Social Science

What's The Point

FiveThirtyEight, 538, ESPN, Jody Avirgan

+35 FANS
A show about our data age. Each week, Jody Avirgan brings you stories and interviews on how data is changing lives.
Looking for recently uploaded episodes
Sparks: Interview with David Baron

42:49 | Aug 11th, 2017

Christie Aschwanden interviews the author of "American Eclipse," by David Baron.
Sparks: The Eclipse Of 1878

43:06 | Aug 10th, 2017

The Sparks gang discusses "American Eclipse" by David Baron, and the solar eclipse coming to the U.S. later this month.
WTP Best Of: DNA Evidence

40:43 | Jul 27th, 2017

Jody discusses the rise of forensic DNA with Erin Murphy, professor at New York University and author of the book "Inside the Cell."
WTP Best Of: Adam Ruins Everything

30:09 | Jul 18th, 2017

Jody interviews Adam Conover of TruTV's Adam Ruins Everything on how his show covers stats heavy topics.
Sparks: Interview with Charles Ornstein

34:31 | Jul 7th, 2017

Christie Aschwanden talks to journalist Charles Ornstein about how he reports on how money can influence doctors.
Sparks: Conflicts of interest

38:28 | Jul 6th, 2017

The Sparks crew discusses how politicians and scientists wrestle with conflicts of interest, and what the science says about how conflict of interest can change our decisions.
Sparks: Interview with Bob Holmes

40:29 | Jun 2nd, 2017

Anna Maria Barry-Jester talks to Bob Holmes, the author of "Flavor: The science of our most neglected sense."
Sparks: Flavor Science

39:34 | Jun 1st, 2017

FiveThirtyEight's science team discusses "Flavor: The science of our most neglected sense," a book by Bob Holmes. They also go flavor tripping.
WTP Best Of: Bear Mapping

36:24 | May 18th, 2017

Rae Wynn-Grant, a conservation researcher at the American Museum of Natural History, discusses her work tracking black bears in the American West.
Sparks: Interview with Thomas Levenson

46:46 | May 5th, 2017

FiveThirtyEight's Christie Aschwanden interviews the author of "The Hunt for Vulcan."
Sparks: "The Hunt for Vulcan"

47:49 | May 4th, 2017

What does it take to revise a cold, hard science fact? This montha€™s Sparks podcast explores that question in the context of a€œThe Hunt for Vulcana€ by Thomas Levenson.
WTP Best Of: Baseball

36:37 | Apr 20th, 2017

Jody interviews Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, authors of "The Only Rule Is It Has To Work," a chronicle of their summer spent as general managers for the Sonoma Stompers.
Sparks: Interview with Elisabeth Rosenthal

28:21 | Apr 12th, 2017

Anna Maria Barry-Jester interviews the author of "An American Sickness: How healthcare became big business and how you can take it back."
Sparks: "An American Sickness"

50:21 | Apr 6th, 2017

Our science podcast crew discusses the state of American health care, and what consumers can do about it. This month's book: "An American Sickness" by Elisabeth Rosenthal.
WTP Best Of: Internet Tracking

32:25 | Mar 23rd, 2017

Jody interviews Arvind Narayanan about the latest in online tracking, and what you can do to shield yourself.
WTP Best Of: Your Certainty Bubble

25:39 | Mar 9th, 2017

Jody Avirgan and Carl Bialik discuss research into how we get information and what information we trust.
Sparks - Interview with Alondra Nelson

51:02 | Mar 3rd, 2017

FiveThirtyEight's Maggie Koerth-Baker discusses The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome with author Alondra Nelson.
Sparks - The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome

40:54 | Mar 2nd, 2017

This month, we're discussing Alondra Nelson's The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome.
WTP Best Of: Life In Yemen

38:13 | Feb 17th, 2017

What cell phone metadata can reveal about the patterns of daily live -- and the effect of drone strikes.
WTP Best Of: James Hamblin

38:29 | Feb 2nd, 2017

From the archives, Jody Avirgan and James Hamblin discuss modern medicine, personal health tracking, and why health journalism is broken.
Sparks: Interview with the author of "The Unpersuadables"

53:10 | Jan 26th, 2017

FiveThirtyEight's Maggie Koerth-Baker talks with author Will Storr about his book "The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the enemies of science."
Sparks - The Unpersuadables

40:07 | Jan 19th, 2017

FiveThirtyEight's science team discusses Will Storr's book, "The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the enemies of science."
The Amazing Postcards You Mailed Us

