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Big Brains

154 EpisodesProduced by University of Chicago Podcast NetworkWebsite

Translating groundbreaking research into digestible brain food. Big Brains, little bites. Produced by the University of Chicago Podcast Network & Winner of CASE "Grand Gold" award in 2022, Gold award in 2021, and named Adweek's "Best Branded Podcast" in 2020.

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A Radical Solution To Address Climate Change, with David Keith

November 30th, 2023


Climate change can feel like an impossible crisis these days. Every week there is some new report about the irreversible damage we’re doing to our planet and the havoc it will bring to people’s lives. We all …

How PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Are Harming Our Health, with Linda Birnbaum

November 16th, 2023


By now, you've probably heard about the dangers of PFAS “forever chemicals.” These chemicals are all around us—they're in waterproof hiking boots, electronics, nonstick pans and even our drinking water—but there's no …

Are We Worse People Than We Used To Be? With Adam Mastroianni

November 2nd, 2023


How many times have you heard this phrase: “Back in the day, people were nicer” or “People aren’t as kind as they used to be?” Most of us have experienced the feeling that people are becoming meaner over time, year …

Freakonomics’ Steven Levitt On The Secret To Making Tough Choices

October 19th, 2023


Of the academic books that have become household names, “Freakonomics” must be at the top of the list. The 2005 book by University of Chicago scholar …

Will Political Violence Destroy Our Democracy?, With Robert Pape

October 5th, 2023


Since the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, University of Chicago Prof. Robert Pape has been closely observing the threats to our democracy. …

Defending Campus Free Speech In A Polarized Age, with Paul Alivisatos and Tom Ginsburg

September 22nd, 2023


Free speech is probably one of the most polarizing public topics of debate. And those arguments only become more intense when it comes to free …

Why The Secret To Health Lies In The Mind-body Connection, with Ellen Langer

September 7th, 2023


Can you heal faster just by tricking your brain? Could you lose weight with only a change of mindset? Could you think yourself into being younger? If …

Phonics Vs. Whole Word: The Science Of Reading, With Adrian Johns

August 24th, 2023


Reading is one of the most significant practices in the modern age of information, but it has a complicated history. Scientists began studying reading over a century ago; they built eye movement devices to study how …

How AI Is Transforming Scientific Research, With Rebecca Willett

August 10th, 2023


One of the first areas to be affected by AI has been science. Researchers have already started to integrate these new technologies into their work, …

How AI Could Change The Law

July 27th, 2023


AI promises to change every part of our society, but one area that has already started to be affected is law. And AI may do more than just upend the profession of lawyers. One professor here at the University of Chicago …

How AI Can Predict Future Scientific Discoveries

July 20th, 2023


Science is facing a perplexing problem. Although there are far more scientists today than ever before, publishing research at a faster and faster pace, new and novel advancements have slowed not increased. But one …

The Uncovered History of Space Travel & Its Privatized Future

July 13th, 2023


Everyone is talking about the upcoming summer blockbuster, Oppenheimer. We are always incredibly captivated by behind the curtain looks at some of the most momentous events in our history. Uncovering the secret details …

The Health Costs of Air Pollution

July 6th, 2023


Many cities in the US have been experiencing smoky and hazy skies lately. Some of you have probably been affected by poor air quality due to the …

How Your Brain Benefits From Music, With Larry Sherman

June 29th, 2023


Music plays an important role in all of our lives. But listening to music or playing an instrument is more than just a creative outlet or hobby — …

Magic words: Can What You Say Help You Get Your way? with Jonah Berger

June 15th, 2023


Everyone wishes they had a superpower. Well, it turns out you’ve had a secret power since you were a child, you just don’t know how to use it yet. …

Providing Basic Health Insurance For Every American, With Katherine Baicker

June 1st, 2023


If there is something both sides of the political aisle can agree on, it’s that there is something deeply wrong with health insurance in the United …

Why We Fight, With Christopher Blattman

May 25th, 2023


Why do we fight? It’s a seemingly simple question, but it turns out the answers are surprising, deep and crucial to understanding our world. Considering how costly any conflict is in lives and money, why do wars happen …

The Hidden Truths About Sexuality And Gender In The Medieval World, with Roland Betancourt

