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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
250 Episodes
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60 Words

60 Words

2020-01-0701:06:2756

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace. Last weekend President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. The news had us thinking about an episode we produced in 2014. We pulled apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace. In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror." In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace. Finally, we check back in with Wittes, to see how the AUMF has trickled into the 2020s. Produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe.  Watch Congresswomen Barbara Lee's speech here. 
Man Against Horse

Man Against Horse

2019-12-2800:59:2868

This is a story about your butt. It’s a story about how you got your butt, why you have your butt, and how your butt might be one of the most important and essential things for you being you, for being human.  Today, reporters Heather Radke and Matt Kielty talk to two researchers who followed the butt from our ancient beginnings, through millions of years of evolution, and all the way to today, out to a valley in Arizona, where our butts are put to the ultimate test.   This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Matt Kielty and was produced by Matt Kielty, Rachael Cusick and Simon Adler. Sound design and mixing by Jeremy Bloom. Fact-checking by Dorie Chevlen. Special thanks to Michelle Legro. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
There and Back Again

There and Back Again

2019-12-1800:46:1459

Here's a simple question: When an animal disappears in the winter, where does it go? Oddly enough, this question completely stumped European scientists for thousands of years. And even today, the more we learn about the comings and goings of the animals, the deeper the mystery seems to get. We visit a Bavarian farm with an 11 year old, follow warblers and wildebeests around the world, and get a totally new kind of view of the pulsing flow of animals across the globe.   This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and Jackson Roach and produced by Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, and Jackson Roach.  Special thanks to Allison Shaw, David Barrie, Auriel Fournier, and Moritz Matschke. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  And check out: The Truth about Animals by Lucy Cooke No Way Home: The Decline of the Great Animal Migrations by David Wilcove  The migration video Jad and Robert watch in this episode!
Things

Things

2019-12-1201:03:1666

From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.
Breaking Bongo

Breaking Bongo

2019-11-2701:05:4859

Deep fake videos have the potential to make it impossible to sort fact from fiction. And some have argued that this blackhole of doubt will eventually send truth itself into a death spiral. But a series of recent events in the small African nation of Gabon suggest it's already happening.  Today, we follow a ragtag group of freedom fighters as they troll Gabon’s president - Ali Bongo - from afar. Using tweets, videos and the uncertainty they can carry, these insurgents test the limits of using truth to create political change and, confusingly, force us to ask: Can fake news be used for good? This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Breaking News

Breaking News

2019-11-1900:51:09128

Today, we're re-releasing an old episode about how hard it is getting to decipher fact from fiction. Because next week, we’ll be putting out a story showing what happens when certain reality-altering tools get released into the wild.  Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes.  Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet.    Reported by Simon Adler. Produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen. Special thanks to everyone on the University of Southern California team who helped out with the facial manipulation: Kyle Olszewski, Koki Nagano, Ronald Yu, Yi Zhou, Jaewoo Seo, Shunsuke Saito, and Hao Li. Check out more of their work pinscreen.com Special thanks also to Matthew Aylett, Supasorn Suwajanakorn, Rachel Axler, Angus Kneale, David Carroll, Amy Pearl and Nick Bilton. You can check out Nick’s latest book, American Kingpin, here. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Songs that Cross Borders

Songs that Cross Borders

2019-10-3000:28:0833

Coming off our adventures with Square Dancing, and Jad's dive into the world of Dolly Parton, we look back at one our favorites. About a decade ago, we found out that American country music is surprising popular in places like Zimbabwe, Thailand, and South Africa. Aaron Fox, an anthropologist of music at Columbia University, tells us that quite simply, country music tells a story that a lot of us get. Then, intrepid international reporter Gregory Warner takes us along on one of his very first forays into another country, where he discovers an unexpected taste of home. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  Aaron Foxes book: Real Country: Music And Language In Working-Class Culture  Gregory Warner's podcast Rough Translation 
Birdie in the Cage

