Seeing Ourselves

Since the days of Narcissus and the looking pool, we’ve known there’s a danger in seeing ourselves. There’s a possibility of caring too much, or seeing something we don’t want to see. But that hasn’t stopped humans from trying to see more and more. Today we have more ways to see ourselves than ever before. So it’s time to take a look at looking. What do we want to see, and what do we do with that information? Today on our show, four stories of people who tried to see themselves clearly. A woman views her genetic profile, and learns why her tendency towards depression might be an asset. A true mirror–one that doesn’t reverse your image–is deployed on Stanford students. A personality test called the Meyers Briggs profile is taken to the max. And a girl explains her point system that lets her keep track of exactly how people feel about her.

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Host: Xandra Clark

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock, Lone Frank, Colleen Caleshu, Hank Greely, John Nantz, Rachel Hamburg, Xandra Clark, Iris Clayter, Christy Hartman, and Alexzandra Scully

Release Date: 11 April 2012



Story 1: The True Mirror

Every day we look in the mirror to see what we look like. But that reflection is a lie. It’s flipped. The face you see in a mirror is a face only you know. Maybe that’s fine, but if you want to see how you look to other people–and not just frozen in a photograph–you need a “true mirror”. State of the Human brought one to Stanford’s White Plaza, in the heart of campus, to see how students reacted to seeing themselves, truly.

Producers: Xandra Clark and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Daniel Steinbock


Story 2: The Human Map

For seeing one’s self, there’s no portrait more fundamental than the genetic code. But the genome is a frustrating way to see ourselves because there’s still so much we don’t know. Hear how three individuals deal with this incomplete information to see themselves, others, and the future of genetics.

Producers: Raj Bhandari and Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Lone Frank, Colleen Caleshu and Hank Greely

Image via flickr


Story 3: I Have Enough T For 1000 People

Personality tests are ubiquitous today. You could spend a life time answering multiple choice questions, figuring out which brand of sports drink you are, what animal you most resemble, and which pop star is your psychological twin. But how helpful are any of these? And which just feed our desire about ourselves? In our next story, you’ll hear about one test known as the Myers-Briggs. It’s about someone who was exposed to the test at 14, and hasn’t stopped pondering it since.

Producers: Rachel Hamburg and Xandra Clark

Featuring: John Nantz


Story 4: Keeping Score

The most powerful mirror we use may be other people. We all know the cliche, true self-worth comes from within. But what if that’s wrong? Like it or not, we see ourselves how other people see us. We like to know what other people think. But not too many of us, probably, have developed a point system for keeping track, like in our next story.

Producers: Christy Hartman and Alexzandra Scully

Featuring: Iris Clayter



Almost 100 years ago, a rogue geologist named Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift. It didn’t matter that he was right. He was laughed off the stage. And even though he spent the rest of his career proving his theory, he died unknown. But eventually the theory of continental drift was accepted. Talk about resilience. That’s our theme this week and we have five stories of people discovering resilience and how to become resilient. In Wegenerʼs day, people thought character was like the continents, fixed. Either you were a resilient person or you werenʼt. Today we know we can cultivate resilience. We can all become Wegeners.

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers, Adina Glickman, Michael Zeligs, Jane Reynolds

Release Date: 4 April 2012



Story 1: When I Put On This Suit I Don My True Nature

The narrator of this story of resilience says the country club pool was a place to look hot in your bathing suit. But if you weren’t a 16 year old girl’s definition of hot you had some problems. So what do you do? You don your swimsuit and dive in.

(Note: this story and Story 4 both came to us from True Story, a storytelling event series and podcast)




Story 2: Just a Yes Waiting to Take Shape


It’s rare to seek out rejection. But that’s what happens every day at the Stanford Call Center. It’s a trial by fire if you hate hearing the word no. Who makes it? And who drops out? And just what are you supposed to do when someone answers the phone and tells you they’re having sex?

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers




Story 3: What Will You Want to Have Gotten From This?

Resilience is in fact getting a lot of attention in academic circles. This is because we’re discovering that it might be one of the most important things to learn. But how do you teach this to students? Especially Stanford students, for whom rejection is about the most alien experience imaginable.

Featuring: Adina Glickman



Story 4: The Storm Rolling Through Me

Sometimes when life is hard, the only thing to do is visit Burning Man. After losing one friend to violence, and with another friend hospitalized with cancer, Michael Zeligs took a trip with his girlfriend to Burning Man. There he found the crying temple.

Featuring: Michael Zeligs



Story 5: A No Every Day

Resilience is often defined by psychologists as the ability to adapt to adversity. In this story, Jane Reynolds, decides that’s a skill she’s lacking. She tries to fix it by experimenting with “rejection therapy”, which requires her to seek out a rejection every single day.

