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G: Unnatural Selection

This past fall, a scientist named Steve Hsu made headlines with a provocative announcement. He would start selling a genetic intelligence test to couples doing IVF: a sophisticated prediction tool, built on big data and machine learning, designed to help couples select the best embryo in their batch. We wondered, how does that work? What can the test really say? And do we want to live in a world where certain people can decide how smart their babies will be?

This episode was produced by Simon Adler, with help from Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Engineering help from Jeremy Bloom.

Special thanks to Catherine Bliss.

Radiolab?s ?G? is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

2019-07-26
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G: Unfit

When a law student named Mark Bold came across a Supreme Court decision from the 1920s that allowed for the forced sterilization of people deemed ?unfit,? he was shocked to discover that it had never been overturned. His law professors told him the case, Buck v Bell, was nothing to worry about, that the ruling was in a kind of legal limbo and could never be used against people. But he didn?t buy it. In this episode we follow Mark on a journey to one of the darkest consequences of humanity?s attempts to measure the human mind and put people in boxes, following him through history, science fiction and a version of eugenics that?s still very much alive today, and watch as he crusades to restore a dash of moral order to the universe.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty, Lulu Miller and Pat Walters. 

You can pre-order Lulu Miller?s new book Why Fish Don?t Exist here.

Special thanks to Sara Luterman, Lynn Rainville, Alex Minna Stern, Steve Silberman and Lydia X.Z. Brown.

Radiolab?s ?G? is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

2019-07-17
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G: Relative Genius

Albert Einstein asked that when he died, his body be cremated and his ashes be scattered in a secret location. He didn?t want his grave, or his body, becoming a shrine to his genius. When he passed away in the early morning hours of April, 18, 1955, his family knew his wishes. There was only one problem: the pathologist who did the autopsy had different plans.

In the third episode of ?G?, Radiolab?s miniseries on intelligence, we go on one of the strangest scavenger hunts for genius the world has ever seen. We follow Einstein?s stolen brain from that Princeton autopsy table, to a cider box in Wichita, Kansas, to labs all across the country. And eventually, beyond the brain itself entirely. All the while wondering, where exactly is the genius of a man who changed the way we view the world? 

 

This episode was reported by Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters, and produced by Bethel Habte, Rachael Cusick, and Pat Walters. Music by Alex Overington and Jad Abumrad. 

Special thanks to: Elanor Taylor, Claudia Kalb, Dustin O?Halloran, Tim Huson, The Einstein Papers Project, and all the physics for (us) dummies Youtube videos that accomplished the near-impossible feat of helping us understand relativity.

Radiolab?s ?G? is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

2019-06-28
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G: Problem Space

In the first episode of G, Radiolab?s miniseries on intelligence, we went back to the 1970s to meet a group of Black parents who put the IQ test on trial. The lawsuit, Larry P v Riles, ended with a ban on IQ tests for all Black students in the state of California, a ban that?s still in place today.

This week, we meet the families in California dealing with that ban forty years later. Families the ban was designed to protect, but who now say it discriminates against their children. How much have IQ tests changed since the 70s? And can they be used for good? We talk to the people responsible for designing the most widely used modern IQ test, and along the way, we find out that at the very same moment the IQ test was being put on trial in California, on the other side of the country, it was being used to solve one of the biggest public health problems of the 20th century.

This episode was reported and produced by Pat Walters, Rachael Cusick and Jad Abumrad, with production help from Bethel Habte.

Music by Alex Overington. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly.

Special thanks to Lee Romney, Chenjerai Kumanyika, Moira Gunn and Tech Nation, and Lee Rosevere for his song All the Answers.

Radiolab?s ?G? is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

2019-06-14
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G: The Miseducation of Larry P

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.

2019-06-07
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Neither Confirm Nor Deny

 How a sunken nuclear submarine, a crazy billionaire, and a mechanical claw gave birth to a phrase that has hounded journalists and lawyers for 40 years and embodies the tension between the public?s desire for transparency and the government?s need to keep secrets.  

Whether it comes from government spokespeople or celebrity publicists, the phrase ?can neither confirm nor deny? is the perfect non-denial denial. It?s such a perfect deflection that it seems like it?s been around forever, but reporter Julia Barton takes us back to the 1970s and the surprising origin story of what?s now known as a ?Glomar Response.? With help from David Sharp and Walt Logan, we tell the story of a clandestine CIA operation to lift a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor and the dilemma they faced when the world found out about it.

 

In the 40 years since that operation, the Glomar Response has become boilerplate language from an array of government agencies. With help from ProPublica editor Jeff Larson and NPR?s Dina Temple-Raston, we explore the implications of this ultimate information dodge. ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer explains how it stymies oversight, and we learn that, even 40 years later, governmental secrecy can be emotionally painful.

 

After listening to the story ... 

 

After 40 years, many of the details of Project Azorian are only now coming to light. The US government?s default position has been to keep as much of it classified as possible. It took three years for retired CIA employee David Sharp to get permission to publish his account of Project Azorian. And FOIA played an indirect role in that, as Cold War historians got the CIA to release, in redacted form, an internal history of the mission. After that and a threat of legal action, Sharp was finally able to publish his manuscript in 2012.

 

We mentioned conspiracy theories that have swirled around Project Azorian filling the void where official silence has reigned. One of them is promulgated in the 2005 book ?Red Star Rogue? by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond. They posit that the K-129 was taken over by rogue Stalinist KGB agents in order to start a nuclear conflict. But the conflict was to be between the US and China, as, according to the authors, the sub had powers to disguise its sonic signature as a Chinese Navy vessel.

