Terry Gross

As a science columnist for The New York Times, Carl Zimmer had reported extensively about genetics and the role gene mutations play in various ailments. After a while, he got to wondering about what secrets his own genetic code holds.

"I wanted to know if there was anything I needed to worry about," Zimmer says. "We all think back to our relatives who got sick and then wonder, 'Is that in me?' "

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Author Michael Pollan had always been curious about psychoactive plants, but his interest skyrocketed when he heard about a research study in which people with terminal cancer were given a psychedelic called psilocybin — the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" — to help them deal with their distress.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Editor's note: This interview contains language that some readers may find offensive.

As CNN's chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper is often focused on breaking news and the latest political stories, but the host of The Lead and State of the Union switched things up a bit for his latest project.

Tapper's new novel, The Hellfire Club, takes place in 1954 Washington, D.C., during Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Communist "witch hunt." He says that although 64 years separate his characters from today's political players, many of the themes apply.

In Aug. 2017, many Americans were shocked to see neo-Nazis and members of the so called alt-right demonstrating in Charlottesville, Va. But author Kathleen Belew says the roots of the rally were actually decades in the making.

Just who controls the Twitter handle @realDonaldTrump? If you guessed the president, journalist Robert Draper says you might be only partially correct.

Draper's recent New York Times Magazine article profiles White House social media director Dan Scavino — a man Draper estimates helps craft about half of the president's tweets.

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