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Playlist: Slice of Life

Compiled By: Leigh Cooper

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Radio Curious (Series)

Produced by Barry Vogel

Most recent piece in this series:

Kurdish People:  Their Struggle to Keep Their Homeland.

From Barry Vogel | Part of the Radio Curious series | 29:01


In this 1997 edition of Radio Curious, we visited with Bob Blincoe, a Presbyterian minister, who lived and worked among the Kurds in the Zagros Mountains from 1990 to 1996.  

The Kurdish people have long been aptly referred to as a “millet.”  This is a Turkish term that originated in the Ottoman Empire when it ruled parts of central Europe to the near east from 1430 to 1921.  It means “any ethnic group.” Until the 20th century millets, were able to control their way of life and effectively rule themselves.  Now approximately 25 million Kurdish people live in the Zagros Mountains, where the borders of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran converge.  These Kurdish people live stateless and many homeless in their ancestral homeland.  Currently they have been able to successfully defend themselves from brutal ISIS attacks. 

When Bob Blincoe lived among the Kurds and worked as a community organizer in their ancestral homeland he first spoke Arabic, so he wouldn’t stand out.  He quickly learned Kurdish which he spoke only with great discretion. His stories of the Kurdish people are important to consider now in light of terrorism and other dangers inflicted against them.

When Bob Blincoe and I visited in the studios of Radio Curious in the spring of 1997, we began our conversation when I asked him to describe the Zagros Mountains where so many Kurdish people live.

The book Bob Blincoe recommends is “A Peace to End All Peace,” by David Fromkin.

This program was originally broadcast in May 1997.

WBEZ's Clever Apes (Series)

Produced by WBEZ

Most recent piece in this series:

Clever Apes: Nature and human nature

From WBEZ | Part of the WBEZ's Clever Apes series | 08:16


First off, this episode is sort of a goodbye. I will be departing my beloved WBEZ shortly to strike out for new adventures. I’ll include my weepy valedictory at the bottom of this post. But the story this week is important, so before your attention wanders …

As kids, we usually learn about nature from a decidedly human point of view. The world exists in relation to us. People are the stars in this scenario: We are Hamlet, while nature is like Denmark – the place where we happen to be. The conventional wisdom has been that this is a universal way the mind develops its awareness of the natural world.

But an eclectic group of researchers are challenging that. The team is made up of psychologists from Northwestern University, and researchers from the Menominee Reservation and the American Indian Center of Chicago. They started looking carefully at the way Native and non-Native children come to learn about nature. They found some distinctive differences.

Namely, Native kids tend not to have that anthropocentric view in the early years. They come to see the biological world in terms of relationships and connections – what psychologists call “systems-level thinking.” Non-Native kids, on the other hand, generally think more in hierarchical categories like taxonomy – kingdom, phylum, species, etc. So the human-centered learning may not be universal after all, but instead flavored by the culture we grow up in. 

This goes deeper than just having different beliefs. The scientists say those distinctive worldviews actually change the way we think, learn and reason. Over the last decade or so, the team has been designing experiments to tease out the ramifications of that change. It has major consequences for education, 
and might (this is my speculation!) influence our attitudes about the environment.

So, this will be my final episode of Clever Apes. We are hopeful that it will continue in some form, so you may not have heard the last of WBEZ’s science experiment. Creating this series has been a rare privilege – I have had one of the greatest gigs in media. My deepest gratitude goes to my editor Cate Cahan, whose gusto and keen mind have long inspired me. Michael De Bonis has been a fantastic collaborator, friend and co-conspirator, without whom the Apes would be far less clever. And Sally Eisele has shown great vision (or folly) in supporting this weird project from the get-go. 

Encounters (Series)

Produced by Encounters: Radio Experiences in the North

Most recent piece in this series:

Encounters Mountain Sheep

From Encounters: Radio Experiences in the North | Part of the Encounters series | 29:00

Richard_and_thumper_small On this blustery day, head up the steepest mountains above the Alaska Highway near the Canadian border to get a super close up view of a group of Rams.

Snap Judgment hosted by Glynn Washington - Specials (Series)

Produced by Snap Judgment

Most recent piece in this series:

Snap Judgment #503: Joy And Pain

From Snap Judgment | Part of the Snap Judgment hosted by Glynn Washington - Specials series | 53:57

Joyandpain-square_small Unwedding

Valentine's day is about love, about girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, wives. But what about our lovers passed? Those that we still hold in our hearts, those that we still sometimes sort of love? Those we can’t let go of? This couple tells the story.

This story was produced by the dynamic duo Sharon Mashihi and Rachel James. For more of what they do check this out.

Producer: Sharon Mashihi and Rachel James

Henry and Jane

A husband and wife think they are doing the best they can to keep their marriage in tact, then they enter the storm. Find an extended version of this story on Lea Thau’s Strangers, from KCRW’s Independent Producer Project.

