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Stuff You Should Know

2066 EpisodesProduced by iHeartPodcastsWebsite

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

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Short Stuff: Bird Migration

February 1st, 2023


Where are all those birds flying anyway? How do they decide? When do they do it? All of these questions, and more, are answered in this week's ep.

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Must We Suffer Emotional Pain?

January 31st, 2023


It’s part of the human condition, to feel the pain of sorrow, loss, embarrassment. But isn’t it kind of weird that an overwhelming emotion can cause you physical discomfort or even pain? Turns out that depends on how …

Selects: Elephants: The Best Animals?

January 28th, 2023


Elephants are pretty much the best. Why? Josh and Chuck will let you know in great detail in this classic episode.

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How Attachment Theory Works

January 26th, 2023


A theory in the field of psychology has become so pervasive, it’s generally taken on faith that it’s true. It says that how your parents respond to …

Short Stuff: Adam's Apples and Throat Lumps

January 25th, 2023


This week's short stuff is all about throat lumps and Adam's apples.

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Let's Talk About John DeLorean

January 24th, 2023


John DeLorean: visionary, car maker extraordinaire, buyer of large amounts of cocaine, provider of time machine chassis. There is a lot to understand about John DeLorean so let’s get busy.

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Selects: How Game Shows Work

January 21st, 2023


Join Josh and Chuck and a whole bunch of great people at the Gothic Theatre in Denver for this live show on game shows and their place in cultures …

Toast: As in browned bread

January 19th, 2023


Toast is bread that has been browned by heat. It's delicious. This is our ode to toast.

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Short Stuff: Women Pirates

January 18th, 2023


The Golden Age of Pirates didn’t have just men floating on the high seas. Some women became very successful pirates and today you’ll learn about two …

The Louisiana Purchase: Not a Purchase

January 17th, 2023


Turns out the Louisiana Purchase was not so much a purchase, but the right to (steal) purchase it from indigenous peoples. But it did transform the United States as we know it. Listen and learn!


Selects: How Therapeutic Hypothermia Works

January 14th, 2023


Physicians noticed centuries ago that people exposed to cold temperatures often have amazing recoveries from serious medical emergencies. Now …

How Tarot Works?

January 12th, 2023


This is not a hit piece! Tarot helps plenty of people navigate their lives and reflect on their feelings – plus the art is unbelievable. We cover the backstory, real and imagined, and lure the innocent into tarot’s …

Short Stuff: Forest Lawn Memorial Park

January 11th, 2023


Forest Lawn is no ordinary cemetery. Why? Listen in and find out.

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How Enron Fooled the World

January 10th, 2023


Until the 2007, the largest single corporate bankruptcy was Enron, a $67 billion energy trading company. Its decline was breathtaking, and while it’s a fascinating story of corporate malfeasance and greed, it’s also …

Selects: How Perfume Works

January 7th, 2023


Women consistently rate scent as the most important factor in a man's attractiveness and men have been manipulating that for centuries with scents of …

When Mount St. Helens Blew Its Top

January 5th, 2023


Mount St. Helen's is a lovely sight to behold, but was a pretty scary thing to be around in the Spring of 1980. Listen in to the harrowing story …

Short Stuff: Dangers of Nose Picking

January 4th, 2023


You don’t have to lie - everybody picks their nose. But did you know it can be life-threatening? It’s true and you can learn how in this episode.

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (not the song)

January 3rd, 2023


Today Josh and Chuck delve into the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Not the song, but the maritime accident. Though the song makes an appearance.

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Selects: Could There Be A Loch Ness Monster?

December 31st, 2022


People have believed something strange lives in Loch Ness for at least 3500 years. Thousands of people have sighted the Loch Ness Monster and dozens of expeditions have been launched. But does the fact that nothing’s …

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Podcast Episode

December 29th, 2022


This one goes out to the SYSK Army as a special request. Let's do the time warp again!

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Short Stuff: Mesas: Flat

December 28th, 2022


Mesas, buttes and plateaus are all very similar. We'll break down the differences in each one just to be sure.

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Juicy: The Fried Chicken Story

December 27th, 2022


Fried chicken is Chuck’s favorite food, and Josh sure doesn’t dislike it. It is with this appreciation that SYSK plunges into the hot grease of fried chicken history – and there’s a lot to it!


Selects: Star Wars Holiday Spectacular

December 24th, 2022


Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas allowed the Star Wars Holiday Special to be made. What happened on the night of November 17, 1978 …

2022 Holiday Spectacular!

December 22nd, 2022


Another year comes to a close here at SYSK, which means our annual Holiday Spectacular is at hand. So light a fire, pour up a comforting beverage and …

Who was Dorothy Parker, really?

December 20th, 2022


She was known for her quick wit and sharp tongue. But she was also a poet, screenwriter and activist. Tune in today to learn what outside her "vicious circle."

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Selects: Nostradamus: Predictor of the future? Not so much.

December 17th, 2022


Nostradamus delighted us all in grade school, but it turns out the real guy wasn't quite as prescient as we were led to believe. In truth, he wrote a …

Interesting Origins of Everyday Phrases

December 15th, 2022


We don’t think about the words and phrases we use all the time - until Josh and Chuck look into them and tell everyone what they found. That’s the gist of this episode! 

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Short Stuff: The Atlanta Washer Woman Strike

December 14th, 2022


One of the very first union strikes in US history was mounted by a group of African American women in the deep South. Listen in and learn all about this little known slice of history.

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How the Nintendo Entertainment System Changed Gaming Forever

December 13th, 2022


For the holidays in 1986 (and ’87) (and ’88) the most stupendous, most wanted, most amazing thing any kid could possibly get – outside of a pony, …

Selects: How Polar Bears Work

December 10th, 2022


Polar bears are more than just lovable creatures that roam the ice in search of food. They're one of the most fascinating animals on planet Earth. …

True Crime: The Phantom of Heilbronn

December 8th, 2022


After the murder of a cop in southwest Germany in 2007 a massive hunt was launched across Europe. The suspect was a female serial killer who had left DNA behind during a number of crimes. She was so slippery, she was …

Short Stuff: Birthday Paradox

December 7th, 2022


The Birthday Paradox involves math, so you know this one will go perfectly.

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How Face Blindness Works

December 6th, 2022


It’s not that the person who can never remember meeting you is snobby or even absent-minded; they may have a fascinating – and often difficult – …

Selects: The Rubik's Cube Episode

December 3rd, 2022


Rubik's Cubes. Ronald Reagan. Jerry Falwell. Just Say No. One of these things was awesome. Take a guess and hop on board this classic episode, aka the 80s train.

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How Down Syndrome Works

December 1st, 2022


People with Down syndrome lead rich, complex lives like any other human, but it’s only been in the last few decades that everyone else stopped …

Short Stuff: Goosebumps

November 30th, 2022


Goosebumps are a pretty cool evolutionary holdover from our earlier days as furry beasts. Don't believe us? Listen in. 


Peripersonal Space: Humans’ Got Talent

November 29th, 2022


The space around you that you can reach with your arms is a very special place. It’s where we interact with reality. And although we are so good at using it we don’t give it a second thought, our ability to use it is …

Selects: How Umami Works!

November 26th, 2022


For millennia humans have recognized four tastes, but in the 1980s a fifth taste first isolated in Japan gained worldwide acceptance - and took off …

Roller Skating: Fun and Cool

November 24th, 2022


The Victorians were the first to go bonkers for roller skating and since then the pastime has had bursts of popularity every few decades. Over the …

Short Stuff: Liquid Paper

November 23rd, 2022


Correction fluid goes by many names, but the OG was Liquid Paper. And it has a pretty cool origin story. 

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Typewriters: Mechanical Brilliance

November 22nd, 2022


Chuck loves typewriters because he loves mechanical brilliance. Dive into the cool history of these amazing machines today. 


Selects: How Dark Money Works

November 19th, 2022


Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in the Citizens United case that political contributions are speech and should be protected, the floodgates of …

Did Shakespeare really write all that stuff?

November 17th, 2022


The question of Shakespeare's authorship has been around since at least the mid-1800s. Is there anything to it? We'll dig in to this dense topic to find out.

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Short Stuff: Incomplete Yawns

November 16th, 2022


Is there anything – anything – worse than a yawn you can’t finish? It’s hard to think of anything else and as your obsession with yawning like a …

The Sordid History of Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

November 15th, 2022


When it comes to pre-wedding festivities, bachelor and bachelorette parties take the penis-shaped cake. Learn all about these sordid affairs today.  

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Selects: Finders Keepers: Real Law

November 12th, 2022


You know that heartbreak of the schoolyard – finders keepers, losers weepers? That’s actual law in a great many grown up places. Enter the murky …

How Owls Work

November 10th, 2022


It’s time for another great animal episode and in this one we swoop into the world of owls – nature’s greatest silent predator who (hooo) also look very cute and intelligent. Not to mention they can turn their heads 270 …

Short Stuff: Dodleston Messages

November 9th, 2022


It’s not everyday that a message from the 16th century appears on a computer from the 1980s, so when that happened it caught an English couple’s …

What's so important about legal precedent?

November 8th, 2022


Legal precedent is an odd thing. It matters, but it isn't codified. There are advantages and disadvantages. Let's all dive in and take at STARE DECISIS today. 

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Selects: What is an invasive species?

November 5th, 2022


Invasive species can mean a lot of things, from fungus to feral pigs and European starlings to kudzu vines. Basically, it's anything brought to a place, either by humans or nature, that didn't originate there. They …

Vaudeville: Step Right Up!

November 3rd, 2022


In today's episode, you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about vaudeville, whether you like it or not. 

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Short Stuff: Birth Certificate Access

November 2nd, 2022


It’s unjust but true – if you are an adoptee in the US you may not have the same right to access your birth certificate that someone who wasn’t adopted does. The quest to access a birth certificate can be a legal …

The Harvey's Casino Bombing of 1980

November 1st, 2022


In August of 1980 a bomb containing 1,000 pounds of dynamite was quietly delivered to Harvey’s, a casino and resort at Lake Tahoe. This kicked off a …

Selects: How Vampires Work

October 29th, 2022


Out of obligation, Chuck and Josh mention Twilight, but it is the longstanding vampire lore that gets the most attention in this examination of how …

The 13th Annual Halloween Spooktacular!

October 27th, 2022


It's hard to believe, but this is our 13th edition of the Halloween Spooktacular! So pour up a creepy brew and gather the kids for a dramatic reading …

Short Stuff: Robert the Doll

October 26th, 2022


Robert the Doll is decidedly creepy. So is his story. Listen in to this spooky tale right now!

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The Tale of the Bloody Benders

October 25th, 2022


Long before we knew what serial killers were, a family in remote Kansas was disposing of victims at their family farm. Listen in to the Tale of the Bloody Benders if you dare!

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Selects: 10ish Cases of Really Bad Luck

October 22nd, 2022


Some guys have all the luck, some guys have all the pain. So said Rod Stewart. And if this list is any indication, “guys” is gender neutral. Listen to this classic episode as Chuck and Josh cover some instances of …

Fundamentalism: Menace II Society

October 20th, 2022


Fundamentalism is usually thought of as a problem religions have to deal with, but not all fundamentalists are religious. And no matter what their belief system, fundamentalism is inherently antisocial and a problem for …

Short Stuff: Water Towers

October 19th, 2022


Water towers are so ubiquitous you can look right past them, despite them being giant balls of water thrust triumphantly skyward. Learn about these surprisingly ingenious but simple inventions designed to keep you alive.

The History of Fake Towns.

October 18th, 2022


There have been a lot of fake towns built throughout history for a lot of different reasons. Tune in to learn about some of these bogus burgs. 

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Selects: How Pompeii Worked

October 15th, 2022


What must be one of the most famous natural disasters in history took place when Mt Vesuvius buried Pompeii in 79 CE. But when the town was resurrected 1700 years later, a new chapter in its history was written. Learn …

10 Cases of Mistaken Identity

October 13th, 2022


There’s a lot that can go wrong when your identity is at question. Charged with abandoning a baby? Check. Years in prison? That too. Accused of assassinating the head of Hamas? Why not. Learn about the travails of some …

Short Stuff: Blaschko's Lines

October 12th, 2022


Did you know you have stripes? It’s true, you just can’t see them. Learn all about these little-known lines today!

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Doppelgängers: Hey you, you're me!

October 11th, 2022


Seeing your near twin is probably pretty weird. But could there be a genetic commonality as well? You bet  there could!  


Selects: Josh and Chuck's List of Horror Movies that Changed the Genre

October 8th, 2022


Once in a while a movie comes along that's so forward-thinking it changes the way that horror is done. A new subgenre is spawned, new tropes are established, and audiences are more terrified than ever. Hear about these …

How License Plates Work

October 6th, 2022


The first tags were required just a few years after the firs cars debuted, as a way to catch jerks scaring horses and running down pedestrians. A century on, they continue to protect both. Plus they’ve accrued some …

Short Stuff: Scratching

October 5th, 2022


Listen in today as we salute turntablism, aka, record scratching.

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Vinyl Records: Black Magic at Work

October 4th, 2022


Despite reading all about how vinyl records are recorded and made, it's still a bit like black magic to us. Dive in and learn all about the coolest …

Selects: How Clowns Work

October 1st, 2022


Jesters of some sort have been around since ancient Egypt and China. Our modern clown was invented around 1800 and ever since they have been getting steadily creepier. Learn all about clowns in this classic episode.


How The Rosenhan Experiment Worked

September 29th, 2022


In 1973 a study was published in Science where psychologist David Rosenhan revealed he had duped hundreds of psychiatric workers by planting …

Short Stuff: Curse Tablets

September 28th, 2022


Curse tablets are exactly what you think - tablets with curses inscribed on them. But what were they used for, and when did people do this? Hit play and those answers shall be revealed!

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Vasectomies: Stop Being A Wimp

September 27th, 2022


You can uncross your legs you big babies. Getting a vasectomy isn’t bad at all – recovery time is a breeze, pain is minimal, and you can consider it a gift to your partner. Learn the real deal on vasectomies (and get …

Selects: How LSD Works

September 24th, 2022


In 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hofman discovered he'd created what may be the most potent hallucinogen known to humankind. Then he took a bike ride. …

Sitcoms Part II

September 22nd, 2022


Listen in now for part II of our homage to sitcoms. 

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Short Stuff: Laugh Tracks

September 21st, 2022


Laugh tracks have been around since the early 1950s and it’s all thanks to one (reviled) sound engineer who invented them. But as much as people like …

Sitcoms Part I

September 20th, 2022


Traditional multi-camera sitcoms have fallen out of style in recent years, but the golden age of the genre lives on with streaming services. Sitcom …

Selects: Frida Kahlo: Painter, Icon, Genius

September 17th, 2022


Frida Kahlo was a painter who transcended her own work to became an icon. Learn all about her fascinating and inspiring life and work in this classic episode.

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Pearls: Second Best Thing About Oysters

September 15th, 2022


Pearls are super cool. And humans figuring out how to make them is even cooler. Learn all about the most interesting gemstone today!


Short Stuff: Hangry?

September 14th, 2022


When you’re hungry, you’re not yourself. So say the good people at Snickers and it turns out science backs it up. Being hangry is a verifiable thing, we’re just not quite sure yet what’s going on.


The Georgia Guidestones: The Elite Have a Laugh

September 13th, 2022


In 1980 the “rural as rural can be” town of Elberton, Georgia erected a granite monument with a bizarre set of instructions (commandments?) that …

Selects: What Happened to the Neanderthals?

September 10th, 2022


As recently as 40,000 years ago we lived among humans from an entirely different species – Neanderthals. About the same time our species showed up, Neanderthals suddenly vanished. Just what happened to the other guys? …

Everything We Know About Squids

September 8th, 2022


Squids are very closely related to our old friend the octopus, but there are some key differences. You can learn all of this and more by simply …

Short Stuff: RIP Man of the Hole

September 7th, 2022


The Man of the Hole has died and we're pretty sad to hear it. Listen in to our tribute to this solitary hero today.

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Did Mallory Make it to the Top of Everest First?

September 6th, 2022


George Mallory was a member of the first three European expeditions to Everest, world’s tallest mountain. He wanted to summit it so badly, he gave …

Selects: How the Pony Express Worked

September 3rd, 2022


For as long a shadow as it casts across the history of the Old West, the Pony Express was a failed business venture, doomed from the start, that only lasted 18 months. But since the last rider headed out with his bag of …

Rolling Stone Magazine

September 1st, 2022


Part celebration and part take down, this episode on Rolling Stone magazine dives into the highs and lows of one of America's iconic rags.


Short Stuff: Mason-Dixon Line

August 31st, 2022


The dividing line between the North and South is purely political. But the story of its creation is pretty interesting.


We Need More Sustainable Packaging, Like, Yesterday

August 30th, 2022


Since the advent of single-use plastics, we’ve become awash in waste. Barrels of petroleum are extracted, turned into plastics that contain products, …

Selects: Knife Throwing: Super Cool

August 27th, 2022


Sure knives can cut through a steak or slash through jungle vines, but probably the coolest thing you can do with a knife is throw it. At a person …

Kissing Cousins: A History of Marrying Family

August 25th, 2022


Despite the overall creepiness of it, marrying family members is way more common than you might think, both historically and today. Ewwww!

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Short Stuff: Marrying Up

August 24th, 2022


The idea of "marrying up" is as old as the hills, but things are, and have been, changing for quite a while. And this episode explains it all.


Introvert or Extravert: Which are you? (Probably both)

August 23rd, 2022


The world isn’t divided into cat people and dog people, or Beatles fans and Rolling Stones fans (or neither). What really divides us is introversion …

Selects: How Gossip Works

August 20th, 2022


You know what I heard? That Josh and Chuck hate each other and they're just faking being friends for the show. That's called gossip, folks and it can …

How Enemas Work

August 18th, 2022


If you think about it, enemas are kind of gross. And if you don’t now you definitely will by the end of this wild ride of an episode. All who make it …

Short Stuff: Selling the Brooklyn Bridge

August 17th, 2022


You've heard the phrase "If you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you." But did you know it's based in truth?

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Mariachi: The Rodney Dangerfield of Music

August 16th, 2022


Mariachi bands have a bad rap as nothing more than "restaurant music." But there is a rich and long cultural tradition many people are missing and …

Selects: Desert Survival: Josh and Chuck Save Your Tookus

August 13th, 2022


The chances are pretty low that you’ll find yourself lost in the desert, but on the off chance you do you’ll thank yourself that you listened to this classic episode, where we guide you to safety. 


The Origins of Breakfast Foods

August 11th, 2022


Who doesn't love breakfast? But do you know where most of the typical breakfast foods come from? Well listen in to find out.

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Short Stuff: The Berners Street Hoax

August 10th, 2022


A full 200 years on, we're still talking about one of the most sweeping hoaxes of all time. 

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What's the deal with energy drinks?

August 9th, 2022


Chuck hates them, Josh has flirted with them. Energy drinks. Listen in to learn all about this canned speed. 

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Selects: How Droughts Work

August 6th, 2022


Droughts can be an inevitable feature of a local climate or a catastrophic result of human meddling. In this classic episode, learn the ins and outs …

Thrill to the Stunning Bicameral Mind Hypothesis

August 4th, 2022


Psychologist Julian Jaynes came up with a stunning hypothesis in 1976, that human consciousness only developed in the last 3000 years. And he seemed …

Short Stuff: Divorcing Your Parents

August 3rd, 2022


It really happens! But most people call it emancipation of a minor. Either way, there's some interesting legal stuff in here.

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Silly String: Disaster in a Can

August 2nd, 2022


It's been a while since we tackled a classic toy, so here we go with all you ever wanted to know about Silly String.

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Selects: Some Movies That Changed Filmmaking

July 30th, 2022


An estimated 50,000 films were made worldwide in 2009 alone. Many are surely clunkers, but in this episode Chuck and Josh talk about the ones that emerged throughout cinema history to change the course of all movies …

How Menstruation Works

July 28th, 2022


Two dudes talking about menstruation? You bet! And there’s no way you could be any more nervous to listen than we were to record it. But give it a …

Short Stuff: The Mars Rock with Signs of Life?

July 27th, 2022


In 1996, real-deal NASA scientists announced they had discovered signs of ancient microbial life in a rock that had broken off Mars and landed on Antarctica. The news set off a controversy still going today. Do we …

Where Did Human Intelligence Come From?

July 26th, 2022


We humans are smart, to be sure, but if we’re so smart then how come we can’t figure how we got so smart in the first place? Think about that! We sure did and we go over some theories in this super interesting episode.

Selects: What's the misery index?