37:52 | Dec 22nd, 2016

Jody Avirgan and Kate Larue discuss the postcards we received for our "Dear Data" project, and then rerun our original conversation. Check it out:
Sparks (Part 2) Nate Silver and Michael Lewis

36:48 | Dec 16th, 2016

This month we're discussing Michael Lewis's new book "The Undoing Project." Here he talks with Nate Silver about his work. Be sure to check out part 1!
Sparks - The Undoing Project

39:25 | Dec 15th, 2016

Our science team discusses Michael Lewis's new book, which is about the rise of behavioral economics. Check out part 2, coming soon, in which Nate Silver talks with Lewis.
.72 That Was The Point

32:26 | Dec 8th, 2016

What's The Point is coming to an end with Jody Avirgan as the host. We discuss what we've learned over the last year and a half. Stay tuned for our next big thing!
.71 How Adam Ruins Everything

30:39 | Dec 2nd, 2016

Adam Conover on the challenge of explaining tough topics - while being funny. Catch "Adam Ruins Everything" on TruTV.
.70 Sparks (Pt 2) Kenji Lopez-Alt

29:13 | Nov 23rd, 2016

In part two of our Thanksgiving special, Anna Maria Barry-Jester talks about the science of food with Kenji Lopez-Alt.
.69 Sparks: Let's Eat, With Science!

32:46 | Nov 17th, 2016

A Thanksgiving cooking special from our science team as they discuss Kenji Lopez-Alt's "The Food Lab."
.68 Sparks (Pt 2) Risk

30:19 | Nov 5th, 2016

Maggie Koerth-Baker talks with Kayt Sukel about how we define risk, and how to write about it responsibly.
.67 Sparks: Risk

31:48 | Oct 28th, 2016

Our monthly science series looks at why humans make, or don't make, risky choices. Part 2 of this conversation - and interview with author Kayt Sukel - airs next week.
.66 When The Algorithm Decides

36:01 | Oct 23rd, 2016

Cathy O'Neil discusses her book "Weapons Of Math Destruction," about algorithms that are widespread, harmful, and secretive.
.65 Optimized Or Monetized?

28:09 | Oct 15th, 2016

Julia Angwin of Pro Publica discusses their investigations into "black box" algorithms.
.64 Do You Feel Informed?

25:23 | Oct 7th, 2016

Carl Bialik discusses a new study that shows how Americans get their information, how they make decisions, and how they change their minds.
.63 Sparks (Pt 2) Mental Health Stigma

26:34 | Sep 29th, 2016

Maggie Koerth-Baker talks with Dr. Patrick Corrigan about the stigma of mental health and how it relates to public figures.
.62 Sparks: Politicians' Mental Health

34:10 | Sep 22nd, 2016

Our monthly science series looks at the ethics and laws of discussing and diagnosing the health of political figures. Part 2 of this show airs next week.
.61 Bear Tracks

36:28 | Sep 16th, 2016

How a digital model can help prevent bear-human conflicts. Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant discusses her work in the field, and at the computer.
.60 Blythe Picks A Team

28:46 | Sep 8th, 2016

From Hot Takedown, how our editor Blythe Terrell used an algorithm to help pick a new NFL team to root for.
.59 Your Browser's Fingerprint

31:07 | Sep 1st, 2016

A new survey of one million websites reveals the latest tricks being used to track your online behavior. Arvind Narayanan of Princeton University discusses his research.
.58 Math Gold

31:17 | Aug 25th, 2016

The coach of the U.S. Math Olympiad team shares his secrets.
.57.2 Sparks (Part Two) -- Alice Dreger

26:49 | Aug 19th, 2016

In the second part of our new science podcast, Christie Aschwanden talks to Alice Dreger about her book "Galileo's Middle Finger."
.57 Sparks: Galileo's Middle Finger

39:59 | Aug 18th, 2016

The debut of our new science series! The FiveThirtyEight science team discusses "Galileo's Middle Finger," and what happens when activism and science cross paths.
.56 A History Of Political Data (Part 4 - Trump)

28:32 | Aug 11th, 2016

A memo from the Trump campaign reveals their attempts to go after "low P, high T" voters. Clare Malone discusses her reporting.
Dog Show! [Repeat]

23:16 | Aug 4th, 2016

A visit to the Westminster Dog Show with FiveThirtyEight's Oliver Roeder.
.55 Two Aspen Ideas

33:56 | Jul 29th, 2016

Mini-interviews with Charles Duhigg and Marcus Bullock of Flikshop, from the Aspen Ideas festival.
.54.7 Accidents, Guns, And Stats

