July 22, 2005

A Little Bit of Knowledge

Stories about the pitfalls of knowing just a little bit too little.
Robert Stadler installation in St. Paul church, Paris. Image by Dominik.


Host Ira Glass describes the thing that we all do at some point: Talk expertly about something we don't actually know anything about. It's so common, explains This American Life contributing editor Nancy Updike, that some friends of hers invented an imaginary magazine devoted to such blathering. It's called "Modern Jackass." (4 minutes)
Act One

Small Thoughts In Big Brains

This American Life producer Alex Blumberg investigates a little-studied phenomenon: Children who get a mistaken idea in their heads about how something works or what something means, and then don't figure out until well into adulthood that they were wrong. Includes the tale of a girl who received a tissue box for Christmas, allegedly painted by trained monkeys. (13 minutes)

Act Two

And Daddy Makes Three

Six-year-old DJ has two dads, Dan Savage and Terry Miller. DJ is being raised by two gay men, but he has a preschooler's understanding of what gay means. Which is to say, he doesn't understand it at all. Though he does oppose gay marriage. Dan, the author of the syndicated column and book Savage Love, tells the story. (12 minutes)

Act Three

Sucker Mc-squared

Bob Berenz had a good job as an electrician. But he wanted to do something bigger. He came up with an idea for an invention. But as he studied physics texts to see if his invention could work, he happened upon the biggest idea of his life: A revelation about physics that would disprove Einstein, and Newton. That is, if Bob's right. Bob's friend, Robert Andrew Powell, reports the story. He's a sports writer and the author of We Own This Game, about youth football. (16 minutes)

Act Four

The Art Of Adult Conversation

Writer Alexa Junge tells about the time when she was thirteen and she decided to have a "grown-up" conversation with her beloved grandmother. (10 minutes)