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Podcast Profile: Radiolab

podcast imageTwitter: @Radiolab@lmillernpr@latifnasser (@Radiolab followed by 103 science writers)
Site: www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab
147 episodes
2019 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.

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List Updated: 2022-Sep-28 12:10 UTC. Episodes: 147. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
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 Hsu Episode Credits: Reported by Latif Nasser Produced by Matt Kielty Original music and sound design contributed by Matt Kielty Mixing help from Arianne Wack Fa...
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 Wang Original Music provided by Alex Zhang Hungtai...
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-Jun-30 • 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 has ...
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 ...
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 • 42 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 • 46 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 • 84 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 • 75 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 landscap...
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. For Diane Van Deren, a charming mother of three, daily life is a struggle. But as soon as she steps outdoors, she's capable of amazing feats. She can run for days on end with no sleep, covering hundreds of miles in extreme conditions. Reporter Mark Phillips heads to Colorado to get to know Diane, and to try to figure out wha...
2021-Sep-10 • 69 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-05 • 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. 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. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of Ame...
2021-Jul-02 • 42 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 5
Roland Hayes and the Lost Generation. Here’s the extraordinary story of Roland Hayes, another great (and largely forgotten) creator of new cosmologies. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label b...
2021-Jun-28 • 13 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 4
Our Harlem Moon. In this spin-off tale, Ethel Waters hijacks a degrading song and makes the music her own. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace'...
2021-Jun-25 • 42 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 3
Black No More, White No More. We follow Harry's grandkids and great grandkids as they grapple with his legacy in their own lives. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuri...
2021-Jun-18 • 43 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 2
Dreams Deferred. 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. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blu...
2021-Jun-18 • 66 minutes
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 1
The Rise and Fall of Black Swan. It was Motown before Motown, FUBU before FUBU: Black Swan Records, the record company founded by Harry Pace. The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 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 So...
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? It used to be, when you ordered something on the Internet, you waited a week for it to show up. That was the deal: you didn’t have to get off the couch, but you had to wait. But in the last few years, that’s changed. Now, increasingly, the stuff we buy on the Internet shows up the next day or the same day, sometimes within hours. Free shipping included. W...
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
Every 17 years, a deafening sex orchestra hits the East Coast -- billions and billions of cicadas crawl out of the ground, sing their hearts out, then mate and die. In this short, Jad and Robert talk to a man who gets inside that noise to dissect its meaning and musical components. 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...
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-18 • 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...
2021-Feb-19 • 35 minutes
Red Herring
It was the early 80s, the height of the Cold War, when something strange began happening off the coast of Sweden. The navy reported a mysterious sound deep below the surface of the ocean. Again, and again, and again they would hear it near their secret military bases, in their harbors, and up and down the Swedish coastline. After thorough analysis the navy was certain. The sound was an invasion into their waters, an act of war, the opening salvos of a possible nuclear annihilation. Or was it? Today, Anni...
2021-Feb-12 • 44 minutes
Facebook's Supreme Court
Since its inception, the perennial thorn in Facebook’s side has been content moderation. That is, deciding what you and I are allowed to post on the site and what we’re not. Missteps by Facebook in this area have fueled everything from a genocide in Myanmar to viral disinformation surrounding politics and the coronavirus. However, just this past year, conceding their failings, Facebook shifted its approach. They erected an independent body of twenty jurors that will make the final call on many of Facebook’s...
2021-Jan-28 • 35 minutes
Smile My Ass
Candid Camera is one of the most original – and one of the most mischievous – TV shows of all time. Admirers hailed its creator Allen Funt as a poet of the everyday. Critics denounced him as a Peeping Tom. Funt sought to capture people at their most unguarded, their most spontaneous, their most natural. And he did. But as the show succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself. Looking back at the show now, a half century later, it’s hard NO...
2021-Jan-16 • 39 minutes
Post Reports: Four Hours of Insurrection
We’re all still processing what happened on January 6th. Despite the hours and hours of video circulating online, we still didn’t feel like we had a visceral, on-the-ground sense of what happened that day. Until we heard the piece we’re featuring today. The Washington Post’s daily podcast Post Reports built a minute-by-minute replay of that day, from the rally, to the invasion, to the aftermath, told through the voices of people who were in the building that day -- reporters, photojournalists, Congresspeopl...
2021-Jan-15 • 28 minutes
More Money Less Problems
Back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and the shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt, a quirky-but-clever idea to save the economy made its way up to some of the highest levels of government. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib proposed an ambitious relief bill to keep the country’s metaphorical lights on: recurring payments to people to help them stay afloat during the crisis. And the way Congress would pay for it? By minting two platinum $1 trillion coins. (Yo...
