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Radiolab is one of the most beloved podcasts and public radio shows in the world. The show is known for its deep-dive journalism and innovative sound design. Created in 2002 by host Jad Abumrad, the program began as an exploration of scientific inquiry. Over the years it has evolved to become a platform for long-form journalism and storytelling. Radiolab is co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser.
301 Episodes
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The Ceremony

The Ceremony

2021-02-2548:1571

In November of 2016, journalist Morgen Peck showed up at her friend Molly Webster's apartment in Brooklyn, told her to take her battery out of her phone, and began to tell her about The Ceremony, a moment last fall when a group of, well, let's just call them wizards, came together in an undisclosed location to launch a new currency. It's an undertaking that involves some of the most elaborate security and cryptography ever done (so we've been told). And math. Lots of math. It was all going great until, in the middle of it, something started to behave a little...strangely. Reported by Molly Webster. Produced by Matt Kielty and Molly Webster. Denver Ceremony station recordings were created by media maker Nathaniel Kramer, with help from Daniel Cooper.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.
Red Herring

Red Herring

2021-02-1936:0230

It was the early 80s, the height of the Cold War, when something strange began happening off the coast of Sweden. The navy reported a mysterious sound deep below the surface of the ocean. Again, and again, and again they would hear it near their secret military bases, in their harbors, and up and down the Swedish coastline.  After thorough analysis the navy was certain. The sound was an invasion into their waters, an act of war, the opening salvos of a possible nuclear annihilation.  Or was it?  Today, Annie McEwen pulls us down into a deep-sea mystery, one of international intrigue that asks you to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your deepest beliefs could be as solid as...air. This episode was reported by Annie McEwen and produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Sarah Qari, with sound design by Jeremy Bloom.  Special thanks to Bosse Lindquist. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   
Facebook's Supreme Court

Facebook's Supreme Court

2021-02-1244:4527

Since its inception, the perennial thorn in Facebook’s side has been content moderation. That is, deciding what you and I are allowed to post on the site and what we’re not. Missteps by Facebook in this area have fueled everything from a genocide in Myanmar to viral disinformation surrounding politics and the coronavirus. However, just this past year, conceding their failings, Facebook shifted its approach. They erected an independent body of twenty jurors that will make the final call on many of Facebook’s thorniest decisions. This body has been called: Facebook’s Supreme Court. So today, in collaboration with the New Yorker magazine and the New Yorker Radio Hour, we explore how this body came to be, what power it really has and how the consequences of its decisions will be nothing short of life or death. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler. To hear more about the court's origin, their rulings so far, and their upcoming docket, check out David Remnick and reporter Kate Klonick’s conversation in the New Yorker Radio Hour podcast feed. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.      
Smile My Ass

Smile My Ass

2021-01-2937:2160

Candid Camera is one of the most original – and one of the most mischievous – TV shows of all time.  Admirers hailed its creator Allen Funt as a poet of the everyday. Critics denounced him as a Peeping Tom.  Funt sought to capture people at their most unguarded, their most spontaneous, their most natural.  And he did. But as the show succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself.  Looking back at the show now, a half century later, it’s hard NOT to see so many of our preoccupations – privacy, propriety, publicity, authenticity – through a funhouse mirror, darkly. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and produced by Matt Kielty.  Special Thanks to: Bertram van Munster, Fred Nadis, Alexa Conway, the Eastern Airlines Employee Association and Eastern Airlines Radio, Rebecca Lemov, Anna McCarthy, Jill Lepore, Cullie Bogacki Willis III, Barbara Titus and the Funt family.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
We’re all still processing what happened on January 6th. Despite the hours and hours of video circulating online, we still didn’t feel like we had a visceral, on-the-ground sense of what happened that day. Until we heard the piece we’re featuring today. The Washington Post’s daily podcast Post Reports built a minute-by-minute replay of that day, from the rally, to the invasion, to the aftermath, told through the voices of people who were in the building that day -- reporters, photojournalists, Congresspeople, police officers and more. It’s some of the most visceral reporting we’ve heard anywhere on this historic moment. Listen to their full episode here.  
More Money Less Problems

