Current Event December 6, 2019
Smartphones can help kids wake up on time, stay connected to their parents and friends, find information quickly, and access other useful resources. But children with smartphones are also vulnerable to cyberbullying, harmful content, and other risks. A recent national study found children are getting smartphones at younger ages, raising questions about how they are using smartphones and concerns about how to best protect them. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: should kids have smartphones?
Current Event November 22, 2019
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook disagree on what to do with political ads. Twitter recently banned all political advertising, saying it could not fact-check the claims made by politicians and did not want to spread misinformation. But defining what counts as a political ad is tricky. Facebook continues to run political ads without fact-checking them, citing free speech. Critics claim that political ads on social media can be particularly misleading. Listen to hear an expert discuss these issues and then debate: Should political ads be allowed on social media?
Current Event November 7, 2019
"Alice in Wonderland" is now on Instagram. Social media fans can find five works of literature, including the classic novel by Lewis Carroll, on their social media feeds. The New York Public Library has posted multimedia versions of the works through its new Insta Novel project. By combining the fun and appeal of social media with popular novels and poems, the library hopes to attract new readers. Listen to hear a blogger describe her experience with "Alice" online, and discover how it lined up with the aims of the Insta Novel creators.
Current Event November 4, 2019
For many years, Americans have questioned whether our election system is secure. After Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, officials have been trying to replace old voting machines and add other safeguards to ensure secure elections in 2020. In spite of their efforts, however, experts predict that millions of people will still vote on outdated machines in the next presidential election. Listen to hear about the risks to voting security posed by digital technology, how old-fashioned technology can help, and why more election interference is expected in the future.
Current Event October 25, 2019
A recent study says teens are experiencing increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health issues. Although the causes of the trend are not clear, some experts believe hours spent surfing online and using social media have sparked feelings of isolation and anxiety among young people. Others argue the stress stems from teens facing an uncertain future. Listen to experts discuss the roots of this troubling trend and then debate: Can social media cause depression?
Current Event September 20, 2019
In response to mass shootings, many schools are turning to new technologies to help keep their campuses safe. There are a variety of systems that can monitor students’ communication and behavior and detect indicators of potential violence. However, some argue that these technologies violate students’ privacy rights and civil liberties. Listen to learn more about this complex issue and then debate: Should student communication be monitored?
Current Event September 13, 2019
Congress recently held a hearing to consider how technology companies might be endangering the news industry and threatening democracy. Some newspaper publishers argue that online platforms like Google and Facebook unfairly threaten their existence and are controlling public access to information. Some technology executives say this is not the case, suggesting that the news media are not keeping up with innovative competition. In order to resolve this issue, lawmakers have proposed a bill with bipartisan support. Listen to learn more and then debate: Are online platforms threatening democracy?
Current Event September 6, 2019
FaceApp allows people to modify photos to change their appearances, trying out different hairstyles or even seeing what they may look like decades from now. While the app is fun and silly, some political leaders have warned against using it due to privacy issues related to its facial recognition capabilities. However, a technology writer argues that FaceApp is no more dangerous than many other social media applications. Listen to learn more and then debate: Should facial recognition apps cause concern?
Current Event September 5, 2019
Renewable energy sources like solar power can help protect the environment and lower people’s electricity bills. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefitting equally from alternative energy sources and the technologies that harness them. One African-American solar technology professional is trying to reverse this trend. Listen to learn how he is bringing renewable energy to communities of color in Nashville and why this goal is so important to him.
Current Event August 30, 2019
It’s been 50 years since man first walked on the moon. Now, decades later, NASA is working on sending a manned spacecraft back to the moon. This time, however, the trip to the moon is part of a larger plan: getting man to Mars. However, NASA will need bipartisan political support to make their goals a reality, and some have dismissed this mission as unnecessary. Listen to learn how and why NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon and beyond and then debate: Should we send astronauts to the moon again?
Current Event August 26, 2019
A man recently shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just before he committed this terrorist act, he posted a manifesto describing his motivations in an online forum called 8chan. Two other mass shooters also published their intentions on 8chan before their attacks this year. Listen to learn more about the role digital technology can play in extremist violence and the consequences 8chan has faced since the El Paso shooting.
Current Event August 16, 2019
YouTube has started removing videos containing extremist content promoting white supremacy. Some people and organizations support this policy as a way to make social media platforms safer. Others point out that the system for removing videos is imperfect, and this policy could interfere with video creators’ right to freely express themselves. Listen to learn more about YouTube’s new restrictions and then debate: Should YouTube remove extremist videos?
Current Event August 5, 2019
It has been 50 years since the first moon landing. Astronaut Michael Collins orbited the moon while his more well-known colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on its surface. As someone who was just 15 miles away from this world-famous event, Collins offers a unique perspective on the moon landing. Listen to learn about his experience and hear why he believes humans should continue traveling into space today.
Current Event July 24, 2019
Far from the bright lights of cities and suburbs, amateur astronomers gather to stargaze in the dark at events known as “star parties.” Stargazers enjoy sharing the experience with others who are passionate about dark skies and the faraway places they make visible. Listen to hear about what happens at star parties and what amateur astronomers are viewing in the dark night sky.
Current Event July 22, 2019
One of the world’s favorite holiday traditions has a long history. Fireworks started in ancient China where people used explosives because they were believed to ward away evil spirits. From their beginnings as simple noise makers to the dazzling aerial displays that light up our night skies today, fireworks have relied on chemistry to create the sounds and colors that provide excitement and enjoyment. Listen to hear a chemist explain the history and science behind a worldwide celebratory tradition.
Current Event July 3, 2019
A group of college students recently came together to attempt an extremely challenging task: launching a rocket into space. Large companies and universities invest a lot of time, money, and resources to launch a rocket, but these ambitious students were determined to do their best with much less. Listen to find out how the idea was hatched, what happened at their first launch, and what they hope other students might learn from them.
Current Event June 26, 2019
Can taking a photo of yourself be dangerous? There has been a recent rise in selfie-related deaths. Many visitors to national and state parks are putting themselves in dangerous situations to get the perfect photo, and some have even lost their lives in the process. Listen to learn about why people risk their lives for selfies and what some organizations are doing to stop this troubling trend.
Current Event June 13, 2019
Being able to communicate with someone using only mind power is the stuff of science fiction, but it might not be so far off in the future. At the University of Washington, scientists have developed a system that supports a very basic form of computer-assisted telepathy, or thought-based communication. While this technology has many potential positive uses, there are some serious possible risks to consider. Listen to hear how the technology works and what it might mean for the future.