Maggie Penman

Throughout history, people have sought to create utopias. Perfect societies free of defects.

Of course, not everyone shares the same vision for a utopia. Different people have different priorities. But the wishes of those with power and prestige almost always take precedence.

On this episode of the Hidden Brain radio show, we tell the story of overzealous American scientists who believed creating a utopia for some would eventually lead to utopia for all. This is a story of people who believed they were doing the enlightened thing, even if it traumatized others.

In 2012, as a new mom, Maranda Dynda heard a story from her midwife that she couldn't get out of her head. The midwife told her that years earlier, something bad had happened after she vaccinated her son. One minute he was fine, and the next, he was autistic. It was like "the light had left his eyes," Maranda recalled her saying. The midwife implored Maranda to go online and do her own research. So she did.

She started on Google. It led her to Facebook groups, where other moms echoed what the midwife had said.

There is great comfort in the familiar. It's one reason humans often flock to people who share the same interests, laugh at the same jokes, hold the same political views. But familiar ground may not be the best place to cultivate creativity.

Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky has found that people who have deep relationships with someone from another country become more creative and score higher on routine creativity tests.

Annie Duke was about to win $2 million.

It was 2004, and she was at the final hand of the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions. Annie had beaten some of the best poker players in the world — all men — to get to this point.

But she wasn't sure she deserved to be there.

"I'm sort of thinking, if I fold and I'm wrong, everybody's going to be like, 'See, she plays like a girl, look how he pushed her around,' " said Annie.

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano.

The nastiness of American politics today may seem extreme compared to the tone of earlier eras. But historian David Moss says our nation's founders were also happy to sling mud.

Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?

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Updated at 6:36 p.m. ET

Protests in Chicago escalated on Saturday night, becoming a tense clash between demonstrators and police over the fatal shooting of a man on the city's South Side.

On Sunday, police released a 30-second video clip from an officer's body-worn camera showing a black man shot by Chicago police had a gun in a holster at his hip. According to The Associated Press, the man was "running away and reaching toward his waist when he was shot multiple times."

Novak Djokovic won the Wimbledon men's singles title for the fourth time on Sunday, defeating South African's Kevin Anderson.

It wasn't a short championship for either competitor – on Friday in the semi-finals Kevin Anderson and John Isner played a remarkable six and a half hour match. That marathon match, in turn, forced Djokovic to play Rafael Nadal over the course of two days, and delayed the women's finals.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses, that beauty could be life-threatening.

"It's kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house," says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. "I'd be the first to get out of there."

Angelique Kerber has won the Wimbledon women's singles title, beating Serena Williams 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She is the first German to win a Wimbledon singles title since Steffi Graf did so in 1996.

"This is one of the best moments of my career," Kerber told ESPN, saying that it has been her dream since childhood to win Wimbledon. She added that playing against Williams made the moment all the more significant: "Playing against Serena is always an honor for me."

Watch Your Mouth

Jul 12, 2018

If you're bilingual or multilingual, you may have noticed that the different languages you speak will make you stretch in different ways.

Languages like Spanish or French require you to remember the gender assigned to every noun, even inanimate objects. Uttering a sentence as simple as "I read the book" in Russian requires you to indicate whether you finished the book or merely read a few pages. If you're toggling between English and a language like Arabic, you have to swap which side of the page you look at first.

The Trump administration said Saturday that it is temporarily halting billions of dollars of payments designed to help insurers meet the Affordable Care Act requirement that they provide coverage regardless of whether a person is healthy or sick.

Steve Ditko, the comic-book artist best known for his role in creating Spider-Man, has died at the age of 90.

Ditko is credited with helping to popularize the Marvel Comics universe, whose characters today can be found everywhere from blockbuster films, to television shows, to theme park rides, to merchandise. Working alongside artists Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Ditko was a creative force behind characters like Dr. Strange, the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

Excessive heat and fire warnings remain in effect from the National Weather Service across much of California, where crews are battling a number of powerful wildfires.

As of Saturday morning, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, there were close to a dozen fires that crews were working to contain. A map from the department shows they span from the Oregon border south to San Diego County, and from the west, in Santa Barbara County, to the east, on the border with Nevada.

Federal prosecutors said Friday they will drop all of the remaining cases stemming from the Inauguration Day demonstrations in Washington, D.C. last year.

As NPR reported then, a protest turned confrontational when a small number of "black-clad protesters broke windows and police responded with pepper spray and a concussive device."

The "Trump Baby" blimp is nearly 20 feet tall, wearing nothing but a diaper and a grimace. A tuft of yellow hair tops his orange head. He is armed with a cellphone, ready to tweet.

And now he is nearly ready to fly over Parliament in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan's Greater London Authority has given activists permission to launch the bouncing behemoth from Parliament Square Garden on July 12, when President Trump is set to arrive in London for a three and a half day visit to the U.K.

A large retrospective celebrating the photographer Nicholas Nixon has come down 10 days early, amid sexual harassment allegations against the artist.

Nixon, 70, is best known for "The Brown Sisters," a series of portraits of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters, taken every year for more than four decades. The sisters stand close together, always in the same order. They stare intently at the camera, not smiling.

Diana Crane remembers the first time she saw it, years ago at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She says she sat in front of it for over an hour.

The tone of American politics can be...nasty. It doesn't take a seasoned political analyst to see that. But is this nastiness really worse than in previous eras, and if so, what does that mean for our democracy?

Historian David Moss takes the long view. He argues that our political systems are much more resilient than we realize, and that conflict, however bitter it may seem, can be productive.

The first to notice the growing crack in Rattlesnake Ridge was a local pilot, back in October.

Since then, geologists have been monitoring the area in Washington state, and report that 4 million cubic yards of land have moved in just a couple of months — faster than was expected.

There are many spaces where women are discouraged from breastfeeding in public.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. ET Monday

An oil tanker continues to burn off the coast of Shanghai, more than 24 hours after it collided with another ship and caught fire.

One crew member has been found dead, Reuters reports, while 31 others remain missing as firefighters continue to battle the blaze.

From Portsmouth, N.H., to Nashville, Tenn., social media rejoiced over the first snowfall of the season this weekend.

Protesters clashed with security forces Sunday outside of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in response to President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports from the demonstration that for the most part, the protesters were peaceful.

"Then, there was a commotion at the front, and suddenly police in riot gear fired volleys of tear gas. Some protesters threw rocks. Most scattered. Four people dragged away a woman who seemed hit very badly with tear gas, and was unable to walk."

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET

At least 14 U.N. peacekeepers were killed when rebels attacked a peacekeeping base in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Thursday. Five Congolese soldiers also died and at least 40 peacekeepers were wounded in the three-hour firefight.

"This is the worst attack on U.N. peacekeepers in the organization's recent history," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement Friday.

President Trump told the leader of Turkey that he has instructed U.S. generals to stop supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria, according to Turkey's foreign minister.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, spoke with reporters Friday following a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a statement about the call, the White House did not confirm Cavusoglu's remarks about the Kurds, but it could have been alluding to a shift when it said:

For the first time since the country gained independence from white minority rule in 1980, Zimbabwe has a new leader. At a packed stadium in the capital city Harare, Emmerson Mnangagwa promised not to "squander this moment" to change the culture of politics in his country.

Julia Poff, a 46-year-old woman in Sealy, Texas, has been accused of mailing homemade explosives to then-President Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in October 2016. A third package went to the Social Security Administration.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, apologized to his constituents in a statement Wednesday for a lewd photo of him that was published anonymously Tuesday on Twitter. The congressman said that he sent the photo to a woman he was in a consensual relationship with while separated from his second wife.

"I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down," the statement read.

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