July 23rd, 2022


Economists love their data because somewhere in the numbers lies the answer to the ills of the country. They also love to frame data in a way people can relate to. Such is the case with the famous "misery index." Learn …

Googie: The Architecture of the Space Age

July 21st, 2022


You may not have heard of it, but you’ve definitely seen it before – 50s buildings with bright, loud colors, roofs at crazy angles, and space-age …

Short Stuff: Death from Astral Projection

July 20th, 2022


In 1975, yoga enthusiast Robert Antoszczyk retired to his room in a group house in Ann Arbor, MI to try a meditation technique that would allow him …

Supernovae: Best Around, Case Closed

July 19th, 2022


Face it, supernovae are the most interesting phenomena in the universe. Black holes are cool, but did you know they sprout from a supernova? What …

Selects: What Happens When the Government Thinks You're Dead?

July 16th, 2022


It’s bad enough when the government knows you’re alive – there are taxes to pay, laws to be followed, all sorts of boring and unpleasant things. But …

Why Bowling is Awesome

July 14th, 2022


Bowling is awesome. It just is. And if you don't think so, maybe take a listen to today's episode. 

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Short Stuff: Catatumbo Lightning

July 13th, 2022


Catatumbo lightning is one of nature's most amazing displays of showiness, with strikes occurring 28 times per minute for nine hours a day, 300 days a year. So take cover and take a listen.


Mangroves: Nature's Best Tree?

July 12th, 2022


Mangroves are incredible survivors and adapters. They're also amazing at lessening the impact of tropical storms and climate change. And heck, …

Selects: How Ayahuasca Works

July 9th, 2022


One day in the Amazon Basin, a shaman put together a plant containing DMT with a vine that allows the body to absorb DMT. The combination, a …

The Maya Civilization

July 7th, 2022


After inspiration from Chuck's recent trip to the Yucatan, the fellas dive into the Maya Civilization. 

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Short Stuff: Alligator Gar

July 6th, 2022


The alligator gar is one scary looking fish. Learn all about these monsters in today's episode.

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How Ultraprocessed Foods Work

July 5th, 2022


Ultraprocessed is a new term for junk food, but it means much more than that – it’s also a cautionary tale for the way we’re supposed to cook and eat, using real food and sitting down with friends and family. But who …

Selects: How Freak Shows Worked

July 2nd, 2022


Not too long ago, people would pay money to gawk and stare at a performer with a physical disformity. They were called freak shows and they began in …

A Dispassionate Review of Roe v Wade

June 30th, 2022


Given the landmark undoing of Roe v Wade, Chuck and Josh lay out all the relevant facts of the 1973 case.

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Short Stuff: What did we use before infant formula?

June 29th, 2022


There's an infant formula shortage. But infant formula is relatively new. So what did we do before it was perfected? Listen in and learn already!


How Alien Contact Might Work

June 28th, 2022


If we ever found evidence of intelligent alien life (or they found us) what would we say? Who would say it for us? These seemingly silly questions …

Selects: Chiggers: The Phantom Menace

June 25th, 2022


Chiggers are tiny little mites capable of making your life miserable. Worse than mosquitoes? Maybe. But they aren't insects - mites are actually part of the arachnid family and behave a little like ticks. Learn all …

What's up with bariatric surgery?

June 23rd, 2022


Bariatric surgery can also be called weight loss surgery. Some people think it's a highly underused tool to fight obesity. Others think it's a …

Short Stuff: Do Fish Get Thirsty?

June 22nd, 2022


One of the greatest questions we’ve ever heard, answered (in a roundabout way).

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The Appalachian Trail: A Heckuva Hike

June 21st, 2022


A few short years after the hiking trails from Maine to Georgia were connected into the world’s longest hiking-only footpath, a WWII vet walked the …

Selects: How Steadicams Work

June 18th, 2022


There have been many inventions that have advanced filmmaking, but maybe none as important as the steadicam. Invented in the mid-70s, it literally changed the way movie making happened, and made the impossible possible. …

What were the IRA hunger strikes?

June 16th, 2022


In the early 1980s, imprisoned IRA members went on a prolonged hunger strike, leading to the death of ten men. This is their story.


Short Stuff: HR8 Gun Legislation

June 15th, 2022


Today we dive into HR8, a gun bill supported by 90% of Americans that will likely never get through the Senate.

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How Wind Works

June 14th, 2022


Beloved egghead Buckminster Fuller said the wind doesn’t blow, it sucks. And he was pretty much right, depending on your perspective. Find out how …

Selects: How Drowning Works

June 11th, 2022


Hundreds of thousands of people drown around the world every year, and yet it can be easily prevented and is widely misunderstood – like how you can officially drown but live to tell the tale, or how you can drown but …

The 4-minute Mile: Greatest Sports Story?

June 9th, 2022


Nobody thought the 4-minute mile was humanly possible, until it was. The story of how it happened is remarkable. So sit back and take a listen.

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Short Stuff: Cleveland’s Infamous 10-Cent Beer Night

June 8th, 2022


In 1974, the Cleveland (then Indians) baseball club held an unlimited 10 cent beer promotion to attract fans to the game. An actual riot broke out.

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How Freedom of the Press Works

June 7th, 2022


Countries around the world – capitalist democracies to communist unitary states – guarantee a free press in their constitutions. It turns out, though, that there is a galaxy of methods for subverting a free press. Find …

Selects: How Satanism Works

June 4th, 2022


Satanism may be the most misunderstood "religion" in the world. Part of that is because there are, and have been, many offshoots of Satanism, from The Church of Satan to The Satanic Temple. One thing is sure though, …

Kidney Donation: You Could Be A Saint!

June 2nd, 2022


Kidneys are one of the few organs that you can donate while you’re alive. And the vast majority of donors experience no complications and their remaining kidney functions just fine. Yet thousands of people die each year …

Short Stuff: Happy Foods!

June 1st, 2022


Some foods make you happy. But they aren't necessarily comfort foods. You know what they call that? SCIENCE!

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The Scintillating World of Interest Rates

May 31st, 2022


When the Fed raises interest rates a half point, the world market reacts. But why does this tiny percentage make such a difference? Listen and learn!

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Selects: Waterbeds: The Sexiest Bed?

May 28th, 2022


Waterbeds came and went pretty quickly in the United States, but despite their marketing as sex beds, they were actually invented to deliver a great night's sleep. Learn all about these super 70's beds in this classic …

The Myth of Absinthe

May 26th, 2022


Absinthe makes you hallucinate and possibly even have a seizure, right? Nope. It's all a part of the myth of absinthe, which is really just a bitter tasting liquor with a bad reputation. 

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Short Stuff: Do people move in predictable directions?

May 25th, 2022


Depending on where you are in the world, you either have an instinct to go left or right when entering a place. Learn all about this today.

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Cats: Invasive Species?

May 24th, 2022


Josh and Chuck wade into dangerous waters with the debate over just how destructive cats are for local ecosystems (turns out it’s pretty bad) and some ideas on what to do about that (you may not want to know). Tune in …

Selects: The Disappearance of the Yuba County Five

May 21st, 2022


In 1978, five friends set out for home from a basketball game. The next day, their car was discovered in a lonely mountain road. The next spring, their bodies began to turn up. What happened that night remains a mystery …

What's in a surname?

May 19th, 2022


Surnames are way more interesting that you think, trust us. Just hit play and prepare to be wowed.

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Short Stuff: Artificial Banana Flavor

May 18th, 2022


In the Watermelon episode, Chuck and Josh stumbled into a bit of little-known history about why artificial banana flavor doesn’t taste like bananas. Turns out it does; it just tastes like a banana you’ve probably never …

Squirrels, Ahoy!

May 17th, 2022


Squirrels are rodents, sure, but they’re rodents with personalities the size of Las Vegas and Detroit put together. Get to know your bushy-tailed (and sometimes not so bushy) neighbors who live interesting hidden lives …

Selects: How Lizzie Borden Worked

May 14th, 2022


Everybody knows how many whacks Lizzie Borden gave her mother and father with that axe, but there is plenty about the infamous double homicide that …

Rhinoplasty, aka Nose Jobs

May 12th, 2022


Nose jobs have been around a lot longer than you think. And the process is pretty interesting. Tune in for all things rhinoplasty. 

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Short Stuff: Fainting At The Sight Of Blood

May 11th, 2022


As many as 15% of people faint when they see blood! And it’s not just blood that gets them. It can be an injury or even a needle. Learn about this fascinating phobia in this episode.

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What are land acknowledgments?

May 10th, 2022


Land acknowledgements are all the rage in some parts of the world. But they also open a can of worms if not done properly. Learn all about this increasingly common practice today. 

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Selects: How Champagne Works

May 7th, 2022


Sure we can all agree that champagne is probably the greatest thing humans have or ever will invent, but how much do we understand how it's made? Learn all about it in this classic episode.


Marcus Garvey: Black Moses

May 5th, 2022


One of the more controversial black leaders, Marcus Garvey divided black and white Americans with his assertion of black pride, and sowed division in the black community as well. Yet, possibly no one has had more global …

Short Stuff: Shar Pei

May 4th, 2022


Today we dive into the lovable folds of the Shar Pei.

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The Mystery of Coal

May 3rd, 2022


There’s a mystery afoot! Almost all of the coal we use around the world was created in the same 60 million year period. Before or after that relatively short window of time, not so much. Just what exactly explains this …

Selects: How Rodney Dangerfield Worked, Live From LA

April 30th, 2022


Other comedians cry on the inside, but Rodney Dangerfield built his entire act around his sad life. Get to know this legendary comic who was nearing 50 when he got his break, in this classic episode recorded live in LA.

Understudies: Hardest Workers on Broadway?

April 28th, 2022


Being an understudy is far more challenging than simply learning the lines of a lead actor in case of emergency. Learn all about these unsung stage heroes today. 

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Short Stuff: Smelly Homes

April 27th, 2022


Does your house smell? No? What if we told you it’s impossible for you to know whether  it does or not?

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Selects: The Baffling Case of the Body On Somerton Beach

April 23rd, 2022


Since his corpse was found in 1948, wearing a nice suit in summer on an Australian beach, an unidentified man has refused to fade into obscurity, gripping the imagination of sleuths around the world. Learn all about the …

Just Say No to... Bottled Water

April 21st, 2022


Bottled water is huge business, and terrible for the environment. But where did this all start? Listen in and learn.

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Short Stuff: Salute the Grilled Cheese

April 20th, 2022


Today we pay tribute to the comfiest of comfort food, the grilled cheese sandwich.

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The Christine Collins Story

April 19th, 2022


When Christine Collins' son disappeared in 1928, she thought that was the worst that could happen.  What followed was more upsetting than any parent …

Selects: What happens to abandoned mines?

April 16th, 2022


Did you know there are as many as 500,000 abandoned mines in the US, but the federal government knows where only 30,000 of them are? Learn about how these places go from money pit to death trap when mine companies …

How Mensa Works

April 14th, 2022


Most of us know Mensa’s a smart people club. And that Geena Davis is a member. But did you know it was originally intended as a rolodex when the …

Short Stuff: Animal Politicians

April 13th, 2022


Small towns around the world have a longstanding tradition of nominating – and voting for – animals in elected positions like mayor and some animals have made it to being nominated for president.


The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

April 12th, 2022


If you've ever been to Philadelphia then you've probably walked right by a Toynbee Tile embedded in the street. But what's the meaning on these mysterious installations, and who is doing it? Listen in to find out.


Selects: A Partial History of Action Figures

April 9th, 2022


Action figures have a long and glorious history. From GI Joes to Star Wars figures, these offshoots of dolls came along at just the right time to …

The Delightful History of Pubs

April 7th, 2022


In today's episode, Chuck and Josh dive into the wonderful history of the public house. So pull up a stool, grab a pint and have a listen.


Short Stuff: The Church Choir That Didn't Explode

April 6th, 2022


Perhaps the most amazing coincidence ever documented took place when a church in a tiny town in Nebraska exploded in 1950.

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Watermelons: Nature's Gift to the World

April 5th, 2022


Turns out most people love watermelons. Why? Because they're delicious. And they also have a pretty interesting history. Check it out.

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Selects: How No-fly Zones Work

April 2nd, 2022


They have become such a ubiquitous tool used by the UN and NATO to intervene in international crises, that it seems like no-fly zones have been …

What’s NATO All About?

March 31st, 2022


NATO formed at a time when Russia threatened Europe as a potential invader. Then the Soviet Union broke up and NATO lost its way for a bit. Now Russia’s back to business as usual and NATO has found its purpose again, …

Short Stuff: Greenbrier Bunker

March 30th, 2022


The Greenbrier Bunker was a secret nuclear hideout for Congress, until it wasn't. Once it was exposed as a thing, it ceased to be a thing. Listen in to a fascinating short stuff today!

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How Light Pollution Works

March 29th, 2022


Artificial light at night, aka light pollution, affects almost everyone on Earth. And not just people – trees, plants, animals, insects, and marine …

Selects: The Tylenol Murders, Part II

March 26th, 2022


The panic that began in Chicago spreads and begins to change the world. The investigation into the murders turns up leads and suspects, but still no …

Selects: The Tylenol Murders, Part I

March 26th, 2022


On one terrible day in Chicago in 1982, seven people died suddenly and mysteriously. In just a matter of hours, it becomes clear, someone has …

The Truth Behind Cage-Free and Free-Range

March 25th, 2022


You’d think terms like cage-free and free-range means the chickens we eat are frolicking happily in the fresh air under the shining sun, but you’d be …

Short Stuff: Magnet Fishing

March 23rd, 2022


Magnet fishing has nothing to do with fish. It's more like metal detecting in waterways. Please enjoy our take!

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Why was Titicut Follies banned?

March 22nd, 2022


Titicut Follies is a documentary made famous by its banning. But why was it banned? And what was it even about? Listen in to learn all you need to …

Selects: How Hate Works

March 19th, 2022


Hate is generally defined as an extreme hostility to something or someone, usually stemming from fear, anger or a sense of injury. But how does it work? Join Josh and Chuck in this classic episode as they dig into the …

How Rewilding Works

March 17th, 2022


A big new push toward nature conservation (and saving the planet) is based on a simple premise: remove humans from the equation and let nature take its own course.

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Short Stuff: Nose Breathing

March 16th, 2022


Nose breathing > mouth breathing for many reasons. Listen and learn!

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Operation Northwoods: The False Flag Op That Never Was

March 15th, 2022


There is presumably some very dark, very depressing stuff in the annals of America’s secret history. But perhaps the darkest classified document to see the light of day was the memo that called for faked attacks on the …

Selects: A Brief Overview of Punk Rock

March 12th, 2022


Punk rock really needs about 10 episodes to do it justice, but we'll try and tackle anyway. Learn all about this movement right now in this classic episode.

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Aleister Crowley: Blowhard Narcissist?

March 10th, 2022


Aleister Crowley was known as the "wickedest man in the world." But was he really just a blowhard narcissist? You decide!

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Short Stuff: Great Smog of London

March 9th, 2022


In 1952 London was gripped by a acrid smog that settled throughout the city so thickly residents couldn’t see their own feet on the sidewalk.

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Behold, National Parks!

March 8th, 2022


The National Park system is one of America's great achievements. We'll take you on a journey, from sea to shining sea, in today's episode. 

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Selects: How Tabloids Work

March 5th, 2022


Having started as an egalitarian answer to 19th-century newspapers, tabloids came to peddle shock and sleaze. They've cleaned up a bit, but they remain the world's guilty pleasure. Learn more about the fascinating …

How Effective Altruism Works

March 3rd, 2022


A branch of philanthropy led by philosophers is dedicated to finding the most impactful ways to help humans survive and thrive. Anyone can find that …

Short Stuff: Friends of Dorothy

March 2nd, 2022


The gay community had to use code not too many years ago and one way they identified was as “Friends of Dorothy.” So who was Dorothy?

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What's the deal with phantom pain?

March 1st, 2022


Phantom pain is when you sense pain from a lost limb. We don't entirely know how why, but we have some ideas. Listen in to find out. 

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Selects: Is the Pied Piper About a Real Historic Tragedy?

February 26th, 2022


In the German town of Hameln a tragedy that took place on a specific date in 1284 and befell specifically 130 children is commemorated every year. Aside from those two details, the event is cloaked in mystery. What …

How Mindfulness Works

February 24th, 2022


What has become a buzz word for corporate retreats and a way to get a discount on your health insurance is, at its core, a powerful, centuries-old …

Short Stuff: Commensalism

February 23rd, 2022


What's commensalism? Sort of nature's way of sponging off something, but that something doesn't mind. If that doesn't make sense, take 12 minutes to listen and find out for yourself.

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The Improbable Story of Martin Guerre

February 22nd, 2022


Like most 16th-century French peasants, Martin Guerre’s life seemed likely to be lost to history. But a strange series of events took place that …

Selects: How Moss Works

February 19th, 2022


Think you have moss figured out? You probably don't. Join Josh and Chuck in this classic episode as they explore some of the surprising aspects of these most ancient and important plants on the planet.

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The Ins and Outs of Albinism

February 17th, 2022


Today we dive into the science behind the genetic condition albinism, which is not pronounced how you think it is. 

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Short Stuff: Cassowary

February 16th, 2022


Australia is home to a kind of bird that is the second largest in the world and can kill a human being, making it the closest living version of a velociraptor? Of course it is!

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Leeches: Oh Hell No!

February 15th, 2022


Leeches are pretty creepy. They feed on blood, they stick to you body. We get it. But they're also pretty fascinating and worthy of discussion. 

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Selects: The Ins and Outs of Beekeeping

February 12th, 2022


Who wants fresh honey? We do! Learn all about the ancient art of beekeeping today in this classic episode.

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Littering: Not Cool

February 10th, 2022


The history of litter is in lock step with the history of disposable packaging. Learn all about this nasty habit today.

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Short Stuff: Schmidt Stinging Pain Index

February 9th, 2022


If you want to know how the pain from that yellowjacket sting on your arm compares to stings from other insects, you need look no further than the …

The Chowchilla Bus Kidnapping

February 8th, 2022


The largest ever kidnapping case in the United States went down in the small town of Chowchilla, CA. Learn all about it today. 

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Selects: What's the Deal With Staring?

February 5th, 2022


Gazing too long upon another person is almost universally viewed as anywhere from impolite to hostile, which is odd considering science isn't fully …

How the Nobel Peace Prize Works

February 3rd, 2022


The Nobel Peace Prize is perhaps the most prestigious award in the world, yet there are plenty of other similar awards. What is it about this one that makes it so honored? And how did the guy who invented dynamite end …

Short Stuff: Firewalking

February 2nd, 2022


It’s pretty amazing to see a human walk over a bed of hot coals – until you learn the physics beneath it. Then it’s just fairly impressive.

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How Tacos Work

February 1st, 2022


It’s Taco Tuesday! If you like eating tacos, you’re going to love learning all about them in this delectable episode. You’ll realize how much you’ve taken tacos for granted and just what a debt we owe our friends in …

Selects: How Sloths Work

January 29th, 2022


Everyone knows sloths are super slow, but do you know they’re slow because their bodies produce an astoundingly small amount of energy? And did you know that might be an adaptation that protects them from predators? …

How Forgiveness Works

January 27th, 2022


For most of history, forgiveness fell under the domain of religion. But in the 1980s science started investigating it and found that forgiving someone is really, really good for you. Learn how anybody can be the better …

Short Stuff: Arctic Fox

January 26th, 2022


The Arctic Fox is one of the cutest critters on the planet. It also has an amazing ability to survive the coldest temps on Earth. Dive into the snow …

Tug of War

January 25th, 2022


Tug of War is a simple display of strength, but is there more to it than that? Listen in to find out. 

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Selects: How SETI Works

January 22nd, 2022


SETI stands for 'search for extraterrestrial intelligence,' and the term is used to describe both the SETI institute and the search for alien life in general. In this classic spaced-out episode, Josh and Chuck explore …

How Classified Information Works

January 20th, 2022


The government loves to mark just about any information as secret, which wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t so contrary to running a healthy …

Short Stuff: Jaywalking

January 19th, 2022


Jaywalking is a crime. Sort of. But why? Learn all about this weird law today.

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Rock Paper Scissors: Decider of Things

January 18th, 2022


Rock Paper Scissors is a child's game. But it's more than that if you can believe it, and it has a pretty cool history as well. 

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Selects: Project Azorian: The CIA's Super 70s Mission To Steal A Sunken Soviet Sub

January 15th, 2022


In 1974 the CIA undertook one of its most brazen operations – secretly raising a sunken Soviet submarine lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean right under the noses of the Russian Navy. With the help of billionaire …

What were the black codes?