May 11th, 2023


We often think our debates around sexuality and gender are a modern phenomenon. Some people argue that identities like trans and non-binary have only …

How We Could Regrow Limbs And Organs, with Michael Levin

April 27th, 2023


In the near future, birth defects, traumatic injuries, limb loss and perhaps even cancer could be cured through bioelectricity—electrical signals …

A Nobelist’s Controversial Approach To Solving Inequality, With James Heckman

April 13th, 2023


Over his distinguished career, Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman has dedicated his research to understanding and solving the problem of …

How The Food Industry Created Today’s Obesity Crisis, With Marion Nestle

March 30th, 2023


In today's grocery stores, you can find more sugary snacks, artificial ingredients, and ultra-processed packaged foods. At the same time, the United …

Why Mourning Is Essential To Our Well-Being, With Jonathan Lear

March 2nd, 2023


Mourning is an inevitable part of our human existence. But what exactly does it mean to mourn, and why is it an essential part of our well-being and survival? These questions have long fascinated Prof. Jonathan Lear, a …

The Scientific Secret To A Happy Life, With Marc Schulz

February 2nd, 2023


What is the key to living a happy and fulfilling life? The answer is actually quite simple, according to the two scholars behind the longest …

Unraveling Sleep’s Greatest Mysteries: The Day Tomorrow Began

January 19th, 2023


Almost a century ago, the origins of sleep science research began at the University of Chicago with the opening of the world's first sleep …

Is The U.S. Headed Toward Another Civil War? Feat. William Howell

January 5th, 2023


As we approach the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, we wanted to reflect on a few questions that many Americans are …

Follow Through On Next Year's Resolutions Using Science With Katy Milkman

December 22nd, 2022


As we head into 2023, many of us are setting our new year's resolutions and new goals for the year. It can be hard to stick to these resolutions or …

Why Quantum Tech Will Change Our Future: The Day Tomorrow Began

December 8th, 2022


In the last few years, we’ve witnessed the birth of an entirely new field of science: quantum technology.

With the power to create unbreakable …

Fighting Global Hunger Through Genetics With Chuan He

November 24th, 2022


We’re taking the week off to spend the holidays with our families, but we think this is a perfect moment to re-release one of our most important …

The Origins Of Civilization And The Future Of Archaeology: The Day Tomorrow Began

November 10th, 2022


When you name your special series The Day Tomorrow Began, you inevitably have to ask yourself: just how far back are we going to go? If there’s one …

Can We Predict Your Capacity To Focus? With Monica Rosenberg

October 28th, 2022


It can seem like our culture is obsessed with our ability to focus. Why can’t we focus, how we can focus better, why is our lack of focus ruining …

The 'Legendary' Discovery Of Black Holes: The Day Tomorrow Began

October 13th, 2022


Sometimes the biggest moments in scientific history happen in the most unlikely places. There’s no better example than the story of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a longtime University of …

Celebrating Our 100th Episode

September 29th, 2022


This episode marks the official 100th episode of the Big Brains podcast. To celebrate this milestone, our Senior Producer Matt Hodapp joins host Paul …

The Science Of Speech & Identity With Katherine Kinzler

September 22nd, 2022


Hello Big Brains listeners! Our podcast is coming up on an important milestone … our 100th episode! As part of the month-long celebration, we’re looking back at some of our favorite episodes—highlighting a different …

Life’s Mysterious Origins With Jack Szostak

September 15th, 2022


Hello Big Brains listeners! Our podcast is coming up on an important milestone … our 100th episode! As part of the month-long celebration, we’re looking back at some of our favorite episodes—highlighting a different …

The Afterlife Of Mass Incarceration With Reuben Jonathan Miller

September 8th, 2022


Hello Big Brains listeners! Our podcast is coming up on an important milestone … our 100th episode! As part of the month-long celebration, we’re looking back at some of our favorite episodes—highlighting a different …

The Imbalance In Our Society With Raghuram Rajan

September 1st, 2022


Hello Big Brains listeners! Our podcast is coming up on an important milestone … our 100th episode! As part of the month-long celebration, we’re looking back at some of our favorite episodes—highlighting a different …

Does Welfare Reduce Crime? With Manasi Deshpande

August 18th, 2022


There have been myths and tropes about welfare since it was created. We often hear critics say that welfare discourages people from working — but are these claims really true? This debate often plays out through theory …

