Experimenting on Consciousness, Through Art

Performance artist Marina Abramovic's piece Measuring the Magic of Mutual Gaze is both art installation and science experiment, in which volunteers sit facing one another while having their brain waves measured. Abramovic discusses these arts and science experiments with neuroscientist Christof Koch, an expert in consciousness.

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FLORA LICHTMAN, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY and I'm Flora Lichtman. You might not think of New York City's Museum of Modern Art as a science lab, but a few years ago my next guest used the museum to stage an art installation that was, in some sense, a social experiment, a way to investigate human emotions and human consciousness. Here's what the experiment entailed.

The artist sat motionless in a plain wooden chair for about eight hours a day and invited museum guests one at a time to sit across from her and gaze into her eyes for as long as they wanted. The experiment lasted for two and a half months and in that time over 1,500 people sat in front of her. Their reactions are truly amazing to watch and you can do that online.

Some sit blank faced, others smile, and many start to cry. She has since collaborated with neuroscientist to perform the same piece with an electroencephalogram or EEG strapped around her head, tracking her brain waves during the session. It's the sort of experiment, she says, she'd like to showcase at an institute. She's trying to build a laboratory where arts and science mix.

And I'm going to let her tell you more about it. Marina Abramovic is an artist specializing in performance art. She's based in New York City but joins us from Oslo today. It is such a pleasure to have you on SCIENCE FRIDAY. Thank you for joining us.

MARINA ABRAMOVIC: Thank you for having me. I'm really happy to do this.

LICHTMAN: So tell us about the institute. What's the goal?

ABRAMOVIC: You know, as you mentioned, artists is present my performance and with respect to MoMA it was absolutely the changing point in my life. When I stood out of the chair after all this 736 hours sitting on it, I was a different person. Something really changed dramatically. I understood that I have much more purpose than just being artist, that I actually have to create legacy and all my experience of last 40 years to put in it.

Reaction of the people in MoMA sitting in front of me give me this impression that actually we really need to have direct experience, much more than looking at something, as, you know, mostly people coming to the museum to do, but to really be direct participant of something is very different story. So the idea of this institute was an idea to create new platform where the science, new technology, art, and spirituality can get together and really have a new conversation how we can change consciousness of human being.

And how that consciousness changing can affect our society today because we know that things are not right in so many different directions? And we are criticizers but we have very little to do about individual, you know, personal level. So I think that artist's duty to act.

LICHTMAN: Do you think that people are extra hungry for that kind of experience given that so much of our lives now take place virtually? You know, everything from education to shopping to friendships. Do you think that creates a hunger?

ABRAMOVIC: Yeah, of course. We are lonely. I mean, the human being today is lonely. I think the technology, it's really seen and been taken by the humanity in a very wrong direction. When technology was invented the human being having more space, more time for himself, but it's just happening contrary. We become prisons of this same technology. I mean, I will never forget this time with nostalgia. I'm thinking of writing the letter, you know, posting the letter, making a little walk with even my dog to the post office, putting this letter into the post box.

Waiting the letter being answered; it takes a week and then maybe waiting another week to answer. And I have all this time for myself which is completely not anymore available. You know, the emails are great concept to reach the message fast, but did you notice that every single email you send, with every answer you possibly can do, that every time you receive new email there is always say thank you, but there will be question to continue the old story again.

So on the end of the day, you never finish the work. It's continuously with something asked from you. And, you know, you don't have time for friends anymore because just sending messages, even they live around the corner. So institute is addressing all these issues. It's creating something which I call (foreign language spoken) that if you wanted to come to my institute you have to literally sign the contract where you have to give the word of honor, which is also very old-fashioned kind of idea.

But it's really important to have this word of honor that you will spend six hours there without leaving. And this is ours. You have to give all your gadgets, all your iPhones and library and, you know, the computers and watches in locker so you're free. You actually gaining your time to yourself and you have to go through different chambers to get certain experiences. I also creating not just chambers that you go through artists experience, but also it will be scientific experiments.

And after that, you actually were ready to receive another, you know, kind of different condition work of art, could be opera or music or dance or theater or film or video. And the time pass, and after six hours you really go out. But you spent time in just with yourself without being influenced by anything around you, without being actually lead by technology in any sense.

My relationship to technology, not science, but technology especially is like love and hate at the same time. Love because there is useful things, absolutely, that we can't deny, but also hate, that something was taken away from us forever.

