Who are you?

Question: Who are you?


Robert Thurman: My name is Robert Thurman.

I’m the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Colombia University.


Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?


Robert Thurman: New York City. Well, it was like growing up in a lunatic asylum, a bunch of theatrical people with their theatrical emotions. I was a middle son and I was the family peacemaker, and they were all having their storms and drunk all over the place. But my father was more mild than my mother, basically her and my older brother were kind of wild and they were, thespian, acting, theater in old thyme, so it was a little bit nutty, but, it was stimulating.


Question: When you were a child, you once tried to enter Cuba, what was your intention?


Robert Thurman: Well it wasn’t really childhood, I was seventeen years old, and I was, I had a thing, I went to Phillips Exidor, a various Nodby school, but I had a lot of friends from Latin America, and, the kind of young boys who would be in such a school in Latin America would be from the wealthiest classes in the different Latin American countries. And my friends were romantic therefore rebelling against their parents, and we were idolizing Fidel Castro, who was a poet and he didn’t win yet, you know, he was a rebel and a poet, and I was speaking Spanish with them, we were reading Spanish poetry, and one day we got into a “dare you” sort of competition, and I and a Mexican friend tried to join up with Castro.

Heavens knows why, it was just a sort of hormonal impulse at the age of seventeen on April 17th, having more than finished school and just waiting to go to college senior year you know, but they didn’t accept us so we went to Mexico for a year.


Question: Was there a pivotal moment in your development?

Robert Thurman: Yes, that was not before. When I was twenty years old and I met my teacher, first teacher, serious spiritual teacher, Mongolian Yishe, who I mention on purpose, name is Yishe Yon Jhau, in New Jersey, then he sent me, that was three years later, he sent me to the store to buy milk, and I had been studying with him the Buddhist Concept of the Begininglessness of the universe. The idea that the Western idea that there has to be a first cause, that the universe comes out of nothing, there was no Big Bang theory in those days, but there was a religious idea and then there were various astronomical ideas.

And so one was not accustomed to the idea that the universe could be begininglessness without it feeling sort of weird, and so I had been studying it, and thinking about it, and as I was walking I had the epiphany where I suddenly realized that I had not – was not beginning at a certain point and being driven towards another point in a certain way, and I felt almost like a pressure in my spine or something released, and I was suddenly just floating along in a more relaxed manner without so – such a determination to reach a destination, and without a sense of having been pushed from some sort of first beginning in a certain way, it was really a wonderful releasing feeling.


Recorded on: June 1, 2007


Robert Thurman talks about his crazy New York household.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.