Seven-Minute Explainers

80 EpisodesProduced by The Week

Your audio guide to everything you need to know about compelling and complex topics, from a variety of The Week's smart and witty writers, editors, and thinkers. Concise and entertaining, Seven-Minute Explainers packs a lot of information in a short amount of time.

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Ep. 79: Almost every language has a word for 'Christmas.' Few reference Christ.

December 21st, 2017


How’s that for a war on Christmas?

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Ep. 78: Why so strangely Yoda speaks?

December 14th, 2017


Hear something odd in his syntax, you do.

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Ep. 77: A brief timeline of tax reform

December 7th, 2017


How previous reforms led to the system we have today.

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Ep. 76: Did God have a wife?

November 30th, 2017


The history and mystery of Asherah.

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Ep. 75: 6 unique Thanksgiving celebrations from around the world

November 23rd, 2017


The Macy's Day Parade, football, and Black Friday deals may be uniquely American, but giving thanks for a good harvest is a tradition that crosses …

Ep. 74: The secret history of cowboy socialism

November 16th, 2017


The American West may fly the flag of individualism, but it was built on a bedrock of Big Government.

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Ep. 73: Why Puerto Rico never had a path to statehood

November 9th, 2017


Even as other territories became states, the U.S. kept Puerto Rico's legal status vague.

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Ep. 72: The strange, circuitous history of Daylight Saving Time

November 2nd, 2017


How war, the golf industry, and Big Candy got (most of) us an extra hour of sleep this weekend.

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Ep. 71: Why cheap horror flicks are Hollywood gold

October 26th, 2017


From Night of the Living Dead to Paranormal Activity, low-budget horror movies continue to def Hollywood's box-office expectations.

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Ep. 70: The lessons of the Russian revolution, 100 years later

October 19th, 2017


Is Marxism just a turn-crank formula for purges and dictatorship or was something else to blame?

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Ep. 69: The self-aware legacy of 'Friends'

October 12th, 2017


How the end of Matt LeBlanc's Episodes closes the door on the Friends era of gossip, fame, and meta-spinoffs.

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Ep. 68: Why Ronald Reagan enthusiastically signed America's first real gun control law

October 5th, 2017


A lifelong member of the NRA, Reagan might be the most consequential president for gun control legislation in the past century

Ep. 67: Why severe flooding is becoming increasingly common — and more destructive

September 28th, 2017


Storms like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, are only going to keep coming. Which parts of the U.S. are most vulnerable? What is the government …

Ep. 66: The burglars who broke into the FBI and brought down J. Edgar Hoover

September 21st, 2017


In 1971, a group of activists stole thousands of incriminating documents that proved the bureau was spying on Americans. The burglars got away …

Ep. 65: Why do we have a debt ceiling anyway?

September 14th, 2017


How a legislative fluke turned into a political weapon. Learn more at

Ep. 64: Congressional censure, explained

September 7th, 2017


When elected officials break the rules, this congressional tool puts them in check

Ep.63: How to put your savings on autopilot

August 31st, 2017


Saving is a habit, and like all habits, the best way to make it stick is to do it over, and over, and over again, until it becomes second nature. Here's four steps to help you save money without even thinking about it.

Ep. 62: Multivitamins are useless. Here's why.

August 24th, 2017


Those daily pills aren't doing you any favors. In fact, they might be doing you some harm. Find more at

Ep. 61: America's eclipse craze, explained

August 17th, 2017


On Aug. 21, the moon's shadow will roll across the U.S. and, for the first time in decades, tens of millions of Americans will witness a total solar …

Ep. 60: The new monopolies

August 10th, 2017


Amazon, Google, and Facebook have enjoyed unstoppable growth, with no end in sight. Such enormous success may be a sign that we're in the second Gilded Age, where our lives are channeled once again through fewer and …

Ep. 59: The genetic breakthrough that could change humanity, explained

August 3rd, 2017


The gene-editing tool CRISPR isn't some super high-tech piece of lab equipment. It's a part of our DNA that scientists have now figured out how to …

Ep. 58: A linguist's guide to HULK SMASH

July 27th, 2017


WHERE HULKSPEAK COME FROM? Let's explore all the potential inspiration that came before Hulk smashed into our comic book world in 1962.

Ep. 57: How to avoid being eaten by a shark

July 20th, 2017


A Hawaiian's tried-and-true advice for avoiding a shark attack

Ep. 56: 'Game of Thrones': 5 fun facts about the Valyrian language

July 13th, 2017


The Valyrian language has four genders — and an unexpected Monty Python tribute. Listen for more fun and interesting facts about this intricate language that might help you impress at your next Game of Thrones party.

