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To The Best Of Our Knowledge is a nationally-syndicated, Peabody award-winning public radio show that dives headlong into the deeper end of ideas. We have conversations with novelists and poets, scientists and software engineers, journalists and historians, filmmakers and philosophers, artists and activists — people with big ideas and a passion to share them. For more from the TTBOOK team, visit us at ttbook.org.
 
Every day, faculty members at schools and universities throughout the world are making discoveries that shape our ways of thinking and redefine our understanding of today's knowledge-driven society. Since 1990, The Best of Our Knowledge has highlighted breakthroughs across disciplines and across the globe, putting you in touch with the men and women at the forefront of their fields. Each week this program examines some of the issues unique to college campuses, looks at the latest research, a ...
 
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If you had to travel 500 miles across country, on foot, with no map, no GPS, without talking to anyone — to a destination you've never seen, could you do it? It sounds impossible, but millions of creatures spend their lives on the move, migrating from one part of the Earth to another with navigation skills we can only dream of. How do they do it — …
 
We’ve all seen them. Aging, deserted strip malls and retail shops are not only pretty ugly but are also taking up valuable real estate that could be put to better use. Finding those better uses is a topic that Ellen Dunham-Jones knows very well. She has been speaking and writing about suburban life and design for years. Today on The Best of Our Kno…
 
Music crosses boundaries between traditional and modern, local and global, personal and political. Take jazz — a musical form born out of forced migration and enslavement. We typically think it originated in New Orleans and then spread around the world. But today, we examine an alternate history of jazz — one that starts in Africa, then crisscrosse…
 
Despite the increasing visibility of LGBTQ people in American culture, our understanding of bisexuality remains superficial. Young people are increasingly rejecting traditional labels altogether. So who is bisexual? Is being bisexual a matter of identity and lifestyle, or is it rooted in biology? To find some answers, Ritch Savin-Williams sought ou…
 
The women of Afghanistan are elected officials, school teachers, actors, TV contest winners, ancient rug weavers, and whisperers of forbidden poetry. The Taliban are starting to put down their thumb. But these women want you to know they are more than the timid victim under a burqa. Original Air Date: October 02, 2021 Guests: Humaira Ghilzai — Eliz…
 
When you first take a look at it, the issue of measuring student learning appears to be an educational problem: what and how much do students actually learn? But when you investigate the educational accountability movement, especially here in the U.S., you realize that the preoccupation with measuring student learning is a problem that goes much de…
 
We’ve all been changed by the experience of living through a pandemic. We figured out how to sanitize groceries, mute ourselves on Zoom and keep from killing our roommates. But we’re also tackling bigger, existential questions — how can we, individually and collectively, find meaning in the experience of this pandemic? Original Air Date: May 23, 20…
 
For 30 years, The Princeton Review has been publishing a comprehensive list of what they determine to be the best colleges in the country. The list is the result of thousands of interviews with students and in-person visits to campuses. The latest version has just been released called “The Best 387 Colleges." Due to the COVID pandemic, the in-perso…
 
Using a complex network of chemical signals, trees talk to each other and form alliances with fellow trees, even other species. In fact, whole forests exist as a kind of superorganism. And some trees are incredibly old. Did you know a single bristlecone pine can live up to 6,000 years? And the root mass of aspens might live 100,000 years? We explor…
 
When Bill Schutt writes a book, it tends to get messy, at least his non-fiction books. His first was called “Dark Banquet” which dealt with vampire bats and other creatures who feed on blood. To follow that up he wrote “Cannibalism – A Perfectly Natural History,” which dealt with…well I think you know what that dealt with. Now he is back with a vol…
 
For all the commentary, the sorrow and rage, all the second-guessing about everything that followed, it’s still hard to fathom what happened on 9/11. Photographer James Nachtwey was in New York that day, and he took some of the iconic photos of the Twin Towers as they crumbled. "I’ve actually never gotten over it," he says. On the twentieth anniver…
 
This week, since it was first published in 1995, James W Loewen’s book “Lies My Teacher Told Me – Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” has sold over 2 million copies. In 2018, a new edition of the book was released, with a new preface written by Loewen for what he calls the age of alternative facts. We had a delightful conversation …
 
Before the time of commercial flights and road trips, we traveled to far off places without taking a single step. All you had to do was open a book. From Africa to England, to a kamikaze cockpit, and to realms of fantasy. Books aren’t just books. They’re passports to anywhere. Original Air Date: March 14, 2020 Guests: Philip Pullman — Ruth Ozeki — …
 
This week on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll explore the digitization of libraries. The dream of creating a universal library has been around since there have been libraries. In the digital age, several research libraries wanted to make this dream a reality but found the project a bit daunting. And then along came Google. They took on the task of …
 
Not everyone has a nice, big yard to stretch out in while sheltering in place from COVID-19. But maybe you don't need one. People are using virtual spaces to live out the real experiences they miss — like coffee shops, road trips, even building your own house on a deserted island, or Walden Pond. In a world where we're mostly confined to our homes …
 