LICHTMAN: What are the questions that you're most interested in about consciousness that you hope maybe the institute or in general that you just want answered?

ABRAMOVIC: You know, it's for me, it's very interesting. If you just think about science fiction. Everything science fiction, if you read a science fiction book in the '70s, the reality of today. Everything. It's incredible how science fiction can predict what is happening, but what's with me interesting is really relation between spirituality and intuition of an artist and a science because science always have to have proofs.

If it don't have proofs, you know, scientists think things don't exist, even if we intuitively know they do. And to me this is so interesting how we can find the bridge that we really figure out different platform of discussion between science, spiritual leaders and the artist. I just have a simple example. In the early '80s, there was this very interesting conference between Dali Lama, the chief Hopi Indian - it was a woman at the time - and NASA space program engineers.

And the symposium was based on the actually predictions of the Hopi Indians and Tibetans saying that if you take uranium out of the ground, you actually influence changing of the structure of stratosphere around the planet. And NASA finally got to prove that this is true. And this, it's quite interesting to think how these people knew, how the Dogan people in South Africa knew that exist something like Transpluto, small satellite around the Pluto, and worship with a dance and, you know, in the ceremonies.

And only when science got this instruments that can really, really, you know, prove the existence of this Transpluto, this oh my God, but this Transpluto really exists. So to me it's really interesting how we can change things the way how we think. And you know, brain is another mystery of the human being. We probably use less than 30 percent and just recently I had a big discussion with a scientist and I said what really we know about the brain honestly?

And he's smiling of look at me and he said almost nothing. We just presume things, but it's very hard to know things about the brain. And I was such a good guinea pig for the scientist because I did not have anybody in lab that can volunteer to sit so long so still like I do. So they ask me to experiment and put AG caps on my head. And I've done lots of experiments Sakharov Foundation and also lots with some Russian scientists to see what is happening with the brain.

We are looking total stranger which you never speak one word, but just subconsciously how the brain activity is. And we measure this, you know, magical, mutual gaze, we call this whole experiment. It was incredible activity that subconsciously the brain actually received the waves, alpha-beta and all the other ones. There are so many different ones. That we are trying to analyze and find out what is really happening, how that actually affects our intuitive knowledge.

LICHTMAN: It's a perfect segue because we have another guest that I'd like to bring on now, an expert in the brain and in consciousness. Christof Koch is the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. He joins us from KUOW. Welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Koch.

CHRISTOF KOCH: Good afternoon, Flora and Marina in Oslo.

LICHTMAN: How does this conversation...

ABRAMOVIC: Good afternoon.

LICHTMAN: ...strike you? Do you feel like a bridge needs to be built here between scientists and artists?

KOCH: I mean, we're talking about very different domains. We're talking about two very different domains of human inquiry using very, very different methods that - they both, you know, have very ancient roots. It's not easy to relate one to the other.

I mean, for example, when Marina mentions an experiment the way we like to on an experiment, we do it many times over and over in many different subjects so we can see what is common among many different people and what is unique about each individual, and then do that in a highly reproducible way so we can understand things and we can see the material basis, the material basis of consciousness in the brain. That's sort of what modern neuroscience is concerned with.

LICHTMAN: But do you think there's value in this type of experimentation?

KOCH: I think it's a very interesting - possible for a new branch of science called social neuroscience where we're trying to discover the brain basis of social interactions: the way people look at each other, the way people gaze at each other, the way people have different feelings about private and intimacy in different countries and different cultures.

Some, you know, some cultures you can come closer to people than - you can stand closer to people and to others. What is the - we are social creatures, just like many other animals, and we - and social neuroscience is now trying to figure out what is the brain basis of that in normal people and then in people who may have various brain pathologies.

LICHTMAN: Dr. Koch, what - you're sort of on a quest for consciousness. Can you describe it?

KOCH: Right. Yes. So what I'm - I'm really the - in the tradition of Western philosophy going back more recently to Rene Descartes in France in the 16th century, and then, of course, ultimately to Aristotle and Plato, which is the ancient mind-body problem. So we know the brain is part of the physical universe, just like anything else. But brains - human brains, animal brains, baby brains - brains also exude this stuff, this feeling, like feelings of pain or pleasure, of artistic sensibility, of seeing red.

And the big mystery has always been, how is it that a physical system that's described by the laws of physics, how can it give rise to conscious sensation? And can other physical systems such as a computer, can they also give rise to physical sensation? Is it something in the structure, is it something in the information, is it something in the complexity of it that gives rise to consciousness? And then to study the various pathologies of consciousness in schizophrenia, in autism, in other form of mental diseases that plague so many of us.

