The Inquiry

The Inquiry

United Kingdom

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.


What Can We Do With Our Dead?  

Cemeteries around the world are fast running out of space. As more and more people choose to live in cities, some can't even cope with the ashes left after cremation. Deep questions about our communities, cultures and mortality emerge as The Inquiry asks: what can we do with our dead? (image: A crowded cemetery in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Dale De La Rey/Getty Images.)

How Has The Ku Klux Klan Lasted So Long?  

North America’s most notorious racist group, the Ku Klux Klan fought the end of slavery in the 19th century, opposed civil rights in the 20th century and now forms part of a new extreme-right wing movement protesting openly, on America’s streets. Presented by James Fletcher and produced by Kate Lamble, The Inquiry asks four expert witnesses to answer this pressing question; how has the KKK managed to last so long? The answer can be found by looking at the origins of the KKK and the power of the white supremacist idea which became infamous for its’ distinctive costumes and deadly violence. The American concept of freedom of speech has also helped give the KKK longevity. The views of the groups’ members are not shut down by the authorities. Rather, the KKK is allowed to speak and operate openly, within certain limits of the law. The hope is that counter protest and dialogue will expose the hatred and bigotry of its members. Through hearing the views of one reformed racist, we learn how the group have been opportunistic in recruiting members. These include troubled young men, looking for family, security and meaning to their lives. Finally, modern day technology has helped to spread the KKK’s message throughout the world via the internet. The group has been managed to mobilise and has recently, become emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump. (Photo: Torchlight Parade by the Ku Klux Klan, October 1951. Photo credit: Keystone/Getty Images)

Are Video Games a Waste of Time?  

Video games are a huge industry, bigger than Hollywood, and billions of people around the world play them for fun. But new economic research in the US suggests that young men are dropping out of work to play games more. This is both because some jobs are becoming harder to find and less rewarding, and because video games are becoming more and more attractive. The gamers say they are happy, but the research has sharpened long-standing concerns about video games. Will there be a 'lost generation' of young men sitting in their parents' basements, frittering their lives away on mindless games, with disastrous long-term effects for them and the economy? Are video games a waste of time? (Photo: A visitor plays on a computer while visiting the Gamescom 2017 video gaming trade fair in Cologne, Germany. Credit: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

How Do You Fix Someone Else's Election?  

Smears, bots and bags of cash - we reveal some of the tricks used for fiddling elections around the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's security chiefs say Russian intelligence is actively trying to influence next month's German elections. Meanwhile, from the US to the Netherlands, countries are becoming increasingly wary of election interference. So how do you fix someone else’s election? Hear answers from people who've studied it and even been involved. Presenter: Neal Razzell Producers: Phoebe Keane, Emily Craig Editor: Emma Rippon (Photo: Voters go to the polls in the contentious presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Las Vegas, Nevada Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Are South Africa's Police Failing?  

A story of crime and often no punishment. South Africa's notoriously violent record has been getting worse. The number of murders and violent crimes is rising as public confidence in the police falls. Officers themselves have been linked to a series of high-profile cases, including spectacular heists at the country's main international airport. South Africa's police minister has called for "a firmer, disciplined force". So, are South Africa's police failing? (image: A riot police officer gets ready to fire a stun grenade into a crowd during clashes in Johannesburg May 8, 2017. Credit: Gulshan Khan/ Getty Images)

Who Gets to Have Their Own Country?  

You might think simple rules decide the creation of nation states. You'd be wrong. There are plenty of people out there who want their own state - like in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia, which both have independence referendums coming up. Yet the national governments in Baghdad and Madrid say the votes - whatever their outcome - won't result in new countries. So how do you start a new country? Making sense of an atlas dotted with exceptions, special cases and lands in limbo, we ask: who gets to have their own country? (Photo: Young boy holds a pro-Independence Catalan flag (Senyera) during Catalonia National Day. Credit: Quique Garcia/Getty Images)

What Would War with North Korea Look Like?  

Alarm about North Korea has spiked. Earlier this month, the North claimed to have successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit Alaska. Some experts estimate that North Korea is now 18 to 36 months away from launching a missile able to reach Los Angeles. President Trump has warned that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible. His closest advisers have said that "the era of strategic patience is over". So, in this week's Inquiry, we take a look at the two sides' war plans and ask: what would war with North Korea look like? Producer: Sarah Shebbeare Presenter: Neal Razzell (image: A combined fire demonstration of the North Korean People's Army celebrating their 85th anniversary on 26 April 2017. Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it Time to Ban the Plastic Bottle?  

