How a conspiracy theory becomes 'real'

Growing up, PhD student Sarah believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Born into a devout evangelical Christian community, she draws on her religious past to understand the visceral belief people acquire in conspiracy theories — from PizzaGate to the 'stolen' 2020 U.S. election.

Can owning a dog be a 'selfish' pursuit? This academic thinks so

The way dogs are portrayed in literature reflects the problems in our real-world relationships to canines, says PhD student Molly Labenski, who says people want animals in their lives as “accessories” that can be easily discarded.

Scientists are closing in on why the universe exists

The mysterious ‘neutrino’ has a nickname: the ‘ghost particle.’ Benjamin Tam is finishing his PhD in Particle Astrophysics at Queen’s University. He takes us two kilometres deep below the earth’s surface where he and fellow scientists hope to watch neutrinos finally explain the universe’s existence.

Have insomnia? Blame the Romantic poets

Scientists still don't fully understand why and how insomnia strikes. But how we talk about the condition may be found in the works of those who first wrestled with the disorder frankly and openly: the poets of England's Romantic era.

Mass demonstrations in Iran rooted in decades of 'quiet acts of resistance'

As mass demonstrations continue to erupt across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, 19th-century journals of Iranian women reveal a 'hidden resistance' to authority. Safaneh Mohaghegh Neyshabouri studied these journals and observed how small acts of resistance can give root to massive social upheaval.

Legal hurdles for today's sexual assault victims took shape in Medieval England

Sexual assault victims in Medieval England faced some of the same types of challenges as they would today, says a researcher who studied 28 rape trials from 800 years ago. 

Retired military captain on a mission to better understand violent insurgencies

Retired army captain Cheng Xu left his 10 year military career to seek answers to a vexing question: how is it that some insurgencies turn violent and spiral into seemingly chaotic and unending horror, while others achieve their objectives and resolve with relative peace and speed?

How Jesus' foreskin became one of Christianity's most-coveted relics — and then disappeared

It's a relic deemed so taboo, the Vatican threatened excommunication to anyone who spoke of it. But for nearly 1,000 years before that, the 'holy foreskin' of Jesus Christ was widely considered to be the holiest of relics. IDEAS examines the story of an unlikely object of devotion.

Former inmate taps into her prison experience for 'groundbreaking' PhD research

The prison system amplifies and perpetuates the systemic disadvantages that incarcerated women are up against, argues University of Ottawa PhD student Rachel Fayter. She was incarcerated for more than three years and draws from her experience in jail to inform her ‘groundbreaking’ research into the resilience of criminalized women.

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

York University PhD student and master fencer, Aaron Miedema has been 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.

The Jezebel Problem: What 'bossy' women should know about language

PhD graduate Laura Hare taught herself Biblical Hebrew so she could analyze male and female speech patterns in the original text of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). She found the women characters consistently using language that shows deference to men. The only female biblical character who fully speaks ‘like a man’ also became an archetype of evil — Queen Jezebel.

How refugee fathers cope with conflict trauma and resettling

Adnan Al-Mhamied was once a political dissident living in Syria. After the country collapsed into war, he fled to Montreal with his family and studied towards a master's in social work. His research reveals the 'silent suffering' of men who have escaped conflict zones with their families and resettled in an unfamiliar country.

The Life Course — trauma, migration and 'renoviction' in Vancouver

PhD student Mei Lan Fang's parents survived the Cultural Revolution and immigrated to Canada with dreams of settling in a country where human rights are protected and social mobility is possible. After years of financial struggle in Vancouver, the family verged on homelessness. Mei uses her family's own experience of migration from China to help her understand the life struggles of Vancouver's marginalized seniors in a virtually impossible housing market.

Wrestling with the Stoics: Tips from a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu philosopher

Michael Tremblay holds a black belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and competes at world championships. He is also a PhD student in philosophy at Queen's University, who’s studying Stoicism. In fact, he hopes to become a Stoic ‘sage’ himself, and focuses his work on the 1st-century Greek philosopher, Epictetus, whom he sees as a kind of life coach.

Ideas from the Trenches: Call out to PhD students!

Call out for submissions. We want to turn your PhD research into a 54-minute Ideas episode. It would be part of our regular feature on the program called "Ideas from the Trenches."

The resistance of Black Canada: State surveillance and suppression

Canada's history of suppressing Black activism is coming to light like never before, thanks to researchers like PhD student Wendell Adjetey. Wendell's historical research uncovers evidence of clandestine government surveillance in the 20th century, while also bringing to life overlooked parts of this history.

The edge of musical thinking: Capturing the spirit of tango and vibrato

There’s a purity to music. It takes us into its own world, far removed from frustrations and challenges of daily life. But hidden within those innocent-sounding musical flourishes, there often lies a history of passionate disagreement.

This former magician uses the power of suggestions to help heal real-life disorders

As a professional magician, Jay Olson mastered the art of illusion, deception and the power of suggestion. Now, as a PhD student in psychiatry at McGill University, he hopes the skills he's used to entertain people can also be used to heal them.
Ideas Afternoon

How Cold War anxiety and citizen science fuelled Canada's massive UFO report files

Researcher Matthew Hayes is looking into nearly 15,000 pages of documents detailing UFO sightings. He hopes to learn more about what these sightings, and the obsessive documentation of them, say about the nature of science and observation.

Decolonization: The Next 150 on Indigenous Lands

Canada’s celebration of its 150th birthday has provoked a lot of mixed feelings. When Canada was created, the government was committed to eradicating the First Nations people who occupied the land for thousands of years—a fact we now acknowledge but have barely begun to reckon with.

Undoing Linguicide: The legal right to the survival of Indigenous languages

Lorena Fontaine is battling to revive aboriginal languages -- languages that have been quashed and brought to the brink of extinction by Canada's residential school system. She is completing her PhD at the University of Manitoba, and argues that Canadian Indigenous communities have a legal right to the survival of language. For her, it's a race against time that must not be lost.

The dangerous game: Gamergate and the "alt-right"

Emma Vossen’s love of gaming started when she was a kid growing up in small-town Ontario. Now as a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo Games Institute, she looks to gamer culture as a microcosm of how sexism is seeded and replicated within broader society, and she draws connections between gamer culture and the rise of the political extreme right.

The Post-Modern Chimpanzee's Guide to Parenting

Evolutionary anthropologist and University of Toronto PhD student Iulia Badescu spent a year camped out in a Ugandan jungle to observe chimp parenting. She noticed behaviours that didn't quite fit the way chimp parenting has traditionally been documented.

Yes and No: The problem of bad referendums

From Brexit to Turkey, the use of referendums is on the rise around the world. They're seen as a way of getting politicians and experts out of the way to let 'the people' decide on major policy decisions, and making democracy work more directly. Leah Trueblood is a PhD student at Oxford University. She warns that ill-conceived referendums are actually dangerous for democracies.