LICHTMAN: And it seems like the, you know, that for Marina, in your work, you've seen sort of mysterious consciousness too. For instance, when you were at MOMA, and all these people sat in front of you and started crying, why did that happen?

ABRAMOVIC: This is a very interesting question to ask, you know, the real neuroscience because, to me, what's really happened is the - looking total stranger for long period of time because I'm talking - sometimes it was two hours, three hours, four hours. The maximum was seven. One person sit there seven hours.

It was really something I can call emotional intelligence, that on emotional level, I knew more about that person than I knew about closest friend, even if we didn't pass one word between each other. There is some kind of knowledge that is passed between us that was nonverbal, which I really would like to ask neuroscience to explain. What do you think happened there?

LICHTMAN: Before you answer that, Christof Koch, this is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. I'm Flora Lichtman, talking with Marina Abramovic and Christof Koch. Go ahead, please.

KOCH: I mean, I really don't know what you mean by that. I mean, when you mean - when you say you know something, you know, emotionally, both him or her, can you give me a list of criteria of what you know? I mean, what is it that you actually know? Can you write down what you know? Can it affect you? You know, how would you relate to this person later on? It's all - I don't know what you mean.

ABRAMOVIC: It was - it's just - it's a very interesting example of the one particular person in this period came 21 time in different periods and have to wait for hours, and finally he sit in front of me and do - sometimes the maximum was, the first day, seven hours, then became three hours, two hours, sometimes 15 minutes.

And repeatedly, I looked this person in the eyes, and there is something happened there that I felt that I know is complete, that person. I know everything about him. I know his emotions. I almost knew what he's thinking. And when finally the performance was finished and I met that person, I hardly could talk to him. I mean, there was nothing to say.

It just was - it was like somebody you knew for the rest of your life. It's a very strange sensation. I really don't - it's - it was extremely intense feeling of knowing, and there was - especially on emotional level, you emotionally know how that person think, do things, what is his behavior, what is his reaction to certain situations. You just knew. You can predict everything. And I never, you know, passed one word between us, and this happened with many people.

KOCH: Well, I mean, as a scientist, what I would now do, I would set up an experiment to actually show with that person in some situation where the person has to make some response later on or the next day, the next week, how good are you actually compared to, you know, a typical subject, control subject, in predicting that person's behavior.

That would be the way, as a scientist, I would try to test your intuitive notion that you claim you know him, and I'd like to try to make that objective. How much do you actually now know him? How good are you able to predict his behavior in a particular emotional setting?

ABRAMOVIC: I can prove that. So I also - I just want to say I also had these EEG caps that, you know, with 86 points measuring the waves of my brain. And we can see in the computer that actually activity on my brain is extremely vibrant and active in - when I'm looking at a certain stranger. And it created this enormous amount of waves, which they told me that is almost quite, you know, exceptional.

And we still don't have tools to analyze them and what it really means. So I'm really looking for technology to have more precise, you know, answers to these questions because I never get clear answers. Science is so complicated. You know, I think with intuition, we can get much farther. I mean, to me, one interesting scientist was Francisco Varela. Do you know Francisco Varela?

KOCH: Yes, I did.

LICHTMAN: Let's pick this up when we come back from the break. This is a perfect place to - it's a cliff-hanger for everyone else who doesn't know. We're talking with Marina Abramovic and Christof Koch. And stay with us. Lots more to come. If you have a question about consciousness, the brain, or for Marina Abramovic about her work, 1-800-989-8255, 1-800-989-TALK. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LICHTMAN: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, and I'm Flora Lichtman.

We're talking this hour about what we can learn about the brain from experiments in science and art with my guests. Marina Abramovic is an artist who specializes in performance art and she's based here in New York City. And Christof Koch is the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. And before we went to the break, I rudely interrupted you, Marina Abramovic. Tell us who you were talking about.

ABRAMOVIC: No, I was just asking Cristof Koch if he know Francisco Varela, and he said yes. And what do you think about his...

LICHTMAN: I don't know who that is. So who is that?

KOCH: He was an early explorer of consciousness. He studied early on. He was based in Paris and he studied using, among others, evoked potential and EEG. He studied the holistic aspects of the conscious processing in people. He died roughly a decade ago.

LICHTMAN: And so what can EEG tell us? What can we learn from those experiments?

