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?

Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...

Helen Riess, M.D. – Empathy in the brain and the world

Empathy makes us human. Humans make structures that rob us of empathy when we need it most. Helen Riess is trying to reverse that trend.

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  • Heart – mind = emotional quicksand. Mind – heart = greeting card sympathy
  • The doctor burnout epidemic and how to fix it


Empathy is the basic stuff of human connection. It's how we hear and are heard by one another. It's how we deal with one another as people rather than objects. But with massive, relentless trouble in the world, the 24 hour news cycle, the pressure to choose political and social sides, and the struggles of our everyday lives, empathy is sometimes in short supply.

My guest today is the psychiatrist and research scientist Helen Riess. She's an associate clinical professor at Harvard and runs the relational science program at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the company Empathetics, Inc. Her new book, THE EMPATHY EFFECT: 7 Neuroscience-based keys for transforming the way we live, love, work, and connect across differences, is all about empathy: where it comes from, what its effects are, and how we can develop more of it.

That breathtaking song I mention in the intro: "Compassion" by Lucinda Williams

Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:

Timothy Snyder on how to get past partisan politics

Leland Melvin on hands on learning

Stand up against religious discrimination – even if it’s not your religion

As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
  • Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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Chris Moukarbel (filmmaker) – The closest thing to actual magic

When a subculture like drag goes global, 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. The maker of WIG and GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO on bravery, authenticity, and the eternal power of youth.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "For a lot of those kids drag was more punk than punk. Ok, you could shave your head and put on a spike collar… or you could throw on a wig and heels and traipse around Times Square. That was brave. That was radical."
  • Lady Gaga writes a hook and the whole world suddenly takes notice…I always thought of it as casting a spell. It's the closest thing to actual magic. Because imagine an incantation that you can just repeat for 3 minutes and it can grab the attention of the entire world."


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Think Again Podcast's 200th episode! Robert MacFarlane (writer) – deep time rising

The wonder and the ethics of deep time. The "wood-wide-web". The claustrophobia of the Anthropocene. In our 200th episode, UNDERLAND author Robert MacFarlane takes us on a journey deep into the Earth and ourselves.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "We think of ourselves as this surface species. Of builders. But we are a species of burrowers and borers. And we are leaving warrens behind us that dwarf any ant's nest…"
  • "That handprint on the cave wall is testimony to that urge to move into darkness in search of meaning—in search of different orders of time."
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Lama Rod Owens – the price of the ticket to freedom

An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod 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.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
  • "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
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