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Innovation Hub


Each week, Kara Miller talks to our most innovative thinkers, examining new ideas and potential solutions to today’s many challenges. Topics range from education to health care to green energy.

Each week, Kara Miller talks to our most innovative thinkers, examining new ideas and potential solutions to today’s many challenges. Topics range from education to health care to green energy.


Boston, MA





Each week, Kara Miller talks to our most innovative thinkers, examining new ideas and potential solutions to today’s many challenges. Topics range from education to health care to green energy.




FDR’s Overhaul: The New Deal and Its Lasting Legacy

In the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned on a platform that would bring radical change to America: a package of policies he called the New Deal. The New Deal completely reinvented our infrastructure and central government, according to Eric Rauchway, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, and author of the book Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal. He says that the effects of FDR’s revolutionary plan...


Battles Over Barbie: The Question of Intellectual Property

When Carter Bryant invented Bratz dolls, Mattel (the makers of Barbie) took its former employee to court, claiming he had come up with his ideas on the company’s time. Bratz were the first dolls to successfully compete and - in some places - outsell Barbie. Orly Lobel, a law professor at the University of San Diego, has written about the lengthy and costly legal fight Mattel and Bryant engaged in over Bratz in her book: You Don’t Own Me: The Court Battles That Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side....


Political Teamsmanship

Politics in the United States has long been dominated by two main groups – the Republicans and the Democrats – but, in recent decades, we’ve seen increasing divisiveness and conflict. Voters have become less concerned with what government does, and more interested in politicians they believe represent who they are. Lilliana Mason, assistant professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, and Marc Hetherington, professor of Political Science at the University of North...


Cracking the Code on Wall Street

Have you ever wanted to be rich? Really rich? Gregory Zuckerman, a special writer at The Wall Street Journal and author of “The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution,” shares the story of the mathematicians who cracked Wall Street’s code. Starting from humble beginnings in a strip mall on Long Island, NY, the hedge fund company that Simons started (where about 300 people work today) now pulls in more money in a year than companies like Hasbro and Hyatt...


Can You Hear Me Now?

At this very moment, you’re probably being inundated with noise. Whether the sound is something you chose, like music or our podcast, or something outside of your control, like traffic outside or planes overhead, you are essentially never enjoying true silence. According to David Owen, a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World,” all that noise is doing something to our brains; and it’s not very good news.


Funding the Cure: But For Whom?

In 1983, Congress passed the Orphan Drug Act which incentivized the development of treatments for rare diseases. Since passing, the legislation has helped to create hundreds of new treatments for rare diseases... but it may have also had some side effects. According to Dr. Peter Bach, a pulmonologist and intensive care physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the push towards finding cures for rare diseases has been so strong that drug companies are paying little attention to...


Tipping the Scales: How America Started Moralizing Food

It was once a virtue to have some excess weight, kids weren’t considered picky eaters, and the term “overweight” didn’t even exist. What changed? Helen Zoe Veit, an associate professor of history at Michigan State University, and author of “Modern Food, Moral Food: Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Early Twentieth Century,” joined us to talk about how America began to moralize the food that we eat — or don’t eat.


The Race for Nuclear Power

The heroism of D-Day is immortalized in history books, but far less attention is given to the individuals who worked undercover to prevent Germany from developing an atomic bomb during WWII. In his new book, The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb, science writer Sam Kean tells the stories of the men and women who made up the Alsos Mission, or the “Bastard Brigade.” They worked tirelessly to make sure Germany’s (impressive)...


The American Achievement of Advertising Apollo

After Russia sent a man into space, the United States didn’t want to be left behind. But getting a man on the moon wasn’t as easy as just saying we would. David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist and co-author of the book Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program talks about just what it took — from PR strategies to partnering with Walt Disney — to get enough support for the mission. Without the marketing and media attention, Scott thinks, we couldn’t have landed on the...