Ep. 55: Your family name did not come from a mistake at Ellis Island

July 6th, 2017


So how did Jensen become Johnson, Koenigsberger become Kingsley, and Mlodzianowski become Murphy?

Ep. 54: Our irrational fear of flying

June 29th, 2017


You're more likely to die from a lightning strike than in an airplane crash, and yet we just can't seem to shake our aviophobia.

Ep. 53: China's plan to run the world

June 22nd, 2017


The People's Republic is investing trillions to build railways, ports, and telecommunications in other countries. Here's everything you need to know. Find out more at

Ep. 52: How to revolutionize the tax code with only 'find and replace'

June 15th, 2017


The simplest way to revolutionize the tax code? Just convert deductions to credits.

Ep. 51: How a preemptive strike on North Korea could end up killing millions

June 8th, 2017


It seems the Trump administration is ready to take the toughest of lines when it comes to dealing with the Hermit Kingdom. And this policy is nothing …

Ep. 50: How impeachment works

June 1st, 2017


With scandals swirling around the White House, the "I-word" is already being mentioned in Congress. But what's the origin of the process and how exactly is it used today? Here's everything you need to know.

Ep. 49: How previous White House scandals altered the political landscape

May 25th, 2017


Watergate. Iran-Contra. Trump-Russia? History can provide scenarios for thinking about how this investigation might play out.

Ep. 48: Anatomy of a commencement speech

May 18th, 2017


We combed through dozens of inspirational, funny, and memorable commencement speeches and found the best ones follow a surprisingly similar pattern …

Ep. 47: A phonological description of beatbox noises

May 11th, 2017


Whenever people listen to a beatboxing expert, there are two big questions that come up: What are those noises? And how are they being made?

Linguistics to the rescue!

Even if you still can't reproduce the sounds, you …

Ep. 46: How today's pro-immigrant activists are adopting the tactics of abolitionists

May 4th, 2017


Their plan to stop Trump's immigration crackdown: Resist. Rebuff. Repeat.

Ep. 45: The EPA's changing mission, explained

April 27th, 2017


After decades of dramatic successes — as well as failures — the Environmental Protection Agency is at a crossroads.

Ep. 44: The obscure 19th century murder case that shaped our reproductive laws

April 20th, 2017


The origins of our modern battles over abortion date back to 1838 and the untimely death of a 21-year-old factory girl named Eliza Sowers

Ep. 43: How sugar became Public Enemy No. 1

April 13th, 2017


Many experts believe that sweetened foods have caused a global health crisis. What's so bad about sugar?

Ep. 42: The rise and fall and rise of bitcoin

April 6th, 2017


In 2014, bitcoin was all but written off as a failed experiment. In March 2017, it made history. And its recent, more gradual success suggests the virtual currency is here to stay. Here's the story behind its …

Ep. 41: The growing nuclear threat from North Korea

March 30th, 2017


Kim Jong Un is building a nuclear missile that can reach the U.S. Can he be stopped?

Ep. 40: Can President Trump rescue the Rust Belt?

March 23rd, 2017


He promised to reverse the decades-long decline of manufacturing jobs. Can it be done?

Ep. 39: America's secret and forgotten wars

March 16th, 2017


President Trump inherited several undeclared wars around the world. Will he change U.S. policy?

37: The mainstreaming of mindfulness meditation

March 2nd, 2017


Stressed-out Americans, from war veterans to Google workers, are embracing mindfulness meditation. Does it really work?

Ep. 36: Why Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds couldn't stay apart

February 23rd, 2017


HBO's documentary Bright Lights highlights the intimacy between the famous mother and daughter

Ep. 35: Life after the White House

February 16th, 2017


Once they've relinquished the highest office in the land, many presidents enjoy rewarding second acts

Ep. 34: The great billionaire space race

February 9th, 2017


A brief history of the space race then and a look at what rich entrepreneurs are to open a new frontier of privately funded space travel.

Ep. 32: Are Google and Facebook the new monopolies?

January 26th, 2017


Google and Facebook are the new railroads. And the media is a powerless farmer trying to get his vegetables to town.

Ep. 31: A brief history of Inauguration Day traditions

January 19th, 2017


The Constitution mandates only the day and the oath of office. The rest is dictated entirely by tradition.

Ep. 30: How the geeks inherited the Earth

January 12th, 2017


What the presidential election tells us about the geeks' ascension in politics, business, and culture.

