The Really Big Questions

This Monday-Friday at 1pm
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.

Monday: What Is This Thing Called Love? Romantic love was invented by troubadours during the Middle Ages. You might have heard that before. Until recently, that view was widely held by anthropologists, sociologists, and historians: Love is a western cultural construct. Now, most researchers believe love is a cultural universal. Literature, music, and artifacts from everywhere and every time show humans falling in love. But why do we fall in love? Why does love cause us transcendent joy? Why is it devastating when our relationships fall apart?

Tuesday: Why Do We Share?
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.

Wednesday: Why Does Music Move Us?
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.

Thursday: What Is a Good Death?
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?

Friday: What’s Your Story?
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, January 28, 2015 7:59pm
    What if you had an idea that you believed could change the world? What if that idea was a tornado machine? In this episode we ask, what drives some people to pursue an idea for their entire lives? Download audio Retired engineer Louis Michaud believes he has an idea that could solve the world’s energy…


  • Friday, December 19, 2014 1:37pm
    A very brief announcement. Really, really brief.     MORE AUDIO from TRBQ: Subscribe the to the TRBQ podcast on iTunes. Listen to the TRBQ podcast on Stitcher. Follow TRBQ on SoundCloud.    
  • Thursday, September 4, 2014 11:34am
    You can vote when you’re 18 and drink when you’re 21. But when do you really become an adult? Download audio Psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett says people in their 20s are in a different life-stage than people in their 30s. He coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe the years between adolescence and full adulthood.…


  • 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…