Episodes

  • 121. Van Jones (social entrepreneur) – Blind Spots & Sore Spots

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    Jason Gots: I want to tell you a story. It’s November 5, 2016, a few days before Election Day. I’m staring at Facebook, promising myself I’m going to delete the app once and for all from my phone, today. Enough of the political echo chamber. Enough of the ranting. Then I’m sucked into a video, because that’s what happens. It’s CNN’s Van Jones sitting in the living room of a family in Pennsylvania. Unlike me and most every other liberal coastal elite I know, he’s talking to people who support Donald Trump for President. Listening. Trying to understand. And pulling no punches in expressing his own anger and anxiety over where our country might be headed. In the year leading up to this moment, I had seen nothing like it. And it gave me hope. I’m so happy to welcome CNN Contributor and former Obama Administration adviser Van Jones to Think Again. His new book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together. Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode: Cass Sunstein on libertarian paternalism-- 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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 120. Nancy Koehn (Historian) – Holdin' on for a Hero

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    What do Rachel Carson, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ernest Shackleton, and Abraham Lincoln have in common, aside from being historical figures you’ve probably heard of? That’s the question my guest today tries to answer in her new book Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times. At a time when trustworthy leadership seems in short supply, it examines what real leadership is and how it comes about. Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School whose research focuses on how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact.Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode: Liv Boeree on lessons learned from professional poker for clear thinking Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 119. Aaron Mahnke (of 'Lore') – The Hunger for Mystery

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    For thousands of years, all over the world, tales of monsters and the undead have populated the "whitespace" beyond the borders of our understanding. As the enormous popularity of the podcast 'Lore" demonstrates, we're still hungry for those stories today.Why? Today's guest Aaron Mahnke and host Jason Gots talk about the hunger for mystery, a human need almost as powerful as our thirst for knowledge. We also get into the meaning of work in people's lives, and how Aaron started the podcast as a "last ditch effort" at turning his passions into a sustainable career. Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode: Andrew Taggart on the cultural obsession with work, Stephen Greenblatt on the power of the Adam and Eve storyAbout 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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 118. Stephen Greenblatt (humanities scholar) – Irresistible Fictions

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    An ancient, one-and-a-half-page-story that just won't let us go. Humanities scholar Stephen Greenblatt and host Jason Gots discuss how Adam and Eve have shaped and been shaped by Western art, culture, and science, in this, Big Think's latest brain-fertilizing podcast. Greenblatt is the Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and the author of thirteen books, including the Pulitzer prize-winning The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. His latest, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, traces the cultural history of that most primal of stories about a man, a woman, God, and a snake. It’s a couple thousand years old and only about two pages long, but it’s still exerting a powerful cultural influence today.Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode: Salman Rushdie on recent white supremacist clashes in America and Virginia Heffernan: The Internet is not a neurotoxin-- 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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 117. Kurt Andersen (writer) – The Sleep of Reason

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    Orthodox kookiness: the true American exceptionalism? Writer Kurt Andersen and host Jason Gots discuss America's 500 year old tendency toward passionate belief in the preposterous in this, Big Think's latest brain-fertilizing podcast. Writer and media polymath Kurt Andersen is the NY-times bestselling author of the novels Heyday, Turn of the Century, and True Believers, and he’s the host and co-creator of the Peabody-award winning public radio show Studio 360. Kurt’s latest book Fantasyland – How America Went Haywire – is a 500 year history of a different kind of American exceptionalism. Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode: Neuroscientist Beau Lotto on diversity, Neil DeGrasse Tyson on science educationAbout 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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 116. Claire Messud (writer) – All These Falls From Grace

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    Author Claire Messud and host Jason Gots talk about childhood, growing up, and how cultures contain the things that scare them most. Also, how to give and receive good criticism on creative writing in this, Big Think's latest brain-fertilizing podcast. Claire Messud is the author of seven novels, including The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children. Messud has been awarded an Addison Metcalf award and the Straus Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among many other literary honors. The New Yorker calls her “adept at evoking complex psychological territory”, which is most definitely the case in her latest novel, The Burning Girl, about the tortuous course of a childhood friendship.About Think Again: 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.Surprise clips from our video interview archives in this episode: Russell Simmons on the (then) presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, Alan Alda on communication and connection Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 115. Salman Rushdie (writer) – A Permeable Frontier

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    In this episode, the first one with a repeat guest since the show was launched (Henry Rollins was one taping split into two episodes) author Salman Rushdie and host Jason Gots discuss New York City, the surrealism of everyday life, comic books, and much, much, more in this, Big Think's latest brain-fertilizing podcast. Salman Rushdie is the author of twelve previous novels and four books of nonfiction, including Joseph Anton, Midnight’s Children (for which he won the Booker Prize and the Best of the Booker), Shame, The Satanic Verses, and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights which we discussed two years ago on this show.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.His kaleidoscopic, funny, philosophical new novel The Golden House has been called a “return to realism” but maybe only because the present-day American realities it draws upon and reimagines are so indistinguishable from fantasy.About Think Again: 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.Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Richard Dawkins on religion and anti-science, Ariel Levy on "having it all" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 114. 2017 Mixtape #2 – Words, Values, Self, Other