Ep. 29: Why extreme weather is the new normal

January 5th, 2017


Massive floods, prolonged heat waves, and destructive storms are becoming more common. Why? Here’s everything you need to know.

Ep. 28: Everything you need to know about New Year's Eve champagne

December 29th, 2016


More than a few of us will crack open a bottle or two of champagne to help toast the New Year. Here's how to look knowledgeable rather than just tipsy.

Ep. 27: When Americans banned Christmas

December 22nd, 2016


Travel back to America's Colonial days, when our Puritan forefathers had a tumultuous relationship with Christmas.

Ep. 26: What Darth Vader sounded like on the Star Wars set

December 15th, 2016


Take an auditory tour through the fascinating evolution of Darth Vader's unique sound.

Ep. 25: Please obey this simple rule for airplane seat reclining

December 8th, 2016


Just because you have the right to recline doesn't mean it's always the right thing to do

Ep. 24: The curious life of urban Christmas tree sellers

December 1st, 2016


Have you ever wondered what these holiday street retailers do about sleeping and bathroom breaks?

Ep. 23: How the Thanksgiving turkey was named after the country Turkey

November 24th, 2016


To understand why the North American fowl is named after a Middle Eastern country is to take a bit of a head-spinning, tongue-twisting world tour of the world. Ready?

Ep. 22: A brief history of populism

November 19th, 2016


America just ushered in a populist president. But what is the movement that Donald Trump rode to the White House? And where does it originate from on …

Ep. 21: Stop hiding things in your sock drawer!

November 10th, 2016


If you must keep your valuables at home, the sock drawer is the worst option.

Ep. 20: Hillary Clinton's email scandal, explained

November 3rd, 2016


Everything you need to know about the damn emails

Ep. 19: The truth about America's illegal immigrants

October 27th, 2016


Donald Trump has made illegal immigration a major part of his presidential campaign. But America's illegal immigration controversy is a lot more …

Ep. 18: Why ObamaCare is struggling

October 20th, 2016


Three years after it became law, the Affordable Care Act is facing a litany of problems. How serious are they? Here's everything you need to know.

Ep. 17: The empowering story of America's first all-female government

October 13th, 2016


In 1916, a group of women who were fed up with how men were running their small Oregon town decided do something about it. This is the story of the …

Ep. 16: The Trump Glossary

October 6th, 2016


To better understand Donald Trump and the effects he produces, let's name some of his go-to rhetorical moves, from Meflection to Cookie-Grubbing.

Ep. 12: How Shirley Chisholm's 1972 campaign for president changed the face of politics

September 8th, 2016


In 1972, the New York Congresswoman ran for president under the slogan "Unbought and Unbossed" and her tenure in politics proved she was a dedicated …

Ep. 11: Allergies, explained

September 1st, 2016


Everything you need to know about why we have allergies

Ep.10: How to survive your freshman year of college

August 25th, 2016


Practical advice from someone who’s been there, done that

Ep. 9: How do you say 'pecan'?

August 18th, 2016


You can trace the debate back to 1066, and it's not as simple as a southern accent versus a northern one. The linguistic basis for pecan pronunciation is much more complex.

Ep. 8: How to create the perfect office, according to science

August 11th, 2016


Jungle sounds? Chia pets? This is getting out of hand.

Ep. 7: The trials and triumphs of the first modern Olympics, in 1896

August 4th, 2016


The first competition in Athens was a rather modest affair

Ep. 6: This woman ran for president before women could even vote

July 28th, 2016


Victoria Woodhull notched several historic firsts before running for the country's highest political office in the 1872 election.

Ep. 5: 'I know, right?': The anatomy of a wonderfully nonsensical phrase

July 21st, 2016


And why we insist on saying things that make no literal sense

Ep. 4: Nobody reads party platforms. They're still really important.

July 14th, 2016


Parties still play a vital role in organizing political life and enabling people to understand the choices they have in a representative democracy

Ep. 3: How The Star-Spangled Banner went from battle poem to sporting-event mainstay

July 7th, 2016


Trapped on a boat during the War of 1812, lawyer Francis Scott Key was inspired to write a poem...

Ep. 2: Where did the word 'dude' come from?

June 30th, 2016


A massive, decade-long "dude" research project has finally yielded convincing results

Ep. 1: How Donald Trump hypnotized America

June 23rd, 2016


It's easy, actually: Be funny. Be confident. Be a bully. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Close with the emotion. Win.

Welcome to Seven-Minute Explainers!

June 22nd, 2016


Seven-Minute Explainers is your audio guide to everything you need to know about compelling and complex topics from politics, business, and the arts, …

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