Birdie in the Cage

2019-10-2300:46:3745

People have been doing the square dance since before the Declaration of Independence. But does that mean it should be THE American folk dance? That question took us on a journey from Appalachian front porches, to dance classes across our nation, to the halls of Congress, and finally a Kansas City convention center. And along the way, we uncovered a secret history of square dancing that made us see how much of our national identity we could stuff into that square, and what it means for a dance to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Special thanks to Jim Mayo, Claude Fowler, Paul Gifford, Jim Maczko, Jim Davis, Paul Moore, Jack Pladdys, Mary Jane Wegener, Kinsey Brooke and Connie Keener.  This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte and produced by Annie McEwen, Tracie Hunte, and Matt Kielty. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.    Check out Phil Jamison's book,  “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance” Watch this 1948 Lucky Strike Cigarette Square Dancing Commercial A rare image of Black Square Dancers in 1948 The Square Dance History Project Read “America’s Wholesome Square Dancing Tradition is a Tool of White Supremacy,” by Robyn Pennachia for Quartz And Pennachia’s original Twitter thread Read “The State Folk Dance Conspiracy: Fabricating a National Folk Dance,” by Julianne Mangin  
Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad spent the last two years following around music legend Dolly Parton, and we're here to say you should tune in! In this episode of Radiolab, we showcase the first of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons.  We begin with a simple question: How did the queen of the boob joke become a feminist icon? Helen Morales, author of “Pilgrimage to Dollywood,” gave us a stern directive – look at the lyrics! So we dive into Dolly’s discography, starting with the early period of what Dolly calls “sad ass songs” to find remarkably prescient words of female pain, slut-shaming, domestic violence, and women being locked away in asylums by cheating husbands. We explore how Dolly took the centuries-old tradition of the Appalachian “murder ballad”—an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women—and flipped the script, singing from the woman’s point of view. And as her career progresses, the songs expand beyond the pain to tell tales of leaving abuse behind. How can such pro-woman lyrics come from someone who despises the word feminism? Dolly explains.     Check out Dolly Parton's America here at: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america 
Silky Love

Silky Love

2019-09-2700:37:3679

We eat eels in sushi, stews, and pasta. Eels eat anything. Also they can survive outside of water for hours and live for up to 80 years. But this slippery snake of the sea harbors an even deeper mystery, one that has tormented the minds of Aristotle and Sigmund Freud and apparently the entire country of Italy: Where do they come from? We travel from the estuaries of New York to the darkest part of the ocean in search of the limits of human knowledge. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Becca Bressler.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  Further reading: Lucy Cooke's book The Truth about Animals! Chris Bowser's Eel Research Project
Tit for Tat

Tit for Tat

2019-09-1700:26:50105

In the early 60s, Robert Axelrod was a math major messing around with refrigerator-sized computers. Then a dramatic global crisis made him wonder about the space between a rock and a hard place, and whether being good may be a good strategy. With help from Andrew Zolli and Steve Strogatz, we tackle the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic thought experiment, and learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal. Then Axelrod, along with Stanley Weintraub, takes us back to the trenches of World War I, to the winter of 1914, and an unlikely Christmas party along the Western Front.    
What's Left When You're Right?

What's Left When You're Right?

2019-09-0501:03:37137

More often than not, a fight is just a fight... Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right. Special thanks to Mark Dresser for the use of his music.  
The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace

2019-08-2800:42:1968

Nate DiMeo was preoccupied with the past, and how we relate to it, from a very young age. For the last decade or so he's been scratching this itch with The Memory Palace, a podcast he created. He does things very differently than we do, but his show has captured the hearts of Radiolab staffers, past and present, time and time again.  So we decided to get Nate into the studio to share a few of his episodes with us and talk to us about how and why he does what he does. He brought us stories about the Morse Code, the draft lottery, and then he hit us with a brand new episode about a bull on trial, that bounces off a story we did pretty recently. More history on scrub bulls. Follow @thememorypalace on Twitter. This episode was produced with help from Bethel Habte.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.    Other staff favorites: Zulu Charlie Romeo Notes on an Imagined Plaque Snakes! Outliers  
Right to be Forgotten

