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Preview: Big Ideas

Big Ideas - Full program podcast

Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

DNA manipulation and doping

Tue, 02 May 2017 20:05:00 +1000

The same science that’s so promising in fighting deadly diseases will cause a nightmare for anti-doping organisations.Runner on track (Klaus Vedfelt, Getty Images)

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Make it your business to do good

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Business with a social purpose tackles inequality.

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Global corruption

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Australia is ‘the Cayman Islands of the South Pacific' - a safe haven for money coming into the country through international corruption.Corruption money (Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Fuzzy thinking won't save the planet

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

We can't solve the world's problems without evidence and expertise.(NASA Goddard Space Flight/ BY 2.0)

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Utopian thinking

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

In an age of pragmatism, do need Utopian thinkers?Thomas More image (Getty Images)

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A brief history of tomorrow

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Will the working class become the useless class as technology destroys millions of jobs?Are we heading in the right direction for the future we want? (digital cat/ /CC BY 2.0)

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Has political correctness failed?

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Is political correctness a force for good or the enemy of free speech?(NewtownGraffiti/ BY 2.0)

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Disadvantaged remote Australia

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Mothers and families could bring down the Indigenous incarceration rate and help break the vicious circle of violence and drug abuse in Indigenous communities.Indigenous incarceration rate (Dave Nakayama / Flickr CC BY 2.0)

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Dating, divorce, and capitalism, according to Helen Razer

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Helen Razer is known for her biting political and cultural commentary and for having a soft spot for Marxism. But when she was wrought with sadness and heartbreak, following the disintegration of a long term same sex relationship, she decided the way out was to re-enter the dating fray. And to write a book about it. Helen spoke to Paul Barclay about "divorce" and the experience of modern dating. Predictably, it wasn’t long before the discussion was steered towards money, class and economics.

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Diet and mental health

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Eat well to boost your brainpower and reduce your risk of depression.

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Why do you need a digital identity?

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Estonia is a digital pioneer offering e-identity and e-citizenships as well as a whole range of the digitalised government, education and public services.

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Hidden hazards

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Fragrance is just one of the hidden hazards in the household products we use.

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Feminist Lindy West talks Twitter, trolls and Trump

Mon, 10 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

A conversation with writer Lindy West about her memoir, "Shrill".

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The liberalism of fear

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

How should liberal criminal justice respond to community demands for increased penalties and protection?

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Guilty Pleasures

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Should we embrace pleasure, or is too much self gratification bad for us?

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From time travel to micro-recycling

Tue, 04 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

If we could time travel, would it be desirable to dabble with our past? And could we reducing electronic waste through micro-recycling of precious elements in micro-factories?

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The future of journalism

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 20:05:00 +1000

Why does journalism matter?

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Preparing for climate change

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How life will change with the climate.

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Life as a refugee

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The challenges of living in the world’s biggest refugee camp in Northern Kenya… and then adjusting to a completely foreign life in Australia.

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The future of the photo documentary

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Is there still a role for photo-journalism? For pictures conveying a message about suffering, about inequality, about celebration and about change?

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Trust and truth in the digital news age

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How should we combat the epidemic of 'fake news'?

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Our most precious liquid

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Water is an essential resource we need to share it equitably with each other and the natural world.

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Pursuing immortality

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

But only because science might eventually be able to achieve it, should we be pursuing immortality?

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Mysteries of the brain

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How does the brain make us human? How can we control machines with our mind? And how we can feel music by linking up brainwaves to instruments.

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Inside 'The Family': the legacy of a notorious apocalyptic cult.

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

An investigation of the doomsday cult known as The Family, and it's charismatic leader, Anne Hamilton Byrne

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How to feed the planet

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Navigating the three biggest challenges to the global food system

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Where will America First take us?

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Donald Trump is determined to shake up America and America's alliances. How will it change the relationship with our most important ally?

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China revolution and repression

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Will personal freedom always give way to social control in China?

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Lucky country?

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Is Australia still the "lucky country"?

