Curious State

Curious State

Could we have domesticated a T-Rex? Is the mafia really that violent? Haven't all the possible songs been written by now? Unexpected gems of knowledge are hidden all around us. Let’s dig them up, one offbeat question at a time.

Episodes

August 9, 2022 18 min

The shows we refer to as guilty pleasures may be more insightful than we think. Danielle J. Lindemann, author of True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, takes us on a journey into ourselves.

A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • The character archetypes that make for compelling reality TV
  • Do people care that reality TV isn’t real?
  • The very first reality TV show (it’s almost 50 years old)
  • How reality TV builds community
  • Did...

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    Only 80 known cases of highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) exist. What's it like to remember almost everything that’s ever happened to you? Rebecca Sharrock shares her experience—and how her dreams revealed an incredible feature of HSAM. 

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • How she uses scent to relive positive memories
  • Rebecca’s first memory…at just 12 days old
  • What her dreams helped reveal about her memor...
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    Whales are textbook beauty and grace—and they’re a helluva lot of work to clean up when they die. Today, we’re diving into one of the most bizarre, smelly, and heartbreaking jobs in the world: working on a marine animal stranding response team.

    Thanks to Dr. Susan Barco and Dr. Alex Costidis at The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Program, here are a few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • The ...
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    Under the right conditions, hobbies and physical activities become deep play, taking on additional layers of meaning and personal significance. Historical figures, like Winston Churchill, relished his deep play. Which, for him, was painting. “I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body,” he said, “more entirely absorbs the mind.”

    Ol’ Churchill knew that his deep play was important not just for the fun of it, but for the pos...

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    Did know that—scientifically speaking—there’s no difference between a dove and a pigeon? Yet a dove’s more colorful counterpart has been dragged through the cultural mud. In doing so, we’ve missed out on the rich history and amazing features of this incredible creature. Andrew Blechman (author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird) is here to share the jaw-dropping details.

    A few curiosities y...

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    Over the next year, 56 million people around the world will die. That’s 106.6 per minute, 1.8 people every second, every day. That’s a lot of deaths. And it’s someone’s job to pick those people up and take them where they need to go. But who picks you up when you die?

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • Why’s there such a high divorce rate among morticians?
  • Why does the person who picks you up wear a suit and tie?
  • How did...
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    Sully. Miguel. Mr. Incredible. Nemo. Pixar has an extensive roster of characters who instantly capture our imaginations. But getting an impactful story to fall into place comes with big challenges—ones Pixar writers have to creatively spar with every day. And sometimes, those challenges hit back. 20-year Pixar storytelling veteran Matthew Luhn takes us on his journey into the writers’ room. 

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this ...

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    The First World War saw the dawn of fighting in the skies and advanced, savage warfare on the ground. Maimed soldiers lucky enough to survive were unlucky enough to live in a time when medical tech was vastly outpaced by war tech. That struggle to keep up meant uncertain futures for wounded soldiers—especially when it came to facial injuries. Medical historian Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris takes us behind the scenes of a medical revolutio...

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    In an age when eels were sometimes used as currency and castles pierced the sky, “thou” was all the rage. But over time, it disappeared from use. Where’d it go? And will it ever make a comeback? Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) helps us parse through the grammatical treasures of yore and solve the “thou” mystery once and for all.

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • The searing insults “thou” provided
  • The societal shift ...
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    Is sleep giving you the cold shoulder? What if you had a bedtime buddy? A platonic pal who could slow the thoughts running through your head and lull you to sleep every night? Enter Drew Ackerman (aka Dearest Scooter).

    His Sleep With Me podcast gets 3 million+ downloads every month. That’s over a hundred thousand people, every night, falling to sleep to Drew’s hypnotic voice and meandering tales. How does he do it? What’s the se...

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    Science is all around us. It's in our smartphones, the contours our of eyelids, the hidden rabbit nest in the backyard. But what if everything we’ve come to know about the world (and that the natural world knows about itself) disappeared? Could science itself go extinct? 

    Alie Ward of Ologies stops by to set the scientific record straight, and share why science is more than a path to answers—it's a gift of questions.

    A few cu...

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    Cemeteries are a rather new invention in human history, created only 10-15,000 years ago. We’ve come a long way from stopping to smell the proverbial roses… instead of rotting flesh. But how do these resting grounds for the deceased become tourist destinations for the living? Cemetery historian and author Loren Rhoads helps us dig up the truth.

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • Why a famous Paris cemetery “brought in”...
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    We humans love law and order. But what happens when non-humans go mucking around and chewing on our rules? Can animals actually break the law? Renowned science writer and raccoon super-fan Mary Roach has the answers. 

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • Do seagulls have it out for the pope?
  • What are laws for, anyway?
  • Laser scarecrows? Say what??
  • Did You Know?

    In 1451, a Swiss bishop took some leeches to court. His reason? T...

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    What do a crow and a glossy-eyed harbor seal named Monty have in common? 

    Us.

    Oftentimes, human interaction with animals is for the worse. But when it comes to animal rehabbers, the interaction is meant to get the animal back on its feet—or paws or claws or flippers—and release them back into the wild. Chip Harshaw, VP of Animal Care at The Virginia Aquarium, takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour to meet Monty and dives into the good,...

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    Five years ago, Dylan Marron (creator and host of Conversations with People Who Hate Me) started engaging his internet detractors in long-form conversations over the phone. What started as a coping mechanism has turned into a hit podcast, lessons from which he’s shared in his new book.

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • The four-word idea that’ll change how you approach all conversations
  • How you can apply what Dylan’s l...
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    Journalist SuChin Pak (co-host of Add to Cart) has been reporting on TV since she was 16 years old. If you watched MTV in the early 2000s, you saw her just about every day, interviewing the who's who of pop culture and music.

    Those celebrities, the ones who grace the silver screen and flood the airwaves with catchy tunes that burrow into your brain and never ever leave—are those people actually more interesting than the rest of ...

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    Dr. Mark Freestone, author of Making a Psychopath: My Journey into Seven Dangerous Minds, takes us into the mind of an infamous female psychopath—and the finicky, outdated, and often untrustworthy system that attempts to diagnose women like her.

    A few curiosities you’ll uncover in this episode:

  • The antiquated diagnosis process for psychopaths
  • The differences between how psychopathy manifests in male and female patients
  • Gritty details o...
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    Regret is our constant companion, tugging at our ears to remind us of our mistakes. Our follies. The kind of stuff we shove to the back of our brain fridge and hope it doesn’t stink up the house.

    But what if regret isn’t what we think?

    What if it’s actually the way to a happier, more fulfilling life?

    Daniel Pink, the author of such insightful classics as To Sell is Human and A Whole New Mindrolled up his sleeves and mined the deep, ...

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    The mafia and violence go together like a fist and brass knuckles. But is the mafia really as violent as pop culture would have us believe? Or are we being conned?

    Nicknamed "organized crime's worst nightmare," former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig earned his stripes through the prosecution of John Gotti Jr and other major mafia players. He’s here to set the record straight.

    A few curiosities you’ll discover in t...

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    Somewhere in the rows and rows of office cubicles that make up the emotional business of our brains, there’s one employee hellbent on burning the whole place down. Her name…is childhood. Is it possible to pry ourselves from her fiery grasp? Or are we destined to live with one hand on the fire extinguisher? Psychotherapist and bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb, offers a way to set our childhoods f...

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