The Crucial Race To Build A Better Battery With Shirley Meng

August 4th, 2022


Batteries have revolutionized our lives, especially the invention of rechargeable batteries, which have enabled us to have cellphones, laptops, and …

Do Animals Dream? With David M. Peña-Guzmán

July 21st, 2022


Do animals dream? If you’re a pet owner, it may seem obvious that your furry friends dream. Most of us have seen dogs running in their sleep or cats meowing during a nap. But this is an academic podcast and really …

Extreme Heat Waves: Why Are They Surging? with Noboru Nakamura

July 7th, 2022


It’s not your imagination, summers have been getting hotter and hotter with extreme heatwaves occurring earlier and more frequently. But why is this happening and can we better predict heatwaves in advance to give …

Why Air Pollution Is Cutting Years Off Our Lives, With Christa Hasenkopf And Anant Sudarshan

June 23rd, 2022


We can’t always see the consequences of air pollution around us, but it’s costing us years off our lives. According to a new Air Quality Life Index …

How Tax Dodging And Corporate Secrecy Found A Home In Delaware, With Hal Weitzman

June 9th, 2022


When you think about corporate secrecy, nefarious shell companies and conspiratorial tax dodging, the state of Delaware probably doesn’t come to mind. We often think of exotic places like Panama or Bermuda, but the …

Why Countries Choose War Over Peace, With Chris Blattman

May 26th, 2022


War is costly, deadly and destructive. So, why do we do it? In his new book Why We Fight: The Roots of War and The Paths to Peace, Prof. Chris Blattman of the University of Chicago lays out the five main reasons why …

How Death In America Is Changing With Shannon Lee Dawdy

May 12th, 2022


What does our relationship with the dead tell us about the living? Anthropologists learn about ancient cultures by studying their burial sites, but …

Why We Need To Invest In Parents During A Child's Earliest Years, With Dana Suskind

April 28th, 2022


The United States is an outlier when it comes to parents. Compared to similar countries, the U.S. has the largest happiness gap between the 63 million parents and the child-free. This statistic is not shocking when you …

The Troubling Rise Of Antibiotic-resistant Superbugs, With Christopher Murray

April 14th, 2022


For nearly a decade, public health experts have been warning that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. In 2014, the World Health Organization even said the post-antibiotic era is near. Despite these warnings, …

Is Scientific Progress Slowing? with James Evans

March 31st, 2022


There are far more scientists in today’s world, and they’re publishing research papers at a much faster pace. However, all of this growth hasn’t translated to more scientific progress. As University of Chicago Professor …

Could We Vaccinate Against Opioid Addiction? With Sandra Comer And Marco Pravetoni

March 17th, 2022


The United States recently hit a grim milestone: More than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021. The majority of those deaths were due to synthetic opioids, which have become more …

The Man Who Fought To Sanction Putin And Russian Oligarchs, with Bill Browder

March 2nd, 2022


As Vladimir Putin continues his invasion of Ukraine, Western nations have come together in unprecedented fashion to condemn his actions, in the form …

Why Big Ideas Fail To Scale—And How To Fix It With John List

February 17th, 2022


Solving problems like poverty, education inequality or discrimination require policy interventions that can scale, but they rarely do. Why do some …

Could Personalizing Laws Make Society More Just? With Omri Ben-Shahar

February 3rd, 2022


Big data has created a world of personalization. We have personalized medicine, personalized education, personalized advertising. Now, one University …

How To Stick To Your Resolutions, With Ayelet Fishbach

January 20th, 2022


Every year many of us set New Year’s resolutions, and almost none of us actually follow through on them. In a year when fulfilling our goals and …

The Overlooked History Of Black Cinema, With Jacqueline Stewart

January 6th, 2022


Prof. Jacqueline Stewart’s career has examined the histories of overlooked Black filmmakers and Black audiences. Last year, the University of Chicago …

Engineering A Cure For Cancer With Melody Swartz & Jeffrey Hubbell

December 23rd, 2021


The race to cure cancer has been running a long time, but two University of Chicago scientists are working to bring it closer to the finish line. Thinking like engineers rather than doctors, Profs. Jeffery Hubbell and …

