Radiolab Podcast

Radiolab

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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.  
What happens when doing what you want to do means giving up who you really are?  We travel to Venice, Italy with reporters Kristen Clark and David Conrad, where they meet gondolier Alex Hai. On the winding canals in the hidden parts of Venice, we learn about the nearly 1000-year old tradition of the Venetian Gondolier, and how the global media created a 20-year battle between that tradition and a supposed feminist icon.  Reported by David Conrad and Kristen Clark. Produced by Annie McEwen and Molly Webster. Special thanks to Alexis Ungerer, Summer, Alex Hai, Kevin Gotkin, Silvia Del Fabbro, Sandro Mariot, Aldo Rosso and Marta Vannucci, The Longest Shortest Time (Hillary Frank, Peter Clowney and Abigail Keel), Tim Howard, Nick Adams/GLAAD, Valentina Powers, Florence Ursino, Ann Marie Somma, Alex Overington, Jeremy Bloom and the people of Little Italy.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can find Alex Hai's website here, where you can check out the photographs discussed in the piece.   
A new tussle over an old story, and some long-held beliefs, with neurologist and author Robert Sapolsky. Four years ago, we did a story about a man with a starling obsession that made us question our ideas of responsibility and justice. We thought we’d found some solid ground, but today Dr. Sapolsky shows up and takes us down a rather disturbing rabbit hole.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.      
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 standing right in front of you? In this episode, 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 are forced to play god? Produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen. Reported by Sheri Fink.  In the book that inspired this episode you can find more about what transpired at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina, Sheri Fink’s exhaustively reported Five Days at Memorial You can find more about the work going on in Maryland at: www.nytimes.com/triage Very special thanks to Lilly Sullivan.  Special thanks also to: Pat Walters and Jim McCutcheon and Todd Menesses from WWL in New Orleans, the researchers for the allocation of scarce resources project in Maryland - Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Howie Gwon from the Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Emergency Management, Alan Regenberg of the Berman Institute of Bioethics and Dr. Eric Toner of the UPMC Center for Health Security. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Ryan and Amy Green were facing the unfaceable: their youngest son, Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer after his first birthday. Producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni tells the story of how Ryan and Amy stumble onto an unlikely way of processing their experience fighting alongside Joel: they decide to turn it into a video game. In the end, they find themselves facing what might be, for a game designer or a parent, the hardest design problem ever. Correction: In the original audio we stated that the survival rate of childhood AT/RT cancer is 50% over five years. But studies suggest the survival rate is 50% over two years. The audio has been updated to reflect this change. For an extended version of this story and a bunch more incredible stories, go check out Reply All. Special thanks to Eilis O’ Neill, Jon Hillman, and Josh Larson. This episode included audio from “Thank You For Playing,” a documentary film about the creation of That Dragon, Cancer by David Osit & Malika Zouhali-Worrall. You can learn more about the film and where you can see it, at thankyouforplayingfilm.com. For more, we suggest reading Wired's "Playing For Time."
