The first “scientific” election poll was conducted in 1936 by George Gallup, who correctly predicted that Franklin D. Roosevelt would win the presidential election. Since Gallup, our appetite for polls and forecasts has only grown, but watching the needle too closely might have some unintended side effects.
Solomon Messing, chief scientist at ACRONYM, a political digital strategy nonprofit, tells us about a study he co-authored that found people are often confused by what forecast numbers mean, and that their confidence in an election’s outcome might depress voter turnout. Sunshine Hillygus, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, also joins to tell us about the history of polling in the United States.
Next up, say you’re standing in a crowded room and realizing nobody is wearing a mask. Or a family dog that has passed away protectively guarding grandkids. Maybe having a pleasant get-together with someone you haven’t thought of in years, then suddenly realizing everyone is a little too close, and a little too sick.
Do any of these instances sound familiar? A few weeks ago, we asked Science Friday listeners if their dreams have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We heard from many listeners who said yes, their dreams have become more vivid, with elements of the pandemic included.
A change in dreams due to a crisis is very common, says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When we’re in a dream state, the brain is processing the same things we think about during the day. But when we’re asleep, the parts of our brain that handle logic and speech are damped down. The parts that handle visuals, however, are ramped up.
Barrett has been collecting dreams from people all over the world since the start of the pandemic. She says common dream themes range from actually getting the virus, natural disasters and bug attacks. Healthcare workers have regularly reported the highest level of stressful COVID-19 dreams, according to her data.
“The typical dream from the healthcare workers is really a full-on nightmare,” Barrett says. “Just as bad as you’d see in war zones.”
Barrett joins SciFri producer Kathleen Davis to talk about her research into crisis dreams, and what people can do if they want to experience stressful dreams less often.
And, search engine giant Google was served an antitrust lawsuit by the Justice Department this week, which alleges the company abuses its near-monopoly status to harm consumers and competitors. This is the first such action against the company, which, over the last couple decades, has grown into one of the more powerful tech companies in history.
Meanwhile, early data from New York City schools shows a promising picture of what back-to-school in the age of COVID means. Out of more than 16,000 randomly tested students and staff members, only 28 positive results came back—20 from staff members, and eight from students. While COVID-19 cases in K-12 schools across the country are not zero, low rates are the norm so far.
Joining Ira to talk about these stories and other news from the week is Nsikan Akpan, a science editor at National Geographic in Washington, D.C.
We keep hearing that a Yellowstone supervolcano could blow at any moment — and possibly wipe us all out. So is Yellowstone overdue for the BIG ONE, and if it happens, how bad could it be? To find out, we talk to paleoecologist Dr. Gill Plunkett, Yellowstone Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Dr. Mike Poland and Washington resident Christian Jacobsen.
Here’s a link to our transcript: https://bit.ly/3kliFV6
Check out Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s weekly blog the “Caldera Chronicles”: https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/yellowstone/caldera-chronicles
This episode was produced by Michelle Dang and Nicholas DelRose, with help from Wendy Zukerman, Rose Rimler and Hannah Harris Green. We’re edited by Blythe Terrell. Fact checking by Barbra Rodriguez. Mix and sound design by Sam Bair. Music written by Peter Leonard, Marcus Bagala, Emma Munger and Bobby Lord. A huge thanks to all the researchers we got in touch with for this episode, including Brian Wilcox, Dr. Mike Rampino, Dr. Jazmin Scarlett, Dr. Joe McConnell, Dr. Rosaly Lopes and Dr. Thor Thordarson. And special thanks to the Zukerman family and Joseph Lavelle Wilson.
Many of the statues not along the coast are in places that featured a resource vital to the communities that lived and worked there.
There’s plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he’d do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa’s Transition Integrity Project doesn’t give us any predictions, and it isn’t a referendum on Trump. Instead, it’s a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution.
This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music.
Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
You can read The Transition Integrity Project’s report here.
This week, we’re talking trees! From how they grow, to the oldest ones on Earth, to how they die, and what trees can do for our cities. Plus in the news, can you catch COVID twice? How microwaving an insecticide makes it 12 times more powerful, and the asteroid that might actually be an old Moon rocket… Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists
Hacking, phishing, surveillance, disinformation… these are tools used to silence dissidents and influence elections. But what happens when these same methods are used against an ordinary citizen? The story of a man fighting an enemy he can’t see and becoming increasingly paranoid.Which makes him a lot like the rest of us. What happens when you no longer know how to trust?
Most of us have a clear sense of right and wrong. But what happens when we view politics through a moral lens? This week, we talk with psychologist Linda Skitka about how moral certainty can produce moral blinders — and endanger democracy.