 

This book is the basis of the 2013 drama ?Phantom,? which features Ed Harris and David Duchovny as Soviet military officers who sip vodka in a very un-Russian way.

 

Russian Naval historians, like Nikolai Cherkashin, are not only insulted by this take on the cause of the K-129?s demise, they say the true cause is much easier to pinpoint: They say an American vessel, possibly the USS Swordfish, collided with the Soviet submarine. 

 

Despite the fact that the US government has turned over many documents about Project Azorian and what it found to the Russian government, many in the Russian Navy stand by their theory that it was far too easy for the US to locate the K-129 on the bottom of the Pacific, given the technology of the time. According to these theories, Project Azorian was nothing more than an elaborate cover-up disguised as... an elaborate cover-up. We can neither confirm nor deny that we exactly understand how that would have worked in practice or execution.

 

But for our money, there?s probably no stranger and more telling document from this time than a video of the funeral at sea for Soviet sailors ostensibly recovered by the US during Project Azorian. Audio of the service starts at 1:25 in this post. Eulogies and rites are performed in both English and Russian (albeit with an American accent).

 

It?s one of the more solemn moments of the Cold War, and one that the Glomar Response helped keep a secret for a very long time.

 

 

2019-06-04
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The Good Samaritan

On a Tuesday afternoon back in the summer of 2017, Scotty Hatton and Scottie Wightman both made a decision to help someone in need. They both paid a price for their actions that day, which have led to a legal, moral, and scientific puzzle about how we balance accountability and forgiveness. 

In this episode, we go to Bath County, Kentucky, where, as one health official put it, opioids have created ?a hole the size of Kentucky.? We talk to the people on all sides of this story about stemming the tide of overdoses, we wrestle with the science of poison and fear, and we try to figure out when the drive to protect and help those around us should rise above the law.

This story was reported by Peter Andrey Smith with Matt Kielty, and produced by Matt Kielty.

Special thanks to Earl Willis, Bobby Ratliff, Ronnie Goldie, Megan Fisher, Alan Caudill, Nick Jones, Dan Wermerling, Terry Bunn, Robin Thompson and the staff at KIPRC, Charles Landon, Charles P Gore, Jim McCarthy, Ann Marie Farina, Dr. Jeremy Faust and Dr. Ed Boyer, Justin Brower, Kathy Robinson, Zoe Renfro, John Bucknell, Chris Moraff, Jeremiah Laster, Tommy Kane, Jim McCarthy, Sarah Wakeman, and Al Tompkins. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

 

CDC recommendations on helping people who overdose: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/patients/Preventing-an-Opioid-Overdose-Tip-Card-a.pdf

Find out where to get naloxone: https://prevent-protect.org/

 

 

 

 

2019-05-24
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Bit Flip

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

 

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 animation from Kelly Gallagher.

 

2019-05-08
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Dinopocalypse Redux

Using high-powered ballistics experiments, fancy computer algorithms, and good old-fashioned ancient geology, scientists have woven together a theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs that is so precise, so hot, so instantaneous, as to seem unimaginable. Today, we bring you this story, first published on Radiolab in 2013, plus an update: a spot on planet Earth, newly discovered, that - if it holds true - has the potential to tell us about the first three hours after the dinos died.

This update was reported by Molly Webster and was produced with help from Audrey Quinn. 

We teamed up with some amazing collaborators for Apocalyptical, the Radiolab live show that this episode is based on. Find out more about these wildly talented folks: comedians Reggie Watts, Patton Oswalt, Simon Amstell, Ophira Eisenberg and Kurt Braunohler; musicians On Fillmore and Noveller, and Erth Visual & Physical Inc.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

To learn more about the North Dakota site - known as Tanis, for all you Indiana Jones fans - check out the recent paper. Make sure you spend time digging into those supplemental materials, it contains all the juice !

And, go watch Apocalyptical; to dinosaurs and beyond!

 

 

2019-05-03
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Fu-Go

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 TaylorDavid 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

2019-04-25
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Americanish

In 1903 the US Supreme Court refused to say that Isabel González was a citizen of the United States. Then again, they said, she wasn?t a exactly an immigrant either. And they said that the US territory of Puerto Rico, Isabel?s home, was ?foreign to the United States in a domestic sense.? Since then, the US has cleared up at least some of the confusion about US territories and the status of people born in them.

But, more than a hundred years later, there is still a US territory that has been left in limbo: American Samoa. It is the only place on earth that is US soil, but people who are born there are not automatically US citizens. When we visit American Samoa, we discover that there are some pretty surprising reasons why many American Samoans prefer it that way. 

 This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria.

Special thanks to John Wasko.

Check out Sam Erman's book Almost Citizens and Doug Mack's book The Not Quite States of America.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2019-04-19
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For Whom the Cowbell Tolls

When Nancy Holten was 8 years old her mom put her in a moving van. She fell asleep, woke up in Switzerland, and she's been there ever since. Nancy is big into animal rights, crystals, and various forms of natural and holistic healing. She?s also a viral sensation: the Dutch woman apparently so annoying, her Swiss town denied her citizenship. In this episode we go to the little village of Gipf-Oberfrick to meet Nancy, talk with the town, and ask the question: what does it mean and what does it take to belong to a place?

This episode was reported by Kelly Prime and was produced by Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen. 

