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This American Life
2:00am - 3:00am

To the Best of Our Knowledge


TTBOOK began as an audio magazine of ideas – two hours of smart, entertaining radio for people with curious minds. It’s sort of journalistic, but it’s never about the President’s speech to the U.N., weapons inspections in Iraq, or yesterday’s stock market disaster. It’s the kind of show that would spend an hour on the future of capitalism, or on the roots of Islamic fundamentalism. It might also spend an hour on hair. Or salt. Or pirates, road trips, psychic phenomena, house cleaning, animal intelligence, high energy physics, or how to say you’re sorry. It’s the kind of show where someone might mention Charlotte Bronte or Anthony Trollope in one segment, U2 or They Might Be Giants in another.

Vaccine Wars

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Is there any evidence that vaccines cause autism? If the answer is no, then why is anti-vaccination on the rise? Autism. Jenny McCarthy. Measles at Disneyland. How did we get here? The Least-Vaccinated School in Town; The Complicated History of Vaccination; The Ethics of Vaccines; Kazuo Ishiguro on 'The Buried Giant'.

Lab Lit

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Science is moving out of the lab and into the pages of literary fiction.  This week, we introduce the “Lab Lit” movement and talk about why fiction needs more realistic portrayals of scientists and science culture Science in Fiction - Jennifer Rohn; Archangel - Andrea Barrett; Sonic Sidebar: Antarctica in Fiction and Art; Women and Plants - Elizabeth Gilbert; BookMark - Karl Ove Knausgaard on "The Flame Alphabet"; On Our Minds: Science and the Avant Garde.

Drones (Updated)

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Imagine a world where flying robots watch over our borders, assist with search and rescue missions, and survey roads and pipelines. Sounds like science fiction, but in many parts of the country it's a reality. This week, we explore the rise of drones, both as a military tool and a disruptive technology. The Meme of Our Time - Alex Rivera; Commercial Drones - Missy Cummings; Drones Gone Wild; The Life of a Military Drone Pilot - Bruce Black; BookMark: Steve Roggenbuck; On Our Minds: Nadia Hashimi.

Late Bloomers

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Are you afraid of getting old? Most people are, but studies show we're usually happier in our 60s and 70s. Aging often brings wisdom and resilience - and a new creative spark. We celebrate the fine art of aging - and hear about some artists who remade their careers late in life. Aging Artfully; Literary Genius After 60; Why People Get Happier in Old Age; It's Never Too Late to Dance; Dangerous Idea: Why We Need Outsider Writers; Daring to Offend.

Race and Justice

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A police officer's shooting of a young, unarmed Afrian American man here in Madison joins a long list of national tragedies.  So we devote this hour to conversations about race and justice. Race and Justice in Madison; One Child's Response to Tony Robinson's Death; Covering "Ghettosides" in South L.A. ; Working for Equal Justice - Bryan Stevenson; Investigating a Murder in Mississippi.

Fermentation (Updated)

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Celebrate Live Culture: Exploring the Fermentation Revival Ferment This!; You Won't Believe What They Eat In Iceland; Smells Bad, Tastes Bad, Covered in Slime; Grow Your Own Clothes; The Day The Yogurt Took Over; What Your Poo Says About You; Dangerous Idea: Human Vices Help Drive Evolution; What Comes After Homo Sapiens?.

Words and Music (Updated)

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Composer Stephen Sondheim does it and so does hip hop poet MK Asante.  They combine words and music to make art.  So how do they do it?   We explore the neuroscience of rap, and hear how jazz composer Maria Schneider sets poetry to music.  Hip Hop Poet - MK Asante; Neuroscience of Rap - Charles Limb; Music & Poetry - Maria Schneider; Stephen Sondheim - Art of the Musical; Dangerous Idea: Abolish Debt; On Our Minds: Policing the Police.

Why fashion matters

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How clothing shapes our indentities, cultures, economies and environment Jacki Lyden on Why Fashion Matters; A Philosophy of Fashion; Gender and Race on the Runway; Fashion, Fast and Slow; BookMark: Edward Hirsch on "Memorial"; On Our Minds: Quan Barry Writes Vietnam.

