Hosted by Dan Cohen and produced at Snell Library. Get in touch with What's New.

Theme music: “Vibe Ace,” written and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under CC BY 3.0

Season Two

European Disunion

For the last two years, Brexit has threatened to sever one of Europe’s largest countries from the rest, a divorce that has now become a gigantic crisis. But it is far from the first existential crisis for Europe. The continent and its countries have regularly encountered discord and the threat of dissolution. This episode features Mai'a Cross, Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science and associate professor of political science and international affairs at Northeastern University. She is also currently a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Photo by Martin Hearn

Download Episode 31

Controlling Killer Robots

Science fiction is filled with examples of robots advancing in intelligence enough to become unrelenting killing machines, from the Terminator to Black Mirror’s metalhead. Now with advances in artificial intelligence that frightening imagined future is rapidly approaching, and we humans need to figure out right now how to prevent the worst from happening. Episode 30 features Professor Denise Garcia, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the International Affairs program here at Northeastern University in Boston, and a Nobel Peace Institute Fellow in Oslo. She is also the vice-chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, as a member of the Academic Council of the United Nations.

Download Episode 30

Transcript of Episode 30

Watch Slaughterbots

Foreign Affairs Article "The Case Against Killer Robots" by Denise Garcia

The Web at 30

The World Wide Web just turned 30 years old, and so much has changed over those three decades because of this powerful new medium. Books, music, and video are beamed instantly around the globe, and authors, artists, and the giant industries around them have reacted in excited, complicated and sometimes fearful ways. Joining us on episode 29 is Kyle Courtney, a legal scholar and lecturer here at Northeastern University, and the copyright advisor for Harvard University. Kyle is a leading expert on intellectual property and copyright law during the era of the Web, and someone who has thought actively and creatively about the past present and future of what we do and say online.

Download Episode 29

Transcript of Episode 29

Episode 28: How College Students Get the News

Last year on this podcast, we told you about a large study of the news consumption habits of college students that had just gotten underway. Now the results of that study are in and on today’s What’s New you will discover the many often surprising channels, formats, and apps that inform today’s youth and shape their perspectives. On this episode, we welcome back John Wihbey, assistant professor of journalism and media innovation, and the author of the forthcoming book The Social Fact: News and Knowledge in a Networked World. John is with me in the studio in Northeastern University’s Snell Library, and joining us remotely from California is Alison Head, the Founder and Director ​of Project Information Literacy.

Preorder The Social Fact: News and Knowledge in a Networked World

Download Episode 28

Transcript of episode 28

Episode 27: Tracing the Spread of Fake News

Two years after a presidential election that shocked so many, we are still trying to understand the role that fake news sources played, and how a swarm of propaganda clouded social media. Now a comprehensive study has looked carefully at the impact of untrustworthy online sources in the election, with some surprising results, and some suggestions for how to avoid problems in the future. In the studio for this episode is David Lazer, Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University. He is one of the authors of Fake news on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which was just published in Science Magazine.

Download episode 27

Transcript of episode 27

Episode 26: Seeking Justice for Hidden Deaths

In the United States between 1930 and 1970 there were thousands of racially motivated homicides, a brutal continuation of the gruesome murders that African Americans had endured for decades before, even as the Civil Rights movement began to stir. Many of these homicide cases are cold cases, left unsolved and, too often, forgotten. We're joined by Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern University and Founder and Director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. She was also the First African American female judge in Massachusetts.

Watch Murder in Mobile: A Documentary Film About Race, Murder, and One Family's Search for the Truth 70 Years Later

Download Episode 26

Transcript of Episode 26

Episode 25: Touch This Page

Reading is one of the most profound things we humans do, a way for our minds to encounter new ideas, and our imaginations to run wild with stories. For many of us, reading means words in black ink on a white page, or pixels on a screen, but for some who have visual impairments, it involves feeling raised fonts, a multisensory act that is both remarkable, and poorly understood by the sighted. Joining us today is Sari Altschuler, who is an Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of the Northeastern Humanities Center at Northeastern University. Along with Dave Wimer at Harvard and Perkins School for the Blind and Waleed Meleis, who you may remember from an earlier episode, Enabling Engineering, Sari is the co-creator of the Touch This Page project, opening February 1st in our library and three others in the Boston area.