Every single second, 20,000 single-use drinking bottles are sold around the world. That is more than a million pieces of non-biodegradable rubbish produced every minute. And as demand grows in developing economies, so will the mountains of waste, with much of it ending up in the ocean. We learn how the invention of the plastic bottle spawned an industry that has quickly got us hooked. We hear the consequences of our addiction from the man who has dedicated his life to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And, with one estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, we ask if we now need a radical solution. Is it time to ban the plastic bottle? Presenter: James Fletcher Producers: Simon Maybin and Sarah Shebbeare (Photo: A bottle of water sits on the floor inside a recycling facility. Credit: Getty Images)

Is Gene Editing Out of Control?  

"This structure has novel features, which are of considerable biological interest." It was perhaps the greatest understatement of all time - the announcement more than six decades ago of the discovery of the shape of a single human DNA. The double-helix structure is now one of the world's most recognisable icons. Knowledge of it has transformed the fight against everything from disease to crime. That revolution was brought to us by an elite. It took the world's most eminent scientists, backed by the treasuries of the United States, the United Kingdom and private markets to go from the discovery of that one gene, in 1953, to map the more than 22,000 genes that make up a human being in 2000. Mapping the genome, as it was known, was likened to "learning the language in which God created life." Genetic research has since become democratised. Incredible new technologies now allow labs all over the world to not only learn the language of creation, but to write it...and edit it. Do-it-yourself gene editing kits are available online for less than $100. Gene editing offers breathtaking promise - eliminating disability and disease. But the rapid spread of this powerful technology is leading some who've been at the forefront of the research to warn against unintended consequences, and question whether the rush for miracle cures could bring hellish side-effects. So this week, The Inquiry asks, Is Gene Editing Out of Control? (Photo: CRISPR CAS 9 Clustered regularly inter spaced short palindromic repeats. segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences. gene editing, genome editing. Credit: Shutterstock)

What's So Special About Qatar?  

The tiny state behind a global diplomatic feud. Qatar's landmass is so small it could fit into the UK 20 times over. Its citizen population is just a few hundred thousand. Yet this desert country finds itself at the centre of a geopolitical dispute, with its powerful neighbour Saudi Arabia leading a blockade against it and President Donald Trump firing off critical Tweets. So how did this bantam-weight state end up slogging it out with the world's heavyweights? In other words, what's so special about Qatar? Presenter: James Fletcher Producer: Simon Maybin and Sarah Shebbeare (image: Doha city skyline, with armoured vehicles, Qatar. Credit: Karim Jaafar/Getty images)

Have We Always Felt This Tired?  

“Humans are the only species that willingly deprive themselves from sleep”. Ever since fire was discovered, we have traded off sleep time for other activities - from creating stone tools to partying. As our technology progressed, the list of things to do rather than sleep just got longer. But with sleep deprivation now a growing health problem, could we be reaching our limits? Or is tiredness part of our condition? In this week’s programme, an evolutionary biologist, a historian and a neuroscientist give us their take on whether we are now any more tired than our ancestors. We hear what makes human sleep unique and how it has evolved in surprising ways. And finally we hear from a woman with a dream – that we may never have to sleep again. Producer: Estelle Doyle and Sarah Shebbeare Presenter: James Fletcher (Photo: A woman shows signs of tiredness as she counts ballot cards. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Why Does China Want to Revive the Silk Road?  

China is currently developing the biggest infrastructure initiative of all time. Called the Belt and Road initiative, the trillion dollar plans involve working with other Asian countries to build hundreds of new roads, high speed trains, ports and pipelines across continent to mimic the ancient Silk Road trading routes. The project offers a clear economic opportunity, but the diplomatic ties that form as a result could have the potential to change the current world order. Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Kate Lamble (image: Local people control their sheep and goats on the Karakoram highway in northern Pakistan, part of the new Silk Road. Credit: Aamir Queeshi/AFP/ Getty Images)

Is the Greatest Threat to Putin Really Alexei Navalny?  

