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James Hamblin is a doctor. Katherine Wells is not. But she has a lot of questions. Listen in as Jim and Katherine keep in touch with other journalists, experts, and friends about the latest science and health news⁠—and, more important, what to do with it. Email us with questions, stories, or feedback at

Episode Date
The Sun Belt Spike
What does the surge in cases in the south and west mean for the country’s chances of containing the pandemic? Staff writer Alexis Madrigal explains.
Jul 08, 2020
The Stock Market is... Up?
Why Wall Street's doing great while everything else is not
Jul 06, 2020
Why the World Can’t Reopen If Schools Can’t
Many plans for school reopenings involve a mix of online and in-person instruction. That could have huge downstream effects on a workforce that can’t rely on children being in or out of school. Staff writer Helen Lewis shares a solution that’s too logical to actually happen.
Jul 03, 2020
How the Coronavirus Affects Kids
The latest on a mysterious coronavirus syndrome hitting kids — and what it means for schools.
Jul 01, 2020
How Is College Going To Work?
Colleges and universities pack students into dorms, classrooms, and parties. Now they have to figure out how to do that in a pandemic. Staff writer Adam Harris joins to discuss what they’re planning for the fall.
Jun 29, 2020
The Ethical Calculus of Reopening
Cases are on the rise in twenty-five states. A vaccine is, for now, a distant dream. How do we negotiate the ethical trade-offs of the deaths to come in the meantime? Dr. Lydia Dugdale, medical ethicist and author of The Lost Art of Dying, joins to discuss. Note: this episode was recorded on June 23rd, 2020. All numbers mentioned were accurate for that date.
Jun 26, 2020
The Air Conditioning Question
Jim explains how ventilation affects the spread of the virus with yet another unwieldy metaphor. Plus, a puppy update.
Jun 24, 2020
People Are Panic Moving
In the last few months, many people who have the option have chosen to leave big cities. Will their departures be permanent? Staff writer Amanda Mull has been talking to demographers to find out.
Jun 22, 2020
Serenity Now
As the virus continues to spread, how do we reckon with the reality of ongoing death and disruption? Public theologian Ekemini Uwan explains the idea of “radical acceptance.” Read Ekemini’s piece in The Atlantic.
Jun 17, 2020
Should I Be Taking Something?
Supplements and vitamins claim to “boost your immune system.” Jim explains why this is nonsense.
Jun 15, 2020
An Extremely Bizarre Plan to Play Basketball
Rising case numbers, an empty theme park, and 22 teams in quarantine. What could go wrong? Joel Anderson, Slate staff writer and co-host of Hang Up and Listen, joins to explain what's going on with the NBA.
Jun 12, 2020
Can We Sing?
Jim answers listener questions: Is it safe to sing? Should we be worried about asymptomatic spread? Plus, a "kerfluffle" for Katherine.
Jun 10, 2020
Why the Virus Is Spreading So Unevenly
The pandemic isn’t going away, and its spread is hard to predict.
Jun 09, 2020
Would Defunding Police Make Us Safer?
City and state budgets are in serious trouble after the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. Some protesters have a proposal: defund the police. Sociologist Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” explains the research and nuance behind the idea.
Jun 05, 2020
How Limiting Protests Will Spread the Virus
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has sparked large protests and marches, giving rise to a new set of concerns about how to safely and effectively exist. Jim and Katherine share the latest on how to protest as safely as possible. Ultimately, safety has less to do with the protesters than those overseeing them.
Jun 03, 2020
Fighting the Machine
The health effects of racism are usually less obvious than murder.
Jun 02, 2020
Sometimes, Things Can Change
The federal government has passed big reforms in response to economic crises before. Could it now? Harvard historian Lizabeth Cohen shares lessons—and warnings—from the New Deal. Read her piece for The Atlantic.
May 29, 2020
Is America Going to Make It?
If you watch the news, the country sounds deeply divided about the coronavirus. But polls show an uncommon unity among Americans. Staff writer James Fallows joins to share some historical perspective and answer the question he’s found himself grappling with across his decades-long career: Is America going to make it?