21:44 | Jul 20th, 2016

We conclude our series of mini-conversations about the FiveThirtyEight guns project.
.54.6 A Guns Program The NRA Actually Likes

11:43 | Jul 18th, 2016

A mini-interview a day for a week about the 538 guns project. Carl Bialik discusses the criminal justice program that is gaining GOP support.
.54.5 Mass Shootings

13:55 | Jul 17th, 2016

A mini-interview a day for a week about the 538 guns project. Leah Libresco discusses how other countries have reacted to mass shootings.
.54.4 - Guns And Domestic Violence

09:56 | Jul 16th, 2016

A mini-interview a day for a week about the 538 guns project. Hayley Mungia discusses how to get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
.54.3 - Men, Suicide, And Guns

14:47 | Jul 15th, 2016

We're doing a mini-interview every day for a week about the the 538 guns project. Anna Maria Barry-Jester discusses her reporting from Wyoming.
.54.2 - Stopping Gun Deaths In New Orleans

13:21 | Jul 14th, 2016

Our series - a mini-interview every day for a week - on the guns project continues with reporter Ben Casselman. See the full project
.54.1 - A Week Of Conversations About Gun Deaths

13:42 | Jul 13th, 2016

Every day for a week, we'll discuss the new FiveThirtyEight project on gun deaths in America. Today, editor Simone Landon frames the issue.
.53 Mapping Police Violence

19:38 | Jul 7th, 2016

A rerun of a conversation with Samuel Sinyangwe describing why data on police shootings is so murky. Samuel runs and
.52 A History Of Political Data (Part 3)

39:26 | Jun 30th, 2016

Daniel Kreiss of UNC is back to discuss what we've learned from the 2016 primaries.
.51 The $173,775 Data Set

24:25 | Jun 23rd, 2016

David Yanofsky is suing the U.S. government for immigration data after they wanted to charge him $173,775 for it.
.49 Hearing Philly

28:58 | Jun 10th, 2016

A new project is testing different polling techniques to get input from Philadelphians about their civic lives.
.48 The Schmidt Sting Pain Index

38:14 | Jun 2nd, 2016

Entomologist Justin Schmidt is developing a way to measure painful insect stings - by stinging himself with as many creatures as possible.
.47 Rivers Cuomo Has Spreadsheets (from Song Exploder)

22:04 | May 26th, 2016

Song Exploder talks with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer about his very nerdy songwriting style. Plus, we're collecting your playlists at
.46 Gut Week, Gut Strong

27:45 | May 19th, 2016

It's Gut Week at FiveThirtyEight. Chad Matlin, filling in for Jody (who's on jury duty) discusses the world of pro- and psycho-biotics.
.45 The Stompers Get Stats

36:35 | May 12th, 2016

Ben Lindbergh describes what happened when a professional baseball team let him take over as general manager and apply the most cutting edge analytics to real games.
.44 An Unusual Pattern

39:23 | May 5th, 2016

WTP presents a data murder mystery, reported by Joel Werner.
.43 Every Song Ever

35:41 | Apr 21st, 2016

How algorithmic listening is changing our relationship to music. With New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff. Find more at
.42 Tagging Banksy

37:00 | Apr 14th, 2016

A geospatial mapping formula may hold the clues to the graffiti artist Banksy's real identity.
.41 How To Change Minds

38:09 | Apr 7th, 2016

New developments in the story of the fraudulent research about persuasion and empathy. Visit for more.
.40 Mahler By The Numbers

33:48 | Mar 31st, 2016

A visit to the NY Philharmonic archives. For 147 years, the Phil has had a data-collection streak. Now it's all going to the cloud. More at
.39 Let's Move To The Country

34:04 | Mar 24th, 2016

Christopher Ingraham used a data sat to determine "the worst place to live in America." Then he visited Red Lake Falls, MN; and now he's moving there.
.38 Wall St. vs. Internet

33:21 | Mar 17th, 2016

Doug Rushkoff is one of our favorite media/tech thinkers. His new book is about how our economy is wired for growth that stifles innovation.
.37 52 Postcards

42:39 | Mar 10th, 2016

Every week for a year, Stefanie and Giorgia collected info about their lives and mailed each other postcards with a data visualization. Now it's your turn! More on our site.
.36 Yemen Calling

43:24 | Mar 3rd, 2016

In countries like Yemen, cell phone metadata can serve as an end-around to paint a picture of daily life, the effect of drone strikes, and more.
.35 The Academy

