TrueSciPhi logo

TrueSciPhi

 

Podcast Profile: Radiolab

podcast imageTwitter: @Radiolab@lmillernpr@latifnasser
Site: www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab
150 episodes
2021 to present
Average episode: 44 minutes
Open in Apple PodcastsRSS

Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • Story-Style

Podcaster's summary: Radiolab is on a curiosity bender. We ask deep questions and use investigative journalism to get the answers. A given episode might whirl you through science, legal history, and into the home of someone halfway across the world. The show is known for innovative sound design, smashing information into music. It is hosted by Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser.

Discover other podcasts.

List Updated: 2024-Feb-21 13:40 UTC. Episodes: 150. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2024-Feb-16 • 50 minutes
G: The World's Smartest Animal
This episode begins with a rant. This rant, in particular, comes from Dan Engber - a science writer who loves animals but despises animal intelligence research. Dan told us that so much of the way we study animals involves tests that we think show a human is smart ... not the animals we intend to study. Dan’s rant got us thinking: What is the smartest animal in the world? And if we threw out our human intelligence rubric, is there a fair way to figure it out? Obviously, there is. And it’s a live game sho...
2024-Feb-09 • 42 minutes
Cheating Death
In this episode, Maria Paz Gutiérrez does battle against the one absolute truth of human existence and all life… death. After getting a team of scientists to stand in for death (the grim reaper wasn’t available), we parry and thrust our way through the myriad ways that death comes for us - from falling pianos to evolution’s disinterest in longevity. In the process, we see if we can find a satisfying answer to the question “why do we have to die” and find ourselves face to face with the bitter end of everyth...
2024-Feb-05 • 12 minutes
Breaking Newsve About Zoozve
Less than two weeks since we released Zoozve, and we have BIG NEWS about our quest to name the first-ever quasi-moon! And that’s only the half of it! *Listen to the episode “Zoozve” before you listen to this update! (https://radiolab.org/podcast/zoozve) E... CREDITS - Reported by - Latif Nasser with help from - Ekedi Fausther-Keeys Produced by - Sarah Qari Original music and sound design contributed by - Sarah Qari with mixing help from - Arianne Wack Fact-checking by - Diane Kelley and Edited by - Be...
2024-Feb-02 • 75 minutes
G: Relative Genius
Albert Einstein asked that when he died, his body be cremated and his ashes be scattered in a secret location. He didn’t want his grave, or his body, becoming a shrine to his genius. When he passed away in the early morning hours of April, 18, 1955, his family knew his wishes. There was only one problem: the pathologist who did the autopsy had different plans. In the third episode of “G”, Radiolab’s miniseries on intelligence, first aired back in 2019 we go on one of the strangest scavenger hunts for geniu...
2024-Jan-26 • 41 minutes
Zoozve
As co-host Latif Nasser was putting his kid to bed one night, he noticed something weird on a solar system poster up on the wall: Venus had a moon called … Zoozve. But when he called NASA to ask them about it, they had never heard of Zoozve, and besides that, they insisted that Venus doesn’t have any moons. So begins a tiny mystery that leads to a newly discovered kind of object in our solar system, one that is simultaneously a moon, but also not a moon, and one that waltzes its way into asking one of the...
2024-Jan-19 • 26 minutes
The Living Room
We're thrilled to present a piece from one of our favorite podcasts, Love + Radio (Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker). Producer Briana Breen brings us the story: Diane’s new neighbors across the way never shut their curtains, and that was the beginning of an intimate, but very one-sided relationship. Please listen to as much of Love + Radio as you can (loveandradio.org). And, if you are in Seattle Area, or plan to be on Feb 15th, 2024 come check out Radiolab Live! and in person (https://zpr.io/fCDUTEYju7...
2024-Jan-12 • 56 minutes
Our Little Stupid Bodies
Sometimes a seemingly silly question gets stuck in your craw and you can’t shake the feeling that something big lies behind it. We are constantly collecting these kinds of questions from our listeners, not to mention piling up a storehouse of our own “stupid” questions, as we lovingly call them. And a little while back, we noticed a little cluster of questions that seemed to have a shared edgy energy, and all led us to the same place: Our own bodies. So, today on Radiolab, we go down our throats and get und...
2024-Jan-05 • 52 minutes
Stochasticity
First aired way back in 2009, this episode is all about a wonderfully slippery and smarty-pants word for randomness, Stochasticity, and how it may be at the very foundation of our lives. Along the way, we talk to a woman suddenly consumed by a frenzied gambling addiction, hear from two friends whose meeting seems to defy pure chance, and take a close look at some very noisy bacteria. EPISODE CITATIONS: Videos - Stochasticity Music Video (https://zpr.io/uZiH9j9ZU6be) Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday....
2023-Dec-29 • 34 minutes
Zeroworld
Karim Ani dedicated his life to math. He studied it in school, got a degree in math education, even founded Citizen Math to teach it to kids in a whole new way. But, this whole time, his whole life, almost, he had this question nagging at him. The question came in the form of a rule in math, NEVER divide by zero. But, why not? Cornell mathematician, and friend of the show, Steve Strogatz, chimes in with the historical context, citing examples of previous provocateurs looking to break the rules of math. And ...
2023-Dec-22 • 60 minutes
Numbers
First aired back in 2009, this episode is all about one thing, or rather a collection of things. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, chances are you rely on numbers every day of your life. Where do they come from, and what do they really do for us? This hour: stories of how numbers confuse us, connect us, and even reveal secrets about us.
2023-Dec-15 • 24 minutes
Death Interrupted
As a lifeguard, a paramedic, and then an ER doctor, Blair Bigham found his calling: saving lives. But when he started to work in the ICU, he slowly realized that sometimes keeping people (and their hopes) alive just prolongs the suffering. He wrote a book arguing that a too-late death is just as bad as a too-early one, and that physicians and the public alike need to get better at accepting the inevitability of death sooner. As the book hit the bestseller list, Blair’s own father got diagnosed with a deadl...
2023-Dec-08 • 21 minutes
A 4-Track Mind
In this short episode that first aired in 2011, a neurologist issues a dare to a ragtime piano player and a famous conductor. When the two men face off in an fMRI machine, the challenge is so unimaginably difficult that one man instantly gives up. But the other achieves a musical feat that ought to be impossible. Reporter Jessica Benko went to Michigan to visit Bob Milne, one of the best ragtime piano players in the world, and a preternaturally talented musician. Usually, Bob sticks to playing piano for sma...
2023-Dec-01 • 53 minutes
Boy Man
Could puberty get any more awkward? Turns out, yes. Writer Patrick Burleigh started going through puberty as a toddler. He had pubic hair before he was two years old and a mustache by middle school. All of this was thanks to a rare genetic mutation that causes testotoxicosis, also known as precocious puberty. From the moment he was born, abnormally high levels of testosterone coursed through his body, just as it had in his father’s body, his grandfather’s body, and his great-grandfather’s body. On this week...
2023-Nov-24 • 48 minutes
Shrink
The definition of life is in flux, complexity is overrated, and humans are shrinking. Viruses are supposed to be sleek, pared-down, dead-eyed machines. But when one microbiologist stumbled upon a GIANT virus, hundreds of times bigger than any seen before, all that went out the window. The discovery opened the door not only to a new cast of microscopic characters with names like Mimivirus, Mamavirus, and Megavirus, but also to basic questions: How did we miss these until now? Have they been around since the...
2023-Nov-17 • 58 minutes
The Interstitium
In this episode we introduce you to a part of our bodies that was invisible to Western scientists until about five years ago; it’s called "the interstitium," a vast network of fluid channels inside the tissues around our organs that scientists have just begun to see, name, and understand. Along the way we look at how new technologies rub up against long-standing beliefs, and how millions of scientists and doctors failed to see what was right in front (and inside!) of their noses. We also find out how mappin...
2023-Nov-10 • 30 minutes
Funky Hand Jive
Back when Robert was kid, he had a chance encounter with then President John F. Kennedy. The interaction began with a hello and ended with a handshake. And like many of us who have touched greatness, 14 year old Robert was left wondering if maybe some of Kennedy would stay with him. Back in 2017, when this episode first aired, Robert found himself still pondering that encounter and question. And so with the help of what was brand new science back then, and a helping hand from Neil Degrasse Tyson, he set out...