Featuring: Jane Reynolds


Barking up the Wrong Tree

Have you ever kept pursuing an idea even when everyone else told you it was wrong? So have most of us. There’s no doubt about it, as a species, we’ve got a lot of conviction. But conviction can also lead to years spent howling on a cliff covered in rattlesnakes in the middle of a swamp, searching for Bigfoot. It can lead you to ride a motorcycle into the dangerous, illegal gold mining camps of Peru. It can make you stay in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy. And finally, it can make you vote for one of the most absurd, offensive, and hilarious mascots to almost ever exist: the Stanford Robberbarons. On this week’s episode, stories about barking up the wrong tree.

Host: Xandra Clark

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Jane Reynolds, Xandra Clark

Featuring: Mike Greene, Katy Ashe, Christina Ho, Yaa Gyasi, Jerry Lee, Glen Davis, Lee Rosenbaum, Vlae Kershner, Bob Ottilie, Chris Gray

Release Date: 9 November 2011



Story 1: Mike the Bigfoot Hunter

Mike Greene has been searching for Bigfoot for the last 20 years. In this intro, what got him started, and the frustrating years searching for the evidence would make everything worth it. At the end of the episode, we’ll reveal whether he found that elusive – or illusory – sasquatch after all.

Featuring: Mike Greene



Story 2: Follow Your Gut

Christina Ho and her boyfriend were almost the perfect couple. But Christina felt, deep down, that she might be with the wrong person. She couldn’t figure out why. So she asked advice from friends, pastors, married people – basically everyone who would listen. The most common response was this: “follow your gut”. So, naturally, she tried to figure out what that meant.

Featuring: Christina Ho, Yaa Gyasi, Jerry Lee, Glen Davis



Story 3: Does Mercury Matter?: Artisanal Goldmining in Peru

The Peruvian locals needed a scientist to measure the real effect of mercury poisoning caused by artisanal gold mining. Stanford student Katy Ashe took on the challenge, and discovered a thousand more.

Featuring: Katy Ashe

Photo Credit: Ivan Kashinsky



Story 4: Vote for the Stanford Robberbarons

In all of the other pieces on this show, barking up the wrong tree was a bad thing. But when Stanford held a referendum to elect a new mascot in 1975, a bunch of students barked up the wrong tree on purpose. This is the story of the mascot that never was: the Stanford Robberbarons.

Featuring: Jane Reynolds, Lee Rosenbaum, Vlae Kershner, Bob Ottilie, Chris Gray



Story 5: Outro: Mike the Bigfoot Hunter

In the closing of our how, Mike reveals whether or not he has found Bigfoot. Turns out, he was probably barking up the wrong tree all along….just not in the way you would expect.

Featuring: Mike Greene


Trial and Error

Firsthand, empirical knowledge is a way of knowing we modern humans have gotten away from. The atomic number of carbon, the height of Mt. Kilimanjaro, how ant colonies work–these are things most of us never figure out ourselves. And fortunately, we don’t have to. Yet, on that tricky matter of how to be a human, how to live well, what to do with ourselves, we are left all alone. There’s no blueprint, no roadmap. We have to figure it out ourselves. Today on our show, three stories of people doing just that–making mistakes to learn how to live. First, a graduate student comes to a professor with a problem involving men. How does she solve it? Trial and error. Next, a story about a drastic case of trial and error, trepanation, the drilling of a hole in the skull. Last, the story of one man who spent fifteen years trying to believe something he just didn’t know if he could believe. Who succeeds? Who fails? And was it worth it?

Host: Charlie Mintz

Producers: Charlie Mintz, Xandra Clark, Will Rogers

Featuring: Professor John Krumboltz, Pankaj Tandon, Galen Menzel

Release Date: 23 May 2011



Story 1: Jagged, White Bone

When he was young, John Krumboltz wanted to be a doctor. When he was a little older, he wanted to be a baseball player. But life had other plans for him: compound fractures and curveballs.

Producer: Charlie Mintz



Story 2: What is Wrong with Men?

More from Professor Krumboltz. He tells a story that illustrates his practice of counseling–getting people to take action that will enable them to feel better. It’s a story about making mistakes, trying something new, and shiny red sports cars.



Story 3: Hole in the Skull

People do all kinds of things to make themselves feel better. But few do anything as drastic as having a hole drilled in their skull. This is the story of someone who did exactly that.

Producers: Galen Menzel and Will Rogers



Story 4: The Belief Experiment

What happens when you treat religion like an experiment? The hypothesis: practice and belief will result in transcendence. What happens when you start to doubt that hypothesis?

Producer: Xandra Clark

Featuring: Pankaj Tandon


Space Craft

Unless you’re a hermit living under a rock, you almost certainly spend your days passing in and out of spaces crafted for human use. You leave a bedroom designed for sleeping and go to a bathroom designed for washing and… you know. You enter an office designed for working or a store designed for buying. It’s easy to forget just how much the space we’re in shapes us. So this week’s show is a cold-water, slap on the face, static-electric jolt reminder of just how powerfully spaces can affect the way we think and act. We have stories about paranoia in an outhouse, ghosts in an abandoned building, conformity at the mall, creativity in the classroom, memories in an apartment, and the space that separates us from everyone else, until it doesn’t.

