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In the 19th century, British explorers sent many expeditions in search of an Arctic Sea passage--the famed Northwest Passage--that would connect the continents of Europe and Asia. The search to find this shortcut between continents captivated the imagination of the British public. At that time, the search for the Northwest Passage had already been going on for 300 years. But in the early 19th century, after the defeat of Napoleon, England resumed the search with renewed vigor. These expeditions, however, resulted in failure. The most notorious failure was the voyage of Sir John Franklin from which no one survived. This audio story introduces this doomed expedition. Listen to learn more about England’s motivations for finding the Passage, and the harrowing experience of Franklin’s expedition.
Note: This story involves a discussion of cannibalism. (4:30 - 5:28)
During the American Revolution, colonists were not in agreement as to whether or not to stay united with the British Empire or to support the movement for independence. Throughout the war, many colonists elected to pledge their support to the British. They were called loyalists. All throughout the colonies, especially in the south, there were flare ups of violence between supporters of independence, often referred to as patriots, and loyalists. When the war came to an end, loyalists were faced with difficult choices. In the United States, they were looked upon as traitors and losers. Fearing violence, many loyalists wound up fleeing the colonies for other parts of the British Empire. This audio story looks at what happened to British loyalists.
The war in Syria has been broadcast around the world on TV and in social media. This audio story is told from the first person perspective of a mother who is watching the war on YouTube and struggling to figure out what she should do to support those who are fighting for a “new Syria.” The story follows this Syrian American woman and her daughter as they travel to Turkey to help the Syrian war refugees.
Energy experts are thinking about ways to replace coal that’s burned in American power stations. One alternative is to burn plants because they can produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This results in biomass power. Listen to learn about a movement in the Midwest that uses millions of acres of grass for biomass power.
Byzantium was chosen by Roman Emperor Constantine I in 330 A.D. as the new Roman Capital, Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire was extraordinary in its ability to survive without interruption for over eight centuries. One of the reasons they were able to preserve their scarce resources and survive for so long was in large part because they avoided war. In this story, the author of a new book on the Byzantine Empire explains how the Byzantines dealt with their many enemies and remained stable. He compares their strategy to that of the ancient Romans and to the U.S. strategy in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Listen to hear more about what they can teach us about foreign policy.
For such a small molecule, caffeine has long been a controversial substance. Throughout the day, the human body produces a molecule called adenosine that can induce feelings of fatigue. Caffeine is a molecule that reverses the effects of adenosine. This results in feelings of alertness. But the impacts of caffeine can be dangerous. Listen to hear what determines whether caffeine is beneficial or harmful, and how to prevent caffeine-related deaths.
Discussion of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions often occur at the national level. Nations promise to lower emissions and scientists look for alternative energy sources. But new software is providing data for this emission reduction discussion at a local level. The software allows people to have a view into their carbon emissions on the level of a city, neighborhood, block and even household. Listen to learn how scientists and local officials are working together to track and understand emissions at the local level.
Food gives our body the energy needed to function and thrive. But what is energy? Where can you find it and how can you calculate it? This public radio story explores the energy in a cheese curl by burning it. Listen to learn about a great lab that allows you to calculate the energy in food.
Before World War II, a wind chill table and a formula were developed which scientists followed until it was updated at the beginning of the 21st Century. Scientists are still trying to understand the best way to calculate wind chill. Listen to learn from people who often experience cold temperatures and how some factors can affect how cold we feel more than others.
More people have been deported from the U.S. in the last decade, starting under the Obama administration, than at any other point in history. Deportations occur for any number of reasons–criminal activity, improper paperwork, and so on–but regardless of the reason, they always have an impact far beyond the person who is removed from the country. Listen to hear how having her father deported has affected one teen and her family.
There have been many consequences of the political upheaval of the Arab Spring movement in Egypt in 2011. One of them is the severe drop in tourism as a result of the violence. This has hurt the country's camels and horses that used to carry tourists around ancient Egyptian sites. They are losing their jobs and going hungry. In this public radio story you hear from Egyptians who are struggling to make a living off tourism and are wondering when things will improve.
Albert Camus (1913–1960) was a French writer-philosopher born in the North African country of Algeria, a French colony until 1962. In 1957, Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His celebrated novels The Stranger and The Plague reflect his absurdist and existential philosophies. Tragically, the writer died in a car accident at the age of 46 at what some consider to be the peak of his career. Listen to hear how Camus and his work were viewed during his lifetime and after his untimely death.
Spanish colonization in the Americas staring in the 16th century was accompanied by the Catholic Church hoping to convert as many Native Americans to Christianity as possible. A central figure was Father Junipero Serra, who forcibly converted thousands of Native Americans to the Catholic faith. That’s why in 2015 when Pope Francis, the first leader of the Catholic Church from Latin America, awarded the 18th century Spanish priest sainthood, there was a backlash from Native Americans. Descendants of Native Americans say Serra is responsible for destroying their traditions and ways of life. Listen to the audio story to hear both sides of this story and the controversy surrounding the Pope’s decision to make Father Serra a saint.
