A legacy of firsts: How an Iranian mathematician transcended boundaries

Mathematics hasn’t been the easiest field for women to conquer but that never stopped Maryam Mirzakhani. Her legacy as the first woman and first Iranian to win the Fields Medal — the Nobel Prize of mathematics — proves that despite their small numbers, women can achieve great things in math.

The misunderstood Adam Smith gets both credit and blame for modern capitalism

The 18th-century philosopher Adam Smith is often called “the father of economics,” and sometimes “the father of capitalism.” IDEAS contributor Matthew Lazin-Ryder examines how Smith’s name has been used and abused to both defend and attack free-market economics since his death.

Education without liberal arts is a threat to humanity, argues UBC president

UBC president Santa J. Ono is a renowned biologist and award-winning professor but he says the liberal arts courses he took as an undergraduate gave him the wisdom he needed to flourish. He's concerned that the liberal arts are no longer held in high enough esteem in our society.

Rethinking menopause: Authors argue dreaded life change has an upside

Is The Change always “women’s hell?” Is it possible that the negative way we think about menopause has an effect on how women actually experience menopause? Writer Darcey Steinke and historian Susan Mattern reframe an often-dreaded transition, and reclaim the power of post-reproductive life.

People are turning to this late American philosopher in troubled times

Thanks to his politically centrist views, his praise for patriotism, and his disdain for talk of 'objective truth,' philosopher Richard Rorty succeeded in enraging progressives and conservatives alike. But his friends and fans believe the rage is largely misplaced. The real Rorty was a subtle, empathetic, moral thinker whose ideas could be the most useful contribution U.S. philosophy has to offer today's polarized and fractured democracies.

A chair is never just a chair: A social history of a ubiquitous household item, Part 2

In part two of our series, Machines for Sitting, Witold Rybczynski focuses on the modern chair. The Canadian architect and Nahlah Ayed visit the Design Within Reach furniture store in New York, to look at some of the most important designer chairs of the 20th Century.

A chair is never just a chair: A social history of a ubiquitous household item, Part 1

Architect Witold Rybczynski, author of Now I Sit Me Down, explores the social history of chairs, the stories chairs tell, and how they've changed through history in a two-part series. Part one focuses on ancient chairs with a tour through the historical collection of chairs at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Killer robots march into uncharted ethical territory

What happens if autonomous weapons fight our wars? What if they select and kill targets without any human intervention? The world is closer to this scenario than ever before. But there's no consensus on whether — or even how — it would ever be ethical. This episode delves into the complex conundrums of robot warfare.

The Enright Files: A deep dive into the complex, emotional lives of animals

The notion that animals are intelligent, thinking, feeling beings with rich and complex emotional lives is part of mythology and folklore. But now science is taking a second look at the behaviour of animals and reassessing the complexity of animal minds.

We must recapture the lost 'art' of scripture: Karen Armstrong

Former Catholic sister Karen Armstrong describes herself as a freelance monotheist. She focuses on the sounds, rituals and power of scripture, all of which she fears is endangered in our secular, digital age. She joins Nahlah Ayed to talk about recovering what she calls “the lost art of scripture.”

IDEAS schedule for January 2020

Highlights include: a former Catholic sister Karen Armstrong on recovering "the lost art of scripture." (Jan. 6); a two-part series on the social history of chairs (Jan. 9-10); a look at what can we learn from Darwin at this stage of civilization (Jan. 24); and making the case for a civic media manifesto (Jan. 23).

How to avoid conflict: Lessons from 16th century Italian duels

It's only when disputants are so 'pig-headed' as to not accept a sensible process of mediation that the duel takes place, according to York University PhD student and master fencer, Aaron Miedema. He's researching over 300 cases of duels from the 16th and 17th century. Turns out there are lessons for us from 500 years ago which may prove useful in today's climate of public blaming and shaming.

Animals under the law: What options are there for animals to 'lawyer up'?

Under the eyes of the law, animals that live in our homes or on a farm are ‘property.' But there's a growing movement to grant some animals like chimpanzees, elephants and dolphins 'non-human persons' status. Harvard Law School doctoral candidate Jessica Eisen thinks the law could do even better than that.