January 13th, 2022


The black codes were proposed laws that basically tried to keep a form of slavery alive and well after the end of the Civil War. It didn't last long but the shadow of those codes still exist today.

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Short Stuff: Fortune Cookies

January 12th, 2022


Everything you thought you knew about fortune cookies is wrong. Learn all the right stuff in this episode.

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The Circleville Poison Pen Letters Mystery

January 11th, 2022


For 20 years, a tiny town in Ohio was held enrapt by the prolific author of a series of unhinged letters. By the time they abruptly stopped, the …

Selects: Carl Sagan: American Hero

January 8th, 2022


Carl Sagan was the world's first mainstream media super scientist, capapble of breaking down complex ideas for the common folk. But what made him …

Ants! Part 2!

January 6th, 2022


The exciting conclusion of Ants Part 2!

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Short Stuff: The Casket Racket

January 5th, 2022


And you thought we were done with talking about funeral homes. Well guess again!

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Ants! Part 1!

January 4th, 2022


Ants are pretty much amazing. So we're gonna spend two episodes talking all about them. Please enjoy!

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Selects: Horoscopes: Written in the Stars?

January 1st, 2022


A lot of people read their daily horoscopes, but does anyone really take stock in them? Turns out the answer is yes, even though there is no evidence of their accuracy. Learn all about horoscopes today in this classic …

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!

December 30th, 2021


No, we didn’t find another international distress signal we forgot to mention in our Mayday! Short Stuff, we’re just that jazzed about our episode on cookies. Are they even better than cakes? It’s up to you to listen …

Short Stuff: Traffic Signals

December 29th, 2021


The history of traffic signals is way more interesting than you might think. Trust us. 

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Unsung Heroes of the Court

December 28th, 2021


Attorneys and judges get all the press. What about bailiffs, court reporters and sketch artists? Yeah, let's give them their due. 

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Selects: How Tipping Works

December 25th, 2021


Tipping is commonly expected in some places, such as U.S. restaurants. Yet this practice varies across cultures. Join trivia gurus (and former …

SYSK’s 2021 Glad Tidings Bonanza Holiday Special

December 23rd, 2021


Josh and Chuck’s holiday mojo has returned and they’re back in the saddle to rustle up some holiday cheer. So put on your comfiest sweater, ugly or …

Short Stuff: Christmas Cards

December 22nd, 2021


You ever thought about where those cards you send out during the holidays came from? Prepare to do just that!

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How Snowmen (And Snowwomen) Work

December 21st, 2021


The details may vary but building snowmen is pretty much universal where there’s snow. Humans have probably been making them for tens of thousands of years. But it wasn’t until the last century or two that they have …

Selects: Star Wars Holiday Spectacular

December 18th, 2021


Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas allowed the Star Wars Holiday Special to be made. What happened on the night of November 17, 1978 …

Kidney Stones: No! Please, NO!

December 16th, 2021


Kidney stones are widely considered the most painful affliction a person can endure, even worse than labor. And in rare cases they can even kill. …

Short Stuff: Charity Tips

December 15th, 2021


It's the end of the year so we thought we might give you some advice on how to better pick out a charity, Short Stuff style.

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Palm Trees: Technically, Giant Plants

December 14th, 2021


Palm trees. You see them all over the world and for good reason. There are more than 2,500 varieties. Learn all about these giant plants today. 

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Selects: How the Terracotta Army Works

December 11th, 2021


In 1974, Chinese farmers discovered the first of what would number 7,000 terracotta soldiers meant to protect China's first emperor in the afterlife. …

What's the deal with blue people?

December 9th, 2021


The famous blue people of Kentucky are no longer blue. But why were they like that in the first place? 

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Short Stuff: Funny Bone

December 8th, 2021


Hitting your funny bone doesn’t just hurt, it feels really weird too. That’s because you’re not hitting a bone at all, but instead the most …

Why Do Great Flood Myths Seem To Be Universal?

December 7th, 2021


If look into the mythology of just about any culture in the world, you will find a myth about a great flood that destroyed humanity and submerged the …

Selects: What Is Collective Hysteria?

December 4th, 2021


Throughout the history of the world, there have been many cases of what is known as collective hysteria - groups of people, usually young women, who …

Your Gut Is Also A Brain

December 2nd, 2021


Your gut – not your spare tire, but your digestive tract – is deceptively smart. Not only does it handle processing food and nutrients, but the hundreds of trillions of bacteria that live in your gut may actually be …

Short Stuff: SINA

December 1st, 2021


In the 1950s a group dedicated to clothing animals out of a sense or morality gained momentum. “A nude horse is a rude horse!” was their battle cry.

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The Twisted History of Dentistry

November 30th, 2021


If you think going to the dentist now is not fun, just wait until you hear about what they did in the Middle Ages. 

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Selects: Why Do Lefties Exist?

November 27th, 2021


For at least the last 200,000 years, between 10-15% of the human population are left-handed and this fact has utterly left science baffled. In …


November 25th, 2021


Pythons are big snakes. Really big. But there's more to them than their size. Learn all about these big daddies in today's episode. 

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Short Stuff: Mayday!

November 24th, 2021


Say it three times and help may arrive. But where did "Mayday!" come from? Listen in to find out. 

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The Apache Wars

November 23rd, 2021


America’s longest-running war was between the US government and the loosely-confederated groups we know as the Apache. As their lands were encroached upon, the Apache pushed back with disastrous consequences, nearly …

Selects: How Hoarding Works

November 20th, 2021


You may be familiar with compulsive hoarding from TV, but something that’s often missing from those shows and the news is the deep and overwhelming …

Why Is DC Not A State?

November 18th, 2021


The residents of Washington, D.C., the capital of the oldest democracy in the world, are not allowed to pass their own laws without the federal …

Short Stuff: The Paper Dress Fad

November 17th, 2021


There was a brief period when it was highly on trend to wear a super short dress made out of paper. Learn why right now!

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Hot Dog!(s)

November 16th, 2021


No, there aren’t snouts and anuses in your hot dogs, so go ahead and chow down. There are, however, plenty of other things that may give you pause so listen to this episode where we dissect the beloved hot dog and poke …

Selects: How Feng Shui Works

November 13th, 2021


Feng Shui is an Asian concept that strives to unlock your chi by how your home or office is arranged. Or at least that's the simplified "Western" version. It's a little more complicated than that in reality. We'll …

The Flannan Isles Mystery

November 11th, 2021


In December 1900 three lighthouse keepers vanished without a trace from a deserted island in Scotland. To this day no one knows exactly what happened to them.

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Short Stuff: Your Dirty Bed

November 10th, 2021


Is your bed dirty? You bet it is. Are chimpanzee beds dirty? Not as dirty as yours!

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What are blue laws?

November 9th, 2021


Blue laws are laws that restrict certain activities on certain days. Are they antiquated? Yes! Are they still around? In some places, yes!

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Selects: The Stories Behind A Few Food Fads

November 6th, 2021


America loves to go nuts over new food trends and it turns out that the 20th century was a boon time for them. Revisit them with Josh and Chuck in this classic episode.

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The Rock Ampersand Roll Hall of Fame

November 4th, 2021


Cleveland rocks! So said the city of Cleveland when they lobbied for the "Rock Hall" way back in 1985. Since then the museum has grown and evolved …

Short Stuff: Friendly Floatees

November 3rd, 2021


In 1992 more than 28,000 rubber ducks got loose in the ocean and began a decades-long experiment in oceanography.

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How mRNA Vaccines Work

November 2nd, 2021


The two mRNA Covid vaccines are the first vaccines to come out of a new field of immunology and represent such an amazing leap forward that they are …

Selects: What is folklore?

October 30th, 2021


What is folklore? Turns out it's just about anything you can think of that's shared by more than two people. Art, literature, stories, dance, music, …

2021 Halloween Spooktacular!

October 28th, 2021


Dim the lights and join Josh and Chuck for their annual spooky Halloween story reading. 

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Short Stuff: Most Haunted House in England

October 27th, 2021


In the 1930s paranormal investigator declared Borley Rectory the “most haunted house in England” – and with good cause!

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Salem Witchcraft Trials: More Bonkers Than You Know

October 26th, 2021


Looking back 300 years on, it’s easy to overgeneralize why the Salem Villagers decided to persecute (and execute) their neighbors. But as much as this story has become an American history chestnut, we still don’t …

Selects: Will We Find Evidence of Aliens by Their Engineering Projects?

October 23rd, 2021


In 1960 physicist Freeman Dyson suggested that in the hunt for alien life, we should search for evidence of massive engineering projects that …

Harry Houdini: More than Magic

October 21st, 2021


Harry Houdini was a master magician. He was also a movie star. And an inventor. And an aviator. Listen and learn all about the late great illusionist.

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Short Stuff: Bloody Mary

October 20th, 2021


In this edition of Short Stuff we may accidentally conjure a deadly spirt, so look out!

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Heat Waves!

October 19th, 2021


Heat waves are one of the easiest natural disasters to overlook yet they kill more people in the US than any other natural disaster (and maybe all others combined). And if climate predictions prove correct, they’re …

Selects: Why is Venice so wet?

October 16th, 2021


Venice, Italy has a problem. It's sinking, and the water around it is rising. Thankfully, some engineers are working hard on the MOSE project - huge …

Noise Pollution: Arrrgh!

October 14th, 2021


If you’ve ever found your blood pressure rising because some guy down the street doesn’t know how to keep the trigger on a leaf blower pulled all the …

Short Stuff: Jack O'Lanterns and Sleepy Hollow

October 13th, 2021


We launch our spooky October episodes with a little bit on Jack O' Lanterns and Sleepy Hollow.

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Venus Flytraps: Plant or Monster?

October 12th, 2021


After looking into the Venus Flytrap, we quickly moved it to the top of our favorite plant list. Part plant, part monster? What's not to love?

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Selects: How X-Rays Work

October 9th, 2021


Like many huge discoveries, X-rays were accidentally stumbled upon. That serendipity led to a medical breakthrough still in use today. Learn about …

The Tale of the Church of the SubGenius

October 7th, 2021


The Church of the SubGenius is a religion, but really a parody of religion. Learn all about this group of weirdo outsiders in today's episode.

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Short Stuff: Dingoes!

October 6th, 2021


Are dingoes dogs? Not really? Then what are they? Listen in to find out.

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Research Bias: Sort It Out, Science

October 5th, 2021


There’s a sticky issue scientists have to deal with – science is carried out by humans. We humans have flaws (and how) and they can end up in our work. Fortunately, science is waking up to research bias. In the …

Selects: How Empathy Works

October 2nd, 2021


Empathy can often be confused with sympathy and regular old compassion. But it's not exactly either one of those. Some say a lack of empathy can …

All About Alligators

September 30th, 2021


Here at SYSK, we love alligators? Why? Because they're basically living dinosaurs. Dive in (metaphorically) and swim with these beasts today!

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Short Stuff: Exploring Irish Monk

September 29th, 2021


There’s a long-standing legend that an Irish monk was the first European to sail to America - in 500 CE! Is there any evidence?

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How Numerology Works

September 28th, 2021


The premise of numerology - that numbers are responsible for our destinies and personalities - is plainly nuts, but the history and thinking behind …

Selects: Planned Obsolescence: Engine of the Consumer Economy

September 25th, 2021


If you’ve ever heard an old timer gripe that things aren’t built like they used to be, that old timer was right! In this classic episode, learn about …

The Statue of Liberty

September 23rd, 2021


You've seen her there in NY Harbor, standing tall. But do you know the story of how she came to be? Learn all about the Statue of Liberty today.

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Short Stuff: Lake Erie's Rights

September 22nd, 2021


The good people of Toledo, OH are leading the environmental pack by giving legal rights to Lake Erie to fight off polluters.

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How Mail Order Marriages Work

September 21st, 2021


Everybody knows mail order marriages are at best a last resort for jerks looking to boss a foreign spouse around or, at worst, a front for human trafficking. Or are they? Yes and no. Mail order marriage comes with …

Selects: How Free Speech Works

September 18th, 2021


Freedom of speech and the press are values vital to American democracy. But the First Amendment doesn't really define free speech, and plenty of expressions are restricted. Learn all about the ins and outs of this …

What's the deal with crash testing?

September 16th, 2021


Crash testing has been around since the 1930s, but only got serious in the 1970s. Today we dive in and learn all about why companies and the U.S. …

Short Stuff: The Javelina

September 15th, 2021


Pigs, hogs, boars and javelinas. What's the difference? Tune in to find out.

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How Embalming Works

September 14th, 2021


The Death Suite continues! In this installment, Josh and Chuck go over what it takes to preserve a human body using chemicals and whether that’s such a good thing to do as far as the environment is concerned.

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Selects: Southerners Aren't Lazy and Dumb, They Just Had Hookworm

September 11th, 2021


There was a time when the lower classes of the American South were considered lazy and dimwitted, a stereotype that still somewhat survives today. But this stereotype was rooted in fact. Hookworms, it turns out, were …

How the Magna Carta Worked

September 9th, 2021


In 1215 at Runnymede (doo dah, doo dah) the nobles and the king agreed to end a rebellion against the power of the English throne. While the treaty that emerged contained all sorts of arcane Medieval details, it also …

Short Stuff: Chameleons

September 8th, 2021


In today's short stuff, we bust a few myths about cute little chameleons.

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The Creepy Legacy of the Hotel Cecil

September 7th, 2021


The Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles has had no less than 16 unnatural deaths, from suicides to murders and everything in between. Listen in to the history of this decidedly creepy hotel. 

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Selects: How Temper Tantrums Work

September 4th, 2021


When your kid boils over in the grocery store, it can be tough to stay calm and ignore it, but that's precisely what experts prescribe parents do to deal with temper tantrums. Learn about the anatomy of a tantrum and …

Criminal Records: No Thanks!

September 2nd, 2021


And you thought our crime and punishment suite was finished. Not yet it isn't! Not before we cover criminal records.

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Short Stuff: Handwashing vs Dishwashers

September 1st, 2021


Josh and Chuck finally put to rest the age old debate over which is better – and learn a little about themselves along the way.

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How Trepanation Worked

August 31st, 2021


One of the oldest medical procedures in human history is also one of the riskiest. For thousands of years humans carried a type of proto brain …

Selects: Composting: Nature's Most Interesting Process

August 28th, 2021


You may think composting is just a bunch of old banana peels rotting away into dirt but, friend, you're not looking closely enough. Inside that …

Les Paul & Leo Fender Part II

August 26th, 2021


Today we continue the story of Les Paul and Leo Fender, inventors, innovators and rivals.

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Short Stuff: Jackalope

August 25th, 2021


Jackalopes aren’t real, right? Wouldn’t you like to know, city slicker.

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Les Paul & Leo Fender Part I

August 24th, 2021


The story of Les Paul and Leo Fender defines rock and roll music. Listen in to part one of the tale of these two musical rivals. 

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Selects: How Pet Psychics Work

August 21st, 2021


In the early 21st century a trend of people who claim to be able to telepathically and clairvoyantly communicate with animals has grown. Today, the concept of visiting a pet psychic to find a lost pet, find out why a …

Y2K: Much Ado About Something

August 19th, 2021


Y2K was a special time when we all thought nothing bad would really happen at the stroke of midnight, but secretly worried the world would end. Turns …

Short Stuff: 5 Lazarus Species

August 18th, 2021


Lazarus species were thought to be gone, but had something else in mind. Today we talk about 5 of them.

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How MRI Works

August 17th, 2021


At long last Chuck and Josh dive into the nuts and bolts of what makes the Wonder Machine so wondrous and find it actually lives up to the years-long …

Selects: How Animal Domestication Works

August 14th, 2021


It's strange to hear, but the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, including the domestication of wild animals, is the single biggest …

How Fireflies and Lightning Bugs Work

August 12th, 2021


Whether called fireflies, lightning bugs, or glow worms, the tiny, bioluminescent bugs that light up the evening are universally beloved. Which makes …

Short Stuff: Humpty Dumpty

August 11th, 2021


Humpty Dumpty is not a good nursery rhyme. And what was Humpty anyway? Listen in to find out.

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Child Labor: Not Funny

August 10th, 2021


Child labor is no laughing matter. Even though we've taken care of it in the USA (mostly), it's still an issue around the globe. Listen and learn!

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Selects: How Landslides Work

August 7th, 2021


Landslides are a form of mass movement of the Earth, and with the amount of death and destruction they wreak on the people and towns they cover, …

How Transcendentalism Works

August 5th, 2021


Every teenager in America knows the transcendentalists were a handful of goofy 19th century philosophers who were into walking in the woods, but they …

Short Stuff: Calamity Jane

August 4th, 2021


Calamity Jane is group with the legends of the Wild West. Who was she really? A tough woman who made her way in a tough world from the age of 12.

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The Three Christs of Ypsilanti Experiment

August 3rd, 2021


In the early 1960s, one of the most unethical experiments in psychology’s history was quietly conducted in a state hospital in Michigan. It sought to …

Selects: How Police Interrogation Works

July 31st, 2021


Every year, police across the U.S. get thousands of criminals to confess to their crimes. The trouble is, the procedure that almost all departments …

How Sarcasm Works

July 29th, 2021


In this episode, we get to the bottom of why people sometimes talk like jerks some and how sarcasm isn’t all bad. Stand back everybody, this one is just soooo great. 

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Short Stuff: Space Hurricanes

July 28th, 2021


Space hurricanes are officially a thing. What does that mean for us here on Earth? Probably not much.

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Conservatorships: #freebritney

July 27th, 2021


Britney Spears has made a lot of noise lately in her bid to nullify her conservatorship. But what are they even? Listen in to find out!

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Selects: How Mars Works

July 24th, 2021


Sure today Mars would kill you with its thin, toxic atmosphere and cold desert temperature swings of 100 degrees,but early on it and Earth were …

The Origins of Some Everyday Superstitions

July 22nd, 2021


Why exactly do we avoid walking under a ladder? Why is stepping on a crack in the sidewalk such a big deal? What kind of monster carries a rabbit’s foot in their pocket? The answers to these questions and more lie in …

Short Stuff: RICO Act

July 21st, 2021


If you’re even passingly interested in mobsters you’ve heard of the RICO Act, but most people don’t know how it actually works. Make your Goodfellas fandom more well-rounded with this explainer episode.

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Stranger Danger!

July 20th, 2021


If you grew up in the 1980s, you thought you had a 50% chance of getting kidnapped every time you left your house. But like with the Satanic Panic and other 80s hysteria, it was much ado about (almost) nothing.

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Selects: How Ketchup Works

July 17th, 2021


Little-known fact: Ketchup, possibly the most all-American of condiments, evolved from fermented fish sauce people in Southeast Asia have been making …

How Reverse Osmosis Will Save the World

July 15th, 2021


Can we save the future of the human race with some thin membranes riddled with ultra-tiny holes? Science says yes! Thanks to reverse osmosis …

Short Stuff: Hanged, Drawn and Quartered

July 14th, 2021


The words "hanged, drawn and quartered" are an accurate description of the grizzly execution process. They're just not in the right order.

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The Radium Girls

July 13th, 2021


The Radium Girls painted watched with glow-in-the-dark radium in the 1920s and '30s. Most got sick, many died. This is their story. 

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Selects: How Historic Districts Work

July 10th, 2021


A fascinating thing about Americans is that we can disagree on anything. Such is the case with historic districts – areas of historic importance protected by local laws. Seems innocuous, but are they also to blame for …

SYSK Live: Koko, the Gorilla Who Talked

July 8th, 2021


Recorded live before the pandemic in January 2020 at the Castro Theatre for San Francisco Sketchfest, Josh and Chuck explore the 70s movement that attempted to teach apes human language and the Ape Language Wars that …

Short Stuff: Sulfanilamide Disaster

July 7th, 2021


In the 1920s, before the era of consumer protection, a poison entered the medicine supply and killed more than 100 people before the pubic health …

The Sad Story of William James Sidis

July 6th, 2021


Are geniuses made or born? Listen in today to the story of child prodigy William James Sidis.

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Selects: Are good samaritan laws effective?

July 3rd, 2021


Good samaritan laws have been around for many years, helping to provide legal protections for people who try to help other people. But do they work? Listen to this classic episode and decide for yourself today!

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The Grand Ole Opry Cast

July 1st, 2021


Josh and Chuck take a virtual walk through country music's legendary music venue. 

