February 11, 2015

Physics of the Heart

Valentine's Day 2015

Mentioning the word "physics" brings to mind things like gravity, relativity, mass and volume, or even dark matter. Rarely do we think about how these principles affect the inner workings of our own bodies. This week, Jim Miller, professor of physics, medicine, and biomedical engineering at Washington University, talks about the 'physics' of 'physiology' and explains how cardiologists and doctors use physics in their every day work.

January 29, 2015

How to Write a Bad Poem

People, Places, and Ideas to Explore

In 1913, Poetry magazine published Ezra Pound's "A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste." The piece offered would-be poets such memorable advice as "don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music" and "don’t retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose." A hundred years later, acclaimed literary scholar Marjorie Perloff, the recipient of the 2014 International Humanities Medal, put her own spin on Pound's famous guidelines. Perloff shares her five additional "don'ts" and reflects on her early childhood in Vienna.

January 14, 2015

Faith and Protest in Ferguson

Religion & Politics: Episode #8
Five months after the death of Michael Brown, the community of Ferguson, Missouri, continues to work toward healing and define common goals - in many cases, with the help of religious leaders and institutions. Laurie Maffly-Kipp, professor of religion and politics, reflects on the role of faith and church leadership in social and political movements, both in Ferguson and throughout American history.
December 23, 2014

Predicting Eclipses

From the Cutting Room

Dr. Michael Friedlander, professor emeritus of physics at Washington University in St. Louis, describes how using historical writings to calculate when future eclipses will take place has revealed new questions about the earth's rotation, which scientists are still puzzling over.

December 17, 2014

Digging into Archaeoastronomy

Winter Solstice 2014

The Winter Solstice is on December 21 and marks the shortest day of the year, which was once a very important day to many cultures across the world. In fact, there are thousands of structures, including the impressive Stonehenge, built by our early ancestors to predict the equinoxes and solstices. So why did they make all this effort? Michael Friedlander, a professor emeritus of physics, and John Kelly, a senior lecturer in archaeology, both at Washington University in St. Louis, introduce us to the field of archaeoastronomy, which they use to examine one of the greatest pre-Columbian civilizations in the United States: Cahokia.

December 11, 2014

Anarchism and Dissent in Medieval Islam

Religion & Politics: Episode #7

Hayrettin Yücesoy, professor of Islamic and Arabic studies, takes us back to the political and theological debates of 9th-century Baghdad. Scholars later claimed that in the medieval Islamic world, religion and politics fit neatly together. However, as Yücesoy explains, the historical reality was much more complicated. Religious scholars, political leaders, and even elite anarchists all had competing ideas about the relationship between Muslim faith and politics.


December 4, 2014

Does Religion Always Cause Political Intolerance?

Religion and Politics: Episode #6

Should fringe groups, even offensive groups like the Ku Klux Klan, be allowed to have a voice in American politics? Since the 1950s, social scientists have recognized that very religious people are more likely to answer "no" to this type of question. In other words, religion and political intolerance often go hand-in-hand. But why is this the case? Political scientist James Gibson discusses the intersections between faith and intolerance and explains why, though these ideas can often connect, having faith does not make a person less tolerant.


November 25, 2014

Food and Protest

Thanksgiving 2014

Following the recent grand jury decision to not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, protests and vandalism erupted in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis, Missouri. Rafia Zafar, professor of English, African and African-American Studies, and American Culture Studies, has written about protests in the civil rights movement and how, surprisingly, food and the sharing of meals played a symbolic role in that struggle. For activists such as Anne Moody, the simple act of ordering a grilled cheese sandwich was a dangerous act of protest. This Thanksgiving week, we reflect on this earlier era of protestors and the many roles of food in American culture.

November 20, 2014

Way Beyond the Blue

People, Places, and Ideas to Explore

Guided by a passionate belief that the arts are for everyone, music professor André de Quadros has conducted research in over 40 countries and, closer to his home base in Boston, for the past two years has been teaching classes in two Massachusetts prisons. De Quadros, who will conduct a special performance of the Washington University Choirs as part of the Distinguished Visiting Scholar Program, walks us through his experiences in prison education and shares his conviction that all humans are music-makers.


November 12, 2014

Who Should Sing "Ol' Man River"?

The Lives of an American Song

What can the history of one Broadway song reveal about American race relations? In Who Should Sing Ol' Man River?: The Lives of an American Song, now available through Amazon and Oxford University Press, musicologist Todd Decker explores how one show tune has been shaped and reshaped over time. Decker joined Hold That Thought to share how "Ol' Man River" transformed from a Broadway ballad into a dance ditty, an activist anthem, and more.