2023-Nov-03 • 33 minutes
Toy Soldiers
Back in February of 2022, anyone who knew anything thought the War in Ukraine would be over in a few weeks. Russia simply had more bodies to fight with and more steel to kill with.Fast-forward to today, however, and the war is anything but over. Ukraine has held and regained territory with shocking resilience. Stranger still, a small, cheap gadget that up until now was little more than a toy, has been central to their success.Today on Radiolab, we track the deployment of this weapon and wonder what happens ...
2023-Oct-27 • 60 minutes
Border Trilogy Part 3: What Remains
While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh. This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migran...
2023-Oct-20 • 53 minutes
Border Trilogy Part 2: Hold the Line
While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh. This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migra...
2023-Oct-13 • 53 minutes
Border Trilogy Part 1: Hole in the Fence
While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh. This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migran...
2023-Oct-06 • 34 minutes
The Secret to a Long Life
Producer Sindhu Gnanasambandan wants to know how she can live the longest feeling life possible. The answer leads her on a journey to make one week feel like two. And the journey leads her to a whole new answer.Special thanks to Jo Eidman, Nathan Peereboom, Kristin Lin, Stacey Reimann, Ash Sanders… and an extra special thanks to Jae Minard for editorial supportEPISODE CREDITSReported by - Sindhu GnanasambandanProduced by - Sindhu GnanasambandanOriginal music and sound design contributed by - Jeremy Bloomwit...
2023-Sep-29 • 36 minutes
Poison Control
Originally aired in 2018, this episode features reporter Brena Farrell as a new mom. Her son gave her and her husband a scare -- prompting them to call Poison Control. For Brenna, the experience was so odd, and oddly comforting, that she decided to dive into the birth story of this invisible network of poison experts, and try to understand the evolving relationship we humans have with our poisonous planet. As we learn about how poison control has changed over the years, we end up wondering what a place devo...
2023-Sep-22 • 32 minutes
Smog Cloud Silver Lining
Summer 2023 was a pretty scary one for the planet. Global temperatures in June and July reached record highs. And over in the North Atlantic Sea, the water temperature spiked to off-the-chart levels. Some people figured that meant we were about to go over the edge, doomsday. In the face of this, Hank Green (a long time environmentalist and science educator behind SciShow, Crash Course, and more), took to social media to put things in context, to keep people focused on what we can do about climate change. In...
2023-Sep-15 • 41 minutes
Driverless Dilemma
Most of us would sacrifice one person to save five. It’s a pretty straightforward bit of moral math. But if we have to actually kill that person ourselves, the math gets fuzzy. That’s the lesson of the classic Trolley Problem, a moral puzzle that fried our brains in an episode we did almost 20 years ago, then updated again in 2017. Historically, the questions posed by The Trolley Problem are great for thought experimentation and conversations at a certain kind of cocktail party. Now, new technologies are fo...
2023-Sep-08 • 71 minutes
Born This Way?
Today, the story of an idea. An idea that some people need, others reject, and one that will, ultimately, be hard to let go of. Special Thanks to Carl Zimmer, Eric Turkheimer, Andrea Ganna, Chandler Burr, Jacques Balthazart, Sean Mckeithan, Joe Osmundson, Jennifer Brier, Daniel Levine-Spound, Maddie Sofia, Elie Mystal, Heather Radke EPISODE CREDITS: Reported by - Matt KieltyProduced by - Matt KieltyOriginal music and sound design contributed by - Matt Kieltywith mixing help from - Arianne WackFact-checking ...
2023-Sep-01 • 52 minutes
Touch at a Distance
In this episode from 2007, we take you on a tour of language, music, and the properties of sound. We look at what sound does to our bodies, our brains, our feelings… and we go back to the reason we at Radiolab tell you stories the way we do. First, we look at Diana Deutsch’s work on language and music, and how certain languages seem to promote musicality in humans. Then we meet Psychologist Anne Fernald and listen to parents as they talk to their babies across languages and cultures. Last, we go to 1913 Pa...
2023-Aug-25 • 39 minutes
Rumble Strip: Finn and the Bell
A couple years ago, our producer Annie McEwen listened to an audio documentary that, she said, “tore my heart wide open.” That episode , “Finn and the Bell,” (https://zpr.io/TDjwQuXFDSz6) by independent producer Erica Heilman (maker of the podcast Rumble Strip), went on to win some of the biggest awards in audio (including a Peabody, https://zpr.io/tu4hwhKQ3TWN), and the rest of the staff finally got around to listening, and it tore our hearts wide open, too. It’s a story about a death, but as so many of t...
2023-Aug-18 • 58 minutes
The Wubi Effect
When we think of China today, we think of a technological superpower. From Huawei and 5G to TikTok and viral social media, China is stride for stride with the United States in the world of computing. However, China’s technological renaissance almost didn’t happen. And for one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn’t fit on a keyboard. Today, we tell the story of Professor Wang Yongmin, a hard headed computer programmer who solved this puzzle and laid the foundation...
2023-Aug-11 • 37 minutes
The Internet Dilemma
Matthew Herrick was sitting on his stoop in Harlem when something weird happened. Then, it happened again. And again. It happened so many times that it became an absolute nightmare—a nightmare that haunted his life daily and flipped it completely upside down. What stood between Matthew and help were 26 little words. These 26 words, known as Section 230, are the core of an Internet law that coats the tech industry in Teflon. No matter what happens, who gets hurt, or what harm is done, tech companies can’t be...
2023-Aug-04 • 54 minutes
Right to be Forgotten
In online news, stories live forever. The tipsy photograph of you at the college football game? It’s there. That news article about the political rally you were marching at? It’s there. A charge for driving under the influence? That’s there, too. But what if... it wasn’t? Several years ago a group of journalists in Cleveland, Ohio, tried an experiment that had the potential to turn things upside down: they started unpublishing content they’d already published. Photographs, names, entire articles. Every mont...
2023-Jul-28 • 35 minutes
Little Black Holes Everywhere
In 1908, on a sunny, clear, quiet morning in Siberia, witnesses recall seeing a blinding light streak across the sky, and then… the earth shook, a forest was flattened, fish were thrown from streams, and roofs were blown off houses. The “Tunguska event,” as it came to be known, was one of the largest extraterrestrial impact events in Earth’s history. But what kind of impact—what exactly struck the earth in the middle of Siberia?—is still up for debate. Producer Annie McEwen dives into one idea that suggests...
2023-Jul-21 • 41 minutes
The Right Stuff
Since the beginning of the space program, we’ve expected astronauts to be fully-abled athletic overachievers—one-part science geeks, two-part triathletes—a mix the writer Tom Wolfe called “the right stuff.” But what if, this whole time, we’ve had it wrong? In this episode from 2022, reporter Andrew Leland joins blind Linguistics Professor Sheri Wells-Jensen and a crew of 11 other disabled people. They embark on a mission to prove not just that they have what it takes to go to space, but that disability give...
2023-Jul-14 • 29 minutes
The Fellowship of the Tree Rings
At a tree ring conference in the relatively treeless city of Tucson, Arizona, three scientists walk into a bar. The trio gets to talking, trying to explain a mysterious set of core samples from the Florida Keys. At some point, they come up with a harebrained idea: put the tree rings next to a seemingly unrelated dataset. Once they do, they notice something that no one has ever noticed before, a force of nature that helped shape modern human history and that is eerily similar to what’s happening on our plane...
2023-Jul-07 • 57 minutes
Man Against Horse
This is a story about your butt. It’s a story about how you got your butt, why you have your butt, and how your butt might be one of the most important and essential things for you being you, for being human. In this episode from 2019, Reporter Heather Radke and Producer Matt Kielty talk to two researchers who followed the butt from our ancient beginnings through millions of years of evolution, all the way to today, out to a valley in Arizona, where our butts are put to the ultimate test. Special thanks ...
2023-Jun-30 • 73 minutes
The Cataclysm Sentence
Sad news for all of us: producer Rachael Cusick— who brought us soul-stirring stories rethinking grief (https://zpr.io/GZ6xEvpzsbHU) and solitude (https://zpr.io/eT5tAX6JtYra), as well as colorful musings on airplane farts (https://zpr.io/CNpgUijZiuZ4) and belly flops (https://zpr.io/uZrEz27z63CB) and Blueberry Earths (https://zpr.io/EzxgtdTRGVzz)— is leaving the show. So we thought it perfect timing to sit down with her and revisit another brainchild of hers, The Cataclysm Sentence, a collection of advice ...
2023-Jun-23 • 74 minutes
Americanish
Given reporter Julia Longoria’s long love affair with the Supreme Court, it’s no surprise she’s become the new host of More Perfect (https://zpr.io/4R9fMg9gJ96k), a show all about how the Supreme Court got to be so… supreme. This week, we talk to Julia about her journey to the host seat, and we highlight an episode she produced for Radiolab in 2019 about a specific case: González v. Williams. In 1903 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to say that Isabel González was a citizen of the United States. Then again, ...