2021-Jan-13 • 37 minutes
Sight Unseen
As the attacks were unfolding on the Capitol, a steady stream of images poured onto our screens. Photo editor Kainaz Amaria tells us what she was looking for--and seeing--that afternoon. And she runs into a dilemma we've talked about before. In December of 2009, photojournalist Lynsey Addario, in was embedded with a medevac team in Afghanistan. After days of waiting, one night they got the call - a marine was gravely wounded. What happened next happens all the time. But this time it was captured, picture by...
2020-Dec-23 • 50 minutes
A Terrible Covid Christmas Special
This year was the worst. And as our staff tried to figure out what to do for our last episode of 2020, co-host Latif Nasser thought, what if we stare straight into the darkness … and make a damn Christmas special about it. Latif begins with a story about Santa, and a back-room deal he made with the Trump administration to jump to the front of the vaccine line, a tale that travels from an absurd quid-pro-quo to a deep question: who really is an essential worker? From there, we take a whistle-stop tour throu...
2020-Dec-18 • 52 minutes
The Ashes on the Lawn
A global pandemic. An afflicted, angry group. A seemingly indifferent government. Reporter Tracie Hunte wanted to understand this moment of pain and confusion by looking back 30 years, and she found a complicated answer to a simple question: When nothing seems to work, how do you make change? This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, and produced by Annie McEwen and Tobin Low. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Dec-10 • 57 minutes
Enemy of Mankind
Should the U.S. Supreme Court be the court of the world? In the 18th century, two feuding Frenchmen inspired a one-sentence law that helped launch American human rights litigation into the 20th century. The Alien Tort Statute allowed a Paraguayan woman to find justice for a terrible crime committed in her homeland. But as America reached further and further out into the world, the court was forced to confront the contradictions in our country’s ideology: sympathy vs. sovereignty. Earlier this month, the Sup...
2020-Dec-03 • 42 minutes
The Great Vaccinator
Until now, the fastest vaccine ever made - for mumps - took four years. And while our current effort to develop a covid-19 vaccine involves thousands of people working around the clock, the mumps vaccine was developed almost exclusively by one person: Maurice Hilleman. Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person. And through his work, Hilleman embodied the instinct...
2020-Nov-24 • 27 minutes
Dispatch 13: Challenge Trials
What if someone asked you to get infected with the COVID-19 virus, deliberately, in order to speed up the development of a vaccine? Would you do it? Would you risk your life to save others? For months, dozens of companies have been racing to create coronavirus vaccines. Finally, three have done it. But according to the experts, we’re not out of the woods yet; we’ll need several vaccines to satisfy the global demand. One way to speed up the development process is a controversial technique called a human chal...
2020-Nov-19 • 57 minutes
Deception
Lies, liars, and lie catchers. This hour of Radiolab asks if it's possible for anyone to lead a life without deception. We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Nov-13 • 30 minutes
Breaking Benford
In the days after the US Presidential election was called for Joe Biden, many supporters of Donald Trump are crying foul. Voter fraud. And a key piece of evidence? A century-old quirk of math called Benford’s Law. We at Radiolab know Benford’s Law well, and have covered it before. In this political dispatch, Latif and Soren Sherlock their way through the precinct numbers to see if these claims hold up. Spoiler: they don’t. But the reason why is more interesting than you’d expect. This episode was reporte...
2020-Nov-02 • 51 minutes
Bloc Party
In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton had a problem. The women who came out in droves for him in ‘92, split their vote in the ‘94 midterms, handing over control of the House and the Senate to the Republican Party. As his team stared ahead at his re-election bid, they knew they had to win those women back. So, after a major polling effort to determine who exactly their undecided ladies were, Clinton turned his focus toward the most important swing vote in the election: the soccer moms. The soccer mom ushered i...
2020-Oct-31 • 29 minutes
How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they’re hierarchical. There’s the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there’s everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power. This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab ...
2020-Oct-23 • 41 minutes
What If?
There’s plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he’d do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your...
2020-Oct-08 • 40 minutes
Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We tend to think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful guardians of the constitution, issuing momentous rulings from on high. They seem at once powerful, and unknowable; all lacy collars and black robes. But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode of More Perfect, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, is the beginning of ...
