Word of Mouth

Airs at 2 pm Monday through Thursday, weeknights at 9 pm, and noon on Sundays.

Word of Mouth is the sound of new ideas, hosted by Virginia Prescott

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or find us on Stitcher.

Looking for our Song of the Day? Click right here.

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Why is six scared of seven? Because seven, eight, nine. Jokes like this are only one example of the ways that we humans like to assign personality traits to the numbers that dictate our world. Today, we explore this seemingly universal tendency to create emotional associations with numbers. 

Then, is tipping culturally determined? Freakonomics investigates the nuances of tipping in the United States with the help of Cornell professor Michael Lynn.

Plus, Botox is well known for freezing the faces of many a Hollywood starlet, but how about freezing out negative emotions? We hear from journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner about how Botox is being used to treat depression.

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Bombs on bats and dolphin mine sweepers.  First, we learn about the Navy’s long-running acoustic warfare program...mimicking mammals for weaponry.

Plus, we know where your cat lives. An artist uses all those adorable cat photos on the internet to pinpoint your location.

And, want to make sure your face isn’t recognized on surveillance cameras? All it takes is a little make-up and creativity. Today we’re looking at the digital footprints we leave all over the internet.

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Facial recognition software is now everywhere - in airports, stores, on our gadgets and on social media. The goal is improving security and improving public safety, but along with our growing dependency on biometrics comes a problem: not all faces are treated equally. Today, the inherent bias of facial recognition software.

Plus, are we at the end of the app bubble? We'll hear why, less than ten years after the app store launched, small and medium sized developers are getting squeezed out. 

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Millennials are obsessing over a show about a group of twenty-somethings living their lives and making mistakes in New York City. No, it isn’t Girls, Broad City  – in fact you've probably have seen an  episode of this show...or two...or maybe two hundred. Today, the surprise resurgence of Friends.

And from low-brow sitcoms to high-brow performance - at nearly 20 epic hours, Wagner's Ring Cycle is rarely staged outside of the world's premiere opera houses. We'll hear about one man's mission to condense the masterpiece for local audiences.

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Facial recognition software is now everywhere - in airports, stores, on our gadgets and on social media. The goal is improving security and improving public safety, but along with our growing dependency on biometrics comes a problem: not all faces are treated equally. Today, the inherent bias of facial recognition software.

Plus, once the drug of choice for dropping out of the rat race, LSD is now being touted as a "hot new business trend".  We'll talk to a journalist who tried out the new Silicon Valley method of taking tiny doses of acid to improve performance at work. 

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With the final four now chosen, the frenzy of March Madness is more or less over - and by now, your bracket...may not be looking so good.  But what were the chances you'd get it right anyway? Despite the odds, some folks have managed to take their brackets pretty darn far. Today, we look at three very different strategies for predicting college ball.

And, from waiting for rides at Disney World, to standing for days in hopes of getting the first iPhone, we'll explore at the relatively short history of everybody's least favorite activity: waiting in line.

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While Trump leads in delegates, the Republican Party has yet to coalesce around him as nominee...and many are predicting a contested convention...which is what exactly? Today, we'll talk to a political scientist about the nuts and bolts of how a contested convention might go down. 

Also today, a philosopher on why, despite historically unprecedented access to information and knowledge, we'll never be able to Google our way to the truth.

Plus, are we at the end of the app bubble? We'll hear why, less than ten years after the app store launched, small and medium sized developers are getting squeezed out. 

The Caped Crusade, Dark Heart, & Alexander Chee

Mar 25, 2016
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Today, from TV's campy crusader to the Dark Knight, Batman has been reflected American anxieties and social norms for almost 80 years. We'll explore his appeal as a mere mortal among superhumans, making him a magnet for our heroic dreams. 

Then, the phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads" has long been a critique of journalism, but a new book of pulp-fiction style stories by New England reporters plays up the lurid, sensational, side of following crime. Today, we'll talk to two of the veteran reporters behind Murder Ink.

Plus, a pair of true crime writers comb through the dark fantasies exposed at the trial of Seth Mazzalia.