2023-Jun-16 • 29 minutes
Beware the Sand Striker
Shipworms. Hairy Chested Yeti Crabs. Parasitic Barnacles in the cloaca of Greenland Sharks. These are the types of creatures Sabrina Imbler, a columnist at Defector, likes to write about. The stranger, the better. In this episode, Imbler discusses how they balance maintaining scientific rigor while also drawing inspiration and metaphor from the animal world. Then they read a stirring essay from their new book, How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures . It’s about the sand striker, one of the o...
2023-Jun-09 • 38 minutes
Eye in the Sky
Ross McNutt has a superpower: he can zoom in on everyday life, then rewind and fast-forward to solve crimes in a shutter-flash. But should he? In 2004, when casualties in Iraq were rising due to roadside bombs, Ross McNutt and his team came up with an idea. With a small plane and a 44 megapixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom into that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scr...
2023-Jun-02 • 38 minutes
The Seagulls
In the 1970s, as LGBTQ+ people in the United States faced conservatives whose top argument was that homosexuality is “unnatural,” a pair of young scientists discovered on a tiny island off the coast of California a colony of seagulls that included… a significant number of female homosexual couples making nests and raising chicks together. The article that followed upended the culture’s understanding of what’s natural and took the discourse on homosexuality in a whole new direction. In this episode, our co-H...
2023-May-26 • 42 minutes
On the Edge
At the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, one athlete pulled a move that, as far as we know, no one else had ever attempted. In this episode, first aired in the Spring of 2016, we tell you about Surya Bonaly. Surya was not your typical figure skater: she is black, she is athletic, and she didn’t seem to care about artistry. Her performances—punctuated by triple jumps and other power moves—thrilled audiences around the world. Yet commentators claimed she couldn’t skate and judges never gave her high marks. But ...
2023-May-19 • 64 minutes
Family People
In 2021, editor Alex Neason's grandfather passed away. On his funeral program, she learned the name of his father for the first time: Wilson Howard. Not Neason. Howard. And when she asked her family why his last name was different from everybody else's, nobody had an answer. In this episode, we tag along as Alex searches for answers through swampy cemeteries, libraries, and archives in the heart of south Louisiana: who was her great grandfather, really? Is she supposed to be a Neason? Where did the name Nea...
2023-May-12 • 61 minutes
The War on Our Shore
Foreign enemies have seldom brought war to U.S. soil… right? In this episode from 2017, we tell you strange stories of foreign enemies landing on our shore. From bombs floating across the country without a sound (or even a discussion), to Nazi prisoners of war leading placid lives in towns nationwide, listen to how war quietly wormed its way into the heartland of the United States. Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact w...
2023-May-05 • 36 minutes
Ologies: Dark Matters
Testudinology. Enigmatology. Hagfishology. Raccoonology. Meteorology. Chronobiology. Chickenology. Delphinology. Bryology. Vampirology. Zymology. Echinology. Screamology. Melaninology. Dolorology.In this episode, we introduce you to one of our all-time favorite science podcasts. Ologies. A show that’s a kindred spirit to ours, but also… very different. In each episode, Host Alie Ward interviews a brilliant, charming ologist, and wanders with them deep into their research, quirky facts they’ve learned throug...
2023-Apr-28 • 23 minutes
The Golden Rule
At first glance, Golden Balls was just like all the other game shows — quick-witted host, flashy set, suspenseful music. But underneath all that, each episode asked a very serious question: can you ever really trust another person? Executive producer Andy Rowe explains how the show used a whole lot of money and a simple set of rules to force us to face the fact that being good might not end well. The result was a show that could shake your faith in humanity — until one mild-mannered fellow unveiled a very u...
2023-Apr-21 • 31 minutes
Corpse Demon
Heaven and hell, Judgement Day, monotheism — these ideas all came from one ancient Persian religion: Zoroastrianism. Also: Sky Burials. Zoroastrians put their dead on top of a structure called The Tower of Silence where vultures devour the body in a matter of hours. It’s clean, efficient, eco-friendly. It’s how it’s been for thousands of years. Until 2006. That’s when a Zoroastrian woman living in Mumbai snuck up into the tower and found bloated, rotting bodies everywhere. The vultures were gone. And not ju...
2023-Apr-14 • 27 minutes
Abortion Pills, Take Two
Abortion pills — a combo of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol — are on notice: on April 7, 2023, a federal judge said the FDA’s approval of mifepristone was invalid. And then, not more than an hour later, another federal judge in a separate case said that mifepristone had to stay on the market in certain states. With these two contradictory rulings, mifepristone — and medical abortion, in general — is in the crosshairs. So, today, we want to rewind to an episode we made last year. It looks at these tw...
2023-Apr-07 • 44 minutes
The Library of Alexandra
How much does knowledge cost? While that sounds like an abstract question, the answer is surprisingly specific: $3,096,988,440.00. That’s how much the business of publishing scientific and academic research is worth. This is the story of one woman’s battle against a global network of academic journals that underlie published scientific research. In 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan had just moved home to Kazakhstan after a disappointing few years trying to study neuroscience in the United States when she landed on ...
2023-Mar-31 • 71 minutes
The Good Samaritan
Tuesday afternoon, summer of 2017: Scotty Hatton and Scottie Wightman made a decision to help someone in need and both paid a price for their actions that day — actions that have led to a legal, moral, and scientific puzzle about how we balance accountability and forgiveness. In this 2019 episode, we go to Bath County, Kentucky, where, as one health official put it, opioids have created “a hole the size of Kentucky.” We talk to the people on all sides of this story about stemming the tide of overdoses. We ...
2023-Mar-24 • 44 minutes
Alone Enough
Cat Jaffee didn’t necessarily think of herself as someone who loved being alone. But then, the pandemic hit. And she got diagnosed with cancer. Actually, those two things happened on the exact same day, at the exact same hour. In the shadow of that nightmarish timing, Cat found her way to a sport that celebrated the solitude that was forced on her, and taught her how to not only embrace self-reliance, but to love it. This sport is called competitive bikepacking. And in these competitions, riders have to br...
2023-Mar-17 • 55 minutes
Apologetical
How do you fix a word that’s broken? A word we need when we bump into someone on the street, or break someone’s heart. In our increasingly disconnected secular world, “sorry” has been stretched and twisted, and in some cases weaponized. But it’s also one of the only ways we have to piece together a sense of shared values and beliefs. Through today's sea of sorry-not-sorries, empty apologies, and just straight up non-apologies, we wonder in this episode from 2018 what it looks like to make amends. EPISODE CR...
2023-Mar-10 • 27 minutes
Buttons Not Buttons
Tiny buttons have such a hold on us. They can be portals to power, freedom, and destruction. Today, with the help of buttons, we tell you about taking charge of the little things in life, about fortunes made and lost, and about the ease with which the world can end. Confused? Push the button marked Play.Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train OrchestraOur newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the ...
2023-Mar-03 • 26 minutes
Crabs All the Way Down
This week we examine one of nature's most humble creations: crabs. Turns out when you look closely at these little scuttlers, things get surprisingly existential — about how to come into being, how to survive chaos, and how to live. We even examine the possibility of evolutionary destiny. This episode is a two-parter, a double-decker crab cake of sorts. Served up on a bed of lettuce and beautiful weirdness. The first layer comes from producer Rachael Cusick, and is a story she told live on stage at Pop-Up M...
2023-Feb-24 • 31 minutes
The Trust Engineers
First aired in 2015, this is an episode about social media, and how, when we talk online, things can quickly go south. But do they have to? In the earlier days of Facebook, we met with a group of social engineers who were convinced that tiny changes in wording can make the online world a kinder, gentler place. We just have to agree to be their lab rats. Because Facebook, or something like it, is where we share and like and gossip and gripe. And before we were as aware of its impact, Facebook had a laborat...
2023-Feb-17 • 45 minutes
Golden Goose
After years of being publicly shamed for “fleecing” the taxpayers with their frivolous and obscure studies, scientists decided to hit back with… an awards show?! This episode, we gate-crash the Grammys of government-funded research, A.K.A. the Golden Goose Awards. The twist of these awards is that they go to scientific research that at first sounds trivial or laughable but then turns out to change the world. We tell the story of one of the latest winners: a lonely Filipino boy who picked up an ice cream con...
