The Really Big Questions

Thursdays at 7 pm March-June, 2014
Dean Olsher

TRBQ explores questions that intrigue both scientists and philosophers — questions about what makes us human.

The project is a collaboration between Peabody Award-winning SoundVision Productions, The Exploratorium in San Francisco  and Public Radio International.  TRBQ specials air on public radio stations around the country.

Veteran public radio journalist and curious guy Dean Olsher asks the questions.

Why Do We Share?
March 20 - Why don’t we share?  What drives us to be greedy one day and giving the next?  We’ll look at the research in psychology, economics, neuroscience, and anthropology as we explore the mysteries of cooperation, resource allocation and collaborative problem solving.

Why Does Music Move Us?
April 17 - Music can make us run faster, learn better, buy more, recover from surgery sooner, even live longer.  Music exists in every culture. Does that mean it offers an evolutionary advantage? We’ll delve deeper into what music can teach us about the human brain.

What Is a Good Death?
May 15 - Many Americans are trying to take control of their deaths, creating advance directives and asking for “green burials,” but strong forces exist to countermand their wishes. Most of us say we want to die at home, or in hospice, but the number of Americans dying in intensive care units continues to rise. Why don’t we get the death we hope for?

What’s Your Story?
June 19 - Why do stories have such a powerful influence on our beliefs and our behavior? Research confirms that our minds depend on story as the main roadmap for comprehending, deciphering, recalling and organizing our lives.  But our drive to create a coherent story can come at the expense of accuracy. If some of our stories about ourselves are not true, what can we believe?


  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014 3:13pm
  • Tuesday, August 12, 2014 7:55pm
      These are the final words of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s most recent book: “Choose to stay.” Hecht argues against suicide as an escape from despair. She offers two reasons. Choosing to stay allows you the chance to be helpful to someone else. And, she says you owe your future self a chance at happiness. AUDIO: Hecht…


  • Monday, August 11, 2014 2:08am
    Maybe it’s a stuffed elephant. Could be a pepper shaker. Or perhaps a very special rock. Many adults have an object that’s particularly dear to them, but it’s not something that most people openly talk about. Unless you ask them.  Download audio Share your special thing with us on Facebook Emily Walsh has always collected trinkets,…


  • Monday, July 28, 2014 3:28pm
    Mary Roach wants you to give yourself away. Not yet, though. After you’re dead. She wrote a book called “Stiff,” in which she details what has happened over the years to bodies that were donated—willingly or unwillingly—to science. “I think that, for many people, does take the edge off it,” Roach says. “You know there…


  • Monday, July 14, 2014 3:00am
    If you ever doubt that animals have the capacity to share, look no further than chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys. Frans de Waal studies primates, and he teaches psychology at Emory University. He says says looking at the way other primates share sheds light on the way humans act. Download audio “Sometimes in human behavior there’s…