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Phone calls about science, health, and how to keep things in perspective.

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  • Episode 81

    This Episode Has Not Been Peer-Reviewed

    Jim explains the terms Katherine hears in news about scientific studies — and why the pandemic may be changing science. And Ed Yong joins to discuss how American healthcare needs to change to beat the coronavirus. (Read his cover story here.)

    Support this show and all of The Atlantic’s journalism by becoming a subscriber at www.theatlantic.com/supportus

  • Episode 79

    The Tree Army

    Jim wants to see a modern version of the Civilian Conservation Corps. As it happens, there’s a bill in Congress to dramatically expand national service called the CORPS Act. Senator Chris Coons has led the effort to pass it. He joins the show to talk about solving two problems with one bill.


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  • Episode 77

    How Immunity Works

    Katherine gets the results of her coronavirus and antibody tests. She has questions about what they mean, so immunologist Dr. Lisa Butterfield joins to explain the immune system (with help from Jim’s metaphors).


    Support the show by subscribing to The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/supportus

  • Episode 76

    $600 a Week

    In a few days, 30 million Americans will lose the $600 in unemployment insurance they’ve depended on every week. What happens next? Annie Lowrey, staff writer and author of Give People Money, joins to explain.


    Support the show by subscribing to The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/supportus

  • Episode 74

    CDC Data Goes Dark

    This week, the Trump administration mandated that hospitals no longer send their data to the CDC, and the public appears to have lost access to key data. Alexis Madrigal, staff writer and co-founder of The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project, joins to explain what happened and why it matters as states seek to reopen.


    Support the show by subscribing to The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/supportus

  • Episode 73

    Is it Safe To Fly?

    Jim answers a listener question about plane flights. Katherine peppers him with hypotheticals. Jim unfurls a bad metaphor, again.

  • Episode 72

    Our Deadliest Pandemic Mistake

    Over 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in America have been linked to nursing homes. How did it happen, and how bad could it get? Staff writer Olga Khazan joins to explain.

    Read her piece on nursing homes here, and Jim's piece on herd immunity here.

  • Episode 70

    The Sun Belt Spike

    What does the surge in cases in the south and west mean for the country’s chances of containing the pandemic? Staff writer Alexis Madrigal explains.

  • Episode 68

    Why the World Can’t Reopen If Schools Can’t

    Many plans for school reopenings involve a mix of online and in-person instruction. That could have huge downstream effects on a workforce that can’t rely on children being in or out of school. Staff writer Helen Lewis shares a solution that’s too logical to actually happen.

  • Episode 66

    How Is College Going To Work?

    Colleges and universities pack students into dorms, classrooms, and parties. Now they have to figure out how to do that in a pandemic. Staff writer Adam Harris joins to discuss what they’re planning for the fall.

  • Episode 65

    The Ethical Calculus of Reopening

    Cases are on the rise in twenty-five states. A vaccine is, for now, a distant dream. How do we negotiate the ethical trade-offs of the deaths to come in the meantime? Dr. Lydia Dugdale, medical ethicist and author of The Lost Art of Dying, joins to discuss.


    Note: this episode was recorded on June 23rd, 2020. All numbers mentioned were accurate for that date.

  • Episode 64

    The Air Conditioning Question

    Jim explains how ventilation affects the spread of the virus with yet another unwieldy metaphor. Plus, a puppy update.

  • Episode 63

    People Are Panic Moving

    In the last few months, many people who have the option have chosen to leave big cities. Will their departures be permanent? Staff writer Amanda Mull has been talking to demographers to find out.

  • Episode 62

    Serenity Now

    As the virus continues to spread, how do we reckon with the reality of ongoing death and disruption? Public theologian Ekemini Uwan explains the idea of “radical acceptance.” Read Ekemini’s piece in The Atlantic.