Confronting Gun Violence With Data, With Jens Ludwig

December 9th, 2021


There’s something strange happening with violent crime in America. Incidents are reaching levels they haven’t hit in decades, and nobody seems to …

Best Of: Why Talking to Strangers Will Make You Happier With Nicholas Epley

December 2nd, 2021


If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Most people say they’d want to read minds. But Prof. Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago …

Unlocking The Secrets Of Black Holes, With Andrea Ghez

November 18th, 2021


If you know anything about black holes, it may come as a surprise to learn that there’s actually one lurking at the center of our galaxy. It was …

Do Your Genes Determine Your Success In Life? With Kathryn Paige Harden

November 4th, 2021


Experts say we’re living through a renaissance in genetics research. The Human Genome project has explained our most fundamental genetics, CRISPR gene editing can be used to shape genetic code, and companies like 23 …

How The UN Aims To Save Humanity, With Chris Williams And Luis Bettencourt

October 21st, 2021


It feels like our world has never faced so many crisis all at the same time, and trying to solve them at once seems impossible. But, in 2015, the …

Combating Our Global Water Crisis Using AI, with Junhong Chen

October 7th, 2021


There are a lot of problems in our world today, but if our water systems aren’t working, everything else takes a backseat. From a lack of freshwater to droughts on the West Coast to contaminants like PFAS and lead in …

Revolutionizing Technology at the Nanoscale, with Paul Alivisatos

September 23rd, 2021


Sometimes, the biggest discoveries have to do with the smallest things. In this case, we’re talking nano. Specifically, nanocrystals. World-renowned …

The Science Behind Forming Better Habits, With Katy Milkman

September 9th, 2021


Why is it so hard for us to form good habits—and so easy to form bad ones? Most people turn to the self-help section to find answers, but this is really a question for behavior science.

Katy Milkman is a professor at The …

The Secret Nazi Past and Billionaire Future of U.S. Space Innovation with Jordan Bimm

August 19th, 2021


Most people think they know humanity’s history of space exploration, from Sputnik to NASA to our recent shift toward privatized space travel. But what if there was a lost history of our origins with space science that …

How a Genetic Breakthrough Could Address Global Hunger

August 5th, 2021


By 2050 humanity is going to have to produce 50% more food in order to feed a growing population. That’s a lot, especially given that we currently …

Introducing: Entitled

July 29th, 2021


The University of Chicago Podcast Network is excited to announce the launch of a new show, it’s called "Entitled" and it’s about human rights. …

The Deadly Flaw In Our Judgment, With Cass Sunstein

July 15th, 2021


Many of the most important moments in our lives rely on the judgment of others. We expect doctors to diagnose our illnesses correctly, and judges to …

A Scientist’s Beef With The Meat Industry, With Impossible Foods’ Pat Brown

July 1st, 2021


Even if you’ve never eaten an Impossible Burger, you’ve probably heard of them. But you may not know the science and story behind those meatless products.

Pat Brown is a University of Chicago alum, the founder and CEO …

A Surprising Economic Solution To Climate Change With Michael Greenstone

June 17th, 2021


When was the last time you heard a positive story about climate change, a story about someone with a new idea or innovative solution to help reduce …

Solving The Biggest Mysteries Of Our Universe, With Dan Hooper

June 3rd, 2021


Why does our universe work the way it does? What are its laws? How did it start with the Big Bang‚ and how will it end?

Scientists like Prof. Dan Hooper from the University of Chicago use something called the Standard …

Why You’re Likely Paying An Unfair Share of Property Taxes, with Christopher Berry

May 20th, 2021


When’s the last time you thought about property taxes? We mostly accept them as a part of society, and assume that they’re being calculated fairly. …

Taking Aliens Seriously, with Avi Loeb

May 6th, 2021


The possibility of alien life has captivated the human imagination for decades and has been at the center of some of our most popular fictional …

The ‘Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse’ with Kara Swisher

April 22nd, 2021


The so-called “Big Tech” industry has dramatically improved our daily lives, but at what cost? Few people have gotten a closer look at these companies than Kara Swisher, writer for The New York Times and podcast …

Fighting Poverty And Pandemics, with Nobel Economist Michael Kremer

April 8th, 2021


The solutions to global poverty can appear obvious, even if they’re difficult to implement. But, as University of Chicago economist Michael Kremer …

Why Life After Incarceration Is Just Another Prison, with Reuben Jonathan Miller

March 25th, 2021


For the more than 20 million people with a felony record, incarceration doesn’t end at the prison gate. They enter what University of Chicago scholar …

Anthony Fauci On What We Need To Get Over COVID-19

March 8th, 2021


Anthony Fauci has spent the past year trying to curb the worst health crisis the world has seen in a century. 

