Episodes
Published 06/02/22
The Experiment is coming to an end. For our final episode, we contemplate our strange, sometimes beautiful, often frustrating country. We go back to some of the people we met and fell in love with while making the show, and ask them how their version of the American experiment is going. A transcript of this episode is available.  Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at [email protected] This episode was produced by Alyssa Edes,...
Published 06/02/22
In The Atlantic’s new series How To Start Over, Olga Khazan takes listeners on a journey of reinvention. How To Start Over is your guide to navigating life’s gray areas, whether knowing it’s time to make a career switch, repairing strained family ties, or forging new connections in a post-pandemic world.   Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at [email protected]
Published 05/27/22
Deep in Yellowstone National Park, there’s a glitch in the U.S. Constitution where, technically, you could get away with murder. Lawmakers didn’t seem interested in fixing the problem until Mike Belderrain stumbled into the “Zone of Death” while hunting the biggest elk of his life. In a world with so many preventable deaths, The Experiment documents one attempt to avert disaster. This episode of The Experiment originally ran on February 4, 2021. A transcript of this episode is...
Published 05/26/22
In June 1964, at the height of the civil-rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan burned a Black Methodist church to the ground in the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and murdered three civil-rights workers in cold blood. This crime became one of the most notorious of its era, shocking the nation on the eve of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and later inspiring a Hollywood blockbuster: Mississippi Burning. But when the reporter Ko Bragg started questioning how this history is being preserved...
Published 05/19/22
At 19 years old, Aséna Tahir Izgil feels wise beyond her years. She is Uyghur, an ethnic minority persecuted in China, and few of her people have escaped to bear witness. After narrowly securing refuge in the United States, Aséna’s now tasked with adjusting to life in a new country and fitting in with her teenage peers.  This week on The Experiment, Aséna shares her family’s story of fleeing to the U.S., navigating newfound freedom, and raising her baby brother away from the shadows of a...
Published 05/12/22
Almost 30 years ago, a fed-up Manhattan-family-court judge named Judith Sheindlin was sitting in her chambers when she got a call from a couple of television producers. They pitched her the idea for a TV show with Judy at its center.  The result was Judge Judy, one of the most popular and influential television series ever made. Over its decades-long run, it beat out The Oprah Winfrey Show in ratings, led to the explosion of court TV, and influenced how large swaths of Americans think about...
Published 05/05/22
The Experiment introduces WNYC colleague Nancy Solomon's new podcast: Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery New Jersey politics is not for the faint of heart. But the brutal killing of John and Joyce Sheridan, a prominent couple with personal ties to three governors, shocks even the most cynical operatives. The mystery surrounding the crime sends their son on a quest for truth. Dead End is a story of crime and corruption at the highest levels of society in the Garden State.
Published 04/28/22
There’s a common story about abortion in this country, that people have only two options to intentionally end a pregnancy: the clinic or the coat hanger. They can choose the safe route that’s protected by Roe v. Wade—a doctor in a legal clinic—or, if Roe is overturned, endure a dangerous back-alley abortion, symbolized by the coat hanger. But a close look at the history of abortion in this country shows that there’s much more to this story. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear a case that...
Published 04/22/22
The national-park system has been touted as “America’s best idea.” David Treuer, an Ojibwe historian and the author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present, says we can make that idea even better—by giving national parks back to Native Americans. This episode of The Experiment originally ran on April 15, 2021. A transcript of this episode is available.  Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at...
Published 04/14/22
From the time she was a little girl, Marilyn Vann knew she was Black and she was Cherokee. But when she applied for citizenship in the Cherokee Nation as an adult, she was denied. What followed was a journey into a dark part of Cherokee history that not many people know about and even fewer understand: Vann and her family are descended from people who were enslaved by the Cherokee Nation. They were freed after the Civil War, but that wasn’t the end of their struggle. In 1866, the Cherokee...
Published 04/07/22
The fantasy writer Elsa Sjunneson has been haunted by Helen Keller for nearly her entire life. Elsa is Deafblind, and growing up, she couldn’t escape the constant comparisons. Then, a year ago, an online conspiracy theory claiming that Keller was a fraud exploded on TikTok, and suddenly, Sjunneson found herself drawing her sword and jumping to Keller’s defense, setting off a chain of events that would bring her closer to the disability icon than she’d ever dreamed she would be. For more than...
Published 03/24/22
James Sulzer has always loved building things. As a rehabilitation engineer, he spent years creating devices that he hoped would help patients recover from serious brain trauma such as strokes. And he believed strongly in the potential of rehab technology—that with the right robot, he could relieve a whole array of brain injuries.  But then, one spring day in 2020, there was a horrible accident. And suddenly James had to apply everything he knew about science and rehabilitation to help fix...
