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Preview: PRI: To the Best of Our Knowledge Podcast

To the Best of Our Knowledge

To the Best of Our Knowledge cracks open the world and the ideas that fuel it through interviews with the world's luminaries, from experts to cultural icons. Each show revolves around a theme where we explore these ideas and the people who consider them.

Last Build Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2016 13:58:23 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2016 by Wisconsin Public Radio

Freeman Dyson, Sage of Science

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0600

You get the sense that Freeman Dyson has seen everything. He's a legendary physicist who's been friends and colleagues with the giants of 20th century physics, from Wolfgang Pauli to Richard Feynman. Now in his mid-90s, he's had a front row seat on scientific breakthroughs for the past century. He's also not shy about making sweeping pronouncements - whether on the archaic rules for getting a PhD or the pitfalls of Big Science. In this extended interview, Dyson tells Steve Paulson about his own remarkable life in science.

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Making A Home

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0600

Anyone who’s moved knows how difficult it can be to settle into a new place. Whether it’s another country or an apartment just down the block, it takes time and work to get comfortable. We’re living through a period of mass human migration, with people on the move all over the planet. This hour, we’re talking about home – how to take an unfamiliar place and make it yours.   A Violinist Flees Syria and Discovers a New Home in the US; How 'Home' Made Us Human; For Some Veterans, the Return Home is the Hardest Part of Their Tour; Bookmark: Jonathan Chait recommends “What Hath God Wrought” by Daniel Walker Howe; The Revolutionary War’s Impact on America.

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Larry Brilliant, Hippie Doctor

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0600

Today, Larry Brilliant is a doctor and global health expert. But back in the Sixties, he was a hippie doctor who joined Wavy Gravy's traveling bus caravan and then landed in an Indian ashram in the Himalayas, where his guru told him his destiny was to help cure smallpox. Miraculously, his U.N. team of doctors eradicated the world's remaining cases of this terrible disease. In this extended interview, he tells Steve Paulson about a remarkable moment in history when anything seemed possible.

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Getting Jazzed

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0600

There's a new kind of music packing nightclubs with young fans. It's jazz - but not the sound of your grandparents' supper club. Infused with hip hop and other popular musical forms, jazz is being remade. We talk with some of today's biggest and most innovative jazz stars, including Esperanza Spalding and Vijay Iyer, and explore the magic of improvisation. Ecstatic Rhythm; Leroi Jones' "Blues People"; Esperanza Spalding's "Good Lava"; Tord Gustavsen Recommends a Norwegian Jazz Classic; What Is Music?.

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Hip Hop Future

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0600

the hip hop future For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood; Hip Hop as Diplomacy. Hip Hop as Journalism.; We Gon' Be Alright; Winner of the 2016 National Book Award.

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Your Attention Please

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0600

In this hour, we explore our attention economy. How does it feel to be subjected to an endless onslaught of information, clickbait and ads competing for our attention? And how does it feel to know that the commodity everyone wants is inside your skull? Addicted to Adderall; The Attention Merchants are Getting Inside Your Head; We're Short-Circuiting Our Attentiveness; Why Wasting Time on the Internet is Time Well Spent; The Secret History of the World's Most Popular Video Game.

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Sun, 06 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500

 After one of the ugliest and most divisive presidential races in history -- can America heal? Weeks of vitriolic campaign rhetoric have taken a toll on friends and families. A majority of voters are disgusted with politics and don’t believe the next president will be able to unite the country. So where do we go from here? This hour, a look at reconciliation -- how to recover personal and political harmony. Unfriended Over Politics; How the Founding Feuds Shaped the Nation; Liberal and Conservative Till Death Do Us Part; Esperanza Spalding on Jazz and Reconciliation; Artists and Frenemies; Thomas Kunkel on 'Here Is New York'; Jacqueline Woodson's 'Another Brooklyn'.

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Election 2.0

Sun, 30 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Americans head to the polls amid mounting political rhetoric, from both sides, about vote rigging and voter supression. Maybe it's time to rethink the way we do elections. In this episode, we surface some ingenious, off-the-wall, and counter-intuitive ideas about how to make voting fairer, better and more fun. You've Been Micro-Targeted; Are Americans Smart Enough To Vote? (The Answer is No); US Elections Rank Worst Among Western Democracies ; Pay To Vote? How Markets Could Fix Democracy; Should We Let Babies Vote?; How To Make Elections Fun Again.