2023-Feb-10 • 52 minutes
Bliss
In this deep cut from 2012, we are searching for platonic ideals longing for completion, engaged in epic quests for holy grails in science, linguistics, and world peace. And along the way, we’ll meet the dreamers and measure just how impossible their dreams are. First: a perfect moment. On day 86 of a 3-month trek to and from the South Pole, adventurer Aleksander Gamme (https://zpr.io/ryaJzt5vaNTZ) discovered something he'd stashed under the ice at the start of his trip. He wasn't expecting such a rush of ...
2023-Feb-03 • 32 minutes
Ukraine: The Handoff
We continue the story of a covert smuggling operation to bring abortion pills into Ukraine, shortly after the Russian invasion. In this episode, reporters Katz Laszlo and Gregory Warner go to Ukraine, landing on a fall night during a citywide blackout, to pick up the trail of the pills and find out about the doctors and patients who needed them. But as they follow the pills around the country, what they learn changes their understanding of how we talk about these pills, and how we talk about choice, in a wa...
2023-Jan-27 • 61 minutes
Birthstory
You know the drill — all it takes is one sperm, one egg, and blammo — you’ve got yourself a baby. Right? Well, in this 2015 episode, conception takes on a new form — it’s the sperm and the egg, plus: two wombs, four countries, and money. Lots of money. This is the story of an Israeli couple, two men, who go to another continent to get themselves a baby — three, in fact — by hiring surrogates to carry the children for them. As we follow them on their journey, an earth-shaking revelation shifts our focus fro...
2023-Jan-20 • 43 minutes
Ukraine: Under the Counter
In the weeks following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a young doctor in Germany sees that abortion pills are urgently needed in Ukraine. And she wants to help. But getting the drugs into the country means going through Poland, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. So, she gets creative. What unfolds is a high-stakes, covert-operation run by a group of strangers. With everyone deciding: who to trust? In collaboration with NPR’s Rough Translation (https://zpr.io/9UpCwb2Smjzw), we find ...
2023-Jan-13 • 56 minutes
Games
In this episode, first aired in 2011, we talk about the meaning of a good game — whether it's a pro football playoff, or a family showdown on the kitchen table. And how some games can make you feel, at least for a little while, like your whole life hangs in the balance. This hour of Radiolab, Jad and Robert wonder why we get so invested in something so trivial. What is it about games that make them feel so pivotal? We hear how a recurring dream about football turned into a real-life lesson for Stephen Dubne...
2023-Jan-06 • 32 minutes
Universe In Verse
For a special New Year’s treat, we take a tour through the history of the universe with the help of… poets. Our guide is Maria Popova, who writes the popular blog The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings), and the poetry is from her project, “The Universe in Verse” — an annual event where poets read poems about science, space, and the natural world. Special thanks to all of our poets, musicians, and performers: Marie Howe, Tracy K. Smith, Rebecca Elson, Joan As Police Woman, Patti Smith, Gautam Srikishan, Z...
2022-Dec-30 • 68 minutes
New Normal
This episode —first released in 2009 and then again in 2015, with an update — asks, what is “normal”? Maybe it exists, maybe not. We examine peace-loving baboons with Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, talk to Stu Rasmussen, whose preferred pronouns were he/him (https://zpr.io/nUdsZawNmhwt), and his neighbors in Silverton, Oregon about how a town chooses its community over outsider opinions. And lastly, we speak with an evolutionary anthropologist, Duke University’s own Brian Hare, and an evolutionary...
2022-Dec-23 • 44 minutes
The Flight Before Christmas
At any given moment, nearly 500,000 people are crammed together in a metal tube, hurtling through the air. In this episode, we look at the strange human experiment that is flying together. Special thanks to Natalie Compton, Julia Longoria, Mike Arnot, and everyone at Gate Gourmet.EPISODE CREDITS: Reported by - Matt Kielty, Simon Adler and Rachael CusickProduced by - Matt Kielty, Simon Adler and Rachael CusickWith Production help from - Sindhu GnanasambandanOriginal music and sound design contributed by - J...
2022-Dec-16 • 61 minutes
Null and Void
This episode, first aired in 2017, has Reporter Tracie Hunte and Editor Soren Wheeler exploring a hidden power in the U.S. Court System that is either the cornerstone of our democracy or a trapdoor to anarchy. Should a juror be able to ignore the law? From a Quaker prayer meeting in the streets of London to riots in the streets of Los Angeles, we trace the history of a quiet act of rebellion and struggle with how much power “We the People” should really have.Special thanks to Darryl K. Brown, professor of l...
2022-Dec-09 • 28 minutes
The Middle of Everything Ever
After graduating from high school, without a clear plan for what to do next, Laura Andrews started asking herself a lot of questions. A spiral of big philosophical thoughts that led her to sit down and write to us with a question that was… oddly mathematical. What is the most average size thing, if you take into account everything in the universe. So, along with mathematician Steven Strogatz, we decided to see if we could sit down and, in a friendly throwdown of guesstimates and quick calculations, rough o...
2022-Dec-02 • 55 minutes
The Ashes on the Lawn
A global pandemic. Thousands dying. A passive government. An afflicted group fueled by grief and anger. In this episode, first aired in 2020, Reporter Tracie Hunte wanted to understand this moment of pain and confusion. As she looked back three decades, she found a complicated answer to a simple question: when nothing seems to work, how do you make change? Special thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Episode Credits: Reported by Tracie HuntProduced by Matt Kielty Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It include...
2022-Nov-25 • 47 minutes
More Perfect: The Political Thicket
When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was asked at the end of his career, “What was the most important case of your tenure?”, there were a lot of answers he could have given. He had presided over some of the most important decisions in the court’s history — cases that dealt with segregation in schools, the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, just to name a few. But his answer was a surprise: he said “Baker v. Carr,” a 1962 redistricting case. On this 2016 episode, part of our seri...
2022-Nov-18 • 23 minutes
What's Up Doc?
Mel Blanc was known as “the man of 1,000 voices,” but, to hear his son tell it, the actual number was closer to 1,500. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Barney Rubble, Woody Woodpecker, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn — all Mel. These characters made him one of the most beloved men in the United States. In this episode from 2012, Mel Blanc’s son Noel tells Producer Sean Cole how his father’s entire body would transform to bring life to these characters. But on a fateful day of 1961, after a crash left M...
2022-Nov-11 • 35 minutes
Butt Stuff
Why do we have a butt? Well, it’s not just for the convenience of a portable seat cushion. This week, we have a conversation with our Contributing Editor Heather Radke, who has spent the last several years going deep on one of our most noticeable surface features. She’s been working on a book called Butts, a Backstory and in this episode, she tells us about a fascinating history she uncovered that takes us from a eugenicist’s attempt in the late 1930s to concretize the most average human, to the rise of the...
2022-Nov-04 • 55 minutes
Guts
This hour, we dive into the messy mystery in the middle of us. What's going on down there? And what can the rumblings deep in our bellies tell us about ourselves? We join author Mary Roach and reach inside a live cow's stomach. Talk with writer Frederick Kaufman about our first peek into the wonderful world of human digestion that came about thanks to a hunting accident. And explore with show regular, science writer, and fellow water drinker, Carl Zimmer, about the trillions of microscopic creatures that k...
2022-Oct-28 • 53 minutes
The Weather Report
Meteorologists are as common as the clouds these days. Rolling onto the airwaves at morning, noon and night they tell us what to wear and where to plan our picnics. They’re local celebrities with an outsized influence. But in the 1940s, there was really only one of them: Irving P. Krick. He was suave and dapper, with the charm of a sunbeam and the boldness of a thunderclap. He was a salesman who turned the weather into a product. Today, listen to the story of Krick and his descendants, a crew of profit prop...
2022-Oct-21 • 67 minutes
Black Box
In this episode, first aired in 2014, we examine three very different kinds of black boxes — spaces where we know what’s going in, we know what’s coming out, but can’t see what happens in that in-between space. From the darkest parts of metamorphosis to a sixty-year-old secret among magicians, and the nature of consciousness itself, we shine some light on three questions. But for each, we contend with an answerless space, leaving just enough room for the mystery and magic… always wondering what’s inside the...
2022-Oct-14 • 26 minutes
No-Touch Abortion
When the Dobbs decision went down, ER doctor Avir Mitra started to prepare for the worst — botched, at-home abortions that would land pregnant people in the emergency room. To prepare himself and his colleagues for the patients they might see, and to think through how best to treat them, Avir asked Laura MacIsaac, one of New York City’s leading gynecologists and abortion experts, to come talk to his ER department. But what Dr. MacIsaac had to say in her lecture wasn’t what Avir expected: she didn’t talk abo...
