Our Jellyfish Overlords — Juli Berwald — Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #124
Jellyfish have their tentacles all tangled up in our lives in ways we’re only dimly aware of.
Come talk to us on Twitter: @bigthinkagain
What happens in your brain when I say the word “Jellyfish”?
If you’re not a marine biologist, and if going to the beach almost anywhere in the world is a part of your life, the word probably makes you wince. Maybe you remember getting stung. Maybe you remember someone putting meat tenderizer on it (is it good for anything else?)
But as my guest today, Juli Berwald, knows, Jellyfish are neither a fish, nor the cartoon villains we make them out to be. They’re a fascinating, complex, diverse lifeform whose tentacles are tangled up in all of our lives in ways we’re only dimly aware of.
Juli Berwald is a science writer with a PHD in Ocean Science. Her new book is Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone.
Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
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.
In Egypt, comedy can be a matter of life and death. But life in America's no cakewalk either. Political satirist Bassem Youssef on reinventing yourself, crossing cultural lines, and the future of space exploration.
My grandmother used to tell a story about coming to America from Poland. How she sang God Bless America to cheer up all the grownups on the ship. She was 5 or 6 years old, traveling alone with her mom. For her, it must have been a big adventure. I can hardly imagine what it was like for her mom— my great grandmother — how bad things must have been for Jews in their home town of Bialystok for her to pick up and leave like that, without her husband, heading toward some distant cousin in the undiscovered country of Vineland, New Jersey.
When you’re a Hasidic woman in Borough Park, Brooklyn, starting an ambulance corps is a radical act. Documentary filmmaker Paula Eiselt on the push-pull of identity and cultural change in her film 93Queen.
When I started college at New York University in 1990, nobody lived in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was the dark side of the moon. At least that's how we NYU students thought about it. Lots of people lived in Brooklyn, of course. Just not us. It's 2018, and Brooklyn has become an international brand, synonymous with artisanal pickles, gastropubs, and luxury condos. It's the place even former NYU students can't afford to live anymore.
On hallucinating a teensy Virgin Mary in a water fountain, our weird relationship to fame, her stint as an elf-hunting camp counselor, and more in what feels like a 4 am college conversation with the inimitable Parker Posey.
The impulse to make art is with us from childhood. It's the desire to play. To say “hey! Look what I made!" It's the wild fun of making a big mess that's nobody else's but your own—and not having to clean it up. Above all else, art is wild. It's independent. It's free. And that's one reason why the art industry is a very weird thing. In order to make money “at scale" as the Silicon Valley kids like to say, movie studios, fancy galleries, and concert promoters have to quantify, systematize, and package that sense of freedom. If it sounds like a paradox, that's because it is. I'm just gonna say it: the more money at stake, the less breathing space for everything that draws us to art in the first place.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.