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Consuming our future

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Only lowering our living standards will achieve sustainable growth. That’s the message from Satyajit Das.

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About women and mothers

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 13:05:00 +1100

Mothers. Everyone has one. Not every woman wants to be one. The merits of motherhood for the Modern Women is a question that can still confound, confuse, astound and confront.

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Mess makes you more creative and resilient

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Messiness and randomness lie at the core of how we innovate and how we connect with each other - in short, how we succeed.

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Steven Oliver: Black Comedy

Mon, 06 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Steven Oliver is an indigenous poet and rapper, actor, singer, dancer and writer. He was the creative force behind the ABC’s cult TV show, 'Black Comedy'. It was a cheeky mix of satire, indigenous humour, and high camp. More importantly it was the first all-Aboriginal TV comedy in over 40 years. Paul Barclay is in conversation with Steven, who is also an advocate for social change. Why are there so few indigenous people on TV screens?

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Nigeria - a failed state?

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Behind the violent insurgencies in Nigeria is not just corruption, but the crumbling of state, civic, customary and religious authority.

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Behind the scenes of the CIA

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell lifts the veil from the inner workings of the intelligence agency – somewhat.

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Families and communities

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The state of the nation starts in your street

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Death in Rabaul: a forgotten battle from the Pacific War.

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Seventy-five years ago, five Australians, including an eleven-year old boy and his mother, were executed for spying by a Japanese firing squad in Rabaul, in the Australian territory of New Guinea. Writer and journalist, Ian Townsend, unearths the story behind their deaths.  In doing so, he uncovers a forgotten story of World War Two. The Japanese invaded and occupied the island of New Britain, then a part of Australia, and intended it to be there South Pacific military base. Over a thousand Australians died. It was the first combat in WW2 between Australians and an invading force. Why don’t we know this part of our history? Paul Barclay is in conversation with Ian Townsend

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Thu, 23 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Does the traditional travelling circus have a future in Australia?

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A brief history of tomorrow

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Will the working class become the useless class as technology destroys millions of jobs?

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The wonder that is glass

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Where would we be without spectacles, light bulbs and windscreens? How many lives were saved through germ identifying microscope lenses? And how pleasurable would life be without windows, computers or telephones?

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Genomic medicine

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How is genomics changing medical practice?

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Thu, 16 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The frozen and fragile continent of Antarctica needs international attention. With increasing state rivalries, environmental concerns, and the need for resources, is the Antarctic Treaty System in need of reform?

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Understanding Islam

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How much is Western culture is derived from the Abrahamic religions and traditions? And are some core Islamic values at odds with the contemporary materialistic world? A panel of experts tries to explain Islam.

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2016 Geoffrey Bolton lecture

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The search for identity and the search for self. Lost memories and the historical record.

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Women's rights in Afghanistan

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

In Afghanistan, two lovers, Zakia and Ali, friends since childhood, elope: defying the wishes of their families, cultural norms, and Afghan and Islamic Law. Zakia’s family vows to kill her, to restore the family’s "honour". The couple is forced to run away and live a life of fugitives. Former New York Times bureau chief in Kabul, Rod Nordland, met the couple, and helped protect Zakia. He tells their story in “The Lovers”. What does the story tells us about women’s rights in Afghanistan, post Western intervention? And what happens when you cross the line from dispassionate journalist, to being entangled in the lives of your subjects? Paul Barclay interviews Rod Nordland.

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The role of media in public opinion

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

A panel of journalists and community leaders look at how media portrays marginalised groups and how they can shape social cohesion – for the better or worse.

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Science, life and the universe

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

How is our cosmos finely tuned and just right for life? It's time to ask some of the deep questions about our place in the cosmos.

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Reconciliation after violent conflicts

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

There's an increasing number of missing persons and unidentified dead bodies in today's conflicts. What are the socio-cultural, political, legal and psychological impacts on the involved communities?