2022-Oct-07 • 43 minutes
The Theater of David Byrne's Mind
It all started when the rockstar David Byrne did a Freaky-Friday-like body-swap with a Barbie Doll. That’s what inspired him — along with his collaborator Mala Gaonkar — to transform a 15,000 square-foot warehouse in Denver, Colorado into a brainy funhouse known as the Theater of the Mind. This episode, co-Host Latif Nasser moderates a live conversation between Byrne and Neuroscientist Thalia Wheatley at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The trio talk about how we don’t see what we think we see, do...
2022-Sep-30 • 59 minutes
Playing God
When people are dying and you can only save some, how do you choose? Maybe you save the youngest. Or the sickest. Maybe you even just put all the names in a hat and pick at random. Would your answer change if a sick person was right in front of you? In this episode, first aired back in 2016, we follow New York Times reporter Sheri Fink as she searches for the answer. In a warzone, a hurricane, a church basement, and an earthquake, the question remains the same. What happens, what should happen, when humans ...
2022-Sep-23 • 30 minutes
Terrestrials: The Mastermind
Lulu Miller, intrepid host and fearless mother of two, went off on her own and put together a little something for kids. All kids: hers, yours, and the one still living inside us all. Radiolab for Kids Presents: Terrestrials And it’s spellbinding. So much so, that we wanted to put this audio goodness in front of as many ears as possible. Which is why we’re running the first episode of that series here for you today. It’s called The Mastermind. In it, Sy Montgomery, an author and naturalist, shares the st...
2022-Sep-16 • 16 minutes
Quicksaaaand!
For many of us, quicksand was once a real fear — it held a vise grip on our imaginations, from childish sandbox games to grown-up anxieties about venturing into unknown lands. But these days, quicksand can't even scare an 8-year-old. In this short, we try to find out why. Then-Producer Soren Wheeler introduces us to Dan Engber, writer and columnist for Slate, now with The Atlantic. Dan became obsessed with quicksand after happening upon a strange fact: kids are no longer afraid of it. In this episode, Dan ...
2022-Sep-09 • 30 minutes
40,000 Recipes for Murder
Two scientists realize that the very same AI technology they have developed to discover medicines for rare diseases can also discover the most potent chemical weapons known to humankind. Inadvertently opening the Pandora’s Box of WMDs. What should they do now? Special thanks to, Xander Davies, Timnit Gebru, Jessica Fjeld, Bert Gambini and Charlotte HsuEpisode Credits: Reported by Latif NasserProduced by Matt KieltyOriginal music and sound design contributed by Matt KieltyMixing help from Arianne WackFact-ch...
2022-Sep-02 • 33 minutes
Rodney v. Death
In the fall of 2004, Jeanna Giese checked into the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin with a set of puzzling symptoms... and her condition was deteriorating fast. By the time Dr. Rodney Willoughby saw her, he only knew one thing for sure: if Jeanna's disturbing breakdown turned out to be rabies, she was doomed to die. What happened next seemed like a medical impossibility. In this episode, originally aired in 2013, Producer Tim Howard tells Jeanna's story and talks to authors Monica Murphy and Bill Wasik, and...
2022-Aug-26 • 50 minutes
Gigaverse
A pizzeria owner in Kansas realizes that DoorDash is hijacking his pizzas. A Lyft driver conquers the streets of San Francisco until he unwittingly puts his family in danger. A Shipt shopper in Denton, Texas tries to crack the code of the delivery app that is slashing his pay. This week, Host Latif Nasser, Producer Becca Bressler, and Philosophy Professor Barry Lam dive into the ins and outs of a new and growing part of our world: the gig economy. Special thanks to, Julie Wernau, Drew Ambrogi, David Condos,...
2022-Aug-19 • 26 minutes
9-Volt Nirvana
Learn a new language faster than ever! Leave doubt in the dust! Be a better sniper! Could you do all that and more with just a zap to the noggin? Maybe. Back in the early 2010s, Sally Adee, then an editor at New Scientist Magazine, went to a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) conference and heard about a way to speed up learning with something called trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). A couple of years later, Sally found herself wielding an M4 assault rifle to pick off simulated...
2022-Aug-12 • 42 minutes
Infinities
In August 2018, Boen Wang was at a work retreat for a new job. Surrounded by mosquitoes and swampland in a tiny campsite in West Virginia, Boen’s mind underwent a sudden, dramatic transformation that would have profound consequences—for his work, his colleagues, and himself. Special thanks to Grace Gilbert for voice acting and episode art, and to Professors Erin Anderson and Maggie Jones for editorial support. Episode credits: Reported and produced by Boen WangOriginal Music provided by Alex Zhang HungtaiFa...
2022-Aug-05 • 67 minutes
Escape
This episode originally aired in 2012. An all-star lineup of producers — Pat Walters, Lynn Levy, and Sean Cole — bring you stories about traps, getaways, perpetual cycles, and staggering breakthroughs. We kick things off with a true escape artist — a man who’s broken out of jail more times than anyone alive. Why does he keep running... and will he ever stop? Next, the ingeniously simple question that led Isaac Newton to an enormous intellectual breakthrough: why doesn’t the moon fall out of the sky? In the...
2022-Jul-29 • 36 minutes
The Humpback and the Killer
Killer whales — orcas — eat all sorts of animals, including humpback calves. But one day, biologists saw a group of humpback whales trying to stop some killer whales from eating… a seal. And then it happened again. And again. It turns out, all across the oceans, humpback whales are swimming around stopping killer whales from hunting all kinds of animals — from seals to gray whales to sunfish. And of course while many scientists explain this behavior as the result of blind instincts that are ultimately selfi...
2022-Jul-22 • 26 minutes
You v. You
This episode, originally aired more than a decade ago, attempts to answer one question: how do you win against your worst impulses? Zelda Gamson tried for decades to stop smoking, but the part of her that wanted to quit couldn’t beat the part of her that refused to let go. Adam Davidson, a co-founder of the NPR podcast Planet Money, talked to one of the greatest negotiators of all time, Nobel Prize-winning Economist Thomas Schelling, whose tactical skills saw him through high-stakes conflicts during the Col...
2022-Jul-15 • 49 minutes
The Gatekeeper
This week, Reporter Peter Smith and Senior Producer Matt Kielty tell the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that set the standard for scientific expertise in a courtroom, i.e., whether an expert can testify in a lawsuit. They also tell the story of the Daubert family — yes, the Dauberts of “Daubert v Merrell Dow” — whose win before the nine justices translated into a deeper loss. Special thanks to Leah Litman, Rachel Rebouche, Jennifer Mnookin, David Savitz, Brooke Borel, and Tom Zeller Jr. Credits: R...
2022-Jul-08 • 52 minutes
Baby Blue Blood Drive
This is an episode that first aired in 2018 and then again in the thick of the pandemic in 2020. Why? Because though Horseshoe crabs are not much to look at, beneath their unassuming catcher’s-mitt shell, they harbor a half-billion-year-old secret: a superpower that helped them outlive the dinosaurs, survive all the Earth’s mass extinctions, and was essential in the development of the COVID vaccines. And what is that secret superpower? Their blood. Their baby blue blood. And it’s so miraculous that for de...
2022-Jul-01 • 28 minutes
My Thymus, Myself
Today, we go to a spot that may be one of the most philosophical places in the universe: the thymus, an organ that knows what is you, and what is not you. Its mood may be existential, but its role is practical — the thymus is the biological training ground where the body learns to protect itself from outside invaders (think: bacteria, coronaviruses). But this training is not the humdrum bit of science you might expect. It’s a magical shadowland with dire consequences. Then, we’ll leave the thymus to visit ...
2022-Jun-24 • 65 minutes
Galápagos
As our co-Hosts Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser are out this week, we are re-sharing the perfect episode to start the summer season! This one, which first aired in 2014, tells the strange story of a small group of islands that keeps us wondering: will our most sacred natural landscapes inevitably get swallowed up by humans? How far are we willing to go to stop that from happening? This hour is about the Galápagos archipelago, which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Nearly 200 years l...
2022-Jun-17 • 46 minutes
No Special Duty
Since the massacre that took the lives of 19 schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, people across the world began to ask versions of one question: why did police wait outside the door instead of protecting the kids? It's not the first time this question has come up. Two years ago, as she watched police respond to the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, Producer B.A. Parker wondered: what are police for? With the help of our Producer Sarah Qari, she found that the United States’ Supreme Court had giv...