Special thanks to reporter Anna Mayumi Kerber, the tireless fixer and translator for this story. Thanks also to Dominik Hangartner and to the very talented yodelers Ai Dineen and Gregory Corbino.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

A tasty note from Latif: Towards the end of the story, I casually mentioned a place called Greg's Poutine in Toronto.  Turns out, it's actually called Smoke's Poutinerie. (Confused it with Greg's Ice Cream.) Go. It's delicious. 
2019-03-29
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Bliss

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

2019-03-21
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Asking for Another Friend

Part 2: Last year, we ran a pair of episodes that explored the greatest mysteries in our listeners? lives - the big ones, little ones, and the ones in between. This year, we?re back on the hunt, tracking down answers to the big little questions swirling around our own heads.

Today, we take a look at a strange human emotion, and investigate the mysteries lurking behind the trees, sounds, and furry friends in our lives. 

This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, Arianne Wack, Carter Hodge, Sarah Qari and Annie McEwen, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, Arianne Wack, Sarah Qari, Annie McEwen, and Simon Adler. 

Special thanks to Yiyun Huang, lab manager at Yale's Canine Cognition Center. Check out Code Switch's "Dog Show!"

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2019-03-08
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Asking for a Friend

Last year, we ran a pair of episodes that explored the greatest mysteries in our listeners? lives - the big ones, little ones, and the ones in between. This year, we?re back on the hunt, tracking down answers to the big little questions swirling around our own heads.

We reached out to some of our favorite people and asked them to come along with us as we journeyed back in time, to outer space, and inside our very own bodies.

This episode was reported by Rachael Cusick, Simon Adler, Becca Bressler, and Annie McEwen and was produced by Rachael Cusick, Simon Adler, Matt Kielty, Becca Bressler, and Annie McEwen.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

2019-03-01
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Loops

Our lives are filled with loops that hurt us, heal us, make us laugh, and, sometimes, leave us wanting more. This hour, Radiolab revisits the strange things that emerge when something happens, then happens again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and? well, again.

In this episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert try to explain an inexplicable comedy act, listen to a loop that literally dies in your ear, and they learn about a loop that sent a shudder up the collective spine of mathematicians everywhere. Finally, they talk to a woman who got to watch herself think the thought that she was watching herself think the thought that she was watching herself think the thought that ... you get the point.

With Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler,  Alex Bellos, Steven Strogatz, Janna Levin, and Melanie Thernstrom. Plus mind-bending musical accompaniment from Laguardia Arts High School singers Nathaniel Sabat, Julian Soto, Eli Greenhoe, Kelly Efthimiu, Julia Egan, and Ruby Froom.

You can find the video Christine Campbell made of her mom Mary Sue here.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2019-02-22
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The Beauty Puzzle

When a female animal is checking out her prospects, natural selection would dictate that she pay attention to how healthy, or strong, or fit he is. But when it comes to finding a mate, some animals seem to be engaged in a very different game. What if a female were looking for something else - something that has nothing to do with fitness? Something...beautiful? Today we explore a different way of looking at evolution and what it may mean for the course of science.

This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and Bethel Habte and was produced by Bethel Habte.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2019-02-08
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More Perfect: Sex Appeal

With Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the news and on the big screen recently, we decided to play the More Perfect show about her from back in November of 2017. 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

2019-01-23
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The Punchline

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

 

2019-01-16
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BONUS: Radiolab Scavenger Hunt

The question we get more than any other here at Radiolab is ?Where do all those stories come from??  Today, for the first time ever, we divulge our secret recipe for story-finding.  Veteran Radiolab story scout Latif Nasser takes our newest producer Rachael Cusick along for what he calls ?the world?s biggest scavenger hunt.?  Together, they?ll make you want to bake some cookies and find some true stories.  But we can?t find, much less tell, true stories without you. Find it in yourself to donate and help us make another year of this possible. It's a choice only you can make. Radiolab.org/support

 

Here are story-finding resources mentioned in this episode:

The World's Biggest Scavenger Hunt: Latif's Transom post on story scouting

Google Alerts: Set up your own!

Wikipedia Random Article: Play wiki roulette by clicking "random article" in the far-left column

WorldCat: to find where a book exists in a library near you

ArchiveGrid: to search libraries' special collections and oral histories

Trade Publications: Search for trade magazines by industry

Cusick Cookies: Rachael's cookie recipe...you're welcome.

 

 

2018-12-28
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A Clockwork Miracle

As legend goes, in 1562, King Philip II needed a miracle. So he commissioned one from a highly-skilled clockmaker. In this short, a king's deal with God leads to an intricate mechanical creation, and Jad heads to the Smithsonian to investigate. 

When the 17-year-old crown prince of Spain, Don Carlos, fell down a set of stairs in 1562, he threw his whole country into a state of uncertainty about the future. Especially his father, King Philip II, who despite being the most powerful man in the world, was helpless in the face of his heir's terrible head wound. When none of the leading remedies of the day--bleeding, blistering, purging, or drilling--helped, the king enlisted the help of a relic...the corpse of a local holy man who had died 100 years earlier. Then, Philip II promised that if God saved his son, he'd repay him with a miracle of his own.

Elizabeth King, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, describes how--according to legend--Philip II held up his end of the bargain with the help of a renowned clockmaker and an intricate invention. Jad and Latif head to the Smithsonian to meet curator Carlene E. Stephens, who shows them the inner workings of a nearly 450-year-old monkbot. 

 

 

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser. 

In the time since this episode was first produced, Elizabeth King has written a book about the clockwork monk. More details can be found at automatonmonk.com.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-12-27
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Apologetical

How do you fix a word that?s broken? A word we need when we bump into someone on the street, or break someone?s heart. In our increasingly disconnected secular world, ?sorry? has been stretched and twisted, and in some cases weaponized. But it?s also one of the only ways we have to piece together a sense of shared values and beliefs. Through today's sea of sorry-not-sorries, empty apologies, and just straight up non-apologies, we wonder what it looks like to make amends.

