The Experiment

By The Atlantic and WNYC Studios

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 Apr 8, 2021

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 Mar 19, 2021
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 Feb 18, 2021

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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.

Episode Date
The ‘Rock Doc’ Who Prescribed 1.4 Million Pain Pills
30:52

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 glimpse into the ways patients wind up addicted to the powerful painkillers fueling the national opioid epidemic.

Branding himself “the Rock Doc” in a self-produced reality-TV pilot, Young would wear band T-shirts and blast music as he met with patients; he sometimes broadcast appointments and medical procedures on the live-streaming app Periscope. Off camera, Young allegedly prescribed 1.4 million addictive pills and had sex with female patients.

Young was indicted on drug-trafficking charges in April 2019. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is currently in jail awaiting trial.

“I had a lot of ‘Why on earth?’ questions,” the Atlantic reporter Olga Khazan says. “‘Why would he do this? Why would you go to this doctor? Why didn’t anyone try to put a stop to this?’ I just had a lot of questions about how could this happen.”

Further reading: “The Hard-Partying, Rock-Obsessed Nurse at the Center of a Massive Opioid Bust”


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was reported by Olga Khazan and produced by Alvin Melathe. Editing by Katherine Wells, Julia Longoria, and Denise Wills. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca and Jack Segelstein. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by Parish Council (“Dabbles”), water feature (“ariel”), Arabian Prince in a UK World (“The Feeling of Being on a Diet”), Keyboard (“Being There” and “My Atelier”), and Column (“「The Art of Fun」 (Raj)” and “Sensuela”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Nelson Bandela (“04 HIDDEN FORCES” and “Auddi Sun 01 131”). Additional audio from Purdue Pharma, The Rock Doc TV Show, @JY2RocDoc, and Bat Pig Pictures. 

Apr 01, 2021
The Crime of Refusing Vaccination
36:46

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 bodies and our duty to one another.

"We can be grateful for his work here [while] at the same time also saying the dude was terribly mistaken about this one thing for which, unfortunately, he's most famous now,” says Pastor Robin Lutjohann, who today leads the church that Jacobson founded, originally a haven for Swedish immigrants.

The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.”


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by Ob (“Wold”), Parish Council (“Leaving the TV on at Night,” “Museum Weather,” “P Lachaise”), Alecs Pierce (“Harbour Music, Parts I & II”), Laundry (“Lawn Feeling”), water feature (“richard iii (duke of gloucester)”), Keyboard (“Mu”), and naran ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by Dieterich Buxtehude (“Prelude and Fugue in D Major”), Johannes Brahms (“Quintet for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello in B Minor”), and Andrew Eric Halford and Aidan Mark Laverty (“Edge of a Dream”).

Mar 25, 2021
The Volunteer
28:16

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 Yusuf Ahmed Nur stepped forward. A Somali immigrant who volunteered at his local mosque, Nur would counsel Hall in the weeks leading up to his execution. But Nur never expected to stand beside Hall in the execution chamber as he was put to death.

“That’s when it hit me,” Nur says. “You feel like you’re complicit, that you are cooperating with the system. They assign you a role to play in this execution.”

This week on The Experiment: One man finds himself at the center of our legal system, and witnesses what gets sacrificed in the pursuit of justice.

Further reading: “Trump Is Putting the Machinery of Death Into Overdrive”


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Alvin Melathe, Gabrielle Berbey, and Julia Longoria, with editing by Matt Collette and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Katie Bishop and Najib Aminy.


Music by water feature (“double blessing ii”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “More Shingles,” “My Atelier,” “Small Island”), and Parish Council (“Heatherside Stores”) provided by Tasty Morsels.

Mar 18, 2021
Inventing ‘Hispanic’
32:43

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 census meant the potential for far more government action, yet the broad category oversimplified the identities of an immense and diverse group. 

“The way that we define ourselves is consequential,” says G. Cristina Mora, a sociology professor at UC Berkeley. “The larger the category, the more statistical power it would have.”

This week on The Experiment, the origin story of a core American identity—and what’s lost when such a broad category takes hold.


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com.

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan and Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Christian Paz and A.C. Valdez.

Music by water feature (“a horse”), Ob (“Mog”), Parish Council (“Museum Weather”),  Column (“Shutt,” “Sensuela”), r mccarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and infinite bisous (“Sole Mate”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the U.S. Census Bureau, CBS, Agence France-Presse, CNN, UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Tom Myrdahl, Third World Newsreel, Newsreel, Univision Communications, and El Show de Cristina.

Mar 11, 2021
Lost Cause
29:09

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 realization well into his career as an Army officer and a history professor. His book Robert E. Lee and Me deconstructs the legacy of the top Confederate general and unpacks the enduring “lost cause” ideology. 

On this week’s episode of The Experiment, the correspondent Tracie Hunte talked with Seidule about why unlearning the mythology surrounding Lee took him so long, and the host, Julia Longoria, considers what it might take for other white Americans to do the same.


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com

This episode was produced by Tracie Hunte and Matt Collette, with editing by Katherine Wells, Julia Longoria, and Alvin Melathe. Fact-check by William Brennan. Sound design by David Herman. Special thanks to Adam Serwer, Vann R. Newkirk II, Veralyn Williams, and Jenisha Watts.

Music by Keyboard (“Shingles,” “Contractions”), Parish Council (“St. Peter Port/Wiltshire/Cooking Leeks,” “Socks Before Trousers,” “Leaving the TV on at Night”), Ob (“Waif”), and infinite bisous (“Brain”); provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from CBS, Military Videos, the Associated Press, Congressman Steve Womack, the U.S. Naval Academy, CBSN, and Senator Lindsey Graham.