On 12 June 2017 thousands of protesters took to the streets in over 160 towns and cities across Russia. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on people to march against corruption from Kaliningrad in the west to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the east, in bustling cities and significantly, in rural towns where support for President Putin is strong. This is unusual. Protests are usually restricted to the urban elites in Moscow. So who is Navalny and how has he managed to bring so many people out on the streets? Our expert witnesses assess the strength of the opposition movement in Russia. They explain that the protests reveal a greater threat to Putin. The mobilisation of a young generation who do not believe what they see on state TV and are turning to opposition politics online instead. Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producers: Phoebe Keane and Estelle Doyle (Photo: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during a rally in Lyublino, a suburb of Moscow, 20 September 2015. Credit: Getty Images)

How Do You Report Terrorism?  

When violent jihadis struck London last Saturday, the rolling news networks kicked quickly into action. The story became front-page news around the world and dominated the UK's news media for days, with ever more information on the attack, the victims and the perpetrators. It was shocking, horrific - and perhaps also exactly what the terrorists wanted. Terrorists rely on the world's media to spread their message of fear and their ideology. Maybe if there was less media coverage of such attacks, it would frustrate the people behind them. We look at four democratic countries where attempts have been made to limit the media impact of terrorism. Drawing on the lessons learnt, how do you report terrorism? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Simon Maybin and Phoebe Keane (Photo: Various newspapers spread out headlining the London Terror attacks)

Is Work Too Easy?  

Many of us find our jobs stressful, underpaid and the hours too long. But few would complain about work being less physically strenuous than in the past. And yet, new research shows that the decline in physical activity at work is key to explaining the obesity epidemic. So - is work now too easy? And if it is, can this be reversed? Producers: Estelle Doyle and Phoebe Keane Presenter: Michael Blastland (Photo: Office workers at desks using computers in an office. Credit: Getty Images)

Does Poverty Change The Way We Think?  

Does the experience of poverty actually take a physical toll on your brain? The Inquiry investigates the scientific claims that being poor affects how our brains work. It's well known that children from poorer backgrounds do worse at school. And adults who are poor are often criticised for making bad life decisions - ones that don't help them in the long-term. Some say the problems are rooted in the unfair way our society functions. Others argue it's simple genetics. But a growing body of research suggests that something else may be going on too. The Inquiry assesses the evidence and asks: does poverty change the way we think? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producers: Simon Maybin and Phoebe Keane (Photo: Concept of human intelligence with human brain on blue background. Credit: Shutterstock)

How Did Immigration Stop Being a Political Taboo in the UK?  

Brexit showed that the issue is now among the most important for British voters. And that’s likely to continue in June’s UK general election, as major parties have made their positions on immigration central to their campaigns. And yet for decades, immigration was a no-go area for mainstream debate. Following racial tensions in the 1960s, it came to be perceived as a proxy for racism. Today it is one of the most salient issues in British politics. What changed? Producer: Estelle Doyle Presenter: Ruth Alexander (Photo: Border Force check the passports of passengers arriving at Gatwick Airport in London, England. Credit: Getty images)

How Did Venezuela Go From So Rich To So Poor?  

Once the richest country in South America, Venezuela is now in deep economic crisis. Children in school are fainting from hunger; patients are dying from the lack of basic medicine. As prices spiral out of control, cash is carried not in wallets, but in backpacks. Street protests over the crisis are growing in size and frequency - and the government's response becoming ever more authoritarian. Yet in 1970, Venezuela was among the wealthiest countries in the world. It was held up as a beacon of democracy and stability - an example of a successful developing economy that turned oil resource wealth into riches. So what went wrong? How did Venezuela go from so rich to so poor? Presenter: Linda Yueh Producer: Simon Maybin (Photo: A father and daughter rest while someone holds their place before sunrise in a long line to buy basic foodstuffs at a supermarket in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Credit: Getty Images)

How did North Korea get the Bomb?  

Tensions between the US and North Korea are running high. Kim Jong-Un has been testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. The Trump administration wants Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programmes and has said “all of our options are on the table” in pursuit of that goal. North Korea has said that a "super mighty pre-emptive strike” is planned if the US uses military force against them. But – our question this week – how did this poor and isolated country develop nuclear weapons in the first place? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producers: Kate Lamble, Phoebe Keane and Estelle Doyle (Photo: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets scientists and technicians in the field of researches into nuclear weapons. Credit: Reuters)

Is Inequality About to Get Unimaginably Worse?  

Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, explores the long history of inequality – from the Stone Age onwards – and asks whether we are on the brink of creating a huge “economically useless” underclass, unable to keep up with enhanced humans, the owners of increasingly valuable data and, eventually, artificial intelligence. Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Estelle Doyle Editor: Richard Knight (Photo: Yuval Noah Harari, Credit: Daniel Thomas Smith)

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