Blindfolded women pointing to one of three balls that are on a table

Hackademics: Psychics and the Mainstream Sciences

After years of unusual episodes, Anita went to the doctor and was told there was nothing medically wrong with her. “She had a gift,” she was told, and she was sent down the street to an ESP lab. Parapsychology is the scientific study of telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, precognition, and spirits. Or is it? The field has been pushed to the fringes of science for decades now. In two episodes, I first follow the study of psychics, and then the mainstream sciences of human nature, to see if they differ enough to make one worthy of belief, and the other scorn.

Hi-Phi Nation

The Male Contraceptive Pill: How Close Are We?

Male contraceptive jab. Can you get one? Professor Richard Anderson talks about a recent World Health Organisation funded trial. Dr. Diana Blithe explains the progress being made Stateside using gels instead of jabs.  And finally, we hear about non-hormonal alternatives in development from Aaron Hamlin, executive director of the Male Contraception Initiative.

The Guardian’s Science Weekly

Deformed fetuses preserved in formaldehyde at the Tu Du Hospital, Vietnam. Deformed fetuses preserved in formaldehyde at the Tu Du Hospital, Vietnam. Reproductive abnormalities were caused by Agent Orange – one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare programme, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War. Photo by Philip Jones Griffiths.

Pentagon’s Top Secret Research Project: Saigon, 1965

In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?

Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.

Revisionist History

The Man Inside: Four Months as a Prison Guard

the-man-insideFew people know what life inside prisons is like for inmates and guards. But one journalist cracked the shell of secrecy. Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana. The prison is run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, and over four months, he investigates how the prison is run. Shane makes it through training and ends up guarding suicide watch on day one of the job, documenting everything he can. He witnesses stabbings, beatings and prisoners threatening to riot inside a private prison on lockdown. The conditions inside Winn Correctional Center and his duties there as a guard are getting the better of him. Shane meets a prisoner who contracted gangrene at Winn and lost his legs and fingers as a result. However, an unexpected offer and a twist of fate change Shane’s status as a guard.

Reveal

A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland built atop coral reefs to support airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, and other infrastructure A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland

What’s behind Beijing’s Drive to Control the South China Sea?

Podcast on China’s idea of its rightful place in the world – which, most Chinese would say, they were robbed of first by European and then by an American imperialism. “In 10 years, our GDP will be bigger than the US, in 20 years our military spending will be equal to the US,” claims Shen Dingli, one of China’s most prominent international relations scholars, “Thirty to 40 years from now, our armed forces will be better than the US. Why would the US defend those rocks? When you have power, the world has to accept. The US is a superpower today, and it can do whatever it wants. When China is a superpower, the world will also have to accept.” The rest follows from this. As it happens, the perceived future determines the lived present. Supposedly simple logic wrapped in a carefully crafted story.
Written by Howard W French, Read by Andrew McGregor and Produced by Stuart Silver

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Dumb and Happy Pharaoh. Illustration by LORRAINE ALVAREZ POSEN Dumb and Happy Pharaoh. Illustration by LORRAINE ALVAREZ POSEN

Happiness

We are often told that we can be happy if we try hard enough. By shifting our mindset, changing our lifestyles, or even writing a gratitude journal – happiness is waiting for all of us! But, what does science say? To find out, science journalist Wendy Zukerman speaks to Prof. Paul Frijters, Ass. Prof. Dianne Vella Brodrick and Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas. We’re also joined by the author of “The Happiness Myth”, Jennifer Michael Hecht, as well as comedian Gen Fricker.

Science Vs

Annihilation of Raktabija by Goddess Durga and Kali Annihilation of demon Raktabija by Goddess Durga and Kali

The East India Company: the Original Corporate Raiders

How East India Company headquartered in one small office, in London, subjugaed and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

The Portable Cell Phone Booth by Boston based performance sculptor Nick Rodrigues. The Portable Cell Phone Booth by Boston based performance sculptor Nick Rodrigues.

The Bookie, the Phone Booth, and the FBI

The Fourth Amendment doesn’t mention privacy once. But those 54 little words, written more than 200 years ago, are a crucial battleground in today’s fight over digital rights in the United States. That one sentence is why the government can’t listen to phone calls without a warrant. And it’s why they don’t need one to find out who the citizens of the United States are calling.

But now, we share our deepest thoughts with Google, through what we search for and what we email. And we share our most intimate conversations with Alexa, when we talk in its vicinity. So how does the Fourth Amendment apply when we’re surrounded by technology the Founding Fathers could never dream of?

Stories of bookies on the Sunset Strip, microphones taped to phone booths, and a 1975 Monte Carlo. And where the Fourth Amendment needs to go.

With Laura Donohue, director of Georgetown’s Center on Privacy and Technology. Supreme Court audio from the wonderful Oyez.org, under a Creative Commons license.

Note to Self