Mar 04, 2021
The Sisterhood
30:46

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.

“When I heard him say that, I realized that he was talking about Auntie Rosary,” Jollene Levid says, speaking about Rosary Castro-Olega, a 63-year-old nurse who came out of retirement to work in hospitals strained by the pandemic. Castro-Olega’s death helped inspire an online memorial called Kanlungan, which honors the lives of health-care workers of Filipino descent. 

This week on The Experiment, the story of why so many people—many of them women, many of them nurses—have left the Philippines to work in the American health-care system, and why they have been so disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.comListen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

This episode was reported and produced by Tracie Hunte and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Julia Longoria and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by William Brennan and Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by Keyboard (“Small Island,” “My Atelier,” “Mu,” and “Ojima”), water feature (“a paradise,” “richard iii (duke of gloucester)”), Laurie Bird (“Detail Wash”), naran ratan (“Forevertime Journeys”), r mccarthy (“Home/Home”), and Parish Council (“New Apt.”) provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional music by APM (“Macho Theme”). Additional audio from C-SPAN, the Associated Press, and ABS-CBN News.

Feb 25, 2021
The Case for Sweatpants
22:00

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 since the start of the pandemic, sweatpants have become perhaps more ubiquitous than ever.

“A lot of people who had been going to offices stopped going to offices for the foreseeable future,” Amanda Mull, a staff writer for The Atlantic, says. “I think people were forced to decide what it is they want to wear for this new circumstance they’re in.”

In this episode of the new podcast The Experiment, Mull and the host, Julia Longoria, trace sweatpants through U.S. history and debate an age-old question: Do they symbolize laziness, or freedom?

Further reading: “America’s Most Hated Garment”


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.comListen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, Gabrielle Berbey, and Alvin Melathe, with editing by Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Stephanie Hayes. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by Ob (“Grot”), and r mccarthy (“Learning English”), water feature (“with flowers”), Laurie Bird (“Jussa Trip”), Column (“「The Art of Fun」 (Raj)”), infinite bisous (“The Past Tense”), and Nelson Bandela (“561 Mac D 10,” “011 HareDoe 019 8396,” “GLU EEE 86”), provided by Tasty Morsels and Nelson Nance. Additional audio from DigitalPimple, Glamourdaze, International Fitness Center, The Richard Simmons Show, Jane Fonda, Hudson’s Bay, Atelier ID, Breakin’ in the USA, WABC, Dance Centre, Adidas, Seinfeld, watchFashionNews, Extra, Vogue, and X17online 

Feb 18, 2021
56 Years
28:27

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 her son Vann R. Newkirk II.

That has a lot to do with a law enacted a year after her birth, in 1965. That’s when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which ended Jim Crow laws preventing Black people from voting in many states.

But the protections enacted in 1965 didn’t last, and today they’re hanging by a thread. Now, in the aftermath of his mother’s death at 56, Newkirk argues that the best way to ensure that democracy lasts is a constitutional amendment.

Further reading: “When America Became a Democracy”


Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.comListen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts

This episode was produced by Julia Longoria, Alvin Melathe, and Gabrielle Berbey, with editing by Tracie Hunte and Katherine Wells. Fact check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman.

Music by h hunt (“C U Soon,” “Journeys,” “Nice Arp”), Ob (“Wold”), Keyboard (“Being There,” “Ojima”), Laundry (“Films”), and water feature (“ancient morsel”); catalog by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from CBSN, New York Public Radio, C-SPAN, Denia Vega, Rare Facts, American Experience PBS, KXAN, Oyez (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License), Democracy Now!, News4JAX, DW News, Streamline Films, and Archive.org.

Feb 11, 2021
The Loophole
33:34

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 deaths, we document one journey to avert disaster.

• Mike Belderrain is a hunter and former outfitter in Montana.
• C. J. Box is the author of more than 20 novels, including Free Fire, a thriller set in Yellowstone National Park. 
• Brian Kalt teaches law at Michigan State University. He wrote a 2005 research paper titled “The Perfect Crime."
• Ed Yong is a staff writer for The Atlantic.

Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.comListen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts


This episode was produced by Julia Longoria and Alvin Melathe, with editing by Katherine Wells and sound design by David Herman.

Music by water feature (“in a semicircle or a half-moon”), r mccarthy (“Big Game,” “She’s a Gift Giver, She’s a Giver of Gifts,” and Melodi 2), Ob (Ell and Ere), Parish Council (“Mopping”), h hunt (“11e”), Column (“Quiet Song), and Bwengo (“Première Mosrel”); catalog by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from Montana State University Library’s Acoustic Atlas, the National Park Service’s Sound Library, C. J. Box, CNBC, C-SPAN, Vox, NPR’s All Things Considered, Idaho News 6, @ItsKeyes, and C-SPAN’s Book TV.

Feb 04, 2021
Que Viva la Pepa: Introducing The Experiment
4:39

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. 

Be part of The Experiment. Use the hashtag #TheExperimentPodcast, or write to us at theexperiment@theatlantic.com. Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts


Music by Ob (“Ghyll” and “Mog”), Parish Council (“Socks Before Trousers” and “Durdle Door”), and water feature (“richard iii (duke of gloucester)”). Additional audio from C-SPAN, Senator Chris Murphy, Lawrence University, the House Judiciary Committee, Washington Post reporter Rebecca Tan, and the City of Lake Worth Beach.

 

Jan 25, 2021