May 28, 2020
Is Anyone Else Not Showering?
Jim spent years writing a book on hygiene beliefs and the new science of the skin microbiome. In it, he suggests that some people overuse cleansers and soaps, and may benefit from doing less. But now, there’s a pandemic, and he also really wants to remind people to wash their hands. Jim tries to explain the nuances of good cleaning and bad cleaning—and why he does not shower in the traditional sense.
May 26, 2020
It’s a Small World Health Organization
The president wants to pull the United States out of the WHO. Public health professor Kelley Lee explains what it does and why defunding the world’s main public health body during a pandemic is not a great idea. Plus, Jim shows off his math skills.
May 22, 2020
Is There a Vaccine Shortcut?
There’s promising news around a vaccine, but what does it mean? And should we speed up its development with ‘challenge trials’ by letting vaccinated people be exposed to the virus? Infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Thomas returns to the show to discuss the medical and ethical issues. Also, Katherine faces a minor challenge of her own.
May 20, 2020
Am I Depressed?
Many of our isolated lives fit the normal criteria for depression, but of course these aren't normal times. So, when the world is this depressing, how do you tell when you're actually depressed? Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Rapke explains how to think through mental health questions in the time of COVID-19.
May 18, 2020
The Comforting Appeal of Conspiracy Theories
A video making outlandish and obviously false claims about the coronavirus is making the rounds on the internet. Adrienne LaFrance joins to talk about the psychology of abandoning the factual realm. Check out "Shadowland" from The Atlantic here.
May 15, 2020
Have the Uncomfortable Conversation
It’s hard to talk about end-of-life care. You should do it anyway. Edo Banach, the President & CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, explains how to create an advance directive — and the best ways to approach the conversation with loved ones.
May 13, 2020
The Racial Contract
The pandemic has made the terms of the “racial contract” visible — but it is a structure that existed long before. Adam Serwer joins to discuss the connection between coronavirus policy and the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Read his recent piece in The Atlantic. Note: this week, the show will be publishing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
May 11, 2020
Have You Seen 'The Wretched'?
With most movie theaters closed across the country and no certain timeline for the next big releases, staff writer David Sims gives us recommendations on what to watch.
May 08, 2020
Will You Merge Bubbles With Me?
New rituals and ethical conundrums of dating and socializing are beginning to reveal themselves. Staff writer Joe Pinsker joins to discuss.
May 07, 2020
Don’t Worry About a ‘New Strain’
Recent news stories raised concerns about multiple ‘strains’ of the coronavirus. Ed Yong joins to explain what’s going on, and why we probably shouldn’t worry right now.
May 06, 2020
High Risk
Caitlin Flanagan on navigating Stage 4 cancer during a pandemic. Read her story in The Atlantic.
May 05, 2020
So The Economy is a Disaster
The economic news is catastrophic. And it’s probably going to get worse. Annie Lowrey joins to talk about why the U.S. didn’t fare as well as other countries, and what it needs to do next. Also, Jim talks about walk poetry.
May 05, 2020
‘Things Can Change In an Instant’
In many ways, this crisis is unprecedented. But in others, it is not. Gregg Gonsalves became an AIDS activist in the 80s, and is now an epidemiologist working on public health and human rights. He says the history of HIV can offer us warnings -- and some hope.
May 01, 2020
The Georgia Experiment
Staff writer and Georgia native Amanda Mull joins to talk about the political forces pushing to reopen her home state.
Apr 30, 2020
You Are Worthy of Sleep
Katherine is worried Jim is endangering himself and needs to sleep more, so she’s holding an intervention. Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry joins to talk about the importance of sleep and how, especially right now, everyone would benefit from prioritizing rest.
Apr 30, 2020
Is Human Touch Necessary?
Jim and Katherine answer questions from listeners. If you have a question, email us at or leave us a voicemail at 202-642-6487.
Apr 28, 2020
Will the Restaurants Come Back?