Mark Twain was an American author who was born and raised in Missouri. Published in 1884, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn stirred controversy from the start. People felt the subject matter, specifically the portions of the plot that dealt with slavery, and the ethics and hypocrisy surrounding it, was unpleasant and in bad taste. Today, the book is still controversial, primarily because of the narrator’s and characters’ use of the “n” word. Listen to hear different perspectives on whether Huckleberry Finn, or any literature, should be censored.
During Miguel de Cervantes’ life, Spain was at a critical place: It was both at its peak of power and also on the verge of toppling over. At the same time, people began to look inward, to think about who they were as people, and they began to realize that their choices shaped the world around them. “Don Quixote” is a story of two kinds of journeys: the physical journey of Don Quixote and Sancho, but also a psychological journey in which both friends begin to question and learn about themselves as human beings. Listen to hear why “Don Quixote” was such a groundbreaking novel, and why it will continue to influence readers for generations to come.
Thirty years ago, the nation watched in shock as the space shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off, tragically killing all seven crew members, including a civilian teacher. This shuttle had launched and landed successfully nine times before this tenth launch. One of the rocket engineers feels partially responsible to this day. In a recent interview, he explains that he and his colleagues had anticipated the failure, and had warned officials that conditions weren’t right for the launch. When NASA ignored their warnings, the consequences were fatal. Listen to hear more from a NASA engineer’s perspective on this tragic event.
A dominant theme in the study of American History is reform, with individuals and organizations pushing back against big moneyed interests and protecting the rights and power of the people. The Grange, an organization founded after the Civil War, is one of those organizations. The Grange was founded as a fraternal organization made up of farmers interested in protecting local agriculture from the rising costs of independent farming. Over time, the power of the Grange has declined. This audio story explores the history of the Grange and some of the issues the national Grange faces today as new members try to steer it in a new direction.
Manatees, the vegetarian aquatic mammals that inhabit the waters of Florida, depend on natural warm water springs to survive the winter. However, those warm water sources have diminished over the years due to an increase in development around the area. Listen to learn how local power plants are maintaining the warm water to try to help the manatees.
The Mexican-American War was a major turning point in U.S. History for a number of reasons. Not only did the U.S. acquire an enormous amount of territory as a result of this war, it has also shaped cultural attitudes about borders for generations. But the Mexican-American War hasn’t been viewed in the same way over the course of history. Listen to hear how different historians have viewed that period in history differently over time.
Charles Dickens was the first literary celebrity of his era. He wrote about the working poor and the dangerous working conditions in England. A visit to the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts served as an inspiration for Dickens to continue writing about these London realities. Listen to this story to learn how Dickens reflected and questioned English society in his work.
Uganda, a country in East Africa, endured a 20-year civil war between its government and a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. This war caused a state of crisis in Uganda. The LRA’s acts of brutality, including the use of child soldiers, gained the attention of the United States and the world. In 2006, the Ugandan government and leaders of the LRA began discussing a peace treaty, and activists traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge the United States to support the peace process. In this audio story, a former child soldier tells her personal story and explains her opinion of the United States’ involvement in the situation.
Note: Please be aware that the story includes accounts of violent acts—including murder, rape, torture—that may be disturbing.
In this story Ishmael Beah, author of "Radiance of Tomorrow" and "A Long Way Gone," is interviewed about his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. He talks about his understanding of the effects of war on his country. Beah describes the lessons of war, the impact fighting has on nature, as well as the resilience of his people. Listen to learn more about Beah’s harrowing but inspirational story.
Rare earth minerals are very important to today's electronics. Your iPod, laptop, and television use them. They make electronics light so they don't need much power. But the Chinese have a lock on the production of rare earth elements and this could become a problem for the US.
History tells us that peaceful empires are very rare. In the 21st century, China is the fastest-growing world power. China claims that its rise is peaceful: it has no plans to invade and conquer new territory. But is it possible for any nation to grow without causing any conflicts? In the 15th century the Chinese explorer Zheng sailed across the Eastern Hemisphere from Taiwan to India to Arabia to Africa. He was on a trade mission, but the kingdoms he encountered were not really free to choose whether or not they would become part of the Chinese trade empire. This public radio story looks at China’s past to draw some conclusions about its future.
Chinese foot-binding was a common practice in the 1800s. This practice created tiny stumps of feet by breaking bones and wrapping the feet tightly. It was very painful, and made many women unable to walk properly. But the bound feet were prized by the wealthy class as the ultimate sign of feminine beauty. The custom was banned in 1912. This public radio story features women whose feet were bound talking about the pros and cons of this old Chinese tradition.
Rome, 2000 years ago, was the capital of an empire. It was a republic with elections, a Senate, and a sophisticated political processes. Marcus Cicero is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and provided counsel to leaders in government, including Julius Caesar. There was a power struggle between the two ambitious men, Julius Caesar and Marcus Cicero, that led to the collapse of republican government and eventual dictatorship. Listen to learn more about Cicero and how the fall of Rome relates to politics today.
In ancient Greece, people were thrown out or ostracized from the city because they broke the rules. Anyone could get ostracized – kicked out of the city for 10 years – based on voting done by the citizens using broken pieces of pottery. This public radio story explores the nature of corruption and voter fraud in ancient Athens.
