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Big Brains

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Big Brains

University of Chicago Podcast Network

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We tell the stories behind the pioneering research and pivotal breakthroughs reshaping our world. Produced out of The University of Chicago. Winner of CASE "Grand Gold" award in 2022, Gold award in 2021, and named Adweek's "Best Branded Podcast" in 2020.
 
With all the noise created by a 24/7 news cycle, it can be hard to really grasp what's going on in politics today. We provide a fresh perspective on the biggest political stories not through opinion and anecdotes, but rigorous scholarship, massive data sets and a deep knowledge of theory. Understand the political science beyond the headlines with Harris School of Public Policy Professors William Howell, Anthony Fowler and Wioletta Dziuda. Our show is part of the University of Chicago Podcast ...
 
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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 laboratory. Since then, sleep science has evolved into a multi-disciplinary field — with scientists focusing on diagnosing the causes of sleep disorders, to how sleep affects our metabolic health, and improving …
 
For better or worse, one of the biggest stories in US politics today is the detection of election fraud, or in many cases the lack of election fraud. But determining whether fraud happened in an election can be difficult, even while proving the validity of elections for some has become increasingly important. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could j…
 
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 asking these days: Is democracy on the brink of the collapse? Why are U.S. politics so polarized? And are we headed for another civil war? These questions seem incredibly daunting, so we wanted to understan…
 
As we approach the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, we wanted to reflect on where we are as a country and whether politics are really as polarized as they seem. Our co-host Will Howell recently joined another University of Chicago podcast called Big Brains to discuss these very questions. We're going to share that episode wi…
 
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 accomplish these goals, but there's a technique we can use to help us. We wanted to re-release our episode with Katy Milkman, a behavior scientist who wrote the best-selling book, How To Change: The Sci…
 
Lately it feels like politicians are favoring smaller groups of their constituents over the majority of them. If you've been skeptical about whether this favoritism exists, there's a new theory that supports it. Some voters who are more vocal or intense about political issues are more likely to get their local politician's attention, and these smal…
 
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 encryption, supercharge the development of AI, and radically expedite the development of drug treatments, quantum technology will revolutionize our world. Today is the day our quantum future is beginning. Bu…
 
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 episodes. As we all dig into our delicious Thanksgiving dinners, we need to remember that not everyone is so lucky. Global hunger is still a massive problem facing our society. By 2050 humanity will have t…
 
We took some time off to enjoy the holiday with our families, but in the wake of the 2024 mid-terms, we’re going to re-share this crucial episode and relevant episode.When it comes to polarization, most people in American politics blame the voters. But much of the political science data suggests most voters are actually moderates. So, where are all…
 
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 group of scholars who could tell us what the earliest possible day that “tomorrow” began is, it’s archaeologists. On this episode, we go back in time to learn about James Henry Breasted, a UChicago scho…
 
This episode was recorded live at the NASPAA conference in Chicago. With the midterms upon us, we decided to look back at a piece of landmark scholarship that may be able to tell us something about the dynamics of personal interactions between representatives and their constituencies. It’s by political scientist Richard Fenno called “U.S. House Mem…
 
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 society? There are best-selling books and apps that promise to teach us the secrets of paying attention. But what do we really know about what’s happening in the brain when we’re focused or not? In a fasc…
 
One theme on our show is trying to make sense of why elites appear to be so polarized when the larger public is more moderate. We almost always study these trends in the U.S. but could we look to another country for insight? A country like the UK perhaps? In her paper “Has The British Public Depolarized Along with Political Elites?” University of O…
 
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 Chicago scholar whose pioneering research paved the way to the discovery of black holes. Chandrasekhar’s story is the first in a specia…
 
There might not be a more controversial political hack than members of Congress being legally allowed to trade stocks. Infamously, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has been regularly accused of insider trading. Recently the House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would prohibit members of Congress, …
 
For years, political scholars and pundits have claimed that primary elections are exacerbating polarization and with the 2022 midterm elections approaching this year has been no different. With many extremist candidates on both sides of the aisle, it certainly feels like this claim should be true, but does the political science back that up? To fin…
 
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 world-changing idea or discovery each week.The way we talk is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. But, when it comes …
 
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 world-changing idea or discovery each week.What are the biggest questions in science today: Can we cure cancer, solve the climate cris…
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an era of misinformation. From social media to cable news, the spread of false or misleading information about COVID vaccines has been rampant. Some social media platforms have moved more aggressively by trying to flag misleading posts with disclaimers. Can fact-checking reduce the spread of misinformation? And perhap…
 
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 world-changing idea or discovery each week.For the more than 20 million people with a felony record, incarceration doesn’t end at the …
 
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 world-changing idea or discovery each week.This week, we look back at our episode with UChicago economist, Raghuram Rajan. He became i…
 
In our hyper-polarized climate, it is often said that partisans determine their policy positions not based on thought and reason but on opposition to the other party. If I’m a Republican and I hear that Nancy Pelosi supports a particular policy, I’ll reflexively take the opposite stance. There is a literature in political science that suggests this…
 
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 and anecdotes, yet it’s rare to get good data about the true effects of welfare. A groundbreaking paper by University of Chicago ec…
 
The midterm elections are fast approaching, and with rampant inflation one of the main concerns for Democrats is the state of the economy. It’s commonly accepted that some voters cast their ballots solely on the price of gas and bread, but does the science back that up? There is a classic paper by political scientist Gerald Kramer from 1971 that ca…
 
Batteries have revolutionized our lives, especially the invention of rechargeable batteries, which have enabled us to have cellphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. But as we transition to more forms of green energy, we're facing a serious dilemma: Will our current lithium-ion batteries be able to sustain us?Battery scientist Shirley Meng says we…
 
Something curious has happened in American politics. Andrew Yang of 2016 presidential election fame has launched a third party, The Forward Party, and he's attracting some attention. A key feature of this party is a belief in ranked choice voting and raising up the possibility that through ranked choice voting, we might recover our our democracy.We…
 
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 proving that animals dream isn’t so simple.In his new book, When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness, philosopher Da…
 
Nearly a decade ago, the Supreme Court effectively removed the "preclearance" process in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. That process had been implemented for decades as part of the Voting Rights Act and required places with a history of racial discrimination to get approval from the Justice Department before changing their voting procedures.…
 
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 people time to prepare?In June of 2021, an unprecedented heatwave shocked the Pacific Northwest and Canada. It ended up being one of the…
 
Advocates for the striking down of Roe by the Supreme Court say this will improve our politics by allowing people’s preferences to be better represented at the State level. But do State and local governments accurately match the preferences of their citizens when responding to their demands? It’s a difficult question to answer, but one paper by NYU…
 
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 report from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), air pollution is taking 2.2 years off the average global life expectancy. In some of the most polluted regions in the world, …
 
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