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H.P. Lovecraft

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

H.P. Lovecraft's weird tales of cosmic horror loom large 125 years after his birth. His literary tentatcles have oozed their way into movies, books, games and graphic novels. We explore Lovecraft's life, work and legacy.  Was he a literary master or a monster? The Magickal Realism and Continuing Influence of H.P. Lovecraft; The Ecology of Noise in Lovecraft's Fiction; Eugene Thacker Goes "From Beyond"; H.P. Lovecraft's Racism; The Call of Cthulhu (for Beginning Readers); Going Beyond Lovecraft: Thomas Ligotti.

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Telling a Life

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

How do you tell the story of your life? Do you focus on meaning, accomplishment and hope - or on failure and loss? Psychologists say telling a good life story can make you happier. But do we also create an inauthentic version of ourselves if we turn everything into a narrative? We explore the idea of life stories, and hear why poet Patti Smith chose to "write about nothing" when writing about her own life. How to Edit Your Life Story; The Terminal Bar; "I Am Not a Story"; Elena Ferrante and Elizabeth Hardwick; Patti Smith's Mind Train.

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Eric Liu Teaches Power to the People

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Eric Liu is on a campaign to make voting fun again and to restore the power of the people

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Who Owns Water?

Sun, 16 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Who Owns Water? Water is for Fighting Over; A Basketball Star Heads to Standing Rock; What Is Water?; Terry Tempest Williams on the novel Tracks by Louise Erdrich; The Massacre at Wounded Knee - 10 Years Later; An Anishinaabe Poem and Creation Story.

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The Problem With Men's Locker Rooms and Women's Restrooms

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Why Donald Trump's locker rooms and sex-segregated bathrooms are a bad idea

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Time Travel

Sun, 09 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

We explore our obsession with time travel and what it can teach us about ourselves. Why Are We So Obsessed with Time Travel?; Going Back in Time to Prevent a Tragedy; Reliving Groundhog Day; A Radical New View of Time ; A Novel Based on a Real-Life Time Capsule.

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Why Some People Shouldn't Vote

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

It would be hard to imagine a more fundamental American value than democracy. For centuries, disenfranchised people have fought for the right to vote. But would we be better off if fewer peoplevoted - if only the people who actually know about public policy were allowed to vote? What if democracy itself is the problem with our government? That's the radical idea of Georgetown philosopher Jason Brennan (author of "Against Democracy"), who says most voters are shockingly ignorant of basic political issues. In this extended interview with Steve Paulson, Brennan proposes "the rule of the knowledgeable."

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Our Mysterious Universe

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0500

For all the amazing discoveries that scientists have made, the cosmos is still full of mysteries - from dark matter to quantum entanglement. Will physicists ever explain the universe, or is it fundamentally unknowable? We explore the frontiers of physics and ponder what it means to live with mystery Did We Find an Alien Civilization?; The Unknowable Universe; Is Quantum Entanglement for Real?; In the Newton Archives; On Being Terry Gilliam.

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Locked Up

Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Most of us will never know what really happens behind bars. Prisons are generally off limits to the public and press, but a national prisoner strike on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison riot is drawing new attention to the conditions in many of our nation's jails. This hour, what should a prison be? How The Attica Prison Riot Fueled Mass Incarceration in America; Working Undercover As A Private Prison Guard; In Defense of Flogging; Norway's Unusual Approach to Imprisonment; How To Reduce Mass Incarceration; Exploring the Emotional Roots of Justice.

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Colson Whitehead's "Underground Railroad"

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

One of this year's big novels is Colson Whitehead's sweeping historical novel, "The Underground Railroad." It's an unflinching look at the experience of slavery, inspired by the classic slave narratives. And being a sci-fi geek, Whitehead also weaves in bits of fantasy, creating an alternative history that features an actual underground railroad and other historical oddities. In this extended podcast interview, Whitehead tells Steve Paulson that he wasn't going to stick to the facts, but he did stick to the truth.