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Short Stuff: Beast of Gevaudan

June 30th, 2021


The first truly international news story covered a beast that terrorized the French countryside, eviscerating dozens of villagers for three years in …

Poison Control Centers: A Good Thing

June 29th, 2021


Poison control centers are one of those things you don’t think about until you need it. With all the poisons in our homes you very well may someday. …

Selects: How Royalty Works

June 26th, 2021


In some nations royals are so ingrained in the national fabric they are considered part of the country. In this classic episode, Josh and Chuck take a look backward in time at the ancient tradition of despotism and …

How Faraday Cages Work

June 24th, 2021


Faraday cages are one of those peculiar miracles of nature that we can actually explain – not to mention, they save us from potentially fatal …

Short Stuff: Chastity Belts

June 23rd, 2021


Were chastity belts real? Sort of. But not in the way you might think. Tune in to hear the real story.

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The Mystery of Damascus Steel

June 22nd, 2021


Damascus steel and the recipe behind it remained a mystery for many years. But it turns out the key was a bygone ingredient. Listen in to this medieval mystery to learn all about it. 

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Selects: Operation Mincemeat: How A Corpse Fooled the Nazis

June 19th, 2021


In World War II, a secret department of British ‘corkscrew thinkers’ hatched a plan to use the cadaver of an unclaimed homeless man to turn the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor. It worked. Learn all about it in this …

How Venus Works

June 17th, 2021


Venus is so hot lead would melt on the planet’s surface. It spins backwards. Its year is shorter than its day. Venus is amazingly awesome. 

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Short Stuff: Mojave Megaphone

June 16th, 2021


What is the Mojave Megaphone? Well, nobody really knows. Listen in today to learn about this desert mystery.

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Seven - No, Wait, Five - Mysteries of the Art World

June 15th, 2021


When you get a bunch of artistic types together into a community – aka, the art world – some intrigue and mystery are bound to arise. Listen in as Chuck and Josh cover strangeness around Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Raphael, …

Selects: How Sea Monsters Work

June 12th, 2021


Legends of sea monsters are as old as humanity, and some ancient cultures even credited them with creating the universe. Learn more about humanity's …

POGs: The 90s in a Bottle Cap

June 10th, 2021


Today, Chuck and Josh go down a 90s rabbit hole with another in their classic toy series. This time, they tackle the odd sensation that was POGs.

Short Stuff: Chinatowns

June 9th, 2021


If you live in a major city in the USA, you probably have a Chinatown. Listen in and learn all about these unique cultural staples today.

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Slime Mold: 0% Mold, 100% Amazing

June 8th, 2021


If you’ve ever wandered past what looked like a pile of dog barf on a log during a hike in the woods, you’d just seen slime mold - one of the most …

Selects: Who was America's first murderer?

June 5th, 2021


John Billington didn't just sign the Mayflower Compact -- he was also the colony's first criminal, and had the dubious honor of being the first …

John Muir: Outdoor Enthusiast

June 3rd, 2021


John Muir loved being outside. So much so that he dedicated his life to helping preserve it, but not without some controversy. Listen in to this decidedly nature-centric episode today!

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Short Stuff: Runner's High

June 2nd, 2021


Listen in to today's short stuff to learn if a runner's high is really a thing.

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What Causes Inflation?

June 1st, 2021


Inflation seems super boring, but if you know how it works (important point: no one really does) you can exist as a functioning human being in a modern economy. 

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Selects: How Nitrous Oxide Works

May 29th, 2021


For about 175 years people have been huffing nitrous oxide for everything from vision quests to anesthetic to get plain old high. And after all that …

Night Trap: The Video Game Failure that Changed the Industry

May 27th, 2021


In the early 90s a video game was released that changed the industry, despite poor sales and bad game play. That game was Night Trap. This is that story.

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Short Stuff: Parachute Emergency!

May 26th, 2021


Your parachute won’t open – now what?! Listen up to Josh and Chuck and you may make it out of this in one piece.

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How Cleft Lips and Palates Work

May 25th, 2021


Cleft lips and palates are common birth defects, but for the kids who have them (and their parents), its no small matter: Years of surgeries, therapy, and possibly lifelong health issues, not to mention the teasing that …

Selects: How Hot Wheels Work

May 22nd, 2021


If you're an American who had a childhood, you probably have some nostalgia for Hot Wheels. Get your engines revved for this trip down memory lane as we discuss these fun and iconic toys in this classic episode.

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Girl Scouts: More than cookie sellers

May 20th, 2021


We put our research to the test and it turns out the Girl Scouts is a great organization.

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Short Stuff: Speed Reading

May 19th, 2021


Back in the 60s and 70s, a speed reading craze broke out. Tough luck that speed reading is bunk.

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The Cleveland Torso Murders

May 18th, 2021


During the depths of the Great Depression, Cleveland’s most vulnerable and destitute residents were prey for one of history’s most horrific serial …

Selects: How Limousines Work

May 15th, 2021


The first limousines weren’t even cars! Learn all about the history of limousines, how they’re made and some of the most creative and expensive amenities you can find inside them in this classic episode with Josh and …

How Monster Trucks Work

May 13th, 2021


If you’ve never seen a huge truck with gigantic tires do backflips or roll backward perched only on its two front tires, you haven’t lived yet. Chuck …

Short Stuff: Garter Snakes

May 12th, 2021


Garter snakes aren’t scary, they’re pretty great! Learn all the reasons why in this episode!

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The Ivy League

May 11th, 2021


The Ivy League is technically a sports conference, but it's much more than that. Enjoy this special 3D episode with your earbuds on and learn all about these revered, elite universities.

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Selects: How Snake Handlers Work

May 8th, 2021


Snake handling ranges from professional snake milkers for antivenin to religious handlers who tend to get bitten and sometimes die from it. Either way, it can be a dangerous business. Learn all about snake handling in …

How Uranium Mining Works

May 6th, 2021


Mining uranium is dangerous work. Not only does it involve mining, which is dangerous itself, uranium is also found alongside some very radioactive …

Short Stuff: Squarer Than Wombat Poop

May 5th, 2021


One of the cutest animals on the planet is also the only one that squeezes out cube-shaped poop. Find out why today.

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The Appendix: No Respect

May 4th, 2021


The poor appendix. Despite findings that it serves a purpose, many people still cast it off as a second rate organ and the Rodney Dangerfield of organs. We aim to correct that notion.

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Selects: How Cave Dwellers Work

May 1st, 2021


You know the cavemen, a race of human cousins who lived exclusively in caves? They didn’t exist. Sure prehistoric hominids used caves sometimes but they lived in other places too. Luckily the time they spent in caves …

How Corporate Taxes Work

April 29th, 2021


There are lots of reasons to tax corporations: as a check on their power, to help pay for infrastructure, as a wealth tax. But the biggest reason economists cite for why they've stuck around is that everyday people …

Short Stuff: Ivar The Boneless

April 28th, 2021


Was Ivar the Boneless a real Viking warrior? Probably. Did he really have no bones? Probably not.

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Truffles: Underground Treasures

April 27th, 2021


Truffles are rare, expensive and apparently delicious. Learn all about these earthy fungi today.

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Selects: How Profiling Works

April 24th, 2021


At its base, criminal profiling is a legitimate investigatory tool. The Supreme Court has drawn a clear line that bans profiling when it includes …

How Stamp Collecting Works

April 22nd, 2021


Over the last two centuries philatelists – stamp collectors – have learned just about everything there is to know about every stamp ever printed. You …

Short Stuff: Madam C.J. Walker

April 21st, 2021


Join us today as we dive into the story of the first female self-made millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker.

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Mechanical Bulls!

April 20th, 2021


Mechanical bulls are kind of weird, but they have certainly made a place in American pop culture over the years. Largely due to one movie, Urban …

Selects: How Tupperware Works

April 17th, 2021


Tupperware won immediate design acclaim when it was released in 1947, but it took a pioneering female executive to make a line of plastic food storage into an icon of the American postwar boom. Learn about the …

Hair Loss: The Pits

April 15th, 2021


Losing your hair is a situation that seems to be universally considered to absolutely stink. Unsurprisingly, humans have been trying all sorts of …

Short Stuff: Palindromes

April 14th, 2021


Chuck loves palindromes. So much that his very name is one. Oh wait...

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How the Electrical Grid Works

April 13th, 2021


The electrical grid that provides power to the US is one of those things you don’t give a second thought to until it stops working – then it’s tough to think about anything else. Learn why this engineering marvel is …

Selects: The Unsolved Mystery Disappearance of the Sodder Children

April 10th, 2021


In 1945 a house fire took the lives of five children - except that their bodies were never found. In this classic episode, dive into the longstanding mystery of the odd circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the …

Muzak: Easy Listening Goodness

April 8th, 2021


Muzak got a bad reputation as bland garbage music. We aim to set the record straight.

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Short Stuff: Venus de Milo

April 7th, 2021


Step into today's short stuff to learn all about the armless wonder!

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Havana Syndrome: ¿Qué Diablos?

April 6th, 2021


In 2016, diplomats at the American embassy in Cuba began suffering weird neurological symptoms after hearing strange noises. Some say it was a sonic …

Selects: How Circus Families Work

April 3rd, 2021


Don't be confused - this one is about actual circus acts made of family members, not the controversial comic strip. Step right up to this classic episode.

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How the Titanic Worked: Part Two

April 1st, 2021


After the Titanic sank recriminations and blame followed, sometimes ruining careers unjustifiably. As the decades wore on and she was found almost …

Short Stuff: What's the oldest book?

March 31st, 2021


In order to figure out what the oldest book is, one has to define what a book actually is. Listen in as we discuss this debatable topic.

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How the Titanic Worked: Part One

March 30th, 2021


When the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage in April 1912, the world was divided into two types of people: those who considered her unsinkable and those who weren’t so sure about that. Both types were aboard when she …

Selects: What was the Philadelphia Experiment?

March 27th, 2021


The Philadelphia Experiment is a bad movie from the 1980s, and also the conpiracy theory that refuses to die, despite virtually zero evidence of its occurance. Learn all about this strange non-event in this classic …

Space Junk, Ahoy!

March 25th, 2021


The orbits hundreds to thousands of miles above Earth are littered with garbage. Space garbage, sure, but it’s still garbage. Littering in space is bad enough but it poses practical problems too – like space junk …

Short Stuff: Cellphones on Airplanes

March 24th, 2021


Are we finally at the place where we can make cell phone calls on airplanes? PLEASE NO! Listen in to find out.

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What is biophilic design?

March 23rd, 2021


Biophilic design is all about bringing the outside in. But it's also much more than that. Open your windows and have a listen!

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Selects: How Lighthouses Work

March 20th, 2021


People have been burning fires on cliffs as long as other people have used boats, but after the Age of Exploration, lighthouses took their unmistakable form and the great stories of the people who kept the lights around …

The Texas City Disaster of 1947

March 18th, 2021


In 1947 the port town of Texas City, Texas became the site of the largest industrial disaster in American history. An enormous explosion blew ships out of the water, created a tidal wave that flooded the town, and …

Short Stuff: Brazilian Jars

March 17th, 2021


In the 1970s big news was made when some underwater artifacts were found in a bay by Rio de Janeiro that would have rewritten history. Then it just …

The Parrot Episode

March 16th, 2021


If you think parrots are simply mimics that fly, you're wrong. Tune in and learn about these colorful friends today.

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Selects: Please Listen to How Plasma Waste Convertors Work

March 13th, 2021


There is a way to not only sustainably get rid of our household waste, but also produce enough energy from it to power the process and even create …

Karaoke: Tuesday Night Fever

March 11th, 2021


Listen in and learn all about the fascinating history of everybody's favorite pastime... karaoke!

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Short Stuff: Tooth Fairy: Not Real

March 10th, 2021


Today we break down the history of everyone's favorite home invader, the tooth fairy.

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Dragons: As Real as Mermaids

March 9th, 2021


Dragons are like mermaids in that they're not real. And that's about where the comparison ends. Learn all about dragons today.

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Selects: Mermaids: Not a real thing

March 6th, 2021


Mermaids aren't real. That much we know. But the history and lore of these magical and sometimes menacing creatures of the sea is pretty interesting stuff. Learn all about these half women/half fish in this classic …

Why is the Equal Rights Amendment still not ratified?

March 4th, 2021


The United States is one of only 28 countries in the world that doesn’t have equal protection for women under the law enshrined in its constitution. There was a moment in the 70s where it came very close, but then the …

Short Stuff: Dog Suicide Bridge

March 3rd, 2021


A bridge at the town of Dumbarton in Scotland has a terrible reputation as a site where dogs inexplicably leap to their death on the rocks 50 feet …

Is the Free Radical Theory of Aging Wrong?

March 2nd, 2021


In the 1990s we thought we’d identified the root cause of aging: nasty molecules called free radicals that wreaked havoc on our cells. Even better, …

Selects: Bridges: Nature Abhors Them

February 27th, 2021


From prehistoric logs across streams to the 102-mile Kunshan Grand Bridge, nature works ceaselessly to take down spans. In this classic episode, learn about the fascinating ins and outs of bridge design and building and …

How Bruce Lee Worked

February 25th, 2021


Bruce Lee may have introduced more Westerners to Asian culture than any person in history. And, because he died young just as he became an …

Short Stuff: The Body in the Cylinder

February 24th, 2021


In 1945, residents of a Liverpool neighborhood found a desiccated body in a long cylinder they’d been using for years using as a bench. It launched a …

What Will Farming 4.0 Look Like?

February 23rd, 2021


The human population is expected to increase by a couple billion people in the next 30 years and those who are paying attention are wondering exactly …

Selects: How Chili Peppers Work

February 20th, 2021


Born and raised in South America, chilis were the earliest crop domesticated in the continent and among the first items brought back to Europe by …

How Blue Holes Work

February 18th, 2021


Geologists and biologists have recently realized that the planet’s oceans and coasts are littered with a unique type of ecosystem called blue holes, …

Short Stuff: Freedom House Ambulance Services

February 17th, 2021


As part of Black History Month, we wanted to share the little known story of the Freedom House Ambulance Service. Listen in to learn all about this …

The Disappearance of Lars Mittank

February 16th, 2021


In 2014, a young German man walked into an airport in Bulgaria with a flight booked, then suddenly ran out leaving all his posessions behind, never …

Selects: Why Are So Many Disembodied Feet Washing Ashore In British Columbia?

February 13th, 2021


Between 2007 and 2016, 17 disembodied feet - still wearing shoes - have washed ashore between Washington and British Columbia. What's behind the …

How Housing Discrimination Works

February 11th, 2021


Owning a home in the US is a way to pass wealth down from one generation to the next and lift families into a comfortable life down the road. But there have been barriers to buying homes that Black Americans have faced …

Short Stuff: How California Got Its Name

February 10th, 2021


California is a pretty cool name. And the story about where it came from is even cooler.

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Sacagawea: Impressive Teen

February 9th, 2021


Sacagawea was only 16 when she joined the Corps of Discovery. That is one seriously impressive teenager.

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Selects: Earwax: Live With It

February 6th, 2021


Despite tons of people using cotton swabs each day to clean the earwax from their ears, cerumen (as earwax is clinically known) is actually quite beneficial to the health of your ears - and even kind of ingenious as …


February 4th, 2021


The NAACP has long been one of the most robust and effective non-profits in the USA. And while it has faded a bit from its glory days, it still remains a vital cog in the battle for equality.

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Short Stuff: Balloonfest

February 3rd, 2021


In 1986 Cleveland released more than a million helium balloons at once! It didn’t go at all according to plan!

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How Groundhog Day Works

February 2nd, 2021


You know Groundhog Day – the holiday on February 2 when you wake up and have to go through the same day over and over again. It turns out the holiday …

Selects: Maggots: Good For Healing Wounds, Turns Out

January 30th, 2021


Cultures around the world over the years have been inspired by, then repulsed, then inspired by maggots' ability to heal persistent wounds. We are in …

How Hydropower Works

January 28th, 2021


Humans have been stealing energy from flowing water for at least two thousand years. It wasn’t until the advent of electricity that things really got …

Short Stuff: Vantablack

January 27th, 2021


How black is vantablack? About as black as you could imagine.

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The KKK: Loathsome Cosplay Rednecks

January 26th, 2021


The history of the KKK is rooted in hatred and racism, and it still is today. Learn all about these loathsome rednecks today.

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Selects: How Blimps Work

January 23rd, 2021


After newsreels captured the Hindenburg erupting in fire in 1937, the promising development of airship aviation was cut short. Today companies and militaries are taking another look at blimps and the unique qualities …

Finding the Fenn Treasure

January 21st, 2021


In 2010 an eccentric art dealer hid a treasure chest with $2 million in valuables somewhere in the Rocky Mountains and published a poem with clues on where to find it. Hence began the most famous treasure hunt in modern …

Short Stuff: Necco

January 20th, 2021


If you think Necco Wafers are the most disgusting candy on the planet, you are not alone. But it turns out there’s a rich history behind those chalky discs that make them fascinating, if horrible.

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What does a tire company know about food?

January 19th, 2021


The Michelin Guide is an institution. But why does the famous tire manufacturer even put this restaurant guide out? Listen in to find out.

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Selects: What Was the Deal With the Hatfields and McCoys?

January 16th, 2021


It was America's most famous family feud, but the history of the Hatfields vs the McCoys is fraught with bias and inaccuracies. Dig into a disagreement in 19th-century Appalachia that became a very big deal around the …

The Science of Cute

January 14th, 2021


If you took our advice and looked up baby beavers a few episodes back, you probably found them sooooo cute you couldn’t stand it. Or you just wanted …

Short Stuff: Silverfish

January 13th, 2021


Should you be afraid of these creepy little creatures you find in your basement? Only one way to find out.

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Hell! Hell! Hell!

January 12th, 2021


What is Hell? It's complicated and depends on which religion you're talking about. We dive into this fiery mess and do our best to explain it.

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Selects: How Skateboarding Works

January 9th, 2021


Skateboarding started out as something bored surfers did when the waves weren't breaking, but after a few improvements to the design, it took off …

The Wright Brothers

January 7th, 2021


Orville and Wilbur Wright were not trained professionals, but they were rigorous experimenters who ended up changing the world.

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Short Stuff: Is It Theater or Theatre?

January 6th, 2021


Have you ever noticed sometimes theaters – we mean, theatres – oh, forget it – places where you see movies or plays – are sometimes spelled two different ways? You can thank Noah Webster, author of the first American …

Space Weather - What's That?!

January 5th, 2021


Did you know space has weather? It’s true! In our solar system, tons – literal tons – of highly charged gas and magnetized particles spew from the …

Selects: How Auto-Tune Works

January 2nd, 2021


What began as a challenge to an oil engineer to make a terrible singer into a pitch-perfect one, Auto-Tune has become a ubiquitous (and, to many, obnoxious) part of the musical soundscape. Learn more in this classic …

La Dame de Fer (Eiffel Tower)

December 31st, 2020


The Eiffel Tower is one of the top destinations on Planet Earth. It turns out to be a pretty cool feat of engineering as well.

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Short Stuff: Ig-pay Atin-lay (Sorry)

December 30th, 2020


Turns out we have little kids from the 19th century, the Three Stooges, and an odd musical composer named Arthur Fields to thank for pig latin.

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Theremins: World's First Electronic Music

December 29th, 2020


In 1919 a brilliant Russian scientist accidentally stumbled onto the first electronic musical instrument in history – the theremin – which you play not by strings, keys, or even percussion, but by moving your hand in …

SYSK Selects: Sugar: It Powers the Earth

December 26th, 2020


Since sugar spread from Polynesia a few thousand years ago, the world has been crazy for it. Insanely high prices, wars and even slavery couldn't …

The SYSK 2020 Holly Jolly Extravaganza!

December 24th, 2020


It's here again! Our annual ad-free holiday spectacular. So pour up a hot toddy, throw a log on the fire and listen with the whole family!

Learn …

Short Stuff: Chinese Food on Christmas

December 23rd, 2020


What started out as a tradition among Jewish people on the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century has become a full-blown American holiday …

How Buffets Work

December 22nd, 2020


Buffets are every kid’s dream – until they grow up enough to realize how gross communal spreads of food shared with strangers actually are. Then the …

SYSK Selects: The Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978

December 19th, 2020


Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas allowed the Star Wars Holiday Special to be made. What happened on the night of November 17, 1978 …

Aspirin: The Wonder Drug

December 17th, 2020


Humans have been using a form of aspirin for pain relief since at least the Sumerians. But in recent years we’ve come to learn the wonder drug is indeed awe-inspiring, from preventing heart attacks to possibly …

Short Stuff: Modern Funerals

December 16th, 2020


The way we deal with our dead has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Learn all about it in 12-15 minutes right here.

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Joseph Merrick, aka "The Elephant Man"

December 15th, 2020


Joseph Merrick was known as The Elephant Man because of his suffering from what we now know was Proteus Synrome. Learn all about this brave man in today's episode. 

