37 episodes

Each week, we tell the story of what happens when individual people confront deeply held American ideals in their own lives. We're interested in the cultural and political contradictions that reveal who we are.

The Experiment WNYC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.2 • 2.2K Ratings

Each week, we tell the story of what happens when individual people confront deeply held American ideals in their own lives. We're interested in the cultural and political contradictions that reveal who we are.

    The Wandering Soul

    The Wandering Soul

    As the Vietnam War dragged on, the U.S. military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in its North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, it found one: an old Vietnamese folktale about a ghost, eternal damnation, and fear—a myth that the U.S. could weaponize. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, American forces set out to win the war by bringing a ghost story to life. Today, The Experiment examines those efforts and the ghosts that still haunt us.

    This story originally aired on “Mixtape,” a special series from Radiolab about how the cassette tape allowed us to record, reshuffle, and reimagine our lives.

    A transcript of this episode is available.


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

    • 40 min
    How ‘Passing’ Upends a Problematic Hollywood History

    How ‘Passing’ Upends a Problematic Hollywood History

    Hollywood has a long history of “passing movies”—films in which Black characters pass for white—usually starring white actors. Even as these films have attempted to depict the devastating effect of racism in America, they have trafficked in tired tropes about Blackness. But a new movie from actor-writer-director Rebecca Hall takes the problematic conventions of this uniquely American genre and turns them on their head. Hall tells the story of how her movie came to life, and how making the film helped her grapple with her own family’s secrets around race and identity.

    A transcript of this episode is available. 

    Further reading: “Netflix’s ‘Passing’ Is an Unusually Gentle Movie About a Brutal Subject”


    Apply for The Experiment’s spring internship. Applications will be accepted through November 29, 2021.

    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 Peter Bresnan with help from Alina Kulman. Editing by Emily Botein, Julia Longoria, and Jenny Lawton. Special thanks to B.A. Parker. Fact-check by Will Gordon. Sound design by David Herman with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

    • 31 min
    A Friend in the Execution Room

    A Friend in the Execution Room

    Was anybody willing to be a spiritual adviser to a Muslim man on death row? 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 Orlando Hall in the weeks leading up to his execution. But Nur didn’t expect he’d end up standing 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.

    This episode of The Experiment originally ran on March 18, 2021.

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

    A transcript of this episode is available.


    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.

    • 27 min
    What Does It Mean to Give Away Our DNA?

    What Does It Mean to Give Away Our DNA?

    Just as the Navajo researcher Rene Begay started to fall in love with the field of genetics, she learned that the Navajo Nation had banned all genetic testing on tribal land. Now she is struggling to figure out what the future of genetics might look like, and whether the Navajo and other Indigenous communities should be a part of it. 

    Further reading: “Race, Genetics, and Scientific Freedom,” “Return the National Parks to the Tribes,” “​​The Search for America’s Atlantis,” “Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Is Not Her Identity”

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


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

    This episode was produced by Peter Bresnan and Julia Longoria, with help from Tracie Hunte and Alina Kulman. Editing by Jenny Lawton and Emily Botein. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding. Special thanks to Pauly Denetclaw. 

    Music by Keyboard (“Ojima,” “Staying In,” and “Being There”), Naran Ratan (“Jam for Bwengo”), Parish Council (“It’s Purple, Not Blue,” “Durdle Door,” and “Scented Letters”), R McCarthy (“Contemplation at Lon Lon”), and Column (“スキャン 「Scan」”), provided by Tasty Morsels. Additional audio from the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program.

    • 31 min
    Justice, Interrupted

    Justice, Interrupted

    Last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor announced that the Supreme Court had broken with tradition and changed its rules for oral argument. This came after a study revealed that women are disproportionately interrupted by men in the highest court in America. This week, we’re re-airing a More Perfect episode about the Northwestern University research that inspired the Court’s changes.

    This story originally aired on More Perfect, a Radiolab spin-off about the Supreme Court.

    A transcript of this episode is available. 


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

    • 20 min
    Who Would Jesus Mock?

    Who Would Jesus Mock?

    The satire site The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian answer to The Onion, stirred controversy when some readers mistook its headlines for misinformation. In this episode, The Atlantic’s religion reporter Emma Green sits down with the editor in chief, Kyle Mann, to talk about where he draws the line between making a joke and doing harm, and to understand what humor can reveal about American politics.

    Further reading: “Who Would Jesus Mock?”

    A transcript of this episode is available.


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

    This episode was produced by Gabrielle Berbey and Julia Longoria, with editing by Emily Botein and Katherine Wells. Fact-check by Michelle Ciarrocca. Sound design by David Herman, with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

    • 24 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
2.2K Ratings

2.2K Ratings

Family shared - Nik ,

Great podcast but uneven

Some episodes have absolutely expanded my horizons as well as educating me. A few, not so much. Whenever an episode seems to become more about the host and her opinion it just loses punch for me completely. I thought I understood the focus of the series when I started with the excellent first episodes but became uncertain more recently.

It would help the show to either coach some guest hosts/interviewers who don’t usually do radio or instead have someone else provide the voice for the show. Longoria and some others are excellent, so I don’t want this to be taken the wrong way. I just find the affected delivery I’m hearing in some shows to distract from the important content.

jonasclh ,

My favorite show, hands down

I only recently got into podcasts about a year ago and have listened to mostly true crime (yes, I’m one of those lol.) This podcast is amazing. I am always looking for a way to learn something new. This podcast teaches me something new with each episode. And the topics are topics that I’d seldom learn about otherwise. I appreciate how diverse the topics are and love the host. The problem I find with most podcasts are that the host’s voice is annoying either immediately or after a while but I love the host and the other contributors to this show. They’re intelligent and offer great insight into each topic.

123julia457 ,

Thought provoking

This is a really well done show with some really tough topics that I have to be in the right space to listen to. It isn’t easy listening but it’s enjoyable and important

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