The Experiment

The Experiment

The Atlantic and WNYC Studios
Society & Culture>Documentary
19 episodes
It’s easy to forget that the United States started as an experiment: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. That was the idea. On this weekly show, we check in on how that experiment is going. The Experiment: stories from an unfinished country. From The Atlantic and WNYC Studios. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. Since 1857, The Atlantic has been a magazine of ideas—a home to the best writers and boldest minds, who bring clarity and original thinking to the most important issues of our time.
  • The Columbia professor Carl Hart spent his career studying the effects of drugs, and uses heroin himself. In his book Drug Use for Grown-Ups, he argues that not only can drug use be safer, but that it’s our right.  This week on The Experiment: how villainizing drug use interferes with our right to l...
    Play28m 58s
  • In the face of death, grief, and indifference, what can people do to make a change? In trying to understand a year of tragedy and conflict, correspondent Tracie Hunte looks back 30 years to explore the U.S. AIDS epidemic and how protesters balanced rage and anguish with pointed and often painstaki...
    Play49m 46s
  • Katharine Smyth is 39 years old and has never, to her knowledge, had an orgasm. This fact didn’t worry her very much until her 30s, when a divorce and a series of dates with frustrated men made her think she might never find love again. So she embarked on a quest—diving deep into an industry desig...
    Play28m 36s
  • Lecrae Moore came up in a Christian culture deeply entwined with politics: Evangelicals were Republicans, and Republicans were evangelicals. As a Black college student, he found a sense of belonging in Bible study. His mentors and community were predominantly white and very conservative, but that di...
    Play38m 39s
  • These days, everyone assumes that this is just a fact of life: Evangelicals are Republicans, and Republicans are evangelicals. The powerful alliance culminated in the 2016 election of Donald Trump, tying the reputation of Christianity in America to the Trump brand—maybe permanently. It wasn’t always...
    Play38m 53s
  • Dating shows often push contestants to extreme measures in pursuit of love. Reality-show producers will impose fake deadlines, physical obstacles, and manufactured drama to create the juiciest spectacle. But on TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, a high-stakes and wildly popular reality show, the producers didn’t...
    Play31m 4s
  • One night in the spring of 2005, Anissa Jordan was sitting in a car in San Francisco while her boyfriend attempted to rob a young man nearby. Shortly after, police arrested both Anissa and her boyfriend. Anissa was detained and dressed in an orange jumpsuit before she learned that the young man had...
    Play41m 38s
  • In her fight for women’s rights, the then–ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg did something unexpected: She argued on behalf of men. “It didn’t matter to her if the plaintiff was a man or a woman,” says the Georgetown law professor Wendy Williams. “Because in most of those cases, the discrimination agai...
    Play54m 43s
  • The national-park system has been touted as “America’s best idea.” David Treuer, an Ojibwe author and historian, says we can make that idea even better—by giving national parks back to Native Americans. “By virtue of the parks returning to Native control, I would like people, when they’re standing a...
    Play23m 51s
  • The patients of the nurse practitioner and aspiring reality star Jeffrey Young say he helped them like nobody else could. Federal prosecutors who charged him in a massive opioid bust say he overprescribed painkillers, often for “money, notoriety, and sexual favors.”  Young’s case provides a rare gli...
    Play30m 52s
  • In 1902, a Swedish American pastor named Henning Jacobson refused to get the smallpox vaccine. This launched a chain of events that landed the Massachusetts pastor in a landmark 1905 Supreme Court case in which the Court considered the delicate balancing act between individual liberty over our bodie...
    Play36m 46s
  • Was anybody willing to be a spiritual adviser to Orlando Hall, a Muslim man on death row with a fast-approaching execution date? 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 Yu...
    Play28m 16s
  • Do Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Cubans share an identity? The answer wasn’t necessarily clear before 1980. That’s when the Census Bureau introduced a pair of new terms, Hispanic and Latino, to its decennial count. The addition was the result of years of advocacy and negotiation: Being counted on the...
    Play32m 43s
  • The Confederate States seceded from the United States over slavery. But the “lost cause” myth—the idea that the Civil War was not about slavery but about northern aggression—still has a hold on countless Americans. The historian Ty Seidule doesn’t believe that anymore, though he only came to the rea...
    Play29m 9s
  • At the start of the pandemic, Jollene Levid and her mother, Nora, found themselves glued to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nightly press conferences. In a press conference late last March, Garcetti announced a new milestone: the first health-care worker in Los Angeles County to die of the disease...
    Play30m 46s
  • To mid-aughts celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, they were high fashion. To the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Eva Mendes they’re a sign of defeat; they declare to the world, as Jerry tells George Costanza in the Seinfeld pilot, “I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.” And...
    Play22m 0s
  • Nineteen sixty-four. Freedom Summer. Marylin Thurman Newkirk was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in a county where just about 250 Black adults out of more than 13,000 were registered to vote. She would grow up as part of the first generation of Americans who lived in a true democracy, according to h...
    Play28m 27s
  • When Mike Belderrain hunted down the biggest elk of his life, he didn’t know he’d stumbled into a “zone of death,” the remote home of a legal glitch that could short-circuit the Constitution—a place where, technically, you could get away with murder. At a time when we’re surrounded by preventable de...
    Play33m 34s
  • It’s easy to forget that the United States started as an experiment: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. That was the idea. On this weekly show, we check in on how that experiment is going.  The Experiment: stories from an unfinished count...
    Play4m 39s