More Money Less Problems

2021-01-1529:1748

Back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and the shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt, a quirky-but-clever idea to save the economy made its way up to some of the highest levels of government. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib proposed an ambitious relief bill to keep the country’s metaphorical lights on: recurring payments to people to help them stay afloat during the crisis. And the way Congress would pay for it? By minting two platinum $1 trillion coins. (You read that right).  In this episode, we take a jaunt through the evolution of our currency, from the gold-backed bills of the 19th century, to the most powerful computer at the Federal Reserve. And we chase an idea that torpedoes what we thought was a fundamental law of economics. Can we actually just print more money?  This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and was produced by Becca Bressler and Simon Adler. Special thanks to Carlos Mucha, Warren Mosler, David Cay Johnston, Alex Goldmark, Bryant Urstadt, and Amanda Aronczyk.  To learn more about these ideas check out:  Stephanie Kelton's book The Deficit Myth Jacob Goldstein's book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing and the Planet Money podcast Betsey Stevenson's podcast Think Like an Economist  This website for more about #MintTheCoin And for a fun quick read, check out this WIRED article about the surprising origin of the trillion dollar coin.  
Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen

2021-01-1338:0152

As the attacks were unfolding on the Capitol, a steady stream of images poured onto our screens. Photo editor Kainaz Amaria tells us what she was looking for--and seeing--that afternoon. And she runs into a dilemma we've talked about before. In December of 2009, photojournalist Lynsey Addario, in was embedded with a medevac team in Afghanistan. After days of waiting, one night they got the call - a marine was gravely wounded. What happened next happens all the time. But this time it was captured, picture by picture, in excruciating detail. Horrible, difficult, and at times strikingly beautiful, those photos raise some questions: Who should see them, who gets to decide who should see them, and what can pictures like that do, to those of us far away from the horrors of war and those of us who are all too close to it? Episode Notes: To hear Kainaz Amaria talk more about the filter, check out:  this post on ethical questions to consider around the sharing of images of police brutality and her interview on On The Media about the double-standard in many U.S. newsrooms when it comes to posting graphic images.  Special thanks to Chris Hughes and Helium Records for the use of Shift Part IV from the album Shift Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
This year was the worst. And as our staff tried to figure out what to do for our last episode of 2020, co-host Latif Nasser thought, what if we stare straight into the darkness … and make a damn Christmas special about it. Latif begins with a story about Santa, and a back-room deal he made with the Trump administration to jump to the front of the vaccine line, a tale that travels from an absurd quid-pro-quo to a deep question: who really is an essential worker?  From there, we take a whistle-stop tour through the numbers that scientists say you need to know as you wind your way (or preferably, don’t wind your way) through our COVID-infested world. Producer Sarah Qari brings us her version of the Christmas classic nobody ever dreamt they’d want to hear: The Twelve Numbers of COVID. You can check out Martin Bazant’s COVID “calculator” here. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Sarah Qari, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Sarah Qari, and Pat Walters. Special thanks to Anna Weggel and Brant Miller, Catherine, Rohan, and Finn Munro, Noam Osband, Amber D’Souza, Chris Zangmeister, John Volckens, Joshua Santarpia, Laurel Bristow, Michael Mina,  Mohammad Sajadi, James V. Grimaldi, Stephanie Armour, Joshuah Bearman, Brendan Nyhan And for more on the proposed Santa vaccine deal, see Julie Wernau and her colleagues' reporting at the Wall Street Journal here. Original art for this episode by Zara Stasi. Check out her work at:  www.goodforthebees.com.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
The Ashes on the Lawn

The Ashes on the Lawn

2020-12-1853:0729

A global pandemic. An afflicted, angry group. A seemingly indifferent government. Reporter Tracie Hunte wanted to understand this moment of pain and confusion by looking back 30 years, and she found a complicated answer to a simple question: When nothing seems to work, how do you make change? This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, and produced by Annie McEwen and Tobin Low. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Enemy of Mankind

