Oct 062005
 

Radiolab

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.

More Perfect: The Political Thicket

When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was asked at the end of his career, “What was the most important case of your tenure?”, there were a lot of answers he could have given. He had presided over some of the most important decisions in the court’s history — cases that dealt with segregation in schools, the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, just to name a few. But his answer was a surprise: he said “Baker v. Carr,” a 1962 redistricting case. 

On this 2016 episode, part of our series More Perfect, we talk about why this case was so important. Important enough that it pushed one Supreme Court justice to a nervous breakdown, brought a boiling feud to a head, gave another justice a stroke, and changed the course of the Supreme Court — and the nation — forever.

This episode is the one of the few times you can hear the voice of our Executive Producer Suzie Lechtenberg. After years of leading the team, Suzie will leave WNYC to start her new adventure. 

Suzie: re-publishing this episode is our way of saying thank you for all you’ve done — for the show and for each of us. Team Radiolab wishes you nothing but success and so much happiness in the next stage of your career.

Episode Credits:
Reported by Suzie Lechtenberg
Produced by Suzie Lechtenberg

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

What's Up Doc?

Mel Blanc was known as “the man of 1,000 voices,” but, to hear his son tell it, the actual number was closer to 1,500. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Barney Rubble, Woody Woodpecker, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn — all Mel. These characters made him one of the most beloved men in the United States.

In this episode from 2012, Mel Blanc’s son Noel tells Producer Sean Cole how his father’s entire body would transform to bring life to these characters. But on a fateful day of 1961, after a crash left Mel in a lengthy coma, it was the characters who brought life to him.

Episode Credits:
Reported by Sean Cole

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org



Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

Butt Stuff

Why do we have a butt? Well, it’s not just for the convenience of a portable seat cushion. This week, we have a conversation with our Contributing Editor Heather Radke, who has spent the last several years going deep on one of our most noticeable surface features. She’s been working on a book called Butts, a Backstory and in this episode, she tells us about a fascinating history she uncovered that takes us from a eugenicist’s attempt in the late 1930s to concretize the most average human, to the rise of the garment industry, and the pain and shame we often feel today when we go looking for a pair of pants that actually fit.

Special thanks to Alexandra Primiani and Jordan Rodman

Episode Credits:
Reported by Heather Radke
Produced by Matt Kielty
Original music and sound design contributed by Matt Kielty and Jeremy Bloom
Mixing by Jeremy Bloom
Fact-checking by Emily Krieger

Citations:
You can Pre-order Heather’s book “Butts: A Backstory” here (https://zpr.io/QVFVLTTW9vpN)


Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


 

Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

Guts

This hour, we dive into the messy mystery in the middle of us. What's going on down there? And what can the rumblings deep in our bellies tell us about ourselves? 

We join author Mary Roach and reach inside a live cow's stomach. Talk with writer Frederick Kaufman about our first peek into the wonderful world of human digestion that came about thanks to a hunting accident. And explore with show regular, science writer, and fellow water drinker, Carl Zimmer, about the trillions of microscopic creatures that keep us regulated, physically, but also, maybe, emotionally and spiritually.


Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.



Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
.

 
 

The Weather Report

Meteorologists are as common as the clouds these days. Rolling onto the airwaves at morning, noon and night they tell us what to wear and where to plan our picnics. They’re local celebrities with an outsized influence. But in the 1940s, there was really only one of them: Irving P. Krick. He was suave and dapper, with the charm of a sunbeam and the boldness of a thunderclap. He was a salesman who turned the weather into a product.

Today, listen to the story of Krick and his descendants, a crew of profit prophets who have found fame and fortune staring at the sky and seeing the future. We follow them from the bloody beaches of World War II to the climate changed coasts of today, exploring their impact and predicting what they’ll mean in our wackier weather world. 

Special Thanks:
Special thanks to Xandra Clark, Homa Sarabi, Santi Dharmawan, Francisco Alvarez, Maureen O’Leary and everyone at NOAA, Shimon Elkabetz, Jack Neff, Joe Pennington, Brad Colman, Morgan Yarker, Megan Walker, Eric Bramford, Jay Cohen and Irving Krick Jr for supplying us with tons of great archival footage and audio.

 

Episode Credits:

Reported by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen
Produced by Annie McEwen and Simon Adler
Sound & Music by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen and Jeremy Bloom
Mixing help from Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by Diane Kelly
Edited by Soren Wheeler


Citations:

Books: 

If you’re curious to know more about the history of weather forecasting, go check out Kris Harper’s book Weather by the Numbers.

 

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.



Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

Black Box

In this episode, first aired in 2014, we examine three very different kinds of black boxes — spaces where we know what’s going in, we know what’s coming out, but can’t see what happens in that in-between space.

From the darkest parts of metamorphosis to a sixty-year-old secret among magicians, and the nature of consciousness itself, we shine some light on three questions. But for each, we contend with an answerless space, leaving just enough room for the mystery and magic… always wondering what’s inside the Black Box.

