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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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) https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:cj82sw77j/audio.mp3 Michael Dukakis was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on November 3, 1933. His parents, Panos and Euterpe […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

Episode 8: The Algorithms That Shape Our Lives

Every day we communicate with each other, shop, and travel using services that 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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]