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Restoring Lake Pedder

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

45 years ago, Tasmania’s Lake Pedder, with its glorious pink quartz sand, was flooded to create hydro-electric power for the state. Conservationists are convinced it is a lost jewel in the crown of Australia’s natural environment. Almost from the moment of its inundation, there were calls to restore Lake Pedder it to its past glory. Experts say this is technically feasibly, and once again the idea being discussed. But is restoring Lake Pedder a utopian dream, or a realistic goal?

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Financial secrecy

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Money laundering, market rigging, digital 'off-shoring'. Are some people and corporations above and beyond the law?

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Marriage equality in Ireland

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 20:05:00 +1100

A campaign for marriage equality has to be about "real people" and not simply a lofty debate about law, philosophy and religion.

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Tue, 31 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

A journey to outer space. After nine and a half years travelling at 53 000 kilometres an hour, the New Horizons team reached Pluto. NASA Astrophysicist Fran Bagenal recounts the journey and the unexpected findings.

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The return of inequality: CBC Massey Lecture 5

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

There is a myth that great wealth enables our economies to grow, but wealth can actually stand in the way of economic development; inequity can slow us down. Fairness lies at the heart of liberal democracy, and in the face of unfairness, we rebel. Unfairness makes us work less hard to create a good society. Why should I work hard, what's in it for me? Economic inequality inevitably translates into political inequality, which is not what we thought we were working towards. Jennifer Welsh presents the fifth and final of her 2016 Massey lectures, "The Return of Inequality".

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The return of the cold war: CBC Massey Lecture 4

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Are we witnessing the return of the cold war?

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The return of mass flight: CBC Massey lecture 3

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Millions of people around the world are on the move. How do we deal with this "mass flight"?

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The return of barbarism: CBC Massey lecture 2

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Half a decade ago, freedom movements were ascendant in a number of countries - Egypt, Tunisia, Libya. But today the gains from the so called 'Arab Spring' seem, mostly, lost. Authoritarian regimes have been winding back the progress in human rights and democracy we thought we were witnessing, and the rules that govern conflict and maintain global peace are being erased. In her second 2016 CBC Massey lecture, called 'The Return of Barbarism', Jennifer Welsh contrasts the world of today with the prediction in 1989 of 'The End of History'.

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The return of history: CBC Massey lecture 1

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Have predictions of the 'end of history' proven premature?

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The Pacific is sinking

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 21:05:00 +1100

Corruption in many Pacific countries appears endemic, the Pacific has the world’s fastest growth rate of HIV infection and the Pacific is predicted to surpass Africa as the world’s poorest region in the foreseeable future Is the Pacific not sinking but being sunk?

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Aristotle: 2,400 years on

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Aristotle - why is he one of the most influential thinkers of all time?

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Science, values and ethics

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The ethics, values and science surrounding the bionic body.

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Mary Norris and Steven Pinker: why words and language matter.

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Mary Norris: what copy editors do and why standards matter. Steven Pinker: how the craft of writing can be improved.

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Lionel Shriver on free speech, identity and the future of the US

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

In the future United States of Lionel Shriver’s imagination, the nation is virtually bankrupt by the year 2029. The US dollar is worthless. Gold is confiscated by the government. A cabbage costs more than 20 dollars. This is the dystopian future she presents in her speculative novel, "The Mandibles". Lionel Shriver delivered a provocative speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival, ridiculing the concept of cultural appropriation. In this wide ranging conversation, she talks to Paul Barclay about free speech, identity, the future of America and how it’s governed, as well as Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

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Gloria Steinem’s travels

Sat, 14 Jan 2017 21:05:00 +1100

Gloria Steinem talks to Anna Bligh about her travels which formed her adventurous personality.

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Comedy over the centuries

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Comedy has evolved into many shapes and voices – and different tastes. So what characterises comedy? And what role does comedy have in art and society?

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Have you got grit

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

Grit - what it is and how it can be cultivated.

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Vaccines for Ebola: tackling a market failure

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

A market failure has prevented the development of vaccines against Ebola, MERS and other viruses. Ironically, emerging data suggest these vaccines might be quite straightforward to develop to licensure.

