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Wanna see a trick? Give us any topic and we can tie it back to the economy. At Planet Money, we explore the forces that shape our lives and bring you along for the ride. Don't just understand the economy – understand the world.

Wanna go deeper? Subscribe to Planet Money+ and get sponsor-free episodes of Planet Money, The Indicator, and Planet Money Summer School. Plus access to bonus content. It's a new way to support the show you love. Learn more at plus.npr.org/planetmoney

Most Recent Episodes

The Vapes of Wrath

When the vape brand Juul first hit the market back in 2015, e-cigarettes were in a kind of regulatory limbo. At the time, the rules that governed tobacco cigarettes did not explicitly apply to e-cigarettes. Then Juul blew up, fueled a public health crisis over teen vaping, and inspired a regulatory crackdown. But when the government finally stepped in to solve the problem of youth vaping, it may have actually made things worse.

The Vapes of Wrath

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Why is everyone talking about Musk's money?

We've lived amongst Elon Musk headlines for so long now that it's easy to forget just how much he sounds like a sci-fi character. He runs a space company and wants to colonize mars. He also runs a company that just implanted a computer chip into a human brain. And he believes there's a pretty high probability everything is a simulation and we are living inside of it.

Why is everyone talking about Musk's money?

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What's with all the tiny soda cans? And other grocery store mysteries, solved.

There's a behind the scenes industry that helps big brands decide questions like: How big should a bag of chips be? What's the right size for a bottle of shampoo? And yes, also: When should a company do a little shrinkflation?

What's with all the tiny soda cans? And other grocery store mysteries, solved.

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Graphite samples at Westwater Resources in Coosa County, Alabama. Sally Helm/NPR hide caption

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Sally Helm/NPR

Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight

Graphite is sort of the one-hit wonder of minerals. And that hit? Pencils. Everyone loves to talk about pencils when it comes to graphite. If graphite were to perform a concert, they'd close out the show with "pencils," and everyone would clap and cheer. But true fans of graphite would be shouting out "batteries!" Because graphite is a key ingredient in another important thing that we all use in our everyday lives: lithium ion batteries.

Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight

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How much national debt is too much?

Most economic textbooks will tell you that there can be real dangers in running up a big national debt. A major concern is how the debt you add now could slow down economic growth in the future. Economists have not been able to nail down how much debt a country can safely take on. But they have tried.

How much national debt is too much?

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The history of light (classic)

For thousands of years, getting light was a huge hassle. You had to make candles from scratch. This is not as romantic as it sounds. You had to get a cow, raise the cow, feed the cow, kill the cow, get the fat out of the cow, cook the fat, dip wicks into the fat. All that--for not very much light. Now, if we want to light a whole room, we just flip a switch.

The history of light (classic)

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Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images

How the FBI's fake cell phone company put criminals into real jail cells

There is a constant arms race between law enforcement and criminals, especially when it comes to technology. For years, law enforcement has been frustrated with encrypted messaging apps, like Signal and Telegram. And law enforcement has been even more frustrated by encrypted phones, specifically designed to thwart authorities from snooping.

How the FBI's fake cell phone company put criminals into real jail cells

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What happens after you get scammed? Can you get your money back?

We are living in a kind of golden age for online fraudsters. As the number of apps and services for storing and sending money has exploded – so too have the schemes that bad actors have cooked up to steal that money. Every year, we hear more and more stories of financial heartbreak. What you don't often hear about is what happens after the scam?

What happens after you get scammed? Can you get your money back?

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Junkman Jon Rolston has spent the last two decades clearing out houses and offices of their junk. In that time, he's become a kind of trash savant. James Sneed/NPR hide caption

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The junkyard economist

On today's episode, we ride through the streets of San Francisco with a long-time junkman, Jon Rolston.

The junkyard economist

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Good Tape Studio

Lay-offs can leave you with big questions. An HR expert has answers.

By one estimate, 40 percent of American workers get laid off at least once in their careers. And when that happens, companies will often say, "It's not personal. It has nothing to do with you or your performance. We're just changing priorities, making a strategic shift."

Lay-offs can leave you with big questions. An HR expert has answers.

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