Cultural Appropriation

We’ve all heard charges of cultural appropriation in everything from fashion and music to personal world view, but what’s actually at stake here? What is cultural misappropriation, when does it have negative consequences and how does it fit into our historical and scientific understanding of the human experience? Robert and Christian explore.

Sailors on a Dark Sea: Political Extremism, Child’s Play

As we sail through this world of technological marvel and complex systems, it’s easy to assume we know the watery depths that yawn beneath our hull. As it turns out, however, it’s all an illusion of explanatory depth. We think we understand day-to-day gadgets, but are at a loss to explain their functionality. We think we understand policy and politics, but are better at explaining why we hold our beliefs than how particular policies might solve life’s hideous problems. In this two-part episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe dip into the waters of cognitive illusion.

Wicker Men, Mock Kings and Ritualized Regicide

When you think about human sacrifice, you probably envision blood-soaked altars where the weak and defeated are massacred to a divine force. But what about situations where the most powerful member of a society, even a divine king, is sacrificed for the good of the people? Join Robert and Joe as they discuss literal, figurative and symbolic ritual regicide in human civilization.

Musings on 'Big Trouble in Little China'

Robert discusses science, politics and race in John Carpenter's 1986 cult classic.

Should NASA fake an interplanetary holy war?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the last person to suggest NASA falsify the threat of alien invasion to play on humanity's fears. I also doubt he'd suggest that the space agency exploit America's religious conservative movement with "proof" that said aliens are governed by demons. But just for the sake of argument, let's you and I go there.

I referenced "shrimp on a treadmill" in a recent episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, so here's a quick refresher on what I was talking about. As reported in this excellent NPR story, when politicians such as Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn push to cut National Science Foundation funding, they love to point out the more preposterous-sounding details in the research. In the past this has included studies on the link between STDs and penis size (which didn't actually use tax dollars), and "shrimp on a treadmill" is just the latest favorite among the anti-science funding crowd.

How About an 'In Defense of Science' Pledge?

In the last few weeks, we've seen a number of GOP presidential hopefuls sign all manner of pledges regarding tax increases, the federal budget, marriage, sexuality, religion and reproductive rights. All this in the midst of a final space shuttle mission and the James Webb Telescope's likely death at the hands of Congress. So what about an "In Defense of Science Pledge" for U.S. elected officials? I think it might go something like this:

Do liberals and conservatives have different brains?

Here in the U.S., we're adrift in a constant war of political words. On one side we have political conservatives who want to own guns, build play forts out of money and drill for oil on the moon. On the other side, we have political liberals who think marijuana should be legal, hospitals free and cats afforded basic human rights. OK, so those are exaggerations, but the exaggeration serves to drive home the fact that liberals and conservatives often come off like two separate species who just happen to share the same basic morphology. But do the differences go deeper than nurtured beliefs and values? Do liberals and conservatives have different brains?

U.S. Senator Battles Human-Animal Hybrids

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us are staunchly against the idea of genetically engineering a race of half man, half animal monsters. Centaur fetishist aside (look it up, folks), I think the rest of us have seen enough sci-fi and horror flicks to know where you draw the line. So do we really need a U.S. law?