What the future of your neighborhood storefront tells us about the outlook for the American city. Derek Thompson joins to explain.
Apr 27, 2020
How Much Does It Cost to Get COVID-19?
What is the financial toll on those who get sick? And will the pandemic change our healthcare system? Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor of public health and economics, joins Jim and Katherine to explain the costs of American medicine and what it would take to bring those costs down.
Apr 24, 2020
Are the Celebrities Okay?
Staff writers Hannah Giorgis and Spencer Kornhaber join to talk about what the celebrities are up to and whether our fascination with them will survive this.
Apr 23, 2020
Why Do Some People Get Sicker?
Jim explains why COVID-19 can be fatal for some and mild for others.
Apr 22, 2020
‘You Think of Things You Shouldn’t’
Jim met Bootsie Plunkett in March while filming a comedy segment for Stephen Colbert. A few weeks later she was in the hospital. She joins to talk about experiencing the terror of an ICU during a pandemic and how much a person's perspective can change in a month.
Apr 21, 2020
Immunity Passports
Staff writer Sarah Zhang joins Jim and Katherine to talk about the limits of antibody testing, whether we’ll be carrying around cards with our immunity status, and the lessons she’s learned from reporting on Yellow Fever.
Apr 20, 2020
Text Your Ex?
Amid a surge of romantic expression, staff writer Ashley Fetters advises Katherine and Jim on the psychology of reconnection, contrition, and making things right in the end.
Apr 17, 2020
What Will the Summer Be Like?
Staff writer Ed Yong braces Jim and Katherine for a very different summer than most of us are used to.
Apr 16, 2020
Are These Tweets Real?
James has been getting a lot of strange replies on social media. McKay Coppins joins to talk about modern propaganda, the history of disinformation, and where these comments might be coming from.
Apr 15, 2020
Something Less Bad
Jim and Katherine call Maeve Higgins, a comedian and writer who left New York a month ago for her home country of Ireland. She talks about the precarious situation of immigrants, what it’s like to live at home again as an adult, and her disastrous flirtation with self-improvement.
Apr 14, 2020
Where the Curve Has Flattened
What's been the difference in the parts of the country that haven't seen as bad an outbreak? Staff writer Russell Berman talks about how officials on the West Coast responded to the problem.
Apr 13, 2020
What It’s Like to Have COVID-19
Friends and writers F.T. Kola and Karan Mahajan have both recently recovered from COVID-19. They join to talk about immunity, survivor’s guilt, and how outcomes depend on a strange calculus of privilege and chance.
Apr 11, 2020
What the World Looks Like After This
People are anxiously awaiting the day things can go back to “normal.” But normal is what got us here in the first place. Will the future look better than the past? Vann R. Newkirk II joins to discuss the lessons from Hurricane Katrina and what they say about disaster responses.
Apr 09, 2020
Trump’s Miracle Cure
Conspiracy theories and desperation have brought a century-old malaria medication to the front of national attention. Katherine Wells and James Hamblin break down how this happened.
Apr 09, 2020
The Emergency in Our Jails
Everyone is being ordered to social distance. Except those who are being ordered into places where that’s impossible. Jim and Katherine talk with Conor Friedersdorf and former public defender Maya Ragsdale about what can be done.
Apr 08, 2020
You're Doing Great
The coming weeks will be tough for many Americans. Lori Gottlieb of “Dear Therapist” advises on how to deal with grief, and how to care for yourself.
Apr 06, 2020
Should I Wear A Mask?
Dr. James Hamblin answers basic questions about the coronavirus (and how to avoid it).
Apr 03, 2020
The New Etiquette of Procuring Food
What’s the least unethical way to eat during a pandemic? Olga Khazan advises.
Apr 03, 2020
Jared Kushner and the Website That Never Was
On March 13, President Trump announced that Google was building a coronavirus website. Staff Writer Robinson Meyer investigated what happened to that website — and what it tells us about the government's response overall.
