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The dirt on handwashing: the tragic death behind a life-saving act

The resistance Ignaz Semmelweis encountered to his life-saving ideas would ultimately lead to his tragic end. With handwashing in the midst of a renaissance in the era of during the coronavirus era, Semmelweis deserves at least some of the credit.

How Northrop Frye's 'literary cosmos' can help us reimagine life in 2020

What good is the study of literature? Northrop Frye’s 1962 CBC Massey Lectures were his attempt to answer that age-old question. Frye scholar and friend Deanne Bogdan revisits the lectures and helps us map Northrop Frye’s expansive vision of literature, life, and human nature.

Why nations rely on geometry to create order

The story of geometry is bound up in the Renaissance, the rise of nation states, and the expression of absolute power. Geometric designs came to represent order in the universe. But order’s war with chaos continues — just compare the geometric plans for Washington, D.C., with the lived reality. Historian Amir Alexander traces the rise of geometry from Euclid to the United Nations.

From patriotism to recruitment: How Hollywood helped the U.S. military sell the War on Terror

As the Twin Towers lay in rubble after Sept. 11, former U.S. president George W. Bush's administration leveraged the influence of Hollywood celebrities to sway the public to rally around the flag.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

'I had tears in my eyes': Archaeologist Jean Clottes on the joy of decoding prehistoric art

The songs and stories of prehistoric humans are gone. All that remains of their culture is their art. IDEAS contributor Neil Sandell introduces us to the French archaeologist Jean Clottes, a man who’s devoted his lifetime trying to decipher the rich, enigmatic world of cave art.

Inside the teenage brain: How science is helping us understand adolescents

Teenagers can be erratic and emotional. But recent science may just have the answer to why teenagers are the way they are — and it's not just about hormones. This new understanding is changing the way some societies see teens and it may just lead to changing the boundary between teenager and adult.

From yesterday's 'spinster' to today's 'crazy cat lady,' has anything really changed?

Throughout history, single women have been vilified, ostracized and shamed. And while there are more single-person households in Canada than ever before, that lingering stigma still follows the single woman. CBC producer Alison Cook explores the social history of these "deviant" women in The Rise of the Glorified Spinster.

Olive Senior delivers prestigious 2019 Margaret Laurence Lecture: A Writer's Life

Olive Senior was born in Jamaica in 1941, the seventh of 10 children. She went on to become one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers. Hear excerpts from her 2019 Margaret Lawrence Lecture, readings of her work and a conversation with IDEAS producer Mary Lynk.

What cult classics can teach us about art, representation — and failure

They’re weird. They break the rules. They’re kinda bad. They are cult movies. Dive into the stories of films from ‘Troll 2’ to ‘The Last Dragon’ to the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ to learn what drives people to watch these oddball films again and again. Producer Matthew Lazin-Ryder looks at the history, future, and function of cult movies.

Why Hollywood turned broken men into heroes after the Vietnam War

America's losing the Vietnam War shattered the 'heroic myth' that Hollywood had spent decades creating, according to historians and researchers. What followed was an era of films attempting to recapture past glories.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

Neuroscience reveals how rhythm helps us walk, talk — and even love

Rhythm is of course a fundamental part of music. But neuroscience is revealing that it’s also a fundamental part of our innermost selves: how we learn to walk, talk, read and even bond with others. From heartbeats heard in the womb, to the underlying rhythmic patterns of thought, rhythm — as one researcher puts it — is life.

Yale astrophysicist on unlocking the mystery of black holes and dark matter

In 2019, the first up-close image of a black hole was recorded. And yet, so much about them, their bizarre properties and the role they play in the universe remains a mystery. The distinguished Yale astrophysicist Priya Natarajan dives into black holes and dark matter in her lecture and book: Mapping The Heavens.

Ojibwe writer seeks to 'undo' tragic view of Native American history

The massacre of over 150 Lakota at Wounded Knee in 1890 is often taken to be the “end” of Native American history — a notion unintentionally reinforced by Dee Brown's 1970 book, "I Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee." This idea of history as tragedy is something Ojibwe writer David Treuer tries to undo in "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee."

Think books make you smart? Think again

We tend to think that reading is a sign of intelligence, that we’re improved by it. But are our assumptions well-founded? Not really, according to an array of literary front runners including Fran Lebowitz and Nick Hornby. Writer Barbara Nichol explores the assumptions we have about reading, readers and books in a three-part IDEAS series.

The Rise and Fall of Bread: a simple staple with a complex legacy

Bread is a simple food and a staple item across the world. Bread is life. But for some, it represents a wrong turn in our species' evolution. Through conversation with bakers, religious leaders, historians and bread aficionados, IDEAS contributor Veronica Simmonds asks whether bread has led us to salvation or damnation.

How Hollywood became the unofficial propaganda arm of the U.S. military

Moviegoers likely have little idea just how close Hollywood was to the propaganda arms of the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency, experts say — a relationship which helped shape favourable perceptions of America and its war efforts, starting during the Second World War, through the Cold War and beyond.
Timeline

From WW II to War on Terror: How the U.S. military influenced these 21 Hollywood movies and TV shows

Here’s a look at some of the films made over the last 80 years that have been shaped by the relationship between Hollywood and the U.S. military.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

Milton's Paradise Lost: a survival guide for a fractured world

When we first meet Adam and Eve in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, they live in a perfect world. But by the end, they're expelled into one that is marked by exile, war, illness and death. IDEAS explores what the poem says to us about how to grapple with an uncertain future — and if we can find our collective way back home.

10 facts about coffee, the world's most popular drink

An ordinary cup of Joe just won’t do anymore. It’s now gourmet, fair trade and organic. Pour over, French press, or vacuum pumps. Contributing producer Marilyn Powell brings us her documentary, The Coffee Chronicles, about the cultural history behind the world's most popular drink.

How elite do-gooders 'fixing' the world are part of the problem: Anand Giridharadas

Should the world’s problems be solved by unelected elites? Surely these are decisions we all need to be part of. Anand Giridharadas argues if we don’t trust the institutions we have for fixing the world, then let's build better institutions — this time, from the bottom up.

Let's remove the blindfold from Lady Justice, argues Métis lawyer

Justice is not blind in Canada’s legal system, argues Métis lawyer Jean Teillet. She says it needs to view Indigenous people fully to render justice fairly.

The Desert: a well-spring of the imagination

Deserts cover nearly one-third of the earth's landmass but we're still unsure what to make of them. An empty wasteland or a beautiful landscape? IDEAS producer Matthew Lazin-Ryder explores our historically complicated — yet intimate — relationship with deserts.

Enright Files: What we should have learned from the SARS outbreak

Seventeen years before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, another mysterious, virulent respiratory illness suddenly appeared — SARS. On the Enright Files, conversations with public health experts from those unnerving times, as they were assessing what we learned from the SARS and Ebola outbreaks.
IDEAS AFTERNOON

'Finding wonder in the face of existential dread': Grandeur of the universe gives comfort to physicist

As the COVID-19 crisis trudges on, many are shifting their focus to the day-to-day struggles of living amid a global pandemic and away from an increasingly uncertain future.   

'We're not doing enough': Doctor urges equal health care for the most vulnerable

Co-founder of Partners in Health Dr. Paul Farmer says the COVID-19 pandemic offers many lessons and opportunities for the world, including a chance to reorient how we think about who deserves access to a high standard of health care.