Things That Go Boom

S3 E8 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – After the Apocalypse

Can the country rebound from the social, cultural, and economic toll of COVID-19? Now we know what happens while we’re sleeping; have we woken up? And what will it take to right the ship?

GUESTS: Gigi Kwik Gronvall, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security and a Senior Fellow at the Wilson Center and the Center for Climate Security; Travis L. Adkins, lecturer of African and Security Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University; Marissa Conway, Co-founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.


Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Council on Foreign Relations.

At the Intersection of Domestic and Foreign Policy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Is American Foreign Policy the Key to Economic Growth?, The Washington Post.

The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad, Foreign Policy.

The Scientific Response to COVID-19 and Lessons for Security, Survival.

Things That Go Boom

S3 E5 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – Democracy! (Yawn)

As the US reckons with systemic racism and a less-than-democratic past, China is doubling down on its authoritarian ways. Meanwhile, research on the health of democracy from across the globe indicates the patient is not well.

We trace China’s rise from the 1990s, when American pop music held a place alongside patriotic education, to its more recent political assertiveness– not to mention its chokehold on civil rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. As China moves to assert itself on the world stage, is democracy losing?

GUESTS: Connie Mei Pickart, writer and educator; Yascha Mounk, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund


How the World Views American-Style Democracy, Eurasia Group Foundation.

Nationalism Ruined My Chinese Friendships, Connie Mei Pickart.

In Hong Kong, Defiance Gone Quiet, The New York Times.

Things That Go Boom

S3 E4 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – This Is Not a Drill

Are we in the middle of a new Cold War? Or have we rewritten the game? With old nuclear arms treaties expiring, and no new ones being signed, are we adapting to the times or playing with fire?

In this episode, we look at the past and present of civil defense and nuclear arms control and ask what we can do — as individuals and as a nation — to prevent the existential threat of nuclear war.

GUESTS: Alex Wellerstein, professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology and historian of nuclear weapons; Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.



Trump Will Withdraw From Open Skies Treaty, New York Times.

Time Running Out on the Last US-Russia Nuclear Arms Treaty, Defense News.

Will Donald Trump Resume Nuclear Testing?, The Economist.

Things That Go Boom

S3E1: World War C

The US spends more than $700 billion on defense every year, more than healthcare, education, and all the rest of our discretionary spending combined. And yet the coronavirus slipped silently and invisibly across our borders, and even onto our aircraft carriers. You could say we were preparing for World War III, when we got hammered by World War C.

This season we ask, “What else are we missing?”

GUESTS: Alden Wicker, Sustainable Fashion Journalist; Kathleen Hicks, CSIS; John Blocher, Dave Ahern, Mia Herrington, and Larry Rubin, who shared their personal views with us at Defense One 2020.


Getting to Less, Foreign Affairs.

The Lessons of Y2K, 20 Years Later, Washington Post.

Nuclear Spending vs. Healthcare, ICAN.

The Science of Happiness

Give Yourself a Break

Want to calm your inner critic? Our guest tries a practice to find more self-compassion during uncertain times.

Things That Go Boom

S3 Trailer (The Wrong Apocalypse)

Could the rise of China and Russia spell the end of the US as the dominant world power? Are we on an irreversible path toward military confrontation? Are we prepared for life in a multilateral world?

Military spending is growing, and the Pentagon says it’s in service of something called “great power competition” — but are the biggest threats to US power military? Or, something else. 

This next season of Things That Go Boom will explore how our national security has refocused on threats that require traditional military might — things like carriers and fighter jets — at a time when some of the biggest threats to our security are silent, agile, economic, and even viral. We’ll ask if our main adversaries — Russia and China — are really a threat, and we’ll examine just how strong, or weak, a position the US holds in this new geopolitical reality.

The Takeaway

President Trump’s State of the Union: Immigration, Economy, 2020 Elections 2020-02-05

President Trump’s State of the Union: Immigration, Economy, 2020 Elections

The President avoided one major topic: impeachment.

Fear of the Coronavirus Spurs Surge in Xenophobia and Anti-Chinese Sentiment

The long standing stereotype of the sick foreigner is playing into how we are dealing with the Coronavirus.

Veteran Journalist Diane Rehm on the Right-to-Die Movement

In her new book “When My Times Comes,” Rehm explores the highly divisive field of medical aid in dying. 

The Growing Support for Aid-in-Dying Legislation

But there is a lot of confusion around what aid-in-dying actually entails, and what it means for the rights of patients who are terminally ill and their families. 

The Takeaway

Can There Be Redemption for the Accused in the #MeToo Movement?

Can There Be Redemption for the Accused in the #MeToo Movement?

On Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, one rabbi explains what the Jewish faith can teach men trying to redeem themselves following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Trump’s Trade War with China Hits a Fever Pitch 

President Trump’s escalating trade war with China ratcheted up another notch this week.

Community Health Workers and Churches Band Together After Florence

We talk to a director at a community health center in North Carolina, about how elderly residents and those with limited resources, have been coping after Hurricane Florence.

“I Will Fight Colonialism Until My Last Breath”: Longtime Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera Speaks Out, One Year After Maria

Oscar Lopez Rivera, long-time Puerto Rican independence activist, talks about the effects of U.S. colonialism.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

Amber McKinney

Anna Kinsey 

Oscar Lopez Rivera

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Studio 360

Made in China

China’s increased openness to cultural expression is making waves worldwide. Kurt Andersen talks with Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee (Lust, Caution, Brokeback Mountain) who negotiates the divide between Shanghai and Hollywood. A songwriter sings of the woes of 100 million migrant workers who have left rural homes for China’s booming cities. And a scholar at the […]

Studio 360

Made in China

China’s global spotlight didn’t start with the Olympics; its openness to cultural expression has been making waves worldwide. Hear about China’s strategy for remaking its public image in time for the Games. Meet a musician who sings of the woes of 100 million migrant workers who have left rural homes for China’s booming cities. And […]