Host: Rachel Hamburg

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Alexis Petty, Larry Leifer, Kai Carlson-Wee, Chelsey Little, Aaron Thayer

URLs:; Carville Annex

image via flickr

Release Date: 26 October 2011



Story 1: Aston St.

In a neighborhood in England, a man designed a house that suited his taste for fantasy. Host Rachel Hamburg got to visit, and this is what she learned about living inside that space of pure whimsy.

image via flickr



Story 2: The View from the Corner

This is a story about an art project designed to recreate an important space. Alexis asked her godmother, Barbara, about a location that meant something to her. Barbara chose a corner in her mother’s Manhattan apartment. Alexis brought that corner to San Francisco.

image via flickr



Story 3: Space Shapes You

Can a space actually make you more creative? Stanford’s Design School says yes, but Managing Editor Charlie Mintz was skeptical, so he went to the D. School to check it out for himself.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Larry Leifer



Story 4: I Heard Men Talking About Trying to Kill Me

Spaces can do incredible things to help us be smarter, more productive, happier. They can also really screw with our heads. This next story is about the space inside in an outhouse, in a cabin in the middle of the woods, and about a space inside our heads we’d rather not go.

Featuring: Kai-Carlson Wee



Story 5: A Building Just Like Any Other

On Stanford campus there is an abandoned chemistry building that some students say is haunted. So of course groups of people check it out every year. Some of them go and don’t see anything unusual. Others have a more interesting experience.



Story 6: Entering the Computer Chip

Some people’s idea of a spooky place is an abandoned building. Others think of another thing: the mall. You can step into a mall in Virginia and feel like you’re in California. Host Rachel Hamburg interviews Stanford student Aaron Thayer, who saw the creation of one of these malls, Reston Town Center, firsthand.

Featuring: Aaron Thayer

image via flickr



Story 7: Strangers

Of all the spaces we craft, the space between ourselves and other people might be the most fragile, or the most resilient. Modern life teaches us that we can be inches from another person and not have to exchange one word. Strangers stay strangers, at least, unless you’re Chelsey Little.

Featuring: Chelsey Little

image via flickr


The Human Voice

The human voice was once considered sacred. Priests and shamans would speak into ceremonial vessels made to preserve its magic. But now every Tom, Dick and Sally vibrates air like they’re scratching their elbow. In this show, we try to make the voice weird again. We hear how one voice transforms its owner when he starts speaking a new language. We also hear about a parakeet who speaks like a deceased grandmother, a young man who makes a sound that baffles his neighbors, and the future of synthesized speech. Plus a story about lipreading that’s guaranteed to make you pay a lot more attention, from here on out, to mouths.

Host: Charlie Mintz

Producer: Charlie Mintz, Will Rogers, Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Claire Woodard, Rob Ryan, Rachel Kolb, Bronwyn Reed, Clifford Nass

Release Date: 19 October 2011



Story 1: Charlie’s Radio Voice

Charlie got to be on NPR one summer. Problem was that he didn’t know how to sound. He decided to imitate an inimitable voice and wound up with a radio debut he’d rather forget.

Featuring: Charlie Mintz



Story 2: Spanish Rob

When you study abroad at Stanford, you sign this agreement called a Language Pledge. What that means is you swear to only speak German, or Russian, or whatever language they speak in the city you’re visiting. As you can probably imagine, no one actually adheres to the Language Pledge. Well, no one but this guy.

Producers: Charlie Mintz and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Rob Ryan



Story 3: I Like Hearing Me!

Clifford Nass is a professor at Stanford University. One of his areas of interest is artificial voices. Voices made by robots. He talks about what it will mean when you aren’t the only thing that sounds like you.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Clifford Nass



Story 4: For Esbert, With Love and Squalor

Creepy as it might be to think of robots replicating our voices, we can find examples right in the here and now of non-human entities stealing our speech. Birds, imitating our speech and rendering it meaningless. But what do you do when that speech is the words of your grandmother, who you loved, and who is dead?

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Claire Woodard

image via flickr



Story 5: Like a Weird, Snarling Alligator

The human voice does so much more than speak words. It can makes all kinds of sounds in its effort to communicate. Most of those are voluntary–grunts, hums, growls, ticks, sighs. But some are involuntary, and that can create problems. Next up you get to eavesdrop on a conversation with Will Rogers. He was worried about a certain anti-social sound he made with his voice.

Producers: Charlie Mintz and Will Rogers



Story 6: Lipreading: Or What to Do When the Speed of Sound Exceeds the Speed of Light

What happens when you subtract sound from the human voice? What is left? Fast, ephemeral, hard-to-discern movements of the lips. It’s not much, but if you’re deaf, it’s just about all you have to go on. Sound tough? Our next story tells you what it’s like.

Producer: Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Rachel Kolb

image via flickr