39:38 | Feb 25th, 2016

Walt Hickey's been trying to crack the tricky data problem that is the Oscars. He talks about his reporting, and we host the first ever WTP data debate.
.34 Who's A Good Dog

26:57 | Feb 18th, 2016

A visit to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with Oliver Roeder, who wrote about the rise and fall of the terrier dynasty.
.33 A Privacy Mea Culpa

37:28 | Feb 11th, 2016

We've been screwing up in the way we talk about privacy on the show. Kashmir Hill of Fusion sets us straight.
.32 Big-Time Sports

40:08 | Feb 4th, 2016

As you watch the Super Bowl this weekend, tons of data -- and millions of dollars -- will be zipping around. Jim Glanz of the New York Times discusses his reporting.
.31 Don't Drink The Water

30:36 | Jan 28th, 2016

In Flint, Michigan, bad data decisions made the water crisis much worse. FiveThirtyEight's Anna Barry-Jester recently reported on the story.
.30 A History Of Political Data (Part Two)

35:30 | Jan 21st, 2016

Obama 2008 to the present, including reporting from Iowa. With Daniel Kreiss of UNC.
.29 A History Of Political Data (Part One)

43:47 | Jan 14th, 2016

William Jennings Bryan to Barack Obama. With Daniel Kreiss of the University of North Carolina.
BONUS: Elections Pilot (Iowa!)

35:47 | Jan 13th, 2016

From a Des Moines hotel room, we talk about the Iowa caucus and the latest polling numbers. Let us know what you think by emailing
.28 Algorithmic Arugula

29:11 | Jan 7th, 2016

A visit to a data-driven farm, where the light, water, nutrients and more are all optimized and controlled from an iPad.
BONUS: Election Podcast Pilot

33:20 | Jan 4th, 2016

Let us know what you think of our elections podcast as we continue to pilot. We'll launch the show formally in a new feed before the Iowa caucus.
.27 The 2015 Data Awards (Part 2)

33:40 | Dec 24th, 2015

More of the most interesting stories and people of the year. Be sure to check out the special site We'll be back with new shows in 2016!
BONUS: Election Podcast Pilot

30:15 | Dec 22nd, 2015

538 is launching a proper election pod in January. For now, we're piloting with Nate Silver, Clare Malone, Harry Enten and Jody Avirgan. Let us know what you think.
.26 The 2015 Data Awards (Part 1)

32:34 | Dec 17th, 2015

A very special evening, brought to you by FiveThirtyEight.
BONUS: Election Podcast Pilot

30:39 | Dec 15th, 2015

538 is launching an election podcast in January! We're piloting now with Nate Silver, Harry Enten, Clare Malone, and Jody Avirgan. Take a listen, let us know what you think.
.25 The Dark Side Of Forensic DNA

39:16 | Dec 10th, 2015

Forensic evidence has the promise of leading to science-based convictions. But for it to be reliable we need a better understanding of data and statistics, says Erin Murphy.
.24 Building Pixar's Landscapes

28:35 | Dec 3rd, 2015

The Good Dinosaur features vast, hyperrealistic landscapes -- powered by terabytes and terabytes of US Geological Survey data.
.23 A WTP Compendium

1:10:40 | Nov 25th, 2015

For your holiday travels, excerpts of our favorite conversations: Neil deGrasse Tyson - (15:50) Farai Chideya - (25:40) Bike Lanes - (37:30) Police Violence - (54:10) Drones
.22 God, In One Chart

34:38 | Nov 19th, 2015

Religion is personal, nuanced, evolving -- which makes it particularly resistant to easy quantification. Emma Green (Atlantic) and Leah Libresco (538) discuss stats and faith.
.21 Rejoice! The Canadian Longform Census Is Back

37:00 | Nov 12th, 2015

Turns out, the Canadian census was a pretty big flashpoint in the recent elections, and the fight over it tells us a lot about why government data matters.
.20 Fighting Outbreaks With New Tech (And Paper)

31:40 | Nov 5th, 2015

In a country like Niger, Doctors Without Borders epidemiologists use a combination of advanced technology and old-fashioned paperwork.
.19 Why The Bronx Burned

44:58 | Oct 29th, 2015

In 1970's NYC, huge swaths of the city were engulfed in flames. Bad stats may have been to blame. Joe Flood, author of "The Fires," tells the story.
.18 That's Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man

35:57 | Oct 22nd, 2015

Walt Hickey recently discovered that Fandango's movie ratings are weirdly inflated. What he learned says a lot about trust online and the wisdom of the crowd.
.17 Little Bird, Big Data

