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

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  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • Episode 61

    Should I Be Taking Something?

    Supplements and vitamins claim to “boost your immune system.” Jim explains why this is nonsense.

  • Episode 60

    An Extremely Bizarre Plan to Play Basketball

    Rising case numbers, an empty theme park, and 22 teams in quarantine. What could go wrong? Joel Anderson, Slate staff writer and co-host of Hang Up and Listen, joins to explain what's going on with the NBA.

  • Episode 59

    Can We Sing?

    Jim answers listener questions: Is it safe to sing? Should we be worried about asymptomatic spread? Plus, a "kerfluffle" for Katherine.

  • Episode 57

    Would Defunding Police Make Us Safer?

    City and state budgets are in serious trouble after the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. Some protesters have a proposal: defund the police. Sociologist Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” explains the research and nuance behind the idea.