Oct 062005
 

Radiolab

Radiolab is one of the most beloved podcasts and public radio shows in the world. The show is known for its deep-dive journalism and innovative sound design. Created in 2002 by host Jad Abumrad, the program began as an exploration of scientific inquiry. Over the years it has evolved to become a platform for long-form journalism and storytelling. Radiolab is co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser.

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 instincts, drive, and guts it takes to marshall the human body’s defenses against a disease. But through him we also see the struggle and the costs of these monumental scientific efforts.

This episode was reported by Matt Kielty and Heather Radke, and produced by Matt Kielty.

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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 challenge trial, in which human subjects are intentionally infected with the virus. Senior correspondent Molly Webster gets the lowdown from Public News Service reporter Laura Rosbrow-Telem and then tracks down some of the tens of thousands of people who have volunteered to participate in a challenge trial.

Special thanks to Jonathan Miller.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster and Laura Rosbrow-Telem and produced by Molly Webster and Pat Walters.

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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.

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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 reported by Latif Nasser. 

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Links: 

Walter Mebane, “Inappropriate Applications of Benford’s Law Regularities to Some Data from the 2020 Presidential Election in the United States”

 
 

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 in a new era of political campaigning, an era of slicing and dicing the electorate, engineering the (predominately white) voting bloc characters that campaigns have chased after. Security Moms. Nascar Dads. Joe Six Pack. Walmart Moms. 

But what about everyone else? What about the surprisingly swingable corners of this country without a soccer mom in sight?  Inspired by this exceedingly cool interactive map from Politico, we set out on a mission to make an audio-map of our own. We asked pollsters, reporters and political operatives in swing states: what slice of your population is up for grabs? A slice that no one talks about? In this episode, we crawl inside the places that might hold our country’s future in its hands, all the while asking: are these slices even real? Are there people inside them that might swing this election? 

This episode was reported and produced by Becca Bressler, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters and Matt Kielty, with help from Jonny Moens.

Special thanks to Darren Samuelsohn, Josh Cochran, Elizabeth Ralph, and the Politico team for the original reporting and map that inspired this episode. 

Also thanks to: Elissa Schneider, Wisam Naoum, Martin Manna, Ashourina Slewo, Eli Newman, Zoe Clark, Erin Roselio, Jess Kamm Broomell, Will Doran, John Zogby, Matt Dickinson, Tom Jensen, Ross Grogg, Joel Andrus, Jonathan Tilove, Steve Contorno, Heaven Hale, Jeff Shapiro, Nicole Cobler, Marie Albiges, Matt Dole, Robin Goist, Katie Paris, Julie Womack, Matt Dole, Jackie Borchardt, Jessica Locklear, Twinkle Patel, Bobby Das, Dharmesh Ahir,  Nimesh Dhinubhai, Jay Desai, Rishi Bagga, and Sanjeev Joshipura.

Christina Greer’s book is Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, and Corey Fields book is Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American.

Original art for this episode by Zara Stasi. Check out her work at:  www.goodforthebees.com

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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.

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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 own adventure, Rosa’s Transition Integrity Project doesn’t give us any predictions, and it isn’t a referendum on Trump. Instead, it’s a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution.

This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

You can read The Transition Integrity Project’s report here.

 
 

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 the court we know today.

Also: we listen back to a mnemonic device (and song) that we created back in 2016 to help people remember the names of the justices. Listen, create a new one, and share with us!

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The key links:

- Akhil Reed Amar's forthcoming book, The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era
- Linda Monk's book, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution

The key voices:

- Linda Monk, author and constitutional scholar
- Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale
- Ari J. Savitzky, lawyer at WilmerHale

The key cases:

- 1803: Marbury v. Madison
- 1832: Worcester v. Georgia
- 1954: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)
- 1955: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2)

Additional music for this episode by Podington Bear.

Special thanks to Dylan Keefe and Mitch Boyer for their work on the above video.

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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 themselves.

This episode contains strong language and graphic violence.

Reported and produced by B.A. Parker and Sarah Qari, and produced by Matt Kielty and Pat Walters.

Special thanks to April Hayes and Katia Maguire for their documentary Home Truth about Jessica Gonzales, Cracked.com for sending us down this rabbit hole, Caroline Bettinger-López, Geoff Grimwood, Christy Lopez, Anthony Herron, Mike Wells, and Keith Taylor.

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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 through.  

This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens.

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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 Julia Longoria.

Special thanks to Stephen Wiesenfeld, Alison Keith, and Bob Darcy.

Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.

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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.    

 
 
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