneasy siblings: a strong political will to recognize and protect our common humanity and also “play spaces” where we can give rein to the difficult feelings- anger, resentment, even hate- that can’t be erased by politics, a Beatles song, or just by wishing them away.

In his generous and provocative book, Jeff mines Jewish-American humor from Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, and the sitcom All in the Family for models of rough and reflective play. Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing gets a well-deserved star turn, too. And for a civics that can protect human dignity while making space for all the nastiness and alienation we have no choice but to live with, He looks to philosopher Martha Nussbaum, among others.

It’s a difficult conversation for an imperfect and imperfectable world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So Jeff makes a bold case and invites us all to the table —rabbi, priest, Imam, and the rest us who don’t fit into easy categories—to hash it out.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

David Epstein on “lateral thinking”

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Jul 27 2019
1 hour 7 mins
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204. The Butler Sisters (filmmakers) – identity, intolerance, and change in the American heartland

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In spite of all the weird ways the word has been abused since the 2016 elections, I think of myself as a liberal. As a basic value, I try to be open-minded. And like many liberals, I live in a big, liberal city where I rarely meet anyone who doesn’t share my values, religious outlook, and political beliefs. As a result, like it or not, I’m in a bubble. And when I’m not being careful about it, I’m vulnerable to seeing “the Bible Belt” and the American South as one monolithic, mostly white, evangelical, anti-abortion, Christian Right-leaning mass. As some kind of living history exhibit of a past us New Yorkers have left behind.

And I know lots of people in some of the same bubbles I occupy who are quick to point to religion as the cause of horrors throughout human history. People who see reason and science as progress, religion as unequivocally retrograde, and who point to data showing that people everywhere are getting less religious as a hopeful sign that humanity might be moving in the right direction. But just as it doesn’t have a monopoly on morality, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on intolerance. And reason alone can’t give us values like love and kindness. Religion’s one of many ways that people organize their lives and like everything we make, it’s subject to both our courage and our cowardice. The best and the worst of us.

A recent Pew survey says that 63% of Americans believe in God. In Bible Belt states like Oklahoma, where that number is much higher, there are fierce political battles going on for control of the Christian narrative—pushback against fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible as aligned with conservative republican values. These battles, invisible to most of us out here on the coasts, are the subject of AMERICAN HERETICS, a powerful new documentary by my guests today, Jeanine and Catherine Butler.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Michael Pollan on the history of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in America

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Jul 20 2019
53 mins
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203. Elif Shafak (novelist) – The story no one hears

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After four years and just over 200 conversations for this podcast, I’m feeling the need for a new kind of politics. One that would champion uncertainty, fragility, emotional vulnerability against the tyranny of opinions that push us one way or another. I used to think that art was sufficient for this purpose. After all, it was books like J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey or Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, bands like the Smiths and the Velvet Underground that gave a much younger me courage to embrace ambiguity as a great teacher.

Art’s an open door, but you have to walk through it. And it’s the politics and culture around you that shape your ability to do so. We’re hurting and hungry for connection. Sick of misunderstanding and violence. I think this is true all over the world. I think it runs so deep it’s like an underground river, one whose presence we can only guess at from the contours of the surface earth.

I’m very happy to be talking today with Turkish-born global citizen, novelist and activist Elif Shafak. She’s the author of  HONOR, THE FLEA PALACE, and THREE DAUGHTERS OF EVE, among many other books. In her writing and public speaking, she’s one of the most eloquent voices I know of this new politics that doesn’t fit easily on any flag.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Pete Holmes on #metoo and binary thinking 

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Jul 13 2019
55 mins
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202. Tracy Edwards, MBE (British sailor) – If you don't like the way the world looks, change it

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What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? The thing everyone said was impossible,  that you knew you had to do anyway, and that you doubted a thousand times while it was underway that you’d be able to see through to the end?

There’s a good chance you can think of at least one example. And an even better chance it doesn’t even come close in monumental, soul-smelting intensity to what Tracy Edwards put herself through back in 1989 to 1990, along with the all-female crew of her racing yacht Maiden. In that year, with the dismissive, derisive, mostly male eyes of the racing world upon them, this 9 member crew proved beyond a doubt that they could sail every bit as skillfully and fearlessly as their male competitors in the Whitbread Round-the-World-yacht-race.

They crossed the southern ocean from Uruguay to Australia, surviving icebergs and deadly waves to win the most difficult leg of the race, then beat their closest rival, move for move, in a tactical sprint to New Zealand. By the time they made it home to England, derision had long given way to admiring awe.

