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Only Human

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The Birth of Climate Change Denial

In this special episode of Only Human, we partnered with the folks at WNYC's podcast The United States of Anxiety, hosted by Kai Wright. Starting with the 1925 Scopes Trial — also known as the "trial of the century" — we look at one of the most controversial topics in our time: the debate over evolution versus a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. It started with a substitute teacher in Tennessee who taught evolution in the classroom. What followed was a fiery debate that rocketed around the world. The Scopes Trial reminds us that science has often upset the establishment. Attorney William Jennings Bryan sits behind the microphone, in white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, during a radio broadcast of the landmark "Monkey Trial" of John Thomas Scopes in Dayton, Tenn., July 15, 1925. The controversial trial between religion and state determined how evolution would be taught in schools. Scopes, a high school biology teacher, was found guilty of teaching evolution and fined. (Associated Press) Then we turn to another controversy: doubt around the whole idea of climate change. And we go to that day in 1988 when NASA scientist James Hansen warned a congressional committee that climate change was real. Back then, Republican President George H.W. Bush touted himself as being pro-environment. "I'm an environmentalist... And I always will be," he said. "And that is not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative." Today, President Donald Trump considers climate change a "hoax" and is considering withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. It's a radical change in 25 years. We'll tell you how we got there. Episode Contributors: Kai Wright Amanda Aronczyk Elaine Chen Karen Frillmann Jillian Weinberger Subscribe to the United States of Anxiety podcast on iTunes.

Video: The Handshake Experiment

More than 50 years ago, Robert Krulwich met President John F. Kennedy and shook his hand. For decades, Robert wondered how much of President Kennedy might have stayed with him. Now, thanks to the new science of the microbiome, he can find out. We partnered with Radiolab and Dr. Jack Gilbert, a microbial ecologist and author of the upcoming book, "Dirt is Good," for an experiment. President Kennedy is no longer with us, so we recruited a stand-in: astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Together, we tried to find an answer to this question: when we touch greatness, how much of it stays with us?

"I Got Indian in My Family": An Another Round Takeover

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Tracy Clayton always heard that her ancestors were, in her mother's words, "black, white and American Indian." Like many black Americans, her immediate family didn't have exact information on their roots — that heritage is difficult to trace through ancestors forced into the American slave trade. What little information Tracy's family might have had was lost in a courthouse fire. Tracy says she didn't think about her ancestry very often until she moved to New York City, where she's the co-host, with Heben Nigatu, of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round. New Yorkers, Tracy noticed, take pride in their ethnic identity. A number of her friends hang flags in their window, or march in pride parades based on their country of origin. "Which parade do I go to? What flag do I put in my window?" she wondered. She enlisted Only Human to help her figure it out. With the help of DNA ancestry tests and experts on DNA and race, Tracy explores her own ethnic background. She accidentally upends her family lore — it turns out her she has very little Native American ancestry — and she also discovers why the mix of "black, white and American Indian" is such a common heritage myth among black Americans. In the end, Tracy finds her flag, and discovers that her ethnic identity is more complex than she originally thought. The data revealed by DNA ancestry tests complicates the way she thinks about herself and her family's history, but she also realizes that these tests don't hold all the secrets to understanding ourselves and our heritage. The stories passed down over generations can be just as integral to the way we think about ourselves in the modern world.

Trans Kids Update: Dating, PMS, And, Yeah, Bathrooms

Last year, North Carolina passed HB2, the so-called "bathroom bill," banning anyone from using a public restroom that didn't match up with his or her biological sex. After the law passed, we went to North Carolina to visit one of the few gender clinics for kids in the South, at Duke University's Children's Hospital. We spent a day-in-the-life there, learning how patients and doctors juggle big physical changes and political changes too. Since our story last August, things have not calmed down. President Trump has canceled some key protections for trans students. This year, sixteen more states including Texas have introduced their own bathroom bills. And in a controversial decision last week, North Carolina lawmakers revoked HB2 — though trans activists called their replacement bill a bad deal. So with all this happening, we decided to catch up with the three kids we met last summer — Drew, Martin, and Jaye — and see how their lives and their bodies have changed. We start by going back to our first episode, when each of them was just beginning hormone therapy prescribed by Dr. Deanna Adkins, the pediatric endocrinologist who started Duke's transgender clinic two years ago. Then, we reconnect with Drew, Jaye, and Martin one more time. We talk about the joys (and pitfalls) of dating online, how their bodies are changing, and how they're doing under President Trump. Jaye (at left) and some Instagram posts from Drew Adams, pictured with his partner, CJ. (Courtesy of Jaye and Drew Adams)

Flu-dunnit?