In a recent University of Chicago …

The Ethics of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, with Laurie Zoloth

February 25th, 2021


The coronavirus pandemic has raised countless ethical questions: How do we balance restricting freedoms with protecting others, how do we ethically …

The Doomsday Clock’s ‘Historic Wake-Up Call,’ With Rachel Bronson

February 11th, 2021


The Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight—as close to total destruction as we were in 2020. But after a year of increasingly dangerous weather and wildfires, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, why …

Unraveling the Mystery of Life’s Origins on Earth, with Jack Szostak

January 28th, 2021


What are the biggest questions in science today: Can we cure cancer, solve the climate crisis, make it to Mars? For Nobel laureate Jack Szostak, the …

The Urgent Need to Reinvest in American Research, with Barbara Snyder

January 14th, 2021


Our podcast is all about research. Every episode we investigate what scholars have discovered and why it matters. But we’re going to get meta on this …

Getting Out Of The Lab With John List

December 22nd, 2020


Our team is taking some time off to be with their families for the holidays. But, just in case you have a long flight, car ride, or maybe need …

How Alternate Reality Games Are Changing The Real World with Patrick Jagoda and Kristen Schilt

December 10th, 2020


What is the most popular form of media today: Movies? Music? Books? Nope, it’s video games. With 2.5 billion gamers today, games are set to be the …

The Science of Empathy, with Peggy Mason

November 25th, 2020


With so many contentious issues in our deeply polarized world, the real or virtual Thanksgiving dinner table may be a hard place to find a lot of …

Big Brains Presents: The "Capitalisn't" Podcast

November 20th, 2020


This week, we’re featuring another University of Chicago Podcast Network show. It’s called Capitalisn’t.

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court has many focusing on question about how the new court will …

What Remains Unanswered After The 2020 Election, with William Howell and Luigi Zingales

November 11th, 2020


It’s hard to think of a presidential election that has raised as many questions as 2020. What do these results tell us about the views and desires of …

When Governments Share Their Secrets—And When They Don't, with Austin Carson

October 29th, 2020


When should a government choose to reveal a secret—or conceal it? Your knee-jerk reaction may be to say they should never hide anything from the …

How We Can Fix a Fractured Supreme Court, with Geoffrey Stone

October 15th, 2020


The Supreme Court today may be more politicized than any other time in U.S. history. With the expected confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, …

Correcting History: Native Americans Tell Their Own Stories

October 1st, 2020


Since their inception, natural history museums have struggled with how to represent Native Americans and their culture. People from these communities …

The Future of Voting And The 2020 Election, with Anthony Fowler

September 17th, 2020


The 2020 presidential election this November is happening amid an unprecedented pandemic. As states scramble to scale up mail-in voting, President Trump claims it will lead to widespread fraud. But what does a leading …

Why The Quantum Internet Could Change Everything, with David Awschalom

September 3rd, 2020


Imagine a new technology that could create unbreakable encryption, supercharge the development of AI, and radically expedite the development of drug …

How Loneliness and Isolation Affect Your Health, with Prof. Linda Waite

August 27th, 2020


The quarantine to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic has left many people trapped inside, alone. Loneliness and isolation were already a major …

The Way You Talk—And What It Says About You, with Prof. Katherine Kinzler

August 13th, 2020


The way we talk is probably not something most of us spend a lot of time thinking about, but when it comes to communicating, what we’re saying may only be as important as how we say it.

That’s what Prof. Katherine …

From LSD to Ecstasy, How Psychedelics Are Altering Therapy, with Prof. Harriet de Wit

July 30th, 2020


People have been taking psychoactive drugs since the beginning of human history, but there hasn’t been a lot of good scientific study of these substances. One person who has been trying to turn a scientific lens toward …

How Can We Achieve Real Police Reform?

