Important, Not Important

Important, Not Important

Science for people who give a sh*t. Want to feel better AND unf*ck the world? The 6-time Webby nominee delivers deep conversations with the world's smartest people (scientists, doctors, CEO's, farmers, and more!), and digestible news updates every single week, loaded with tips and steps you and we can take to fix this place right up. We're talkin' clean energy and coral reefs, COVID vaccines and pediatric cancer research, clean water and carbon capture tech, asteroid deflection and artificial intelligence ethics. "A vital service in an era where important truths, outright fiction and mere trivia all compete for your attention.” - Craig Mazin, creator, writer, and executive producer of HBO's Chernobyl Hosted by Quinn Emmett read less
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Episódios

Saving Democracy From The Bottom Up
19-02-2024
Saving Democracy From The Bottom Up
What are reverse coattails, and how might they slow climate change, prevent the next pandemic, and keep Nazis off of school boards? That's today's big question, and my returning guest is Amanda Litman. Amanda is one of my favorite people. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of Run for Something, which recruits and supports young, diverse progressives running for down-ballot office, state, and local, and all those fun levels. Since launching in 2017, a thousand years ago, Run for Something has elected more than 1000 leaders across nearly all 50 states, mostly women and people of color.Politico named Run for Something and Amanda, one of the 50 ideas driving politics in 2018. Bloomberg called her one of the People to Watch in 2019. Fortune named her to their annual 40 under 40 list in 2020. And in 2022, Amanda was one of the Time Next 100, a list of 100 rising stars from around the world.And look, it's yet another election year in America because it's another year in America, so there is never a better time to invite Amanda back onto the show. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:North Woods by Daniel MasonFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Run for Office!Volunteer for a progressive, young candidateDonate to help get progressive, young candidates elected Learn more about running for office, support the educational efforts of Run for Something and make a c3 donation at Run For Something CivicsFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/ImportantNotImpSubscribe to our YouTube channelFollow Quinn: twitter.com/quinnemmettEdited by
Best of: The End of the Universe
22-01-2024
Best of: The End of the Universe
How will the universe end? That's today's big question, and my guest is Sarafina El-Badry Nance. Sarafina is an NSF graduate research fellow, astrophysics Ph.D. candidate, and Forbes 30 Under 30 Science 2022 honoree, specializing in supernova and cosmology. She's also the author of the new, honest, and empowering memoir "Starstruck: A Memoir of Astrophysics and Finding Light in the Dark".Sarafina and I recorded this conversation back in 2021, and not only is it an all-time listener favorite, well, the universe at large hasn't ended yet, even though it's felt like it was coming sometimes. We've all been through a lot since then, and this conversation is still and will remain, evergreen.Sarafina's goal is to measure the rate of the expansion of the universe as propelled by dark energy. And, I'm sorry if that isn't exciting enough for you, I don't know what to tell you.-----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:"Untamed" by Glennon DoyleFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:starafina.comInstagram: @starstrickensfTwitter: @starstrickenSFLinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sarafina-nance-7a5888a0Watch: Constellationsgirlswhocode.comthebreasties.orgFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/ImportantNotImpSubscribe to our YouTube channelFollow Quinn: twitter.com/quinnemmettEdited by Anthony LucianiProduced by
Best of: Episode X: A Far Out Geek Girl Rises
15-01-2024
Best of: Episode X: A Far Out Geek Girl Rises
Why does it matter who reviews our video games? That's today's big question, and my guest is Swapna Krishna. Swapna and I recorded this conversation in 2022, and as gaming and the entire media ecosystem changes and evolves and is pulled apart and merged, it's more important than ever to find reputable sources we not only trust, but who we have a connection with, and that's why representation matters so much. Swapna is a writer and journalist covering space, science, tech, and pop culture, and writes some of the most empathetic tech, and pop culture commentary on the web. She writes everywhere from Fast Company to StarWars.com, from StarTrek.com to Business Insider and the LA Times, Bitch Magazine, Bustle, Mental Floss, and more. Swapna has appeared on a bazillion excellent podcasts, she's been at ComicCon, she's the co-host of the Desi Geek Girls Podcast, and the host of PBS's show, Far Out. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Sword Stone Table by Swapna Krishna and Jenn NorthingtonStay tuned for Roshani Chokshi's new bookFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Follow Swapna on Twitter and InstagramFollow Swapna on TikTokWatch PBS Terra's Far Out on YouTube or their websiteListen to and follow Desi Geek GirlsCheck out NASA SocialFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter:
Best of: Why We Can't Focus
