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“What Is This Thing Called Love?” One-Hour Special Leads Off Public Radio Series The Really Big Questions For Valentine’s Day

LIGHTNING RELEASES – Berkeley, California – February 10, 2014 – Why do human beings feel romantic love?  Is there such a thing as “true love” or is there a more rational reason we couple up?  What advice would you give your younger self about love?  With Valentine’s Day looming, Peabody Award-winning SoundVision Productions, The Exploratorium in San Francisco and Public Radio International (PRI) are joining forces to engage the public with The Really Big Questions (TRBQ), a new series of multi-media conversations about what makes us human.

The series kicks off with the premiere episode “What Is This Thing Called Love?” just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Neuroscientist Lucy Brown compares the brain of a person in love to one high on cocaine; hundreds of visitors to San Francisco’s Exploratorium give their younger selves advice on love; and Esquire editor at large A.J. Jacobs endures a brain scan to determine if he loves his wife more that he loves looking at pictures of Angelina Jolie and creates a series of “rational” Valentine cards.  The episode examines the science of romantic love in a thought-provoking, playful and ultimately educational hour.

Listen to short TRBQ podcasts on “The Science of Love” and “Love in Shanghai.”      

Join the live Twitter conversation about romantic love (hosted by The Exploratorium) on Tuesday, February 11, from 2pm to 3pm EST (11am to 12 noon PST).  See details below. #lovetalk

 Check out TRBQ’s collection of sendable, “rational” Valentine cards.    

The Really Big Questions is hosted by writer, composer and broadcast veteran Dean Olsher, who also is composing and performing all the music on the program.  TRBQ will include five, one-hour radio specials to be broadcast nationwide over the PRI network, each of which will explore a universal question about the human experience.   Other episodes will include: “Why Do We Share?,” “Why Does Music Move Us?,” “What is a Good Death?,” and “What is Your Story?”  The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.   

In the “Love” episode and podcasts now available on the TRBQ website, Olsher ponders the key questions behind humans’ drive to pair up.  How and why do we fall in love?  What happens to the brains of people who are in love?  How does romantic love differ from other forms of love?  Why is it so devastating when our relationships fall apart?  

TRBQ brings together a fascinating cast of scientists, philosophers and regular folks to tackle these questions head-on:

  • Neurologist Lucy Brown, who says the brain of a person head over heels in love resembles the brain of a person high on cocaine.
  • Anthropologist Helen Fisher, who believes romantic love is a basic human drive that evolved to keep people together long enough to raise babies.
  • Chris Johnson, a former artist-in-resident at The Exploratorium, who created an installation called “The Wisdom Arc Time Machine” that asks people what advice they’d give themselves if they could go back in time.  Participants can write about any topic, but love is among the most common. “There’s a lot of regret for lost love,” Johnson says.
  • Esquire writer and editor A.J. Jacobs, who had Lucy Brown put him through an MRI several years ago to see how he would react to looking at pictures of his wife versus pictures of Angelina Jolie.  He says he has now scientifically proven that he loves his wife. 

On the digital front, TRBQ is teaming up with the Exploratorium to host a live Twitter conversation about romantic love on Tuesday, February 11, from 2pm to 3pm EST (11am to 12 noon PST).   Joining the discourse will be historian, writer and frequent media commentator Stephanie Coontz (professor of family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, author of Marriage: A History: How Love Conquered Marriage).   Also, Esquire’s Jacobs has created a collection of “rational” Valentine’s Day cards (e.g. “You light up my prefrontal cortex” and “The pros of being married to you outweigh the cons.”), which can be viewed, personalized and sent out to significant others on the TRBQ website.  PRI also is launching a slideshow of the cards on its website, tied to an article about the brain science behind them.  That web post will invite readers to submit their own lines for a “rational Valentine.”

In addition, SoundVision is partnering with the Exploratorium – a world-renown, hands-on museum of science, art and human perception – to create engaging public events, including exhibits and conversations via Facebook and Twitter.

The Really Big Questions is created by Peabody Award-winning producers Bari Scott, Mary Beth Kirchner and Catherine Winter for SoundVision Productions.  Public Radio International’s content is available on almost 900 public radio stations nationwide, at www.pri.org, and through podcasts and digital platforms. 

For more information about The Really Big Questions and to preview upcoming episodes, visit the TRBQ website.  For media inquiries, contact The Busby Group, 310.475.2914, scottb@thebusbygroup.com