The program at Stanford that Leilani went through (and now works for) was a joint creation between Stanford and Lee Taft. Find out more here: www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/patient-family-resources/pearl

This episode was reported by Annie McEwen and was produced by Annie McEwen and Simon Adler. 

Special thanks to Mark Bressler, Nancy Kielty, and Patty Walters. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-12-21
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UnErased: Smid

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

 

 

2018-11-28
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UnErased: Dr. Davison and the Gay Cure

Today on Radiolab, we're playing part of a series that Jad worked on called UnErased: The history of conversion therapy in America.

The episode we're playing today, the third in the series, is one of the rarest stories of all: a man who publicly experiences a profound change of heart. This is a profile of one of the gods of psychotherapy, who through a reckoning with his own work (oddly enough in the pages of Playboy magazine), becomes the first domino to fall in science?s ultimate disowning of the ?gay cure.?

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
2018-11-22
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Tweak the Vote

Democracy is on the ropes.  In the United States and abroad, citizens of democracies are feeling increasingly alienated, disaffected, and powerless.  Some are even asking themselves a question that feels almost too dangerous to say out loud: is democracy fundamentally broken?  

Today on Radiolab, just a day before the American midterm elections, we ask a different question: how do we fix it?  We scrutinize one proposed tweak to the way we vote that could make politics in this country more representative, more moderate, and most shocking of all, more civil.  Could this one surprisingly do-able mathematical fix really turn political campaigning from a rude bloodsport to a campfire singalong? And even if we could do that, would we want to?

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser, Simon Adler, Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg and Tracie Hunte, and was produced by Simon Adler, Matt Kielty, Sarah Qari, and Suzie Lechtenberg.

Special thanks to Rob Richie (and everyone else at Fairvote), Don Saari, Diana Leygerman, Caroline Tolbert, Bobby Agee, Edward Still, Jim Blacksher, Allen Caton, Nikolas Bowie, John Hale, and Anna Luhrmann and the rest of the team at the Varieties of Democracy Institute in Sweden.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

oh...and GO VOTE!

2018-11-05
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War of the Worlds

It's been 80 years to the day since Orson Welles' infamous radio drama "The War of the Worlds" echoed far and wide over the airwaves. So we want to bring you back to our very first live hour, where we take a deep dive into what was one of the most controversial moments in broadcasting history. "The War of the Worlds," a radio play about Martians invading New Jersey, caused panic when it originally aired, and it's continued to fool people since--from Santiago, Chile to Buffalo, New York to a particularly disastrous evening in Quito, Ecuador.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-10-30
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In the No Part 3

In the final episode of our ?In The No? series, we sat down with several different groups of college-age women to talk about their sexual experiences. And we found that despite colleges now being steeped in conversations about consent, there was another conversation in intimate moments that just wasn't happening. In search of a script, we dive into the details of BDSM negotiations and are left wondering if all of this talk about consent is ignoring a larger problem.

Further reading:

"It's all about the Journey": Skepticism and Spirituality in the BDSM Subculture, by Julie Fennell

Screw Consent, by Joe Fischel

 

This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee, and was produced by Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to Ray Matienzo, Janet Hardy, Jay Wiseman, Peter Tupper, Susan Wright, and Dominus Eros of Pagan's Paradise. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-10-26
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In the No Part 2

In the year since accusations of sexual assault were first brought against Harvey Weinstein, our news has been flooded with stories of sexual misconduct, indicting very visible figures in our public life. Most of these cases have involved unequivocal breaches of consent, some of which have been criminal. But what have also emerged are conversations surrounding more difficult situations to parse ? ones that exist in a much grayer space. When we started our own reporting through this gray zone, we stumbled into a challenging conversation that we can?t stop thinking about. In this second episode of ?In the No?, radio-maker Kaitlin Prest joins us for a conversation with Hanna Stotland, an educational consultant who specializes in crisis management. Her clients include students who have been expelled from school for sexual misconduct. In the aftermath, Hanna helps them reapply to school. While Hanna shares some of her more nuanced and confusing cases, we wrestle with questions of culpability, generational divides, and the utility of fear in changing our culture.

Advisory: This episode contains some graphic language and descriptions of very sensitive sexual situations, including discussions of sexual assault, consent and accountability, which may be very difficult for people to listen to. Visit The National Sexual Assault Hotline at online.rainn.org for resources and support. 

This episode was reported with help from Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee, and produced with help from Rachael Cusick. 

Special thanks to Ben Burke and Jackson Prince.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-10-19
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In the No Part 1

In 2017, radio-maker Kaitlin Prest released a mini-series called "No" about her personal struggle to understand and communicate about sexual consent. That show, which dives into the experience, moment by moment, of navigating sexual intimacy, struck a chord with many of us. It's gorgeous, deeply personal, and incredibly thoughtful. And it seemed to presage a much larger conversation that is happening all around us in this moment. And so we decided to embark, with Kaitlin, on our own exploration of this topic. Over the next three episodes, we'll wander into rooms full of college students, hear from academics and activists, and sit in on classes about BDSM. But to start things off, we are going to share with you the story that started it all. Today, meet Kaitlin (if you haven't already). 

In The No Part 1 is a collaboration with Kaitlin Prest. It was produced with help from Becca Bressler.

