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...
NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
This morning on the way to the school bus, my almost 11 year old son was explaining to me that if you shrunk an elephant down to the size of a mouse, it would shiver, then die, because of its slow mitochondria, due to something called the Rule of Squared Threes, which he also proceeded to explain. Then he explained something about neutron stars, claiming that they are essentially a giant atom, which I don't think is actually true. Then he started on another topic and I explained that this was all very wonderful but that I had learned all the science my brain could hold at 7:15 am.*
Sadly, my own journey as a scientist ended in high school biology, when I put the dissected tail of a fetal pig on a toothpick and said "Hors d'oeuvres?" to several classmates, which earned me an F for the project. But happily, there are people like my guest today, Astronomer Michelle Thaller, and my son Emre, who are excellent at explaining scientific wonders to dummkopfs like myself. Michelle is—let me take a deep breath here—the Assistant Director of Science for Communications at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. And her inspiring perspective on science and humanity—which she shares in her TV shows and her podcast Orbital Path—makes me wish that biology teacher had had a better sense of humor.
*Note: Emre learned much of this from this very interesting YouTube channel
Surprise conversation starter in this episode: Ingrid Fettell Lee on anti-minimalist architecture
Love, grief, and moral disgust aren't unique to humans. Like chimps, humans sometimes struggle for dominance, but our first impulse is trust and connection. Frans de Waal has spent decades showing that most of what we believe about animals, humans, and the differences between us is wrong.
- The lifelong gratitude of a chimp de Waal taught to bottle-feed and adopt an orphan
- Trump's alpha male display during the 2016 debates
- How B.F. Skinner screwed up behavioral science for half a century
Killer robots. Alien invasions. Climate change. Josh Clark of Stuff You Should Know and the new podcast The End of the World thinks a lot these days about existential threats. Believe it or not, he's optimistic.
- Could the threat of extinction be humanity's opportunity to get our collective s#*t together?
- Two centuries since the Enlightenment, the war between reason and belief is still raging. Why?
- Why is it still hard to explain to some people what a podcast is?
- Why hasn't technology given us more freedom?
- Why is eternal life not desirable?
- Why don't Universal Basic Income and other forms of redistribution solve the underlying problem?
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