08-01-2024
Best of: Why We Can't Focus
How do we get our attention back? That's today's big question. I think about it every day, and my guest is Johann Hari. Johann and I recorded this conversation in 2022, and with the Internet in general and social networks of the past fifteen years being straight-up pulled apart, I think it's more relevant than ever. Johann Hari is the author of three New York Times best-selling books, an executive producer of an Oscar-nominated movie, and an eight-part series starring Samuel L. Jackson. His books have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and his TED Talks have been viewed more than eighty million times.Johann is the author of the new book, from last year called Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again.No matter what you do, we are each and all being pulled in so many different directions. If we can't pay attention to what's going on with our planet and our communities, we're going to have a hard time fixing any of it. Our attention is spread too thin. And where this all clicks for me, is that we need to dial in more than ever before, and we also need space to let go, to understand, and marinate on big problems consciously, and subconsciously. Right now, we don't have room for any of it, and it really matters. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier CercasThe Apology by Eve EnslerFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Read Johann's book, "Stolen Focus"Follow Johann on TwitterDiscover more of Johann's workFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/ImportantNotImpSubscribe to our YouTube channelFollow Quinn: twitter.com/quinnemmettEdited by Anthony LucianiProduced...
Best of: Internal Activism
01-01-2024
Best of: Internal Activism
How's your mental health around climate change? That is today's big question, and my guest is Britt Wray. Britt and I recorded this conversation in 2022. It is an all-time favorite of mine and of our listeners.Britt is the author of the fantastic book, Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis. She has a passionate generational perspective on how to stay sane amid climate disruption. Britt has a PhD in science communication from the University of Copenhagen. She's the author of The Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction. Britt has a PhD in science communication from the University of Copenhagen. She has hosted several podcasts, radio, and TV programs with the BBC and CBC, and is a TED resident. Britt is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she is researching the mental health impacts of climate change on young people. Britt is also the author of Gen Dread, the first newsletter that shares wide-ranging ideas for supporting emotional health and psychological resilience in the climate and wider ecological crisis. I read it every week.-----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis by Britt WrayGreek Myths by Gustav SchwabFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Follow Britt Wray on TwitterFollow @gen_dread on InstagramGen Dread NewsletterClimate AwakeningClimate CaféGood Grief NetworkWork That ReconnectsClimate Psychology AllianceClimate Psychiatry AllianceFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at
How To Make Ethical Decisions
04-12-2023
How To Make Ethical Decisions
Has there ever been a more important time, a more consequential time, to lead with ethics? That's today's big question, and my guest is Dr. Susan Liautaud. Susan is the author of The Power of Ethics and of the Little Book of Big Ethical Questions. She teaches cutting-edge ethics courses at Stanford University. She is the Chair of the Council Trustees at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She's the Vice Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, and is Chair of the Stanford University Freeman's Spogli Institute for International Studies Advisory Council.She also serves with the Stanford Institute for Human Centered Artificial Intelligence, which is obviously really important, and the AI Ethics Advisory Panel. Other boards include Benevolent AI, the Yale Divinity School Advisory Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, among many others.Her work and her frameworks reverberate through so many decision-making apparatuses today. I have been trying to learn from and operate from Susan's work personally and in this work for a long time because it's easy to feel incapable, not skilled enough, or not practiced enough in this moment of big decisions.This moment, at the intersection of technology and society and personal impact where a better, healthier, cleaner future, however imperfect, is within our hands, will require each of us to adopt and then practice a framework to consider who we want to be and who we see ourselves as, and then what that means in practice in each situation, on a day to day level, and when we're faced with the big stuff.A framework that interrogates the information available to us, that honestly asks who could be affected by our decisions, including ourselves, and what would it be like to be affected by our decision, now and way down the line.-----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:The Hero's Journey by Joseph CampbellFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Read Susan's books The Power of Ethics and The Little Book of Big Ethical QuestionsConnect with Susan on LinkedInFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at