2022-Jun-10 • 27 minutes
Neanderthal's Revenge
A few months ago, co-Host Latif Nasser, who was otherwise healthy, saw blood in his poop. It was the start of a medical journey that made him not only question what was going on in his body, but also dig into the secret genetic story of how we became human. Curled up in a hospital bathroom, Latif tries to sort out whether his ordeal is the result of a long-lost sibling knifing him in the gut or, on the contrary, a long-forgotten kindness shared between two human-ish travelers. Special thanks to Azra Premij...
2022-Jun-03 • 43 minutes
Origin Stories
We’re all in a tizzy here at Radiolab on account of our 20-year anniversary. And, as one does upon passing a milestone, we’ve been looking back in all kinds of ways. Two weeks ago, we went out over the airwaves, “Live on your FM dial,” a callback to our origins as a radio show. We revamped our logo and redid our website (get your Freq on, people!). More recently, Lulu's and Latif’s first stories came up in a meeting. They weren’t always the intrepid hosts of our collective journey in wonder. Soren Wheeler, ...
2022-May-27 • 59 minutes
Radiolab After Dark
Back in 2002, Jad Abumrad started Radiolab as a live radio show. He DJ’d out into the ether and 20 years later we do the same. To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the show, the Radiolab team went old school and took over WNYC Radio, live on the FM band. We answered the phones, played some wonderfully weird audio, including one piece where Kurt Vonnegut—yes, that Kurt Vonnegut—interviews the dead, took part in some games and tomfoolery, and did everything we could to have and to share in our good time....
2022-May-20 • 58 minutes
La Mancha Screwjob
All the world’s a stage. Or, sometimes it feels that way, especially these days. In this episode, originally aired in 2015, we push through the fourth wall, pierce the spandex-ed heart of professional wrestling, and travel 400 years into the past to unmask our obsession with authenticity and our desire to walk the line between reality and fantasy. Thanks to Nick Hakim for the use of his song "The Light". Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today. Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new e...
2022-May-13 • 36 minutes
Frailmales
This week, we bring you two stories about little guys trying to do big big things. First, self-proclaimed animal grinch producer Becca Bressler introduces us to perhaps the one creature that has warmed her heart: a cricket. And more specifically, a male cricket. This is a tale about a tiny Romeo insect trying to find a mate, and the ingenious lengths he’ll go to have his beckoning heard. The hero of our story And second, producer Annie McEwen journeys through perhaps the zaniest game of football that ...
2022-May-06 • 61 minutes
Debatable
In competitive debate future presidents, supreme court justices, and titans of industry pummel each other with logic and rhetoric. Unclasp your briefcase. It’s time for a showdown. Looking back on an episode originally aired in 2016, we take a good long look at the world of competitive college debate. This is Ryan Wash's story. He's a queer, Black, first-generation college student from Kansas City, Missouri who joined the debate team at Emporia State University on a whim. When he started going up against f...
2022-Apr-29 • 72 minutes
Hello, My Name Is
As a species, we’re obsessed with names. They’re one of the first labels we get as kids. We name and rename absolutely everything around us. And these names carry our histories, they can open and close our eyes to the world around us, and they drag the weight of expectation and even irony along with them. This week on Radiolab, we’ve got six stories all about names. Horse names, the names of diseases, names for the beginning, and names for the end. Listen to “Hello, My Name Is” on Radiolab, wherever you fin...
2022-Apr-22 • 65 minutes
The Other Latif: Cuba-ish
Almost exactly twenty years ago, detainee 244 got transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Captured by American forces at the battle Tora Bora five months previous, Abdul Latif Nasser was shaved, hooded, shackled, diapered, and flown halfway across the world. The Radiolab special series, The Other Latif, kicked off when one of our hosts, Latif Nasser, made a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with detainee 244. A man the U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives exper...
2022-Apr-15 • 20 minutes
NULL
A one-word magical spell. Several years back, that’s exactly what Joseph Tartaro thought he’d discovered. It was a spell that, if used properly, promised to make one’s problems disappear. And so he crossed his fingers, uttered the word and cast the enchantment on himself. The result, however, was anything but magical. Unbeknownst to Joseph, by unleashing this spell, he’d earned a lifetime membership into a cursed community. A clan made up of folks who, through no fault of their own, had become nameless and ...
2022-Apr-08 • 29 minutes
In the Dust of This Planet
Horror, fashion, and the end of the world … In this episode, first aired in 2014, but maybe even more relevant today, things get weird as we explore the undercurrents of thought that link nihilists, beard-stroking philosophers, Jay-Z, and True Detective. Today on Radiolab, a puzzle. Jad’s brother-in-law wrote a book called 'In The Dust of This Planet'. It’s an academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe. For a few years nobody read it. But...
2022-Apr-01 • 65 minutes
Inheritance
Once a kid is born, their genetic fate is pretty much sealed. Or is it? In this episode, originally aired in 2012, we put nature and nurture on a collision course and discover how outside forces can find a way inside us, and change not just our hearts and minds, but the basic biological blueprint that we pass on to future generations.Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today. Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things ...
2022-Mar-25 • 41 minutes
The Right Stuff
Since the beginning of the space program, we’ve always expected astronauts to be fully abled athletic overachievers who are one-part science-geek, two-parts triathlete – a mix the writer Tom Wolfe famously called “the right stuff.” But what if, this whole time, we’ve had it all wrong? In this episode, reporter Andrew Leland joins a blind linguistics professor named Sheri Wells-Jensen and a crew of eleven other disabled people on a mission to prove that disabled people have what it takes to go to space. And ...
2022-Mar-18 • 57 minutes
Stress
Stress can give your body a boost - raising adrenaline levels, pumping blood to the muscles, heightening our senses. And those sudden superpowers can be a boon when you’re running from a lion. But repeatedly dipping into that well can make you sick, even kill you. Since it feels like there’s been an extra bit of stress going around lately, we decided to replay this episode, originally aired back in 2005, which takes a long hard look at the body's system for getting out of trouble. And how in our modern, hyp...
2022-Mar-11 • 64 minutes
The Helen Keller Exorcism
Fantasy writer Elsa Sjunneson has been haunted by Helen Keller for nearly her entire life. Like Helen, Elsa is Deafblind, and growing up she was constantly compared to her. But for a million different reasons she hated that, because she felt different from her in a million different ways. Then, a year ago, an online conspiracy theory claiming Helen was a fraud exploded on TikTok, and suddenly Elsa found herself drawing her sword and jumping to Helen’s defense, setting off a chain of events that would bring ...
2022-Mar-04 • 53 minutes
Life in a Barrel
This week, we flip the Disney story of life on its head thanks to a barrel of seawater, a 1970s era computer, and underwater geysers. It’s the chaos of life. Latif, Lulu, and our Senior Producer Matt Kielty were all sitting on their own little stories until they got thrown into the studio, and had their cherished beliefs about the shape of life put on a collision course. From an accidental study of sea creatures, to the ambitions of Stephen J Gould, to an undercooked theory that captured the world’s imagina...
2022-Feb-25 • 56 minutes
Speed
We live our lives at human speed, we experience and interact with the world on a human time scale. In this episode, which first aired in its entirety in the winter of 2013, we put ourselves through the paces. We examine a material that exists between two states of matter, take a ride on the death-defying roller coaster that is the stock market, open up our internal clocks of thought, and achieve mastery over the fastest thing in the universe. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today. Radio...
2022-Feb-18 • 27 minutes
The Wordless Place
This week, we turn to an expert who tromps the wilds of wordlessness. Lulu’s young son. In this essay, originally published for The Paris Review under the title “The Eleventh Word,” Lulu explores what is lost with the gaining of language. And how, in a very odd way, a fear of confusion and the unknown may begin with the advent of words. The Radiolab sound team brings this piece to life with original music, and at one point the words melt right out of the air. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab...
2022-Feb-11 • 47 minutes
Hello
It's hard to start a conversation with a stranger—especially when that stranger is, well, different. He doesn't share your customs, celebrate your holidays, watch your TV shows, or even speak your language. Plus he has a blowhole. In this episode, which originally aired in the summer of 2014, we try to make contact with some of the strangest strangers on our little planet: dolphins. Producer Lynn Levy eavesdrops on some human-dolphin conversations, from a studio apartment in the Virgin Islands to a research...
2022-Feb-04 • 24 minutes
Forests on Forests
For much of history, tree canopies were pretty much completely ignored by science. It was as if researchers said collectively, "It's just going to be empty up there, and we've got our hands full studying the trees down here! So why bother?!" But then, around the mid-1980s, a few ecologists around the world got curious and started making their way up into the treetops using any means necessary (ropes, cranes, hot air dirigibles) to document all they could find. It didn't take long for them to realize not onl...