July 16th, 2020


What are we going to do about police misconduct? Many are calling for a total defunding of the police, while others are looking for systems to …

Why We're Obsessed With Conspiracy Theories

July 2nd, 2020


There have always been, and probably always will be, conspiracy theories, but we’ve certainty seen a dramatic increase this year. Misinformation around the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic have created page after …

Black Lives Matter Protests: Hope for the Future?

June 18th, 2020


In the last few weeks, our country has been rocked by nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, and many other black people, at the …

What Historic Pandemics Could Teach Us About Coronavirus, with Ada Palmer

June 8th, 2020


What happens to the world after a pandemic? Lots of experts have been talking about what we may be able to expect after COVID-19 from the 1918 Spanish flu and The Black Death. But, as any historian will tell, history is …

A Crisis Management Expert’s Advice on Handling Coronavirus

May 21st, 2020


Our society has always relied on leaders to effectively manage crises. But with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging society, it’s more important than ever …

How Students and Schools Can Recover From Coronavirus, with Elaine Allensworth

May 12th, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on our students. As we move into the summer, schools will need to understand the best way to address these …

Trump, Coronavirus and the Cost of Ineffective Government, With William Howell

April 30th, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the most profound challenges in our world. One of the most prominent has been governmental dysfunction. As director for the Center For Effective Government at the , this is an …

How Coronavirus Is Exposing Our Racial Disparities, with Monica Peek

April 21st, 2020


One of the most tragic aspects of the coronavirus outbreak has been the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on communities of color in cities …

Coronavirus Shows Why We Need To Rethink Health Care, with Kate Baicker

April 3rd, 2020


The coronavirus outbreak has devastated many sectors of our society, and brought many of the issues we were facing before the pandemic to the forefront. This is especially true of health care.

Prof. Katherine Baicker is …

What Rats Can Teach Us About Empathy and Racism, with Peggy Mason

March 10th, 2020


Why do we feel empathy for some people, but not others? Where does this feeling of empathy come from? These questions have been the focus of one …

Why the Coronavirus Could Send China’s Economy Back to the 1980s With Chang-Tai Hsieh

February 25th, 2020


The outbreak of the coronavirus in China is a global tragedy. While much of the attention has been on the disease itself, many global experts have been focusing on the economic side-effects. Some economists are even …

Why The Doomsday Clock Is Closer To Apocalypse Than Ever With Rachel Bronson

February 12th, 2020


Since its inception following World War II, the Doomsday Clock has measured our time until apocalypse in minutes. This year, for the first time, the …

Vladimir Putin’s Number One Enemy With Bill Browder

January 27th, 2020


University of Chicago alumnus Bill Browder’s story sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller—except it’s all true. He just wanted to be a …

How Google and Facebook Are Ruining Capitalism, with Luigi Zingales

January 13th, 2020


University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales often says that only an immigrant like himself can really appreciate American capitalism. In his native Italy, Zingales says what you know and what you do are far less …

How Quantum Technology Could Change Our Future With David Awschalom

December 30th, 2019


In October of 2019, Google announced their supercomputer had reached quantum supremacy. With that announcement, and as we take a short break for the …

The Myths Of Millennial Voters With Cathy Cohen

December 16th, 2019


Every election year, poll after poll tries to predict where millennials stand politically. As we head into 2020, we'd like to replay this episode …

Why Some Nations Prosper and Others Fail, with James Robinson

December 2nd, 2019


It’s a simple question to ask, but seems impossible to answer: What causes one nation to succeed and another to fail? What exactly are the origins of global inequality?

There are few people who have spent more time …

The Hunt for Alien Life and Exoplanets, with David Charbonneau

November 18th, 2019


Since the beginning of human history, we’ve looked up at the stars and wondered: Are we alone? No other generation has been able to find an answer, but David Charbonneau thinks we may be the first. He’s an astronomer at …

Why Chasing The Good Life Is Holding Us Back With Lauren Berlant

November 4th, 2019


For most Americans, the driving force in their personal and public life is a desire to attain the “good life”. But what if our attachment to that …

Saving Our Cities By Studying A Million Neighborhoods With Luis Bettencourt

October 23rd, 2019


In the last decade, there has been a mass migration of people into urban areas across the globe. This rapid urbanization has been increasingly unsustainable for our cities and it’s projected to get worse in the next …

