7.26.16: Smart Drugs, Dinos Didn't Roar, & Slave Narratives

Jul 26, 2016

If you could take a pill that would enhance your concentration, increase your productivity, and reduce your stress levels, would you do it? Or is that cheating? On today’s show, the science and ethics behind a growing class of so-called "smart-drugs". 

Plus, a portrait of bias: in the aftermath of the great depression, the WPA commissioned hundreds of interviews with former slaves and descendants of slaves and recorded their stories as part of the Federal Writer's Project. However, the circumstances under which the interviews were collected have given researchers pause.

Listen to the full show.

Smart Drugs in the Workplace

Drugs traditionally prescribed for patients with ADHD to treatments for narcolepsy are already popular as study aids for college students. Now, nootropics, or "smart drugs" are on the rise by American workers looking to enhance their cognitive abilities.

Carl Cederström  is an associate professor at Stockholm University and the co-author of The Wellness Syndrome. He wrote about the ethical dilemmas surrounding the growing use of "smart drugs" for The Harvard Business Review.

Related: "Like it or Not, Smart Drugs Are Coming to the Office"  

The Sounds of Dinosaurs

No creature has the human imagination quite like the king of the dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus rex.  The giant lizard dominates natural history museum halls. Artists and CGI film teams present T-rex as an enormous powerful lizard, sprinting, tiny arms flailing, gaping mouth exposing an artillery of sharp teeth--and of course, its menacing, trademark roar.

But what if we got all that wrong?

Ben Guarino is staff writer for The Washington Post where he wrote about new findings that real dinosaurs sounded a lot--well, different--than the ones we heard in Jurassic Park

Related: "Thinks Dinosaurs Roared Like in 'Jurassic Park'? The Truth, New Research Says, is Much Wimpier"

We also talk to professional paleoartist and book illustrator Scott Hartman about why kids' books are slow to update their dinosaurs based on current scientific evidence. 

Flat Earthers

Seeing is believing, they say, which is one explanation for why science-deniers push back against phenomena like climate change or evolution, which may not be obvious to on a day-to-day basis, or visible to the naked eye. Of course, germs aren't visible to the naked eye either, but we've all come to accept the presence of micro-organisms.

Regardless, there is one anti-science conspiracy theory that's made headlines recently, that even the most ardent climate change deniers may have trouble accepting. Levi Sharpe has the story.

Related: More audio stories from Levi Sharpe

Slave Narratives From the Federal Writers' Project

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration commissioned hundreds of people to interview Americans and record their stories as part of the Federal Writers' Project. In the 1930s, many of those interviewed had been slaves; they, and others, remembered life in the south under slavery, and the dawn of the Jim Crow south. The WPA collection remains one of the largest surviving collections of first-person testimony on slavery. Yet the circumstances under which the interviewers were collected gives many researchers pause - and prompted Rebecca Onion to ask about the role racism played.

Rebecca Onion  is a Slate staff writer covering new historical research, she wrote about the WPA’s collection of slave narratives.

Related:

"Is the Greatest Collection of Slave Narratives Tainted by Racism"

History of American Slavery Podcast