Download Episode 25

Transcript of Episode 25

Episode 24: The Urban Commons

Everyone knows that 911 is the number to call in an emergency, but more recently, cities have set up 311, a number for citizens to call to highlight problems in their neighborhood and to request municipal services. Who calls these numbers and why? And what does the 311 system tell us about the way that people and governments can create better communities together? Featured on this episode is Dan O’Brien, who is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Dan has a new book out from Harvard University Press titled The Urban Commons: How Data and Technology Can Rebuild Our Communities.

Download Episode 24

Transcript of Episode 24

Episode 23: The Regeneration of Body Parts

Every year, thousands of graduate students write theses on topics at the frontiers of research. Many of those topics remain obscure, but there’s a new movement to have students explain their complex and exciting research in plainspoken, succinct ways. Joining us on episode 23 are Anastasiya Yandulskaya, Brian Ruliffson, and Alex Lovely who are the winners of the 3 Minute Thesis competition at Northeastern University to talk about their cutting-edge studies, all of which deal with the regeneration of body parts.

Download Episode 23

Transcript of Episode 23

Episode 22: Bridging the Academic-Public Divide Through Podcasts

There is something unusual and powerful about hearing someone’s ideas vocalized in an unscripted way. Because informal speech communicates ambivalence, effort, and excitement much better than traditional academic writing and media coverage of research, podcasts present a unique opportunity to show the public how the expertise of the academy is relatable and valuable. This communication is especially important right now.

In this episode our host, Dan Cohen gives the opening keynote at the Sound Education Conference, which brought together hundreds of educational and academic podcasters and podcast listeners and held at Harvard on November 2nd. Special thanks to Doug Metzger for his opening remarks, Joseph Fridman for recording the keynote, Blair Hodges for the episode image, and to the whole Sound Education Conference team for putting on a great conference.

Download Episode 22

Transcript of Episode 22

Episode 21: Election Day Special: Michael Dukakis

Joining us on Episode 21 is three-term governor, presidential candidate, and public transportation advocate Michael Dukakis.

Images of Michael Dukakis provided by FayFoto Collection, Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections (L) and Brooks Canaday, Northeastern University (R)

Download Episode 21

Transcript of Episode 21

Episode 20: A New Way to Scan the Human Body

Modern medicine has given us revolutionary ways of seeing inside our bodies, from the Xray to the MRI and CT scan. But the images they provide are of structures like arteries, bones, or tissue, rather than the very chemistry at the core of human life. We're joined on this episode by Heather Clark, who is a Professor in the Departments of Bioengineering and Chemistry at Northeastern University. Her lab is pioneering the use of nanosensors within body, and the potential applications of this work are truly amazing.

Download Episode 20

Transcript of Episode 20

Episode 19: The Shifting Landscape of Music

In the past 30 years, the music industry has moved from vinyl records to cassettes to CDs, downloads, and streaming, all radical changes to the production, and consumption, of popular music. The recent passing of the Music Modernization Act will further alter the industry. This means an even more radical shift for musicians themselves, and their livelihoods. We're joined today by David Herlihy, a lawyer who teaches copyright law and the music industry, and runs Northeastern University’s record label, Green Line.

Download Episode 19

Transcript of Episode 19

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Episode 18: Making Artificial Intelligence Fairer

After decades of research, artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a major force in our lives, uncannily understanding our language and our photographs, and even starting to take some of our jobs. Since this transformative technology is made by human beings, it has also exposed the biases of its creators and could reinforce those biases in our world. We’re joined by Tina Eliassi-Rad, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Northeastern and also a faculty of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute. Her work focuses on machine learning, a centerpiece of Al.

Download episode 18

Transcript of episode 18

Episode 17: Remaking the News

Newspapers used to an essential part of the daily lives of Americans, informing a shared consciousness of local, national and international events, shaping public opinion, and uncovering the worst abuses of the privileged and powerful. Consolidation in the industry and the rise of the internet sharply reduced the number, reach, and impact of those papers but professional journalism still plays a critical role in our society. We are joined by Dan Kennedy, a nationally known media commentator, professor at Northeastern University, and author of the recent book, Return of the Moguls.

Download episode 17

Transcript of Episode 17

Image by Matt Modoono/Northeastern University

Season One

Episode 16: Engineering the Future: Boston's Big Dig

Boston’s Big Dig was one of largest engineering projects in history. It created a massive system of tunnels where an elevated highway once stood in the heart of the city, and added a new tunnel to Logan Airport to the east and a stunning new bridge to Charlestown to the north. It completely transformed the City of Boston and made it more walkable and livable. On this episode of What’s New, hear the story of how a giant engineering project like the Big Dig came together and listen to a rare interview with Fred Salvucci, the transportation engineer who made it happen.