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SYSK Selects: What is a hangover, really?

December 12th, 2020


After a night of heavy boozing, many partygoers find themselves the victim of a hangover. But what exactly is a hangover, and what causes it? Join Chuck and Josh as they break down the science behind hangovers -- and …

The Taliesin Massacre

December 10th, 2020


Everyone knows who Frank Lloyd Wright is, but did you know there was a grisly massacre at his home in 1914?

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Short Stuff: Cramming

December 9th, 2020


Cramming is no way to study. Learn why in today's short stuff.

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How Class Action Lawsuits Work

December 8th, 2020


Class action lawsuits seem a little odd – a bunch of people get together for a sue-fest against somebody – but in the legal world they’re a practical way of handing huge wrongs. And! They keep justice just in their way. …

SYSK Selects: How Chaos Theory Changed the Universe

December 5th, 2020


Since the age of Descartes, science has put all of its eggs in the basket of determinism, the idea that with accurate enough measurements any aspect …

John Lennon and the FBI

December 3rd, 2020


Did you know that Richard Nixon had a FBI case file open on Beatle John Lennon? Well he did! Why? Listen in to find out.

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Short Stuff: Pimento Cheese!

December 2nd, 2020


Pimento cheese was originally nothing like it is now: It was mass produced, it was made from cream cheese and it was conceived in New York. Today it’s something much better, thanks to the South!

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Cabbage Patch Kids: Must-Have Toy of the Century

December 1st, 2020


Surprisingly, Cabbage Patch Kids have turned up on SYSK almost as much as the Nazis or Seinfeld. It’s finally time to dive all the way into CPKs, from their controversial origins to the Christmas craze of ‘83 to their …

SYSK Selects: How Tea Works

November 28th, 2020


Legend has it that tea was discovered by a curious Chinese emperor after leaves blew into his boiled water. Now tea is the second only to water in …

Gobble Gobble: Turkeys!

November 26th, 2020


Turkeys are a very interesting bird as it turns out. Which may be why many people are leaving it off their Thanksgiving table this year. Learn all about them right now!

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Short Stuff: How Eyes In a Painting Follow You

November 25th, 2020


Ever noticed how eyes in a painting sometimes follow you around the room? It’s weird! But it’s also fully explainable and Josh and Chuck do just that …

Patty Hearst: Brainwashed or Bandit?

November 24th, 2020


Patty Hearst was a young heiress living a quiet life studying art history at college when one Monday evening her home was invaded, she was kidnapped, …

SYSK Selects: Whatever happened to acid rain?

November 21st, 2020


Along with the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain was one of the first international environmental threats. It's fallen to the wayside in the face of …

The Great War of the Worlds Panic Myth

November 19th, 2020


On Halloween 1938 young radio star Orson Welles scared the pants off of America with a fictional news bulletin claiming Martians had landed and were …

Short Stuff: Squirrel Nuts

November 18th, 2020


We know squirrels hide nuts. But it's actually more complex a system than you think.

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How Pain Works

November 17th, 2020


In recent decades we’ve come to understand that there’s a lot more to pain than: touch hot stove/feel burning hand. Pain is a far more sophisticated experience and, unfortunately, a system that can often go haywire, …

SYSK Selects: Who Gets to Name Continents?

November 14th, 2020


America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, right? Maybe not. And who named Australia? Find out the unusually uncertain origins of the continents and other interesting stuff in this classic episode.

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How Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Works

November 12th, 2020


For almost a century, Macy’s department store has kicked off the holidays in America with a grand parade. And when you march thousands of clowns, lip …

Short Stuff: Plastic Pink Flamingos

November 11th, 2020


Plastic flamingos started out as innocent yard art, transformed into folk art, and have become a (kind of mean) symbol of high campiness. There’s a …

The Bay of Pigs Disaster

November 10th, 2020


The Bay of Pigs is one of the blackest of eyes on American foreign policy. Learn all about this dark spot of American history today.

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SYSK Selects: Geysers: Nature's Innuendo

November 8th, 2020


The spectacular eruptions of steam and water we call geysers are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the result of thousands of years of specific …

All the Gold In Fort Knox: Meh

November 5th, 2020


When Fort Knox was built in the 1930s to house America’s gold supply, it was billed as an impenetrable, impregnable, don’t-even-think-of-trying …

Short Stuff: Fruit Flies, Why?

November 4th, 2020


Have you ever wondered why we do so much scientific testing on fruit flies? Turns out they make better models for humans than you’d think.

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The Amazing Roberto Clemente

November 3rd, 2020


Roberto Clemente was what’s called a “complete” baseball player – he could hit, run and, man could he throw, so it’s no surprise he was made a Hall …

SYSK Selects: How Ghosts Work

October 31st, 2020


According to a 2009 poll, more Americans believe in ghosts than don't. But what are ghosts exactly? If they do exist, what are they made of and why …

SYSK’s Scare Your Pants Off (and Back On) Halloween Spooktacular

October 29th, 2020


It’s that time of year again! So turn down the lights, pull the sheets over your eyes and prepare to be thrilled and frightened with two great …

Short Stuff: Poe Toaster

October 28th, 2020


For at least sixty years a mysterious person (or persons) showed up at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave to toast the master on his birthday. No one ever found out who this legendary figure was.

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A History of Nursing Homes

October 27th, 2020


In America, we've treated our senior citizens in very different ways over the years. Tune in to hear about how we've tackled compassionate care.

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Chuck Bryant On The Why I’m Voting Podcast

October 25th, 2020


Hey, SYSK listeners! We wanted to make sure you heard Chuck on iHeartRadio’s Why I’m Voting podcast. Check it out and don’t forget to vote on November 3rd! 

If you want to change, preserve, or build a better America, …

SYSK Selects: How Book Banning Works

October 24th, 2020


If you want to control the masses, control what they read. After all, books are seeds that germinate new points of view. As a result, the struggle …

Beavers: Tail Slapping Fun

October 22nd, 2020


Beavers are in fact, very busy. They're builders and solid family members, husbands and wives. Learn all about N America's largest rodent today.

Short Stuff: Haunted Real Estate

October 21st, 2020


Do you have to disclose the notion that your house may be haunted upon sale? Listen in to find out.

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10 Voter Suppression Methods

October 20th, 2020


Voter suppression in the USA is as old as voting itself. Listen in to hear about 10 ways we stifle the vote.

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SYSK Selects: How Sushi Works

October 17th, 2020


Sushi grew out of a way to ferment fish a couple thousand years ago and in the late 20th century began to take the world by storm. What began as …

Porcupines: Little Stabby Cutie Pies

October 15th, 2020


We love animals. A lot. Especially underrated ones like the darling porcupine. Listen in today to learn all about these stabby little boogers.

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Short Stuff: What is Latinx anyway?

October 14th, 2020


We love to keep up with the current terminology for groups of people. Learn about the origin of Latinx today.

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Wind Tunnels: More Important Than You Realize

October 13th, 2020


Without wind tunnels we may not have airplanes right now. Early aviationists built them to puzzle out how to get and stay airborne. But wind tunnels are used for so much more than flight – from microchips to wind …

SYSK Selects: How Bigfoot Works

October 10th, 2020


For centuries North American tribes have told stories of a hairy wild giant in the wilderness, and once Europeans arrived they claimed to see it, …

Printing press? Big deal!

October 8th, 2020


Was the printing press a big deal? You bet it was. One of the biggest. Learn all about the early history of printing today.

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Short Stuff: Lying in State

October 7th, 2020


After RBG passed away she had the honor of lying in state. Who decides this? Listen and you'll know.

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What's the deal with swing states?

October 6th, 2020


Swing states are all the rage once again this election season, but the makeup has changed a bit. Learn all about what makes a swing state a swing state right now.

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SYSK Selects: How the Electoral College Works

October 3rd, 2020


When you vote in an American presidential election, you're not voting for your candidate - you're voting for a group of people you hope will in turn vote for your candidate. Listen in to learn more about the strange …

Fallout Shelters: Probably Useless (Let’s Never Find Out)

October 1st, 2020


The advent of nuclear weapons and the Cold War kicked off a craze in the US for building rec rooms with foot-thick reinforced walls and outfitted …

Short Stuff: That's A Head Scratcher

September 30th, 2020


It’s actually really strange that scratching your head is a widely understood sign that you’re puzzling over something. No one’s exactly sure why we do that, so interesting theories abound!

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Conjugal Visits: Not exactly what you think

September 29th, 2020


After reaching their peak, conjugal prison visits are all but gone in the U.S. Learn all about these frisky visits in today's episode.

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SYSK Selects: How Rabies Works

September 26th, 2020


Rabies may have gotten a lot of attention in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, but it's still an issue in developing countries. Learn all about this nasty virus in this classic episode. And stay away from raccoons and bats. 

At Long Last: Hawaiian Overthrow Episode

September 24th, 2020


By longstanding listener request, we look at how Hawaii was basically stolen by the United States in the 19th century. Rather than reverse this bit …

Short Stuff: Petticoat Rulers

September 23rd, 2020


Petticoat rulers were women who ran the show long before anyone thought they could. We’re talking mayors and entire city councils comprised of women …

How Sweepstakes Work

September 22nd, 2020


Sweepstakes were invented as marketing tools to drum up interest for a product or sales. But winning them can be fun and as they’ve proliferated an …

SYSK Selects: How White-collar Crime Works

September 19th, 2020


White-collar crime often involves fraud and other nonviolent acts. For most people, the term "white-collar crime" conjures up images of CEOs …

How Election Polling Works and Doesn't Work

September 17th, 2020


Election polling had a pretty good rep until 2016. But it turns out they weren't far off even then. It's really the media driving the narrative. …

Short Stuff: Black Cowboys

September 16th, 2020


Most people don't realize that around a quarter of the cowboys found in the Old West during the golden age cattle driving were African American. …

Origami: Folding Goodness

September 15th, 2020


Origami is an amazing art that consists of making folds in paper to create something beautiful. Learn all about it today.

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SYSK Selects: How Porta-Potties Work

September 12th, 2020


Despite our lengthy history of evacuating our bowels and bladders, it wasn’t until the relatively recent 1940s that we began to construct portable, self-contained toilets to accept our waste. Dive into the world of …

Wetlands! Wetlands! Wetlands!

September 10th, 2020


It’s time to get jazzed up for some Earth science of the waterlogged variety. Join Chuck and Josh as they tour some of the most interesting ecosystems on the planet and learn why we need to stop destroying them post …

Short Stuff: Streisand Effect

September 9th, 2020


What does Barbra Streisand have to do with the internet? Listen and learn!

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Frances Perkins: Influential and Unknown

September 8th, 2020


Frances Perkins was an incredibly influential American yet is virtually unknown. What did she do? A lot! For instance, Social Security was her …

SYSK Selects: How Police Chases Work

September 5th, 2020


Entire TV shows are dedicated to them and Americans love to watch a live one, but police chases aren't as routine as they seem. While police assert …

The Disturbing Disappearance of Tara Calico

September 3rd, 2020


When Tara Calico mysteriously vanished in 1988, suspected to be the victim of foul play, her case may have gotten lost with the countless other …

Short Stuff: More Phrase Origins

September 2nd, 2020


We're back with another handful of phrase origins.

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How the Escape from Alcatraz Worked

September 1st, 2020


In 1962, three ordinary criminals transcended into folk heroes when they crawled out of their cells in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary took to the …

SYSK Selects: Polyamory: When two just won't do

August 29th, 2020


In this classic episode of Stuff You Should Know, Josh and Chuck dive into the world of polyamory. Turns out polyamorists aren't aren't weirdos and …

Blacksmiths? You got that right!

August 27th, 2020


Blacksmiths? You got that right. Learn all about this age old occupation in today's episode.

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Short Stuff: Carrots and Your Eyes

August 26th, 2020


Join Chuck and Josh as they learn that one of the great childhood truths – that carrots help you see better in the dark was totally made up!

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How Sneezing Works

August 25th, 2020


Unless you have an arcane disorder from a lesion on a very specific spot on our medulla, the chances are you sneeze. Turns out most animals do it, …

SYSK Selects: How Panic Attacks Work

August 22nd, 2020


Almost three percent of Americans suffer from a debilitating disorder that causes them to suffer intense fear seemingly without reason and science hasn’t yet figured out what causes it. Join Josh and Chuck in this …


August 20th, 2020


Chuck and Josh dive into the wacky world of 800 and 900 phone numbers.

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Short Stuff: The Great American Coin Shortage of 2020

August 19th, 2020


In addition to all the lousy things that’s come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. is also experiencing a coin shortage thanks to a …

How Anti-Dieting Works

August 18th, 2020


There’s a movement afoot that says we should all stop thinking about our weight and just enjoy food. No, it doesn’t help you lose weight…No, it’s not …

SYSK Selects: How The Human Microbiome Project Works

August 15th, 2020


If it was possible to take a full scan of all of the DNA of every cell in and on your body the results would be startling: Only 1 percent would be …

Olympic Torches: Remember Those?

August 13th, 2020


Back in the pre-pandemic days we had a sporting event called The Olympic Games. And at those games there was an opening ceremony that featured the …

Short Stuff: The Return of Bill Gates!

August 12th, 2020


Our old pal Bill Gates is back for a very special short stuff where we talk all about Covid vaccines and therapeutics.

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Pirate Radio: Mavericks on the High Seas

August 11th, 2020


Pirate radio started out in England as a way to sidestep the regulations of Big Radio. While outlawed, it still exists today in the UK and America. …

SYSK Selects: How The Moonwalk Works

August 8th, 2020


When Michael Jackson debuted the moonwalk in 1983 the world was enrapt. The dance goes back farther, to the 1930s, and pops up again in the 50s, …

How Miniature Golf Works

August 6th, 2020


Playing miniature golf is a very fun thing to do and, you’re about to find, learning about its origin and history is very fun as well. Join Josh and …

Short Stuff: Jigsaw Puzzles

August 5th, 2020


Who doesn't love a good puzzle? Tune in to learn a few facts and figures about jigsaw puzzles right now.

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Wasps: Not as cute as bees

August 4th, 2020


Wasps have a bad rap. Because their sting really hurts and they don't make honey like their cousins. But they are super cool and you shouldn't kill …

SYSK Selects: How the Rosetta Stone Works

August 1st, 2020


Sometimes providence smiles on historians. Thus is the case with the Rosetta stone, an ancient Egyptian tablet that served as the key for unlocking hieroglyphics, lost to time for a millennia. In this classic episode, …

How Soap Works

July 30th, 2020


Soap is a miraculous substance – and mysterious too: we have no idea how humans first figured out to make it. We lived with soap for millennia before …

Short Stuff: Habsburg Jaw

July 29th, 2020


The Habsburg Jaw is the result of inbreeding. But what is it? Click play and learn!

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How Hurricanes Work

July 28th, 2020


Hurricanes are perhaps the most destructive force of nature we have to deal with here on Earth. When a mind-boggling number of factors all fall into place just right, the outcome can be an enormous system of storms that …

SYSK Selects: How Lobbying Works

July 25th, 2020


Lobbying is an entrenched part of American politics and one that many people think is breaking government. But petitioning the government is …

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Mobile Phones

July 23rd, 2020


Today we deep dive on mobile phones, wonders of the modern world!

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Short Stuff: The Death of Billy the Kid

July 22nd, 2020


Sure, together Young Guns and Young Guns II form an exhaustive biography of Billy the Kid’s life. But did you know they also contain misleading information? Billy the Kid may not have lived to 100 under an alias after …

How We Almost Got Rid of Polio

July 21st, 2020


For more than half of the 20th century parents in the industrialized world were freaked out by an unseen waster of youth, the poliovirus. It spread …

SYSK Selects: How a Flea Circus Works

July 18th, 2020


If you've ever seen a flea circus, then count yourself among the few. It's a dying art, but back in the day they thrilled and delighted young and old …

Robber Barons!

July 16th, 2020


The robber barons were not a group of evil super villains. OR WERE THEY? Learn all about these titans of industry from the Gilded Age in today's episode.

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Short Stuff: Centralia Coal Fire

July 15th, 2020


An old coal mine in Pennsylvania caught fire one day in the 60s and it’s been burning ever since. What’s crazy is this happens all the time.

Learn …

Flagpole Sitting: A Real Fad

July 14th, 2020


The 1920s were just absolutely nuts. People got into weird fads really intensely and one of the strangest of all was flagpole sitting. It’s just what …

SYSK Selects: How Landfills Work

July 11th, 2020


Well-planned landfills have only recently come into widespread use. Recently, waste managers have found that they work a little too well and now the landfill is being reinvented.

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Essential Oils: Nature's Cure?

July 9th, 2020


Essential oils are from plants and they can help the human body in a lot of ways. There are also many false medical claims. Learn all the ins and outs today.

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Short Stuff: The @ Symbol

July 8th, 2020


You know the at symbol? This thing: @? There’s a name for it, just not in English. We just call it the at symbol. But other countries – stand back!

What was the KGB?

July 7th, 2020


The KGB was the notorious strong arm of the Kremlin. Run afoul and you died. Learn all about them today.

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SYSK Selects: All We Know About Guessing

July 4th, 2020


Guessing is a weird thing. For millennia, it could have meant the difference between life and death. Now it's not as vital, but we still do it every …

Oh Yes, How Soil Works

July 2nd, 2020


There is maybe nothing that sounds more boring than hearing two people talk about soil, but friend, prepare to be amazed at the details of what makes this amazing substance the life blood of Earth itself!

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Short Stuff: The Science of Funny Words

July 1st, 2020


Why are some words funnier than others? Well, one man has sought to figure that out. We'll tell you all about him and his project in today's episode.

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Bruxism: Grinding Your Teeth Is the Pits

June 30th, 2020


Researchers have noticed that as incidence of anger increases so too has teeth grinding, known clinically as bruxism. That’s a problem because when people grind their teeth, especially when they’re sleeping, they can …

SYSK Selects: Juggling: What the Heck

June 27th, 2020


There is a lot – A LOT – to juggling and Chuck and Josh go over the lion’s share of it in this classic episode. Delve into the deep history, physics, how-tos and different types of juggling in this surprisingly sweeping …

Matcha: That Ain't Just Tea

June 25th, 2020


Matcha is something else, healthy and delicious and all the rage. Learn all about this trendy beverage today.

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Short Stuff: Nouns of assemblage... assemble!

June 24th, 2020


A gaggle of geese. A murder of crows. Nouns of assemblage are awesome and we talk about them for about 12 minutes in today's Short Stuff installment.

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How Ultrasound Works

June 23rd, 2020


Sure you know all about ultrasound. You can see pictures of little babies right there cozy in the womb just by waving a magic plastic stick over the …

SYSK Selects: Research tips from SYSK

June 20th, 2020


People often ask us how we do our research. We're not going to disclose all of our secrets, but we'll give you some tips on how to root out the bad studies from the good ones. Learn all about shady studies and reporting …

The Manhattan Grid

June 18th, 2020


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Short Stuff: Haint Blue

June 17th, 2020


Haint Blue is a kind of robin's egg color that you might commonly find on porches of the low country of the Southeastern United States. But what does …

The War on Fat: The Seven Countries Study

June 16th, 2020


The Seven Countries Study was a fairly impressive, long-term study on the effects of fat in our diet, among other things. But it was very flawed and launched the misguided "War on fat." Learn all about today, then make …

SYSK Selects: How Flamethrowers Work

June 13th, 2020


Who first decided that it would be a great idea to shoot flame at other people from a distance? Josh and Chuck talk about the (very) early origins, …

Can You Eat A Tapeworm To Lose Weight?

June 11th, 2020


There’s a persistent insistence that you can ingest a tapeworm and as the parasite hijacks a lot of the calories you eat, the pounds will fall right …

Short Stuff: Foie Gras

June 10th, 2020


Foie gras means “fatty liver” in French, which makes sense because it’s made from the overripe livers of force-fed ducks and geese. 

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How Project Star Gate Worked

June 9th, 2020


In yet another testament to how amazingly great the 70s were, in 1975 the US started a program that tried to harness the powers of clairvoyance to remotely spy on the Soviet Union. Since clairvoyance doesn’t seem to …

SYSK Selects: How The Black Panther Party Worked

June 6th, 2020


The Black Panther Party was a complex political movement that was unfairly painted as a militant group who hated white people. Far from it, they were …

The Massacre at Tiananmen Square

June 4th, 2020


Tank Man. An indelible image burned in our brains. But what led to this extraordinary event? Chuck and Josh walk you through the days and weeks leading up to the massacre at Tiananmen Square, which is more of a …

Short Stuff: Disappearing Dirty Dancing Lake

June 3rd, 2020


The lake from one of the all-time great movies (search your feelings, you’ll find that it’s true) is turning into a dried up mudhole. Turns out it …

Heroin: The Drug

June 2nd, 2020


We've covered a lot of drugs in our history, and today we tackle heroin, one of the most dangerous of all.

