The Backdrop Episode Archives


Richard Huskey on Brain Flow

UC Davis assistant professor of communication and cognitive science Richard Huskey explains the flow state, which some describe as being "in the zone." Evidence suggests flow can ward off depression, prevent burnout and make us more resilient.

Muhammad Haroon on How Social Media Algorithms Can Foster Political Radicalization

A new study from UC Davis suggests that artificial intelligence recommendation algorithms on sites like YouTube and TikTok can play a role in political radicalization. In this episode, UC Davis computer science Ph.D. student Muhammad Haroon, who led the study, discusses how the study was designed, what the team found, and a new digital tool they created to mitigate the radicalizing effect of social media platform AI algorithms.

Paul Griffin on How Climate Risk Could Bring a Series of Recessions

New research finds the economy could be plunged into recession — or a series of recessions — because financial markets don’t account for climate risk. Paul Griffin, Distinguished Professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, has been studying this ”unpriced risk” and how it can affect markets and the economy.

Clifford Saron on the Scientific Study of Meditation

Neuroscientist Clifford Saron leads the Shamatha Project, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive longitudinal studies of meditation ever conducted. He discusses the study's findings so far; what science can tell us about the tangible effects of meditation; and how mindfulness affects our physical, mental and emotional health.

Andrés Reséndez on "Conquering the Pacific"

Acclaimed historian and UC Davis Professor Andrés Reséndez reveals the story of the Afro-Portuguese mariner who was the first to successfully navigate a round trip route from the Americas to Asia -- and how his remarkable tale was almost forgotten.

Karima Bennoune on Helping Artists, Cultural Workers Escape Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan

With the end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan and the quick takeover of that nation by the Taliban, advocates fear a terrible backslide in human rights and civil society there. In this episode, UC Davis Law professor Karima Bennoune discusses her work in the international effort to help evacuate vulnerable cultural workers from Afghanistan, religious fundamentalisms as political movements and how human rights advocates can move forward in a country ruled by the Taliban.

Keith Watenpaugh on Helping Refugee Students Reclaim Their Right to Education

According to one estimate, the global refugee population has more than doubled over the past decade to 26 million. Professor Keith Watenpaugh, director of the Human Rights Studies program at UC Davis, leads an innovative project to help refugee students start or continue their university education — even as they’re displaced and on the move.

Lizbeth De La Cruz on ‘Humanizing Deportation’

Ph.D. candidate Lizbeth De La Cruz, discusses the project’s goals, how it got started and her experience working as a member of one of the research teams collecting and preserving these stories.

Eric Rauchway on Contentious Presidential Transitions

UC Davis Distinguished Professor of History Eric Rauchway discusses the tumultuous transfer of power and lessons we can learn from another contentious transition, from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt.

Kathryn Olmsted on Conspiracy Theories

UC Davis historian Kathryn Olmsted discusses her work studying the history and impact of conspiracy theories on American society and politics. She also offers advice on how people can avoid falling prey to them.