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In this story, we hear from the head of Ecovative, a company that uses mycelium fibers from fungi to create useful and environmentally-friendly products. There are advantages of using mycelium fibers in place of plastics and foams, as well as challenges faced by the inventors in trying to create useful products. Listen to this story to hear how the engineering design process is described, as well as how scientists used this method to get to where they are today.
From 1882 to 1943, Chinese immigrants were legally barred from entering the United States. It was the only time American Federal Law shut out people based on their nationality. The law, known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, forced some Chinese to enter the U.S. using false names and documents. Many Chinese-Americans today are just learning that their ancestors came to America under false identities. Listen to learn more about what has come to be called the “paper children” of these immigrants.
Plastic waste gets a lot of attention. But solid waste is only part of the problem; plastics also fuel global warming. With plastic production expected to quadruple by 2050, finding a way to minimize its overall impact on the environment is critical. Listen to learn how plastics contribute to global warming and why replacing them with renewable alternatives may not be the best solution.
American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway exemplified his literary style with novels like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway’s adventurous life inspired these stories. From running with the bulls in Spain to fighting in World War II, Hemingway was a larger than life celebrity known for his machismo and literary skill. Hemingway’s talent was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His writing style, which consists of short sentences that describe the external world, changed American literature forever.
Scapegoating, or blaming others for things they didn’t do, happens among both children and adults. While many children understand that lying is wrong, they might be hesitant to explore how it feels to be lied to or unfairly blamed for something for fear of feeling embarrassed or exposed. In this audio story, a children’s author discusses her humorous take on how a number of lies affect a little goat on a farm. Listen to hear how humor can help children feel safer exploring such topics.
The Bosnia war started tragically with the siege of the capital, Sarajevo, in 1992. The takeover lasted longer than any siege of a capital city in modern European history. The growing nationalism among the 6 republics of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia sparked hostilities, and in 1991, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia declared their independence. When Bosnia declared independence in 1992, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and Serbian leaders Radovan Karadžić and Slobodan Milosevic attacked Bosnia and caused two million Bosnians to flee their homes. The people of Croatia also attacked the country and claimed Bosnian possessions. The war lasted three and a half years and cost more than 100,000 people their lives. This audio story, recorded in 2012, describes relations among Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups—Muslims, Serbs, and Croats—at that time and 20 years later.
Euphonious means pleasing to the ear, and this audio story examines the many ways that pleasant sounds can spark feelings of delight. Some sounds represent wonderful experiences, others, like the sound of crashing waves, serve to soothe and relax. Listen to learn more about the origin and meaning of the word “euphonious,” and hear what kids and adults say when asked about their favorite sounds.
Everywhere in America deals with the ongoing legacy of slavery, but one historic plantation in Louisiana is actually making an effort to memorialize that legacy from the point of view of enslaved people. When it was purchased from a petrochemical company and re-opened in 2014, the Whitney Museum became the first museum in America dedicated to telling the story of enslaved people, specifically discussing the experience of individuals who lived and worked on this historic plantation. Listen to hear how this museum aims to tell the true story of slavery, and what we as a nation can learn from it.
Every year, thousands of refugees around the world are forced to flee their homes in search of safety in a new land. While the reasons for leaving home and the destinations vary, all of these journeys are filled with a mixture of fear, pain, hope, and courage. Storytelling and art have long been great healers. Both art forms can teach empathy by presenting different human experiences, and both can help people work through the emotions conveyed on the page or canvas. Listen to hear how one author and artist tackled depicting one refugee family’s story.
In recent decades, Afghanistan has been a country plagued by war. Author Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” is set in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s through the 2000s. The book tells the story of two young friends, Amir and Hassan, who are from very different classes and ethnic groups. The story follows them as they navigate life before and after the coup that toppled the Afghan king in 1973, the Russian occupation in the 1980s, and the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s. Listen as the author Afghan-native Hosseini describes how his life experiences are significant to his novel and how he has set out to change the public perception of this Middle Eastern country.
Our bodies react differently to extreme heat depending on how much humidity is in the air. Heat index is a measure of how hot it feels outside, taking into account both air temperature and relative humidity. As the humidity rises, the heat index rises. In dry heat, our sweat quickly evaporates, which helps lower our internal temperature; but on a humid day, our sweat cannot fully evaporate as the air is already damp, and this prevents us from effectively cooling off. It also raises our risk of heat stroke and even death. To illustrate the science, this podcast considers the case of a man who was lost for three weeks in a remote desert in southern Utah and survived. Listen to hear more about dry versus wet heat and how it affects the human body.
Scientists are using computer computations to link cases of extreme weather to global warming. Scientists set out to link major flooding in England and Wales in the fall of 2000 to climate change. This task was undertaken by scientists and citizens alike - running thousands of computer simulations and comparing the result in a world with climate change and one without it. Listen to learn what these simulations found.
Decades of Americans are able to remember where they were at the moment they heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Fifty years later, this radio story relives the events with two Dallas reporters who were there. Hugh Aynesworth was a local reporter for The Dallas Morning News and Sid Davis was a White House correspondent traveling with the president's press corps. Put yourselves in their shoes as they take you through how they learned about and covered the assassination.
