We all want to know if we’re normal—do I have enough friends? Should it take me this long to get over my ex? Should I move or stay where I am? Endlessly curious data journalist Mona Chalabi NEEDS to know, and she’s ready to dive into the numbers to get some answers. But studies and spreadsheets don’t tell the whole story, so she’s consulting experts, strangers, and even her mum to fill in the gaps. The answers might surprise you, and make you ask: does normal even exist? Am I Normal? with Mona Chalabi is produced in partnership with Transmitter Media.
Is it really that bad to marry my cousin?
Charles Darwin. Edgar Allen Poe. Albert Einstein. What do all of these men have in common? Yes, they’ve made major contributions to science and literature. Buuuut they also all married their first cousins. Mona looks at the genetic consequences of cousin marriage, and what taboos really tell us about the social norms and power.
Should you break the law?
The obvious answer: no. Though you haven’t exactly committed to a life of crime if you jaywalk on an empty street. But if we bend the law on jaywalking, why not drunk driving? Well, there was a time when people thought drunk driving didn't really matter either. So what changed? How do we decide to follow a law or not? What even IS a law? Mona meets with social psychology of law professor, Kenworthy Bilz to understand how laws can (and can’t) shape our behaviors.
You can find the full text transcript along with studies cited in this episode at go.ted.com/AIN7
Which box do I check?
We’re constantly checking boxes on forms, whether it’s for eye color or sexual orientation. Those categories can be empowering or, they can make you feel invisible, like when Mona painted a portrait of 100 New Yorkers based on the New York Census data, and realized she couldn’t see herself. There was no “Arabic” box to check in the census—the closest being “white” or “other.” So what happens when someone spends their whole life checking that box for “other”? Mona talks with nonbinary British Iraqi drag queen Amrou Al-Kadhi about embracing the contradictions of having multiple, wonderful, identities, that SOME people see as conflicting.
You can find the full text transcript along with studies cited in this episode at go.ted.com/AIN6
The Spermageddon is coming
"You should start thinking about kids at your age! Your biological clock is ticking!” When we talk about fertility, there's one section of the population that's consistently subjected to fear mongering: the people with the ovaries. But is that worry backed up by data? Should we be stressed out about sperm too? Scientist Joe Osmundson divulges his own fears and findings on the journey to save his sperm, and Mona breaks down the scientific, cultural, and psychological elements that have shaped the way we think and talk about fertility.
You can find the full text transcript along with studies cited in this episode at go.ted.com/AIN5.
Should I move home?
Did you consider moving over the last two years? If you did, you’re not alone. People all over the world for so many different reasons considered moving: to be closer to family, to live somewhere more affordable, to kick back in a warmer climate. When Mona wrestles with this question, she pulls out a spreadsheet and weighs her options: Want to maintain current friendships? Stay in New York. Want to be close to family? Go back to London. Money? New York. Self deprecation and sarcasm? London. As she wrestles with her decision, something weird happens. A bird THWACKS against her window, falling dead. Could this be a sign to fly back home, or a coincidence? Mona looks into the data to see the chances and then discovers something that will eventually tip the scales.
Is my dentist scamming me?
When a dentist tells us something is wrong with our teeth, we tend to follow their advice. But when Mona visits two different dentists, they give her two wildly different diagnoses (with wildly different price tags). So how do we know who's telling the tooth? Mona digs up the dental data to look for answers, and finds that in reality, the study of dentistry is riddled with holes.
So entertaining and educational!
I really like this podcast. I love easily digestible but thought provoking content, and that is exactly what this is. Mona is so entertaining, and I especially love the appearances from your mom. Keep it coming!
What goes into a decision to move? Data - and your heart. Should I move home is sad - and real. Beautifully told!
Humanizing data through storytelling!
This podcast is a great combination of interesting topics, backed up by data, wrapped inside lyrical storytelling. Each episode is a journey that transports the listeners through Mona’s situation, until you arrive at the end, realizing all of the facts and perspectives you’ve collected along the way. I am excited to keep listening!