Talk Of The Nation

Neal Conan leads a productive exchange of ideas and opinions on the issues that dominate the news landscape. From politics and public service to education, religion, music and health care, Talk Of  The Nation offers call-in listeners the opportunity to join enlightening discussions with a variety of guests.

'Instant' Looks At Polaroid's Land

Dec 14, 2012

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IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Nothing beats the smell of a live Christmas tree in your home, but how can you keep the needles on your tree and off your carpet? Rick Bates, professor of horticulture at Penn State University, offers tips for how to properly care for your Christmas tree this holiday season.

Ask A Quantum Mechanic

Dec 14, 2012

Did you know plants use quantum mechanics every day? That quantum computers can hack the encryption used in online commerce? Or that a 'quantum internet' could someday teleport your emails? MIT's Seth Lloyd discusses those and other quantum mysteries in this episode of "Ask a quantum mechanic."

Is It Possible To Create A Mind?

Dec 14, 2012

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Up next, what is intelligence? What is thought? What does it really mean to have a mind? And if we can answer those questions, is it possible for people to reverse-engineer the process and build an artificial mind? Sure, there are things like Siri, which can understand enough of your question to pull up directions to the restaurant, and there's IBM's Watson, which took on human contestants in a game of "Jeopardy!" and won. But how to jump the gap from those to something everyone would agree is truly intelligent?

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're in the worst drought since the 1950s, according to NOAA, and while we associated extended dry spells with summer, conditions out west have remained unchanged since the warm weather ended.

In 2013 and 2014, there will be a number of substantial realignments in the NCAA conferences. Some believe that the realignment process will ultimately result in the creation of four "super conferences." NPR's Mike Pesca talks about how conference shifts could effect the future of college athletics.

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Many of us may not be able to point to Mali on a map, but this landlocked nation in West Africa has emerged as a crisis. Here's a quick synopsis: A government once hailed as a model of democracy collapses in a coup last March. Three northern provinces, an area the size of Texas, break away and declare themselves independent.

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The 2012 election concludes. DeMint's departure sets up a 2014 trifecta in the Palmetto State, and it's still a slow walk to the fiscal cliff. It's Wednesday and time for a...

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. This year's flu season started early. Eight states already report widespread flu activity, and doctors say it's a nasty strain this year, too. The good news is this year's vaccine is a good match. But even so, the flu will kill thousands more, probably tens of thousands of Americans, before it runs its course. Why? And what more can we do to reduce that number?

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As you probably heard by now, the great sitar player Ravi Shankar died yesterday at the age of 92. His music arrived in most American ears thanks to George Harrison and the Beatles, whose interest triggered something of a sitar craze back in the late '60s. Harrison played the exotic instrument on a couple of tracks. The Rolling Stones followed suit on "Paint It Black." The electric sitar soon followed. But Ravi Shankar remained the unchallenged master. But what do I know? He's the only Indian-born sitar player I ever heard.

What Changes In Right-To-Work States?

Dec 11, 2012

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

CONAN: That was the scene this morning outside the Michigan statehouse in Lansing as activists protested the legislature's work on two bills to rewrite the state's labor laws and make Michigan the 24th state in the country to become a right to work state. Rick Pluta, the managing editor and statehouse bureau chief for Michigan Public Radio Network, joins us now by phone from the statehouse. Nice to have you on the program today.

In The Generals, Thomas Ricks argues that the failures in America's recent wars can be directly traced to failures of those in command.

Ricks examines U.S. military leadership from World War Two to the present day, and concludes that the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced to the Army's inability to come to terms with all the lessons of Vietnam.

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Last week, the Supreme Court decided to take up two cases that focus on same-sex marriage, but some gay rights advocates worry that now may not be the best time. Rulings to uphold California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act would be a major setback. Even if they're struck down, the rulings could well leave same-sex marriage bans in effect in 30 states. Supporters of gay marriage, given these cases and given this court: is now the right time?

Op-Ed: We Need Some Taboo Words

Dec 10, 2012

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

And now, The Opinion Page. Many reporters and editors turn to the "AP Stylebook" to answer questions on grammar, punctuation and usage, so it's news when words are purged. Last month, The Associated Press announced the elimination of Islamophobia, homophobia and ethnic cleansing from next year's stylebook, a decision Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Clarence Page calls a linguistic blow for blandness. Now, there are a few words so offensive that they're beyond the pale: the N word, the F word.

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