KOCH: Well, I mean, a variety of things. So for example, a similar experiment was done by a group, Richie Davidson at Wisconsin, where they took Tibetan monks, particularly Ricard Mattieu. So these are people who had meditated. Some of them had up to 40,000 hours of meditation experience - of various meditation experience.

And here they did a so-called open monitoring, which is a form of non - so-called non-referential compassion meditation. And they equipped them with 128 EEG channels, and what they could see compared to people who just started meditation or compared to controls who had never done it, they could see a particular type of activity that was very, very strong, so-called gamma-range oscillations.

So these are brain waves that occur maybe 25 to 40 times a second. So this is a range of brain waves called the gamma range. And when they went into meditation, compared to people who just did meditation a couple of times, they had brain waves that were much, much, much bigger than those of naive people. And even at rest, even when they were just sitting there, not meditating but just quietly resting, the basic amplitude of these waves were much bigger.

So we do know that certain techniques of focused attention, of heightened attention, of mindfulness can affect not only your mental life because you're able to exert mental control in a way that normal people can, but also will leave traces in the brain that can be picked up by these electrodes.

LICHTMAN: What does that mean practically, though? That you have more control over your mind?

KOCH: Yeah. I mean, what this ancient Buddhist tradition teach you, they explore the mind from an internal point of view and what they allow you to do. It's a little bit like you're on a sailboat, right? So most of us, were on a sailboat and we're at these constant winds. The - I need to, you know, I have this urge to look at my iPhone. I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. I want to do this. I want to do that. So it's like, you want to go somewhere on your sailboat, but the wind constantly pushes you around.

Well, if you're a trained - long-term trained meditater, you have a goal and you try to achieve that no matter where that wind comes, you tack against the wind and you hold that direction. You're much less, you know, enthralled to all the random things that happen in the environment or internal things, the internal desires and drives. So you do exert much more mental control.

At the beginning of this year, I spent a week with his holiness, Dalai Lama with some other - with meditaters and scientists who studied meditation. And it was specifically meant to explore the differences between the Eastern and the Western ways of looking at consciousness. And what was remarkable that, by and large, we agree on most things, the key difference is the Buddhist tradition is to explore the mind from the inside, from the subject's point of view while we in the West sort of - we have removed the subject, and that's gained us a lot of practical advantages.

We can measure things. We have a scanner. We can look at the mind, you know, the brain from the outside and, you know, and we can begin to look at brain diseases. They don't do that. But we have this very complimentary, sort of objective way to look at the brain from the outside and then their technique sort of emphasizing the point of the view of the mind from the inside.

LICHTMAN: Marina, I know this is something you've worked on.

ABRAMOVIC: I am so excited that you actually went to this conference with his holiness, Dalai Lama, because I know him personally too. And one of the most incredible for me was also two more exercises when they - Francisco Varela also measured the monks in meditation naked on the snow where they can actually raise to 20 to 30-degree temperatures the body in the will. So there we come exactly to the point why my institute, you know, in Hudson is so important. Because Hudson Institute is actually - we are trying to find out the certain exercises who are really the bridging between, you know, Western and Eastern knowledge that you can - that normal people with the normal professions - any kind of professions - can go there, go for six hours, and actually this exercise does something with the consciousness. And this can change their own way of life, just bringing that kind of knowledge into their own job, whatever they do.

So that's really essential for us because it's clear that when you have the different type of consciousness and you come to some kind of enlightened state of luminosity in your mind, that things look differently and you can help others. So this is exactly the point I wanted to actually make by - why I want to open this institute.

LICHTMAN: Marina Abramovic, you've talked about achieving this sort of pure state of consciousness where you have this inner illumination. For people who have never thought about this, can you describe a little bit more about what you mean by that?

ABRAMOVIC: I'm just going to describe a few exercises, like one exercise. One is...

LICHTMAN: OK. Well, take us through some exercises.

ABRAMOVIC: Yeah. One simple exercise is that when you, you know, this institute, it's a simple drinking water exercise. You know, water is the most simple example. If you don't drink water, you die. Water is essential for your body; 72 percent of our body is the water. We never drink water consciously. We just kind of drink the water, at the same time look at the telephone or do whatever other activities. But the idea is to do one thing at a time, that will be - one exercise will be water drinking.