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Stan Grant on race, history and identity

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

“The Australian Dream is rooted in racism”, says journalist and broadcaster, Stan Grant. As he tells Paul Barclay, he has long had a difficult relationship with Australia, angry about its post colonial history, about how his forebears were treated, and at how we continue to deal with indigenous people today. Stand Grant may have been a presence on our TV screens for decades, but he has lived with an inner turmoil, struggling to deal with his identity as an Aboriginal man in a country where the scars of history are yet to heal.

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Is addiction a disease?

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 21:05:00 +1100

The accepted wisdom is that addiction to drugs, like ice or heroin, is a disease of the brain. Neuroscientists can actually see how drug use alters the brain. Drug users, therefore, should not be blamed for their addiction: they are not weak, or bad, or morally flawed. Because their addiction a disease, it follows their condition should be medicalized and treated by clinicians. This, so called, 'brain disease model' of addiction is now being seriously questioned. Paul Barclay talks to some of dissenters.

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Exploring nature

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

What does nature mean to each of us?  Why is nature so pure?  And how do we reconnect with the natural world in an age where our lives are connected to technology?  

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Listening to nature

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The evolution of sound and listening. Listening to nature isn’t just a peaceful and joyful experience. It can teach us our place in the natural world. Animal sounds and bird song have adapted to specific environments and habitats, but the use of sound has in turn shaped the evolution of different species. And that includes homo sapiens. Sound has formed us as social and cultural ‘animals’.

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Science fiction meets science fact

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

A writer and an astronomer traverse the blurry line between science fiction and science fact

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Is love an illusion?

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 20:05:00 +1100

The romantics have a lot to answer for, according to philosopher and author, Alain de Botton. Love, marriage and human relationships are not a bed of roses. There is no such person as ‘the one'. And, despite trying to avoid it, many of us will marry the wrong person. You want to know one of the early warning signs? It’s when someone says to you, "I’m a really easy going, easy to live with, person". Wrong, says de Botton, we are troubled, so you should run a mile if someone says that to you.

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A history of consumerism

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 21:05:00 +1100

How did the world become full of consumers and how did we end up with so much stuff ?

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The silo effect

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 12:05:00 +1100

The silo effect: when the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and why it's a problem for big organisations.

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Creative communities

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 12:05:00 +1100

Can art, culture and innovation shape future urban development? More and more people think this is achievable. But how do you plan and build a genuinely creative community? Cities around the world are seeking to create cultural precincts and neighbourhoods: places that attract young creatives, artists, designers, and high tech start ups. Do these dynamic districts need to evolve organically, or can you engineer them without them feeling contrived and clinical?

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Why punish? And whom?

Wed, 28 Dec 2016 12:05:00 +1100

We don’t condemn something because it is a crime. But it is a crime because we condemn it.

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What is punishment?

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 12:05:00 +1100

Punishment is the common response to crime. But what is punishment? And what really motivates our will to punish?

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Music, politics and song writing

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 12:05:00 +1100

Music can hold up a mirror to society and capture a particular time and place. Songs are often a vehicle for telling stories. But can a song really be an agent for social or political change? Writing protest songs, or songs with an overtly political message, isn’t easy. While the message may be a vital one, this is no guarantee the song will, necessarily, be any good. A song like Billie Holiday’s 'Strange Fruit', however, retains its power after almost 80 years. What's the secret? Paul Barclay talks to two songwriters and a music writer. Recorded at the Rock and Roll Writers Festival in Brisbane on April 2nd, 2016.

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Forgiving - the only way forward

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 21:05:00 +1100

Forgiving can sometimes look like an impossible task. How do you forgive murder, rape, genocide? After the end of apartheid in South Africa, many expected the country to be devastated by a bloodbath. Yet, the new nation chose the path of confession and reconciliation. Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth says that it’s possible to forgive and still pursue justice. Forgiveness is the only path forward.

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Mary Beard's ancient Rome

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Far from being exhausted, classical scholar Mary Beard explains why the subject of ancient Rome continues to surprise and resonate.