Apr 02, 2020
How Coronavirus Is Scrambling Our Politics
Staff writer McKay Coppins explains why some people seem not to believe the science, and how simple advice like avoiding handshakes plays into old ideological divides. Plus, he tells us about his cans.
Mar 31, 2020
What Happens If We Run Out of Ventilators?
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan advises on the ethics of impossible medical decisions.
Mar 30, 2020
Will $2 Trillion Be Enough?
Staff writer Adam Harris joins to talk about the bill passed by Congress today and why, despite its unprecedented amount, it’s probably just the start of the economic plan to fight the pandemic. 
Mar 27, 2020
How This Could End
Staff writer Ed Yong describes three possibilities of how this will play out — and reminds us not to panic. Recorded 11am, March 26, 2020.
Mar 26, 2020
What Happens Next?
The pandemic has put the whole world on different timelines. Contributing writer Rachel Donadio is based in France, which is slightly ahead of the U.S. She talks about how different countries are approaching the crisis.
Mar 25, 2020
Can I Have a Drink?
People are losing their jobs and hope. But opening businesses back up would endanger lives. Jim and Katherine call her brother, a bartender sheltering in place, for some perspective. And staff writer Derek Thompson joins to discuss what needs to happen in Washington to make sure people stay afloat. Recorded 3pm, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Sam's recipe for a mocktail Paloma: mix 3 parts grapefruit juice, 1 part lime juice, and 1 part simple syrup. Top with Topo Chico and add salt to taste.
Mar 25, 2020
Should I Be Getting Deliveries?
James Hamblin answers listeners' questions about deliveries, testing, haircuts, and how long this will last.
Mar 23, 2020
Why Everyone Is Watching "Contagion"
Finding ways to relax is as vital now as ever. Culture writers Sophie Gilbert and David Sims join to advise on some purposeful ways to escape in place. Recorded 12pm, Saturday, March 21, 2020.
Mar 22, 2020
On the Front Lines at a New York Hospital
The mask shortages in New York are worse than we imagined. Jim and Katherine talk to a doctor who describes the dire scene inside a major hospital. Recorded 1pm ET, March 21, 2020. If you want to help hospitals with supply shortages, a spreadsheet with more information is available here.
Mar 21, 2020
Why Can't I Get Tested?
Jim and Katherine talk with Alexis Madrigal about coronavirus testing and why the U.S. is so far behind much of the rest of the world. Recorded 2pm, March 20, 2020.
Mar 20, 2020
When It's Illegal to Leave Home
Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg and Staff Writer Anne Applebaum join to discuss updates from Europe and new restrictions on travel and movement.
Mar 20, 2020
A Slight Temporary Relief
Lori Gottlieb of “Dear Therapist” talks us through how to stay sane. She gives tips on managing anxiety and talking to family members about the crisis. Recorded 2pm ET, March 18, 2020.
Mar 18, 2020
This is as Real as It Gets
Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at SUNY Upstate Medical University, just got his first COVID-19 cases. He discusses how hospitals should prepare for the coming surge of patients. And he shares a Mark Twain quote he's had on his mind: “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”
Mar 17, 2020
The Time for Cash
Annie Lowrey, a staff writer covering the economy, explains what needs to happen right away to keep people safe and secure. She’s in San Francisco about to “shelter in place.” Recorded 4pm, March 16, 2020.
Mar 17, 2020
Not a Two-Week Problem
James and Katherine take a walk to the grocery store and discuss what the next week --and year -- may look like in the U.S. Plus, how long does the virus last on surfaces? Recorded 2pm, March 15, 2020.
Mar 16, 2020
Call Someone
Dr. James Hamblin catches Katherine up on the latest developments, lays out the difficult decisions ahead, and reminds her to keep things in perspective. Plus, a few disinfecting tips. Recorded 11am, March 14, 2020.
Mar 14, 2020
Catching Up
Dr. James Hamblin helps a colleague make the essential pandemic-era shopping list. Recorded at 11:45am, Friday, March 13, 2020.
Mar 13, 2020