Education technology has come a long way from the very first attempts a century ago. This week, we’ll explore the history of teaching machines. Today we think nothing of seeing laptops and iPads in the classroom. But there have been attempts at creating so-called teaching machines since the early 20th Century. And it’s the history of those early te…
 
Over the past decade, plant scientists have quietly transformed the way we think of trees, forests and plants. They discovered that trees communicate through vast underground networks, that plants learn and remember. If plants are intelligent beings, how should we relate to them? Do they have a place in our moral universe? Should they have rights? …
 
This week, We suspect that as you go about your day-to-day life, the global supply chain is not something you give a lot of thought to. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has upset that supply chain to the point that it has likely had an effect on at least one or two things you do. From shortages of toilet paper early in the pandemic to the current lac…
 
One of the toughest things about trying to understand climate change – arguably the most important story of our time - is wrapping our minds around it. To even imagine something so enormous, so life-changing, we need a story. Some characters, a metaphor, and even some lessons learned. For that, we turn to the novelists and journalists telling the s…
 
The numbers of ways educators were able to do their jobs and serve their students during the COVID-19 pandemic is probably equal to the number of educators that exist. Just about every teacher has a personal story to tell. Today, we are going to Alexandria, Virginia to meet Rabbi Bailey Romano. She was just about a year into her career as a Jewish …
 
We all miss touching things — groceries, door knobs, hands, faces. And most of all, skin. The living tissue that simultaneously protects us from the world, and lets us feel it. In this episode, the politics, biology, and inner life of your skin. Original Air Date: April 18, 2020 Guests: Angelo Bautista — Tiffany Field — Alissa Waters — Nina Jablons…
 
We hear a lot today about lots of job openings and not enough workers, but many companies are blocking a good chunk of the country from even applying: people without college degrees. This week on the Best of Our Knowledge, we'll talk about a recent op/ed in the Washington Post that talks about degree discrimination. The editorial was written by the…
 
What does it take to win Olympic gold? To become "the world's fastest human"? This hour, Olympic fame, the politics of sports, and the science of running. Original Air Date: July 31, 2021 Guests: John Carlos — Gretchen Reynolds — Mark McClusky — Michael Powell Interviews In This Hour: The Fist and the 1968 Olympics — Walk, Run, Swim Or Bike — The M…
 
Since the Supreme Court ended its session in June, all eyes are on Justice Stephen Breyer. If he were to retire, it would give President Joe Biden a chance to fulfill one of his major campaign promises: to appoint a woman of color to the bench. This week, we’ll open up history class and talk again about the women shortlisted for the bench. In the h…
 
If you look at a mountain, you might see a skiing destination, a climbing challenge, or even a source of timber to be logged or ore to be mined. But there was a time when mountains were sacred. In some places, they still are. What changes when you think of a mountain not as a giant accumulation of natural resources, but as a living being? Today’s s…
 
This week, a new children’s book takes on media literacy. We’ll also hear about a pair of kid’s books about the insect world. A puppy has lost his bones, and the search is on to find his lost treats. That’s an extremely brief summary of the new book by Amy Jussel called “The Secret of the Vanishing Bones: Tracking the Data Trail." The book, aimed a…
 
Africans are moving into cities in unprecedented numbers. Lagos, Nigeria, is growing by 77 people an hour — it's on track to become a city of 100 million. In 30 years, the continent is projected to have 14 mega-cities of more than 10 million people. It's perhaps the largest urban migration in history. These cities are not like Dubai, or Singapore, …
 
When Apollo 11 landed on the moon they indeed stepped where no man has gone before. But once they got there, they didn’t go far. This week on the Best of Our Knowledge, we’ll learn about the development of the lunar rover, and how that opened up the later Apollo missions with lunar road trips. Watch a great video of the Apollo 15 astronauts driving…
 
Why don’t we all just take moment to acknowledge that we are collectively exhausted? The pandemic, the protests, the President’s Twitter feed — everything is exhausting. But maybe it doesn’t have to be? Original Air Date: October 24, 2020 Guests: Katrina Onstad — Emma Seppala — Richard Polt — Filip Bromberg — Lars Svendsen — Anne Helen Petersen Int…
 
What’s your dream job? Chances are that over the years the answer to that question has changed. Those are the questions that Dr. Kevin Hoff tries to answer in his new research paper in the Journal of Career Assessment called “Dream Jobs and Employment Realities: How Adolescents’ Career Aspirations Compare to Labor Demands and Automation Risks”. Dr.…
 
As audio producers, one of the most fun things we get to do is bring the soundscape of a novel to life — cue the monsters, the storms, the footsteps of a creature emerging slowly from the ocean. So that’s what we’re bringing you today: Great writers, epic sound design. Original Air Date: July 03, 2021 Guests: Nnedi Okorafor — Neil Gaiman — Lidia Yu…
 
Many states have either passed or proposed bans on teaching Critical Race Theory in schools. The bills seem to have less to do with education and more to do with political culture wars. But what exactly is Critical Race Theory. This week, instead of asking a politician, I went to an educator. Rosalind Fisher is an instructor of Sociology at the Uni…
 
