Rank #1: 34 John Oliver - This World Will Be a Ball of Fire Before It Stops Being Funny
In another recent episode, Oliver expressed his frustration with the so-called climate "debate" in America by staging a more representative debate between a few climate skeptics and nearly a hundred scientists. One of the guys on the correct side of the "debate" was Bill Nye, who was booked for the show basically at the last minute.
"We just wanted to really play with that idea that the very fact that the climate debate is framed as a debate at all is problematic," Oliver says. On Inquiring Minds this week, guest host Asawin Suebsaeng talked to John Oliver about Last Week Tonight, politics, climate change, and how he went about finding a, um, very specific kind of model for the show.
This episode also features a discussion of surprising new scientific findings about why we don't remember much from our childhoods—because we were so busy growing new brain cells.
May 15 2014
Rank #2: 134 Anders Ericsson - How to Do Everything Better
We talk to psychologist Anders Ericsson about his new book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.
May 20 2016
Rank #3: Why Buddhism is True
We talk to journalist, scholar, and prize-winning author Robert Wright about his latest book Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment.
Sep 18 2017
Rank #4: 17 Michael Pollan - The Science of Eating Well (And Not Falling For Diet Fads)
The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. "I don't think we really understand well the proportions in the ancient diet," argues Pollan on this week’s episode. "Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate—I think they're kind of blowing smoke."
This week on the show, guest host Cynthia Graber has a wide-ranging conversation with Pollan that covers the science and history of cooking, the importance of microbes—tiny organisms such as bacteria—in our diet, and surprising new research on the intelligence of plants.
This episode also features a discussion of the new popular physics book Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn, by Amanda Gefter, and new research suggesting that the purpose of sleep is to clean cellular waste substances out of your brain.
Jan 16 2014
Rank #5: How We Evolved to Have Free Will
We talk to biologist Kenneth R. Miller about his new book The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will.
Apr 23 2018
Rank #6: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor
We talk to science writer and neurobiologist Lone Frank about her latest book The Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor.
May 07 2018
Rank #7: 55 Daniel Levitin - The Organized Mind
We also talk to microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles about the Ebola virus—what the risks really are, and why many people might be overreacting.
Also, Chris has a huge announcement.
Oct 10 2014
Rank #8: How Language Shapes Thought
We talk to cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsk about how language can influence the way we think.
Nov 12 2019
Rank #9: 113 Robert Sapolsky - Being Human
We talked to Sapolsky about what it means to be human, what we humans can learn from other species, and why he—despite being a self-described pessimist—feels optimistic about our prospects as a species.
This week’s episode was recorded live in San Francisco for the 2015 Bay Area Science Festival and was produced in collaboration with The Leakey Foundation and their podcast Origin Stories.
Dec 04 2015
Rank #10: 6 Jonathan Haidt - This is Why Your Political Opponents Hate You
In this episode of Inquiring Minds, moral psychologist and bestselling The Righteous Mind author Jonathan Haidt explains that our differences are, at root, the result of sharply contrasting moral systems and the emotions that underlie them. These emotions differ from left to right. And in politics, we feel first and think later.
As a result, even though political partisans today tend to think their adversaries are wrong and immoral, the truth is actually that they are too moral, albeit in a far more visceral than intellectual sense.
This episode also contains a discussion of Glenn Beck's recent flubbing of basic statistics, and of why a primate species—the marmoset—may in some ways be better at communicating than today's Democrats and Republicans.
Oct 25 2013
Rank #11: 131 Josh Willis - Greenland Is Melting!
Apr 29 2016
Rank #12: Steven Pinker: Enlightenment Now
We talk with cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker about his recent book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.
Sep 27 2018
Rank #13: 133 Ben Beard - How Global Warming Is Making Some Diseases Even Scarier
May 13 2016
Rank #14: Up To Date | Attention Is an Illusion; Ant Highways
This week: A new study shows we only focus on something a few milliseconds at a time, but we don’t notice because we’re pulsing that focus; and research on how ants avoid traffic jams so perfectly.
Thanks to guest co-host Trace Dominguez!
Aug 26 2018
Rank #15: The Neuroscience of How We Think
We have a big announcement! After 220 episodes, we are striking out on our own. Thanks to Mother Jones for being our home for the past 5 years. Look for new segments and episodes as we expand creatively, while still bringing you in depth conversations with scientists.
This week, we talk to neuroscientist Daniel Krawczyk about his book Reasoning: The Neuroscience of How We Think.
Dan also studies traumatic brain injury in veterans, using virtual reality as a part of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Apr 02 2018
Rank #16: 80 Norman Doidge - How Plastic Is Your Brain?
On the show this week we talk to Doidge about neuroplasticity—once you reach adulthood, is your brain in a kind of fixed state, or does it keep changing? And can you do things to make it change?
Apr 03 2015
Rank #17: 124 Joanne Ruthsatz & Kimberly Stephens - Is There a Link Between Prodigy and Autism?
Mar 04 2016
Rank #18: 43 Naomi Oreskes - The Collapse of Western Civilization
Such is the premise of a thought-provoking new work of "science-based fiction" by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, two historians of science best known for their classic 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In a surprising move, they have now followed up that expose of the roots of modern science denialism with a work of "cli-fi," or climate science fiction, entitled The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. In it, Oreskes and Conway write from the perspective of a historian, living in China (the country that fared the best in facing the ravages of climate change) in the year 2393. The historian seeks to analyze the biggest paradox imaginable: Why humans who saw the climate disaster coming, who were thoroughly and repeatedly warned, did nothing about it.
So why did two historians turn to sci-fi? On the show this week we talked to one of them—Naomi Orekes—to find out exactly that.
This episode also features a discussion of questionable claims about "drinkable" sunscreen, and a new study finding that less than 1 percent of scientists are responsible for a huge bulk of the most influential research.
Jul 18 2014
Rank #19: 28 John Hibbing - The Biology of Ideology
Tories were the British conservatives of Jefferson's day, and Whigs were the British liberals. What Jefferson was saying, then, was that whether you call yourself a Whig or a Tory has as much to do with your psychology or disposition as it has to do with your ideas. At the same time, Jefferson was also suggesting that there's something pretty fundamental and basic about Whigs (liberals) and Tories (conservatives), such that the two basic political factions seem to appear again and again in the world, and have for "all time."
Jefferson didn't have access to today's scientific machinery—eye tracker devices, skin conductance sensors, and so on. Yet these very technologies are now being used to reaffirm his insight. At the center of the research are many scholars working at the intersection of psychology, biology, and politics, but one leader in the field is John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln whose "Political Physiology Laboratory" has been producing some pretty stunning results.
This week, we talk to Hibbing about his research and what he says we actually do now know about these important differences between liberals and conservatives.
This episode also features a discussion of whether we are finally on the verge of curing AIDS, and new research suggesting that great landscape painters, like JMW Turner, were actually able to capture the trace of volcanic eruptions, and other forms of air pollution, in the color of their sunsets.
Apr 04 2014
Rank #20: 172 Dan Ariely - The Surprising Science of What Motivates Us
Mar 27 2017