2022-Jan-28 • 85 minutes
The First Radiolab
Jad started Radiolab roughly 20 years ago. And now he is stepping aside from hosting and producing the show to replenish, to think, to rock in his chair and be with his kids and wife, and maybe make some music. The news has been all over twitter and there’s a letter from Jad and our hosts Latif and Lulu on the website. But in this episode, Jad talks through his decision to leave and the future of the show with Lulu and Latif. And then, as a parting gift, we play him the very first episode of Radiolab (“The ...
2022-Jan-21 • 23 minutes
The 11th: A Letter From George
Last week, Lulu heard an interview that trapped her in her car. She decided to play it for Latif. The interview – originally from a podcast called The Relentless Picnic, but presented by one of Lulu’s current podcast faves, The 11th – is part of an episode of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark, second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row. But the segment that Lulu brings Latif is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve,...
2022-Jan-14 • 39 minutes
Darkode
It would seem that hackers today can do just about anything they want - from turning on the cellphone in your pocket to holding your life's work hostage. Cyber criminals today have more sophisticated tools, have learned to work collaboratively around the world and have found innovative ways to remain deep undercover in the internet's shadows. This episode, we shine a light into those shadows to see the world from the perspectives of both cybercrime victims and perpetrators. First we meet mother-daughter duo...
2022-Jan-07 • 25 minutes
Worst. Year. Ever.
What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth? We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went wrong, and what we think it felt like to be there in real time. (Spoiler: n...
2021-Dec-31 • 76 minutes
Flop Off
This past year was a flop. From questionable blockbuster reboots to supply chain shenanigans to worst of all, omnipresent COVID variants. But, in a last ditch effort to flip the flop, we at Radiolab have dredged up the most mortifying, most cringeworthy, most gravity-defying flops we could find. From flops at a community pool to flops at the White House, from a flop that derails a career to flops that give NBA players a sneaky edge, from flops that’ll send you seeking medical advice to THE flopped flop that...
2021-Dec-17 • 24 minutes
Vanishing Words
When Alana Casanova-Burgess set out to make a podcast series about Puerto Rico, she struggled with what to call it. Until one word came to mind, a word that captures a certain essence of life in Puerto Rico, but eludes easy translation into English. We talk to Alana about her series, and that particular word, then turn to an old story about treating words as signals of something happening just beneath the surface. Agatha Christie's clever detective novels may reveal more about the inner workings of the hum...
2021-Dec-10 • 57 minutes
Return of Alpha Gal
Tuck your napkin under your chin. We’re about to serve up a tale of love, loss, and lamb chops - with a side of genetic modification. Several years ago we told a story about Amy Pearl. For as long as she could remember, Amy loved meat in all its glorious cuts and marbled flavors. And then one day, for seemingly no reason, her body wouldn’t tolerate it. No steaks. No brisket. No weenies. It made no sense: why couldn’t she eat something that she had routinely enjoyed for decades? It turned out Amy was not ...
2021-Nov-26 • 59 minutes
Animal Minds
In this hour of Radiolab, stories of cross-species communication. When we gaze into the eyes of a wild animal, or even a beloved pet, can we ever really know what they might be thinking? Is it naive to assume they're experiencing something close to human emotions? Or is it ridiculous to assume that they AREN'T feeling something like that? We get the story of a rescued whale that may have found a way to say thanks, ask whether dogs feel guilt, and wonder if a successful predator may have fallen in love with ...
2021-Nov-19 • 48 minutes
Mixtape: Help?
In tape five, three stories: first, a tale of how the cassette tape supercharged the self-help industry. Second, cassettes filled with history make an epic journey across Africa with a group of Lost Boys. And finally, Simon meets up with fellow Radiolabber David Gebel to dig through an old box of mixtapes and rediscover the unique power of these bygone love letters. Mixtape was reported, produced, scored and sound designed by me, Simon Adler, with music throughout by me. Unending reporting and production as...
2021-Nov-12 • 58 minutes
Mixtape: Cassetternet
In 1983, Simon Goodwin had a strange thought. Would it be possible to broadcast computer software over the radio? If so, could listeners record it off the air and onto a cassette tape? This experiment and dozens of others in the early 80s created a series of cassette fueled, analog internets. They copied and moved information like never before, upended power structures and created a poisonous social network that brought down a regime. In tape four of Mixtape, we examine how these early internet came about,...
2021-Nov-05 • 41 minutes
Mixtape: The Wandering Soul
As the Vietnam war dragged on, the US military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in their North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, they found it. It was an old Vietnamese folktale involving a ghost, eternal damnation and fear - a tailor made weaponizable myth. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, the military set out to win the war by bringing this ghost story to life. Today, the story of these efforts and their ghosts that still haunt us today. Mixtape is reported, produced, scored a...
2021-Oct-29 • 37 minutes
Mixtape: Jack and Bing
In 1946 Bing Crosby was the king of media. He was the movie star, the pop star and his radio show was reaching a third of American living rooms each week. But then, it all started to fall apart. His ratings were plummeting and his fans were fleeing. Bing however, was not going down without a fight. Today, the story of how Bing Crosby and some stolen Nazi technology won his audience back, changed media forever and accidentally broke reality along the way. Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound de...
2021-Oct-22 • 51 minutes
Mixtape: Dakou
Through the 1980s, the vast majority of people in China had never heard western music, save for John Denver, the Carpenters, and a few other artists included on the hand-picked list of songs sanctioned by the Communist Party. But in the late 90s, a mysterious man named Professor Ye made a discovery at a plastic recycling center in Heping.In episode 1 of Mixtape, we talk to Chinese historians, music critics, and the musicians who took the damaged plastic scraps of western music, changed the musical landscape...
2021-Oct-15 • 41 minutes
Of Bombs and Butterflies
Ecologist Nick Haddad was sitting in his new office at North Carolina State University when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was... The U.S. Army. The Army folks told him, “Look, there’s this endangered butterfly on our base at Fort Bragg, and it’s the only place in the world that it exists. But it’s about to go extinct. And we need your help to save it.” Nick had never even heard of the butterfly. In fact, he barely knew much about butterflies in general. Nonetheless, he said yes to Uncle Sam. ...
2021-Oct-01 • 63 minutes
Oliver Sipple
One morning, Oliver Sipple went out for a walk. A couple hours later, to his own surprise, he saved the life of the President of the United States. But in the days that followed, Sipple’s split-second act of heroism turned into a rationale for making his personal life into political opportunity. What happens next makes us wonder what a moment, or a movement, or a whole society can demand of one person. And how much is too much? Through newly unearthed archival tape, we hear Sipple himself grapple with some...
2021-Sep-24 • 43 minutes
HEAVY METAL
Today we have a story about the sometimes obvious but sometimes sneaky effects of the way that we humans rearrange the elemental stuff around us. Reporter Avir Mitra and science journalist Lydia Denworth bring us a story about how one man’s relentless pursuit of a deep truth about the Earth led to an obsession that really changed the very air we breathe. This episode was reported by Avir Mitra, and produced by Matt Kielty, Becca Bressler, Rachael Cusick, and Maria Paz Gutiérrez. Special thanks to Cliff Davi...
2021-Sep-17 • 20 minutes
In the Running
Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure. In this short, Diane tells us how her disability gave rise to an extraordinary ability.
2021-Sep-10 • 70 minutes
60 Words, 20 Years
It has now been 20 years since September 11th, 2001. So we’re bringing you a Peabody Award-winning story from our archives about one sentence, written in the hours after the attacks, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace. In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The langua...
2021-Aug-26 • 29 minutes
The Unsilencing
Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, even psoriasis — these are diseases in which the body begins to attack itself, and they all have one thing in common: they affect women more than men. Most autoimmune disorders do. And not just by a little bit, often by a lot; in some cases, as much as sixteen times more. But why? On today’s episode, we talk to scientists trying to answer that question. We go back 100 million years, to when our placenta first evolved and consider how it might have shaped our ...
2021-Aug-20 • 29 minutes
Everybody’s Got One
We all think we know the story of pregnancy. Sperm meets egg, followed by nine months of nurturing, nesting, and quiet incubation. But this story isn’t the nursery rhyme we think it is. In a way, it’s a struggle, almost like a tiny war. And right on the front lines of that battle is another major player on the stage of pregnancy that not a single person on the planet would be here without. An entirely new organ: the placenta. In this episode we take you on a journey through the 270-day life of this weird, s...