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SYSK Selects: How Jackhammers Work

May 30th, 2020


It’s likely that without the invention of the pneumatic jackhammer, the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t have hummed along quite so smoothly. Certainly …

How Narcolepsy Works

May 28th, 2020


Narcolepsy is one of those amazing rare disorders that everyone thinks they understand – people just fall asleep at random times, even in the middle …

Short Stuff: Lawn Darts

May 27th, 2020


There was a time when kids had to look out for flying darts that could pierce their skulls when they played in the backyard.

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Hummingbirds: Ornery Helicopters of the Animal Kingdom

May 26th, 2020


If you didn’t already know how amazing hummingbirds are, prepare to learn. Not only do they count among their numbers the smallest bird species, they are also lightning fast and have the endurance of a marathoner and a …

SYSK Selects: How The Enlightenment Works

May 23rd, 2020


The Enlightenment stands as the moment the West withdrew from superstition and found its faith in reason. Did it shift too far? In this classic episode, learn about this massive shift in thinking which we are still …

Josh Clark's Speech from Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020

May 22nd, 2020


Hi listeners, in case you haven't heard already, iHeartRadio just released a brand new podcast called Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020, …

How Bras Work

May 21st, 2020


Bras are loved and hated, sometimes at the same time. But as difficult and restrictive as they can be, they rescued women from a much cruel …

Short Stuff: Mary Had A Little Lamb

May 20th, 2020


Did you know the little nursery rhyme is controversial? It’s true: Two towns in New England can barely stand to see one another on the map (kind of).

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How Spiritualism Works

May 19th, 2020


Something spooky was born on the American frontier in the mid-19th century: the idea that people’s personalities survive death and that some gifted individuals can communicate with them. It developed into a religion …

Chuck Bryant's Speech from Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020

May 18th, 2020


Hi listeners, in case you haven't heard already, iHeartRadio just released a brand new podcast called Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020, …

SYSK Selects: How Fire Works

May 16th, 2020


Creating fire was possibly the most important human discovery, but it's easy to take for granted. But. Josh and Chuck get to the bottom of the chemistry of fire in their quest to explain everything in the universe, in …

How Peanut Butter Works

May 14th, 2020


No food is more all-American than peanut butter – 80 percent of homes in the country have a jar of it in the pantry right now. And while the rest of …

Short Stuff: Charley Horse

May 13th, 2020


You know those terrible leg cramps that come out of nowhere? They may be named after a drunken baseball pitcher.

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How Herd Immunity Works

May 12th, 2020


Herd immunity is an epidemiological concept that if enough people are inoculated against a disease the rest of us won’t get it. It’s been useful in …

SYSK Selects: How Caving Works

May 9th, 2020


Entrances to the underworld have been places of wonder for eons, and humans have ventured into caves to sleep, hunt, create art and explore. Thanks to the hobby of caving, that tradition continues today. Get all this …

Zippers: Humans’ Greatest Invention? No, But Still Good

May 7th, 2020


The zipper may be the most unsung invention we humans have ever come up with. Prior to zippers, everyone walked around like idiots with nothing but …

Short Stuff: Gibtown: Sideshow Central

May 6th, 2020


There was a glorious time in American history when circus sideshow performers lived together in a small town in Florida. Learn about the fascinating history of Gibtown today!

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I'm Spartacus!

May 5th, 2020


Spartacus was a real dude. He led a slave revolt, and was pretty successful to boot. I'm Spartacus. You're Spartacus. We are all Spartacus.

Learn …

SYSK Selects: How do dogs perceive time?

May 2nd, 2020


A dog that knows exactly when its owners will arrive home every day seems to have a human perception of time, but in fact, they perceive time very differently than we do. Find out more about how dogs view time in this …

Agatha Christie: Queen of the Murder Mystery

April 30th, 2020


Agatha Christie was a great writer of murder mystery novels and is probably the best selling author of all time. Listen in today to learn her story.

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Short Stuff: Mullets: 'Nuff Said

April 29th, 2020


Business in the front, you know the rest. Listen in as we discuss the lifestyle choice that is the mullet.

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How Existential Risks Work

April 28th, 2020


An existential risk is a special kind of threat that are different from other types of risks in that if one of them ever befalls us, it would spell …

SYSK Selects: How the U.S. Postal Service Works

April 25th, 2020


Back when this episode aired, the USPS was teetering on the edge of going under and there were a lot of plans on the table to save it. With the USPS again at risk now for different reasons, join Chuck and Josh as they …

How the Voyager Golden Records Work

April 23rd, 2020


As part of a super 70s push to get Earth to a seat at the table of the Galactic Federation (in case there is, in fact, such a thing), astronomer Carl Sagan oversaw an ambitious project to launch a compilation of Earth’s …

Short Stuff: The NY Times Crossword

April 22nd, 2020


Today Chuck and Josh take a shallow dive in the warm pool that is the NY Times Crossword Puzzle.

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The Soul Train Episode

April 21st, 2020


Today, Chuck and Josh dive into the funky, cool world of the classic TV show, Sooooooooul Train.

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SYSK Selects: How Labor Unions Work

April 18th, 2020


Yes, it's true: Unions have a shady mob-related past and were originally championed by anarchists. Born from medieval trade guilds, these organizations also helped grow the American economy, and not only protected but …

How Wastewater Treatment Works

April 16th, 2020


All that gross stuff we humans put in the water that gets flushed down the sewers has to be taken back out before that water is reintroduced to the environment. That’s the ideal, and it’s essential to staving off the …

Short Stuff: Turning Down the Radio When You're Lost

April 15th, 2020


It’s a typical human reaction: When you’re driving and you realize that you’re lost, you turn down the radio. On its face it makes no sense – or does it? (It does.)

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Bidets: Now More Than Ever

April 14th, 2020


We all know the benefits of bidets. But with toilet paper in short supply, they're more important than ever before.

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SYSK Selects: How Dissociative Identity Disorder Works

April 11th, 2020


Dissociative Identity Disorder was known as multiple personality disorder until a case of mass hysteria brought on by the movie-mad public and …

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Feminist Physician

April 9th, 2020


Becoming the first licensed woman physician in America was tough, convincing male surgeons to wash their hands between patients was even tougher. Today Josh and Chuck pay tribute to a genuine pioneer in medicine and …

Short Stuff: AAirpass

April 8th, 2020


In the go-go 80s and 90s, American Airlines offered the AAirpass, a lifetime pass for unlimited first class travel. It was an amazing deal, but AA …

The Legends of Lost Nazi Gold

April 7th, 2020


As if being murdering SOBs weren’t enough, the Nazis were also thieving rats. During WWII, they stole billons in gold from countries they overran and …

SYSK Selects: How the Deep Web Works

April 4th, 2020


Perhaps you didn’t realize that when you search the web you’re only skimming the surface. In fact, the types of web pages that turn up in your search …

Student Loans: UGH!

April 2nd, 2020


Student loans can be pretty complicated. Luckily Chuck and Josh are here to wade through the financial muck for you.

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Short Stuff: 666

April 1st, 2020


Today, Chuck and Josh dive into that scary number...666.

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How Dog Training Works

March 31st, 2020


Chuck and Josh explore the age-old question: Should you train your dog by treating it like a living, feeling being or should you beat them up and …

SYSK Selects: Can Nuclear Fusion Reactors Save The World?

March 28th, 2020


The world’s energy consumption is ruining the planet but for decades physicists have been working on what could solve the world’s energy and climate …

How COVID-19 Works

March 26th, 2020


We’re in the middle of an odd, tense time and Josh and Chuck are here to explain what’s going on and how to stay safe. 

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Short Stuff: Dagen H

March 25th, 2020


One day in 1967, Sweden changed what side of the road its citizens drive on. It went surprisingly well, considering.

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Could A Robot Tax Win the War on Poverty?

March 24th, 2020


An old idea – giving every resident of a country a set amount of money every month with no strings attached – became a hot item in Silicon Valley and …

SYSK Selects: Virus Talk with Josh and Chuck

March 21st, 2020


Viruses are big jerks that invade regular cells and hold them hostage, making you sick while they're doing it. Learn everything you ever needed to …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Jim Henson Worked

March 20th, 2020


We’ve already recorded an episode on The Muppets, but Jim Henson was such a neat guy we delved into him even further. Learn all about the man behind the Muppets who was so much more than just a master puppeteer in this …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: SYSK Live: How Bars Work

March 20th, 2020


Join Josh and Chuck live from Vancouver as they dive in to the ins and outs of one of the oldest businesses in the world – the bar! Learn about the …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Grass Works? Yes, How Grass Works

March 20th, 2020


There’s nothing more boring than watching grass grow, which is why Josh and Chuck aren’t asking you to do that. Instead, you can learn about all sorts of neat things about grass - like how American became obsessed with …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Terraforming Will Work

March 20th, 2020


A lot of great thinkers are warning that if humans are to survive as a species we are going to have to find another planet to live on. Terraforming, or engineering a planet to maintain all of the ingredients to sustain …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Rogue Waves Work

March 20th, 2020


Rogue waves come out of nowhere and tower as much as 100 feet over hapless ships they encounter, breaking across the boat and frequently breaking the boat and its inhabitants. Investigate the mystery of rouge waves in …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: Was there a real King Arthur?

March 20th, 2020


The legend of King Arthur is very old and very established. By the time the king who saved Britain and united it was first written about, his story …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: The Amazing History of Soda

March 20th, 2020


The soda we get instantly mixed at a fast-food joint owes a lot to a rich history going back to the Roman baths, that features drugs, diseases and explosions. Learn all about soda and soda fountains in this surprisingly …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Rodney Dangerfield Worked, Live From LA

March 20th, 2020


Other comedians cry on the inside, but Rodney Dangerfield built his entire act around his sad life. Get to know this legendary comic who was nearing 50 when he got his break.

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SYSK Distraction Playlist: How Pinball Works

March 20th, 2020


Pinball was actually illegal until the 1970s in NY and other cities, hidden in the backs of pornography shops. The game was finally legalized, thanks to a Babe Ruth-style shot by the best player in the world. Learn all …

SYSK Distraction Playlist: Sugar: It Powers the Earth

March 20th, 2020


Since sugar spread from Polynesia a few thousand years ago, the world has been crazy for it. Insanely high prices, wars and even slavery couldn't …

What was the Falkland Islands War all about anyway?

March 19th, 2020


The battle between Britain and Argentina over the rocky, cold Falkland Islands is one of the weirder wars in history. Learn all about it today!

Short Stuff: The Pledge of Allegiance

March 18th, 2020


The American Pledge of Allegiance is much more interesting than you might think. Give us 12 minutes and we'll fill you in.

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Chopsticks > Forks

March 17th, 2020


Today Chuck and Josh sit and converse on the simple, elegant chopstick. 

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SYSK Selects: How Monopoly Works

March 14th, 2020


Since more than 1 billion people have played it, you’re probably familiar with the board game Monopoly, but we bet you don’t know its secret origins …

How Ice Climbing Works

March 12th, 2020


A few decades ago, some people who liked to climb mountains decided they wanted to make it even harder and ice climbing was born. If you think rock …

Short Stuff: Teresita Basa

March 11th, 2020


In the annals of American justice there is a 1977 case where the police were tipped off to the identity of a murderer by a woman who said she was …

How Coyotes Work

March 10th, 2020


The coyote truly is wily. Even after a century-long attempt to drive them to extinction, this close relative of domesticated dogs not only hung onto …

SYSK Selects: How Gold Works

March 7th, 2020


As of early 2013, only 161,00 metric tons of gold had been mined in the entire history of the world. Considering about 85 percent of it is recycled, …

Mardi Gras! One month late

March 5th, 2020


In true SYSK fashion, Josh and Chuck are late to the game. But never fear, they will still detail Mardi Gras in all its colorful glory. 

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Short Stuff: Exclamation Points!

March 4th, 2020


We all use them! But did we always? NO!! Learn all about everyone's favorite punctuation mark today!

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How Morphic Fields Work?

March 3rd, 2020


Biologist and science historian Rupert Sheldrake is known as a heretic of science, mostly for his deeply strange ideas about what connects all living …

SYSK Selects: Your limb is torn off - now what?

February 29th, 2020


Were you to be the unfortunate victim of a limb removal of any sort, you could take hope. Here in the 21st century, doctors have gotten pretty handy …

Sammy Davis Jr: National Treasure

February 27th, 2020


Today Josh and Chuck sit down and detail the complicated life of the late, great Sammy Davis Jr.

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Short Stuff: Hawaiian Night Marchers

February 26th, 2020


Get ready for some Hawaiian folklore, people. Today we discuss the Night Marchers.

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What's the deal with indigo?

February 25th, 2020


Indigo is a color with a rich past. Learn all about it today. 

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SYSK Selects: How Cult Deprogramming Works

February 22nd, 2020


The fear of cults in the 1970s drove Americans to look the other way on kidnappings, abuse and torture of cult members by deprogrammers – but did it …

Birthmarks: Probably Not the Mark of the Devil

February 20th, 2020


It’s a pretty safe assumption that people have been born with birthmarks since humanity began, and between then and now we’ve come up with some wacky, even dangerous, explanations for them – even a few that survive …

Short Stuff: Mexican Jumping Beans

February 19th, 2020


Mexican jumping beans are a real thing and they really do move around. It’s not magic, it’s nature!

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The Unsolved Indiana Dunes Disappearances

February 18th, 2020


In July 1966, three women out for a day at the beach waded into the water of Lake Michigan, got onto a boat and were never heard from again. To this …

SYSK Selects: A Podcast on Zoot Suits? Yes

February 15th, 2020


Few riots can be attributed to passing fashions, but zoot suits are top among them. After originating among the Harlem Renaissance crowd, the zoot …

911 Is Not a Joke

February 13th, 2020


Josh and Chuck delve into the world of 911 in today's episode. 

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Short Stuff: Body Under The Bed

February 12th, 2020


A couple unknowingly spending the night above a dead body stuffed under their bed is a longstanding urban legend. And a true one.

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Optogenetics: Controlling Your Genes with Light

February 11th, 2020


What if a genetic brain disease could be turned off simply by flashing a light in your eyes? What if your depression could be cured that way? Sounds …

SYSK Selects: How Bonsai Works

February 8th, 2020


For thousands of years people have been taking normal trees and forcing them into miniature. Learn all about the history and art of this strangely engrossing pastime in this classic episode.

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Why are Pentecostals growing so rapidly?

February 6th, 2020


Pentecostals are seemingly taking over the world. Or at least they're making up a larger section of Christianity than every before. Why? We'll dig in on that in today's episode. 

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Short Stuff: The Iowa Caucus

February 5th, 2020


The Iowa Caucus is super important. But not really. Find out why. 

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How AI Facial Recognition Works

February 4th, 2020


With the development of increasingly smart artificial intelligence and lots more cameras spread around than ever before, we have reached a critical point in the US and other countries where governments can easily track …

SYSK Selects: How Maglev Trains Work

February 1st, 2020


Thanks to the amazing properties of magnets, clever engineers have figured out how to make entire trains levitate above their tracks, letting them move frictionlessly and allowing them to reach incredible speeds. Learn …

Who were the Buffalo Soldiers?

January 30th, 2020


Josh and Chuck dive into history today to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. 

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Short Stuff: The O.K. Corral

January 29th, 2020


Listen in as we detail, in short, the legendary shootout at the O.K. Corral.

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Amazing Animal Stories!

January 28th, 2020


Regular animal stories are wonderful enough, but when animals lead amazing lives the stories become almost unbearably wonderful. You’ve been warned!

SYSK Selects: How the Scientific Method Works

January 25th, 2020


It evolved over centuries to become the gold standard for conducting scientific inquiry. Yet many people - including some scientists - don't fully …

Barefoot Running: The Best Podcast Episode in History

January 23rd, 2020


What is barefoot running? I think you know. But we'll detail all of the ins and outs. Listen and learn!

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Short Stuff: Byford Dolphin Incident

January 22nd, 2020


In 1983, what may be the worst diving catastrophe in the history of deep sea oil exploration took place when a pressurized chamber was opened, instantly killing four divers inside.

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Why Postal Employees Go Postal

January 21st, 2020


1993 was known as the peak of a disturbing trend in America: post office shootings, carried out by postal workers. A stunned country looked for answers and turned up a toxic workplace that seemed to be driving some …

SYSK Selects: How the Placebo Effect Works

January 18th, 2020


For centuries, doctors have prescribed drugs they knew weren't real – but that still somehow worked. It wasn't until the 1980s that the placebo effect was studied. Learn all about how an inert substance can have a …

The Tulsa 'Race Riots'

January 16th, 2020


In reality, the Tulsa "race riots" of 1921 was more like a massacre. Yet it was almost lost to history until 1997, and still not widely known outside …

Short Stuff: The Mona Lisa

January 15th, 2020


The Mona Lisa is a captivating work of art. But why? We'll try and figure it out in today's short stuff.

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Transdermal Implants: Body Art or Nightmare Fuel?

January 14th, 2020


Transdermal implants are just one in a number of procedures under the banner of extreme body modification. We don't like to yuk yums, so we'll offer a fairly straightforward look at this niche art form. 

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SYSK Selects: Jellyfish - Even Cooler Than Octopi?

January 11th, 2020


Jellyfish are among the most adaptable, competitive organisms on the planet. They can grow back into their juvenile stage when resources are scarce, …

The Disappearance of Flight MH370, Part II

January 9th, 2020


In the absence of an official explanation of why flight MH 370 disappeared in 2014, conjecture and conspiracy theories have filled the vacuum.

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Short Stuff: Corduroy

January 8th, 2020


Learn 12 minutes worth of stuff about corduroy today!

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The Disappearance of Flight MH370, Part I

January 7th, 2020


In 2014, a Boeing 777 airliner disappeared. Despite two full years of searching an area of ocean covering more than 120,000 square kilometers, it has …

SYSK Selects: Will Computers Replace Doctors?

January 4th, 2020


With savvy and health-conscious people taking control of their wellbeing through apps and sites, technology is meeting the desire for individuals' …

How Safecracking Works

January 2nd, 2020


Burglars have come up with a whole range of ways to get into a safe. There’s lock manipulation – methodically testing the dial to coax the …

Short Stuff: Why Does Time Speed Up As You Age?

January 1st, 2020


It’s not just you – time really does seem to pass faster for people as we age. But exactly why remains a mystery, though some of the theories for why life passes by so quickly are make a lot of sense.

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Are broken arrows a problem?

December 31st, 2019


Are broken arrows are a problem? After all, they are incidents and accidents involving nuclear warheads. Like, sometimes they go missing. But it …

SYSK Selects: How Wine Fraud Works

December 28th, 2019


Wine fraud may be a case of rich con artists tricking wealthy people into parting with money, but it's still a crime. Learn all about this weird, widespread practice in this classic episode.

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SYSK Live: Andre the Giant

December 26th, 2019


Andre the Giant was a giant both figuratively and literally. Sure he was a wrestler, but more than that he was a human being who left a great legacy behind. Even if you're not a wrestling fan, you can appreciate his …

Short Stuff: The Santa Claus Association

December 25th, 2019


If a con man manages to make needy Christmas wishes come true is he still a con man? (Also, Merry Christmas!)

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The SYSK Holiday Spectacular

December 24th, 2019


It's an annual treat, folks. Our holiday special is back and better than ever, and as always, brought to you ad-free. It's the least we can do. 

SYSK Selects: The Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978

December 21st, 2019


Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas allowed the Star Wars Holiday Special to be made. What happened on the night of November 17, 1978 …

Cave Diving: Totally Nuts

December 19th, 2019


There are extreme sports and then there is cave diving, the most extreme activity a person can engage in without leaving Earth. Cave divers stay underwater swimming miles into – that’s right – caves, where no human has …

Short Stuff: Obituaries

December 18th, 2019


Learn everything we know about obituaries in 12 minutes!

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MC Escher and His Trippy Art

December 17th, 2019


We love us some MC Escher. Turns out his story is pretty fascinating too. Tune in today. 

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SYSK Selects: How Currency Works

December 14th, 2019


Even if you entirely eschew the concept of money, we'll bet you'd be hard pressed not to trade in some form of currency. Learn how everything from cows to cacao beans to tiny shells from Maldives have served as currency …

How Anorexia and Bulimia Work

December 12th, 2019


Anorexia and bulimia - those twin eating disorders that seem so common and maybe even just a phase for a teenage girl – are actually the deadliest …

Short Stuff: Whisky or Bourbon?

