How Stuff Works

Fast Fashion & Disposable Clothing
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
275

Fast Fashion & Disposable Clothing

Environment
Fashion
Clothes
Global warming
Consumption
Jun 28, 2022
-
21
minutes

Never before in human history have clothes been cheaper, and never before have we bought more of them.

In this episode, we'll explore this phenomenon, how it works, and ask ourselves what it's doing to society.

Where Does All Our Rubbish Go?
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
256

Where Does All Our Rubbish Go?

City life
Weird history
Rubbish
Environment
Consumption
Apr 22, 2022
-
19
minutes

Worldwide we produce over 2 billion tonnes of rubbish every year.

In this episode, we explore the history of rubbish collection and look at what happens to our rubbish after the truck comes to take it away.

The Cobra Effect
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
255

The Cobra Effect

Economics
Politics
Weird history
Psychology
City life
Apr 19, 2022
-
22
minutes

What do snakes in Delhi, cars in Bogotá and pigs in Georgia all have in common?

In this episode, we'll learn how incentives don't always result in their intended consequences...

Five Surprising Food Origins
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
252

Five Surprising Food Origins

Food & drink
19th Century
The British Empire
Life in the UK
Scotland
Apr 8, 2022
-
20
minutes

In this episode, we'll explore the weird and fascinating origins of five foods that you know and (perhaps) love.

From the sandwich to tomato ketchup, chicken tikka masala, fish & chips and even the teabag, discover the weird and wonderful stories behind these well-known dishes.

The Rise and Fall of Concorde
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
243

The Rise and Fall of Concorde

20th Century
Technology
Business
Transport
Mar 8, 2022
-
25
minutes

It was the world's most famous supersonic aeroplane and could travel from London to New York in 3.5 hours.

Discover how it worked, how much it actually cost to fly in it and what the future holds for supersonic air travel.

The Opioid Crisis
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
230

The Opioid Crisis

Drugs
USA
Business
Medicine
21st Century
Jan 21, 2022
-
26
minutes

Over the past twenty years, over half a million Americans have died of opioid overdoses.

In this episode, we'll explore how this happened, who is responsible, and ask ourselves whether the USA will ever be able to kick its addiction to prescription opioids.

The Rise Of Fast Food Part 3: Today & Tomorrow
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
218

The Rise Of Fast Food Part 3: Today & Tomorrow

21st Century
Food & drink
Pandemic
Business
USA
Dec 10, 2021
-
16
minutes

In the space of fewer than 100 years, fast food has fundamentally changed the global culinary landscape.

In this episode, we explore how it has managed to grow so much and what it is doing to our societies, world and bodies, and ask ourselves whether we'll ever kick our fast-food addiction.

The Rise Of Fast Food Part 1: The Early Years
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
216

The Rise Of Fast Food Part 1: The Early Years

Food & drink
USA
20th Century
1960s
Business
Dec 3, 2021
-
20
minutes

Every day 1% of the world's population will eat at McDonald's, and hundreds of millions more will eat burgers, chips and all sorts of different fast food.

But just how popular is it, how is it so cheap and where did it come from in the first place?

The Rise Of Air Conditioning
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
211

The Rise Of Air Conditioning

Weird history
Romans
USA
Business
Kings & Queens
Nov 16, 2021
-
23
minutes

It has gone from luxury to necessity, and there are over 2 billion air conditioning units in the world today.

In this episode, we'll take a look at how air conditioning got started, why people didn't mind being hot in the past, and what the true cost of staying cool might be for future generations.

The True Cost of Parking
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
207

The True Cost of Parking

Transport
City life
20th Century
Weird history
Economics
Nov 2, 2021
-
21
minutes

“Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist” - Professor Donald Shoup

You might only think about the cost of parking when it comes to putting coins into a parking meter. But parking is full of hidden costs that extend far below the surface.

In this episode, we'll take a look at the history of parking, what it really costs, and how it's almost always far too cheap.

A History of Wikipedia
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
192

A History of Wikipedia

The Internet
The Enlightenment
Entrepreneurship
Weird history
Philosophy
Sep 10, 2021
-
27
minutes

It is one of the most popular websites in the world and has the goal of being a comprehensive collection of all of the knowledge in the world.

In this episode, we'll learn about the history of this amazing website, why it succeeded where others failed, how it actually works, and its importance as a source of truth.

The Curious History of Apples
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
191

The Curious History of Apples

Food & drink
Weird history
Business
European history
USA
Sep 7, 2021
-
22
minutes

It is the world's fourth most popular fruit, but many people are not aware of its fascinating history.

In this episode, we'll learn about where apples come from, how they are produced, the amazing story of a man called Johnny Appleseed, and how they have become incredibly commercialised.

A Short History of Cricket
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
161

A Short History of Cricket

Sports
England
Life in the UK
Great Britain
The British Empire
May 25, 2021
-
22
minutes

It's a quintessentially English game with an army of devoted fans across the globe.

But where does it come from? How does cricket actually work? How did it become India's favourite sport? And are cricketers really as well behaved as you might think?

Patents
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
159

Patents

Entrepreneurship
Morality
Politics
Medicine
Inventions
May 18, 2021
-
20
minutes

They are a legal device to encourage new inventions and protect inventors from copycats.

But how do they actually work, what good do they do, and what are the implications for the world in 2021?

Tax
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
148

Tax

Tax
Income inequality
France
USA
Economics
Apr 9, 2021
-
21
minutes

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes"

Tax might not sound interesting or exciting to most people, but it affects all of us.

In this episode, we explore what paying taxes actually means, and how it affects our relationship with the government and society.

