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'Invisibilia' Explores Unseen Forces

Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin [John Poole/NPR]

Some of the forces that shape our lives are easy to see: family, friends, income, residence. But what about the ones we can’t see? How do emotions, ideas, assumptions and beliefs control human behavior?

The NPR program “ Invisibilia,” now in its third season, explores that question by intertwining scientific research and storytelling.

WCPN airs the program, hosted by Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel, Tuesdays in June at 9 p.m. on 90.3. It’s also available on-demand online.

Rosin, who joined the show in the second season, says the show’s title, Latin for “all the invisible things,” guides the show’s direction.

“I think what it does is first alert you that there are things you aren’t aware of, there are forces pinning you to the ground. It just tunes you to say: ‘Hey, there are invisible forces, we’re not talking about ghosts, but there are things you aren’t aware of you should be aware of.’ That sets the tone that each episode is going to make you aware of something that you aren’t currently aware of or see in the way that you could,” said Rosin.

This season’s focus is how concepts shape the way we experience the world. Episodes explore new ways of understanding where our emotions come from, whether or not racism be cured and how two people can see the exact same thing completely differently.

Spiegel, who began the program in 2015 with Lulu Miller (who currently is on leave to write a book), served on both the NPR Science desk and was a founding producer of the popular series “This American Life.”

Spiegel feels “Invisibilia” allows both she and Rosin the chance to explore a shared interest: “We’re both really interested in ideas, not just documentary work. We’re interested in marrying ideas and narrative in a way that benefits both.”

Before joining “Invisibilia,” Rosin’s focus was on print work, writing for The Atlantic and The New Yorker among other publications.

Coming to radio has allowed her to expand her skill set as well as work in a more collaborative environment.

“In print, you go out to interview and then you come home and write your story. My experience at “Invisibilia” is that it is a hive mind. We create things together. We bounce ideas of each other. We go out and report together. So just as a medium (radio) is a lot more collaborative,” Rosin said.

Listen for “Invisibilia” Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on 90.3.