Radiolab

Airs Fridays at 9 pm & Saturdays at 1 pm
  • Hosted by Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated and encouraged to grow.

Distributed by: WNYC

Podcasts

  • Friday, June 15, 2018 3:00am

    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.

    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 produced by Alex Overington and sung by Majel Connery.

    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.

  • Thursday, June 7, 2018 8:37pm

    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.

  • Friday, June 1, 2018 3:56am

    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 



  • Tuesday, May 22, 2018 5:45pm

    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

  • Thursday, May 17, 2018 9:39pm

    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