Seasonal Specials

February 13, 2018

Frog Love and the Decoy Effect

Valentine's Day 2018


This Valentine's Day, we bring you a story of frog romance and economics — with a side of math and 1960s game shows. We all know people who make illogical decisions in the quest for love. As a 2015 paper in Science describes, it seems that even frogs can be irrational when choosing a mate. However, in his quest to develop a model for human economic behavior, Paulo Natenzon has found a way to restore rationality to the frogs.

October 26, 2017

How to Create a Musical Monster

Halloween 2017

It’s been 200 years since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, the classic tale of creation gone wrong. In honor of the novel’s anniversary – and just in time for Halloween – three undergraduates at Washington University in St. Louis were each invited to bring his own brainchild into being: a piece of music, inspired by Frankenstein, to be performed by WashU’s symphony orchestra. In this episode of Arts & Sciences' Hold That Thought podcast, Cole Reyes, Andrew Savino, and Ethan Evans talk about their music, the creative process, and Frankenstein. 


Symphony Orchestra: Frankenstein takes place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29, at the 560 Music Center.

July 26, 2017

How to Sit on the Iron Throne: Power and Violence in "Game of Thrones" and History

Summer 2017

Rival families fight for the throne by racking up the body count through political maneuvers, murders, battles, and betrayals. This summation is true as much for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones as it is for history, specifically the Atlantic world of early modern era. Historian Alex Dubé examines how our understandings of power and violence have fundamentally changed over time, and what modern day shows like Game of Thrones tell us about the present. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Tune in.

April 20, 2017

High-School Students Should Study Earth Science. Here's Why.

Earth Day 2017

Ever wonder why some subjects are taught in high school while others are not, or why students spend so much time memorizing facts? According to geophysicist Michael Wysession, science curricula in the US are based on standards that are more than 120 years old, and being stuck in the past has had serious consequences. This Earth Day, learn why Wysession believes in a new approach to science education.

This episode was first released in 2015 as part of our Into the Earth series.

February 16, 2017

The Legal Mind of Thomas Jefferson

Presidents' Day 2017

Before becoming the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was a successful lawyer in Virginia. His legal training influenced the way he thought about government and politics, yet this earlier part of his career has largely been ignored by historians. David Konig, professor of history and law, has spent years analyzing the complex legal notes and papers that tell the story of Jefferson's time as an attorney. For Presidents Day, Konig sheds light on this fascinating and neglected aspect of Jefferson's life and mind.

This episode was first released in 2015. 

February 8, 2017

Love Music Across Time

Valentine's Day 2017

From today's top 100 Billboard songs to ancient Sumerian scripts, human beings have always sung about love. So how have love songs changed across the ages? Have they evolved to reflect society's understandings of love? Or have we been singing about basically the same things for millenia? Today, we'll look at one batch of love songs called the Loire Valley Chansonniers, made up of five songbooks from fifteenth-century France. Clare Bokulich, an assistant professor of musicology at Washington University in St. Louis, explains why these books are so special and breaks down the rare insight they give into not only historical understandings of love, but music itself. 

November 23, 2016

Pilgrim Fathers: How the Thanksgiving we know and love was manufactured

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is a day most Americans look forward to, a day of watching parades and feasting on delicious food with friends and family. However, the rosy picture we have in our minds of our Pilgrim forefathers sitting down to eat with the local Native American tribes is, frankly, a myth. In honor of the holiday, American religious historian Mark Valeri shares the true and harrowing tales of the Pilgrim immigrants, and how and why their story came to national prominence in the post-Civil War era. He also examines how the myth of that first Thanksgiving has taken root in the American identity, and traces the revisions the story has undergone through the decades.

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.