2020-Oct-02 • 45 minutes
No Special Duty
What are the police for? Producer B.A. Parker started wondering this back in June, as Black Lives Matter protests and calls to “defund the police” ramped up. The question led her to a wild story of a stabbing on a New York City subway train, and the realization that, according to the law, the police don’t always have to protect us. Producer Sarah Qari joins Parker to dig into the legal background, which takes her all the way up to the Supreme Court... and then all the way back down to on-duty officers thems...
2020-Sep-25 • 35 minutes
Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what’d Radiolab decide to do? Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week’s experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek thro...
2020-Sep-18 • 53 minutes
More Perfect: Sex Appeal
We lost a legend. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18th, 2020. She was 87. In honor of her passing we are re-airing the More Perfect episode dedicated to one of her cases, because it offers a unique portrait of how one person can make change in the world. This is the story of how Ginsburg, as a young lawyer at the ACLU, convinced an all-male Supreme Court to take discrimination against women seriously - using a case on discrimination against men. This episode was reported by Ju...
2020-Sep-17 • 56 minutes
Falling
There are so many ways to fall—in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls. We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Sep-11 • 37 minutes
Bringing Gamma Back, Again
Today, we return to the lab of neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai, which brought us one of our favorite stories from four years ago - about the power of flashing lights on an Alzheimer’s-addled (mouse) brain. In this update, Li-Huei tells us about her team’s latest research, which now includes flashing sound, and ways in which light and sound together might retrieve lost memories. This new science is not a cure, and is far from a treatment, but it’s a finding so … simple, you won’t be able to shake it. Come join u...
2020-Sep-04 • 32 minutes
Fungus Amungus
Six years ago, a new infection began popping up in four different hospitals on three different continents, all around the same time. It wasn’t a bacteria, or a virus. It was ... a killer fungus. No one knew where it came from, or why. Today, the story of an ancient showdown between fungus and mammals that started when dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. Back then, the battle swung in our favor (spoiler alert!) and we’ve been hanging onto that win ever since. But one scientist suggests that the rise of thi...
2020-Aug-27 • 65 minutes
Translation
How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That's the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that's way deeper than language. This episode, a bunch of stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap. Support Radiolab today at Radio...
2020-Aug-20 • 42 minutes
Lebanon, USA
This is a story of a road trip. After a particularly traumatic Valentine's Day, Fadi Boukaram was surfing google maps and noticed that there was a town called Lebanon... in Oregon. Being Lebanese himself, he wondered, how many Lebanons exist in the US? The answer: 47. Thus began his journey to visit them all and find an America he'd never expected, and the homeland he'd been searching for all along. This episode was made in collaboration with Kerning Cultures, a podcast that tells stories from the Middle Ea...
2020-Aug-14 • 55 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...
2020-Aug-07 • 51 minutes
Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it’s not a state, and it wasn’t until the 23rd Amendment that its...
2020-Jul-30 • 42 minutes
Invisible Allies
As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they’ve come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe’s ...
2020-Jul-23 • 67 minutes
Baby Blue Blood Drive
Horseshoe crabs are not much to look at. But beneath their unassuming catcher’s-mitt shell, they harbor a half-billion-year-old secret: a superpower that helped them outlive the dinosaurs and survive all the Earth’s mass extinctions. And what is that secret superpower? Their blood. Their baby blue blood. And it’s so miraculous that for decades, it hasn’t just been saving their butts, it’s been saving ours too. But that all might be about to change. Follow us as we follow these ancient critters - from a...
2020-Jul-17 • 71 minutes
Dispatches from 1918
It’s hard to imagine what the world will look like when COVID-19 has passed. So in this episode, we look back to the years after 1918, at the political, artistic, and viral aftermath of the flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people and left our world permanently transformed. This episode was reported and produced by Rachael Cusick, Tad Davis, Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, with production assistance from Tad Davis and Bethel Habte. Special t...
2020-Jul-12 • 73 minutes
The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained “officially” flying. A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. Shima Oliaee dives into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This episode was reported and produced b...
2020-Jun-25 • 18 minutes
The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it: How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton. Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide a...
2020-Jun-19 • 71 minutes
Post No Evil Redux
Today we revisit our story on Facebook and its rulebook, looking at what’s changed in the past two years and exploring how these rules will impact the 2020 Presidential Election. Back in 2008 Facebook began writing a document. It was a constitution of sorts, laying out what could and what couldn’t be posted on the site. Back then, the rules were simple, outlawing nudity and gore. Today, they’re anything but. How do you define hate speech? Where’s the line between a joke and an attack? How much butt is too...