The "No" series, from The Heart was created by writer/director Kaitlin Prest, editors Sharon Mashihi and Mitra Kaboli, assistant producer Ariel Hahn and associate producer Phoebe Wang, associate sound designer Shani Aviram. Special thanks to actor Tommy Schell.

Check out Kaitlin's new show, The Shadows.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-10-11
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Breaking Bad News Bears

Today, a challenge: bear with us.

We decided to shake things up at the show so we threw our staff a curveball, Walter Matthau-style. In two weeks time we told our producers to pitch, report, and produce stories about breaking news?.or bears. What emerged was a sort of love letter for our honey-loving friends and a discovery that they embody so much more than we could have imagined: a town?s symbol for hope, a celebrity, a foe, and a clue to future ways we?ll deal with our changing environment. 

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler, Molly Webster, Bethel Habte, Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, Rachael Cusick, Annie McEwen and Latif Nasser.

Special thanks to Wendy Card, Marlene Zuk, Karyn Rode, Barbara Nielsen and Steven Amstrup at Polar Bears International, Jimmy Thomson, Adam Kudlak, Greg Durner, Todd Atwood, and Dawn Curtis and the Environment and Natural Resources Department of Northwest Territories.

And thanks to composer Anthony Plog for allowing us to use the Fourth Movement of his "Fantasy Movement," "Very Fast and Manic," performed by Eufonix Quartet off of their album Nuclear Breakfast, available from Potenza Music

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-09-28
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Infective Heredity

Today, a fast moving, sidestepping, gene-swapping free-for-all that would?ve made Darwin?s head spin.

David Quammen tells us about a shocking way that life can evolve - infective heredity. To figure it all out we go back to the earliest versions of life, and we revisit an earlier version of Radiolab. After reckoning with a scientific icon, we find ourselves in a tangle of genes that sheds new light on peppered moths, drug-resistant bugs, and a key moment in the evolution of life when mammals went a little viral.

Check out David Quammen's book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life 

This episode was produced by Soren Wheeler. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-09-21
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27: The Most Perfect Album

More Perfect is back with something totally new and exciting. They just dropped an ALBUM. 27: The Most Perfect Album is like a Constitutional mix-tape, a Schoolhouse Rock for the 21st century. The album features original tracks by artists like Dolly Parton, Kash Doll, and Devendra Banhart: 27+ songs inspired by the 27 Amendments. Alongside the album they'll be releasing short stories deep-diving into each amendment's history and resonance. In this episode, we preview a few songs and dive into the poetic dream behind the First Amendment. The whole album, plus the first episode of More Perfect Season 3 is out now.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-09-19
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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

2018-08-29
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Post No Evil

Back in 2008 Facebook began writing a document. It was a constitution of sorts, laying out what could and what couldn?t be posted on the site. Back then, the rules were simple, outlawing nudity and gore. Today, they?re anything but. 

How do you define hate speech? Where?s the line between a joke and an attack? How much butt is too much butt? Facebook has answered these questions. And from these answers they?ve written a rulebook that all 2.2 billion of us are expected to follow. Today, we explore that rulebook. We dive into its details and untangle its logic. All the while wondering what does this mean for the future of free speech?

This episode was reported by Simon Adler with help from Tracie Hunte and was produced by Simon Adler with help from Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to Sarah Roberts, Jeffrey Rosen, Carolyn Glanville, Ruchika Budhraja, Brian Dogan, Ellen Silver, James Mitchell, Guy Rosen, and our voice actor Michael Chernus.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-08-17
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The Bad Show

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

2018-07-28
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Gonads: Sex Ed

If there?s one thing Gonads taught us, it?s just how complicated human reproduction is. All the things we thought we knew about biology and sex determination are up for debate in a way that feels both daunting and full of potential. At the same time, we're at a moment where we?re wrestling with how to approach conversations around sex, consent, and boundaries, at a time that may be more divisive than ever. So host Molly Webster thought: what if we took on sex ed, and tried to tackle questions from listeners, youth, reddit (oh boy), and staff.

But instead of approaching these questions the way your high school health teacher might?ve (or government teacher, who knows), Molly invited a cast of storytellers, educators, artists, and comedians to grapple with sex ed in unexpected and thoughtful ways. To help us think about how we can change the conversation. In this episode, an edited down version of a Gonads Live show, Molly's team takes a crack at responding to the intimate questions you asked when you were younger but probably never got a straight answer to. Featuring:

How Do You Talk About Condoms Without Condom Demonstrations? Sanford Johnson. Wanna see how to put on a sock?

What Are Periods? Sindha Agha and Gul Agha. Check out Sindha's photography here.

Is Anything Off-Limits? Ericka Hart, Dalia Mahgoub, and Jonathan Zimmerman 

Why Do We Do This Anyway? And Other Queries from Fifth Graders Jo Firestone

"Sex Ed" is an edited* recording of a live event hosted by Radiolab at the Skirball Center in New York City on May 16, 2018. Radiolab Team Gonads is Molly Webster, Pat Walters, and Rachael Cusick, with Jad Abumrad. Live music, including the sex ed questions, and the Gonads theme song, were written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. 

One more thing! 

Over the past few months, Radiolab has been collecting sex ed book suggestions from listeners and staff, about the books that helped them understand the birds and the bees.

Check out the full Gonads Presents: Sex Ed Bookshelf here! For now, a few of our favorites:


Share book reviews and ratings with Radiolab, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

 

*Our live show featured the following additional questions and answerers:

How do you talk to your partner in bed without sound like an asshold or a slut? Upright Citizens Brigade, featuring Lou Gonzales, Molly Thomas, and Alexandra Dickson

What Happens to All the Condom Bananas? Rachael Cusick

With live event production help from Melissa LaCasse and Alicia Allen; engineering by Ed Haber and George Wellington; and balloons by Candy Brigham from Candy Twisted Balloons Special. Special thanks to Larry Siegel, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Emily Rothman and the Start Strong Initiative at the Boston Public Health Commission. 

