Big Ideas - Full program podcast

Big Ideas - Full program podcast


ABC Radio National presents material from Big Ideas web and TV to bring you the best public talks, debates and lectures from Australia and around the world. One single audio file of the whole program - good for continuous listening.



The frozen and fragile continent of Antarctica needs international attention. With increasing state rivalries, environmental concerns, and the need for resources, is the Antarctic Treaty System in need of reform?

Understanding Islam  

How much is Western culture is derived from the Abrahamic religions and traditions? And are some core Islamic values at odds with the contemporary materialistic world? A panel of experts tries to explain Islam.

2016 Geoffrey Bolton lecture  

The search for identity and the search for self. Lost memories and the historical record.

Women's rights in Afghanistan  

In Afghanistan, two lovers, Zakia and Ali, friends since childhood, elope: defying the wishes of their families, cultural norms, and Afghan and Islamic Law. Zakia’s family vows to kill her, to restore the family’s "honour". The couple is forced to run away and live a life of fugitives. Former New York Times bureau chief in Kabul, Rod Nordland, met the couple, and helped protect Zakia. He tells their story in “The Lovers”. What does the story tells us about women’s rights in Afghanistan, post Western intervention? And what happens when you cross the line from dispassionate journalist, to being entangled in the lives of your subjects? Paul Barclay interviews Rod Nordland.

The role of media in public opinion  

A panel of journalists and community leaders look at how media portrays marginalised groups and how they can shape social cohesion – for the better or worse.

Science, life and the universe  

How is our cosmos finely tuned and just right for life? It's time to ask some of the deep questions about our place in the cosmos.

Reconciliation after violent conflicts  

There's an increasing number of missing persons and unidentified dead bodies in today's conflicts. What are the socio-cultural, political, legal and psychological impacts on the involved communities?

Restoring Lake Pedder  

45 years ago, Tasmania’s Lake Pedder, with its glorious pink quartz sand, was flooded to create hydro-electric power for the state. Conservationists are convinced it is a lost jewel in the crown of Australia’s natural environment. Almost from the moment of its inundation, there were calls to restore Lake Pedder it to its past glory. Experts say this is technically feasibly, and once again the idea being discussed. But is restoring Lake Pedder a utopian dream, or a realistic goal?

Financial secrecy  

Money laundering, market rigging, digital 'off-shoring'. Are some people and corporations above and beyond the law?

Marriage equality in Ireland  

A campaign for marriage equality has to be about "real people" and not simply a lofty debate about law, philosophy and religion.


A journey to outer space. After nine and a half years travelling at 53 000 kilometres an hour, the New Horizons team reached Pluto. NASA Astrophysicist Fran Bagenal recounts the journey and the unexpected findings.

The return of inequality: CBC Massey Lecture 5  

There is a myth that great wealth enables our economies to grow, but wealth can actually stand in the way of economic development; inequity can slow us down. Fairness lies at the heart of liberal democracy, and in the face of unfairness, we rebel. Unfairness makes us work less hard to create a good society. Why should I work hard, what's in it for me? Economic inequality inevitably translates into political inequality, which is not what we thought we were working towards. Jennifer Welsh presents the fifth and final of her 2016 Massey lectures, "The Return of Inequality".

The return of the cold war: CBC Massey Lecture 4  

Are we witnessing the return of the cold war?

The return of mass flight: CBC Massey lecture 3  

Millions of people around the world are on the move. How do we deal with this "mass flight"?

The return of barbarism: CBC Massey lecture 2  

Half a decade ago, freedom movements were ascendant in a number of countries - Egypt, Tunisia, Libya. But today the gains from the so called 'Arab Spring' seem, mostly, lost. Authoritarian regimes have been winding back the progress in human rights and democracy we thought we were witnessing, and the rules that govern conflict and maintain global peace are being erased. In her second 2016 CBC Massey lecture, called 'The Return of Barbarism', Jennifer Welsh contrasts the world of today with the prediction in 1989 of 'The End of History'.

The return of history: CBC Massey lecture 1  

Have predictions of the 'end of history' proven premature?

The Pacific is sinking  

Corruption in many Pacific countries appears endemic, the Pacific has the world’s fastest growth rate of HIV infection and the Pacific is predicted to surpass Africa as the world’s poorest region in the foreseeable future Is the Pacific not sinking but being sunk?

Aristotle: 2,400 years on  

Aristotle - why is he one of the most influential thinkers of all time?

Science, values and ethics  

The ethics, values and science surrounding the bionic body.

Mary Norris and Steven Pinker: why words and language matter.  

Mary Norris: what copy editors do and why standards matter. Steven Pinker: how the craft of writing can be improved.

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