January 19, 2017

Performing Emotion: Freemasons and the Theater of Ritual

Hundreds of years ago in France, a group of men set up dramatic lighting, put on costumes, read scripts, and acted out a dramatic story. Despite all these elements of the theater, the men were not performing for an audience or acting on a stage. This group of Masons, one of many in 18th-century France, met in secret and created elaborate performances to initiate and promote their members. Pannill Camp, associate professor of drama and co-host of On TAP: A Theater and Performing Arts Podcast, explores the purpose and significance of these secret rituals and their relationship to the wider world of 18th century drama. 

December 14, 2016

Performing Gold: Fanny Kemble, Modern Banking, and the Evolution of Acting

When actress Fanny Kemble took the stage in 1831 as Bianca, the pure and mistreated wife in Henry Milman's play Fazio, she astounded audiences with her true-to-life portrayal of jealousy and grief. Julia Walker, associate professor of drama and English, brings the performance to life and explains why it was so extraordinary. Walker connects Kemble's acting style to historical events and anxieties, especially changing ideas about money and banking. 

December 1, 2016

Metabolism: The Google Maps of Cancer Research

When you hear the word "metabolism," what do you think about? Thanks to the groundbreaking work of chemist Gary Patti here at Washington University in St. Louis, instead of diet or weight loss, we think: "possible cure for cancer." Patti explains how metabolism is like Google Maps, helps us understand the emerging field of metabolomics, and shares the challenges and promise of metabolism research.

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. 

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.