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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

2018-07-27
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Gonads: Dana

When Dana Zzyym applied for their first passport back in 2014, they were handed a pretty straightforward application. Name, place of birth, photo ID -- the usual. But one question on the application stopped Dana in their tracks: male or female? Dana, technically, wasn?t either.

In this episode, we follow the story of Dana Zzyym, Navy veteran and activist, which starts long before they scribble the word "intersex? on their passport application. Along the way, we see what happens when our inner biological realities bump into the outside world, and the power of words to shape us.

This episode is a companion piece to Gonads, Episode 4, Dutee.

"Dana" was reported by Molly Webster, and co-produced with Jad Abumrad. It had production help from Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. Wordplay categories were written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. 

Special thanks to Paula Stone Williams, Gerry Callahan, Lambda Legal, Kathy Tu, Matt Collette, Arianne Wack, Carter Hodge, and Liza Yeager.

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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-07-22
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Gonads: Dutee

In 2014, India?s Dutee Chand was a rising female track and field star, crushing national records. But then, that summer, something unexpected happened: she failed a gender test. And was banned from the sport. Before she knew it, Dutee was thrown into the middle of a controversy that started long before her, and continues on today: how to separate males and females in sport.

This story is a companion piece to Gonads, Episode 5, Dana

"Dutee" was reported by Molly Webster, with co-reporting and translation by Sarah Qari. It was produced by Pat Walters, with production help from Jad Abumrad and Rachael Cusick. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.

Special thanks to Geertje Mak, Maayan Sudai, Andrea Dunaif, Bhrikuti Rai, Joe Osmundson, and Payoshni Mitra. Plus, former Olympic runner Madeleine Pape, who is currently studying regulations around female, transgender, and intersex individuals in sport.

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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2018-07-22
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Gonads: X & Y

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.

 

2018-06-30
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Gonads: Fronads

At 28 years old, Annie Dauer was living a full life. She had a job she loved as a highschool PE teacher, a big family who lived nearby, and a serious boyfriend. Then, cancer struck. Annie would come to find out she had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was so aggressive, there was a real chance she might die. Her oncologists wanted her to start treatment immediately. Like, end-of-the-week immediately. But before Annie started treatment, she walked out of the doctor?s office and crossed the street to see a fertility doctor doing an experimental procedure that sounded like science fiction: ovary freezing.

Further Reading
A medical case report on Annie?s frozen ovaries
What?s primordial germ cells got to do with it?

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Pat Walters. With original music and scoring by Dylan Keefe and Alex Overington. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Jad Abumrad.

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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-06-23
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Gonads: The Primordial Journey

At two weeks old, the human embryo has only just begun its months-long journey to become a baby. The embryo is tiny, still invisible to the naked eye. But inside it, an epic struggle plays out, as a nomadic band of cells marches toward a mysterious destiny, with the future of humanity resting on their microscopic shoulders.

If you happened to have caught this show on air, you can find the second half of our broadcast version here. 

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Jad Abumrad. With scoring and original composition by Alex Overington and Dylan Keefe. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The ?Ballad of the Fish? and ?Gonads? was composed and sung by Majel Connery, and produced by Alex Overington.

Special thanks to Ruth Lehmann and Dagmar Wilhelm.

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.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-06-15
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Birthstory

We originally posted this episode in 2015, and it inspired producer Molly Webster to take a deep dive into the wild and mysterious world of human reproduction. Starting next week, she?ll be taking over the Radiolab podcast feed for a month to present a series of mind-bending stories that make us rethink the ways we make more of us.

You know the drill - all it takes is one sperm, one egg, and blammo - you got yourself a baby. Right? Well, in this episode, conception takes on a new form - it?s the sperm and the egg, plus: two wombs, four countries, and money. Lots of money. 

At first, this is the story of an Israeli couple, two guys, who go to another continent to get themselves a baby - three, in fact - by hiring surrogates to carry the children for them. As we follow them on their journey, an earth shaking revelation shifts our focus from them, to the surrogate mothers. Unfolding in real time, as countries around the world consider bans on surrogacy, this episode looks at a relationship that manages to feel deeply affecting, and deeply uncomfortable, all at the same time. 

Birthstory is a collaboration with the brilliant radio show and podcast Israel Story, created to tell stories for, and about, Israel. Go check ?em out! 

Israel Story's five English-language seasons were produced in partnership with Tablet Magazine and we highly recommend you listen to all of their work at  http://www.tabletmag.com/tag/israel-story

This episode was produced and reported by Molly Webster.

Special thanks go to: Israel Story, and their producers Maya Kosover, and Yochai Maital; reporters Nilanjana Bhowmick in India and Bhrikuti Rai in Nepal plus the International Reporting Project; Doron Mamet, Dr Nayana Patel, and Vicki Ferrara; with translation help from Aya Keefe, Karthik Ravindra, Turna Ray, Tom Wasserman, Pradeep Thapa, and Adhikaar, an organization in Ridgewood, Queens advocating for the Nepali-speaking community. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Audio Extra:

Tal and Amir had a chance to meet each surrogate once - just after the deliveries, after all the paperwork was sorted out, and before any one left Nepal. As Amir says, they wanted to say "a big thank you." These meetings between intended parents, surrogate, and new babies are a traditional part of the surrogacy process in India and Nepal, and we heard reports from the surrogates that they also look forward to them. These moments do not stigmatize, reveal the identity of, or endanger the surrogates. Tal and Amir provided the audio for this web extra.