Published 03/17/22
As Putin invaded Ukraine last month, the Atlantic writer Franklin Foer found the Russian leader’s justification for violence uncanny. Putin referred to the “Nazification” of Ukraine—a distortion of history at best. But Franklin was told a similar story his whole life from his grandmother. This week, The Experiment tells the story of the Holocaust survivor Ethel Kaplan, and traces Franklin Foer’s own journey—how he once came to believe Putin’s myth, and his journey to Ukraine to debunk...
Published 03/10/22
The Experiment host Julia Longoria has always had a special relationship with Vicks Vaporub—the scent transports her right back to childhood, to days in bed with the flu at her grandmother’s house in South Florida. Julia and her cousins all knew not to tell grandma when they were sick, or they’d risk being slathered with “Vickicito.” Julia never had a reason to wonder why grandma loved Vicks so much, but this week’s episode reveals that grandma’s love for the product is deeper than Julia...
Published 02/24/22
Who are the people who make modern-day SPAM possible? You can find clues on the streets of downtown Austin, Minnesota. On weekend nights, across the street from the SPAM Museum, a Latin dance club fills with Spanish-speaking patrons. A taco truck is parked outside the Austin Labor Center. There’s a Sudanese market and an Asian food store. A new generation of workers has flooded the town for the chance to package some of America’s most iconic meat, and for many the town is a model of the...
Published 02/17/22
SPAM is at the center of one of the longest and most contentious labor battles in U.S. history. In 1985, workers at the Hormel Foods plant in Austin, Minnesota, went on strike, demanding better working conditions and stable wages. Generations of meatpackers had worked at the plant, some for most of their lives—and that gruesome, difficult work afforded them a sustainable, middle-class life. So when that way of life was threatened, they fought back. SPAM boycotts spread to cities and towns...
Published 02/10/22
During World War II, wherever American troops spread democracy, they left the canned meat known as SPAM in its wake. When American GIs landed overseas, they often tossed cans of SPAM out of trucks to the hungry people they sought to liberate. That’s how producer Gabrielle Berbey’s grandfather first came to know and love SPAM as a kid in the Philippines. But 80 years later, SPAM no longer feels American. It is now a staple Filipino food: a  beloved emblem of Filipino identity. Gabrielle sets...
Published 02/03/22
America, shall I compare thee to a can of SPAM? Thou art more decadent, salty and sweet, container of even greater mystery. In this three-part series, some of the meatiest questions the United States faces about how we work for the food we eat play out in the story of special processed American meat. The Experiment embarks on a remarkable journey to the heart of SPAM—from remote Philippine provinces, where American GIs disseminated the American dream through cans of SPAM, to Austin,...
Published 01/27/22
Rebecca Shrader had always thought that abortion was morally wrong. As a devout Baptist Christian, she volunteered at a clinic designed to discourage women from getting abortions. And when she got pregnant for the first time, she knew she would carry the baby to term, no matter what.  But when Rebecca’s pregnancy didn’t go as planned, she started to question everything she had always believed about abortions, and about the people who choose to have them. This episode of The Experiment was...
Published 12/16/21
On January 6, 2021, William J. Walker was head of the D.C. National Guard. He had buses full of guardsmen in riot gear ready to deploy in case Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally turned dangerous. But when rioters violently stormed the Capitol building, the Guard was nowhere to be found. Walker says he was forced to wait for three hours before his superiors allowed him to send in his troops. “My soldiers were asking me, ‘Sir, what the hell is going on?’” Walker says. “‘Are they watching the...
Published 12/09/21
This week, The Experiment takes a look at the charge that sent Anissa Jordan to prison for a crime she didn’t even know had been committed. We consider how the felony-murder rule disproportionately punishes youth of color and women, and the debate over whether the same rule is key to holding police officers responsible in the killings of civilians. This episode of The Experiment originally ran on April 29, 2021. A transcript of this episode is available. Further reading: “What Makes a...
Published 12/02/21
As the Vietnam War dragged on, the U.S. military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in its North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, it found one: an old Vietnamese folktale about a ghost, eternal damnation, and fear—a myth that the U.S. could weaponize. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, American forces set out to win the war by bringing a ghost story to life. Today, The Experiment examines those efforts and the ghosts that still haunt us. This story originally aired...
Published 11/25/21
Hollywood has a long history of “passing movies”—films in which Black characters pass for white—usually starring white actors. Even as these films have attempted to depict the devastating effect of racism in America, they have trafficked in tired tropes about Blackness. But a new movie from actor-writer-director Rebecca Hall takes the problematic conventions of this uniquely American genre and turns them on their head. Hall tells the story of how her movie came to life, and how making the...
Published 11/18/21
Was anybody willing to be a spiritual adviser to a Muslim man on death row? That’s the question that went out by email to a local group of interfaith leaders in Indiana. Nobody answered.  After a week without responses, the management professor Yusuf Ahmed Nur stepped forward. A Somali immigrant who volunteered at his local mosque, Nur would counsel Orlando Hall in the weeks leading up to his execution. But Nur didn’t expect he’d end up standing beside Hall in the execution chamber as he was...
Published 11/11/21