Download episode 16

Transcript of episode 16

Explore more about Fred and The Big Dig in this oral history from Northeastern's Archives

Episode 15: Addressing Neglected Diseases

In the United States we are familiar with common illnesses like the cold and flu, but we only hear about many diseases from beyond our shores, like the Ebola virus, when a case unexpectedly appears here. How can we create drugs to cure these illnesses, which often affect the poorest countries first, when there is little economic incentive for drug companies to treat them? And what will happen when a disease like Ebola suddenly becomes common here too? In this episode, Mike Pollastri helps us understand how to address these neglected diseases in Episode 15. Pollastri is a Professor and Chair of the Chemistry and Chemical Biology department in the College of Science at Northeastern University. He is also the director of the Laboratory for Neglected Disease Drug Discovery

Download episode 15

Transcript of episode 15

Episode 14: Privacy in the Facebook Age


Recently 50 million Facebook users had their personal information extracted and used for political and commercial purposes. In the wake of this scandal, we’ve all become much more aware of how our use of social media clashes with our desire for privacy. Are technical fixes and awareness enough, or is it time for Facebook and other online services to be regulated? Our guest Woodrow Hartzog is a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University and discusses the battle and future of our personal information. He has a new book out from Harvard University Press entitled Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies.

Download episode 14

Transcript of episode 14

Episode 13: The Evolution of Cities

80% of Americans now live in cities, which are areas of profound change, as well as great tension. How do cities change over time? How does planning, community input, social justice, and activism affect that change? On this episode, we’re joined by Ted Landsmark, who will be discussing the collision of people, transportation, and buildings in the evolution of cities. Ted is a distinguished professor and director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities here at Northeastern University. Ted has had a storied career as an educator, activist, and leader.

Download episode 13

Transcript of episode 13

Episode 12: Fractivism

In the last twenty years, hydraulic fracking has transformed energy production across the United States and has made America the world's largest producer of natural gas. Now a presence in 32 states, fracking also has registered thousands of environmental and health complaints, making it as controversial as it is transformative. How can people and communities understand what is going on a mile beneath their feet, with so many effects above ground? Joining us in Episode 12 is Sara Wylie, who is an assistant professor of Sociology and Anthropology, as well as Health Sciences, as part of Northeastern's Social Science and Environmental Health Research Institute. Her new book, just published, is entitled Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds explores the effects of fracking above and below the ground.

Explore Public Lab, a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns. Using inexpensive DIY techniques, we seek to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.

Download episode 12

Transcript of episode 12

Episode photo by Daniel Foster: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielfoster/11586288744

Episode 11: The Future of Energy

We use energy drawn from sources largely beyond our view, and the massive energy industry has had a similarly massive impact on our economy and the environment. But the twenty-first century has seen the rise of new forms of green energy that are upending the energy business and giving us the chance to develop a more just system. What will tomorrow’s energy system look like, and how can we shape it? This episode features Shalanda Baker, Professor of Law, Public Policy and Urban Affairs in the Law School at Northeastern University, who not only studies the energy industry and its finance and regulations, but has lived in and done field work in communities impacted by the energy industry.

Download episode 11

Transcript of episode 11

Episode 10: Designing for Diversity

Inside all computers are ones and zeros, a binary world that excels in calculation and speed, but has difficulty with nuance, uncertainty, and complexity. And too often, we humans use these binary machines in black and white ways. How can we account for the great diversity of our society in the digital realm? Julia Flanders, director of the Digital Scholarship Group in the library and Professor of the Practice in the English Department and Amanda Rust, Assistant Director of the Digital Scholarship Group and a Digital Humanities Librarian explain how to design digital systems to be more attentive to the true diversity of humanity.

More information about the Colored Conventions Project Transcribathon.

More information about Design for Diversity and The Women Writers Project.

Download episode 10

Transcript of episode 10

Episode 9: The Hidden Universe of Comics

Comics are often viewed as a lesser form of storytelling, colored as they are by the superhero movies that fill multiplexes in the summer. But in the unique way they combine hand-drawn images with equally flexible lettering, comics can also convey profound expressions of humanity. Joining us in Episode 9 is Hillary Chute, Professor of English and Art & Design at Northeastern University and author multiple books, her most recent being Why Comics?

You can purchase Why Comics from Harper Collins.