Since ancient times, people around the world have used fairy tales, fables, and folktales to capture the imagination of and entertain an audience. However, these tales were meant to do more than entertain: they were used to teach morals. Fairy tales, fables, and folktales share other elements, such as talking animals, mythical creatures, and/or inanimate objects that think or feel emotions. Such tales are still being written and enjoyed today. Listen to hear how a professional writer transformed one boy’s story idea into a fantastic fable, complete with three edible houses and one hungry wolf.
Alcatraz Island, off the coast of San Francisco, was used as a prison for many years and held some of the most notorious criminals, including the mobster Al Capone. But inmates weren’t the only ones who lived on the island. The book Al Capone Does My Shirts follows the story of a boy who lives on the island with his family because his father works as a guard. He takes advantage of living on this island to make some money and liven up his life. This story explores life on the island and discusses the elements that make the book an exciting historical fiction read.
The Spanish Empire is a story of global power. From the 15th through 19th centuries, the Spanish controlled territory all over the Atlantic world and as far east as the Philippines. However, Spanish conquest has also sparked historical debate and criticism because of the brutality the Spanish often inflicted on those people and places they conquered. Listen to hear an historian and author discuss stories of Spanish power and conquest and offer a broader assessment of how the Spanish Empire should be judged.
Since World War II, fast food has been central to American food culture. Hamburgers and fries have come to be at the very center of many Americans’ diets. But fast food changed the way we raise and process beef and grow potatoes. It’s also added to the problem of obesity. The growth in fast food culture over the past fifty years has changed many fundamental things about culture, health, and the economy. Listen to hear how fast food has affected life in America by listening to this interview with the author of the book “Fast Food Nation”.
Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, is required reading in many high schools and colleges around the country. But in a new take on how to view the poem, an author, translator, and Homer scholar took his father on a cruise that retraced the route of the Greek hero Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca as laid out in Homer’s epic. Prior to this adventure, the son had taught The Odyssey in a course at Bard College, which his father had attended. In this audio story, and author and translator discusses a trip he made with his father, not long before the older man’s death.
The Great Depression of 1932 was the worst economic crisis in American history. President Herbert Hoover was blamed for the government’s failure to pull America out of the depression. During his campaign for president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a “New Deal” for America. He knew little at the time of what that New Deal would include, but the term would come to define his response to the Great Depression. Listen to hear about President Roosevelt’s campaign for president, the qualities that made him an effective communicator, and the obstacles he faced as he struggled to present himself as a credible candidate for president.
America’s founding was fraught with conflict. America in 1787-88 was a place of deep political divisions. Much of the root of those divisions was disagreement over how much power should be given to the central government. After the Constitutional Convention, political leaders split between supporters of the Constitution (Federalists) and opponents (Antifederalists). In an effort to sell the new Constitution to the country, three Federalists (James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay) wrote a series of arguments, in essay form, we now call the Federalist Papers. These essays were designed to explain the Constitution. Today, they are regarded as America’s greatest contributions to political philosophy as is explained in this audio story.
In Ernest J. Gaines’s 1993 novel "A Lesson Before Dying," the central character, Jefferson—a young black man living in the segregated South in 1948—is accused of murder and faces the possibility of the death penalty. Readers learn that Jefferson is illiterate, and that, as a result, he lacks confidence and self-worth. To spare him the pain of facing death without dignity, his family hires a teacher to help him learn to read and write. Listen to the audio story to learn how Gaines’s character develops “pride through learning.”
The novel The Book Thief is narrated by Death. He tells the story of a young German girl saving books from Nazi bonfires to read to the Jewish man hiding in her home. Listen to this audio story to hear an interview with author Markus Zusak, who explains his choice of Death as the narrator and the message he hopes teenage readers get from the novel.
The abolition of slavery in the United States didn’t happen all at once. Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery, in 1777, and most Northern States followed suit. This meant that enslaved people that escaped could come North and rebuild their lives as free men and women. From the Underground Railroad, to even mailing yourself in a box, enslaved people found ways to escape their circumstances and come North. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act changed all that. Why was this Act approved and what was its result? Listen to learn more about escaping slavery and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
In 1815 American soldiers defeated the British on Chalmette Battlefield. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it damaged the battleground that was the site of the Battle of New Orleans. In 2006, the battlefield was reopened for the first time since the storm. The aim was to have a reenactment of the battle to show visitors that the area of New Orleans could pick itself up from devastation and remember its history. Listen to learn about how long the fight lasted and how they made the reenactment so believable.
A robot is a machine programmed for a purpose—to perform a human task. But can a robot survive on its own? That’s the existential question in The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, in which a robotic heroine, Roz, breaks during a tornado and gets blown to a remote island. This audio story presents an excerpt from the book, in which Roz interacts with various forest animals. Listen to hear students discuss the characters, events, and ideas in the story, and learn how the author came up with the idea of sending a robot into the wilderness.
