The Big Q

Questions - Ideas - Scholarship - Debates

Project for Public Interest Media

What do changes in the environment mean for humanity? 🔊

With climate change upon us the Earth is changing the way it functions. What exactly is occurring and where are we headed? Some scientists are saying the world is changing more rapidly than we first expected, ecosystems are shifting and some species are dying out. What does this mean for humanity?

How can we help alleviate the water crisis? 🔊

The world is fast running out of freshwater according to experts and the results could be very grim in the form of wildfires, droughts, rationing, less food, and more hunger. The causes are linked to overconsumption and a growing human population. Thomas Kostigen says we can reverse the trend and he has quantified how much each of us contributes to continuing the water crisis or averting it.

What next for American Politics? 🔊

What might be next in American politics in light of the latest developments? Where is the US heading under the Trump Presidency? Will it begin to resemble an authoritarian state? What will the consequences be if Robert Mueller’s investigation comes to a head? Maria Armoudian discusses these impending issues with Louis Michael Seidman, Sanford Levinson, and Mark Peterson.

Politics & Society

What was the relationship like between President’s Eisenhower and Nixon? 🔊

The closeness that may develop between President’s and their Vice-President’s really continue after their term ends. But President’s Eisenhower and Nixon seemed inexplicably bound to one another partly as a result of Nixon’s political tactics and also from the development of family ties. Jeffery Frank says it wasn’t a particularly good relationship, but it was a relationship that endured and shaped the United States politics and policy for decades to come.

How has Hollywood influenced American politics? 🔊

In 1918 the leaders of the FBI William Burns and J Edgar Hoover expressed deep concern about the power of movie stars to affect politics. As a result, they began a surveillance program to watch over those they thought might be radicals. Since then it has long seemed the Hollywood crowd was ideologically left, however, Steven Ross says that is actually not true.

How have social movements changed in the twenty-first century? 🔊

How have social movements changed in the twenty-first century and how have new communication technologies facilitated that change? What makes some social movements sustainable and successful while others are more short-term? What is the future for social movements? Maria Armoudian discusses these pressing questions with James M. Jasper, Todd Wolfson, and Anita Lacey.

What needs to be done about Guantanamo Bay? 🔊

Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility was one of former US President Barack Obama’s campaign promises. In 2009 he decreed that Guantanamo Bay would be closed within a year. It never was and now President Donald Trump intends to keep it open. What are the obstacles to closure? And what has it meant for the United States, for international law, and for the detainees themselves to have left this issue unresolved for so long?

What are the differences between race and ethnicity? 🔊

What are the differences between race and ethnicity? How is race distinct from ethnicity? What has race and ethnicity meant in politics, education, and society? Maria Armoudian discusses the concepts of race and ethnicity with David Livingstone Smith and Garrett Albert Duncan.

How can we help alleviate the water crisis? 🔊

The world is fast running out of freshwater according to experts and the results could be very grim in the form of wildfires, droughts, rationing, less food, and more hunger. The causes are linked to overconsumption and a growing human population. Thomas Kostigen says we can reverse the trend and he has quantified how much each of us contributes to continuing the water crisis or averting it.

Science & Technology

What do changes in the environment mean for humanity? 🔊

With climate change upon us the Earth is changing the way it functions. What exactly is occurring and where are we headed? Some scientists are saying the world is changing more rapidly than we first expected, ecosystems are shifting and some species are dying out. What does this mean for humanity?

What is the science behind sleep? 🔊

Scientists are still trying to understand the mysteries of our slumber. Why do we sleep? What is its purpose? And what actually happens during sleep? Maria Armoudian explores the science behind sleep with Marcos G. Frank and Graham H. Diering.

What is the science behind epigenetics? 🔊

For many years geneticists and psychologists have worked separate labs on factors such as our genetic codes and our experiences that they each thought were affecting our physical and mental health respectively. But it may be that our experiences are affecting our epigenetics which can then get handed down for generations to come contributing to diseases and behaviors such as cancer and depression.

What are the ethics of modern medicine and healthcare? 🔊

Many observers argue that economic forces are corrupting medical care and eroding the trust between patients and their doctors. The problems in healthcare delivery have wide implications related to how healthcare should function, particularly when there are limited resources. Maria Armoudian discusses the ethics of medicine and healthcare with Thomas Pogge, Martin Wilkinson, and Richard Cookson.

What can we expect from the coming wave of ‘dexterous robots’? 🔊

In this episode of What IF? Professor Jeremy Wyatt talks about the new frontier of ‘third wave’ dexterous robots that combine the intelligence and unstructured mobility of second wave robotics with capacities for sophisticated manipulation and fine motor skills in unfamiliar situations.

Can we save the planet from a sixth mass extinction? 🔊

Planet Earth has faced five mass extinctions in its lifetime. Now we may be facing the sixth. What have we learned from the previous mass extinctions that can help us avoid a total collapse? Can humanity rescue the planet that it has imperiled? Maria Armoudian talks to Annalee Newitz and Elizabeth Kolbert about how we can avoid a sixth mass extinction.

Business & Economics

What technological changes are needed to power the renewable revolution? 🔊

What technological changes will be needed to power the renewable revolution? Sung-Young Kim has been studying the political economy of the new clean energy revolution that is happening. Maria Armoudian sat down with him to discuss his research and what needs to happen as we move towards renewables.

What does the future hold for universities? 🔊

What does the future hold for universities and why does this matter for the rest of society? Cris Shore is co-editor of a new book entitled Death of the Public University? Uncertain Futures for Higher Education in the Knowledge Economy. In this episode of What IF? He discusses his hopes and fears for universities and their role in society over the coming decades.

Arts & Culture

What was the relationship like between President’s Eisenhower and Nixon? 🔊

The closeness that may develop between President’s and their Vice-President’s really continue after their term ends. But President’s Eisenhower and Nixon seemed inexplicably bound to one another partly as a result of Nixon’s political tactics and also from the development of family ties. Jeffery Frank says it wasn’t a particularly good relationship, but it was a relationship that endured and shaped the United States politics and policy for decades to come.

What are the differences between race and ethnicity? 🔊

What are the differences between race and ethnicity? How is race distinct from ethnicity? What has race and ethnicity meant in politics, education, and society? Maria Armoudian discusses the concepts of race and ethnicity with David Livingstone Smith and Garrett Albert Duncan.

How has Hollywood influenced American politics? 🔊

In 1918 the leaders of the FBI William Burns and J Edgar Hoover expressed deep concern about the power of movie stars to affect politics. As a result, they began a surveillance program to watch over those they thought might be radicals. Since then it has long seemed the Hollywood crowd was ideologically left, however, Steven Ross says that is actually not true.