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Olgierd Rudak / Creative Commons

We produced our first show on masks in the spring of 2020. It was when most of us were isolated at home to sidestep the life-threatening illness we've come to call "Covid." The show was about how rapidly masks had become a statement of political identity.

The intensity of the mask battles has begun to calm as we've acclimated to the pervasiveness of masks in our lives. Like them or not, they're here to stay and they've begun to leave a lasting imprint on our culture.   

Illustration by Chion Wolf

When you were growing up, you probably heard about famous inventors. Maybe you thought they were brilliant. Rigorously trained. Confident. Capable. And that their inventions advanced humankind through and through.

But Dr. Ainissa Ramirez spent the last 5 years writing a book that strips away those presumptions. In The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, she paints portraits not of how inventors settled questions of the limits of technology - but of how much further we still have to go.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

Are Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple "emperors of the online economy" that stifle competition and hurt consumers? Not surprisingly, the tech giants' chief executives told Congress: absolutely not. The concern that too much power is concentrated in too few companies is unfounded, they said Wednesday.

Alyssa L. Miller / Creative Commons

Our ancestors viewed sleep as a highly sensual and transcendent experience. Today, about a third of adults have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling rested. We're becoming a nation of insomniacs.

Tony Hisgett / flickr creative commons

Sand is the most abundant material on Earth. And, other than water and air, sand is the natural resource we consume more than any other -- more, even, than oil.

The pyramids are made of sand. Our roads and driveways and sidewalks are made of sand. Concrete buildings and their concrete foundations are made of sand. From computer chips to computer screens, window panes to lightbulbs, breast implants to the Hubble telescope, sand is basically the essential building block of civilization.

Humans are estimated to consume almost 50 billion tons of sand and gravel every year.

Oh, and, by the way: We're running out of it.

Fiber optics
Groman123 / Flickr

COVID-19 has shown the Internet is more important than ever. From Google Classrooms for distance learning to endless Zoom meetings for some professionals, the Internet has become even more essential during the pandemic.

But how many Connecticut residents still don’t have access to a high-speed connection? This hour, we look at Connecticut’s digital divide.

How does the lack of broadband in communities exacerbate existing disparities in education and economic opportunity? We talk with experts and hear how some communities want to address the issue.

We want to hear from you, too.  Have your children struggled to access remote learning?

Travis Isaacs / Creative Commons

Humans typically make enough collective noise to keep the earth vibrating at a steady hum. But the pandemic has quieted that hum enough to let seismologists study the vibrations that can be hard to detect in the din of our noise.

Quick Quarantined Play Festival / Facebook

While certain public places are finding ways to reopen safely, theaters still have a long way to go. Socially distancing the audience is doable but probably not cost-effective. And what about the actors? Keeping 6 feet apart onstage could make for a bizarre evening of theater.

Cottonbro / Pexels.com

JCT 600 / Flickr Creative Commons

A state report released last month sets out a pathway for getting at least 10 times as many electric vehicles on Connecticut roadways by 2025.

Ramping up electric vehicle use from roughly 12,000 to at least 125,000 in five years is ambitious by any measure. But with the country now sliding into recession, gas prices in free fall, and unemployment at record highs, the goals outlined in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s 109-page Electric Vehicle Roadmap appear especially daunting.

Padaguan / Wikimedia Commons

Have you invited friends over virtually to visit your dream island home on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons? Or maybe your weekly board game night has moved onto Zoom.

This hour, we take a break from the heavy stuff and talk about the ways people are staying connected and having fun while isolated from friends and family. From multiplayer video games to Yahtzee over Skype, we learn how you can play games with your crew while still staying home.

And later, we check in with NPR TV critic Eric Deggans to get his recommendations on what shows to binge during quarantine.

hartford symphony orchestra
hartfordsymphonyblog.com

You’ve probably heard the old showbiz saying “The show must go on.” Well, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is going ahead with its annual gala this weekend. Only, this year, people will be sipping cocktails in their tuxes and gowns and enjoying the music from the comfort of their own living rooms.

Travis Isaacs / Creative Commons

Humans typically make enough collective noise to keep the earth vibrating at a steady hum. But the pandemic has quieted that hum enough to let seismologists study the vibrations that can be hard to detect in the din of our noise.

Disney

Last Friday night, Disney released the #1 movie in the country -- Pixar's Onward -- for digital download on iTunes/Amazon/etc. It's safe to say, that's the first time that's ever happened.

When you say "the #1 movie in the country," you're talking about what was #1 last weekend or maybe last week. Onward was also the #1 movie in the country specifically on last Thursday... when it made $33,296. There are times when movies make that per screen.