Last fall, a bunch of us got sick at the same time, and it seemed likely that the virus spread at the workplace. The question came up: who came to work sick? Or to put it another way: who was to blame for this office outbreak? To find out, we partnered with NYU Tandon School of Engineering Assistant Professor, Rumi Chunara, who runs the goVIRAL research project, and Jeffrey Shaman, an expert in flu forecasting at Columbia University. His group is currently working on an extensive respiratory virus sampling project in New York entitled "The Virome of Manhattan" with the American Museum of Natural History. They helped us design a project looking at how respiratory illnesses spread in our workplace community. Once a week for ten weeks we swabbed our noses and sent the samples to a lab at Columbia where they could determine (if we were sick) what kind of respiratory infection we had caught. We also filled in bi-weekly symptom reports. Some of the questions were benign: do you have a fever? Others were more accusatory: who do you think got you sick? The entire experiment was a whodunnit. Or, perhaps more accurately, it was a flu-dunnit. But sometimes messing with what usually lies below the surface can have unexpected side effects. Flu-dunnit changed our office dynamic. Accusations started to fly, as our scientist sleuths discovered who were the victims — and who was the perpetrator.

Just Put Some Vicks On It

When scientist Rachel Herz decided to study the connection between smell and memory, she chose five products emblematic of childhood: Coppertone suntan lotion, Crayola crayons, Play-Doh, Johnson & Johnson baby powder and Vicks Vaporub. She studies the science of what's called the Proustian phenomenon. The French novelist Marcel Proust writes about dipping a madeleine cookie into a cup of linden tea and the aroma immediately bringing him back to a long-lost memory. Producer Julia Longoria has always had that relationship with Vicks Vaporub — the scent transports her right back to childhood, to days in bed with the flu at her grandmother's house in South Florida. Julia and her cousins all knew not to tell grandma when they were sick, or they'd risk being slathered with "Vickicito". Julia never had a reason to wonder why grandma loved Vicks so much, but this week's episode reveals grandma's love for the product is deeper than Julia imagined. And while investigating grandma's (and the world's) Vicks obsession, Julia is pulled into her family's past, back to Cuba, before the Revolution.

A Three Year-Old Girl, a Colony of Dogs, and One Very Rare Side Effect

When Mathilda Crisp was about three years-old, she stopped sleeping through the night. But during the day, she would fall asleep without warning — during a swim lesson, in the middle of her cereal bowl at breakfast. Then other, stranger symptoms started materializing: when she got happy or emotional, she would suddenly collapse. (Her brother and sister started carrying her around the house on a chair so she could keep playing in their games.) She would thrust her tongue around her mouth. She couldn't seem to walk in a straight line. At first her doctors were sure she had a brain tumor. But her scans were negative. They tested her for leukemia, Lyme disease. Nothing. But when one doctor finally did diagnose Mathilda, it turned out to be just the beginning of an even bigger mystery: of why this little girl — and a handful of other kids in Northern Europe — had suddenly been struck ill. Trying to solve it has become one doctor's life's work. Also check out: Mathilda's mom has written a book about her experience. You can read an exclusive excerpt from it, or check it out on Kindle. Dr. Emmanuel Mignot is a key player in this story. He first got media attention for his colony of narcoleptic dogs. Check them out. While researching this story, Mary learned a lot about the flu vaccine. Here are her top five takeaways.

The Woman Behind a Secret Grey's Anatomy Experiment

About nine years ago, 17.5 million people tuned into an episode of Grey's Anatomy that, on the surface, appeared like any other — high-stakes surgery, high-drama love triangles. What those millions of Grey's viewers didn't know was that they were guinea pigs for a massive, secret experiment. That experiment was arguably a referendum about a single woman: Jennifer Jako, and her decision to become a mother. In 1991, at the age of 18, Jako had a one night stand with a high-school friend. It was the only time she'd ever had sex without a condom. She contracted HIV and spent years trying to debunk misconceptions: producing a documentary that aired on MTV, speaking at college campuses and on talk shows. Over time, the country's view of HIV evolved. As people started living longer, stigma decreased. People generally understood that the infection wasn't a death sentence any longer. But there was one area people couldn't seem to understand: Pregnancy. Studies showed the general public simply didn't know — or didn't believe — that an HIV-positive woman, with the right treatment, had a tremendously low chance of passing the virus onto her baby — less than 2-percent at the time. Jennifer Jako got a cruel lesson in where the public stood when she appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine, six months pregnant. Later, as an experiment, the Kaiser Family Foundation decided to see if they could move the needle by trying something totally different: product placement of medical information in a Grey's Anatomy episode. In this episode of Only Human we tell the epic story of Jennifer Jako and how she managed to sneak into our livings rooms and, possibly, change public opinion forever.

The Crowd Made You Do It

*** Check out the results from our Group Think survey here *** Who knew counting a crowd would be so... political? If the election felt contentious, the inauguration seemed to make the country even more divided, between "us" and "them." After crowds gathered on the Washington Mall for President Trump's inauguration and the Women's March the following day, Only Human looks at what happens to us as individuals when we become part of a crowd. We look at the crowd psychology behind Donald Trump's rallies, the crowd dynamics in anti-Trump protests, and ways to stay safe in a crowd. Here's a video of tips from a crowd management expert we spoke to, Paul Wertheimer. Animation by Nate Milton

Meet Crowd Safety Expert, Paul Wertheimer

To understand crowds, Paul Wertheimer threw himself into the mosh pit — literally.

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