Latest Stories

Articles

Conceptually, hope feels big, amorphous, hard to define exactly. But for the past few months, "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" producers have been trying anyway. Scientists, activists, futurists, theologians, artists, authors all weighed in on what they think when they hear the word "hope."

Yuval Noah Harari
Bookmarks

Sometimes you stumble upon a book that sets you on a whole new path. For Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari — author of "Sapiens," "Homo Deus," and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" — it wasn’t a novel, a memoir, or even a history book that changed his world. It was a book about chimpanzees.

Length: 
4:29
Airmen pose with an MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base.
Articles

Was Qassem Soleimani 'assassinated'? 'Killed'? The legal differences are complicated, says Brookings Institution fellow Scott Anderson.

Length: 
10:04
Lidia Yuknavitch
Bookmarks

The main character in Jeff VanderMeer’s other-worldly tale is a polymorphous bear who moves in magical and unexpected ways, and keeps secrets in his fur. It’s both a futuristic story and one with deep history, the kind of dystopian fiction that drew Yuknavitch in, again, and again.

Length: 
3:25
George Saunders
Bookmarks

The author of "Lincoln in the Bardo" recommends Victor Klemperer's two-volume diary that reads as a slow-motion picture of what the Holocaust looked like before it was known Holocaust.

Length: 
3:34
robot brain
Video

Steve sat down with logician and mathematician Roger Antonsen and computer science pioneer Barbara J. Grosz to talk about how AI will challenge our own perception of intelligence in ways we might not expect.

Lynne Cox swimming.
Articles

Lynne Cox is an extreme swimmer. At 18, she swam between the islands of New Zealand. She broke the men's and women's records for the English Channel. Then she did the unthinkable — swimming to Antarctica.

Length: 
10:22
Margaret Atwood
Bookmarks

Jean Rhys takes up a "mad" wife’s story in "Wide Sargasso Sea," an overlooked novel recommended by "Handmaid’s Tale" author Margaret Atwood.

Lorrie Moore
Bookmarks

Writer Lorrie Moore says Alice Munro’s book of short stories, "Carried Away," shows mastery of the architecture of the short story that is both brilliant and can’t be imitated.

Length: 
2:58
Cash
Articles

Journalist Anand Giridharadas says that sometimes, major philanthropic gifts are a lot less altruistic than they may appear.

Length: 
15:11
give the gift of a clean kitchen
Articles

Psychologist Elizabeth Dunn on how to spend money on ourselves and others in a way that maximizes happiness.

Length: 
08:54
Werner Herzog
Bookmarks

Filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose films include "Grizzly Man" and "Cave of the Forgotten Dreams," recommends a nonfiction collection of J.A. Baker's observations of peregrine falcons, recorded in the early 1960s.

Length: 
3:18
Martin Amis
Bookmarks

Martin Amis has written his fair share of novels and essay collections. For a writer, you expect their favorite books to be a source of inspiration. For Amis, Saul Bellow's 1953 novel is a source of writer's block.

Length: 
3:58
desks
Articles

Young people seem to be feeling the pressure to be perfect more than anyone else. Social psychologist Tom Curran tells us how neoliberalism and the digital age created a generation that feels guilty about falling short of flawlessness.

Length: 
6:54
Kim on screen
Articles

Author Lucas Mann writes that calling reality TV a guilty pleasure is "the dumbest cultural cliche." "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" producer Haleema Shah asked him about his relationship with reality TV and the person he watches it with — his wife.

Length: 
9:58
Alice Walker
Bookmarks

Alice Walker recommends Richard Yates' novel following an advertising executive whose seemingly successful life quietly fractures under the pressure of mundanity, alcoholism, anger, and recklessness. She says she was drawn to the book because Yates' world was so different from hers.

Length: 
2:54
Circe
Articles

Circe, the all-powerful goddess from Homer’s “The Odyssey,” is known for turning men into swine, and for her mastery of potions. The artwork “Circe,” imagined by Romare Bearden, is a black woman surrounded by mystical animals and a skull, wearing West African garb with a calm but defiant look on her face.

That Tree in April 2017
Photo Gallery

Mark Hirsch took 365 photos — one a day for a year — of a single Bur oak tree. The project changed his life.

Ghosts
Articles

Steve Paulson's family has lots of stories of the paranormal, but Steve is the family skeptic. So he did his own investigation, talking with skeptic Michael Shermer, religion scholars Tanya Luhrmann and Jeff Kripal, channeler Paul Selig, and his Aunt Marge Bradley.

Length: 
29:40
satan
Articles

Former Church of Satan High Priestess Blanche Barton says that worshipping the devil is "ridiculous." She calls Satanic worship less an act of evil, and more an act of subversion and questioning norms.

Length: 
06:66
Horror
Dangerous Ideas

Writer Gemma Files' Dangerous Idea? There are upsides to embracing horror — spending time playing out negative scenarios in fiction can lead to a more positive life.

Length: 
3:11
A house in Savannah, Georgia — one of America's most haunted cities.
Articles

The Sorrel-Weed House has been called the “most haunted house” in Savannah, Georgia, and its “ghost tour” is a big tourist attraction. But historian Tiya Miles found another story of slavery and racial stereotypes buried in this history.

Length: 
7:06
NYAS panel on wonder
Video

Steve asked a panel of experts— social psychologist Michelle Shiota, writer Caspar Henderson, and astrophysicist Alex Filippenko — to unpack the emerging science behind the emotions of awe and wonder, including their role in our ongoing quest for understanding and knowledge.

haunted burger
Articles

Listener Jonathan Blyth sent us a ghost story that might make you think twice about what — or whom — is on your plate.

Length: 
2:29
Monster Dogs
Articles

Kirsten Bakis first wrote her story of biomechanically-enhanced, hyper-intelligent dogs 20 years ago, and it’s been a cult favorite ever since. So why create a post-modern Frankenstein story with dogs at the heart of the tale?

Anne Strainchamps and Susan Orlean at the National Writers Series
Articles

Anne recently interviewed author Susan Orlean on stage at the National Writers Series in Traverse City, Michigan.

Ma Dukes and J Dilla
Articles

James Dewitt Yancey – also known as J Dilla — was a hip hop super-producer and pioneering beat-maker. J Dilla died at just 32 years old, and worked right up until the end, making music and creating beats from his hospital bed. His mother was there for every bit of it.

Length: 
11:38
Articles

British writer Martin Amis is 68 years old. He’s written 14 novels, hundreds of essays, memoirs, even a screen play. But he has strong feelings about writers who work past their prime. So he feels the clock ticking — is it time to pack it in? When will he know?

Length: 
10:15
The many Alma Mahlers
Articles

Alma Mahler inspired symphonies, poems and paintings. She was lover and muse to some of the most celebrated artists of the early 20th century. Novelist Mary Sharratt thinks she would have been a great artist in her own right – if she hadn’t been born a woman. 

Length: 
10:02
Audio

Before John Muir and Charles Darwin, there was Alexander von Humboldt, the German scientist who shaped our understanding of nature. Now, he’s largely forgotten, but biographer Andrea Wulf says he was once the world's most famous scientist. 

Length: 
13:27

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