And we'll do all of this through the story of two pen-pals, Arlette from Paris, France, and John from Austin, Texas.

A Short History of The English Language
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
134

A Short History of The English Language

History of language
English speaking
Life in the UK
Great Britain
Romans
Feb 19, 2021
-
20
minutes

From a small, wet island, English has come to be the world's dominant language.

How did this actually happen, where does English actually come from, and how has the language changed over the years?

What Makes Us Laugh
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
133

What Makes Us Laugh

Comedy
Philosophy
Life in the UK
Funny stories
The Human Body
Feb 16, 2021
-
18
minutes

Laughing is something that we all do.

But what makes us laugh? Why is something funny?

Discover the theories about why we laugh, what this does to us, and learn about the British sense of humour.

Cognitive Dissonance
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
131

Cognitive Dissonance

Psychology
Health
Consumption
Philosophy
The Human Body
Feb 9, 2021
-
14
minutes

Why do we sometimes believe one thing and act in a way that is in complete contradiction to our beliefs?

Cognitive Dissonance is the theory about why we do this, how we manage different beliefs, and the effect this has on us.

Chocolate
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
126

Chocolate

Food & drink
Business
Coffee
Consumption
Poverty
Jan 22, 2021
-
20
minutes

It's the world's favourite sweet snack, and the chocolate industry is worth over $100 billion.

Discover the fantastic history of where it comes from, how it became so popular, and learn about some of the economics of chocolate production.

Bitcoin
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
122

Bitcoin

Economics
Technology
Business
Hacking
Gold
Jan 8, 2021
-
23
minutes

It's the most famous cryptocurrency in the world, and went up in value by 269% in 2020.

In this episode, we take a look at what it actually is, how it works, why some people think it is the future of money and others think it is a giant bubble.

A Short History of Vaccines
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
117

A Short History of Vaccines

Health
Medicine
Death
Pandemic
The Victorian Era
Dec 22, 2020
-
22
minutes

Vaccination is one of the most important medical inventions in history, and vaccines save hundreds of millions of lives every year.

Discover the fantastic history of vaccines, where they came from, how they have developed, and the problems that governments have in encouraging citizens to actually take them.

Personality Tests
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
112

Personality Tests

Psychology
Business
Sigmund Freud
Carl Jung
Dec 4, 2020
-
22
minutes

The personality industry is worth billions, and promises to help us better understand ourselves.

But how did it start? How does it actually work?

And most importantly, does it actually work?

Sleep
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
107

Sleep

Sleep
The Human Body
Natural world
Nov 17, 2020
-
17
minutes

Humans will spend from a quarter to a third of our lives sleeping.

But what actually happens when we sleep? Why do we need to sleep? How does it work?

Daylight Saving Time
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
102

Daylight Saving Time

Time
Technology
Life in the UK
Natural world
Oct 30, 2020
-
20
minutes

In 70 countries around the world we change the time twice a year, giving us longer evenings in summer.

Why did we start doing this? Why do some people love it, others hate it, and will we ever stop doing it altogether?

Money Laundering
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
99

Money Laundering

Crime
Corruption
Economics
The Mafia
Terrorism
Oct 20, 2020
-
18
minutes

It's the way that criminals take dirty money and clean it, turning it into beautiful, clean money that appears to have been earned completely legally.

Discover how this is done, how much of a problem this really is, and how this process supports the criminal underworld.

The Suez Canal
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
91

The Suez Canal

Egypt
The Middle East
Oil
The Cold War
The Victorian Era
Sep 22, 2020
-
20
minutes

It's the 193km long canal that links the Mediterranean and the Red Seas.

The Ancient Egyptians dreamed of it, the Venetians did too, the French engineered it, the British bought it, the Egyptians nationalised it, it caused a Cold War crisis, and now it's a hugely important stretch of water for global trade.

It's time to tell the story of The Suez Canal.

The Amazing Life of Whales
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
88

The Amazing Life of Whales

Animals
Natural world
Environment
Sep 11, 2020
-
18
minutes

Whales are some of the most amazing animals that have ever existed.

From where they come from to how they live their lives, through to the threats that they have faced and how they bring new life in death, it's time to learn more about the amazing life these animals lead.

Rare Earths
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
85

Rare Earths

Environment
Technology
China
Consumption
Sep 1, 2020
-
18
minutes

These 17 chemical elements are vital for lots of modern technologies, from smartphones to laptops, wind turbines to electric cars.

But our dependence on them comes at a large cost, a cost that very few people are aware of.

How International Post Works
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
77

How International Post Works

Eccentric people
England
Economics
Geniuses
Great Britain
Aug 4, 2020
-
22
minutes

Anyone can send a letter, anywhere in the world, and it will be hand-delivered to any country in the world, for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

How did we arrive at this system, and how does it all work? 

Bottled Water
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
65

Bottled Water

Consumption
Environment
Marketing
Advertising
Food & drink
Jun 23, 2020
-
22
minutes

It's now the most popular soft drink in the United States.

Yet 50 years ago barely anyone drunk it.

Today, we tell the story of how the world became addicted to bottled water.

Chickens Are From The Jungle // How The Chicken Conquered The World
Bonus | Member-only episode
Episode
34

Chickens Are From The Jungle // How The Chicken Conquered The World

Animals
Food & drink
Consumption
Economics
Weird history
Mar 10, 2020
-
14
minutes

It's the most populous bird in the world, outnumbering humans 3:1.

Today we are asking ourselves how an obscure bird from South East Asia went from jungle floor to being eaten at a rate of two every millisecond.

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