December 11th, 2019


What's the difference between whisky and bourbon? We'll tell you if you care to listen.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gin

December 10th, 2019


If there's one thing we've learned about Chuck over the years it's that he loves his gin. And he loves it even more now that understands it. Pour yourself a martini and cozy up to the gin-cast. 

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SYSK Selects: How Amnesia Works

December 7th, 2019


Those movies where someone gets hit on the head and can't remember who they are anymore? They're actually not too far off from the reality of amnesia. Learn everything about this bizarre and life-robbing condition with …

What's a gap year anyway?

December 5th, 2019


Chuck thought a gap year was post college. Turns out, it's a post high school year off from academics, where you travel the world, help others, and …

Short Stuff: Macadamia Nuts

December 4th, 2019


Macadamia nuts aren't nuts! They're seeds! And they are delicious. And good for you in the right amount. Learn all about them today.

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Did Climate Cause the Collapse of the Maya?

December 3rd, 2019


After millennia of development, the Maya culture suddenly collapsed at its peak. Why is one of the biggest mysteries of history. One theory says …

SYSK Selects: Fractals - Whoa

November 30th, 2019


In the 1980s, IBM mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot gazed for the first time upon his famous fractal. What resulted was a revolution in math and …

How Conversion Therapy Doesn't Work

November 28th, 2019


Conversion therapy is a misguided attempt by religious zealots to convert people from gay to straight. News flash - it doesn't work. Learn all about this abhorrent practice today.

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Short Stuff: Niagara Falls Dewatered

November 27th, 2019


In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers turned off one of the main waterfalls at Niagara Falls to see what could be done to preserve it. They found two …

How Carbon-14 Dating Works

November 26th, 2019


Some of the carbon dioxide in your body is radioactive! Don’t worry, it won’t harm you (not sure why we used an exclamation point there). Instead, it …

SYSK Selects: Have all the good ideas already been discovered?

November 23rd, 2019


It's no secret that human beings have an obsession with innovation -- but has our species already found every good idea? As Josh and Chuck break down the continuing search for the next great idea, they touch on …

What Makes a Must-Have Christmas Toy?

November 21st, 2019


Ever since Cabbage Patch Kids came along in 1983, there’s been an annual holiday frenzy around one particular toy – the must-have Christmas toy of …

Short Stuff: Backyard Burials

November 20th, 2019


Time was that you’d bury a deceased relative in your yard; now it’s just weird. But it’s still legal – and if you want to do it, here’s how!

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The Murder Mystery of Ötzi the Iceman

November 19th, 2019


About 5,300 years ago a Copper Age shepherd was murdered. He just happened to die in a place where his body was so well preserved that gave researchers an actual shot at determining the course of his final day on Earth.

SYSK Selects: How Salt Works

November 16th, 2019


A Roman senator once said, "Mankind can live without gold, but not without salt." Right he was. The human body needs salt so much we have developed a …

NYC Water: An Engineering Marvel

November 14th, 2019


Getting the rain and melted snow from upstate NY into the taps of every NYC resident and business is one of the great feats of engineering. Does it taste great and make perfect bagels and pizza crust? Sources say yes!

Short Stuff: The Conch Republic

November 13th, 2019


Back in 1982, Key West seceded from the United States. Don’t believe us? It’s true! Just listen to the episode, will you?

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Augmented Reality: Coming Soon?

November 12th, 2019


Augmented reality adds a digital layer over the real world and soon it will revolutionize how we live. Ultra-tailored information will be everywhere …

SYSK Selects: Can you Treat Mental Illness with Psychedelics?

November 9th, 2019


Hallucinogenic drugs are currently illegal, but they were once commonly used in psychological treatment. In this classic episode, Josh and Chuck …

Cockney Rhyming Slang: Beautiful Gibberish

November 7th, 2019


What is Cockney Rhyming Slang? It's complicated and its origins are unclear. Learn everything we know about it today. 

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How Ironman Triathlons Work

November 6th, 2019


Sure, you could train for months to finish a marathon, but why not make things interesting? Ironman triathlons add a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile …

Short Stuff: The History of Paternity Testing

November 6th, 2019


Paternity testing. It wasn't science for many years, yet they still tried to do it. Learn all about it in 12 minutes.

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SYSK Selects: Halitosis - Worst Smell Ever?

November 2nd, 2019


Occasional bad breath is one thing, halitosis is another. Or is it? From its odd origins as a marketing ploy to modern weight loss diets that can induce this embarrassing condition, you can learn all about bad breath in …

SYSK’s Scare Your Socks Off Halloween Spooktacular 2019

October 31st, 2019


Josh and Chuck chose a truly unsettling story by one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time – Philip K Dick. Join the boys as they read …

Short Stuff: Our Shortie Halloween Spooktacular

October 30th, 2019


Join us today as we read three short horror selections from Ambrose Bierce. 

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Where Did Trick-Or-Treating Come From?

October 29th, 2019


We aren’t exactly sure who invented trick-or-treating – kids who realized they could extort adults for candy, or adults who bought off kids in …

SYSK Selects: How Haunted House Attractions Work

October 26th, 2019


Ever since the Egyptians, humans have been evolving toward haunted house attractions. The level of sophistication in the scares and gore effects …

How Historic Districts Work

October 24th, 2019


A fascinating thing about Americans is that we can disagree on anything. Such is the case with historic districts – areas of historic importance protected by local laws. Seems innocuous, but are they also to blame for …

Short Stuff: The Toxic Death of Gloria Ramirez

October 23rd, 2019


In 1994 the body of a woman who died in a California ER somehow became toxic and sickened 24 people. To this day, no one is sure what happened.

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What's the deal with subpoenas?

October 22nd, 2019


Subpoenas are all the rage. But what do they even mean if someone can just ignore it? Learn this and a lot more in today's episode. 

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SYSK Selects: The 'Satanic Panic' of the 1980s

October 19th, 2019


In the late 1980s, the United States experienced a "Satanic Panic," leading parents to fear for the safety of their children. But were there any real examples of Satanic ritual abuse? Find out this and more in this …

How Project Blue Book Worked, Pt II

October 17th, 2019


A rash of UFO sightings kicks off a new spike in America’s UFO fever and new headaches for the Air Force, which continues to reluctantly investigate. After becoming a laughingstock for its limp explanations, the Air …

Short Stuff: The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce

October 16th, 2019


Ambrose Bierce was a journalist and writer of short stories. He also disappeared rather mysteriously. Listen in and learn of the various theories on what happened to him. 

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SYSK Selects: How Black Boxes Work

October 12th, 2019


Black boxes are designed to be the only survivor of plane crashes so they can live to tell the tale of what went wrong to prevent future accidents. Sit in with Josh and Chuck and learn about how these grim devices are …

The Ins and Outs of Beekeeping

October 10th, 2019


Who wants fresh honey? We do! Learn all about the ancient art of beekeeping today.

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Short Stuff: The Devil's Den

October 9th, 2019


The Devil's Den is the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Is it haunted? Nope. But still creepy. 

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How Environmental Psychology Works

October 8th, 2019


In the 60s, psychology expanded from exploring inside the mind to exploring the inside of buildings. Environmental psychology looks at how our spaces …

SYSK Selects: How Pez Works

October 5th, 2019


PEZ began in Vienna as a mint meant to help people quit smoking. But once American kids got ahold of it, the candy took off and a symbol of childhood …

What were the Freedom Schools?

October 3rd, 2019


Freedom Schools were set up in Mississippi in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, with the aim of giving young black school children agency and a …

Short Stuff: Fish n' Chips

October 2nd, 2019


How did these two wonderful strangers meet up and become best friends? The answers lie within today's short stuff. 

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Guardian Angels: Behind the Red Beret

October 1st, 2019


If you grew up in the 1980s, then you know who the Guardian Angels are. If you don't then you're in for quite a story. Listen in! 

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SYSK Selects: What Happened at Kent State?

September 28th, 2019


On May 4, 1970, four days of anti-war protests at Kent State University in Ohio culminated in the unthinkable when Ohio guardsmen opened fire on …

What are paraphilias?

September 26th, 2019


Josh and Chuck dive into the world of paraphilias so you can get the skinny in 45 minutes or less. 

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Short Stuff: Dare Stones

September 25th, 2019


What happened to the Lost Colonists who disappeared from Roanoke Island in the 1580s remains a mystery to this day. But it’s possible a carved stone …

We Are Running Out of Sand and That Actually Matters

September 24th, 2019


Sand, we’re beginning to realize, is a non-renewable resource - and we are consuming it at a voracious pace. We use it in every construction project around the world and to create new land. And we’re wrecking the …

SYSK Selects: Could You Live Without a Refrigerator?

September 21st, 2019


Do you know that hulking refrigerator in your kitchen emits CO2 thanks to the electricity it uses each year? It's a comparatively small amount, in …

How the US Interstate System Works

September 19th, 2019


Wait! This is actually a good episode! It turns out that America’s 48,000 miles of superhighways – possibly the largest civil works project in the …

Short Stuff: Scurvy

September 18th, 2019


Scurvy seems like a terrible way to go: Your gums swell so you can’t eat, your teeth fall out and your brain and/or heart hemorrhages. Fortunately, …

The Skinny on Lyme Disease

September 17th, 2019


If you live in the Northeastern U.S. then you may know someone who has had Lyme disease. But it's spreading all over the country and parts of the world. Learn all about this tick-borne disease today. 

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SYSK Selects: How Wills Work

September 14th, 2019


Whether it's oral, scrawled in blood or signed on a deathbed everyone should have a will. But how do they actually work? Join Chuck and Josh as they …

Special Effects: A Short History

September 12th, 2019


Special effects have been around since the first movies. In fact, the techniques the earliest filmmakers created are still around today, we just use computers to do them faster and cheaper. Put on your beret and get …

Short Stuff: Papasan Chairs

September 11th, 2019


Oh, the papasan. What a chair! But where did it come from? And what does the name mean? The answers lie within.

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How Government Shutdowns Work

September 10th, 2019


Every year Congress decides how the federal government will spend money. Simple enough, but in practice politics tend to mess it up. Sometimes it …

SYSK Selects: How Ouija Boards Work

September 7th, 2019


Although most people who've used Ouija boards don't think they're communicating with the beyond, there is something mysterious about how it works. …

What's the deal with MSG?

September 5th, 2019


MSG got a bad rap in the 70s and 80s. But what is it exactly and how bad is it for you? The answers to those questions lie within. 

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Short Stuff: Barbed Wire

September 4th, 2019


Barbed wire changed the Western US as much as the railroad and the six-shooter. Before barbed wire arrived, the West was free and open; after, the West became concentrated in the hands of a few big ranchers. No wonder …

Ed Gein: The Serial Killer's Serial Killer

September 3rd, 2019


Any movie featuring a deranged killer who’s perversely devoted to his mother and makes things out of human skin has a real-life person named Ed Gein to thank for inspiration. He was Buffalo Bill, Norman Bates, and …

SYSK Selects: How Icebergs Work

August 31st, 2019


Icebergs: floating chunks of ice. True, but whoa there. Scientists are learning that there's a lot more to icebergs. Appropriately enough, we've only come to understand the tip of the iceberg and recent research shows …

The Rubik's Cube Episode

August 29th, 2019


Rubik's Cubes. Ronald Reagan. Jerry Falwell. Just Say No. One of these things was awesome. Take a guess and hop on board the 80s train. 

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Short Stuff: Dead Bodies and Airline Codes

August 28th, 2019


Did you know there are airline codes for pilots and flight attendants? And some of them have to do with dead bodies on board? Learn all about it today!

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A Brief Overview of Punk Rock

August 27th, 2019


Punk rock really needs about 10 episodes to do it justice, but we'll try and tackle anyway. Learn all about this movement right now. 

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SYSK Selects: How Sleepwalking Works

August 24th, 2019


Sleep behaviors are pretty fascinating. Some people snore, some grind their teeth -- and some take a little stroll, or perhaps a drive. In this …

How Ventriloquism Works

August 22nd, 2019


Ventriloquism – where a skilled performer “throws” their voice, making it seem like a dummy on their knee is talking – has taken a long, circuitous road from early prophets, to witches, then finally to the stage. Get to …

Short Stuff: Horseshoe Crab Blood

August 21st, 2019


Perhaps the most expensive liquid on the planet is the blue blood that comes from horseshoe crabs. Researchers realized that horseshoe crab blood …

Nuclear Semiotics: How to Talk to Future Humans

August 20th, 2019


The nuclear waste we produce will be dangerous for a very long time. We’ve figured out how to safely store it in the earth until it’s no longer a biohazard. Now we just have to figure out how to warn humans 10,000 years …

SYSK Selects: Are We in a Cyberwar?

August 17th, 2019


There's a secret war going on around us, and it's happening on a daily basis. The Air Force has a unit specifically designed to carry out and defend against cyberwar. Go deep into this alarming type of war in this …

How Peyote Works

August 15th, 2019


Josh and Chuck have tackled a lot of drugs on the show, but peyote has loomed like a bad Jim Morrison poem. Learn all about this plant today. 

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Short Stuff: Petrichor

August 14th, 2019


You know that amazing smell when it rains? Kind of clean, kind of earthy, one of a kind? It turns out that a miracle of nature produces it.

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Solar Power: The Future or What?

August 13th, 2019


We’ve been promised solar energy for a while now – where is it? Turns out, it’s been quietly and steadily growing across the world. And with a few …

SYSK Selects: What Is a Shotgun House?

August 10th, 2019


Shotgun houses are iconic pieces of American architecture: they're long, narrow, and filled with artistic flourishes. But where did they come from? Join Chuck and Josh and explore the mysterious origins of shotgun …

Iran-Contra Affair: Shady in the 80s, Part 2

August 8th, 2019


As the operation expands it also begins to unravel. Word starts to leak out of the illegal stuff the Reagan administration was up to, Congress and the press investigate and people start to point fingers. Spoiler alert – …

Short Stuff: Time Zones

August 7th, 2019


Time zones are a pain. Let's get rid of them! Can we? Sure!

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Iran-Contra Affair: Shady in the 80s, Part 1

August 6th, 2019


When Ronald Reagan was president, America got involved in some deeply shady stuff, not the least of which was the Iran-Contra scandal – a convoluted …

SYSK Selects: How the Black Death Worked

August 3rd, 2019


The Black Death was gruesome: Symptoms included tumors, purple splotches, fevers and vomiting. But how did this disease manage to spread from the …

What Were the BONE WARS?

August 1st, 2019


A pair of old timey fossil hunters had a rootin’ tootin’ rivalry that spilled from academic journals into the American Wild West - where fossils were …

Short Stuff: The Man Who Didn’t Eat for a Year

July 31st, 2019


In 1965, a 456-pound man walked into a hospital in Scotland and asked for help with a fast. That was the last day he ate for more than a year. Learn about the medical marvel that was Angus Barbieri.

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Will Deepfakes Ruin the World?

July 30th, 2019


Very recently, thanks to a new type of AI, it’s gotten much easier to create convincingly realistic videos of people saying and doing things they’ve never said or done. Will fake videos undermine our shared sense of …

SYSK Selects: How Human Cannonballs Work

July 27th, 2019


There's no question that human cannonballs are daredevils. They pack themselves into the confines of huge cannons, which shoot them into the air. But how does it work? Join Josh and Chuck to learn more about the bizarre …

How Eyewitness Testimony Works(?)

July 25th, 2019


Few things are more compelling than a witness pointing out a defendant in the courtroom as the perpetrator. But few things are also more unreliable than eyewitness testimony. Our memories can be pretty terrible, which …

Short Stuff: Aristides de Sousa Mendes

July 24th, 2019


This week we highlight another little known historical hero. In this case, a Portuguese diplomat who rescued people from Nazi Germany, at his own peril. Dig in and spread the word of Aristides de Sousa Mendes. 

Learn …

MOVE: Or When the Philly Police Dropped a Bomb on a Residential Neighborhood

July 23rd, 2019


Believe it or not, in 1985 the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb from a helicopter onto a residential building in an African-American …

SYSK Selects: How Crack Works

July 20th, 2019


Back in the mid-1980s a new and extremely potent drug hit the scene: crack cocaine. In short order, America was in the grip of both a sweeping addiction and a state of hysteria over use of the drug and the social …

Sand Dunes: They Are What You Think They Are

July 18th, 2019


Sand dunes are exactly what you think they are. But still pretty interesting. Learn all about them right now!

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Short Stuff: Yellow Rain

July 17th, 2019


After the Vietnam War, the Hmong people told the world a toxic weapon was being used on them. Thus began a mystery that still remains today, which …

How Going to the Moon Works

July 16th, 2019


Fifty years ago, the first humans stepped onto the moon. After going back a few more times, humanity lost its taste for moon travel. But it’s being revived again. NASA is planning to send humans back to the moon by 2024 …

SYSK Selects: Duels - A Guide to Throwing Down the Gauntlet

July 13th, 2019


Pretty much everything you know about duels is true - it's a challenge to violence to defend honor. But did you know the U.S. Navy used to publish …

How Sloths Work

July 11th, 2019


Everyone knows sloths are super slow, but do you know they’re slow because their bodies produce an astoundingly small amount of energy? And did you know that might be an adaptation that protects them from predators? …

Short Stuff: The Coconut Cult

July 10th, 2019


Why we love short stuff - because we can tell stories like this one. A man goes to an island to start a commune of sorts that subsists entirely on coconuts. It didn't go well. 

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Cleopatra: Ms. Understood

July 9th, 2019


One of the great misunderstood figures in history was the last pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra’s story is almost always told along with the men in her …

SYSK Selects: What Makes us Yawn?

July 6th, 2019


What is it that makes us suddenly draw in a deep breath through a wide-open mouth? The beautiful thing about yawning is that researchers really don't …

How the Fairness Doctrine Worked

July 4th, 2019


Back in the day, broadcasters were bound by law to provide contrasting opinions on political matters. Why? Because of the Fairness Doctrine. What …

Short Stuff: Mitsuye Endo

July 3rd, 2019


In today's short stuff, we look at another amazing woman who has all but been ignored by history. The story of Mitsuye Endo. 

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Is photographic memory a real thing?

July 2nd, 2019


Photographic memory is the stuff of movies and TV, but is it real? Sort of. But not really. But kind of. It's a little bit a matter of semantics. Listen in and this will all make sense. 

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SYSK Selects: What Makes a One-hit Wonder?

June 29th, 2019


The term "one-hit wonder" gets thrown around a lot, and - yes - you probably are using it correctly, but Chuck Bryant went to the trouble to really define what makes a one-hit wonder in the article this classic episode …

What is the Civil Air Patrol?

June 27th, 2019


The Civil Air Patrol is a civilian group of pilots and plane enthusiasts who do a lot of things, namely help out in search and rescue missions. But …

Short Stuff: Prison Food

June 26th, 2019


Prison food is kind of a joke, like airplane food. But there are real consequences involved. Let's get into it in today's short stuff.

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Planned Obsolescence: Engine of the Consumer Economy

June 25th, 2019


If you’ve ever heard an old timer gripe that things aren’t built like they used to be, that old timer was right! Learn about the nefarious, possibly …

SYSK Selects: How the Donner Party Worked

June 22nd, 2019


Did they or didn't they? There is plenty of written evidence that the ill-fated Donner Party resorted to cannibalism - except there are no bones. Learn the details of one of the worst disasters of the early West in this …

What happened to the Neanderthals?

June 20th, 2019


As recently as 40,000 years ago we lived among humans from an entirely different species – Neanderthals. About the same time our species showed up, Neanderthals suddenly vanished. Just what happened to the other guys? …

Short Stuff: Emperor Norton

June 19th, 2019


After a San Francisco real estate mogul went bankrupt, he reinvented himself as the Emperor of the United States – and became the city’s most …

How the Hygiene Hypothesis Works

June 18th, 2019


In the early 90s, a new study that found that kids who are exposed to more germs early in life are less likely to develop allergies later. With the …

SYSK Selects: What's the Deal with Crop Circles?

June 15th, 2019


For a while in the 1980s, people were fascinated and confused about what exactly crop circles were. Now we know that they aren't signs left from aliens, but art made by humans. Learn all about these stunning, large form …

How Area 51 Works

June 13th, 2019


The secret military base Area 51 is inextricably linked to every secret, shady project the US government is rumored to be involved in – from …

Short Stuff: Smoke Signals

June 12th, 2019


Were smoke signals real or a Hollywood invention? Turns out, they were indeed a thing and invented by the Chinese, even. 

