The Disaster and How Some Escaped

On the curious life of Archibald Butt, confidant to President Taft and tragic victim of the sinking Titanic.

As much as the narrative of Butt’s heroism meant to the family, to the White House, to the military, it seems all too cinematic. The reality is that the experience was probably a great annoyance to him, right up until the moment it became a nightmare.

Christine Kenneally has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Monthly. Her 2018 Buzzfeed article, “The Ghosts of the Orphanage,” was nominated for a National Magazine Award.

"I understood that the abuse was a big part of the story. But the thing that really hooked me and disturbed me and I wouldn’t forget was the depersonalization that went on in these places. It wasn’t just that the records had been lost along the way. It became really clear that the information was intentionally withheld, and it was all part of just this extraordinary depersonalization that happened to these kids.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Pitt Writers for sponsoring this week's episode.

Synthetic Biology Could Bring a Pox on Us All

On July 11, 2002, the researchers revealed that they had synthesized the polio virus, which had been wiped out in the US in 1979. It was the first time a virus had been created from scratch with synthetic DNA. The work was funded by the Pentagon in part to establish whether terrorists could pull off such a feat. The answer was yes.