37:46 | Oct 16th, 2015

We take a hike in the woods north of Santa Cruz in search of the marbled murrelet, an elusive bird that's being tracked using remote sensors and machine learning. Tweet tweet.
.16 The $2000/Month Chat Service

45:14 | Oct 8th, 2015

A tour of the Bloomberg terminal -- it's clunky, powerful, addictive and ubiquitous on Wall Street. It also costs $2000/month and has everything a trader could need.
BONUS: Nate, Harry and Micah Talk Election 2016

34:28 | Oct 6th, 2015

Nate Silver, Harry Enten and Micah Cohen talk about the 2016 election as part of an Advertising Week panel. Stay tuned for the FiveThirtyEight Politics channel coming soon!
.15 Cloud Self vs. Physical Self

35:45 | Oct 1st, 2015

Your data creates its own data. Farai Chideya discusses how she thinks of data, security, and why your information is like your pet -- you own it, but you can't control it.
.14 Everyone Is Your Cousin

27:34 | Sep 24th, 2015

A.J. Jacobs is trying to build the world's biggest family tree, connecting him to everyone on earth. The data-driven revolution genealogy is helping.
.13 Moneyball For Movies (w/ Andy Greenwald)

34:38 | Sep 17th, 2015

Josh Lynn says his "consumer engagement" algorithm can predict how a movie will do - months before it's even made. A special co-podcast with Grantland's Andy Greenwald.
.12 Your Boss Is Watching

30:00 | Sep 10th, 2015

From Amazon to UPS, the data-driven workplace is here. Is your humanity being traded for your company's efficiency?
.11 Make It Viral

26:53 | Sep 3rd, 2015

The people behind @buzzfeed and @nba discuss how analytics help them decide what to post and when, plus the behind-the-scenes story of how Buzzfeed got that dress to go viral.
.10 Science Is Hard

37:16 | Aug 27th, 2015

After a deluge of retractions, fraudsters, and high-profile failures, is it time to ask: "Is science broken?" FiveThirtyEight's Christie Aschwanden answers.
.09 Our Military Is Drowning In Data

39:19 | Aug 20th, 2015

Our military collects terabytes and terabytes of data every day. Is the drone-driven obsession with tactical information preventing a conversation about the morality of war?
.08 A Year Since Ferguson

34:41 | Aug 13th, 2015

It's been a year of protest and unrest -- and a year of data collection -- in the effort to understand the scope of police violence in America.
.07 Pre-crime

36:48 | Aug 6th, 2015

New tools use data to predict whether someone who has committed a crime may do so again. Does this mean we'll be locking people up for crimes they haven't yet committed?
BONUS: Totally Subjective 2016 Odds (Early August)

54:25 | Aug 5th, 2015

FiveThirtyEight's latest "totally subjective odds," where we handicap the (very early) presidential race. Featuring Nate Silver, Harry Enten, and Katherine Miller of Buzzfeed.
.06 Behind The Browser

39:36 | Jul 30th, 2015

Journalist and internet activist Quinn Norton discusses the cookies and algorithms that track you online -- including on -- and how they shape identity.
.05 How Numbers Drive The Book Industry

30:48 | Jul 23rd, 2015

The head of one of the world's biggest book publishers talks about how data is changing the industry, from deciding to sign an author to the war with Amazon.
.04 Doctors And Data

43:40 | Jul 16th, 2015

Dr. James Hamblin, writer for The Atlantic, discusses how big (and bad) data will affect your next visit to the doctor.
.03 Dear Mona, How Many People Regret Their Tattoos?

23:05 | Jul 9th, 2015

In the first audio version of our popular (and statsy) "Dear Mona"€ column, Mona Chalabi and Jody Avirgan investigate how many folks have tattoos and people's tattoo regrets.
.02 Solving Our Most Vexing Transportation Problems (With Data)

33:05 | Jul 2nd, 2015

During Janette Sadik-Khan's tenure as NYC transportation commissioner, the city's streetscape altered dramatically. She discusses her data-driven (and controversial) approach.
.01 Neil deGrasse Tyson - "Are you wired for doubt?"

28:52 | Jun 25th, 2015

Star Talk's Neil deGrasse Tyson on how data is revolutionizing astronomy, why he hates "balance," and why his being black often leads people to confuse him for a sportscaster.
.00 Welcome - Nate Silver Helps Introduce What's The Point

27:31 | Jun 22nd, 2015

From fake studies to bad polling to privacy fears, is data in a moment of crisis? We launch our newest podcast with a discussion about the state of big data, and some of the major themes we hope to explore.