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Episode No.
Date
Length
No. 85

What It Takes to Know Everything

Victoria Groce is one of the best trivia contestants on earth. She explains the structure of a good question, why she knits during competitions, and how to memorize 160,000 flashcards.

8/5/22
45:13
No. 84

Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing

The author of Sapiens has a knack for finding the profound in the obvious. He tells Steve why money is fiction, traffic can be mind-blowing, and politicians have a right to say stupid things in private.

7/22/22
55:30
No. 83

“There’s So Many Problems — Which Ones Can I Make a Difference On?”

When she’s not rescuing chickens from coyotes, Susan Athey uses economics to address real-world challenges — from online ad auctions to carbon capture technology.

7/8/22
54:09
No. 82

Is This the Future of High School?

Khan Academy founder Sal Khan returns to share his vision for a new way to learn — and the conversation inspires Steve to make a big announcement.

7/1/22
46:27
No. 81

Why Bother Searching for Aliens?

Astronomer Jill Tarter spent her career searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. She explains what civilizations from other planets could teach us about our own future.

6/24/22
48:16
No. 80

Get Your Share of the Pie

Game theorist Barry Nalebuff explains how he used basic economics to build Honest Tea into a multimillion-dollar business, and shares his innovative approach to negotiation.

6/17/22
55:07
No. 79

Solar Geoengineering Would Be Radical. It Might Also Be Necessary.

David Keith has spent his career studying ways to reflect sunlight away from the earth. It could reduce the risks of climate change — but it won’t save us.

6/10/22
59:59
No. 78

Giving It Away

Billionaire John Arnold is figuring out how to do as much good as he can with his wealth. It takes hard work, risk tolerance, and a lot of spending.

6/3/22
53:48
No. 77

Can Games Prepare Us for Catastrophes? (Part 2)

Many of us hate to think about future crises. Game designer Jane McGonigal wants to make it fun.

5/27/22
35:52
No. 76

Is Gaming Good for You?

Jane McGonigal designed a game to help herself recover from a traumatic brain injury — and she thinks playing games can help us all lead our best lives.

5/20/22
44:23
No. 75

Self-Help for Data Nerds

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz combs through mountains of information to find advice for everyday life.

5/13/22
54:05
No. 74

Getting Our Hands Dirty

Soil scientist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe could soon hold one of the most important jobs in science. She explains why the ground beneath our feet is one of our greatest resources — and, possibly, one of our deadliest threats.

5/6/22
54:15
No. 73

Turning Work into Play

How psychologist Dan Gilbert went from high school dropout to Harvard professor, found the secret of joy, and inspired Steve Levitt’s divorce.

4/29/22
51:57
No. 72

“Leaving Black People in the Lurch”

Linguist and social commentator John McWhorter explains how good intentions may be hurting Black America — and where the word “motherf*cker” comes from.

4/22/22
49:02
No. 71

Bombs Away

Beatrice Fihn wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons. As Russian aggression raises the prospect of global conflict, can she put disarmament on the world’s agenda?

4/15/22
47:16
No. 70

You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Experiment

Nobel Prize winner Joshua Angrist explains how the draft lottery, the Talmud, and West Point let economists ask — and answer — tough questions.

4/8/22
37:21
No. 69

Does Death Have to Be a Death Sentence?

Palliative physician B.J. Miller asks: Is there a better way to think about dying? And can death be beautiful?

4/1/22
45:52
No. 68

“No One Can Resist a Jolly, Happy Pig.”

Naturalist Sy Montgomery explains how she learned to be social from a pig, discovered octopuses have souls, and came to love a killer that will never love her back.

3/25/22
46:05
No. 67

We Can Play God Now

Gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna worries that humanity might not be ready for the technology she helped develop.

3/18/22
41:42
No. 66

The Professor Who Said “No” to Tenure

Columbia astrophysicist David Helfand is an academic who does things his own way — from turning down job security to helping found a radically unconventional university.

3/11/22
48:38
No. 65

A Rockstar Chemist and Her Cancer-Attacking “Lawn Mower”

Stanford professor Carolyn Bertozzi’s imaginative ideas for treating disease have led to ten start-ups. She talks with Steve about the new generation of immune therapy she’s created, and why she might rather be a musician.

3/4/22
54:14
No. 64

How Larry Miller Went from Prison Valedictorian to Nike Executive

Climbing the corporate ladder to become head of Nike’s Jordan brand, he kept his teenage murder conviction a secret from employers. Larry talks about living in fear, accepting forgiveness, and why it was easier to be bookish behind bars.

2/25/22
41:04
No. 63

The Only Covid-19 Book Worth Reading

Steve loved Michael Lewis’s latest, The Premonition, but has one critique: Why aren’t there even more villains? Also, why the author of best-sellers Moneyball and The Big Short can barely read a page of his first book without cringing.

2/18/22
53:02
No. 62

How Does Historian Brad Gregory Make a Boring Topic So Mind-Blowing?

A leading expert on the Reformation era, Brad, a University of Notre Dame professor, tells Steve about how the “blood gets sucked out of history,” and why historians and economists don’t quite see eye to eye.

2/11/22
47:25
No. 61

Was Austan Goolsbee’s First Visit to the Oval Office Almost His Last?

The former chairman of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisors tells Steve how improv comedy was a better training ground for teaching than a Ph.D. from M.I.T., and why he’s glad he was wrong about the automotive-industry bailout.

2/4/22
53:03
No. 60

Cassandra Quave Thinks the Way Antibiotics Are Developed Might Kill Us

By mid-century, 10 million people a year are projected to die from untreatable infections. Can Cassandra, an ethnobotanist at Emory University convince Steve that herbs and ancient healing are key to our medical future?

1/28/22
50:30
No. 28

Why Aren’t All Drugs Legal? (Replay)

The Columbia neuroscientist and psychology professor Carl Hart believes that recreational drug use, even heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine, is an inalienable right. Can he convince Steve?

1/21/22
44:47
No. 24

Are We Under Threat from a New Kind of Terror? (Replay)

Amaryllis Fox is a former C.I.A. operative and host of the Netflix show The Business of Drugs. She explains why intelligence work requires empathy, and she soothes Steve’s fears about weapons of mass destruction.

1/14/22
58:23
No. 59

Who Gives the Worst Advice?

Steve usually asks his guests for advice, whether they’re magicians or Nobel laureates. After nearly 60 episodes, is any of it worth following — or should we just ask listeners instead?

1/7/22
44:10
No. 58

Why Is Richard Thaler Such a ****ing Optimist?

The Nobel laureate and pioneering behavioral economist spars with Steve over what makes a nudge a nudge, and admits that even economists have plenty of blind spots.

12/31/21
46:48
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