    · 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.In the second year of what’s becoming a tradition here on Think Again, this is a mixtape of some of Jason's favorite moments from the past year’s shows. Things that stuck with him because they were funny, or especially wise, or because of something extraordinary about the conversation that he can't quite put his finger on.This episode — 2017 Mixtape #2 — features lexicographer Kory Stamper, novelist and essayist Teju Cole, fiction writer George Saunders, philosopher Slavoj Zizek, geneticist Jennifer Doudna, and actor Timothy Spall.Among the many ideas that come up: language pet peeves, human rights, neighbors, cyborgs, the ethics of gene editing, stillness. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 113. 2017 Mixtape #1 – Mind, Body, Authenticity, Artifice

    · 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.In the second year of what’s becoming a tradition here on Think Again, this is a mixtape of some of Jason's favorite moments from the past year’s shows. Things that stuck with him because they were funny, or especially wise, or because of something extraordinary about the conversation that he can't quite put his finger on.This episode — 2017 Mixtape #1 — features philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett, architecture critic Sarah Goldhagen, novelist Ian McEwan, child psychologist Alison Gopnik, neuroscientist Erik Kandel, and actor Alan Alda.Among the many ideas that come up: minds, buildings, Hamlet, A.I., the nature of evil, communication. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 112. Richard Dawkins (biologist) – Red in Tooth and Claw

    · Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

    In this episode, which Dawkins described as “one of the best interviews I have ever had,” the eminent ethologist and host Jason Gots talk about whether pescatarianism makes any sense, where morality should come from (since, as Hume says, "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is'), the greatness of Christopher Hitchens, and the evils of nationalism.About the guest: Today’s guest is internationally best-selling author, speaker, and passionate advocate for reason and science as against superstition Richard Dawkins. From 1995 to 2008 Richard Dawkins was the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.  Among his many books are The Selfish Gene, the God Delusion, and his two-part autobiography: An Appetite for Wonder and A Brief Candle in the Dark. His latest is a collection of essays, stories, and speeches called Science in the Soul, spanning many decades and the major themes of Richard’s work.About Think Again: 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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 111. Ari Shaffir (Comic) – The Golden Age of Trolling

    · 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.Today's guest Ari Shaffir is a stand-up comic and the host of Skeptic Tank – a super popular weekly podcast that’s on its 299th episode (at this writing). Ari grew up orthodox Jewish, spent two years in a yeshiva in Israel, and then turned into an atheist comedian who did an outrageous web video series called “The Amazing Racist” and runs a yearly “Shroomfest” where he’s like a benevolent Dionysus, presiding over a worldwide three-day celebration of psilocybin mushrooms. He co-created and hosts Comedy Central’s storytelling series “this is not happening”. And he got a two part comedy special on Netflix called “Double Negative”.Ari and Jason talk about outrageousness in comedy, bipartisan e-rage on social media, growing up and growing out of bad habits, the transgender bathroom debate, and much, much, much more. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Barbara Oakley on the rigidity of geniuses’ thinking and Elijah Nealy on the transgender bathroom debateLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 110. Peter Frankopan (historian) – You Can't Stop the Clock

    · 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.Today's guest Peter Frankopan is a historian at Oxford University, where he is Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research. He works on the history of the Mediterranean, Russia, the Middle East, Persia, Central Asia and beyond, and on relations between Christianity and Islam. Peter's new book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, is an international bestseller, described by William Dalrymple as a 'historical epic of dazzling range, ambition and achievement'.At an anxious moment in Western history, Frankopan encourages us to take a historical perspective, understanding how change happens in societies and how people typically react to it. This conversation unpacks the fascinating and dense history of the Silk Road countries and digs deep into the economic and social forces that shape our lives. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Michael Slaby on the 30 hour work week and Geneticist Jennifer Doudna on designer babies  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 109. Sheelah Kolhatkar (Writer, Former Hedge Fund Analyst) – The Most Dangerous Game

    · 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.Sheelah Kolhatkar is a staff writer at the New Yorker  and a former “risk arbitrage analyst” for two hedge funds in New York City. For the New Yorker, Sheelah writes about Wall Street, Silicon Valley, economics and national politics, among other things. Her latest book is the New York Times bestseller Black Edge, about the largest insider trading investigation in history and the transformation of Wall Street and the U.S. economy.This week’s episode is a departure for us – a deep dive into the personalities, culture, and ideas driving the big banks and the hedge funds of Wall Street. Jason and Sheelah talk about what it was like for her as a woman in that male-dominated industry, how hedge funds have reshaped the whole Wall Street landscape and with it, the global economy, and why billionaire investors are almost required to collect Picassos. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Neuroscientist Tristan Harris on how companies exploit our brains’ vulnerabilities.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 108. Jeff Garlin (Comedian) – K.I.S.S.

