OG RadioLab Episodes

A curated episode list by
Creation Date April 28th, 2020
Updated Date Updated May 8th, 2020
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About This List

Radiolab used to be amazing. These are all the episodes that made it so great.
  1. Today, the strange story of a small group of islands that raise a big question: is it inevitable that even our most sacred natural landscapes will eventually get swallowed up by humans? And just how far are we willing to go to stop that from happening? We are dedicating a whole hour to the Galapagos archipelago, the place that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. 179 years later, the Galapagos are undergoing rapid changes that continue to pose -- and possibly answer -- critical questions about the fragility and resilience of life on Earth.
  2. Ron and Cornelia Suskind had two healthy young sons, promising careers, and a brand new home when their youngest son Owen started to disappear.  3 months later a specialist sat Ron and Cornelia down and said the word that changed everything for them: Autism.  In this episode, the Suskind family finds an unlikely way to access their silent son's world. We set off to figure out what their story can tell us about Autism, a disorder with a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity. Along the way, we speak to specialists, therapists, and advocates including Simon Baron-Cohen, Barry and Raun Kaufmann, Dave Royko, Geraldine Dawson, Temple Grandin, and Gil Tippy. Produced by Kelsey Padgett.
  3. When we talk online, things can go south fast. But they don’t have to. Today, we meet a group of social engineers who are convinced that tiny changes in wording can make the online world a kinder, gentler place. So long as we agree to be their lab rats. Ok, yeah, we’re talking about Facebook. Because Facebook, or something like it, is more and more the way we share and like, and gossip and gripe. And because it's so big, Facebook has a created a laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we’ve never seen. We peek into the work of Arturo Bejar and a team of researchers who are tweaking our online experience, bit by bit, to try to make the world a better place. And along the way we can’t help but wonder whether that’s possible, or even a good idea.    
  4. Hidden inside some of the world’s smallest organisms is one of the most powerful tools scientists have ever stumbled across. It's a defense system that has existed in bacteria for millions of years and it may some day let us change the course of human evolution.  Out drinking with a few biologists, Jad finds out about something called CRISPR. No, it’s not a robot or the latest dating app, it’s a method for genetic manipulation that is rewriting the way we change DNA. Scientists say they’ll someday be able to use CRISPR to fight cancer and maybe even bring animals back from the dead. Or, pretty much do whatever you want. Jad and Robert delve into how CRISPR does what it does, and consider whether we should be worried about a future full of flying pigs, or the simple fact that scientists have now used CRISPR to tweak the genes of human embryos. As of February 24th, 2017 we've updated this story.
  5. 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 mega-pixel camera, they figured out how to watch an entire city all at once, all day long. Whenever a bomb detonated, they could zoom onto that spot and then, because this eye in the sky had been there all along, they could scroll back in time and see - literally see - who planted it. After the war, Ross McNutt retired from the airforce, and brought this technology back home with him. Manoush Zomorodi and Alex Goldmark from the podcast “Note to Self” give us the low-down on Ross’s unique brand of persistent surveillance, from Juarez, Mexico to Dayton, Ohio. Then, once we realize what we can do, we wonder whether we should. Special thanks to Dan Tucker and George Schulz. If you're looking for the updated version of this show, you can check it out here. More info: Listen to Note to Self's episode on surveillance coverage. "New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time," from the Washington Post "Hollywood-style surveillance technology inches closer to reality," from the Center of Investigative Reporting Ross McNutt's company Persistent Surveillance Systems
  6. 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, American activists, and someone who's been here before - Kenya’s former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey.   All the while, we try to uncover what conservation really means in the 21st century. Reported & produced by Simon Adler with production help from Matthew Kielty. Special thanks to Chris Weaver, Ian Wallace, Mark Barrow, the Lindstrom family, and everyone at the Aru Game Lodge in Namibia. Thanks also to Sarah Fogel, Ray Crow, Barbara Clucus, Diogo Veríssimo  
  7. 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 Alina and Inna Simone, who tell us about being held hostage by criminals who have burrowed into their lives from half a world away. Along the way we learn about the legally sticky spot that unwitting accomplices like Will Wheeler find themselves in. Then reporter and author Joseph Menn tells us about the surprisingly lucrative professional hacker structure in places throughout the former Soviet Union. Finally, the co-creator of one of the most notorious online marketplaces to ever exist speaks to us and NPR cyber-crime expert Dina Temple-Raston about how a young suburban Boy Scout can turn into a world renowned black hat hacker. Produced by Kelsey Padgett and Andy Mills. 
  8. Unclasp your briefcase. It’s time for a showdown. In competitive debate future presidents, supreme court justices, and titans of industry pummel each other with logic and rhetoric.  But a couple years ago Ryan Wash, a queer, Black, first-generation college student from Kansas City, Missouri joined the debate team at Emporia State University. When he started going up against fast-talking, well-funded, “name-brand” teams, it was clear he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. So Ryan became the vanguard of a movement that made everything about debate debatable. In the end, he made himself a home in a strange and hostile land. Whether he was able to change what counts as rigorous academic argument … well, that’s still up for debate. Produced by Matt Kielty. Reported by Abigail Keel Special thanks to Will Baker, Myra Milam, John Dellamore, Sam Mauer, Tiffany Dillard Knox, Mary Mudd, Darren "Chief" Elliot, Jodee Hobbs, Rashad Evans and Luke Hill.  Special thanks also to Torgeir Kinne Solsvik for use of the song h-lydisk / B Lydian from the album Geirr Tveitt Piano Works and Songs
  9. Our world is saturated in color, from soft hues to violent stains. How does something so intangible pack such a visceral punch? This hour, in the name of science and poetry, Jad and Robert tear the rainbow to pieces.  
  10. 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. Sally Adee, an editor at New Scientist, was at a conference for DARPA - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - when she heard about a way to speed up learning with something called trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). A couple years later, Sally found herself weilding an M4 assualt rifle, picking off enemy combatants with a battery wired to her temple. Of course, it was a simulation, but Sally's sniper skills made producer Soren Wheeler wonder what we should think of the world of brain stimulation.  In the last couple years, tDCS has been all over the news. Researchers claim that juicing the brain with just 2 milliamps (think 9-volt battery) can help with everything from learning languages, to quitting smoking, to overcoming depression. We bring Michael Weisend, neuroscientist at Wright State Research Institute, into the studio to tell us how it works (Bonus: you get to hear Jad get his brain zapped). Peter Reiner and Nick Fitz of the University of British Columbia help us think through the consequences of a world where anyone with 20 dollars and access to Radioshack can make their own brain zapper. And finally, Sally tells us about the unexpected after-effects of a day of super-charged sniper training and makes us wonder about world where you can order up a state of mind.   Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra  

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