The Myth of the Gendered Brain

It’s no secret that men and women are different — it’s the punchline of a hundred jokes. But does our sex really show in our brains, or is there something else at play? Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist at Aston University in the U.K. and author of “Gender and Our Brains,” argues that sex doesn’t play nearly as big a role in influencing our brains as we might think. Rather, she says, social cues likely start to influence children at very, very young ages - and it is those cues that account for...


Leland Stanford: an American Disruptor

When you hear the name “Stanford,” chances are a certain university in Palo Alto, CA will come to mind. But you may be less familiar with the story of Leland Stanford, the university’s founder. As a railway entrepreneur and key player in West Coast politics, Stanford lived a controversial life that changed the history of California, strengthened a divided nation, and planted the seeds for the rise of Silicon Valley.


The Death of the Corporate Welfare State

In 1956, a book was published. It was called The Organization Man, and it was hugely influential. It described a world that was something like a “corporate welfare state.” A world in which, if you were able to land a job at a big industrial company like Ford or GE, you essentially had a stable job for life, with a decent salary, benefits, vacation days, and health care. If you’re under 40, this may seem like science-fiction, but it described the economy as the author saw it. So what drove...


The Story Behind Wikipedia

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” The urgency behind this sentiment is stronger than ever at a time when misinformation is everywhere. So how has Wikipedia, famous for allowing anyone to edit, become a paragon for truth? Andrew Lih, author of “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia” and the Wikimedia Strategist for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, breaks down where Wikipedia came from, how it works, and where...


Becoming An Effective Learner

You’ve probably experienced this: it’s high school, the night before an exam, and you’ve got a 500-page textbook in your left hand and highlighters in your right hand. You have highlighted all the important information in the book, and there isn’t a whole lot of white space left. Unfortunately, you’re not sure that you’ve absorbed any of the material in a meaningful way. Turns out, there is little evidence that highlighting and underlining material in books is a good strategy for successful...


When It Comes to Learning Language, Age Isn’t Just A Number

Learning a second language is tough. You have to consider grammar, pronunciation, and, sometimes, words that don’t even exist in your native language. And the conventional wisdom had been: if you want a child to learn a second language, start them as young as possible. But a new study has found that there’s a little more leeway than we originally thought. We talk with Boston College assistant psychology professor Joshua Hartshorne about his and his colleagues’ research and what it means for...


Do Extracurricular Math Programs Add Up?

The U.S. does not fare well in math when compared with other industrialized nations, as demonstrated by international tests like the PISA. So, for parents who want to help their students get ahead in math and can afford it, after-school programs that focus deeply on the subject have become attractive. There are plenty of extracurricular math programs around, but one run by the Russian School of Mathematics (RSM) for students from kindergarten through 12th grade, is particularly popular,...


From Giving In To Giving Up: A Neuroscientist’s Journey from Addiction to Recovery

From the moment that Judith Grisel started drinking alcohol at age 13, she was hooked. For the next ten years, Grisel suffered from addiction, as she used drugs from marijuana to opiates to psychedelics. As a recovering addict and neuroscientist, Grisel learned that she was especially vulnerable because she was genetically predisposed to addiction. (She is one of many who are susceptible to the disease.) Grisel, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University and the author of “Never...


Inventing A United States Of Europe

The European Union is now a vast political and economic union of 28 member countries and, with more than 500 million people, its combined population is the third largest in the world after China and India. But the European Union did not begin as a large political project – rather as a series of small steps in an American effort to promote postwar security, according to Mark Blyth, professor of international economics at Brown University. As politicians in Britain struggle with the details...


Loons that Shoot for the Moon

Loonshot (n): a neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged We all know of moonshots, a grand idea we can get behind. But we sat down with Safi Bahcall, a physicist and former biotech entrepreneur, to understand a counter term he came up with: loonshots. Bahcall claims many ideas and innovations, when they are first proposed, are seen as mere fantasies from the minds of slightly (or very) crazy people. From the telephone to the computer, several game-changing...


Why Aren’t We Happier?

Experiences of mental illness are common in the United States and behind each individual case is a history. In his book, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry, Randolph Nesse, the director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University, looks at emotional and mental disorders from an evolutionary perspective, and considers why natural selection left us with fragile minds.