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

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  • Episode 56

    How Limiting Protests Will Spread the Virus

    The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has sparked large protests and marches, giving rise to a new set of concerns about how to safely and effectively exist. Jim and Katherine share the latest on how to protest as safely as possible. Ultimately, safety has less to do with the protesters than those overseeing them.


  • Episode 55

    Fighting the Machine

    The health effects of racism are usually less obvious than murder.

  • Episode 53

    Is America Going to Make It?

    If you watch the news, the country sounds deeply divided about the coronavirus. But polls show an uncommon unity among Americans. Staff writer James Fallows joins to share some historical perspective and answer the question he’s found himself grappling with across his decades-long career: Is America going to make it?

  • Episode 52

    Is Anyone Else Not Showering?

    Jim spent years writing a book on hygiene beliefs and the new science of the skin microbiome. In it, he suggests that some people overuse cleansers and soaps, and may benefit from doing less. But now, there’s a pandemic, and he also really wants to remind people to wash their hands. Jim tries to explain the nuances of good cleaning and bad cleaning—and why he does not shower in the traditional sense.


  • Episode 51

    It’s a Small World Health Organization

    The president wants to pull the United States out of the WHO. Public health professor Kelley Lee explains what it does and why defunding the world’s main public health body during a pandemic is not a great idea. Plus, Jim shows off his math skills.

  • Episode 50

    Is There a Vaccine Shortcut?

    There’s promising news around a vaccine, but what does it mean? And should we speed up its development with ‘challenge trials’ by letting vaccinated people be exposed to the virus?

    Infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Thomas returns to the show to discuss the medical and ethical issues. Also, Katherine faces a minor challenge of her own.

  • Episode 49

    Am I Depressed?

    Many of our isolated lives fit the normal criteria for depression, but of course these aren't normal times. So, when the world is this depressing, how do you tell when you're actually depressed? Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Rapke explains how to think through mental health questions in the time of COVID-19.

  • Episode 48

    The Comforting Appeal of Conspiracy Theories

    A video making outlandish and obviously false claims about the coronavirus is making the rounds on the internet. Adrienne LaFrance joins to talk about the psychology of abandoning the factual realm.

    Check out "Shadowland" from The Atlantic here.

  • Episode 46

    Have the Uncomfortable Conversation

    It’s hard to talk about end-of-life care. You should do it anyway. Edo Banach, the President & CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, explains how to create an advance directive — and the best ways to approach the conversation with loved ones.

  • Episode 45

    The Racial Contract

    The pandemic has made the terms of the “racial contract” visible — but it is a structure that existed long before. Adam Serwer joins to discuss the connection between coronavirus policy and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Read his recent piece in The Atlantic.

    Note: this week, the show will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

  • Episode 44

    Have You Seen 'The Wretched'?

    With most movie theaters closed across the country and no certain timeline for the next big releases, staff writer David Sims gives us recommendations on what to watch.

  • Episode 43

    Will You Merge Bubbles With Me?

    New rituals and ethical conundrums of dating and socializing are beginning to reveal themselves. Staff writer Joe Pinsker joins to discuss.

  • Episode 42

    Don’t Worry About a ‘New Strain’

    Recent news stories raised concerns about multiple ‘strains’ of the coronavirus. Ed Yong joins to explain what’s going on, and why we probably shouldn’t worry right now.

  • Episode 41

    High Risk

    Caitlin Flanagan on navigating Stage IV cancer during a pandemic. Read her story in The Atlantic.

  • Episode 41

    So The Economy is a Disaster

    The economic news is catastrophic. And it’s probably going to get worse. Annie Lowrey joins to talk about why the U.S. didn’t fare as well as other countries, and what it needs to do next. Also, Jim talks about walk poetry.

  • Episode 40

    ‘Things Can Change In an Instant’

    In many ways, this crisis is unprecedented. But in others, it is not. Gregg Gonsalves became an AIDS activist in the 80s, and is now an epidemiologist working on public health and human rights. He says the history of HIV can offer us warnings -- and some hope.

  • Episode 39

    The Georgia Experiment

    Staff writer and Georgia native Amanda Mull joins to talk about the political forces pushing to reopen her home state.

  • Episode 38

    You Are Worthy of Sleep

    Katherine is worried Jim is endangering himself and needs to sleep more, so she’s holding an intervention. Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry joins to talk about the importance of sleep and how, especially right now, everyone would benefit from prioritizing rest.