Are some ideas so dangerous we shouldn’t even talk about them? That question brought Radiolab’s senior editor, Pat Walters, to a subject that at first he thought was long gone: the measuring of human intelligence with IQ tests. Turns out, the tests are all around us. In the workplace. The criminal justice system. Even the NFL. And they’re massive in schools. More than a million US children are IQ tested every year. We begin Radiolab Presents: “G” with a sentence that stopped us all in our tracks: In the state of California, it is off-limits to administer an IQ test to a child if he or she is Black. That’s because of a little-known case called Larry P v Riles that in the 1970s … put the IQ test itself on trial. With the help of reporter Lee Romney, we investigate how that lawsuit came to be, where IQ tests came from, and what happened to one little boy who got caught in the crossfire. This episode was reported and produced by Lee Romney, Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters. Music by Alex Overington. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly. Special thanks to Elie Mistal, Chenjerai Kumanyika, Amanda Stern, Nora Lyons, Ki Sung, Public Advocates, Michelle Wilson, Peter Fernandez, John Schaefer. Lee Romney’s reporting was supported in part by USC’s Center for Health Journalism. Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Today, two new technological tricks that together could invade our most deeply held beliefs and rewrite the rules of credibility. Also, we release something terrible into the world. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Astronauts at the International Space Station can make one request to talk to an earthling of their choice. For some reason, Astronaut Mark Vande Hei chose us. A couple weeks ago, we were able to video chat with Mark and peer over his shoulder through the Cupola, an observatory room in the ISS. Traveling at 17,000 miles an hour, we zoomed from the Rockies to the East Coast in minutes. And from where Mark sits, the total darkness of space isn’t very far away.  Talking to Mark brought us back to 2012, when we spoke to another astronaut, Dave Wolf. When we were putting together our live show In the Dark, Jad and Robert called up Dave Wolf to ask him if he had any stories about darkness. And boy, did he. Dave told us two stories that  became the finale of our show. Back in late 1997, Dave Wolf was on his first spacewalk, to perform work on the Mir. Dave wasn't alone -- with him was veteran Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev.  Out in blackness of space, the contrast between light and dark is almost unimaginably extreme -- every 45 minutes, you plunge between absolute darkness on the night-side of Earth, and blazing light as the sun screams into view. Dave and Anatoly were tethered to the spacecraft, traveling 5 miles per second. That's 16 times faster than we travel on Earth's surface as it rotates -- so as they orbited, they experienced 16 nights and 16 days for every Earth day. Dave's description of his first spacewalk was all we could've asked for, and more. But what happened next ... well, it's just one of those stories that you always hope an astronaut will tell. Dave and Anatoly were ready to call it a job and head back into the Mir when something went wrong with the airlock. They couldn't get it to re-pressurize. In other words, they were locked out. After hours of trying to fix the airlock, they were running out of the resources that kept them alive in their space suits and facing a grisly death. So, they unhooked their tethers, and tried one last desperate move. In the end, they made it through, and Dave went on to perform dozens more spacewalks in the years to come, but he never again experienced anything like those harrowing minutes trying to improvise his way back into the Mir. After that terrifying tale, Dave told us about another moment he and Anatoly shared, floating high above Earth, staring out into the universe ... a moment so beautiful, and peaceful, we decided to use the audience recreate it, as best we could, for the final act of our live show. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Soren Wheeler.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Today, a hidden power 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 LA, we trace the history of a quiet act of rebellion and struggle with how much power “we the people” should really have. Produced by Matt Kielty and Tracie Hunte Special thanks to Darryl K. Brown, professor of law at the University of Virginia, Andrew Leipold, professor of law at the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign, Nancy King, professor of law at Vanderbilt University, Buzz Scherr law professor at University of New Hampshire, Eric Verlo and attorneys David Lane, Mark Sisto, David Kallman and Paul Grant.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   
John Scott was the professional hockey player that every fan loved to hate.  A tough guy. A brawler. A goon. But when an impish pundit named Puck Daddy called on fans to vote for Scott to play alongside the world’s greatest players in the NHL All-Star Game, Scott found himself facing off against fans, commentators, and the powers that be.  Was this the realization of Scott’s childhood dreams? Or a nightmarish prank gone too far? Today on Radiolab, a goof on a goon turns into a parable of the agony and the ecstasy of the internet, and democracy in the age of Boaty McBoatface. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and was produced by Matt Kielty. Special thanks to Larry Lynch and Morgan Springer. Check out John Scott's "Dropping the Gloves" podcast and his book "A Guy Like Me". Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.   
With all of the black-and-white moralizing in our world today, we decided to bring back an old show about the little bit of bad that's in all of us...and the little bit of really, really bad that's in some of us.   Cruelty, violence, badness... in this episode we begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgram's famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it's both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918...around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why? This episode was produced with help from Carter Hodge. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
No matter what sport you play, the object of the game is to win. And that’s hard enough to do. But we found a match where four top athletes had to do the opposite in one of the most high profile matches of their careers. Thanks to a quirk in the tournament rules, their best shot at winning was … to lose.  This episode, we scrutinize the most paradoxical and upside down badminton match of all time, a match that dumbfounded spectators, officials, and even the players themselves. And it got us to wondering …  what would sports look like if everyone played to lose? Reported by Latif Nasser. Produced by Matt Kielty and Annie McEwen and Latif Nasser. Special thanks to Aparna Nancherla, Mark Phelan, Yuni Kartika, Greysia Polii, Joy Le Li, Mikyoung Kim, Stan Bischof, Vincent Liew, Kota Morikowa, Christ de Roij and Haeryun Kang. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Back in 2003 Belgium was holding a national election. One of their first where the votes would be cast and counted on computers. Thousands of hours of preparation went into making it unhackable. And when the day of the vote came, everything seemed to have gone well. That was, until a cosmic chain of events caused a single bit to flip and called the outcome into question. Today on Radiolab, we travel from a voting booth in Brussels to the driver's seat of a runaway car in the Carolinas, exploring the massive effects tiny bits of stardust can have on us unwitting humans. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  And check out our accompanying short video Bit Flip: the tale of a Belgian election and a cosmic ray that got in the way. This video was produced by Simon Adler with illustration from Kelly Gallagher.