Producer: Lea Thau

The Refresh Button

We all sometimes ask ourselves, if we had a day, a week, a year left to live, what would we do with that time. Hear what one couple did when they faced that dark fantasy in real life.

Producer: Julia Dewitt

Just Us

One woman’s experience leaves her unable to trust, until she finds just the right partner. Find out about Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle at www.sunnyandpeter.com

Producer: Anna Sussman

99% Invisible (Standard Length) (Series)

Produced by Roman Mars

Most recent piece in this series:

99% Invisible #170- Children of the Magenta (Standard 4:30 version)

From Roman Mars | Part of the 99% Invisible (Standard Length) series | 04:30


On the evening of May 31, 2009, 216 passengers, three pilots, and nine flight attendants boarded an Airbus 330 in Rio de Janeiro. This flight, Air France 447, was headed across the Atlantic to Paris. The take-off was unremarkable. The plane reached a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The passengers read and watched movies and slept. Everything proceeded normally for several hours. Then, with no communication to the ground or air traffic control, flight 447 suddenly disappeared.


Days later, several bodies and some pieces of the plane were found floating in the Atlantic Ocean. But it would be two more years before most of the wreckage was recovered from the ocean’s depths. All 228 people on board had died. The cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorders, however, were intact, and these recordings told a story about how Flight 447 ended up in the bottom of the Atlantic.

The story they told was was about what happened when the automated system flying the plane suddenly shut off, and the pilots were left surprised, confused, and ultimately unable to fly their own plane.

earlyautopilot2[Early Autopilot. Credit: Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution]

The first so called “auto-pilot” was invented by the Sperry Corporation in 1912. It allowed the plane to fly straight and level without the pilot’s intervention. In the 1950s the autopilots improved, and could be programed to follow a route.

By the 1970s, even complex electrical systems and hydraulic systems were automated, and studies were showing that most accidents were caused not by mechanical error, but by human error. These findings prompted the French company Airbus to develop safer planes that used even more advanced automation.

Airbus set out to design what they hoped would be the safest plane yet—a plane that even the worst pilots could fly with ease. Bernard Ziegler, senior vice president for engineering at Airbus, famously said that he was building an airplane that even his concierge would be able to fly.

Airbus_A300_B2_Zero-G[One of the first Airbus planes for commercial use. Credit: Stahlkocher.]

Not only did Ziegler’s plane have auto-pilot, it also had what’s called a “fly-by-wire” system. Whereas autopilot just does what a pilot tells it to do, fly-by-wire is a computer-based control system that can interpret what the pilot wants to do, and then execute the command smoothly and safely. For example, if the pilot pulls back on his or her control stick, the fly-by-wire system will understand that the pilot wants to pitch the plane up, and then will do it at the just the right angle and rate.

Importantly, the fly-by-wire system will also protect the plane from getting into an “aerodynamic stall.” In a plane, stalling can happen when the nose of the plane is pitched up at too steep an angle. This can cause the plane to lose “lift” and start to descend.

stall[From top: a plane in normal flight; a plane in a stall. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.]

Stalling in a plane can be dangerous, but fly-by-wire automation makes it impossible to do. As long as it’s on.

Unlike autopilot, the “fly-by-wire” system cannot be turned on and off by the pilot. However, it can turn itself off. And that’s exactly what it did on May 31, 2009, as Air France Flight 447 made its transatlantic flight.

planned route[The dotted line begins where Flight 447’s last contact with the control tower was made. Credit: Mysid]

When a pressure probe on the outside of the plane iced over, the automation could no longer tell how fast the plane was going, and the autopilot disengaged. The “fly-by-wire” system also switched into a mode in which it was no longer offering protections against aerodynamic stall. When the autopilot disengaged, the co-pilot in the right seat put his hand on the control stick—a little joy stick like thing to his right—and pulled it back, pitching the nose of the plane up.

This action caused the plane to go into a stall, and yet, even as the stall warning sounded, none of the pilots could figure out what was happening to them. If they’d realized they were in a stall, the fix would have been clear. “The recovery would have required them to put the nose down, get it below the horizon, regain a flying speed and then pull out of the ensuing dive,” says William Langewiesche, a journalist and former pilot who wrote about the crash of Flight 447 for Vanity Fair. 

The pilots, however, never tried to recover, because they never seemed to realize they were in a stall.  Four minutes and twenty seconds after the incident began, the plane pancaked into the Atlantic, instantly killing all 228 people on board.


There are various factors that contributed to the crash of flight 447. Some people point to the fact that the airbus control sticks do not move in unison, so the pilot in the left seat would not have felt the pilot in the right seat pull back on his stick, the maneuver that ultimately pitched the plane into a dangerous angle. But even if you concede this potential design flaw, it still begs the question, how could the pilots have a computer yelling ‘stall’ at them, and not realize they were in a stall?