2020-Jun-13 • 27 minutes
The Liberation of RNA
In June of 2019, Brandon Ogbunu got on stage and told a story for The Story Collider, a podcast and live storytelling show. Starting when he was a senior in college being shook down by a couple cops, Brandon tells us about navigating his ups and downs of a career in science, his startling connection to scientific racism, and his battle against biology's central dogma. Brandon’s story was recorded by The Story Collider as part of the 2019 Evolution Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. You can find the full ...
2020-Jun-06 • 60 minutes
Graham
If former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s case for the death of George Floyd goes to trial, there will be this one, controversial legal principle looming over the proceedings: The reasonable officer. In this episode, we explore the origin of the reasonable officer standard, with the case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty with help from Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab ...
2020-Jun-06
Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina’s music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today. Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.
2020-May-29 • 34 minutes
Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It’s a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episo...
2020-May-22 • 24 minutes
Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to the folks at Brooklyn Philharmonic: Conductor Alan Pierson, Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri'...
2020-May-15 • 33 minutes
Octomom
In 2007, Bruce Robison’s robot submarine stumbled across an octopus settling in to brood her eggs. It seemed like a small moment. But as he went back to visit her, month after month, what began as a simple act of motherhood became a heroic feat that has never been equaled by any known species on Earth. This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Special thanks to Kim Fulton-Bennett and Rob Sherlock at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. And thanks to the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestr...
2020-May-13 • 28 minutes
Why Fish Don't Exist
Our old friend Lulu Miller — former Radiolab producer, co-creator of Invisibilia — has been obsessed by the chaos that rules the universe since long before it showed up as a global pandemic, and a few weeks ago, she published a book about it. It’s called Why Fish Don’t Exist. It’s part scientific adventure story, part philosophical manifesto, part chest-ripped-open memoir. Jad called her up to talk about how an obscure 19th century ichthyologist with a checkered past helped her find meaning in the world, an...
2020-May-08 • 30 minutes
David and Dominique
David Gebel and Dominique Crisden have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they’re both gay, and they’re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s, and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ‘80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s. From our friends at WNYC's “Nancy”, this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV. Special thanks to K...
2020-May-06 • 34 minutes
Dispatch 5: Don't Stop Believin'
Covid-19 has put emergency room doctors on the frontlines treating an illness that is still perplexing and unknown. Jad tracks one ER doctor in NYC as the doctor puzzles through clues, doing research of his own, trying desperately to save patients' lives. This episode was produced by Jad Abumrad and Suzie Lechtenberg. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Apr-24 • 42 minutes
Atomic Artifacts
Back in the 1950s, facing the threat of nuclear annihilation, federal officials sat down and pondered what American life would actually look like after an atomic attack. They faced a slew of practical questions like: Who would count the dead and where would they build the refugee camps? But they faced a more spiritual question as well. If Washington DC were hit, every object in the the National Archives would be eviscerated in a moment. Terrified by this reality, they set out to save some of America’s most ...
2020-Apr-18 • 66 minutes
The Cataclysm Sentence
One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students: “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?” Now, Feynman had an answer to his own question - a good one. But his question got the entire team at Radiolab wondering, what did his ...
2020-Apr-11 • 19 minutes
Dispatch 4: Six Feet
Since the onset of the pandemic, we exist in a constant state of calculation, trying to define our own personal bubble. We’ve all been given a simple rule: maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. But why six? Producer Sarah Qari uncovers the answer, and talks to some scientists who now say six might not be the right number after all. This episode was reported and produced by Sarah Qari and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Apr-06 • 59 minutes
Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren’t. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60’s, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden reco...
2020-Apr-03 • 38 minutes
Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that’s popping ...
2020-Apr-01 • 34 minutes
Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day
It began with a tweet: “EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY.” Carl Zimmer — tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show — tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure … and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic. This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Mar-27 • 33 minutes
Dispatch 1: Numbers
In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Mar-17 • 51 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 6
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Mar-06 • 57 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 5
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Mar-03 • 20 minutes
The Other Latif: Bonus Episode!
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Feb-25 • 62 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 4
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Feb-18 • 37 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 3
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Feb-11 • 46 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 2
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Feb-04 • 42 minutes
The Other Latif: Episode 1
The Other Latif Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was ne...