2018-06-08
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Poison Control

When reporter Brenna Farrell was a new mom, her son gave her and her husband a scare -- prompting them to call Poison Control. For Brenna, the experience was so odd, and oddly comforting, that she decided to dive into the birth story of this invisible network of poison experts, and try to understand the evolving relationship we humans have with our poisonous planet. As we learn about how poison control has changed over the years, we end up wondering what a place devoted to data and human connection can tell us about ourselves in this cultural moment of anxiety and information-overload.

Call the national Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

This episode was reported by Brenna Farrell and was produced by Annie McEwen.

Special thanks to Wendy Blair Stephan, Whitney Pennington, Richard Dart, Marian Moser Jones, and Nathalie Wheaton. Thanks also to Lewis Goldfrank, Robert Hoffman, Steven Marcus, Toby Litovitz, James O'Donnell, and Joseph Botticelli.  

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

 

Further Reading: 

The Poisoner's Handbook, by Deborah Blum

The Poison Squad, by Deborah Blum

Illinois Poison Center?s latest ?A Day in the Life of a Poison Center? post

You can find out more about the country?s 55 poison centers at the American Association of Poison Control Centers, including a snapshot of the latest available from the National Poison Data System (2106)

"Poison Politics: A Contentious History of Consumer Protection Against Dangerous Household Chemicals in the United States," by Marian Moser Jones: 

2011 article from The Annals of Emergency Medicine: "The Secret Life of America's Poison Centers," Richard Dart 

A 1954 article from Edward Press -- one of the key figures in creating a formalized poison control system in Chicago in the early 1950s, Press and Gdalman are credited with starting the first poison control center in the US in 1953 in Chicago: "A Poisoning Control Program" Edward Press and Robert B Mellins 



2018-06-01
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Unraveling Bolero

This week, we're throwing it back to an old favorite: a story about obsession, creativity, and a strange symmetry between a biologist and a composer that revolves around one famously repetitive piece of music.

Anne Adams was a brilliant biologist. But when her son Alex was in a bad car accident, she decided to stay home to help him recover. And then, rather suddenly, she decided to quit science altogether and become a full-time artist. After that, her husband Robert Adams tells us, she just painted and painted and painted. First houses and buildings, then a series of paintings involving strawberries, and then ... "Bolero."

At some point, Anne became obsessed with Maurice Ravel's famous composition and decided to put an elaborate visual rendition of the song to canvas. She called it "Unraveling Bolero." But at the time, she had no idea that both she and Ravel would themselves unravel shortly after their experiences with this odd piece of music. Arbie Orenstein tells us what happened to Ravel after he wrote "Bolero," and neurologist Bruce Miller helps us understand how, for both Anne and Ravel, "Bolero" might have been the first symptom of a deadly disease.

 Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Read more:

Unravelling Bolero: progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex

Arbie Orenstein's Ravel: Man and Musician

2018-05-22
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More or Less Human

Seven years ago chatbots - those robotic texting machines - were a mere curiosity. They were noticeably robotic and at their most malicious seemed only capable of scamming men looking for love online. Today, the chatbot landscape is wildly different. From election interference to spreading hate, chatbots have become online weapons.

And so, we decided to reinvestigate the role these robotic bits of code play in our lives and the effects they?re having on us. We begin with a little theater. In our live show ?Robert or Robot?? Jad and Robert test 100 people to see if they can spot a bot. We then take a brief detour to revisit the humanity of the Furby, and finish in a virtual house where the line between technology and humanity becomes blurrier than ever before.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler. Our live event was produced by Simon Adler and Suzie Lechtenberg.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Note from the Managing Editor:

In the original version of our ?More or Less Human? podcast, our introduction of neuroscientist Mavi Sanchez-Vives began with mention of her husband, Mel Slater. We?ve edited that introduction because it was a mistake to introduce her first as someone?s wife. Dr. Sanchez-Vives is an exceptional scientist and we?re sorry that the original introduction distracted from or diminished her work.  

On a personal note, I failed to take due note of this while editing the piece, and in doing so, I flubbed what?s known as the Finkbeiner Test (all the more embarrassing given that Ann Finkebeiner is a mentor and one of my favorite science journalists). In addition to being a mistake, this is also a reminder to all of us at Radiolab that we need to be more aware of our blind spots. We should?ve done better, and we will do better.

 - Soren Wheeler 

2018-05-18
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Dark Side of the Earth

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 (the photo to the right was taken during that mission, courtesy of NASA.). Dave wasn't alone -- with him was veteran Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev. (That's a picture of Dave giving Anatoly a hug on board the Mir, also courtesy of NASA).

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.

Pilobolus creates a shadow astronaut during Dave Wolf's story on stage (photo by Lars Topelmann):

The audience turns Portland's Keller auditorium into a view of outer space with thousands of LED lights (photo by Lars Topelmann):

Here's Dave Wolf in the dark darkness of space, performing a spacewalk in 2009 (courtesy of NASA):

To give you an idea of what it looks like during the brightness of day, here's another photo taken in 2009 -- more than a decade after the adventure described in our podcast -- this time of astronaut Tom Marshburn (Dave Wolf is with him, out of frame, photo courtesy of NASA):

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Soren Wheeler. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-04-26
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Border Trilogy Part 3: What Remains

Border Trilogy

While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called ?Prevention Through Deterrence.?

Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

 

Part 3: What Remains 

The third episode in our Border Trilogy follows anthropologist Jason De León after he makes a grisly discovery in Arivaca, Arizona. In the middle of carrying out his pig experiments with his students, Jason finds the body of a 30-year-old female migrant. With the help of the medical examiner and some local humanitarian groups, Jason discovers her identity. Her name was Maricela. Jason then connects with her family, including her brother-in-law, who survived his own harrowing journey through Central America and the Arizona desert.

With the human cost of Prevention Through Deterrence weighing on our minds, we try to parse what drives migrants like Maricela to cross through such deadly terrain, and what, if anything, could deter them.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte and was produced by Matt Kielty and Tracie Hunte. 

Special thanks to Carlo Albán, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve, Chava Gourarie, Lynn M. Morgan, Mike Wells and Tom Barry.

Jason de Leon's latest work is a global participatory art project called Hostile Terrain 94, which will be exhibited at over 70 different locations around the world in 2020.  Read more about it here.  

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly stated that a person's gender can be identified from bone remains. We've adjusted the audio to say that a person's sex can be identified from bone remains. 

2018-04-20
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Border Trilogy Part 2: Hold the Line

Border Trilogy 

While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness.  In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called ?Prevention Through Deterrence.?

Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

 

Part 2: Hold the Line

After the showdown in court with Bowie High School, Border Patrol brings in a fresh face to head its dysfunctional El Paso Sector: Silvestre Reyes. The first Mexican-American to ever hold the position, Reyes knows something needs to change and has an idea how to do it. One Saturday night at midnight, with the element of surprise on his side, Reyes unveils ... Operation Blockade. It wins widespread support for the Border Patrol in El Paso, but sparks major protests across the Rio Grande. Soon after, he gets a phone call that catapults his little experiment onto the national stage, where it works so well that it diverts migrant crossing patterns along the entire U.S.-Mexico Border.

Years later, in the Arizona desert, anthropologist Jason de León realizes that in order to accurately gauge how many migrants die crossing the desert, he must first understand how human bodies decompose in such an extreme environment. He sets up a macabre experiment, and what he finds is more drastic than anything he could have expected.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser.

Special thanks to Sherrie Kossoudji at the University of Michigan, Lynn M. Morgan, Cheryl Howard, Andrew Hansen, William Sabol, Donald B. White, Daniel Martinez, Michelle Mittelstadt at the Migration Policy Institute, Former Executive Assistant to the El Paso Mayor Mark Smith, Retired Assistant Border Patrol Sector Chief Clyde Benzenhoefer, Paul Anderson, Eric Robledo, Maggie Southard Gladstone and Kate Hall.

Jason de Leon's latest work is a global participatory art project called Hostile Terrain 94, which will be exhibited at over 70 different locations around the world in 2020.  Read more about it here.  

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Silvestre Reyes's brother died in a car accident in 1968; it was actually his father who died in the accident.  We also omitted a detail about the 1997 GAO report that we quote, namely that it predicted that as deaths in the mountains and deserts might rise, deaths in other areas might also fall. The audio has been adjusted accordingly.

 

2018-04-06
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Border Trilogy Part 1: Hole in the Fence

Border Trilogy

While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called ?Prevention Through Deterrence.?

Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

 

Part 1: Hole in the Fence:

We begin one afternoon in May 1992, when a student named Albert stumbled in late for history class at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas. His excuse: Border Patrol. Soon more stories of students getting stopped and harassed by Border Patrol started pouring in. So begins the unlikely story of how a handful of Mexican-American high schoolers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country stood up to what is today the country?s largest federal law enforcement agency. They had no way of knowing at the time, but what would follow was a chain of events that would drastically change the US-Mexico border.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte and was produced by Matt Kielty, Bethel Habte, Tracie Hunte and Latif Nasser. 

Special thanks to Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, Estela Reyes López, Barbara Hines, Lynn M. Morgan, Mallory Falk, Francesca Begos and Nancy Wiese from Hachette Book Group, Professor Michael Olivas at the University of Houston Law Center, and Josiah McC. Heyman, Ph.D, Director, Center for Interamerican and Border Studies and Professor of Anthropology.

Jason de Leon's latest work is a global participatory art project called Hostile Terrain 94, which will be exhibited at over 70 different locations around the world in 2020.  Read more about it here.  

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-03-23
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Rippin? the Rainbow an Even Newer One

One of our most popular episodes of all time was our Colors episode, where we introduced you to a sea creature that could see a rainbow far beyond what humans can experience.

Peacock mantis shrimps are as extraordinary as they are strange and boast what may well be the most complicated visual system in the world. They each have 16 photoreceptors compared to our measly three. But recently researchers in Australia put the mantis shrimps? eyes to the test only to discover that sure, they can SEE lots of colors, but that doesn't mean they can tell them apart.

In fact, when two colors are close together - like yellow and yellow-y green - they can?t seem to tell them apart at all.  

 

MORE ON COLORS: There was a time -- between the flickery black-and-white films of yore and the hi-def color-corrected movies we watch today -- when color was in flux. Check out this blog post on how colors made it to the big screen from our director of research, Latif Nasser. 

Our original episode was produced by Tim Howard and Pat Walters. This update was produced by Amanda Aronczyk.

Special thanks to Chris Martin of Creative Aquarium Nation, Phil Weissman, David Gebel and Kate Hinds for lending us their colorful garments. Also thanks to Michael Kerschner, Elisa Nikoloulias and the Young New Yorkers? Chorus, as well as Chase Culpon and The Greene Space team.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

2018-03-15
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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