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Modern Notion Daily

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The radio extension of, a website for the ultra-curious that finds the science behind the story and the truth in every tale. It’s your middlebrow library for highbrow ideas. We tell stories about history, science, technology, culture and life.




This Salon in New York Is the Ground Zero of Brazilian Waxing

On today’s episode of Modern Notion, we visit the salon in New York that originated Brazilian waxing. Jonice Padilha, one of the seven sisters behind Manhattan’s J Sisters salon, speaks to reporter Renee Gross about how the salon came up with the idea of taking it all off. From there, the trend took off—you’ll have…

Duration: 00:08:59

Mapping the Human Body

What if we looked at the human body as a landscape, and mapped its features using a cartographer’s eye? That’s what Dr. Gavin Francis does in his new book, Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum (Basic Books, October 2015). On this episode of Modern Notion we dive into some…

Duration: 00:29:37

Winston Churchill, War Correspondent

On today’s show, we’re talking with author Simon Read about Winston Churchill—but probably not the Winston Churchill you already know. In his book, Winston Churchill Reporting: Adventures of a Young War Correspondent (Da Capo Press, October 2015), Read explores the five years Churchill spent as a war correspondent, which took him around the world, from Cuba…

Duration: 00:50:27

Are Public Libraries Disappearing?

On today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily, our guest is Wayne Wiegand, author of Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library (Oxford University Press, October 2015). Wiegand argues that libraries are about much more than books: they’re a community meeting place. And to answer the question in the headline: they’re not going anywhere.…

White Powders and Clear Liquids: Looking at 75 Food Additives

The guests on today’s Modern Notion Daily show are Steve Ettlinger and Dwight Eschliman, coauthors of Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Food Additives and 25 Food Products (Regan Arts, September 2015). Ettlinger, who had previously written about artificial ingredients in his book Twinkie Deconstructed, teamed up with Eschliman, a photographer who has deconstructed food in previous visual…

The House of Twenty Thousand Books

On today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily, our guest is Sasha Abramsky, author of The House of Twenty Thousand Books (New York Review Books, September 2015). Abramsky recalls his grandparents’ London home, filled with a vast rare book collection—but more importantly, he remembers the ideas discussed among those treasured volumes. Later in the hour, reporter Jessie Wright-Mendoza…

Judy, the Only Canine POW in World War II

On today’s show, our guest is Robert Weintraub, author ofNo Better Friend:One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII (Little, Brown and Company, May 2015). This is the story of Judy, a pointer dog who was a Japanese POW. She befriended Frank Williams, a British POW, and the two…

Duration: 00:50:27

The Volcano That Caused Three Years of Bad Weather

On today’s Modern Notion Daily podcast, our guest is Gillen D’Arcy Wood, author ofTambora: The Eruption That Changed the World (Princeton University Press, paperback September 2015). In 1815, the Tambora volcano on Sumbawa (part of Indonesia) erupted for three days, producing volcanic ash that was absorbed into the Earth’s atmosphere and stratosphere. People blame this…

Duration: 00:49:19

Why You Should Be Death-Positive

Our guest on today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily is Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and author ofSmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Stories from the Crematory(W. W. Norton & Co., paperback September 2015). Doughty promotes “death positivity”—which does not mean you should be happy when aloved one dies, but that you should embrace the…

Duration: 00:49:59

A History of Gay Rights (or Lack Thereof) in America

On Modern Notion Daily, our guest is Lillian Faderman, author ofThe Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle(Simon & Schuster, September 2015). Faderman starts this detailed account of the treatment of LGBT people and communities in the 1950s, whenpolice raided gay bars and prosecuted people for their sexuality in courts of law. How did we…

Duration: 00:50:04

Lady Spies of the Civil War

This hour of Modern Notion Daily, our guest Karen Abbott talks about her book,Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War (Harper Perennial, paperback September 2015). Abbott explored the lives of four women who contributed to the war effort in unusual ways, from the Confederate spy who bedded countless Union soldiers to…

Duration: 00:49:19

Does Freud Have a Place in Neuroscience?

Our guest on today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily is Casey Schwartz, author ofIn the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis(Pantheon, August 2015). Schwartz completed a graduate program that allowed her to study psychoanalysis at the Anna Freud Centre in London and neuroscience at Yale. She constantly felt like the two disciplines were…

Duration: 00:50:13

What Does It Mean If Only 36 Percent of Psychology Studies Are Replicable

On today’s Modern Notion Daily podcast, our guest is Roger Giner-Sorolla, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kent and a member of the team working on the Reproducibility Project for Psychology. The Reproducibility Project tasked psychologists with choosing 100 studies that they could replicate in their own labs as a way of…

Duration: 00:50:36

The Master Algorithm

Our guest on today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily isPedro Domingos, a professor of computer science and the author ofThe Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World(Basic Books, September 2015). Domingos is an expert in machine learning, which is the engine behind much of what happens in our…

Duration: 00:50:37

Understanding Science Will Make You a Better Cook

On today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily, our guest is J. Kenji López-Alt, the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of the new book,The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science(W. W. Norton, September 2015). López-Alt takes a scientific approach to cooking—which doesn’t mean he’s necessarily looking for the “perfect” way to make…

Duration: 00:49:12

Introducing the Pawpaw, the Most Delicious Fruit on Both Sides of the Mississippi

Our guest on today’s Modern Notion Daily is Andrew Moore, author ofPawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit(Chelsea Green, August 2015). Moore discovered the pawpaw, which is native to the United States, five years ago in a grove in Ohio. Despite its addictive taste and aroma (it’s been called a cross between a banana and…

Duration: 00:50:17

It Took a Few Tries to Get the Magna Carta Right

On today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily, our guest is David Starkey, author ofMagna Carta: The Medieval Roots of Modern Politics(Quercus, September 2015). Starkey was less interested in exploring the principles of the Magna Carta, and more interested in the process it took to get the document just right. In the year 1215, when the…

Duration: 00:50:22

Reading ‘Walden’ for the Rocks

On today’s show, our guest is Robert M. Thorson, author of Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science (Harvard University Press, paperback August 2015). Thorson is a geologist who decided to read Thoreau’s classic literary work for its observations about nature. He argues that Thoreau was as skilled a naturalist as he was a…

Duration: 00:50:02

When It Comes to Automation, Have We Gone Too Far?

On today’s episode of Modern Notion Daily, our guest is Nicholas Carr, a science and technology writer whose most recent book is The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us (W. W. Norton, paperback September 2015). Carr thinks that automation has advanced society and the greater good in innumerable ways, but we may have…

Duration: 00:48:40

Sisters in Law: Sandra Day O’Connor & Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On today’s show, we’re talking with Linda Hirshman, a former attorney and author of the new dual biography, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (Harper, September 2015). Hirshman argues that these first two women to sit on the Supreme Court could…

Duration: 00:49:04

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