There's a certain a kind of visual encounter that can be life changing: A cross-species gaze. The experience of looking directly into the eyes of an animal in the wild, and seeing it look back. It happens more often than you’d think and it can be so profound, there’s a name for it: eye-to-eye epiphany. So what happens when someone with feathers or …
 
Is there a better way to talk about death? And to grieve? So many people have died during the pandemic — 4.8 million and counting — that we're living through a period of global mourning. And some people — and certain cultures — seem to be better prepared to handle it than others. Original Air Date: June 12, 2021 Guests: Heather Swan — Gillian O'Bri…
 
There are two words that strike fear into every young student’s heart: summer school. But, many educators around the country are trying to change that. In fact, the goal could be to have students ask to participate in summer learning. The federal government has earmarked billions of pandemic relief funds to enhance school summer programs. That was …
 
New experiences actually rewire the brain. So after all we’ve been through this year, you have to wonder — are we different? We consider the "COVID brain" from the perspective of both neuroscience and the arts. Also, we go to Cavendish, Vermont to hear the remarkable story of Phineas Gage, the railroad worker whose traumatic brain injury changed th…
 
Whether they are allowed to play sports or not, there are trans children attending schools across the country. These students, as well as all transgender people have specific health care needs as well as just plain old general health care. Those are the issues Stef Shuster examines in their book “Trans Medicine – The Emergence and Practice of Treat…
 
Once upon a time, science and magic were two sides of the same coin. Today, we learn science in school and save magic for children’s books. What if it were different? What would it be like to see the world as an alchemist? Original Air Date: September 19, 2020 Guests: Sarah Durn — Pamela Smith — William Newman — Charles Monroe-Kane — Jason Pine Int…
 
June first was the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Over the past few years, there it seems there have been more, and more powerful hurricane hitting the United States, and scenes of massive damage from the storms have almost become commonplace in the summer and fall. So to learn more about hurricanes, we went to an expert. Dr. Athena Ma…
 
If you wrote a list of all the things you own in your house, how long would it be? We surround ourselves with possessions, but at what point do they start to possess us? Original Air Date: September 05, 2020 Guests: Angelo Bautista — Eula Biss — Adam Minter — Giles Slade — Clare Dolan Interviews In This Hour: The Magnum Opus Of Pointless Stuff — 'A…
 
This week, Any grade school student can tell you that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. But that’s not how Bell would have described his career. He saw himself as a teacher, specifically a teacher of deaf children. However, even though he was raised by a deaf mother and married a deaf woman, many deaf people to this day see Bell as an e…
 
The pandemic has made it clear that parents are walking a tightrope with no safety net. We talk to parents about how they want to change the system, what it's like to raise black boys in a time of racial injustice, and how we might learn from ancient cultures to improve our parenting skills. Original Air Date: May 22, 2021 Guests: Alissa Quart — Br…
 
This week, silent, single-file lines. Detention for putting a head on a desk. Rules for how to dress, how to applaud, how to complete homework. Walk into some of the most acclaimed urban schools today and you will find similar recipes of behavior, designed to support student achievement. Joanne Golann spent a year doing just that. In her new book c…
 
A new generation of Black farmers are working to reclaim land, hoping to grow justice along with vegetables and plants. Original Air Date: August 22, 2020 Guests: Leah Penniman — Savi Horne — Venice Williams — Marcia Chatelain Interviews In This Hour: How Black Farmers Lost 14 Million Acres of Farmland — And How They're Taking It Back — 'When You H…
 
When Joe Biden selected Connecticut Education Commissioner Dr. Miguel Cardona to be his Education secretary he fulfilled a campaign promise; to name an educator with public school experience as his nominee for the post. Secretary Cardona took office on March 2 and has been busy trying to fulfill another promise made by the president; getting studen…
 
We owe our past and future existence on Earth to fungi. Some can heal you, some can kill you, and some can change you forever. And the people who love them are convinced that mushrooms explain the world. Original Air Date: June 08, 2019 Guests: Lawrence Millman — Paul Stamets — Eugenia Bone — Michael Pollan — Dennis McKenna — Robin Carhart-Harris I…
 
College is expensive. Really expensive. I suspect you did not need me to tell you this. And it is a problem as more jobs are demanding a college degree. So what if college was free? There’s a growing movement in the U.S. that thinks it should be. That’s what Michelle Miller-Adams writes about in her new book called “The Path to Free College – In Pu…
 
Remember when reading still felt magical? When a book could sweep you off your feet into another world? It might be that the best way to find your way back the magic is through a kid’s book. We talk to authors about Wonderland, magic wands, unicorns and other children's stories that inspire. Original Air Date: May 01, 2021 Guests: Katherine Rundell…
 
One of the biggest holes in a young person’s high school education may be navigating their own financial life. But a partnership between a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter and Navy Federal Credit Union is trying to fill in that gap. Here to talk about this new program is Paula Shell is the President and CEO of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Nort…
 
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