Enemy of Mankind

2020-12-1058:4240

Should the U.S. Supreme Court be the court of the world? In the 18th century, two feuding Frenchmen inspired a one-sentence law that helped launch American human rights litigation into the 20th century. The Alien Tort Statute allowed a Paraguayan woman to find justice for a terrible crime committed in her homeland. But as America reached further and further out into the world, the court was forced to confront the contradictions in our country’s ideology: sympathy vs. sovereignty. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Jesner v. Arab Bank, a case that could reshape the way America responds to human rights abuses abroad. Does the A.T.S. secure human rights or is it a dangerous overreach? Additional music for this episode by Nicolas Carter. Special thanks to William J. Aceves, William Baude, Diego Calles, Alana Casanova-Burgess, William Dodge, Susan Farbstein, Jeffery Fisher, Joanne Freeman, Julian Ku, Nicholas Rosenkranz, Susan Simpson, Emily Vinson, Benjamin Wittes and Jamison York. Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., who appears in this episode, passed away in October 2016. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
The Great Vaccinator

The Great Vaccinator

2020-12-0343:0950

Until now, the fastest vaccine ever made - for mumps - took four years. And while our current effort to develop a covid-19 vaccine involves thousands of people working around the clock, the mumps vaccine was developed almost exclusively by one person: Maurice Hilleman. Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person. And through his work, Hilleman embodied the instincts, drive, and guts it takes to marshall the human body’s defenses against a disease. But through him we also see the struggle and the costs of these monumental scientific efforts. This episode was reported by Matt Kielty and Heather Radke, and produced by Matt Kielty. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
What if someone asked you to get infected with the COVID-19 virus, deliberately, in order to speed up the development of a vaccine? Would you do it? Would you risk your life to save others? For months, dozens of companies have been racing to create coronavirus vaccines. Finally, three have done it. But according to the experts, we’re not out of the woods yet; we’ll need several vaccines to satisfy the global demand. One way to speed up the development process is a controversial technique called a human challenge trial, in which human subjects are intentionally infected with the virus. Senior correspondent Molly Webster gets the lowdown from Public News Service reporter Laura Rosbrow-Telem and then tracks down some of the tens of thousands of people who have volunteered to participate in a challenge trial. Special thanks to Jonathan Miller. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and Laura Rosbrow-Telem and produced by Molly Webster and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Deception

Deception

2020-11-1959:1072

Lies, liars, and lie catchers. This hour of Radiolab asks if it's possible for anyone to lead a life without deception. We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Breaking Benford

Breaking Benford

2020-11-1331:0339

In the days after the US Presidential election was called for Joe Biden, many supporters of Donald Trump are crying foul.  Voter fraud. And a key piece of evidence? A century-old quirk of math called Benford’s Law.  We at Radiolab know Benford’s Law well, and have covered it before.  In this political dispatch, Latif and Soren Sherlock their way through the precinct numbers to see if these claims hold up. Spoiler: they don’t. But the reason why is more interesting than you’d expect. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     Links:  Walter Mebane, “Inappropriate Applications of Benford’s Law Regularities to Some Data from the 2020 Presidential Election in the United States”
Bloc Party

Bloc Party

2020-11-0251:5226

In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton had a problem. The women who came out in droves for him in ‘92, split their vote in the ‘94 midterms, handing over control of the House and the Senate to the Republican Party. As his team stared ahead at his re-election bid, they knew they had to win those women back. So, after a major polling effort to determine who exactly their undecided ladies were, Clinton turned his focus toward the most important swing vote in the election: the soccer moms.  The soccer mom ushered in a new era of political campaigning, an era of slicing and dicing the electorate, engineering the (predominately white) voting bloc characters that campaigns have chased after. Security Moms. Nascar Dads. Joe Six Pack. Walmart Moms.  But what about everyone else? What about the surprisingly swingable corners of this country without a soccer mom in sight?  Inspired by this exceedingly cool interactive map from Politico, we set out on a mission to make an audio-map of our own. We asked pollsters, reporters and political operatives in swing states: what slice of your population is up for grabs? A slice that no one talks about? In this episode, we crawl inside the places that might hold our country’s future in its hands, all the while asking: are these slices even real? Are there people inside them that might swing this election?  This episode was reported and produced by Becca Bressler, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters and Matt Kielty, with help from Jonny Moens. Special thanks to Darren Samuelsohn, Josh Cochran, Elizabeth Ralph, and the Politico team for the original reporting and map that inspired this episode.  Also thanks to: Elissa Schneider, Wisam Naoum, Martin Manna, Ashourina Slewo, Eli Newman, Zoe Clark, Erin Roselio, Jess Kamm Broomell, Will Doran, John Zogby, Matt Dickinson, Tom Jensen, Ross Grogg, Joel Andrus, Jonathan Tilove, Steve Contorno, Heaven Hale, Jeff Shapiro, Nicole Cobler, Marie Albiges, Matt Dole, Robin Goist, Katie Paris, Julie Womack, Matt Dole, Jackie Borchardt, Jessica Locklear, Twinkle Patel, Bobby Das, Dharmesh Ahir,  Nimesh Dhinubhai, Jay Desai, Rishi Bagga, and Sanjeev Joshipura. Christina Greer’s book is Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, and Corey Fields book is Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American. Original art for this episode by Zara Stasi. Check out her work at:  www.goodforthebees.com.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Baboon troops. We all know they’re hierarchical. There’s the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there’s everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
What If?