There's a movie on that domestic chart that one person went to see. It made $6. That movie, though, wasn't at the bottom of that chart… because there are three movies on that chart that no one went to see. In the country.

Carmen Baskauf / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s tax season. Filing taxes can be a complicated and intimidating process. And ProPublica has found that big names in e-filing, like TurboTax, are actually making it more difficult for Americans to file easily and free of charge. This hour, we talk with a reporter behind the investigation, and find out whether you can file your taxes for free.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

The town of Wethersfield will step up public surveillance in 2020 by installing cameras at several traffic locations. But the enhanced law enforcement is alarming to people who have criticized the way Wethersfield’s police department operates.

Pixabay

If your smartphone screen cracks, do you get it fixed or trade it in for the latest model? Repairing items can be less wasteful, but there are also growing legal challenges for people whose business is to repair technology from smartphones to tractors.

Groman123 / Flickr Creative Commons

Most of us enjoy high-speed internet. But in some areas in Connecticut, residents still don’t have broadband access.  A recent court ruling may make it easier for municipalities to provide broadband services.  But is a city or town-run internet service the best way to bridge the ‘digital divide’?

Later, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans joins us with an update on the latest players to enter the streaming market, services like Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus. Just how many streaming services are you willing to pay for?

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

Last Thursday, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla's Cybertruck and Sacha Baron Cohen gave the keynote address at an Anti-Defamation League summit. Both performances have drawn mixed reactions.

And: The Mandalorian is the big, new, original, launch title for Disney's new streaming service, Disney+. It's a half(ish)-hour western set in the Star Wars universe, and three episodes have dropped so far.

Sikorsky Aircraft

Fighting wildfires is a constant struggle in Southern California, but a Connecticut manufacturer has a way to help.

image of fiber optics
Groman123 / Flickr

Most of us enjoy high-speed internet access. But in some areas in Connecticut, residents still don’t have broadband access. We hear about a recent court ruling that could change this.

Sophie Vershbow has seen her share of "OK, boomer" memes in recent weeks. The phrase that's suddenly everywhere is meant to convey a fundamental disconnect between younger generations and baby boomers who cling to outdated, off-base ideas.

To Vershbow, a 30-year-old social media manager, the sentiment behind the memes is this: "I think it's a dismissive, 'OK, whatever you say.' "

Pixabay

If your smartphone screen cracks, do you get it fixed or trade it in for the latest model? Repairing items can be less wasteful, but there are also growing legal challenges for people whose business is to repair technology from smartphones to tractors.

This hour, we talk about the “Right to Repair” movement. It's a debate that pits concerns about users’ ability to modify their own items against big companies’ concerns about intellectual property rights.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Dan Taylr / Flickr Creative Commons

Predictions of a paperless future go back to the 1800s. Yet, despite a dizzying array of technological alternatives to paper, those prediction have not come true.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public Radio

What if you just don't really enjoy food very much? What if you're totally fine eating the same thing every single day? What if you think food is an inefficient way to get what you need to survive?

What if, rather than eating "food," you just mixed a white powder (that is definitely not made of people because it's made of soy protein isolate instead) with water and drank that in food's place?

This hour: a look at what you might call the non-foodie movement and the "powdered food" meal replacement product that is Soylent.

Terry Gross / Wikimedia Commons

Fear of sharks spiked last summer after a great white fatally bit a 26-year-old surfer off the coast of Cape Cod. The fever still runs high as reports of great white sightings coincide with people heading to the beach.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong
Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut’s Attorney General wants to know more about one tech giant’s outsize influence in the digital marketplace. William Tong is one of 50 attorneys general who have launched an anti-trust investigation into Google. 

Warner Bros

It's hard to believe, but The Matrix is 20 years old this year. And its influence is all over the culture with bullet time and red pills and the "woah" meme and so much more.

Christiaan Colen / Wikimedia Commons

As students head back to school, teachers and administrators in Wolcott, Connecticut will start the school year without access to important files.

The Wolcott Public School system computers were attacked by ransomware, a type of computer virus that holds essential data hostage unless the school agrees to pay attackers a ransom.

This hour, we take a look at why hackers have increased attacks on local governments and schools for ransomware. What does this mean for Connecticut, a state with hundreds of separate municipal governments and school systems?

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Thirty-one children have died around the country so far this year as a result of being left alone in hot cars. Senator Richard Blumenthal is endorsing a bill aimed at preventing these deaths. He said Monday the proposed law will require all auto manufacturers to include technology that alerts drivers to check the rear seat for passengers when a vehicle is turned off. 

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