Do you really need a brain to sense the world around you? To remember? Or even learn? Well, it depends on who you ask. Jad and Robert, they are split on this one. Today, Robert drags Jad along on a parade for the surprising feats of brainless plants. Along with a home-inspection duo, a science writer, and some enterprising scientists at Princeton University, we dig into the work of evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano, who turns our brain-centered worldview on its head through a series of clever experiments that show plants doing things we never would've imagined. Can Robert get Jad to join the march? This episode was produced by Annie McEwen.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Reporter Karen Duffin and her father were talking one day when, just as an aside, he mentioned the Nazi prisoners of war that worked on his Idaho farm when he was a kid. Karen was shocked ... and then immediately obsessed. So she spoke with historians, dug through the National Archives and oral histories, and uncovered the astonishing story of a small town in Alabama overwhelmed by thousands of German prisoners of war.  Along the way, she discovered that a very fundamental question  - one that we are struggling with today  -  was playing out seventy years ago in hundreds of towns across America: When your enemy is at your mercy, how should you treat them? Karen helps Jad and Robert try to figure out why we did what we did then, and why we are doing things so differently now. Produced by Kelsey Padgett.  CORRECTION: A previous version of this podcast stated that the Nuremberg Laws and the Mississippi Black Code could be viewed side by side at a museum in Nuremberg. We were unable to confirm the existence of such an exhibit. We were also unable to confirm that the Nuremberg Laws were literally copied from the Mississippi Black Codes. The audio has been corrected to reflect this. We've gathered more photos of Camp Aliceville here Special thanks to: Mary Bess Paluzzi, founding director of the Aliceville Museum  John Gillum, current Director of the Aliceville Museum Sam Love, a filmmaker who gathered the oral histories Ruth Beaumont Cook, who wrote a great book about Aliceville
President Richard Nixon once boasted that at any moment he could pick up a telephone and - in 20 minutes - kill 60 million people.  Such is the power of the US President over the nation’s nuclear arsenal.  But what if you were the military officer on the receiving end of that phone call? Could you refuse the order? This episode, we profile one Air Force Major who asked that question back in the 1970s and learn how the very act of asking it was so dangerous it derailed his career. We also pick up the question ourselves and pose it to veterans both high and low on the nuclear chain of command. Their responses reveal once and for all whether there are any legal checks and balances between us and a phone call for Armageddon. Reported by Latif Nasser. Produced by Annie McEwen and Simon Adler with production help from Arianne Wack.  Special thanks to: Elaine Scarry, Sam Kean, Ron Rosenbaum, Lisa Perry, Ryan Furtkamp, Robin Perry, Thom Woodroofe, Doreen de Brum, Jackie Conley, Sean Malloy, Ray Peter, Jack D’Annibale, Ryan Pettigrew at the Nixon Presidential Library and Samuel Rushay at the Truman Presidential Library. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   
A forest can feel like a place of great stillness and quiet. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city at rush hour. In this story, a dog introduces us to a strange creature that burrows beneath forests, building an underground network where deals are made and lives are saved (and lost) in a complex web of friendships, rivalries, and business relations. It’s a network that scientists are only just beginning to untangle and map, and it’s not only turning our understanding of forests upside down, it’s leading some researchers to rethink what it means to be intelligent.  Produced by Annie McEwen and Brenna Farrell. Special Thanks to Latif Nasser, Stephanie Tam, Teresa Ryan, Marc Guttman, and Professor Nicholas P. Money at Miami University.  Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified naturalist David Attenborough as his late brother, actor Richard Attenborough. In addition, it dated the earliest scientific studies of fungi to the late 19th century, whereas naturalists have studied fungi since the 17th century. Lastly, we mistakenly stated that the oxygen that a plant respires comes from CO2, when in reality it comes from water. The audio has been adjusted to correct these facts. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   