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What's the gig economy?

June 11th, 2019


The gig economy is not new, but it's bigger than ever. Is that a good thing? We'll discuss that today!

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SYSK Selects: How Capgras Syndrome Works

June 8th, 2019


There is an extremely rare condition where the sufferer is convinced that everyone around him is an impostor posing as their friends and family. …

What is perfect pitch?

June 6th, 2019


Perfect pitch, or absolute pitch, is when you can sing a note with no reference from other notes, perfectly on key. Is it an asset? Chuck says yes. …

Short Stuff: Robert Johnson and the Devil

June 5th, 2019


Did the legendary blues singer really sell his soul to the devil in exchange for amazing musical skills? Probably not! But there’s still an …

How Barcodes Work

June 4th, 2019


Barcodes are everywhere. Those little lines and numbers that make up one of the most recognizable barcodes, the UPC, was designed to make going to the grocery a lot less miserable. It ended up becoming the central …

SYSK Selects: How TV Ratings Work

June 1st, 2019


Ever wonder why some great shows go off the air after a season or less? Blame it on the Nielsen company, which has for more than 60 years been the almost exclusive decider of what goes and what stays on TV.

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The Tylenol Murders, Part II

May 30th, 2019


The panic that began in Chicago spreads and begins to change the world. The investigation into the murders turns up leads and suspects, but still no …

Short Stuff: Look-Alike Old Couples

May 29th, 2019


You know how some older married couples (sorry, senior adult married couples) start to look alike over time? That’s a really weird phenomenon if you …

The Tylenol Murders, Part I

May 28th, 2019


On one terrible day in Chicago in 1982, seven people died suddenly and mysteriously. In just a matter of hours, it becomes clear, someone has …

SYSK Selects: How Acne Works

May 25th, 2019


Over the course of our lives, 80 percent of us will experience acne. Ultimately, acne comes down to one thing, a blockage in the sebaceous gland. Learn what makes a blackhead black, and everything else about zits, in …

What was Tin Pan Alley?

May 23rd, 2019


Tin Pan Alley was an area of New York around the beginning of the 20th Century that served as ground zero for the earliest iterations of the music publishing industry. Learn all about this unique place and time right …

Short Stuff: James Polk, Disinterred

May 22nd, 2019


Did you know that former president James Polk had his final resting place moved twice? It's true! And almost a third time even. Let's go listen to …

How Crystals Work

May 21st, 2019


In a new age shop or on display at the Smithsonian, there are varying interpretations of what crystals can be used for. But at their base, they are a thumb in the eye to entropy, a perfectly ordered piece of matter. 

SYSK Selects: How Dying Works

May 18th, 2019


Chuck and Josh have covered just about every aspect of death except dying itself. Here, they fulfill the death suite of podcasts with an in-depth …

10ish Cases of Really Bad Luck

May 16th, 2019


Some guys have all the luck, some guys have all the pain. So said Rod Stewart. And if this list is any indication, “guys” is gender neutral. Listen to this episode as Chuck and Josh cover some instances of amazingly bad …

Short Stuff: Honorary Degrees

May 15th, 2019


Honorary degrees are not real degrees. They are marketing opportunities for universities. They make us mad, but we want one. Learn all about them in the next 12-15 minutes. 

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How Trampolines Work

May 14th, 2019


The world’s loved trampolines since they were invented by a pair of acrobats in Iowa in the 30s – so much so, trampolining is now an Olympic event. …

SYSK Selects: How Lie Detectors Work

May 11th, 2019


Instead of actually detecting lies, polygraph machines sense physiological variations, ostensibly brought on by guilt. The results are subject to …

Do Dietary Supplements Work?

May 9th, 2019


The world takes $40 billion of dietary supplements – from vitamin A to yohimbe bark – every year. Yet, the jury is still out on whether most of them work. In America, the FDA isn’t allowed to approve supplements, and no …

Short Stuff: Nicknames

May 8th, 2019


What's in a nickname? Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don't. Let's get our shorty on and find out the deal. 

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Remembering Live Aid

May 7th, 2019


Live Aid was a revolutionary concert event in two countries in 1985 that spanned the world via satellite. The brainchild of musician Bob Geldof, it …

SYSK Selects: How Does a Diving Bell Work?

May 4th, 2019


About 2,400 years ago Aristotle mentions the use of diving bells, apparatuses that convey divers to the bottom of the sea -- or at least below the surface of the water -- and allows them to breathe -- at least until the …

What Happens When the Government Thinks You're Dead?

May 2nd, 2019


It’s bad enough when the government knows you’re alive – there are taxes to pay, laws to be followed, all sorts of boring and unpleasant things. But …

Short Stuff: The Number 23

May 1st, 2019


There are people out there who believe that there’s something special about the number 23. Exactly what? Who knows. Exactly why? Because it pops up a lot. But does it? Who knows. 

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Michael Dillon: Trans Pioneer

April 30th, 2019


Michael Dillon was a lot of things - author, doctor, and most importantly, trans pioneer. Learn all about his story in today's episode. 

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SYSK Selects: How Zero Works

April 27th, 2019


Few numbers have as storied a past as zero. Even fewer have had as great an impact on our ability to understand our universe. Yet zero is a relatively recent arrival in math. Find out all about this surprisingly …

What Were Human Zoos?

April 25th, 2019


One of the off-putting byproducts of 19th century European colonialism were human zoos, living dioramas of people from far-away places made to be …

Short Stuff: Fear of Public Speaking

April 24th, 2019


Speaking in public is frequently cited as people’s number one fear, even more fearful than death. Most people go through life avoiding public …

Is birth order important?

April 23rd, 2019


There have been a lot of studies over the years regarding birth order. Some conclude that it's a big deal, while others more or less discount its importance. Learn all about it today.

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SYSK Selects: How Marijuana Works

April 20th, 2019


For millennia people used marijuana for fun and medicine. Not until the 20th century that was it vilified, unfairly say many. Weed has done lots of good things, from alleviating cancer symptoms to unlocking secrets of …

How the Hoover Dam Works, Part II

April 18th, 2019


And now for something completely different. Just kidding – tune in to hear the thrilling conclusion of America’s most amazing public works project in the 20th century.

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Short Stuff: Emu Wars

April 17th, 2019


Did Australians really wage war on a group of emus? YES. Learn all about it in today's short stuff. 

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How the Hoover Dam Works, Part I

April 16th, 2019


It’s one of America’s biggest accomplishments in the 20th century, a slab of concrete holding back one of the country’s most finicky rivers, …

SYSK Selects: How Yo-Yos Work

April 13th, 2019


You may have played with a yo-yo before -- perhaps you've even walked the dog -- but do you know about the physics behind what makes a yo-yo sleep …

How the Electric Chair Works

April 11th, 2019


The electric chair is an all-American invention. It spread almost nowhere else in the world as a capital punishment but worked overtime in the States. Despite the terrible sights and sounds an electrocution produces, it …

Short Stuff: Lake Peigneur

April 10th, 2019


In 1980 something catastrophic happened to the quiet town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Their wide, shallow lake grew much deeper after it underwent an apocalyptic transformation. 

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How Free Range Parenting Works

April 9th, 2019


Free range parenting is all about giving your child the freedom to play and explore life on their own. Are there benefits? Sure. Do some people hate the concept? Yes! Listen and learn right here. 

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SYSK Selects: How Pollen Works

April 6th, 2019


For about 375 million years, plants have been using pollen (aka plant sperm) to propagate their species. And the technique has stuck around because …

Were Nazis Drug-Fueled Crankheads?

April 4th, 2019


Nazis were bad people. And it turns out a lot of them were high as kites on speed. Was this a recipe for disaster? Yes it was. 

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Short Stuff: Unspent Campaign Money

April 3rd, 2019


Have you ever wondered what happens to all those campaign donations when a political campaign goes belly up? Or, even worse, is in debt! Wonder no …

How Rape Kits Work

April 2nd, 2019


Rape kits are simple forensic evidence collection kits used when someone is sexually assaulted. But the story is deeper than this. Learn all about …

SYSK Selects: How Immigration Works

March 30th, 2019


Immigration systems regulate the flow of foreign immigrants into any given country. But why is immigration such a controversial topic, especially in …

Etch A Sketch!

March 28th, 2019


The Etch A Sketch is yet another classic toy that Josh and Chuck love and respect. Learn all about this Hall of Fame entry today. 

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Short Stuff: When Elvis Met Nixon

March 27th, 2019


Elvis really did meet with Richard Nixon. Because Elvis wanted to help fight the drug trade. True story. Hear about it in today's short stuff. 

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How Druids Worked

March 26th, 2019


Anyone who likes Led Zeppelin, plays Dungeons & Dragons, or worships the rising sun at Stonehenge on the vernal equinox can tell you druids are …

SYSK Selects: How Sign Language Works

March 23rd, 2019


It wasn't until the was developed and despite its co-existence alongside English, a user would be hard-pressed to sign with a British person. Find …

How Disgust Works

March 21st, 2019


Disgust is an odd thing. It makes sense that we would feel a sense of revulsion at the thought of putting rotten meat in our mouths – that’s pure …

Short Stuff: The Sandman

March 20th, 2019


Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream! But who is the sandman? We'll tell you in today's edition of short stuff. 

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Desert Survival: Josh and Chuck Save Your Tookus

March 19th, 2019


The chances are pretty low that you’ll find yourself lost in the desert, but on the off chance you do you’ll thank yourself that you listened to this episode, where we guide you to safety. 

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SYSK Selects: Was Atlantis A Real Place?

March 16th, 2019


While the search for Atlantis has been pushed to the fringes since the 19th century, archaeologists have quietly pursued cities that may have …

The Great Stink: The Stench So Bad They Gave It A Name

March 14th, 2019


In the summer of 1858, a heatwave dried up the Thames River to a trickle in London. As centuries’ worth of human waste, animal carcasses and other nasty things cooked in the sun, a stench arose that was so horrific it …

Short Stuff: Bedbugs

March 13th, 2019


We eradicated bedbugs so thoroughly in the 50s that generations who came later suspected they weren’t anymore real than jackalopes and snipes. But since we banned DDT, the pesticide that kills bedbugs best, they’re back …

The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti

March 12th, 2019


The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, two anarchists accused of murder, was one of the first "crimes of the century." But did they do it? To this day …

SYSK Selects: How Wildfires Work

March 9th, 2019


Wildfires consume an annual average of 5 million acres in the US. But what causes wildfires? How do they become so powerful? More importantly, how do …

How Dyslexia Works

March 7th, 2019


For a learning disability that everyone seems to know about, dyslexia is maybe the most commonly misunderstood and controversial cognitive difficulty …

Short Stuff: Wigs in English Court

March 6th, 2019


What's the deal with the wigs in the English court system? Learn all about it in today's short stuff. 

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What's the deal with ASMR?

March 5th, 2019


ASMR is soothing to some, maddening to others. Learn all about these whisper tones in today's episode. 

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SYSK Selects: How the Panama Canal Works

March 2nd, 2019


It's on more than one list of the Seven Wonders of the World and for good reason - the Panama Canal is one of the great feats of engineering ever undertaken. First conceived of in the 1580s and finally completed in …

Tuskegee Airmen: American Heroes

February 28th, 2019


The Tuskegee Airmen braved racism and brutally tough training in order to secure their spot in American history as the first African-American military pilots. Listen in today to the story of their determination and …

Short Stuff: Black Loyalists

February 27th, 2019


The Black Loyalists were a group of Colonial slaves who fought for their freedom alongside the British. Learn all about this nearly forgotten group …

The Science of Break-Ups

February 26th, 2019


Breaking up is hard to do. Your brain might even think you're getting over a cocaine addiction. Learn all about the science behind break-ups today!

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SYSK Selects: How Lewis and Clark Worked

February 23rd, 2019


They may be the most famous explorers in U.S. history, but there are plenty of interesting details to the Lewis and Clark expedition that history has allowed to fade. Learn about the origin and the aftermath of …

How Galaxies Work

February 21st, 2019


In the universe things tend to cluster. This means there’s a coherent structure to the universe and learning about clusters of stars – galaxies - helps us figure out what that structure is. Join Chuck and Josh on an …

Short Stuff: Turbulence

February 20th, 2019


If you’ve ever had a bumpy airplane ride, you know it’s nothing fun. But have you ever noticed that the pilots sometimes tell you ahead of time to …

Yeti: The Asian Bigfoot

February 19th, 2019


We've covered Nessie and Bigfoot, so why not tackle the Yeti? Listen in today and Josh and Chuck cover what used to be known as the Abominable Snowman. 

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SYSK Selects: Interpol: World Police

February 16th, 2019


Interpol is an international police agency that helps other law-enforcement agencies track criminals who operate across national borders -- but how …

Elephants: The Best Animals?

February 14th, 2019


Elephants are pretty much the best. Why? Josh and Chuck will let you know in great detail in today's episode. 

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Short Stuff: War of Jenkins' Ear

February 13th, 2019


In the 18th century, Spain and England fought each other in the colonies of Georgia and Florida, a war kicked off by an English sea captain who was …

Could There Be A Loch Ness Monster?

February 12th, 2019


People have believed something strange lives in Loch Ness for at least 3500 years. Thousands of people have sighted the Loch Ness Monster and dozens of expeditions have been launched. But does the fact that nothing’s …

SYSK Selects: How Coral Reefs Work

February 9th, 2019


Coral reefs are the largest organic structures on Earth, yet they're created through a symbiotic relationship between creatures about 3 millimeters long. Learn more about the the world's coral reefs (and how to protect …

The True Story of BlacKkKlansman

February 7th, 2019


In 2018, director Spike Lee brought the story of Ron Stallworth to the big screen to great effect. Today, Josh and Chuck discuss the true story behind the Oscar nominated film. 

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Short Stuff: Ellen Richards

February 6th, 2019


Who is Ellen Richards? One of the most unsung scientists of all time, that's who. Her contribution? Bringing real science into the household and …

The Insidious Abuse of Stalking

February 5th, 2019


Stalking has only recently been recognized for what it is – a profound form of psychological abuse where the victim’s life is “infected” by the …

SYSK Selects: Saunas: More Interesting Than You Think!

February 2nd, 2019


Although they seem pretty mundane, saunas are surprisingly fascinating inventions. Josh and Chuck break out all sorts of sweaty, sauna-related trivia, from the Finnish affinity for saunas to sauna etiquette, in this …

How Central Park Works

January 31st, 2019


Central Park in Manhattan was America’s first landscaped public park, built at a time when New Yorkers’ only option for getting some fresh air was …

Short Stuff: Johnny Appleseed

January 30th, 2019


Johnny Appleseed was real! And he was about as amazing as the legend paints him. He really did plant apple trees all over America and if the feds hadn’t chopped them down during Prohibition, they’d still be around. …

How Ping Pong Works

January 29th, 2019


While Asia is well-known for being cuckoo for Ping Pong, the game was actually invented by bored British Victorian aristocrats. Go back and forth about Ping Pong’s place in the world with Chuck and Josh.

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SYSK Selects: Bioluminescence: A Bright and Shiny Fish

January 26th, 2019


Science has a handle on fireflies and glowworms, but most bioluminescent animals live in the ocean and are tough to study. Today, researchers are …

The Legend of Betsy Ross

January 24th, 2019


Betsy Ross is an American icon to many, the seamstress who sewed the first U.S. flag because of a personal commission from George Washington. But is it true? Sort of. Learn all about this fascinating story today.

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Short Stuff: Thread Count

January 23rd, 2019


Is thread count all it's cracked up to be? Listen in and find out in today's edition of Short Stuff!

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SYSK Live: The Kellogg Brothers’ Wacky World of Health

January 22nd, 2019


There’s no way you haven’t had one of their breakfast cereals, but we bet you don’t know the story behind the two brothers who brought the world corn flakes. Buckle in for a lot of talk about poop, religion and …

SYSK Selects: How Lobotomies Work

January 19th, 2019


Lobotomies -- brain surgeries to relieve psychiatric problems -- are rarely performed today, but they were once fairly common. Tune in to learn more about the controversial history and practice of lobotomies.

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The July 20th Plot to Assassinate Hitler

January 17th, 2019


A lot of people in Hitler's inner circle wanted him dead toward the end of the war. But he proved impossible to kill from within. Listen in today as …

Short Stuff: Olestra

January 16th, 2019


In the 90s a fat free miracle food came out that promised we could eat all we wanted and not gain weight. But there was a caveat: it could also make …

How Airbags Work

January 15th, 2019


It turns out that the inflatable bag of air that shoots out of your steering wheel or dashboard is the result of a controlled explosion of solid …

SYSK Selects: How Schizophrenia Works

January 12th, 2019


Up to 24 million people worldwide have schizophrenia. Despite the vast amounts of research, the disorder remains mysterious. In this episode, Josh and Chuck delve into the nature of schizophrenia, from the history of …

The Great Finger in the Wendy’s Chili Caper

January 10th, 2019


In 2005 a woman named Anna Alaya discovered a length of human finger – nail and all – in her Wendy’s chili. Her cries of disgust would set off a …

Short Stuff: How Often Do You Need To Change Your Oil?

January 9th, 2019


First things, first: Take that oil change reminder sticker off your windshield and throw it away forever and never look back! 

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How the Spanish Flu Worked

January 8th, 2019


The Spanish Flu killed anywhere from 20-100 million or more people over 1918/1919. All of this played out with World War I in the foreground, one big reason why the flu spread so far, so fast. Learn all about this …

SYSK Selects: How Munchausen Syndrome Works

January 5th, 2019


Why would someone fake an illness? Here's an even better question: Why would someone repeatedly make themselves sick? Join Josh and Chuck as they …

What was the Tunguska event?

January 3rd, 2019


In 1908, the most powerful meteoroid explosion in recorded history happened over a remote area of Siberia. But the weird thing is there was no impact …

Short Stuff: Khipu

January 2nd, 2019


Listen in to learn all about the fascinating "language" of the Incan khipu knotted ropes. 

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Rockettes: Still Kicking After All These Years

January 1st, 2019


Tune in today to learn all about the legendary NYC Rockettes, who actually got their start in Missouri. 

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SYSK Selects: How Fossils Work

December 29th, 2018


A fossil is a piece of once-living organic material that has undergone a transition from an organic state to an inorganic state. But what exactly is fossilization? Listen in as Josh and Chuck break down the process of …

Dr. Seuss: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

December 27th, 2018


The Seuss is loose in this episode about legendary children's book author Ted Geisel. The funny thing is, he didn't ever want children of his own, and his past work was a bit problematic.

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Short Stuff: The Brain-Bladder Connection

December 26th, 2018


How much do you know about the brain-bladder connection? In about 15 minutes, it'll be a lot more. 

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SYSK Live Christmas Spectacular!

December 25th, 2018


This year, Josh and Chuck go live for their annual Christmas Spectacular. Recorded from the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, pour up some eggnog, …

SYSK Selects: The Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978

December 22nd, 2018


Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas allowed the Star Wars Holiday Special to be made. What happened on the night of November 17, 1978 …

E.T.: Is It Really the Worst Video Game of All Time?

December 20th, 2018


If you play video games you probably have an easy answer to worst game of all time: ET. But it turns out there are no easy answers, especially when you’re talking about a game so terrible it’s blamed for bringing the …

Short Stuff: Unique Snowflakes

December 19th, 2018


Amazingly, it turns out that every snowflake truly is unique. Math backs it up. 

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Geodesic Domes: The Wave of the Future That Wasn't

December 18th, 2018


Sometimes a good idea doesn’t pan out in real life. Take Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome: It requires less energy to heat and cool, it’s cheap, …

SYSK Selects: How Igloos Work

December 15th, 2018


Igloos were traditionally used by Inuit Indians as temporary shelter while on hunting and fishing trips. In this episode, Josh and Chuck look at the design of igloos, from their impressive heat-catching properties to …

Are good samaritan laws effective?

December 13th, 2018


Good samaritan laws have been around for many years, helping to provide legal protections for people who try to help other people. But do they work? Decide for yourself today!

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Short Stuff: Laughing Buddha

December 12th, 2018


Did you know that the friendly, smiling Buddha we all know from bars and restaurants isn't really Buddha?

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How Ayahuasca Works

December 11th, 2018


One day in the Amazon Basin, a shaman put together a plant containing DMT with a vine that allows the body to absorb DMT. The combination, a …

SYSK Selects: That Dang-old Goat Fell Over

December 8th, 2018


Due to a condition known as Thomsen's disease, the muscles of fainting goats tense up whenever the animal is startled. In this