Another exercise will be slow motion walking, that you do one gesture at a time, that you're completely conscious about your breathing, your body position and nothing else in your brain. So it's like one single activity. Then another activity will be literally taking one pound of rice, one pound of sesame seeds, putting them together, dividing them by color and counting each pile, which looks like ridiculous, but that will teach you incredible concentration because our concentration is not more than 30 seconds of looking at Coca-Cola advertising on television. We don't have concentration about anything anymore.

So they're like sets that actually can bring you into this certain concentrated state of mind. And when you concentrate a state of mind, it's literally the idea of coming to the non-thinking state of mind. The Tibetans say a beautiful word for that, they call suchness. Suchness is empty mind, but it's not empty mind just empty mind. It's actually suchness is the fullness of empty mind, which is kind of contradiction of the term. But this is the idea that you really are not, you know, in the past or not in the future. You're just at the moment, in the space. This change everything in your life if you get into that.

And you see, artists have intuition. Spiritual leaders have techniques. Scientists have explanation. But if we put all this together, we can create something that is special.

LICHTMAN: Christof Koch, has science probed any of this? Are we far enough along in our understanding of consciousness to ask and answer questions about these subjects?

KOCH: Yes. I was just mentioning one study. Another study that comes to mind came out recently from Wake Forest School of Medicine, where they took metadatas and they subjugated(ph) to pain. So they had electrodes on their calf and they were heated up, and then they looked at the amount of mind control, in this case using a shamatha technique, sort of focused attention. It's a mind calming technique that Buddhists have perfected.

And you can - indeed, when you go onto this mind-calming state, the pain - the perception - subject of perception of pain goes down by 50 percent, and you do see changes in the recipient's structures in the brain that sort of encode the pain, the response is there. This was in a magnetic scanner. They go down.

And interestingly, the part of the brain that it's sort of high level monitoring, that sort of carry out this mindfulness training - because it takes an effort, like it's a mental skill that you have to learn and it takes an effort - they went up. So the more mind control you exerted that shows up in one part of the brain was increased activity; the more it reduced the pain, that showed up in the pain and in the part of the brain that represents a calf in reduced activity.

So, yes, so scientists are now beginning to study sort of the footprint, if you want, of the - of these meditation techniques in the brain. How did they show up? Where did they show up? What sort of training does it take? And can we - in a Western tradition, as busy people, can we adopt some of these techniques for our own lives without having to go through 40,000 hours of meditation techniques?

LICHTMAN: Fascinating. Let's go to the phones. Matt in Rochester, New York, do you have a question? It doesn't sound like he's there anymore. His question on the board was whether consciousness comes from language because you think in language. And I think that brings up a good question about what we're talking about when we say the word consciousness. Do we even have a good working definition, Christof?

KOCH: In the lab we use subjective feelings. When you, you know, you see something, you feel something, you know, you open your eyes, you see a world in front of you unless you're blind. Now, I can do what a magician does. You go to a magic show and you'll be distracted, and you don't see things in front of your eyes. The image will still strike your retina, but you don't see it because your attention is distracted. And so you can use that as a way to probe the brain. What is the footprint again in the brain of unconscious perception?

In general, philosophers refer to it as a feeling of something. It feels like something to be pain, to be angry, to be excited. And we're trying - I mean, what scientists are trying to do is to study that in the brain of people and also of animals.

The general answer to the gentleman's question is no. While language enriches consciousness enormously, even linguistic non-competent creatures such as babies or infants that don't talk yet are clearly conscious. Furthermore, if you had a stroke, if you've suffered a stroke and are aphasic, you can still be conscious.

And furthermore, that would deny a consciousness to all creatures that can't talk at all, such as, you know, my dog or cats or other creatures that without doubt are conscious. So it's a specialty that we humans have. It enrichens our consciousness. So it's unique to human consciousness, but it doesn't constitute the most essential part of consciousness.

LICHTMAN: I just want to...

ABRAMOVIC: Christof, I have a question for you. I wanted to know...

KOCH: Sure.

ABRAMOVIC: ...if anything in your life happened that you rationally could not explain?

KOCH: Oh yeah, a lot of things happen all the time that I can't think about it.

ABRAMOVIC: Give us one example - I'm really curious - that is not a scientific explanation, there's no rational explanation, that really happened and you can't prove it in any possible way.

KOCH: Well, I mean there are things that happened to me in, you know, for which I don't have an obvious explanation, like you fall in love. I don't really know why I fall in love. It must be some combination of unconscious cues. But I don't - nothing has ever happened to me for which I think science isn't up to providing explanation. Anything that happens in the world happens because there's something else in the world and therefore science can in principle track it down.