The Creepy Reality of Consumer Tech (Privacy Not Included)
27-11-2023
The Creepy Reality of Consumer Tech (Privacy Not Included)
What are the best holiday gifts that aren't privacy nightmares? That's today's big question, and my guest is Jen Caltrider. Jen is the lead researcher for Mozilla's Privacy Not Included program where since 2017 Mozilla has published 15 editions of Privacy Not Included, their Consumer Tech Buyer's Guide.They've reviewed over 500 gadgets, apps, cars now, and more, assessing their security features what data they collect from you and your loved ones, and who they share that data with or sell it to. They have even built the first annual Consumer Creep-o-meter, distilling what's good, what's bad, and what's just plain creepy in the world of consumer tech.While I love new tech and I own quite a bit of it, I have become pretty obsessed with at least understanding what I'm getting myself into and getting my kids into. Part of that's for myself and my family, but obviously, so I can share it with you all as well. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Blitz by Daniel O'MalleyFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Privacy Not Included websiteReport about your car spying on youWho is collecting data from your car? by The MarkupFacebook data being used in court post-Dobbs10 Questions You Need To Ask Right Now, before using an AI toolFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/ImportantNotImpSubscribe to our YouTube channelFollow Quinn:
Best of: Life Finds A Way
20-11-2023
Best of: Life Finds A Way
I think about time a lot. Some days I feel ancient, some days I can’t believe how old I am.I’ve got kids, too. I can’t believe how fast they’ve grown up already. They love so many things. Swimming. Cooking. Plain pasta. The beach. Vegetables, somehow. Their friends. Their family. Dinosaurs.Man, oh man, do they love dinosaurs.I love to challenge them, to help them think about how long ago it all was, and how long it lasted. How different the world was. How the land under their feet was an ocean, once.And of course, knowing what we know now, how fast it can all change. How an asteroid - or a virus, or a fire, or a flood - can change your life forever.As much progress as we’ve made in these 300,000 years of Homo sapiens, from fire to wheels to meat to agriculture to handwashing – we are in a moment when we are challenged yet again on a global scale, and unlike the dinos, our future is of our own making.In this episode from 2022, our guest is Riley Black.Riley is a science writer and amateur paleontologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, right in the center of dinosaur country, where she chases tales of vanished lives from museum collections to remote badlands.Riley’s published books include Written in Stone, my favorite and critically acclaimed My Beloved Brontosaurus, When Dinosaurs Ruled, Prehistoric Predators, and The Last Days of the Dinosaurs.Riley’s journey and storytelling are powerful and so important at this moment when we’re so ready to move on to the next thing that we haven’t taken the time to cherish the people, the places, the world around us, and how lucky we are to have them.-----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Why Won't You Apologize? by Harriet LernerThe Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley BlackMy Beloved Brontosaurus by Riley BlackFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Follow Riley on TwitterFind more of Riley's work on her websiteFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow...
The Female Origin of Species
13-11-2023
The Female Origin of Species
How did the female body drive 200 million years of human evolution? And why the hell are we just finding out about it now? That's today's big question, and my guest is Cat Bohannon. Cat is the author of the incredible new book, “Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution”. Cat is also a researcher and author with a Ph.D. from Columbia University in the evolution of narrative in cognition. Cat's essays and poems have appeared in Scientific American, Mind, Science Magazine, The Best American, Non Required Reading, The Georgia Review, Story Collider, and Poets Against the War. Look, for a very long time, scientists ignored everything about the female body, except for how to have sex with it. And even that, they barely understood (and still don't). They didn't think or care to ask helpful questions like: How did we get here? What else about the female biological body is different from the traditional male body? Why might those differences matter? And how might they have gotten us to where we are today, atop the animal kingdom, for better or worse, and a huge outlier in about 500 different ways from even our closest primate cousins? Why are we so weird? Cat's book asks all of these questions, and I genuinely cannot wait for you to listen to this conversation, and read the book.-----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katharine BooFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Read Cat's book "Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution"Keep up with Cat's workOur World in Data: Life Expectancy Support the Trevor ProjectFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter: twitter.com/ImportantNotImpSubscribe to our YouTube channelFollow Quinn: twitter.com/quinnemmettEdited by
Can Your Gut Predict Alzheimer's?
