The Stuff of Life

Eavesdrop on experts and researchers as they ponder what makes our world so maddening, so strange and so achingly beautiful. Not to mention ridiculous. Join Julie Douglas for this week’s episode of The Stuff of Life, a podcast by HowStuffWorks.com.


America, the home of rugged individualist. Or not. Each of us is connected to each other, relies on one another, gives and takes, consciously or unconsciously weaving the web of support that it takes to make a society. Let’s face it: we need each other.

In this episode we look at how we manufacture fear in the mind with a trip back in history to a psyops mission, a visit to to a haunted attraction, and a peek into the political house of horror, “Doomocracy.”

1963 was a year of chaos and social upheaval. Sound familiar? Time, it would seem, is circular, something the American Survey of Fears proves out.

Ah, the “good ol days.” If America had its own brochure it would depict rocking chairs on front porches, pristine farms and tidy downtowns. But did this America ever exist? And is thinking it did doing us some serious psychological harm?

Adolescence: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The Stuff of Life is packing up its bags and moving to Fridays. Find out why.

Some men dance, many don’t. What are the unspoken rules that govern the ways we move our body, and what does it say about our society and how we treat each other?

The antidote to being a jerk is empathy. And thankfully it appears to be hard-wired in the human brain. And yet … we’re increasingly casting off the ability to walk a mile in another person's shoes.

We all want to hit the eject button on reality and look for a different way to live our lives at one point or another. How about through transforming yourself into another species, meditating on your existence, or just laughing your ass off?

‘Anger in its time and place,’ wrote the essayist Charles Lamb, ‘May assume a kind of grace.’ We look at how anger can be clarifying, even helpful, and we find out how it can morph into its more dangerous and corrupting form, hate.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum we can all agree that more than ever, the world feels broken. In this episode, we take a trip to Washington DC on the day of the inauguration and the eve of the Women’s March. And we look to Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken things, to find out how to mend ourselves.

The U.S. is having a moment right now. So the Stuff of Life podcast team went to Washington, D.C., to hear how that moment is playing out in people's minds.

In this episode we look at the idea that life is just a game.

Nature gave us the first songs -- the patterns and melodies that we replicate in instruments, and our own voices. We take a visit to the exhibit, "Wild Music," to look at our deep connection to nature and music.

The Earth is wrapped in an atmosphere that weighs 5.5 quadrillion tons. And inside this atmosphere the weather creates a crazy quilt of conditions. To say that the weather is unpredictable is to sum up our entire existence. And to personify weather is deeply human.

Finding our way in the world is one of the most fundamental things we humans do, and maps map it possible. But on some level, these maps are a thing of fiction.

In this episode we’ll look at how, as the bereaved, we find solace in ritual – everything from providing comfort food to hiring professional mourners.

In this episode we put out a pot of tea, a plate of cucumber sandwiches, and we take a seat with death. What is a “good death,” how do we achieve it and how might our dreams help?

In some ways our stuff is ourselves – it tells a story about who we are. But why do some of us develop pathological attachments to objects?

In one way or another we’re all trying to transcend death, whether it’s through an “I was here” graffiti scrawl or an e-epic-length autobiography. In this episode we look at our attempts to achieve immortality – through objects that we store in time capsules, and through the information we store in the avatars we build of ourselves.

One of the top American fears, alongside walking alone at night and personal injury, is public speaking. Find out why it can be so terrifying to step into the spotlight.

Cat’s out the bag: We’re not making it out alive. So how do we deal with the ultimate fear – that death is right around the corner? And when the survival chips are down, how can we increase our chances? Join Julie Douglas and colleagues from HowStuffWorks for the pilot episode of The Stuff of Life.

Eavesdrop on experts and researchers as they ponder what makes our world so maddening, so strange and so achingly beautiful. Not to mention ridiculous. Join Julie Douglas for The Stuff of Life, a new immersive podcast by HowStuffWorks.com.

The Stuff of Life, a podcast produced by HowStuffWorks, teases apart the tales we tell, because when we crack open a story and look inside we see the seeds of what make our world so maddening, so strange and so achingly beautiful. Join host Julie Douglas for the very first episode of The Stuff of Life on January 27th.