Why Talking to Strangers Will Make You Happier With Nicholas Epley

October 7th, 2019


If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Most people say they’d want to read minds. But Prof. Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago …

Leading Presidential Scholar Analyzes Trump Impeachment

September 27th, 2019


It’s been a historic week, with news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has officially opened an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

There’s no better expert to examine the recent events in Washington than

The Politics of Archaeology In Iraq With Christopher Woods

September 23rd, 2019


The looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad became one of the defining moments of the second Iraq War. Christopher Woods, the director of the Oriental Institute, one of the world’s foremost research centers on …

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg On Polarization, Discrimination and Her Favorite Dissent

September 9th, 2019


One of the incredible perks of making a podcast at a place like the University of Chicago is the opportunity to feature some of the incredible guests who speak on our campus. 

This week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader …

Why Your Social Life is a Matter of Life and Death with Linda Waite

August 26th, 2019


Is it possible that having lunch with your friends is just as important in keeping you alive as exercising? That’s what University of Chicago professor Linda Waite is arguing. Her first of its kind research …

Revolutionizing Economics By Studying People In The Real World With John List

August 12th, 2019


If you’ve played Candy Crush, flown on United Airlines, or taken an Uber or Lyft, you’ve been in one of Prof. John List’s experiments without even …

The Unknown History Of The White Power Movement With Kathleen Belew

July 29th, 2019


We're taking a summer break during July, but we'll be back in August with new episodes telling the stories of leading research with some of the …

The Missing Link In Evolution with Neil Shubin

July 15th, 2019


Evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin spent six years in the Arctic searching for a fossil that could be a missing link between sea and land animals. …

Guest Show - No Jargon

July 1st, 2019


We're taking a summer break during July, but we'll be back in August with new episodes telling the stories of leading research with some of the …

Trump and the Changing Power of the Presidency with William Howell

June 17th, 2019


If you want to better understand how Trump has forever changed the American presidency, the history of impeachment, or how to fix the dysfunction in our government, it’s best to go to an expert. Prof. William Howell is …

How the Loss of Community Threatens Society With Raghuram Rajan

June 3rd, 2019


UChicago economist Raghuram Rajan became infamous for predicting the 2008 financial collapse three years before it happened.

Rajan says that there …

The Science of Conspiracy Theories And Political Polarization With Eric Oliver

May 20th, 2019


The “birthers”, “Pizzagate”, anti-vaxxers. Since the election of Donald Trump, it’s seemed that belief in conspiracy theories is on the rise. At the …

A Modern Medical Miracle with Drs. Valluvan Jeevanandam and Talia Baker

May 6th, 2019


Doctor Valluvan Jeevanandam says that transplantation is a “spiritual journey.” One person’s tragic loss leads to the another’s second chance at life. But not all transplants are the same.

In 2018, patients Daru Smith …

An Archaeological Riddle In The Sahara With Paul Sereno

April 15th, 2019


When dinosaur hunter and paleontologist Paul Sereno discovered an ancient mass gravesite in the sands of the Sahara, he knew he had to excavate and …

Tiny Creatures, Big Discoveries With Nipam Patel

April 1st, 2019


Since the late 1800s, if you were serious about studying biology you went to the Marine Biological Laboratory. The discoveries made there have led to …

The Hidden Dangers of Artificial Intelligence with Ben Zhao

March 18th, 2019


The development of artificial intelligence has begun to feel inevitable and promising. But University of Chicago computer scientist, Ben Zhao, has spent much of his career testing how the security of these systems can …

Lessons From Our Country’s Largest School Closing with Eve L. Ewing

March 4th, 2019


In her book Ghosts In The Schoolyard, University of Chicago scholar Eve Ewing asks a central question about the 2013 mass closings of Chicago Public …

Simple Solutions To Address Social Issues with Harold Pollack

February 18th, 2019


University of Chicago Professor Harold Pollack may be famous for his “financial index card”, but it’s his application of simple solutions to complex …

What We’re Getting Wrong About Millennials With Cathy Cohen

February 4th, 2019


Every election year, poll after poll tries to predict where millennials stand politically. But Prof. Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago says …

What Ripples in Space-Time Tell Us About the Universe with Daniel Holz

January 21st, 2019


All around us in the universe, stars and black holes are smashing into each other with tremendous force. These events are so powerful that they …

Vietnam and the Rise of the White Power Movement with Kathleen Belew

January 7th, 2019


The revelation for historian Kathleen Belew came while researching a 1979 anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in Greensboro, North Carolina that turned deadly …

Big Brains: Back in 2019

December 23rd, 2018


Seasons Greetings! Big Brains will return in January 2019 with some very exciting guests.