2020-Jan-30 • 48 minutes
The Bobbys
On the occasion of his retirement as cohost of Radiolab, Robert sat down with Jad to reflect on his long and storied career in radio and television, and their work together over the past decade and a half. And we pay tribute to Robert, inspired by a peculiar tradition of his. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty. Sound design & mix by Jeremy Bloom. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
2020-Jan-24 • 46 minutes
Body Count
Right now, at this very moment, all across the planet, there are 7.6 billion human beings eating, breathing, sleeping, brushing their teeth, walking their dogs, drinking coffee, walking down the street or running onto the subway or hopping in their car, maybe reading a summary of a podcast they’re about to hit play on … and the number is only going up. Everyday 386,000 babies are born (16,000 an hour). We’re adding a billion new people every 12 years. So here’s a question you’ve probably never thought about...
2020-Jan-07 • 65 minutes
60 Words
This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, 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. Last weekend President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. The news had us thinking about an episode we produced in 2014. We pulled apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. ...
2019-Dec-28 • 59 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. Today, reporters Heather Radke and Matt Kielty talk to two researchers who followed the butt from our ancient beginnings, through millions of years of evolution, and all the way to today, out to a valley in Arizona, where our butts are put to the ultimate test. This episode was reported by Heather R...
2019-Dec-18 • 45 minutes
There and Back Again
Here's a simple question: When an animal disappears in the winter, where does it go? Oddly enough, this question completely stumped European scientists for thousands of years. And even today, the more we learn about the comings and goings of the animals, the deeper the mystery seems to get. We visit a Bavarian farm with an 11 year old, follow warblers and wildebeests around the world, and get a totally new kind of view of the pulsing flow of animals across the globe. This episode was reported by Robert Kr...
2019-Dec-12 • 61 minutes
Things
From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.
2019-Nov-26 • 64 minutes
Breaking Bongo
Deep fake videos have the potential to make it impossible to sort fact from fiction. And some have argued that this blackhole of doubt will eventually send truth itself into a death spiral. But a series of recent events in the small African nation of Gabon suggest it's already happening. Today, we follow a ragtag group of freedom fighters as they troll Gabon’s president - Ali Bongo - from afar. Using tweets, videos and the uncertainty they can carry, these insurgents test the limits of using truth to creat...
2019-Nov-19 • 49 minutes
Breaking News
Today, we're re-releasing an old episode about how hard it is getting to decipher fact from fiction. Because next week, we’ll be putting out a story showing what happens when certain reality-altering tools get released into the wild. Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes. Oh, and by ...
2019-Nov-07 • 45 minutes
Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today...
2019-Oct-29 • 26 minutes
Songs that Cross Borders
Coming off our adventures with Square Dancing, and Jad's dive into the world of Dolly Parton, we look back at one our favorites. About a decade ago, we found out that American country music is surprising popular in places like Zimbabwe, Thailand, and South Africa. Aaron Fox, an anthropologist of music at Columbia University, tells us that quite simply, country music tells a story that a lot of us get. Then, intrepid international reporter Gregory Warner takes us along on one of his very first forays into an...
2019-Oct-23 • 45 minutes
Birdie in the Cage
People have been doing the square dance since before the Declaration of Independence. But does that mean it should be THE American folk dance? That question took us on a journey from Appalachian front porches, to dance classes across our nation, to the halls of Congress, and finally a Kansas City convention center. And along the way, we uncovered a secret history of square dancing that made us see how much of our national identity we could stuff into that square, and what it means for a dance to be of the p...
2019-Oct-15 • 61 minutes
Radiolab Presents: Dolly Parton's America
Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad spent the last two years following around music legend Dolly Parton, and we're here to say you should tune in! In this episode of Radiolab, we showcase the first of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons. We begin with a simple question...
2019-Sep-27 • 36 minutes
Silky Love
We eat eels in sushi, stews, and pasta. Eels eat anything. Also they can survive outside of water for hours and live for up to 80 years. But this slippery snake of the sea harbors an even deeper mystery, one that has tormented the minds of Aristotle and Sigmund Freud and apparently the entire country of Italy: Where do they come from? We travel from the estuaries of New York to the darkest part of the ocean in search of the limits of human knowledge. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Becca Bressl...
2019-Sep-17 • 25 minutes
Tit for Tat
In the early 60s, Robert Axelrod was a math major messing around with refrigerator-sized computers. Then a dramatic global crisis made him wonder about the space between a rock and a hard place, and whether being good may be a good strategy. With help from Andrew Zolli and Steve Strogatz, we tackle the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic thought experiment, and learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal. Then Axelrod, along with Stanley Weintraub, takes us back to the trenche...
2019-Sep-05 • 61 minutes
What's Left When You're Right?
More often than not, a fight is just a fight... Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right. Special thanks to Mark Dresser for the use of his music.