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Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 

On this week's episode: Professor Eric Kandel of Columbia University and host Jason Gots discuss abstract art, memory, identity, and the nature of evil. When he was 9 years old, Eric Kandel listened on a short-wave radio his brother had made as Hitler marched into Kandel's hometown of Vienna, Austria. The next day, a non-Jewish classmate told him "Kandel, I'm never to speak to you again." In the year 2000, He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for pioneering work on understanding how memory is stored in the brain by studying a particular type of sea snail with a relatively simple nervous system. In his recent books, he’s been pioneering in a different way––trying to bridge the gap between the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities. His current book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science continues this essential work by looking at the ways both modern art and science “reduce” complex phenomena down to their component parts to achieve new insights and effects.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Janna Levin, Susan David, George Musser

Eric Kandel Quote: When I was 9 years old, Hitler marched into Austria…where I was living at the time…and immediately people who had been friends with us turned away from us and became our enemies. I found it very hard for the longest time to understand how people can listen to Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart one day and beat up the Jews the next.  My brother had built a short-wave radio set and we were listening to it as Hitler marched into Vienna. And in Heldenplatz, 200,000 people came out and cheered him like mad. I walked the streets two days later and a classmate of mine came up to me and said ‘Kandel, I’m never to speak to you again.’  And you ask yourself the question: What is it that separates the good guys from the bad guys? And you come to the conclusion that every one of us is capable of good and of evil.

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: 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. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.