Right to be Forgotten

2019-08-2300:49:2770

In an online world, that story about you lives forever. The tipsy photograph of you at the college football game? It’s up there. That news article about the political rally you were marching at? It’s up there. A DUI? That’s there, too. But what if ... it wasn’t. In Cleveland, Ohio, a group of journalists are trying out an experiment that has the potential to turn things upside down: they are unpublishing content they’ve already published. Photographs, names, entire articles. Every month or so, they get together to decide what content stays, and what content goes. On today’s episode, reporter Molly Webster goes inside the room where the decisions are being made, listening case-by-case as editors decide who, or what, gets to be deleted. It’s a story about time and memory; mistakes and second chances; and society as we know it. This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Molly Webster and Bethel Habte.  Special thanks to Kathy English, David Erdos, Ed Haber, Brewster Kahle, Imani Leonard, Ruth Samuel, James Bennett II, Alice Wilder, Alex Overington, Jane Kamensky and all the people who helped shape this story. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  To learn more about Cleveland.com’s “right to be forgotten experiment,” check out the very first column Molly read about the project.
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 Project Support 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

2019-07-3000:50:04102

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

2019-07-2600:36:1272

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

2019-07-1700:52:0588

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

2019-06-2801:04:40136

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. 
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Comments (723)

Elephant Wig

for 5hose who have been listening as long as me, nothing new is added.

Jan 16th
Reply

Elephant Wig

for those who listened to more perfect, new stuff starts at 54:00ish.

Jan 14th
Reply (1)

aaa dot

great info and background.

Jan 10th
Reply

10 cent plague whereyouwerewhen

stolen story

Jan 9th
Reply (1)

Cory Acosta

of course you end with a jab on the president......👎

Jan 9th
Reply (3)

Michael Williams

I heard this for the first time a couple of days ago & thought I'd look into it and see what was happening to Landry. Just got this from YouTube : Published on 8 Jan 2020 Cyber-militant Landry Amiang Washington has regained his freedom. Arrested a few days before the 2016 presidential election, he waited two years for his trial before being sentenced for inciting revolt and insulting the head of state Ali Bongo Odimba. "I was released last night, pending a hearing before the Court of Appeal on Monday

Jan 8th
Reply

Mohit Agarwal

never thought humans were meant for running and the start of human evolution is credit to able to run fast and for long for hunting

Jan 6th
Reply

Elephant Wig

there is a great youtube video called the alternative vote explained by cgp grey that explains this concept really well.

Jan 5th
Reply

skiib o

seriously?? do we just fucking cry about everything now. get over it..... it's a goddamn dance nothing more nothing less. wow. people have to much free time

Jan 1st
Reply (1)

Sandra Meyer

Zimbabwe same story.

Dec 30th
Reply

ncooty

That Oval Office joke was pretty funny, because it was written "in the voice" of G. W. Bush. (I.e., it's something he would say.) That joke is even funnier if you realize it's an allusion to Bush's famous "fool me once" gaff... in a radio story ABOUT fooling people.

Dec 30th
Reply

ncooty

@31:52: How is it that Robert still misuses the word "literally"?

Dec 30th
Reply

Spencer Mathews

I just lost my longstanding respect for Radiolab. This rebroadcast unceremoniously excluded the last segment from the original episode, without note or explanation, which reeks of censorship.

Dec 30th
Reply

ncooty

Horses have a bit of an advantage in that race, given that they get to rest for those medical stops and not have it count against them. That'd be equivalent to having the humans stop at those medical stations and run on a treadmill for the same period of time that the horses rest.

Dec 29th
Reply

Joseph Smits

Just listened to this episode today after seeing Star Wars Episode IX. Funny how they reference Star Wars and there is a scene in the movie with a quick sand substance.

Dec 25th
Reply (1)

Sam Hughes

This is a sneaky repost

Dec 24th
Reply

Wendy Bruder

too bad he didn't stand firm and find joy In a life without god

Dec 23rd
Reply

Travis Henson

What a fail.......

Dec 22nd
Reply

Travis Henson

This episode is messed up

Dec 20th
Reply

Travis Henson

This one doesn’t play

Dec 20th
Reply
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