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
With the help of positive psychology and the happiness industry, many of us seem to be running in the exact opposite direction of happiness.
- "It's almost like the only way we can understand leisure is as a productivity hack."
- "If we think of happiness as an individual responsibility, that stands in the way of building a society in which the conditions are there for everybody to thrive."
What do the "seduction movement," the Virginia Tech shooter, and the Asian-American experience have in common? Wesley Yang thinks and writes with devastating clarity about loneliness, invisibility, and the incoherence of American life.
- What if Asian American cultural "invisibility" is the key to saving America?
- Are liberalism and democracy too tame to survive identity politics?
- "One risks being a pariah...just by saying the things that need to be said."
Amit Tzuk and Ofir Trainin, the subject and director of an FAMILY IN TRANSITION, an Israeli documentary about a small town father of four who becomes a woman.
- Sometimes just being yourself is a radical act.
- "We have to do public relations so that people will understand that we're...people."
Everybody is always in a state of transition. All the time, your cells are dying and replacing themselves. Your mind, your emotions, your goals, your sense of self—all of these are shifting from year to year as you age. In families where there are children, the changes are even more visible and dramatic. Bodies change, voices change, identity is always in flux. But we also have an instinct to mask these changes. To find ways of minimizing them to fit in.
My guests today have a story to tell about what happens when the changes are undeniable. When they're at odds with the values of many people in your family and community. It's about the pain and the necessity of breaking the masks you've made for yourself. FAMILY IN TRANSITION is a documentary film about Amit Tzuk, an Israeli father of four who transitions to become a woman, and the changes Amit's wife Galit and their children go through. I'm here today with Amit and with the film's director, Ofir Trainin.
Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:
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