Tamás Mészáros via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/eimCUu

The phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads" has long been a critique of journalism, but a new book of pulp-fiction style stories by New England reporters plays up the lurid, sensational, side of following crime. Today, we'll talk to two of the veteran reporters behind Murder Ink.

Also today, a look back at the roots of film noir, and a pair of true crime writers comb through the dark fantasies exposed at the trial of Seth Mazzalia.

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No bullying, no questionable photos, no posting after hours. When it comes to social media, parents often set strict rules for their kids, but ignore the same guidelines themselves . Today, why kids want more rigid boundaries for what their parents post online.

Plus, a new federal guideline requires schools to test students for at least one non-academic measure... Traits like empathy, self-control, and one important quality that education scholars are calling "grit".  Put how do you score on a child's personality?

Plus, a conversation with James Felice of the folk and country-rock band, the Felice Brothers.

M. Sharkey

Alexander Chee is a careful craftsman of language. As we came to find out, when we talked to him from Argot Studios in NYC, he is as measured, unassuming and thoughtful in his speech. A retiring man, who prefers to write in transient spaces, he also just so happens to have penned the most hotly anticipated literary novel of 2016 - The Queen of the Night, a sophomore work fifteen years in the making*.

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This weekend Batman and Superman will face off in multiplexes across America. It will be, as the trailer promises, a classic set-up.

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In 2013, journalist Adrienne LaFrance scanned her own reporting and found that only 25% of people mentioned in her reporting were women. Two years later she did the same thing. The result was…disappointing. Today, a reporter owns up to perpetuating gender bias.

Then, from TV's campy crusader to the Dark Knight, Batman has been reflected American anxieties and social norms for almost 80 years. We'll explore his appeal as a mere mortal among superhumans, making him a magnet for our heroic dreams. 

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Bullying, R-rated topics and shouting matches during presidential debates have left some Americans wondering whatever happened to civility in politics?  But in the British Parliament, being rude is a long-standing tradition. Today, a history of Parliament's bad manners.

Also, while we usher in spring with a last minute nor'easter, we’re looking back at the most devastating storm in New England history: the hurricane of 1938. 

Plus, a tech reviewer looks at a hot new item in the world of consumer drones.

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Baby Boomers like to thumb their nose at Millennials for being entitled narcissists who refuse to grow up, and Millennials tend to poo-poo the Boomers because they're out of touch old folks. But one group seems to get left out of the conversation entirely. Today, what ever happened to Generation X?

Then, many people would rather just say nothing than take a stab at saying something shallow, boring, or potentially offensive, but small talk does have its merits. So what are they? 

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Studying medicine requires intelligence, discipline and considerable expense, making it one of the most prestigious professions in America. But that wasn’t always the case.  We take a look into the shady practices that lead the people of New York City to riot against doctors in the eighteenth-century. 

Agustín Nieto via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/nSseJW

Gluten-free? Olive or coconut oil for cooking? Mediterranean or paleo? If nutrition is a science, why does the research vary so wildly, and why all the zany correlations between who we are and what we eat? On today’s show, faith, party affiliation and other fictions from food science.

Plus, truth in advertising? Think again. From TV ads, to menus and billboards, we all know food photography looks too good to be edible- today we'll hear the truth behind those perfectly crisped turkeys, immaculately sculpted ice cream cones, and more.  

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Today, what's the point of being internet famous if you can't pay the bills? We’ll talk to a YouTube star about the sad economics of internet celebrity.

Plus, "Cash for Your Warhol",  the story of a fake business that became surprisingly real.

3.14.16: Lists of Note & The Ghost in the MP3

Mar 14, 2016
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Grocery lists, to-do lists, guest lists – human beings are compelled to put things into manageable order…and sometimes the result is anything but mundane. Today we look at some of the most memorable lists ever written – from Walt Disney’s un-used dwarf names, to a day in the life of country legend Johnny Cash. 

Overheard: March Edition

Mar 11, 2016

Amid the barrage of “best of” lists at the end of last year, the Word of Mouth team shared some of our favorite audio of 2015.

