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Radiolab

Author: WNYC Studios

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A two-time Peabody Award-winner, Radiolab is an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea. In the Radiolab world, information sounds like music and science and culture collide. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.

WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including On the Media, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.

© WNYC Studios
239 Episodes
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On the inaugural episode of More Perfect, we explore three little words embedded in the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “cruel and unusual.” America has long wrestled with this concept in the context of our strongest punishment, the death penalty. A majority of “we the people” (61 percent, to be exact) are in favor of having it, but inside the Supreme Court, opinions have evolved over time in surprising ways.And outside of the court, the debate drove one woman in the UK to take on the U.S. death penalty system from Europe. It also caused states to resuscitate old methods used for executing prisoners on death row. And perhaps more than anything, it forced a conversation on what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.Special thanks to Claire Phillips, Nina Perry, Stephanie Jenkins, Ralph Dellapiana, Byrd Pinkerton, Elisabeth Semel, Christina Spaulding, and The Marshall ProjectSupport Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. Also! We’re working on collecting some audience feedback so we can do a better job of getting our show out to all of you, interacting with you, and reaching new people. We’d love to hear from you. Go to www.radiolab.org/survey to participate.
G: The World's Smartest Animal

G: The World's Smartest Animal

2019-07-3000:50:0468

This episode begins with a rant. This rant, in particular, comes from Dan Engber - a science writer who loves animals but despises animal intelligence research. Dan told us that so much of the way we study animals involves tests that we think show a human is smart ... not the animals we intend to study. Dan’s rant got us thinking: What is the smartest animal in the world? And if we threw out our human intelligence rubric, is there a fair way to figure it out?Obviously, there is. And it’s a live game show, judged by Jad, Robert … and a dog.For the last episode of G, Radiolab’s miniseries on intelligence, we’re sharing that game show with you. It was recorded as a live show back in May 2019 at the Greene Space in New York City. We invited two science writers, Dan Engber and Laurel Braitman, and two comedians, Tracy Clayton and Jordan Mendoza, to compete against one another to find the world’s smartest animal. What resulted were a series of funny, delightful stories about unexpectedly smart animals and a shift in the way we think about intelligence across all the animals - including us.Check out the video of our live event here! This episode was produced by Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters, with help from Nora Keller and Suzie Lechtenberg. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Dorie Chevlin.Special thanks to Bill Berloni and Macy (the dog) and everyone at The Greene Space.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. 
G: Unnatural Selection

G: Unnatural Selection

2019-07-2600:36:1251

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.Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
G: Unfit

G: Unfit

2019-07-1700:52:0564

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.Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
G: Relative Genius

G: Relative Genius

2019-06-2801:04:40114

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.Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
G: Problem Space

G: Problem Space

2019-06-1400:42:5496

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.Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
G: The Miseducation of Larry P

G: The Miseducation of Larry P

2019-06-0701:05:41125

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.
Neither Confirm Nor Deny

Neither Confirm Nor Deny

2019-06-0400:29:0691

 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.Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  
The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

2019-05-2401:13:24109

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.pdfFind out where to get naloxone: https://prevent-protect.org/    
Bit Flip

Bit Flip

2019-05-0800:57:3450

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.  
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Comments (557)

Sarah Tomlin

yuck. using college education as a metric for intelligence? there is more correlation with socioeconomic status than "IQ" for predicting not only college attendance, but level of higher education attained, and GPA. missing this fundamental makes me question the "intelligence" of the individuals asserting this nonsense.

Aug 15th
Reply

Jennifer Arabella

Sarah Tomlin 👌

Aug 16th
Reply

David Smith

can u tell what comments indicate the person's mind is functioning at a low level..reminds me of a herd of sheep..sticking close to their peers way of thinking

Aug 15th
Reply

Jennifer Arabella

David Smith 🤔🤔

Aug 16th
Reply

Andre Van Haandel

in. dbrrbfvvvbfvv CV fdbdbxzzz

Aug 14th
Reply

Graciela E. Geyer

I LOVE the first story esp, hilarious. Never see crows the same way again.

Aug 13th
Reply

Cooper Scott

Graciela E. Geyer wow, ok, I think I can try it

Aug 14th
Reply

Gabriella Arroyo

is that quarter billion value real and unique? like, wouldn't there still be expensive trials and appeals on life sentences?

Aug 13th
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Lukas Parker

Gabriella Arroyo I was wondering...

Aug 13th
Reply

David Hedlund

It appears the argument from the judge is misconstrued in the ensuing discussion. The case is not "he was sometimes in control so he should always be able to" (which may well have been the argument from the prosecution), but "he was sometimes in control, so he should've used that opportunity to get help/turn himself in/toss his computer/somehow preventing himself from perpetuating harm". Sapolsky troublingly fails to address that entirely. In the dricers licence comparison, this is the equivalence of him driving anyway in the evenings.