It’s clear that automation played a role in this accident, though there is some disagreement about what kind of role it played. Maybe it was a badly designed system that confused the pilots, or maybe years of depending on automation had left the pilots unprepared to take over the controls.

“For however much automation has helped the airline passenger by increasing safety it has had some negative consequences,” says Langewiesche. “In this case it’s quite clear that these pilots had had experience stripped away from them for years.” The Captain of the Air France flight had logged 346 hours of flying over the past six months. But within those six months, there were only about four hours in which he was actually in control of an airplane—just the take-offs and landings. The rest of the time, auto-pilot was flying the plane. Langewiesche believes this lack experience left the pilots unprepared to do their jobs.

Voo_Air_France_447-2006-06-14[Pieces of the wreckage of Flight 447. Credit: Roberto Maltchik]

Complex and confusing automated systems may also have contributed to the crash. When one of the co-pilots hauled back on his stick, he pitched the plane into an angle that eventually caused the stall. But it’s possible that he didn’t understand that he was now flying in a different mode, one which would not regulate and smooth out his movements. This confusion about what how the fly-by-wire system responds in different modes is referred to, aptly, as “mode confusion,”  and it has come up in other accidents.

“A lot of what’s happening is hidden from view from the pilots,” says Langewiesche. “It’s buried. When the airplane starts doing something that is unexpected and the pilot says ‘hey, what’s it doing now?’ — that’s a very very standard comment in cockpits today.'”

Langewiesche isn’t the only person to point out that ‘What’s it doing now?’ is a commonly heard question in the cockpit.

In 1997,  American Airlines captain Warren Van Der Burgh said that the industry has turned pilots into “Children of the Magenta” who are too dependent on the guiding magenta-colored lines on their screens.

William Langewiesche agrees:

“We appear to be locked into a cycle in which automation begets the erosion of skills or the lack of skills in the first place and this then begets more automation.”

However potentially dangerous it may be to rely too heavily on automation, no one is advocating getting rid of it entirely. It’s agreed upon across the board that automation has made airline travel safer. The accident rate for air travel is very low: about 2.8 accidents for every one million departures. (Airbus planes, by the way, are no more or less safe than their main rival, Boeing.)

Langewiesche thinks that we are ultimately heading toward pilotless planes. And by the time that happens, the automation will be so good and so reliable that humans, with all of their fallibility, will really just be in the way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 11.54.13 AM[The magenta guiding lines of automation, from a 1997 presentation by pilot Warren Van Der Burgh.]

Producer Katie Mingle spoke with William Langewiesche, a former pilot who wrote an article in Vanity Fair about this flight, as well as Nadine Sarter, a systems engineer at the University of Michigan. This episode also features the voice of Captain Warren Van Der Burgh.

Too Much Information (Series)

Produced by WFMU

Most recent piece in this series:

It's All Over

From WFMU | Part of the Too Much Information series | 54:02

It's All Over

Tminub_small G.S. recalls how bad karma took him from Devon, England to the C.U.T. bomb shelters in Montana. Author Robert Brockway explains how everything is going to kill everybody, and Matt Jarvis explains what it means to be a prepper. Pamela Walt has bad vibes in general, and our DC correspondent "Chris" has a bad feeling about the Tea Party. Also, astronomer Chris Impey explains how dark energy is the ending of all endings.

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (Series)

Produced by Phil Mariage

Most recent piece in this series:

Doctor Visits

From Phil Mariage | Part of the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow series | 57:00


While it may be one place most of would rather not have to find ourselves, the visit to the doctor's office has always been a vital event in our lives. In times not so long ago, your local physician addressed almost all your concerns. He...and it usually was a male...probably knew your entire families health conditions. So much has changed over the generations, not the least of which is the balancing of gender in the profession. Doctor Visits YTT is our topic today and we'll be right back with my guests, right after the news.


Professor and Chairman Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology College of Medicine Dr. Lowery established ANGELS (Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning System), a Medicaid-funded, cost-effective programmatic solution to assist Arkansas’s high-risk pregnancies.  This program reaches patients throughout Arkansas in need of subspecialty Maternal-Fetal Medicine support. Dr. Lowery was instrumental in establishing the UAMS Center for Distance Health, a technology-based partnership of the College of Medicine and Regional Programs.

Outreach director UAMS Center of Distance Health Director of Outreach 

Executive director of developmentand Oversight director of the UAMS Center for Distance Health and ANGELS program. Recent recipient of Telehealth Champion award, which recognizes individuals who are essential to the success of a telehealth project or program.

The Stream (Series)

Produced by Wendy Levy

Most recent piece in this series:

Episode #11: 5 Minutes with Peter Broderick

From Wendy Levy | Part of the The Stream series | 05:00

Screen_shot_stream_small 5 Minute Mix