There is debate about whether violent or non-violent resistance is more effective when faced with oppression. There have been conflicts and resistance movements over time that show the effectiveness of fighting back without violence. There were two points of view in the Civil Rights Movement as well as in uprisings in many countries. Listen to hear why those fighting in the civil war in Syria finds it necessary to use arms to fight oppression.
People of all races from all over the country participated in desegregation demonstrations in the South in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called on clergy—religious leaders—from around the nation to participate in nonviolent protest demonstrations. These clergy joined a growing movement that would sweep the nation, demanding equal rights for people of color and creating a legacy of social change. Listen to hear the story of a Rabbi who participated in these marches and was arrested and threatened with violence.
The first African American volunteer infantry unit of the Civil War was the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts. A monumental relief sculpture in Boston honors the 54th Regiment and its commander, Robert Gould Shaw. When the regiment was crushed at the battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina, Shaw, a white man, was the first to take a bullet, making him a hero to his surviving men. Listen to hear how his sacrifice inspired sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a uniquely powerful monument.
Carbon exists in all living things, including proteins, DNA, and fats. When living things exhale, the result is carbon dioxide. As our world develops, we produce more carbon dioxide with the burning of fossil fuels and the use of cars, trains, and planes. This gas is causing an imbalance in the atmosphere which affects the warming of the planet. Listen to hear how much carbon dioxide humans are responsible for and the effects of global warming.
Migration has been a huge part of human history. Experts agree that early humans started out in Africa and began to migrate out of Africa to different parts of Europe and Asia around 100,000 years ago. This migration occurred in waves but we don’t know why early humans left Africa. Recent research supports the theory that climate change may have been the force that drove early humans out. Looking at things such as dust, buried pollen, and coral, scientists have been able to show a correlation between changes in these things and periods in early human history of migration. As early humans looked for new food sources, the research indicates, they began to relocate. Listen to hear more about what may have caused humans to migrate.
American doctors rely on clinical trials to determine which drugs to use in treatment. Researchers have found that clinical trials have not been effective in creating drugs for America’s diverse population. When clinical trials are too homogeneous, they can miss important potential discoveries. Patients who are diverse ethnically and racially can respond differently to medications, leading to dire consequences in some cases. Listen to learn how a lack of diversity in clinical trials affects patients and how researchers are trying to fix it.
There is a debate over whether cloud seeding is an efficient way to produce more snow and rain in places where droughts are the worst. Opponents claim that the chemicals that are sprayed into the air to create more water are toxic and could cause health issues in the future. Others believe this is the only way to for some gas and electric companies to obtain more energy. Listen to learn about the other concerns at hand and if this the history of this process.
Coal fueled the Industrial Revolution in England, and then America, and the whole world. But the new manufacturing came at a high price: coal pollution. This public radio story takes you to the place where the Industrial Revolution began, and explains how coal, iron, and steam created a new world. Coalbrookdale was one of the busiest coalfields in Europe, but today it seems quiet and clean. Is it really? The world is still powered by fossil fuel, which pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—we’ve just changed the way we burn the coal.
Men serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War suffered extreme stress as they prepared daily for nuclear war. But when the Cold War ended, they were not recognized as veterans because they weren’t technically in combat. In this audio story you hear from several Air Force pilots who flew on nuclear training missions who are disappointed they are not treated like other combat veterans. It explores their fight for recognition as veterans by the federal government.
In Brazil today, there are still laws dating back to Portuguese colonization. If you were to buy a home in the Brazilian city of Petropolis, you would make the usual payments, but also something more: a tax or tribute to a local family. These families, the descendants of Portuguese colonial royalty and nobles, legally still own over half the country’s land and charge a “rent” to property owners due to laws left over from 500 years ago. Listen to hear how this system, called enfiteuse (Pronounced: en-fee-TEE-oh-see), affects wealth distribution in Brazil, and what citizens are doing about it.
Throughout time, the American dairy industry has been in desperate need of workers and this attracts immigrants from all over the world. This story begins in the home of an immigrant family as they start their workday. Listen to learn about the experiences of new immigrants to the United States, from Guatemala, who work on dairy farms in northern New York and Vermont.
The Communist Revolution in the Soviet Union led to a totalitarian dictatorship that killed or imprisoned tens of millions of people. It was a period of cruelty that has not been forgotten in Russia today. However, some former Communist rulers are still in current-day Russia’s government, which means there’s a complicated relationship with the Soviet past and bringing back some Soviet-era practices. Listen to this story to understand how Russia’s Communist past still plays a role in present-day politics.
Confucius was a philosopher who was born more than 2500 years ago in China, and his ideas have become central to China’s identity. His ideas became Chinese imperial philosophy and they were especially popular during the pivotal Han and Tang and Song Dynasties. Today, China is working to broaden not only its economic and diplomatic power, but also its cultural influence, and is looking back to Confucianism for help. China hopes that extending their soft power will lead to an increase in its ability to export Chinese values as well. But this story finds that Chinese values may not be applicable across all cultures. Listen to hear more about this soft-power powerhouse and how a centuries-old philosopher still leads a nation.