5 top researchers granted the 2019 Killam Prize — considered 'Canada's Nobel' award

Meet the five top Canadian scholars who won the 2019 Killam Prize. Lynne Viola exposes hidden stories of Stalin's Russia. Keith Hipel takes an engineer's approach to fixing the climate change debate. Yoshua Bengio is bringing us computers that learn and think. André Blais investigates what makes democratic elections work better. And Stephen Scherer is helping science read into the human genome.

Bright IDEAS for 2020: Our annual New Year's levee

There's a custom that started in New France where the colonial governor opened the doors of his mansion to people every New Year's Day, to share holiday cheer and listen to concerns and hopes for the future. So IDEAS has thrown open the studio doors, to hear from producers who are preparing shows for the next season.

Writers on a mission — 3 high-stakes stories from award-winning authors

Three Canadian writers read and reflect on the theme of troubled missions: Joan Thomas on her childhood as an evangelical Christian, Erin Bow on the self-sacrificing dedication of scientists, and Don Gillmor on the whys of suicide. All are winners of 2019 Governor General’s Awards.

Machines of Chance: How casino culture plays with us

We all know that "the house always wins," and yet continue to gamble against the odds. This documentary asks experts and observers to reflect on the casino as reality and metaphor. Skill versus luck, attention and distraction, fortune paired with loss: the casino reflects us, individually and culturally, back to ourselves.

How algorithms create a 'digital underclass'

There was a time when technology was perceived as neutral. But we now know the technology we thought would save us is actually recreating the same kinds of inequalities we were trying to redress in the first place. Princeton sociologist Ruha Benjamin asks if there's a way to create a new technological reality without a digital underclass.

Lessons off Broadway: Princeton professor dissects zeitgeist in musicals

The Broadway musical is an art form both beloved and maligned. Whether you love it or hate it, the Broadway musical has the power to tap into the zeitgeist, capturing and propelling social change. Princeton musical theatre scholar Stacy Wolf takes host Nahlah Ayed on a tour of the hidden power of musicals from the 1950s to today.

Get thee behind me, tech: putting humans before social media

Douglas Rushkoff witnessed the initial promise of the internet ⁠— a ‘social medium’ for thoughtful encounters and the democratizing of knowledge. It’s since become ‘social media’; a system that colonizes our minds and enriches a handful of ethically challenged developers. Rushkoff says we need to reaffirm that we are social beings, and reappropriate technology to support and cultivate what he calls ‘Team Human.'

If we abolish prisons, what's next?

Prison abolitionists say prison is a failed social policy. The cost of running prisons is climbing upward but it does nothing to address the root causes of crime or the harm those crimes do to society. Ultimately what it does is address the expected consequences of inequality and marginalization. So, maybe, the time has come to get rid of prisons altogether. If so, how do we move forward?

A walk through Diderot's Paris in search of understanding Enlightenment

French philosopher Denis Diderot was one of a small group of 18th-century thinkers who began to explore a radical new way of thinking about the totality of human knowledge. In his magisterial Encyclopédie, he proposed a new way of organizing everything we know and experience. In part 2 of his series, producer Philip Coulter takes a walk around Diderot's Paris.

The Enright Files: What does it mean to be Canadian?

As the discourse of diversity has become increasingly complex and heated, The Sunday Edition has grappled with questions of how we define ourselves as a country and what, if anything, we all have in common. This month on the Enright Files, conversations about the changing face of Canada and what it means for the social fabric of the country. 

Our fractured, fractious age in 1 sentence: Lucy Ellmann

Lucy Ellmann's Booker-nominated Ducks, Newburyport, captures our fractious, fractured age through the eyes of a likeable, pie-baking housewife in Ohio in an epic running 1,000 pages in a single sentence.

IDEAS schedule for December 2019

Highlights include: philosophical anthropologist Lorraine Daston on reclaiming nature as a moral guidepost (Dec. 5); a rare feature interview with former UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (Dec 12-13); examining prison abolition — has prison outlived its purpose? (Dec 18); the spirituality of the saxophone (Dec. 19); and author Stephen Law takes us through the philosophical quagmire of the holidays (Dec. 23).