Aug 11th
Reply

Kurben Nnm

The irony of praying for the strength to break the 6th commandment is lost on those folks

Aug 9th
Reply

Micah Van Bruggen

this episode is brutal.

Aug 8th
Reply

Eli

Micah Van Bruggen is that a good thing? i skipped it after listening to the start

Aug 10th
Reply

Micah Van Bruggen

Lesly Carter Am I wrong?

Aug 9th
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george v

This podcast was very interesting. I can understand what the gentleman with the genetics company is saying; however, I don't think that intelligence is based on your genes as much as he is implying. There is a lot of factors that your environment shapes, such as your discipline, diet, parents, exposure to different content and experiences. I don't believe you can tell what my GPA is going to be based on my genes. Unless there is a gene that indicates the amount of partying, the video gaming, among everything else I'm going to be doing. There is always a 'Jesse Owens' that you can't account for.

Aug 5th
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Maitri

george v Maybe not, but someone with expertise in the area can tell you what your GPA will not be based on your genes. Perhaps we don't know all of the specific genes involved, but it'll take more than your opinion to overturn decades of robust studies showing genetics/heredity as the most reliable predictor of IQ, and of IQ as a reliable predictor of applied knowledge test scores. Environment is huge, but given a similar environment and upbringing for two individuals you simply cannot ignore the power of genes. Even capacity to work hard towards a long term goal relates to intelligence, so even non-genetic factors will be influenced in surprising ways

Aug 11th
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Emmanuel

george v I totally agree with you. I believe that the environment and effort are the determining factors.

Aug 6th
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Alisha D

Very red. Very very red! 🎼 hahaha

Aug 2nd
Reply

Noah

Alisha D haha, Red!

Aug 2nd
Reply

Jen Kohms

Holls Balls respectfully I don't understand what you're talkin about when you say that you want, ' regular Radiolab back'. This episode was as informative and interesting as any other Radiolab episode I've heard. Biology just interests me though, maybe it doesn't interest you?

Jul 31st
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Christopher

Jen Kohms It's interesting

Aug 1st
Reply

Jen Kohms

I don't even know what you're talking about "regular raido lab", this episode was as informative and cool as any I've listened to.

Jul 31st
Reply

Christopher

Jen Kohms really informative!

Aug 1st
Reply

olive

anybody thinking about Gatica?

Jul 31st
Reply

Natalie

olive 🤔🤔🤔

Aug 1st
Reply

Charles Lawrence

well we got 6 minutes in before making a show about animals about race. Bravo.

Jul 30th
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Monk S

Charles Lawrence Why are you offended about a somewhat lame attempt at a couple of race jokes? If you see the whole episode, heck the whole series as some sort of propaganda tool, I think yall need to take off the tin foil hats.

Aug 4th
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L K

Charles Lawrence Im glad you noticed too. This entire G Series is low key about race. Radiolab has become a tool of propoganda rather than an informational podcast.

Jul 30th
Reply

Holls Balls

Uhg... I have not enjoyed this. I want regular RadioLab to come back.

Jul 26th
Reply

Doug Smith

Holls Balls you didn't hear? they are permanently changing radiolab to G now ;)

Aug 8th
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andrei

Holls Balls what's wrong with it? I thought it was really good. There is an astonishing amount of misinformation about this topic, and they are doing a good job at disentangleing it.

Jul 28th
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Holls Balls

If someone is fully unable to care for themselves or others (and could have sex by choice or god forbid rape) then it’s total reasonable and rational to do?!? That’s not eugenics, that’s protecting an innocent person and their potential offspring.

Jul 26th
Reply

Holls Balls

Eugenics is bad.... but some people should not reproduce. Is that so crazy?

Jul 26th
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Ryan Persaud

Holls Balls In summation: "eugenics is bad, but also, I believe in eugenics."

Jul 29th
Reply

Gary North

I enjoyed this episode and then heard more about the court case on Hidden Brain. All the history that is never taught.

Jul 22nd
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Fido Wood

Gary North Like the episode too!

Jul 23rd
Reply

L K

6:30 shows already that you guys dont understand natural selection at all.

Jul 18th
Reply

David Storfer

L K Maybe you should listen to 38:40.

Aug 6th
Reply

Tommy Fafalios

L K Its almost like at 6:30 they were describing the people who used eugenics to utilize natural selection in a futile, misguided, and abusive way. Almost like that was the point of the story. 🤔🤔🤔

Jul 29th
Reply

Lara Day

the phone call @23:00 - jaw to floor holy crap

Jul 18th
Reply

Dory Manor

Lara Day ם ם ט ץן טוץם. ת ךוץ. חל

Jul 24th
Reply

Paul Madrid

Lara Day this is so crazy!! my son has autism I couldn't imagine doing that to him.

Jul 22nd
Reply
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