Tracy and her crew did a thing everyone thought was impossible. And in doing so they gave hope to countless others. The documentary film MAIDEN, out from Sony Pictures Classics, captures every leg of their incredible journey, and shows the full cost and rewards of Tracy’s single-minded persistence.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Explorer Erling Kagge on journeys and solitude

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Jul 06 2019
51 mins
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201. Chris Moukarbel (WIG and GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO filmmaker) – The closest thing to actual magic

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When I was in middle school in the suburbs of Maryland, a man—let’s call him Robert—started doing some occasional gardening and housecleaning for my parents. By high school, Robert was our full-time housekeeper and a nanny for me and my sister, a family member, really. And he had become a she—let’s call her Tina. My sister and I learned to use her new pronouns and we watched as her clothes and then, with the help of hormones and surgery, her body changed to that of a woman.

At the same time, the transition we went through with Tina at home was playing out in American popular culture. Homosexuality and drag and other queer lives and identities came out of the closet and onto the stage, screen, and streets. In 1984, in Mahattan’s Tompkins Square Park, Wigstock was born. It started as a kind of afterparty and evolved into a DIY, outrageous, funny, and fabulous annual drag festival that by the 90’s was drawing crowds in the thousands.

It’s hard even to think back to the time when Robert who became Tina had to hide who she was for fear of upsetting her religious mother or—who knows—maybe not getting that job with my folks. In a world where RuPaul’s Drag Race is going into its 12th smash season, It’s easy to forget the courage it took, and still takes, for so many people to live on the outside what they know they are on the inside. My guest today is documentary filmmaker Chris Moukarbel, the director of Lady Gaga biopic GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO. In his new HBO documentary WIG, Chris and his stars—including Lady Bunny, Charlene Incarnate, and many more—take us back through the history of drag in New York City. And they show that now more than ever we need public spaces like Wigstock where we can perform, amplify, and celebrate our differences.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Bill Eddy on “toxic people”

John Cameron Mitchell on online communication and miscommunication

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Jun 29 2019
45 mins
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200. Robert MacFarlane (writer) – deep time rising

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I’m underground as I write this, one day before taping the conversation you’re about to hear, speeding through New York City subway tunnels that aren’t all that ancient but whose darkness, and rats, and crumbling, esoteric infrastructure holds fear and fascination enough for anyone who contemplates them. Waking up this morning—notice how you wake up, not down—I felt my already barely remembered dreams sliding off of me in layers, like leaves, or hands. And the longing to submit to those hands and slide back down, underground, into the caverns of sleep.

My guest today, Robert MacFarlane, has dug deeper than I could ever hope to into the meanings and magnetism of the underworld —tunnels, caves, sinkholes, and the living, fungal earth of our world and our imaginations. At one point in his new book UNDERLAND he brings up the fact that to a neutrino, our solid physical world is just a a mesh—Mount Everest is a wide-gauge net it can pass easily through. In MacFarlane’s writing, the layers of the world are transparent, overlapping, always already present. He’s often called a “nature writer”, but that’s a poor proxy for what he actually is: a philosopher poet with the gift of sight in the darkness, whose penetrating vision turns the world inside out.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

E.O. Wilson on the world of pheromones

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Jun 22 2019
1 hour 2 mins
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199. Lama Rod Owens (RADICAL DHARMA co-author, Buddhist teacher) – the price of the ticket to freedom

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Like Mick Jagger, the Indian prince we know as The Buddha taught that we can’t get no satisfaction from this world, though we try and we try, and we try, and we try . . .

Buddha means “awakened one”. Awake to the fact that the world is impermanent and we suffer and cause suffering to one another because of that. “Woke” is a newer word for something similar. Waking up to pervasive social injustice. To racism, economic disparity, homophobia, and other forces that poison and destroy people’s lives and relationships. In other words, suffering people cause by clinging onto impermanent things—in this case, power. The intersection of  these two kinds of awakening is at the heart of the work of my guest today, Lama Rod Owens. An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage and the coauthor of RADICAL DHARMA, he grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life’s work based on compassion for self and others, and on trying to help people wake up in all senses of the word.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Michael Shermer on why we die

Pete Holmes on the power of words

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Jun 15 2019
1 hour 10 mins
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198. Barbara Tversky (cognitive psychologist) – World makes mind

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You’re a body in the world. From the moment you’re born, from that very first gasp of air, you’re taking in sensations, trying to get a handle on things and the relationships between them. There’s a lot of things to get a handle on. Too many. So your brain needs to simplify. It makes boxes for objects, maps them onto grids to track their motion. Through this process, the physical world enters your mind. It makes your mind. And that’s where things start to get really interesting.

My guest today is cognitive psychologist Barbara Tversky. Her new book MIND IN MOTION: How Action Shapes Thought, upends everything most of us think we know about thinking. Tversky’s first law of cognition is that there are no benefits without costs. We simplify the physical world—reduce it to lines and boxes. We build abstract thought—everything from Shakespeare to string theory to how to design a pair of sneakers—on top of that same flawed foundation. And that explains all of our superpowers and all of our blind spots.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Philosopher Alva Noe on the puzzle of perception

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Jun 08 2019
1 hour 3 mins
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