Until that time, we encourage you to go back and listen to some of our previous episodes — especially if you missed our first …

Climate Change’s Human Cost With Michael Greenstone

December 10th, 2018


As climate change continues to stir concern and debate around the world, Prof. Michael Greenstone knows the importance of using his research to better explain the connection between the environment, health and global …

David Axelrod on Why ‘Democracy is Messy’ and the Future of Politics

November 26th, 2018


David Axelrod departed Washington, D.C. because he knew it’d be hard to top his role in helping Barack Obama make history.

But when the president’s …

How Talk Builds Babies’ Brains with Dana Suskind

November 12th, 2018


When Prof. Dana Suskind first began implanting devices called cochlear implants on babies who couldn’t hear, she quickly noticed something about her …

What Makes Us Uniquely Human with Neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri

October 29th, 2018


Neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri wants to do the near impossible: map the entire human brain.

That means identifying each of the trillions of neural connections that exist inside the mind—a number bigger than the stars in …

From Sci-Fi to Reality, Quantum Technology with David Awschalom

October 15th, 2018


David Awschalom is one of the world’s leading scientists studying the growing field of quantum engineering, turning what was once in the realm of …

Future of Higher Education and College Access with Robert J. Zimmer

October 1st, 2018


As president of the University of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer has a unique view to the challenges and opportunities facing higher education, and one of the biggest obstacles he sees is access for all students. While …

The Hidden Abuse of U.S. Immigration with Claudia Flores

September 17th, 2018


UChicago Law professor Claudia Flores has spent a career advocating for human rights of vulnerable populations around the world, from East Timor to …

SCOTUS Nears Unimaginable Era with Geoffrey Stone

September 5th, 2018


UChicago Law professor Geoffrey Stone has an intimate knowledge of the Supreme Court.

From his time as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan where he witnessed the decision Roe v. Wade firsthand, to …

Special University of Chicago Convocation Podcast featuring Valerie Jarrett and Marianne Bertrand

June 12th, 2018


A special Convocation edition podcast from the UChicago Podcast Network, featuring the full speeches given by Class Day speaker Valerie Jarrett, …

Special University of Chicago Convocation Podcast with Student Speaker Andrea Popova

June 12th, 2018


A special Convocation edition podcast from the UChicago Podcast Network, featuring an interview with student speaker Andrea Popova, followed by the …

Economist’s Journey to the Nobel with Richard Thaler

June 4th, 2018


Richard Thaler has been dubbed one of the "founding fathers" of behavioral economics, bridging the gap between psychology and economics, and in 2017 …

Future of Energy Innovation with Michael Polsky

May 21st, 2018


When UChicago alumnus Michael Polsky first ventured into the field of renewable energy in 2003 with his company Invenergy, he thought they had missed …

The Expanding Universe with Wendy Freedman

May 14th, 2018


Wendy Freedman spent part of her career measuring the age of the universe. Now she’s working on a project that may very well give scientists a chance …

Nature’s Design Secrets with Rama Ranganathan

May 7th, 2018


From the smallest proteins of cells to entire ecosystems, nature might be the most sophisticated engineer on earth.

Researchers like UChicago …

Mind of a Virtuoso Composer with Augusta Read Thomas

April 30th, 2018


To say Augusta Read Thomas is prolific is an understatement.

A past Grammy Award winner and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, Thomas has been …

Myths of U.S. Health Care with Katherine Baicker

April 23rd, 2018


Health care expansion. It's one of the most contentious issues in American politics. Katherine Baicker is Dean of the Harris School at the University …

Discovering the Missing Link with Neil Shubin

April 16th, 2018


Evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin spent six years in the Arctic searching for a fossil that could be a missing link between sea and land animals. In …

Big Brains Trailer

April 5th, 2018


Big Brains tells the stories behind the pioneering research and breakthroughs reshaping our world. The show is produced out of the University of …

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