PRI: To the Best of Our Knowledge

PRI: To the Best of Our Knowledge

United States

To the Best of Our Knowledge cracks open the world and the ideas that fuel it through interviews with the world's luminaries, from experts to cultural icons. Each show revolves around a theme where we explore these ideas and the people who consider them.


H.P. Lovecraft  

H.P. Lovecraft's weird tales of cosmic horror loom large 125 years after his birth. His literary tentatcles have oozed their way into movies, books, games and graphic novels. We explore Lovecraft's life, work and legacy.  Was he a literary master or a monster? The Magickal Realism and Continuing Influence of H.P. Lovecraft; The Ecology of Noise in Lovecraft's Fiction; Eugene Thacker Goes "From Beyond"; H.P. Lovecraft's Racism; The Call of Cthulhu (for Beginning Readers); Going Beyond Lovecraft: Thomas Ligotti.

Telling a Life  

How do you tell the story of your life? Do you focus on meaning, accomplishment and hope - or on failure and loss? Psychologists say telling a good life story can make you happier. But do we also create an inauthentic version of ourselves if we turn everything into a narrative? We explore the idea of life stories, and hear why poet Patti Smith chose to "write about nothing" when writing about her own life. How to Edit Your Life Story; The Terminal Bar; "I Am Not a Story"; Elena Ferrante and Elizabeth Hardwick; Patti Smith's Mind Train.

Eric Liu Teaches Power to the People  

Eric Liu is on a campaign to make voting fun again and to restore the power of the people

Who Owns Water?  

Who Owns Water? Water is for Fighting Over; A Basketball Star Heads to Standing Rock; What Is Water?; Terry Tempest Williams on the novel Tracks by Louise Erdrich; The Massacre at Wounded Knee - 10 Years Later; An Anishinaabe Poem and Creation Story.

From Public Restrooms To Trump's Locker Room: Gender Segregation In America  

Why Donald Trump's locker rooms and sex-segregated bathrooms are a bad idea

Time Travel  

We explore our obsession with time travel and what it can teach us about ourselves. Why Are We So Obsessed with Time Travel?; Going Back in Time to Prevent a Tragedy; Reliving Groundhog Day; A Radical New View of Time ; A Novel Based on a Real-Life Time Capsule.

Why Some People Shouldn't Vote  

It would be hard to imagine a more fundamental American value than democracy. For centuries, disenfranchised people have fought for the right to vote. But would we be better off if fewer peoplevoted - if only the people who actually know about public policy were allowed to vote? What if democracy itself is the problem with our government? That's the radical idea of Georgetown philosopher Jason Brennan (author of "Against Democracy"), who says most voters are shockingly ignorant of basic political issues. In this extended interview with Steve Paulson, Brennan proposes "the rule of the knowledgeable."

Locked Up  

Most of us will never know what really happens behind bars. Prisons are generally off limits to the public and press, but a national prisoner strike on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison riot is drawing new attention to the conditions in many of our nation's jails. This hour, what should a prison be? How The Attica Prison Riot Fueled Mass Incarceration in America; Working Undercover As A Private Prison Guard; In Defense of Flogging; Norway's Unusual Approach to Imprisonment; How To Reduce Mass Incarceration; Exploring the Emotional Roots of Justice.

Colson Whitehead's "Underground Railroad"  

One of this year's big novels is Colson Whitehead's sweeping historical novel, "The Underground Railroad." It's an unflinching look at the experience of slavery, inspired by the classic slave narratives. And being a sci-fi geek, Whitehead also weaves in bits of fantasy, creating an alternative history that features an actual underground railroad and other historical oddities. In this extended podcast interview, Whitehead tells Steve Paulson that he wasn't going to stick to the facts, but he did stick to the truth.

Being Broke and White  

There’s a powerful new voting bloc in America. They’re white, working class, and they live in places that have been left behind. We'll talk with "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance, and country music star Brandy Clark joins us in the studio to play some music and talk about her hometown. Hillbilly Elegy; Big Day in a Small Town; In the Century of Rust; Smart Decline; The Future of Whiteness.

Lithium And Lies: A True Story About Sex, Drugs and Mania  

Public radio producer Charles Monroe-Kane confronts the truth about the years he spent self-treating his mental illness with a dangerous mix of hard drugs and alcohol

The Whole Truth  

Three journalists join us to talk about an assignment in which they tried to tell the story of someone who was, in some crucial way, unknowable. Getting to Know Your Father As a Woman; Getting Inside the Mind of Patty Hearst; Rodney Ascher Recommends "Patty Hearst"; Did Joe Gould Really Write "The Oral History of Our Time"?.

Knowing Animals  

Can we ever get inside the mind of an animal? Can we really know how a chimp or a parrot thinks and experiences the world? We'll talk with some naturalists and scientists who're trying, including Helen Macdonald and Frans de Waal. And the fascinating story of Charles Foster's attempt to live like a badger, when he lived in a hole in the ground and ate worms. Living Like A Beast; Helen Macdonald and "Birdle" the Parrot; Inside Animal Minds; Douglas Adams' Survival Guilt; Searching for the Last Unicorn.


Disgust is such a powerful emotion, and so easily evoked. A single disgusting word or image can make most anyone feel queasy, but it also turns out to be a powerful driver of human behavior, influencing everything from who you love to who you'll vote for. This hour, we're delving into the new science of revulsion. Digging Into The New Science of Revulsion; The Morality of Disgust; Fierce Food From Around the World; The Buzz Behind Edible Insects; The Case For Embracing Horror; Adventures With a Bat Biologist.

Chuck Klosterman Thinks About the Present As If It Were the Past  

This is our extended conversation with Chuck Klosterman re. his book, "But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About The Present As If It Were the Past."

Flammable Fiction  

This hour, we explore flammable fiction as we ask the question, How does fire inspire a writer's imagination? Death by Spontaneous Combustion; Fighting Wildland Fires; The Politics of Arson; Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past.

The History of Ballooning  

  Before the airplane was invented, ballooning was all the rage, and many people thought this was the future of air travel. Cultural historian Richard Holmes describes the remarkable history of the hot air balloon.

The Edge of the Run  

We run for all sorts of reasons -- to lose 10 pounds, to win an Olympic medal, or simply because it’s fun. Some even run as a spiritual practice. Today, why we run - and how far and how fast can humans go? Faster, Higher, Stronger; Let Them Dope!; The Fist and the '68 Olympics; Running and Spirituality ; Tennis in China.

Illuminating Us  

This hour, a look at the natural, artificial, and symbolic light that colors our history -- and our future.  The Heaviness of Light; Let There Be Light…On Your Brain; How the 18th Century Conquered Darkness; The New Physics of Photons; Nicholas Carr on the Art of Navigation; Art and Music in Rothko Chapel.

The Mississippi  

The Mississippi River is an American icon. It's a body of water that’s been shaped as much by cultural processes as by environmental ones. From the state lines it draws to its role in literature and the arts, it’s a river that flows deep in the American psyche. This episode is about the boundaries and horizons of the Mississippi — its deep geologic past, its history as a route to freedom, and its meaning today.  A Hawk and a Warbler; When The Mississippi Met the Atlantic; Life on Mark Twain's Mississippi; The Music and Meaning of Sounding 'Mark Twain'; Boundary and Horizon: The Mississippi River in African-American History.

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