    · 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.Today, one of our wildest episodes ever, with comedian Jeff Garlin, who cuts one of our surprise clips short to call B.S. on neuroscience and complexity. Wikipedia succinctly describes Jeff Garlin as a comedian, actor, producer, voice artist, director, writer, podcast host and author. You might know him best from Curb Your Enthusiasm, which he produced and acted in as Larry David’s friend and manager Jeff Greene, whose relationship with his wife was one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever seen on television. Jeff co-wrote, directed, and stars in the 2017 film Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie as the befuddled yet capable Detective Handsome. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Neuroscientist Beau Lotto on Perception, Documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux on ScientologyLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 107. Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland (Authors) – The Garden of Forking Paths

    · 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.Today, for the first time, we welcome TWO guests to Think Again – writers Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland – and talk to them from New York to a Los Angeles hotel room over a horrible wi-fi connection. And it all works out beautifully. Nicole’s typically a writer of historical fiction including The Fool’s Tale and Iago, and Neil’s known for complex, speculative science fiction  including Seveneaves, Snow Crash, and many other novels. Together, they’ve written a new novel: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. – a massive and massively entertaining epic involving magic, time travel,  quantum physics, secret government organizations, and an ancient banking family called the Fuggers — with all of the jokes that implies.In this episode, we delve into Schroedinger's Cat, why humans make such terrible decisions, and how linear a story has to be to be a story at all. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Salman Rushdie on video games and the future of storytelling, Robert Sapolsky on brain regions and impulse controlLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 106. Alan Alda (Actor) – The Spirit of the Staircase

    · 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.Today's guest is actor, writer, director, and science-curious artist Alan Alda. Jason says: "I grew up watching him in reruns of MASH, where his character Hawkeye Pierce was so specific and relatable that he feels in my memory like a not-too-distant relative. And in Horace and Pete, Louis CK’s 2016 brilliant web-tv dramedy, Alan underwent a miraculous metamorphosis into a bitter, racist barman who is also a fully-fleshed human being.  But wait - there’s more! For decades, Alan has been helping to heal the ancient rift between highly technical science and ordinary curiosity. Alan’s new book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? Shares what he (and science) have learned about how we can communicate better. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life or death." Inspired by a passage in Alan's book, Jason puts away his interview notes. What follows is a funny, honest, connected conversation unlike anything else in the show's two-year history. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:James Gleick - Humans are Information-Seeking Creatures Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 105. Jennifer Doudna (Geneticist) - Intelligent Redesign?

    · 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.Jennifer Doudna is a Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the UC Berkeley, and until around 2012 she was quietly and contentedly studying the three dimensional structure of RNA molecules. Then she and her colleagues started looking into a thing called CRISPR-Cas9. It’s a kind of bacterial immune system, and it led to an invention that will change everything for all of humanity, forever. In this episode Jennifer and Jason discuss the implications of the gene editing tool her lab created, and how humanity should (and likely will) yield the power to rewrite our own evolutionary destiny. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Richard A Clarke on averting global catastrophes, Deepak Chopra on secular spirituality (clip not available online)Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 104. Timothy Spall (Actor) – That Double Want

    · 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.Timothy Spall is an extraordinary actor, best known perhaps for the many films he’s done with director Mike Leigh, including Secrets & Lies and Mr. Turner, for which he won best actor at Cannes. You may know him from a number of Hollywood films, too, including the Harry Potter series and The Last Samurai, with Tom Cruise. His latest is THE JOURNEY. It’s based on a real road trip that happened in 2006, when two arch-enemies — the heads of Ireland’s warring factions, spent about an hour together in the backseat of a car. This was the prelude to a historic peace deal, cementing the end of Ireland’s long Civil war.In this episode we dig deep into questions like what people really want from their political leaders, whether it's possible (or even advisable) to overcome desire, and whether and when just sitting on a park bench, enjoying a tree, is enough. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Scott Barry Kaufman on SolitudeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 103. Liza Jessie Peterson (Playwright, Arts-Educator) – The Sleeping Giant

    · 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.Liza Jessie Peterson is an actress, poet, playwright, and arts-educator who’s been working with adolescent boys and girls incarcerated on Rikers Island for the past 18 years. Her fierce, funny, powerfully written new book is All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids At Rikers Island. The loving and specific portraits she paints of her students highlight the cruelty of the systems (economic, school, police, prison) that fail so many young black men, landing them and keeping them in prison.In this episode we talk about cultural icons and the realities behind them, hip-hop, the trauma of poverty and the tragedy of the American prison system, and how to make impossible situations better. Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode:Marie Gottschalk on solitary confinementLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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  • 102. Paul Theroux (Writer) – Saintly & Scowling

    · 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. 100 episodes in, like the universe itself, the show continues to expand and accelerate at speeds that boggle the imagination. One of seven siblings, Paul Theroux is the author of over 50 works of fiction and non-fiction, including The Great Railway Bazaar and The Mosquito Coast. His latest novel Mother Land is a scathing, semi-autobiographical, often painfully funny portrait of a mother’s long and insidious reign over her seven children. In this episode, Paul talks about the claustrophobia of big families, the mass migrations of peoples, colonizing Mars, and an important difference between humans and cockroaches.Surprise conversation starter interview clips:Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the geopolitical challenges of climate change, Stephen Petranek on colonizing MarsLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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