November 9, 2016

A Chemist's Quest for New Antibiotics

World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016

Remember the last time you were sick and your doctor gave you antibiotics? What might have happened if those drugs didn't work? As antibiotic-resistant bacteria spread around the world, this scenario is much more than a "what if." The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance "one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today." To mark World Antibiotic Awareness Week, chemist TIm Wencewicz explains how we got here, why big pharmaceutical companies are neglecting the problem, and what his lab is doing to solve it. 

November 2, 2016

Social Citizens: How Peer Networks Influence Elections

Election 2016

Social Citizens: How Peer Networks Influence Elections
When you walk into a voting booth in less than a week to vote for the future president of the United States, you'll be all by yourself making a very personal decision - right? Betsy Sinclair, a political scientist and author of The Social Citizen: Peer Networks and Political Behaviorbelieves that in reality, politics is often more social than personal. Here she discusses the place of Facebook, YouTube, and face-to-face interactions in political decision-making, and explains how social science experiments reveal the true importance of social networks in politics. 

October 26, 2016

"Do You Like Scary Movies?" Horror Films & Things That Make Us Scream

Halloween 2016

Horror movies have been drawing audiences since the earliest days of film. But why are we drawn to fictional portrayals of events that we'd do anything to avoid in real life? And are we frightened by the same things we were 20 years ago? John Powers walks us through the history of the horror film. From the Frankenstein and Nosferatu to Freddy Krueger and Bruce Campbell, we break down what makes us scream.


October 19, 2016

Slavery at Sea

In her new book Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage, historian Sowande' Mustakeem reveals the forgotten world of 18th century slave ships. Here, she shares the tragic story of one enslaved woman and discusses why it's so important for Americans to confront this foundational, brutal chapter of history. Mustakeem's research focuses on the experiences of those most frequently left out of the history of the Middle Passage - women, children, the elderly, and the diseased.

A version of this episode was first released in 2013, in our American Identities series.


October 13, 2016

The Hidden History of Trumpism

Election 2016

In a recent article in the Guardian, postdoctoral fellow Tim Shenk argues that Donald Trump's rise within the Republican Party has historical - and often overlooked - roots. From an obscure online journal to a best-selling book from 1941 and beyond, Shenk traces the hidden and surprising intellectual path of what we now call Trumpism. Understanding this history, Shenk believes, helps illuminate Trump's popularity, his reliance on Twitter, his clashes with fellow Republicans, and more.


October 5, 2016

A Laboratory for the Social Sciences: The American Panel Survey

Election 2016

What does the average American voter really think about the 2016 presidential candidates? How much do those beliefs depend on things like income, education level, or even personality? With the American Panel Survey (or TAPS), social scientists have a powerful tool to explore questions about human attitudes and behaviors over time. This year, researchers are using TAPS to learn about why voters choose certain candidates over others, and when and why they sometimes change their minds. Steven Smith, the director of TAPS, explains how the survey works and why it's such an important asset for social scientists. 


September 28, 2016

How to Forecast an Election


How to Forecast an Election
It's about six weeks until the 2016 US presidential election, and everyone wants to know: Who will win? Hillary Clinton? Or Donald Trump? To attempt to answer this question, political scientists like Jacob Montgomery build complex forecasting models. Montgomery shares his own unique approach to forecasting, and describes both the limitations and the value of these efforts to predict the future. 

September 14, 2016

Theater for Health

According to some estimates, just 6 percent of mothers in Peru wash their hands before preparing food. Is it possible that theater could help change this statistic? Art can surely offer personal comfort and emotional healing, but can it influence public health? By helping to develop the Arts for Behavior Change (ABC) program in Lima, Peru, Boston University music professor André de Quadros sought to answer these questions. In his research, teaching, and performances around the world, de Quadros emphasizes using the arts for social change. He spent time with the music department at Washington University in fall 2014 as part of the Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program.

September 14, 2016

Milk at Altitude: Exploring Health in the Himalayas

Milk at Altitude: Exploring Health in the Himalayas
Scientists agree that breast milk is good for babies, but E.A. Quinn believes there's a lot more to learn. Join Quinn on a recent research trip to a remote valley in Nepal, where she works with community partners to understand the health of mothers and infants under extreme conditions. How is human milk different in the Himalayan highlands than in the United States? What can these differences reveal about what moms and babies everywhere need to be healthy? Hear Quinn describe her fieldwork, what she's found out so far, and why she's so fascinated by this "incredible fluid." 


September 7, 2016

Eating Organic in Nazi Germany

Eat plenty of raw vegetables. Avoid preservatives. Breads should be whole grain. These may sounds like words of advice from your local natural foods store, but starting in the 1930s, the same messages were systematically spread throughout Germany by the Nazi party. Historian Corinna Treitel shares the story of the Nazis' obsession with natural foods, and discusses how their ideas about nutrition compare with how we think about food and health today.