LICHTMAN: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR.

ABRAMOVIC: But just a simple...

LICHTMAN: I'm Flora Lichtman, talking with Marina Abramovic and Christof Koch. Go ahead, Marina.

ABRAMOVIC: No. Just a simple question. How possibly (unintelligible) people can know that this transport exists? And when then, you know, never had the telescope. How this can this be explained? This is really knowledge, you know? It's not just falling in love. It's more than that. It's knowledge.

KOCH: Well, I mean I don't know this specific case. I'd like to see the historical and the archeological evidence for that, so I can't answer you this specific case. But I do know that people over the last, you know, in our history, we've invented - we've populated the world with all sorts of things that we strongly believe in that if you check, actually you can't find any evidence, of demons and goblins and ghosts and angels. And then when you actually look, you know, when you try to look, you can't find this evidence.

So just because people strongly believe that they have experienced something, it doesn't necessarily mean - I don't believe for one second that they're lying, but our brain constantly, you know, deceives us. We are not made to really see the world as it is. That's why - well, that's why you have to do science, which is very difficult. We evolved to be effective creatures and to promulgate ourselves, not necessarily to perceive an objective reality. That's - for that you need scientific instrumentation, you need theories, you need a lot of work.

LICHTMAN: I mean this is also, you know, this is sort of the perfect divide between art and science, right? Science is built upon this premise that you can find out things by testing, and that answers are out there.

KOCH: Correct.

LICHTMAN: If you didn't think that, it's hard to imagine you would be a scientist.

KOCH: Well, yeah. But ultimately one has to admit the sort of - the range of phenomena science covers has become much larger. It used to be science was really physics and astronomy. You predicted eclipse as you predicted the position of planets and things like that. But then came chemistry and then biology and now comes neuroscience. So in other words the purview of science becomes progressively larger. And the limit - yes, we do believe that science and scientific insight should be able to explain everything within the universe. Anything within the universe is in principal subject to scientific laws and should therefore be discoverable.

LICHTMAN: Marina Abramovic, do you disagree with that? Do you think there are things beyond scientific probing?

ABRAMOVIC: I think that some spiritual techniques and understanding and - can actually get much better results and faster than scientists.

LICHTMAN: That's the artist - no, I think this is a valid discussion.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMOVIC: Because it's intuitive knowledge, it's something - it's like I call liquid knowledge. It's something that you intuitively know exists. And the science takes for, I don't know, decades, you know, to figure out and to prove it. But things - but you know, things exist. They are there, and they can function. And we still could not find the scientific explanations. And I'm so interested in that kind of blue territory, you know, kind of grey territory in between, you know, these two things.

KOCH: For thousands of years people had strong intuition about God. When there was a thunder, well, clearly there were somebody who was really upset, right? When there was a lightning, well, there was Zeus or, you know, whichever culture you happened to belong to, right? And you know, people populated the entire world with God, and they had very strong feelings. They were willing to die and to be killed for those feelings. But now, today, we'll realize, well, probably Zeus, you know, wasn't really responsible for this thunder and for the lightning.

ABRAMOVIC: Yeah. But who cares about this...

KOCH: So we have to inspect people's belief.

ABRAMOVIC: Fine. But what about the simple, again, example I was giving you about uranium. Take uranium out of the Earth, it changes the stratosphere of our planet and finally NASA have a proofs it happened. And the predictions of the Hopi Indians and Tibetans are of hundreds of years old. So, you know, sometimes we have to believe to this - into some other beliefs that actually can just make faster. But we always - we are so incredibly rigid. Science is so rigid. It doesn't have - I mean to me it's a great thing that you went to Dalai Lama...

KOCH: No. Science is not rigid. That's...

LICHTMAN: I'm sorry. We're actually out of time in this climax moment of the science.

ABRAMOVIC: We're going to fight.

(LAUGHTER)

LICHTMAN: I think this perfectly encapsulates the conversation though. Thank you both for taking time to talk with us today.

ABRAMOVIC: I just would like that people go into my Kickstarter and help this institute happen because there we have some kind of solutions that maybe they're not science and not art. It's something in between.

LICHTMAN: The conversation can continue. You can find that link on our website. BJ Leiderman composed our theme music. We had help today from NPR librarian Kee Malesky. You can find us on Twitter all week long. You can write us at 19 West 44th Street, Room 412, New York, New York, 10036. Have a great weekend. In New York, I'm Flora Lichtman.

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