06-11-2023
Can Your Gut Predict Alzheimer's?
Can your gut composition predict Alzheimer's? That's today's big question and my returning guest is Gautam Dantas. Gautam heads up the Dantas Lab at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His lab works at the interface of microbiogenomics, ecology, synthetic biology, and systems biology to understand, harness, and engineer the biochemical processing potential of microbial communities.Since our last conversation, Gautam was named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology for his studies of microbial communities and antibiotic resistance. I wanted to have him back on the show, not just because Gautam is one of my favorite guests of all time, and not just because of this new study we're going to really dig into, but because you have probably been affected by Alzheimer's in some way.Alzheimer's is growing more prevalent throughout the world every day as the U. S., China, and so many other countries get old. We've asked so many questions about dementia, Alzheimer's, and other brain diseases and found so few answers that are repeatable and can either prevent or just slow this disease in some way. And that's what makes me so excited about Gautam's new research, however preliminary it might be. We get to keep doing it. We get to keep asking these important questions that can help people. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:The Three Body Problem by Cixin LiuFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Read Gautum's study on the gut microbiome and Alzheimer'sKeep up with the Dantas LabListen to our first episode with GautamVolunteer for research at the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center at Washington UniversityFind more research opportunities and clinical trials near youFollow us:Subscribe to our newsletter at importantnotimportant.comSupport our work and become a Member at importantnotimportant.com/upgradeFollow us on Twitter:
What Causes Depression?
30-10-2023
What Causes Depression?
Content WarningWe're going to be talking about stress and anxiety, depression, suicide, and more today.If any of this could be triggering to you in any way, please feel free to just skip over this one. Nothing in this conversation should be taken as medical advice. If a treatment or combination of treatments prescribed or recommended by your healthcare provider is working for you, that's great.Your personal experience with that treatment is much more relevant than anything in this conversation. If you're using a depression medication or other therapy and not getting relief from your depression symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider. And finally, if you are struggling, feeling distressed and that you might hurt yourself or if someone you love qualifies in any way here, you can text or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.That's 988, right now from your phone to get help. You can even call and press three to speak to a counselor with the Trevor Project, the nonprofit that works and provides wonderful support for LGBTQ folks. What is depression? And how do the interactions between our genes, our chemistry, and the environment around us affect our odds of developing and being treated for anxiety and depression? That's today's big question, and my guest is Srijan Sen. Srijan is the Francis and Kenneth Eisenberg Professor of Depression and Neurosciences at the University of Michigan and the Director of the Francis and Kenneth Eisenberg and Family Depression Center. His research focuses on the interactions between genes and the environment and their effect on stress, anxiety, and depression. Even before COVID, kids, teens, and adults were suffering increasing levels of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and stress.The symptoms are fairly common to folks who have them, but the causes are far less so. From genetics to the gut, to brain chemistry, to inflammation, and innumerable possible environmental factors like say, a pandemic, or school shootings, or a loved one passing, or childhood abuse, whatever it might be. Just a lack of sleep can trigger depressive symptoms. Or not.I have suffered through it, Srijan has suffered through it, and so many of you have too. So, with the way science is progressing rapidly in myriad ways, I thought it was time to dive in. -----------Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.comNew here? Get started with our fan favorite episodes at podcast.importantnotimportant.com.-----------INI Book Club:Range by David EpsteinFind all of our guest recommendations at the INI Book Club: https://bookshop.org/lists/important-not-important-book-clubLinks:Follow along with the work of The Sen LabFollow Srijan on TwitterRead Quinn's