Program 1: Emotion?

How do emotions shape our worldview?

The nature and meaning of emotions have been debated since Plato, yet no single definition seems sufficient.  NPR's Lynn Neary interviews some of today's great thinkers and asks a really big question: How do emotions shape our worldview?

Click here to learn about emotion





You can see an illustration of the complex interactions that comprise what we call emotions by clicking here.  Come back to this page when you are done.









Program 2: Consciousness?

What is consciousness?

What is the self, the soul?  How are they related to the brain, language, and culture?  The modern idea of a conscious self underlies our concept of the human person, yet there is very little scientific consensus on a definition.  NPR’s Lynn Neary talks to scientists and philosophers and asks a really big question: What is consciousness?

Click here to learn about consciousness






Click here to download basic information about research into the science of consciousness. You can personally experience the difference between conscious and nonconscious processing by clicking here.  Come back to this page when you are done.  

Program 3: Death?

How do we face our own mortality?

Death is a fact of life, an absolute and unavoidable certainty.  Yet we don’t want to believe it will happen to us or those we cherish.   NPR's Lynn Neary wonders if we are psychologically and physiologically equipped to deal with constant reminders of death.  This leads to a really big question: How do we face our own mortality?

Click here to learn how we cope with death





Click here and you will learn that defining death is not as simple as you thought.  Come back to this page when you are done.

Program 4: Religion?

Can science explain why we believe: A TRBQ Documentary Special

Go practically anywhere on this planet, and you’ll likely find a place where people worship.  For as long there have been humans, we’ve felt the need to venerate certain special beings, objects, and ideas.  Today’s evolutionary biologists see a signature feature that raises a really big question: Can science explain why we believe? 

Click here for our documentary about science and religion                                                                                          

The Really Big Questions

Do You Want To Suggest A Really Big Question?  Tell us about it HERE

SoundVision's The Really Big Questions, hosted by NPR's Lynn Neary, is airing on public radio stations around the country and is distributed internationally by NPR Worldwide.  Contact your local station to find out when TRBQ will air in your area.  Oh, and don't forget to become a TRBQ  FACEBOOK fan or friend or both.

The Really Big Questions considers some of the great questions of humanity.  How do emotions shape our worldview?  What is consciousness?  How do we face our own mortality?  Can science explain why we believe? These questions have inspired great works of art, literature and philosophy and are recurrent themes in human history.

Provocative new work in the sciences, such as evolutionary biology, neuroscience and experimental psychology give us a chance to have a broader discussion about human nature, and human understanding, but science does not have all the answers; sometimes it simply reminds us how complex we are and how much we do not yet know.

The Really Big Questions considers the intersection of empirical science and the humanities and what that conversation can or cannot tell us about who we are and what we value. 




About us

The Really Big Questions was created by SoundVision, a non-profit organization that explores complex subjects relating to the humanities, science and technology, and invites the general public to participate in the discovery. Our productions, which include The DNA Files, Science Literacy Project and The Really Big Questions, have been honored by the George Foster Peabody Awards, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Awards, and the Association of Women in Communications.


Major Funding by the National Science Foundation



Additional Support from the National Endowment for the Humanities


Meet our host

NPR's Lynn Neary


Vision and Perception: Kalanit Grill-Spector is director of Stanford University's Vision & Perception Neuroscience Lab


Culture and Emotion: Stanford University's Jeanne Tsai discusses her work at the Culture and Emotion Lab.


Just like humans: Chimpanzees will go to war over territory. Read the article here.

Which question should we tackle next?