Episode credits:
Reported by Tim Howard and Molly Webster
Produced by Tim Howard and Molly Webster

Citations:
Radio ShowABC's Keep Them Guessing (https://tinyurl.com/9r9zmftr)

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

No-Touch Abortion

When the Dobbs decision went down, ER doctor Avir Mitra started to prepare for the worst — botched, at-home abortions that would land pregnant people in the emergency room. To prepare himself and his colleagues for the patients they might see, and to think through how best to treat them, Avir asked Laura MacIsaac, one of New York City’s leading gynecologists and abortion experts, to come talk to his ER department. But what Dr. MacIsaac had to say in her lecture wasn’t what Avir expected: she didn’t talk about how we’re going back in time and the horrors of self-harm as a means to an abortion. Instead, she painted a picture of progress — how in the last 40 years, through private practice and clinical trials all around the world, the process and science of providing and having an abortion has changed dramatically, mostly because of two types of pills: misoprostol and mifepristone. On this episode, Avir and Senior Correspondent Molly Webster visit Dr. MacIsaac to hear more, and also learn about a new study that indicates the process of abortion is on the precipice of even further change. 

Special thanks to Mariana Prandini Assis and Pam Belluck.

Episode Credits:
Reported by Avir Mitra and Molly Webster
Produced by Sarah Qari
Mixing help from Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by Diane Kelly
Edited by Becca Bressler

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 
 

The Theater of David Byrne's Mind

It all started when the rockstar David Byrne did a Freaky-Friday-like body-swap with a Barbie Doll. That’s what inspired him — along with his collaborator Mala Gaonkar — to transform a 15,000 square-foot warehouse in Denver, Colorado into a brainy funhouse known as the Theater of the Mind.

This episode, co-Host Latif Nasser moderates a live conversation between Byrne and Neuroscientist Thalia Wheatley at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The trio talk about how we don’t see what we think we see, don’t hear what we think we hear, and don’t know what we think we know, but also how all that… might actually be a good thing.

Special thanks to Charlie Miller and everyone else at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Emily Simoness and everyone else at the Arbutus Foundation, Boen Wang, and Heather Radke.

 

Episode Credits:

Produced by Suzie Lechtenberg

 

CITATIONS

Theater of the mind website: https://theateroftheminddenver.com/

 

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab(https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

 
 

Playing God

When people are dying and you can only save some, how do you choose? Maybe you save the youngest. Or the sickest. Maybe you even just put all the names in a hat and pick at random. Would your answer change if a sick person was right in front of you?

In this episode, first aired back in 2016, we follow New York Times reporter Sheri Fink as she searches for the answer. In a warzone, a hurricane, a church basement, and an earthquake, the question remains the same. What happens, what should happen, when humans are forced to play God?

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.

Episode Credits:

Reported by - Reported by Sheri Fink.
Produced by - Produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen.

Citations:

Articles:
You can find more about the work going on in Maryland at: www.nytimes.com/triage
Books: 
The book that inspired this episode about what transpired at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina, Sheri Fink’s exhaustively reported Five Days at Memorial, now a series on Apple TV+.

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

 
 

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 story of a color-changing creature many people assumed to be brainless who outsmarts his human captors. If you want a SPOILER of what the creature is, read on: It’s an octopus. We hear the story of one particularly devious octopus who lost a limb, was captured by humans, and then managed to make an escape from its aquarium tank—back into the ocean! The tale of “Inky” the octopus calls into question who we think of as intelligent (and kissable) in the animal kingdom.

Learn about the storytellers, listen to music, and dig deeper into the stories you hear on Terrestrials with activities you can do at home or in the classroom on our website, Terrestrialspodcast.org 

Find MORE original Terrestrials fun on Youtube.
And badger us on Social Media: @radiolab and #TerrestrialsPodcast

And if your little ones or you want to hear more of Team Terrestrials amazing work on this series, please search for Radiolab for Kids Presents: The Mastermind, wherever you get podcasts or subscribe here

Terrestrials is a production of WNYC Studios, created by Lulu Miller. This episode is produced by Ana González, Alan Goffinski and Lulu Miller. Original Music by Alan Goffinski. Help from Suzie Lechtenberg, Sarah Sandbach, Natalia Ramirez, and Sarita Bhatt. Fact-checking by Diane Kelley. Sound design by Mira Burt-Wintonick with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Our storyteller this week is Sy Montgomery. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

Our advisors are Theanne Griffith, Aliyah Elijah, Dominique Shabazz, John Green, Liza Steinberg-Demby, Tara Welty, and Alice Wong.

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!
Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

 
 

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 recounts for Soren and Robert Krulwich the story of his obsession. He immersed himself in research, compiled mountains of data, met with quicksand fetishists and, in the end, formulated a theory about why the terror of his childhood seems to have lost its menacing allure. Then Carlton Cuse, who at the time we first aired this episode was best-known as the writer and executive producer of Lost, helps us think about whether giant pits of hero-swallowing mud might one day creep back into the spotlight.

And, as this episode first aired in 2013, we can see if we were right.

 

Episode Credits:

Reported and produced by Soren Wheeler

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.

 


 

Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


 

 
 

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
Fact-checking by Emily Krieger

CITATIONS:

Articles:
Read the Sean and Fabio’s paper here
Get Yan Liu’s book Healing with Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China here. Yan is now Assistant Professor of History at the University at Buffalo.

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of
The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Follow our show on
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.

 


Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


 
 
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