Oct 062005
 

Radiolab

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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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 
 

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.    

 
 

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 us for a lab visit, where we’ll meet some mice, stare at some light, and come face-to-face with the mystery of memory. We can promise you: by the end, you’ll never think the same way about Christmas lights again. Or jingle bells.

This update was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Rachael Cusick. The original episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Molly Webster, with help from Simon Adler. 

Special thanks to Ed Boyden, Cognito Therapeutics, Brad Dickerson, Karen Duff, Zaven Khachaturian, Michael Lutz, Kevin M. Spencer, and Peter Uhlhaas.

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

Molly's note about the image:

Those neon green things in the image are microglia, the brain’s immune cells, or, as we describe them in our episode, the janitor cells of the brain. Straight from MIT’s research files, this image shows microglia who have gotten light stimulation therapy (one can only hope in the flicker room). You can see their many, super-long tentacles, which would be used to feel out anything that didn’t belong in the brain. And then they’d eat it!

Further reading: 

Li-Huei and co’s gamma sound and light paperMulti-sensory Gamma Stimulation Ameliorates Alzheimer’s-Associated Pathology and Improves Cognition

 

 
 

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 this new infectious fungus indicates our edge is slipping, degree by increasing degree.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Molly and Bethel Habte, with production help from Tad Davis. Special thanks to Julie Parsonnet and Aviv Bergman. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

Further Fungus Reading:

NYTimes feature on the mysterious rise of Candida auris. 

 Arturo's paper: “On the emergence of Candida auris, Climate Change, Azoles, Swamps, and Birds”, by Arturo Casadevall, et al.

“On the Origins of a Species: What Might Explain the Rise of Candida auris?”, a report from the CDC.

 

 
 

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 Radiolab.org/donate.  

Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra

 
 

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 East and North Africa.  The original "Lebanon USA" story was reported by Alex Atack with editorial support from Bella Ibrahim, Dana Ballout, Zeina Dowidar, and Hebah Fisher. Original sound design by Alex Atack. 

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this episode, we inaccurately described a grain elevator. We have updated the audio to reflect the correction.

The new update of the story was produced and reported by Shima Oliaee. 

We had original music by Thomas Koner and Jad Atoui.

Be sure to check out Kerning Cultures at their website www.kerningcultures.com, instagram @kerningcultures, or twitter @kerningcultures. You can read more about Fadi’s trips and see his photographs at lebanonusa.com or on his Instagram at @lebanonusa.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

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If you would like to donate to Beirut at this time, we have links here (from NYT):

The Lebanese Red Cross dispatches every ambulance from North Lebanon, Bekaa, and South Lebanon to Beirut to treat the wounded and help in search-and-rescue operations. You can make a contribution here

The United Nations’ World Food Program provides food to people displaced or made homeless after the blast. Lebanon imports nearly 85% of its food, and the port of Beirut, the epicenter of the explosion, played a central role in that supply chain. With the port now severely damaged, food prices are likely to be beyond the reach of many. You can donate here.

The NGO Humanity and Inclusion has 100 workers in Lebanon, including physical therapists, psychologists and social workers. They are focusing on post-surgical therapy in Beirut following the explosion. You can make a contribution here.

International Medical Corps is deploying medical units and will provide mental health care to those affected in Lebanon. The humanitarian aid organization also provides health services to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and vulnerable Lebanese. You can donate here.

Islamic Relief, which specializes in food aid and emergency response, is helping to put a supply chain in place for emergency aid in Beirut. You can donate here.

Save the Children have launched a Lebanon’s children relief fund, to which you can donate here.

UNICEF, the United Nations agency specializing in aid to children, is providing medical and vaccine supplies in Beirut, and supplying drinking water to rescue workers at the Beirut port. Its on-the-ground team is also counseling children traumatized by the blast. You can donate here.

Impact Lebanon, a nonprofit organization, has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help organizations on the ground, and is helping to share information about people still missing after the explosion. The group had raised over $3 million as of Wednesday and donated the first $100,000 to the Lebanese Red Cross.

The health care organization Project HOPE is bringing medical supplies and protective gear to Beirut and assisting the authorities on the ground. A donation page is available here.

Over 300,000 people in Beirut were displaced from their homes by the explosion. Baytna Baytak, a charity that provided free housing to health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, is now raising funds with Impact Lebanon to shelter those who have been displaced.

For those in Beirut, here is a list of urgent blood needs. Several social media accounts have also been set up to help locate victims.

 

 
 

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 for the China we know today.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with reporting assistance from Yang Yang.

Special thanks to Martin Howard. You can view his renowned collection of typewriters at: antiquetypewriters.com

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

 
 

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 people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role.

Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further?

Music in this episode by Carling & Will

This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari.

Check out Latif Nasser’s new Netflix show Connected here.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

 
 

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 biggest foe.

This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen, Pat Walters, Simon Adler, and Molly Webster, with production help from Tad Davis.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

 
 

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 raunchy beach orgy to a marine blood drive to the most secluded waterslide - and learn a thing or two from them about how much we depend on nature and how much it depends on us.

 

BONUS: If you want to know more about how miraculous horseshoe crabs are, here's a bunch of our favorite reads:

Alexis Madrigal, "The Blood Harvest" in The Atlantic, and Sarah Zhang's recent follow up in The Atlantic, "The Last Days of the Blue Blood Harvest" 

Deborah Cramer, The Narrow Edge

Deborah Cramer, "Inside the Biomedical Revolution to Save Horseshoe Crabs" in Audubon Magazine 

Richard Fortey, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms

Ian Frazier, "Blue Bloods"  in The New Yorker 

Lulu Miller's short story, "Me and Jane"  in Catapult Magazine

Jerry Gault, "The Most Noble Fishing There Is"  in Charles River's Eureka Magazine

or check out Glenn Gauvry's horseshoe crab research database

 

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser with help from Damiano Marchetti and Lulu Miller, and was produced by Annie McEwen and Matt Kielty with help from Liza Yeager.

Special thanks to Arlene Shaner at the NY Academy of Medicine, Tim Wisniewski at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at Johns Hopkins University, Jennifer Walton at the library of the Marine Biological Lab of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Glenn Gauvry at the Ecological Research and Development Group.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

 
 

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 thanks to the Radio Diaries podcast for letting us use an excerpt of their interview with Harry Mills. You can find the original episode here. For more on Egon Schiele’s life, check out the Leopold Museum’s biography, by Verena Gamper.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

 
 

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. We dive 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 by Shima Oliaee, with production assistance from Annie McEwen and Bethel Habte. 

It was a collaboration between OSM Audio and Radiolab. You can check out upcoming releases from OSM at: https://www.osmaudio.com/

To read or listen to Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavyhttps://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Heavy/Kiese-Laymon/9781501125669.

To visit the Hospitality Flag website: https://declaremississippi.com/.

 
 
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