Download episode 9

Transcript of episode 9

Episode 8: The Algorithms That Shape Our Lives

The digital tools that we use to communicate with each other, shop and travel collect enormous amounts of data about our opinions, moods, preferences, and desires. In turn, these services, like Facebook, Amazon, and Uber, use algorithms on that mass of data to predict what we will want to see and do and buy. How can we understand those algorithms, hidden behind the walls of these internet giants? Joining us for Episode 8 is Alan Mislove, an Associate Professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University, who has used clever methods to analyze how the big internet companies work.

Download episode 8

Transcript of episode 8

Episode 7: Tracking the Invisible Infrastructure of Our Cities

Every day we see the buildings and roads and people that make up our city. But just beneath the surface is another realm which is just as important: the pathways and systems that take away our trash, recycle our devices and keep our modern life functioning. If we could trace those systems, what would we find, and what would it tell us about our society? In Episode 7, we’re joined in this episode by Dietmar Offenhuber, who has a provocative new book out entitled Waste Is Information. Dietmar is also an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in the departments of Art + Design and Public Policy and leads the Information Design and Visualization graduate program.

You can purchase Waste is Information from MIT Press

Download episode 7

Transcript of episode 7

Episode 6: The Secrets of Hollywood Storytelling

For over a hundred years, movies have been synonymous with entertainment. But outside of the film industry, few people really understand how they are made, and especially how the best movies engross us through careful attention to good storytelling, encoded in dialogue and images, and, less obviously, sound. Joining us in Episode Six is Bobette Buster, a screenwriter and film producer who has also worked as a story consultant with major studios such as Disney, Pixar, and Sony. Bobette has just been appointed Professor of the Practice of Digital Storytelling at Northeastern.  The image for this episode is the recording Pooh-the-bear who loved bread soaked in milk and would vocalize mightily when presented with it. Voila! The voice of Chewbacca was born. To learn more about Chewbacca’s voice and other movie sound design, check out Bobette’s feature-length documentary,  Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound.

Download episode 6

Transcript of episode 6

Episode 5: Inventing Writing


The Cherokee language was one of hundreds of indigenous languages in America prior to the arrival of Europeans. It is also one of the few languages that has made the transition from a completely oral tradition to a specific written form, through the use of an entirely new set of characters created by one citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Ellen Cushman joins us in Episode 5, who is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Diversity, and Inclusion in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities here at Northeastern. She is also the Dean’s Professor of Civic Sustainability and Professor of English, and a Cherokee Nation citizen.

Download episode 5

Transcript of episode 5

Episode 4: Enabling Engineering


Modern lives are filled with devices and environments that assume we have all of our senses and full mobility. But for hundreds of millions of people, this is a poor assumption. Globally, a quarter of a billion people have some impairment of their vision, and hundreds of millions more have trouble navigating spaces in ways the rest of us take for granted. How do we design for that large part of the population with varying abilities? Featuring Waleed Meleis, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern University. Waleed also leads the Enabling Engineering group on campus, which designs and builds low-cost devices for those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

Download episode 4

Transcript of episode 4

Episode 3: The Steamship Revolution


Imagine if cars could suddenly go four times as fast, allowing you to drive from New York to Los Angeles in just a day. And imagine that trucks carrying goods could also speed at 300 miles an hour. How would our world change, how would it shift how we lived and worked, what we bought and consumed? Two centuries ago this kind of radical transformation occurred on the high seas. This episode features Dr. Bill Fowler, Honorary Professor of History at Northeastern University and author of Steam Titans.

Download episode 3

Transcript of episode 3

Steam Titans is published by Bloomsbury Press

Episode 2: Fake News and the Next Generation

It's been a decade since the rise of Facebook and Twitter began to replace our shared news consciousness with personalized social media. Today’s college freshmen were just eight when the iPhone was released, destined to become a constant companion with these new sources of information. What is next generation's view of the news like? How good are they at separating fact from fiction? This episode features John Wihbey, Assistant Professor of Journalism and New Media at Northeastern and Alison Head, Project Information Literacy's Executive Director and Lead Researcher.

Download episode 2

Transcript of episode 2

Episode 1: How We Respond to Disaster

How do people and cities respond during and after major disasters such as terrorist attacks or the destructive hurricanes so many communities have recently endured? Stephen Flynn, Professor of Political Science and the Founding Director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University, talks about what happens during the worst of times, and how the best of humanity sometimes emerges in the most stressful moments.

Download episode 1

Transcript of episode 1