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Mother Russia

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Chronicler of modern Russia, Masha Gessen, and award-winning historian Simon Sebag Montefiore look at the histories and dynasties that continue to define Russia today.

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Theodore Dalrymple: poverty, crime and inequality

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Is society broken? Theodore Dalrymple offers his diagnosis.

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The digital future

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Digital technology is changing how we live, but does the future remain in our own hands?

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Nightmarish creatures across the globe

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 20:30:00 +1100

What creepy spirits lurk under Malaysian, Moroccan and Mexican beds? And do their powers reflect something of the culture of their origin?

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Politics and Sport

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

What does our response to politics in sport tell us about who we are. Is it good for the games we love?

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Conscription in World War I

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Why did Australia reject conscription for WWI? And do the implications of this vote still affect our society today?

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A history of the world in a 100 objects

Mon, 12 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

How can two million years of human history possibly be summed up in one hundred objects? This is the challenge the British Museum set itself with its 'A history of the world in 100 objects' exhibition, which is currently on display at the National Museum of Australia. Why is it important for museums to collect and preserve these historic artefacts? What meaning do inanimate objects have to us, as individuals?   RN's Fran Kelly speaks with with a panel of guests about why objects matter and what they can tell us about our history.

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Electric Planet

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Do we need a more rational approach to electricity generation in Australia?

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Increasing our power over life

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Scientists can make you healthier and live longer by manipulating your genes. But they can also make the next generation stronger, taller, slimmer or smarter. How should we use the power we have over genes and life?

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Privacy: an IQ debate

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Technology now allows parents to look at their children's call history, texts and internet use. Is this undermining and unfairly inhibiting young people? Should privacy really be for adults only?

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The changing face of Australian immigration

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Gradual, but significant, change is occurring to Australia's immigration intake. More migrants are being granted temporary visas. Currently there is in excess of one million migrants living here temporarily, on visas such as the 457 skilled worker visa.  It is getting harder to secure permanent residency. Author and researcher, Peter Mares, says temporary migrants often live in Australia for many years, work, pay their taxes, and abide by the law. Yet they have no say in our democracy. "Not quite Australian", is how he describes them.  How is temporary migration changing Australia?

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Human rights and everyday virtues

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:05:00 +1100

To make human rights useful for everyday life, we need to change the language from ‘rights’ to ‘gifting’.

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The Elgin Marbles

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Should the Parthenon Marbles be returned to Greece? A Mini Moot to mark 200 years since the British Museum purchased the marbles from Lord Elgin.

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European innovation and Europe's place in the world

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Looking at Europe: with young eyes - and behind the scenes at CERN

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Oz music thriving in an era of digital disruption

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

At a time when music fans can choose from more 20 million songs on Spotify, and the like, Australian artists are making themselves heard around the globe. Australian acts were nominated for several Grammy Awards this year and singer/songwriter, Dami Im, was runner up in Eurovision song contest. The cultural value of popular music is impossible to measure, but the Australian music industry is seeking to quantify its contribution to the economy.  In this conversation, five music industry players talk to Paul Barclay about everything from digital disruption, and sexism in the industry, to why playlists may be the new radio. 

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Putin's Russia

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Twenty five years of cold peace Can the western community of nations reinvent itself to accommodate Russia?

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Do we expect too much from governments?

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Laura Tingle explains how People’s disillusion with politics is mainly a question of perception. 

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The 2016 Reith Lectures

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Mistaken Identities: Episode 4 Culture The history of the idea of culture - from its roots at the the time of the Crusades to its modern incarnation in the second half of the 20th century.

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The battle of Passchendaele: did hundreds of thousands die in vain?

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle for Passchendaele, on the Western Front. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, resulting in tens of thousands of Australian casualties – more than at Gallipoli.  But Passchendaele was not a military blunder. The carnage was intentional. It was a part of the plan, author, Paul Ham, tells Paul Barclay.

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Are we facing the new 1930s?

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 20:05:00 +1100

Are current populist movements across Europe and Asia reminiscent of the state of affairs in the decade preceding World War II?

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