This week we’re going back to a favorite episode from 2015. During World War II, something happened that nobody ever talks about. This is a tale of mysterious balloons, cowboy sheriffs, and young children caught up in the winds of war. And silence, the terror of silence. Reporters Peter Lang-Stanton and Nick Farago tell us the story of a seemingly ridiculous, almost whimsical series of attacks on the US between November of 1944 and May of 1945. With the help of writer Ross Coen, geologist Elisa Bergslien, and professor Mike Sweeney, we uncover a national secret that led to tragedy in a sleepy logging town in south central Oregon.  Check out pictures of the ghostly balloons here.  Special thanks to Annie Patzke, Leda and Wayne Hunter, and Ilana Sol. Special thanks also for the use of their music to Jeff Taylor, David Wingo for the use of "Opening" and "Doghouse" - from the Take Shelter soundtrack, Justin Walter's "Mind Shapes" from his album Lullabies and Nightmares, and Michael Manning for the use of "Save".   Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
This week Jad and Radiolab alum Tim Howard revisit a favorite episode from 2012. Because moments of total, world-shaking bliss are not easy to come by. Maybe that's what makes them feel so life-altering when they strike. And so worth chasing. This hour: stories of striving, grasping, tripping, and falling for happiness, perfection, and ideals.   With Alexander Gamme, Arika Okrent, Richard Sproat, and Ken Libbrecht. This update was produced with help from Audrey Quinn. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Today, paranoia sets in: we head to The Ceremony, the top-secret, three-day launch of a new currency, wizards and math included. Halfway through, something strange happens.   Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Just before the curtain went up on our live show in Los Angeles, Jad and Robert carved out a little stage time for a sneak peek at next week's Colors episode.
Today on Radiolab, we're playing the fourth and final episode of a series Jad worked on called UnErased: The history of conversion therapy in America. Imagine... You’re openly gay. Then, you become the leader of the largest ex-gay organization and, under your leadership, many lives are destroyed. You leave that organization, come out as gay - again - and find love. Do you deserve to be happy? This is a story of identity, making amends and John Smid’s reckoning with his life.  UnErased is a series with Focus Features, Stitcher and Limina House in conjunction with the feature film, BOY ERASED. Special thanks go out to the folks at Anonymous Content for their support of UnErased.  If you want to hear the whole series, you can find UnErased in all the usual podcast places.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.     
As Candid Camera succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself.
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 Krulwich and Jackson Roach and produced by Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, and Jackson Roach. Mix & original music by Jeremy Bloom.   Special thanks to Allison Shaw, David Barrie, Auriel Fournier, and Moritz Matschke. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  And check out: The Truth about Animals by Lucy Cooke No Way Home: The Decline of the Great Animal Migrations by David Wilcove  The migration video Jad and Robert watch in this episode!
A lot of us understand biological sex with a pretty fateful underpinning: if you’re born with XX chromosomes, you’re female; if you’re born with XY chromosomes, you’re male. But it turns out, our relationship to the opposite sex is more complicated than we think. And if you caught this show on-air, and would like to listen to the full version of our Sex Ed Live Show, you can check it out here.  This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Matt Kielty. With scoring, original composition and mixing by Matt Kielty and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The “Ballad of Daniel Webster” and “Gonads” was written, performed and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Special thanks to Erica Todd, Andrew Sinclair, Robin Lovell-Badge, and Sarah S. Richardson. Plus, a big thank you to the musicians who gave us permission to use their work in this episode—composer Erik Friedlander, for "Frail as a Breeze, Part II," and musician Sam Prekop, whose work "A Geometric," from his album The Republic, is out on Thrill Jockey. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.  
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Podcast Details
Started
Dec 13th, 2011
Latest Episode
Feb 18th, 2020
Release Period
Weekly
No. of Episodes
240
Avg. Episode Length
42 minutes
Explicit
No
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