The Wasp & the Caterpillar, Catfish Regulations, & Reducing Transphobia

Jan 20, 2017

In Australia, there is a small marsupial called the antechinus. It looks a lot like an ordinary mouse, but it has an extraordinary life-cycle. On today’s show, we discover a host of incredible organisms that illustrate the absurdity and elegance of evolution.

Plus, what happens when we confront transphobia face to face? We'll hear about a new study that followed a group of door-to-door canvassers, and quantified what we you already may suspect: conversation is an effective tool for empathy and persuasion.

Listen to the full show:

The Wasp and the Caterpillar

Evolution is the most majestic problem-solving force on the planet. But it also creates problems. Take the Surinam toad. After an undersea mating ritual that involves copious somersaults, the fertilized eggs are deposited on the female's back. The mama frog's skin grows around them - protecting her progeny from predators - until they emerge in a way that Wired's science writer Matt Simon describes as "a not okay thing for humans to witness."

Humans can witness a parade of eccentric life forms that have not perished, but adapted in remarkable and bizarre ways in Matt’s new book, The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution's Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life's Biggest Problems.

Bipartisan Catfish Regulation

The docket for the Trump administration's first 100 days is loaded with a few stridently partisan issues including the affordable care act, climate change and trade policy.  But there still a few issues with bipartisan support that legislators are united in challenging as soon as possible - including the regulatory status of catfish. Yes, catfish. It turns out that the bottom feeding fish has political connections in high places.

Cara Giaimo is a staff writer for Atlas Obscura who looked into the strange political battle over how catfish should be regulated.

I Want To Read at the White House

The inauguration is just days away - and for the past several weeks, which artists are choosing to - or not to perform - is being closely watched and discussed. Toby Keith and Three Doors Down are in - Tony-award winning actress Jennifer Holliday backed out.  Perhaps that leaves an open spot for poet and columnist Joshua Clover, an alum of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, who says he's game for a presidential reading - sort of. Here he is discussing, and then reading his poem, "I Want to Read at the White House."

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org. 

Reducing Transphobia

In 2014, a study showing that a twenty-minute conversation with a gay or lesbian canvasser could reduce homophobia, and get opponents of gay marriage to switch sides was published to lots of fanfare. This appeared to be proof that human interaction and dialogue could influence public opinion.

The study was later retracted after the author admitted to fabricating some of the results. It was kind of a big scandal. Now a new study, by the same researchers that debunked the first one, may have succeeded in validating those early results—this time with the trans community.

Josh Kalla is a PhD in political science at the University of California at Berkeley, co-authored the study called "Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-To-Door Canvassing".

David Fleischer is a project director at the leadership lab, which organized the door-to-door canvassing featured in both studies.

Google's Impact on Hate

Stumped on a state capitol? Can't remember name of a favorite childhood tune? Use the Googles. Google is the world's most popular search engine slash curator of information. But that doesn't mean the results are true. Try Googling: "did the Holocaust happen?" or "is the Holocaust real?" and prepare for a barrage of fake news from Holocaust deniers and white supremacist websites. Melanie Ehrenkranz  is a tech reporter for the news site, Mic. She looked into how Google's algorithm is being used as a tool for Nazi propaganda