236 episodes

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.

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast Big Think

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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.

    235. Neil Gaiman (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – and then it gets darker

    235. Neil Gaiman (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – and then it gets darker

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    Adult life, with all its schedules and responsibilities, can turn into a kind of library of locked boxes. The ones we open every day sit on a shelf at eye level, their keys clipped to a carabiner at our waist: Set the alarm. Pack a gym bag. Pick up milk for the kids.
    But on the lower shelves and in the dusty back rooms there’s an ominous jumble of odd-shaped containers. They hold the stories that don’t fit so neatly into the skin we’ve decided to live in. Maybe we’ve misplaced the keys, or maybe we’ve deliberately lost them.
    My guest today keeps all the keys close at hand. In his stories and graphic novels worlds collide and, as the fairy Ariel puts it in Shakespeare’s Tempest, they “suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange”. The walls of reality are permeable, and dangerous magic is always seeping through.
    Neil Gaiman is the author of the Sandman graphic novels, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, American Gods, and many other wonderful things. His latest is a marvelous retelling of Norse Mythology, with most of the nasty bits left in.
    Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
    Barbara Oakley on learning speeds and styles
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    • 1 hr
    234. Robert MacFarlane (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – deep time rising

    234. Robert MacFarlane (Jason Plays Favorites #7) – deep time rising

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    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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    • 1 hr 3 min
    233. Terry Gilliam (Jason Plays Favorites #5) – the impossible dream

    233. Terry Gilliam (Jason Plays Favorites #5) – the impossible dream

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    --
    Faith in anything is its own special form of madness.
    It’s a challenge to entropy, and entropy takes no challenge lightly. If there’s any better metaphor for this struggle than trying to make a big budget movie with even a shred of integrity, I haven’t found it.
    On the one hand, you’ve got this impossible dream. This faith in the beautiful thing that’s supposed to emerge at at the end of the process. On the other hand, the process is a hellish sausage-making machine of studio bosses, financing, and acts of god like four days of flash flooding in the middle of your big shoot. You might as well be Don Quixote, doing battle with a windmill.
    What kind of masochist would put themselves through that?
    My guest today, Terry Gilliam, is that very masochist. And we should be grateful, because his stomach for the fight has given us movies like THE FISHER KING, BRAZIL, 12 MONKEYS and MONTY PYTHON’s THE LIFE OF BRIAN. And now, almost 30 years after his first, biblically disastrous attempt to make it, THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE. Starring Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce, the movie is as funny, thrilling, and unpretentiously deep as the best of Gilliam’s work. It’s also kind of like one of those Russian matryoshka dolls: a film inside a film inside a film, all of them metaphors for the holy folly of believing in anything at all.
    The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is out April 19th in select theaters and on demand video.
    Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
    Michelle Thaller on whether time is real or an illusion
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    • 53 min
    232. Anaïs Mitchell (Jason Plays Favorites #4) – sometimes the god speaks through you

    232. Anaïs Mitchell (Jason Plays Favorites #4) – sometimes the god speaks through you

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    --
    Among other things, music can be medicine. Like a vaccine, it sometimes works by giving your body a little taste of the disease. Other times, of course, you just wanna dance, and James Brown might be just what you need. But the medicine songs I’m talking about are the ones that break your heart open no matter many times you hear them. And you want them to—because that’s what it feels like to be alive.
    Nobody knows this better than my guest today, singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. Like the centuries of blues and folk songs that echo through it, transubstantiated by her voice and guitar into something almost too beautiful to bear, her music is powerful medicine.
    Anaïs wrote all the songs, lyrics and the book of the new (14x Tony-nominated!) Broadway musical, HADESTOWN, directed by Rachel Chavkin. It makes new again the ancient story of the singer-songwriter Orpheus and his lover Eurydice, who he follows all the way to hell, and leads most of the way back again. 
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    • 1 hr
    231. Marlon James (Jason Plays Favorites #3) – don't get too comfortable

    231. Marlon James (Jason Plays Favorites #3) – don't get too comfortable

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    --
    At this point, it’s very rare to read something and find myself thinking: This is something new. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It doesn’t have to be written in hieroglyphs or be some kind of three-dimensional interactive reading experience with pull-out tabs and half the pages upside down. That kind of formal experimentation, in my experience as a reader, more often ends up being gimmicky and annoying than exhilarating. In fact, paradoxically, the “wow this is something new” experience often comes along with a sense that this new thing has somehow always existed, in your dreams if nowhere else. 
    Marlon James—the Jamaican writer who won the Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings— has done something in his new fantasy novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf that’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The first book of a trilogy, it’s been described as an “African Game of Thrones” and likened in scope to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings. But the stories within stories it tells and the shifts in voice and perspective thrust you into a seething, hallucinatory, morally ambiguous world that’s part Ayahuasca dream and part blacklight nightmare, anchored in a rich African mythology that’s worlds away from all those elves, wizards, dragons, and goblins—all those well-worn tales of light versus darkness. 
    Surprise conversation-starters in this episode: 
    Jeffrey Sachs on whether Jeff Bezos should distribute his Amazon wealth
    Damian Echols on tattoos as a lifeline 
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    • 56 min
    230. Eve Ensler (Jason Plays Favorites #2) – no way out but through

    230. Eve Ensler (Jason Plays Favorites #2) – no way out but through

    [From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]
    --
    Note: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don’t want to scare anybody off—I think it’s one of the most valuable conversations we’ve ever had on the show. 
    --
    For a human child growing up, trust is the foundation of everything. We learn how to regulate our emotions, how to see the world as relatively stable and safe through the connection with the people who care for us. Severely neglected children can suffer all kinds of harm to their ability to think, connect with others, and learn. But what happens when the caring bond is not only missing, but is horribly abused? Distorted through incest and sexual violence? How do you build a self and life after that? And let’s say you somehow manage to survive to adulthood…to thrive, even. How do you fill the place in your heart where the love and the trust is supposed to be?
    My guest today has had to answer all these questions for herself. She is the playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler. You may know her as the creator of the Vagina Monlogues. What you might not know is that all the horrors I’m talking about happened to her as a kid. Let me take that out of the passive voice: her father did that to her, and more. And he died without saying anything remotely close to “I’m sorry”. So Eve wrote his apology for him—her book THE APOLOGY is a letter to her—to Eve—in the imagined voice of her dead father, retelling what happened, why it happened, and trying to figure out in these twisted circumstances what an apology would even mean…
    Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
    Jared Diamond on immigrants and innovation 
    --
    Thoughts on relistening: 
    This episode with Eve Ensler means a lot to me. I came late to the feminist conversation about patriarchy and masculinity. About the ways men are taught to be ashamed of vulnerability, and how all that fear and shame can lead to violence. Listening back I’m struck again by this one thing she says: “Language changes everything. It’s like the word 'vagina'. If you can’t say it, you can’t see it. If you can’t see it, a lot of things can happen to it in the dark without your permission.” There is so much hope and power in the work Eve does to break the silence and encourage others to do the same. As a man, I hear it especially loud and clear when she says it’s time for men to “...make a choice. Whether they’re going to maintain allegiance to the male code or step into the next paradigm. Stopping the domination so they get to be free in this lifetime.” I hear it and I personally, enthusiastically accept that call. 
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    • 1 hr 2 min

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