Workflow (Updated)

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The office has come a long way: from the executive desk to the cubicle (also known as the "veal-fattening pen"). Today, we explore the changing nature of the American workplace and how corporations rule the world. Life Inc. - Douglas Rushkoff; Cubed - Nikil Saval; Sonic Sidebar: Waitresses; Industrial Musicals - Steve Young; Deep Tracks: Mark Mothersbaugh ; On Our Minds: Kim Gordon.

Heart of Darkness (Updated)

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Are humans innately violent? The Act of Killing; The Noble Savage; Better Angels of our Nature; Sonic Sidebar: A Maya Angelou poetry reading; BookMark: "Independent People" by Halldór Laxness; On Our Minds: Being Cold.

Future Faces (Updated)

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The privacy arms race over facial recognition Focusing on Faces; Protecting Faces; Sonic Sidebar: Facing Age; Changing Faces; Dangerous Idea: Downloadable Selves; On Our Minds: Laura van den Berg.

Very New Poems

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Poetry is back! Elegy for a Dead World; Narrator-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel; A Poet's Glossary; The Poet Laureate of Twitter; A Dangerous idea from John Waters; On Our Minds: Slavery and Capitalism.

Epic Fail (Updated)

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Nobody wants to fail.  But maybe we’ve got the idea of failure all wrong.  Maybe it's not something to avoid, but something to strive for.  .  The Gift of Failure - Sarah Lewis; Twitter's Lovable Misanthrope - Eric Jarosinski; Jodorowsky's Dune - Frank Pavich; Dangerous Idea: DSM as Satire; On Our Minds: Jon Stewart.

Love By The Numbers

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We’re exploring love by the  numbers, this week.  36 questions, 40 first dates, and 43 equations – it’s all part of the new mathematical science of love. Love in 36 Questions; To Fall In Love, Do This; Screw Everyone; Calculus of Love -- Why Good Marriages Are Made of Math; Dangerous Idea: Why it's Good to be Alone; Edmund White on the Politics of Promiscuity.

1001 Nights (Updated)

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1001 Nights retold 1001 Nights 101; 1001 Nights: A Retelling - Hanan Al-Shaykh; SONIC SIDEBAR: Orhan Pamuk on The Arabian Nights; Salman Rushdie on "Luka and the Fire of Life"; Dangerous Idea: Narcissism is Good; On Our Minds: OKCupid.

1001 Nights (Repeat)

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Writing for a Living

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Ever dream of penning a best-seller? You're not alone. According to one estimate, more than 80 percent of Americans think they could publish a book. But what does it really take to make it as a writer? Making It As A Writer; MFA or NYC?; The Decline of the Creative Class; Sonic Sidebar: Why I Write; Dangerous Idea: Do Not Write For Free; Self-Publishing Success; On Our Minds: Reinhold Messner.

Weird Fiction (R)

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Welcome to the creepy, freaky world of weird fiction - from H.P. Lovecraft to emerging star Jeff Vandermeer - where there's a very thin line between the real and the surreal.  Also, the modern master of mythic fiction, Neil Gaiman. Southern Reach Trilogy - Jeff Vandermeer; Ursula Le Guin on Science Fiction; H.P. Lovecraft's Sound - Dean Lockwood; "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" - Neil Gaiman; Dangerous Idea: Critical Thinking; On Our Minds: Lawrence Krauss on the Big Questions.

New African Voices

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Welcome to the next generation of African writers.  They’re young, multi-lingual, and breaking out of all the old literary boxes.  This hour, why Africa has one of the most exciting literary scenes on the planet. New African Literature; Somali-American Fantasy; Nigerian Science Fiction; South African Crime Fiction; Dangerous Idea: A Palace of Unbuilt Roads; On Our Minds: The Poetry of Race.

Extinction

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Our planet is facing a mass extinction crisis. By the end of the century, we could lose up to half of all living species. But people are working hard to save endangered species and habitats, and a few scientists are even trying to bring lost species - like passenger pigeons and woolly mammoths - back to life. How To Clone a Mammoth - Beth Shapiro; Are You Ready for the Next Mass Extinction?; Recording America's Rarest Bird; From the Sabertooth to the Grizzly; BookMark - E.O. Wilson's The Meaning of Human Existence; On Our Minds: Hip Hop, Free Speech and Violence in France [Playlist].