Histories of the women’s suffrage movement often focus on famous names like Susan B. Anthony. But many other women fought hard to secure passage of the 19th amendment ensuring women’s right to vote, and their contributions are often overlooked. In particular, women of color, queer women, and even conservative anti-suffrage women are often left out of the narrative. Listen to hear about some of these often-overlooked voices in American history and how their perspectives can give us a richer understanding of the fight for women’s suffrage.
In this audio story, environmentalist and human rights activist Wangari Maathai, is remembered. A trained biologist—the first Kenyan woman to earn a doctorate degree—Maathai led the fight against mismanagement of Kenya’s natural resources. Over the course of thirty years, her Green Belt Movement planted more than 40 million trees to reverse the deforestation of the country caused by unregulated development. In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This story includes audio of Maathai herself talking about the origin of her love of the natural world and some of the challenges she faced in her environmental work and her work for peace and democracy.
Animal species evolve and adapt over time. This ability to change lays the groundwork for human evolution. Over 375 million years ago an important transition in this lineage occurred - animals living in the sea began living on land. This complex process happened gradually over generations and an unusual fish fossil found in the Canadian Arctic may help enhance our understanding of this progression.
Marine biologists are studying the sounds that fish make. They believe that sounds are vital to understanding fish behavior. By studying the sounds that fish make when trying to attract mates and when breeding, biologists may be able to stay clear of them during those times to help them reproduce more productively. This protects the fish from human behavior. Listen to learn how this will help fishermen ensure the species don't die out.
Mythological creatures have intrigued people for centuries. Stories of strange sightings, and tales of creatures with magical powers, superhuman strength, and massive size, have inspired many to set out in search of these legendary creatures. Where do these stories come from? How did they first arise? Is there a chance these creatures could be real? Listen to hear about five popular mythological creatures and the facts on which these legends may be based.
Cats are mysterious creatures to us humans for many reasons. One of these reasons is that cats seem to always land on their feet whenever they fall. In fact, cats can be dropped upside down and still land on their feet, every time. But, how do they do this? It seems to defy the laws of physics. The answer has to do with momentum, and is explained by an expert. Listen to hear about how cats achieve this amazing feat.
The New York Botanical Garden created an exhibit to honor Emily Dickinson. She was a nineteenth-century American poet who wrote unique verses, often about the nature of life and death. The new exhibit celebrates her hobbies, family, and experiences from a surprising perspective. Listen to learn what Dickinson was actually known for in her lifetime (hint: it’s not poetry!).
Fall in North America, the start of flu season, is when many people receive their yearly flu vaccine. The flu shot differs from other vaccines, such as measles or mumps, which are generally given only once during a person’s lifetime. The flu shot is given every year because the flu virus is constantly changing, and vaccines must keep up with new forms of the virus. Listen to learn more about the flu, including how cold weather helps it spread, which animals can get the flu, and why it’s important to get a flu vaccine each year.
Our food supply is considered safe today thanks in large part to a movement to improve safety following the publication of the novel in 1906, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It was a vivid portrayal of the lives of immigrant families who worked in a meat-packing plant in Chicago. Americans were shocked and disgusted. This public radio story tells of how The Jungle galvanized public support to improve the safety of our food system.
Looking back in time, it’s hard to imagine a time when there were next to no food safety regulations in the United States. But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, there were no laws stopping food producers from selling food that endangered the health of their customers. This all changed at the turn of the twentieth century. Listen to hear how one American chemist conducted daring experiments to publicize the damage that tainted food could cause, and how this transformed food safety regulations forever.
The assembly line hasn't changed much since it was invented about 100 years ago. This audio story looks at how the assembly line was introduced and perfected by the Ford Motor Company in the 1910s. The assembly line made it possible for Ford to boost its sales, its wages, and its market, and helped create the modern-day American middle class.
In 1927, the automotive pioneer Henry Ford took his pioneering spirit in a new direction--to the jungles of the Amazon in Brazil. He built a fully functioning factory town in the middle of the Brazilian jungle, and called it Fordlandia. Fordlandia’s primary intention was to harvest rubber for Ford tires. But Ford also wanted create a kind of utopia, an experimental “ideal” community. Ford’s experimental plantation eventually failed, leaving it a forgotten ruin. Listen to learn more about the challenges Fordlandia faced and the ultimate reasons for its failure.
Forests provide much more than public spaces for exercise, relaxation, and enjoying nature. They are complex ecosystems characterized by biodiversity. Forests are vital to Earth’s water cycle and ensure the survival of all living things by absorbing carbon dioxide and transforming it into oxygen. However, forests also provide valuable resources, especially wood and paper, that people need. Listen to an interview with a forestry expert to discover how forests are being managed to provide both resources for consumers and lasting benefits to the environment.
While the names of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other civil rights activists may be familiar to many Americans, there are likely others who are lesser known. Bayard Rustin was a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin explained in interviews how his sense of identity was connected to his fight for social justice. Listen to this story to learn about how Rustin’s identity as a gay man and his identity as a Black civil rights activist intersected in ways that had significant impact on his life and his notoriety.
On April 14, 1861, the American Civil War began with a Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, a Union fort located in Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually, the Union surrendered the fort. What followed was a war that would cost more American lives than all previous wars combined. Listen to learn about the attack on Fort Sumter and the story behind the first American killed in the war.