2021-Aug-06 • 46 minutes
Gonads: Dutee
In 2014, India’s Dutee Chand was a rising female track and field star, crushing national records. But then, that summer, something unexpected happened: she failed a gender test. And was banned from the sport. Before she knew it, Dutee was thrown into the middle of a controversy that started long before her, and continues on today: how to separate males and females in sport. First aired in 2018, Dutee and the story of female athletes in sport are back in the spotlight this week, at the Tokyo Olympics. Join u...
2021-Jul-23 • 61 minutes
The Queen of Dying
If you’ve ever lost someone, or watched a medical drama in the last 15 years, you’ve probably heard of The Five Stages of Grief. They’re sort of the world’s worst consolation prize for loss. But last year, we began wondering… Where did these stages come from in the first place? Turns out, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But the story is much, much more complicated than that. Those stages of grieving? They actually started as stages of dying. After learning that, producer Rachael Cusick tumbled into a year-long journ...
2021-Jul-19 • 2 minutes
Breaking News about The Other Latif
A major development in the case of Guantanamo detainee Abdul Latif Nasser. To listen to our series about him, go to theotherlatif.org.
2021-Jul-15 • 54 minutes
G: Unfit
In the past few weeks, most people have probably seen Britney Spears' name or face everywhere. When she stood in front of a judge (virtually) and protested the conservatorship she's been living under for the past 13 years, one harrowing detail in particular stood out. She told the judge, "I was told right now in the conservatorship, I'm not able to get married or have a baby." Today, we look back at an old episode where we explore why it is that hundreds of thousands of people can have their reproductive ri...
2021-Jul-09 • 27 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 6
Lift Every Voice: Episode Six from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. Black Swan Records was first to record the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing. From a family's Thanksgiving dinner, we portal through to the song's past, present, and future.
2021-Jul-02 • 42 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 5
Roland Hayes and the Lost Generation: Episode Five from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. Here’s the extraordinary story of Roland Hayes, another great (and largely forgotten) creator of new cosmologies.
2021-Jun-29 • 13 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 4
Our Harlem Moon: Episode Four from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. In this spin-off tale, Ethel Waters hijacks a degrading song and makes the music her own.
2021-Jun-26 • 42 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 3
Black No More, White No More: Episode Three from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. We follow Harry's grandkids and great grandkids as they grapple with his legacy in their own lives.
2021-Jun-19 • 43 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 2
Dreams Deferred: Episode Two from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. The story of the post Black Swan years. We follow Harry’s Supreme Court battle to desegregate the South Side of Chicago, and then the mysterious decision which forces him into seclusion, before his untimely death.
2021-Jun-18 • 66 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 1
The Rise and Fall of Black Swan: Episode One from The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a six-part series created by Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee. Harry Pace founded Black Swan Records exactly 100 years ago. Pace launched the career of Ethel Waters, inadvertently invented the term rock n roll, played an important role in W.C. Handy becoming "Father of the Blues," inspired Ebony and Jet magazines, and helped desegregate the South Side of Chicago in an epic Supreme Court battle. Then, he disappeared. The Vanishing o...
2021-Jun-11 • 91 minutes
Breath
We’ve just barely made it to the other side of a year that took our collective breaths away. So more than ever we felt that this was the time to go deep on life’s rhythmic dance partner. Today we huff and we puff through a whole stack of stories about breath. We talk to scientists, musicians, activists, and breath mint experts, and try to climb into the very center of this thing we all do, are all doing right now, and now, and now. This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Mo...
2021-May-27 • 52 minutes
The Rhino Hunter
Back in 2014, Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a hunting trip to Namibia to shoot and kill an endangered species. He’s a professional hunter, who guides hunts all around the world, so going to Africa would be nothing new. The target on the other hand would be. And so too, he quickly found, would be the attention. This episode, producer Simon Adler follows Corey as he dodges death threats and prepares to pull the trigger. Along the way we stop to talk with Namibian hunters and government officials, Ameri...
2021-May-21 • 46 minutes
The Dirty Drug and the Ice Cream Tub
This episode, a tale of a wonder drug that will make you wonder about way more than just drugs. Doctor-reporter Avir Mitra follows the epic and fantastical journey of a molecule dug out of a distant patch of dirt that would go on to make billions of dollars, prolong millions of lives, and teach us something fundamental we didn’t know about ourselves. Along the way, he meets a geriatric mouse named Ike, an immigrant dad who’s a little bit cool sometimes, a prophetic dream that prompts a thousand-mile journ...
2021-May-13 • 29 minutes
Brown Box
You order some stuff on the Internet and it shows up three hours later. How could all the things that need to happen to make that happen happen so fast?
2021-May-05 • 44 minutes
Kleptotherms
In this episode, we break the thermometer watch the mercury spill out as we discover temperature is far stranger than it seems. Five stories that run the gamut from snakes to stars. We start out underwater, with a snake that has evolved a devious trick for keeping warm. Then we hear the tale of a young man whose seemingly simple method of warming up might be the very thing making him cold. And Senior Correspondent Molly Webster blows the lid off the idea that 98.6 degrees Farenheight is a sound marker of he...
2021-Apr-22 • 24 minutes
Deep Cuts
Today, Lulu and Latif talk about some of their favorite episodes from Radiolab’s past that hold new power today. Lulu points to an episode from 2008: Imagine that you're a composer. Imagine getting the commission to write a song that will allow family members to face the death of a loved one. Well, composer David Lang had to do just that when a hospital in Garches, France, asked him to write music for their morgue, or 'Salle Des Departs.' What do you do? This piece was produced by Jocelyn Gonzales. And L...
2021-Apr-15 • 20 minutes
The Septendecennial Sing-Along
While most of us hear a wall of white noise, squeaks, and squawks....David Rothenberg hears a symphony. He's trained his ear to listen for the music of animals, and he's always looking for chances to join in, with everything from lonely birds to giant whales to swarming cicadas. In this podcast, David explains his urge to connect and sing along, and helps break down the mysterious life cycle and mating rituals of the periodical cicadas into something we can all relate to. Support Radiolab by becoming a memb...
2021-Apr-02 • 48 minutes
What Up Holmes?
Love it or hate it, the freedom to say obnoxious and subversive things is the quintessence of what makes America America. But our say-almost-anything approach to free speech is actually relatively recent, and you can trace it back to one guy: a Supreme Court justice named Oliver Wendell Holmes. Even weirder, you can trace it back to one seemingly ordinary 8-month period in Holmes’s life when he seems to have done a logical U-turn on what should be say-able. Why he changed his mind during those 8 months is ...
2021-Mar-25 • 74 minutes
Elements
Scientists took about 300 years to lay out the Periodic Table into neat rows and columns. In one hour, we’re going to mess it all up. This episode, we enlist journalists, poets, musicians, and even a physicist to help us tell stories of matter that matters. You’ll never look at that chart the same way again. Special thanks to Emotive Fruition for organizing poetry performances and to the mighty Sylvan Esso for composing 'Jaime's Song', both inspired by this episode. Thanks also to Sam Kean, Chris Howk, Bri...
2021-Mar-19 • 32 minutes
Escapescape
As we hit the one year mark since the first U.S. state (California) issued a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we put out a call to see if any of you would take us to your secret escape spot and record audio there. And you astounded us with what you brought in. In this soundrich, kaleidoscopic episode, we journey around the planet and then, quite literally, beyond it. Listen only if you want a boatload of fresh air, fields of wildflowers, stars, birds, frogs, and a riveting tale involvi...
2021-Mar-12 • 27 minutes
Dispatch 14: Covid Crystal Ball
Last summer, at a hospital in England, a man in his 70s being treated for complications with cancer tested positive for covid-19. He had lymphoma, and the disease plus his drugs weakened his immune system, making him particularly susceptible to the virus. He wasn’t too bad off, considering, and was sent home. That was Day 1. This is the story of what the doctors witnessed, over the course of his illness: the evolution of covid-19 inside his body. Before their eyes, they get a hint of what might be to come i...
2021-Feb-25 • 47 minutes
The Ceremony
In November of 2016, journalist Morgen Peck showed up at her friend Molly Webster's apartment in Brooklyn, told her to take her battery out of her phone, and began to tell her about The Ceremony, a moment last fall when a group of, well, let's just call them wizards, came together in an undisclosed location to launch a new currency. It's an undertaking that involves some of the most elaborate security and cryptography ever done (so we've been told). And math. Lots of math. It was all going great until, in t...