The list included moments from comedy podcasts, multi-media websites, and public radio programs.

We had such a blast doing that, that we thought we'd expand that a bit and share bits of lost and found sound available online each month.  

David Hale Smith via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/ecEZWt

From solitary poets to reclusive painters, loneliness is a rich vein for artists. Today, writer Olivia Laing meditates on this essential part of the human condition.

Then - we'll talk to the designer behind one of NASA's viral ad campaigns, a beautiful set of travel posters that put a mid-century spin on the future of space tourism. And, we’ll delve into the history of the iconic NASA logo known as "the meatball" and its doomed successor "the worm.”

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The life of a 'repo man' is always intense; just imagine the stakes on the high seas. On today’s show, we’ll dive into the murky world of maritime "repo men", hired to recover ships stolen and scrubbed to hide their identity by gun runners, human traffickers, and pirates.

Plus, does a crunchier-sounding potato chip taste better? Scientists are exploring how the senses are heightened by working together. 

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Business schools call it Enya-Nomics – after the new-age icon who's defied every record industry trend. Today, how Enya manages to keep selling more records than Beyoncé without touring, tweeting, talking to the press, or even leaving her Irish refuge.

Then, the very active history of sleep music. 

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Mid-life crises are embarrassing and all-too-common...but surely not among the prudent judges of nation's highest court? On today’s show, a former court clerk's new novel imagines a Supreme Court justice going off the rails.

Then, we'll hear about how today's gyms are building personal bathrooms and shower stalls for body shy millennials -- one writer thinks it's absurd for adults to fear getting undressed in front of others.

Jason Michael via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/9fEAzN

Baby Boomers like to thumb their nose at Millennials for being entitled narcissists who refuse to grow up, and Millennials tend to poo-poo the Boomers because they're out of touch old folks. But one group seems to get left out of the conversation entirely. Today, what ever happened to Generation X?

Then, many people would rather just say nothing than take a stab at saying something shallow, boring, or potentially offensive, but small talk does have its merits. So what are they? 

Kent Kanouse via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5oEJxb

Picture this: the nation listens spell-bound - to a stand-off on the interstate between state police, the national guard and an organized group...helicopters swirl in the sky. The rebels are angry, they're fortified by heavy machinery, a truckload of explosives and are threatening to break through every blockade the cops set up. 

Great Beyond via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5m1BwV

Things got so raucous at the 10th Republican primary debate that at one point, the closed captions couldn't keep up and simply read  "unintelligible yelling". Today, a seasoned debate moderator on how to keep onstage arguments civil.

Plus, searches for how to move to Canada spiked 350% on Super Tuesday. We'll find where Americans threatening to leave if Trump wins would go.

And later in the show: are human beings wired to be swindled? We'll explore the psychology of con artists and why people fall for them over and over again.

click-see via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/V62An

From the solitary writer to the reclusive painter, loneliness is a rich vein for artists. Today, Olivia Laing meditates on her own bouts of loneliness, what it has meant to the world's great creative minds and why such an essential human experience cannot be wholly worthless.

Then, a historian on what ads seeking the capture of runaway slaves reveal about the identity, character and lives of runaways. 

Chilli Head via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/5NjCc2

As Super Tuesday results came in last night, Google searches for how to move to Canada spiked 350%. Whether Obama in '08, or Trump in 2016, a surprising number of people threaten "if so and so gets elected, I'm outta here". But where would they go?  Today, when Americans commit  self-imposed political exile.

And there's no farther place to travel than outer space - we'll talk to the designer behind one of NASA's viral ad campaigns, a beautiful set of travel posters that put a fifties spin on space tourism. 

3.01.16: The Art of Moderating & the Confidence Game

Mar 1, 2016
Peter Roberts via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7MUrSR

Last week's debate among republican presidential candidates was so raucous that at one point, the closed captions couldn't keep up and simply read "unintelligible yelling". Today, a seasoned debate moderator sheds light on the tough task of keeping onstage arguments civil, and what makes for a great debate.

Then, are human beings wired to be swindled? Later in the show we'll explore the psychology of con artists and why it's so easy to fall for them.

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