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Being Broke and White

Sun, 18 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

There’s a powerful new voting bloc in America. They’re white, working class, and they live in places that have been left behind. We'll talk with "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance, and country music star Brandy Clark joins us in the studio to play some music and talk about her hometown. Hillbilly Elegy; Big Day in a Small Town; In the Century of Rust; Smart Decline; The Future of Whiteness.

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Automate It

Sun, 18 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Automated machines are taking over our lives. They're not the scary robots you see in movies, but more and more of today's technology - from smart phones to airplanes - is automated. And some of the world's biggest companies are racing to come up with a "master algorithm" - a formula that will let machines learn anything. This could lead to self-driving cars and even a cure for cancer. But do we want to give machines so much control? The Quest for the Master Algorithm; App Intelligence; Is Automation Ruining Our Lives?; They Had Androids in the Enlightenment?; Stephen Wolfram on Computer Creativity; Garth Hallberg's "City on Fire".

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Lithium And Lies: A True Story About Sex, Drugs and Mania

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Public radio producer Charles Monroe-Kane confronts the truth about the years he spent self-treating his mental illness with a dangerous mix of hard drugs and alcohol

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The Whole Truth

Sun, 11 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Three journalists join us to talk about an assignment in which they tried to tell the story of someone who was, in some crucial way, unknowable. Getting to Know Your Father As a Woman; Getting Inside the Mind of Patty Hearst; Rodney Ascher Recommends "Patty Hearst"; Did Joe Gould Really Write "The Oral History of Our Time"?.

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God Talk

Sun, 04 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Some people talk to God and some think God talks to them. But what one person calls mysticism, another might call mental illness. We examine a range of spiritual experiences - from hearing voices to prayer and conversations with God. Also, David Steindl-Rast reflects on life as a Benedictine monk. Did God Talk to Me?; "Let Us Pretend"; The Strange But True Story of Margery Kempe; David Steindl-Rast Reflects on a Life as a Benedictine Monk; "The Nightmare".

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Knowing Animals

Sun, 04 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Can we ever get inside the mind of an animal? Can we really know how a chimp or a parrot thinks and experiences the world? We'll talk with some naturalists and scientists who're trying, including Helen Macdonald and Frans de Waal. And the fascinating story of Charles Foster's attempt to live like a badger, when he lived in a hole in the ground and ate worms. Living Like A Beast; Helen Macdonald and "Birdle" the Parrot; Inside Animal Minds; Douglas Adams' Survival Guilt; Searching for the Last Unicorn.

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Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Disgust is such a powerful emotion, and so easily evoked. A single disgusting word or image can make most anyone feel queasy, but it also turns out to be a powerful driver of human behavior, influencing everything from who you love to who you'll vote for. This hour, we're delving into the new science of revulsion. Digging Into The New Science of Revulsion; The Morality of Disgust; Fierce Food From Around the World; The Buzz Behind Edible Insects; The Case For Embracing Horror; Adventures With a Bat Biologist.

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Chuck Klosterman Thinks About the Present As If It Were the Past

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

This is our extended conversation with Chuck Klosterman re. his book, "But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About The Present As If It Were the Past."

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Flammable Fiction

Sun, 21 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

This hour, we explore flammable fiction as we ask the question, How does fire inspire a writer's imagination? Death by Spontaneous Combustion; Fighting Wildland Fires; The Politics of Arson; Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past.

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The History of Ballooning

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

  Before the airplane was invented, ballooning was all the rage, and many people thought this was the future of air travel. Cultural historian Richard Holmes describes the remarkable history of the hot air balloon.

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The Edge of the Run

Sun, 14 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

We run for all sorts of reasons -- to lose 10 pounds, to win an Olympic medal, or simply because it’s fun. Some even run as a spiritual practice. Today, why we run - and how far and how fast can humans go? Faster, Higher, Stronger; Let Them Dope!; The Fist and the '68 Olympics; Running and Spirituality ; Tennis in China.

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Illuminating Us

Sun, 07 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0500

This hour, a look at the natural, artificial, and symbolic light that colors our history -- and our future.  The Heaviness of Light; Let There Be Light…On Your Brain; How the 18th Century Conquered Darkness; The New Physics of Photons; Nicholas Carr on the Art of Navigation; Art and Music in Rothko Chapel.

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