What If?

2020-10-2342:1258

There’s plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he’d do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa’s Transition Integrity Project doesn’t give us any predictions, and it isn’t a referendum on Trump. Instead, it’s a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project’s report here.
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We tend to think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful guardians of the constitution, issuing momentous rulings from on high. They seem at once powerful, and unknowable; all lacy collars and black robes. But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode of More Perfect, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, is the beginning of the court we know today. Also: we listen back to a mnemonic device (and song) that we created back in 2016 to help people remember the names of the justices. Listen, create a new one, and share with us! Tweet The key links: - Akhil Reed Amar's forthcoming book, The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era- Linda Monk's book, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution The key voices: - Linda Monk, author and constitutional scholar- Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale- Ari J. Savitzky, lawyer at WilmerHale The key cases: - 1803: Marbury v. Madison- 1832: Worcester v. Georgia- 1954: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)- 1955: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2) Additional music for this episode by Podington Bear. Special thanks to Dylan Keefe and Mitch Boyer for their work on the above video. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.      
No Special Duty

No Special Duty

2020-10-0246:3470

What are the police for? Producer B.A. Parker started wondering this back in June, as Black Lives Matter protests and calls to “defund the police” ramped up. The question led her to a wild story of a stabbing on a New York City subway train, and the realization that, according to the law, the police don’t always have to protect us. Producer Sarah Qari joins Parker to dig into the legal background, which takes her all the way up to the Supreme Court... and then all the way back down to on-duty officers themselves. This episode contains strong language and graphic violence. Reported and produced by B.A. Parker and Sarah Qari, and produced by Matt Kielty and Pat Walters. Special thanks to April Hayes and Katia Maguire for their documentary Home Truth about Jessica Gonzales, Cracked.com for sending us down this rabbit hole, Caroline Bettinger-López, Geoff Grimwood, Christy Lopez, Anthony Herron, Mike Wells, and Keith Taylor. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.      
Insomnia Line

Insomnia Line

2020-09-2537:3946

Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what’d Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week’s experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.      
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Comments (1022)

BC

I remember this episode. it was great reporting.

Feb 27th
Reply

SPYDOR

RepeatLab are at it again: this is a republished episode from 17th July 2017.

Feb 26th
Reply

Wil

this episode was annoying

Feb 22nd
Reply

Aaron Britton

Fish farts 🤣

Feb 21st
Reply

devon adams

radiolab needs to choose better topics. they're really lagging interesting shows for a while... mostly since Robert krolwich left.

Feb 15th
Reply

Nonya Business

This isn't about free speech. No one is going to jail for what they say. They have freedom to say what they want. They should not have freedom to say anything to more than 10,000 people. Once you hit a certain number of followers you should be held to a different standard.

Feb 13th
Reply

Stefanie Barrett

this sounds so lame. can't wait to listen.

Feb 12th
Reply

Gabriella Arroyo

so the average 72 year old has no greater chance of dying from covid than from other causes in one year?? seems incorrect

Feb 11th
Reply

Gabriella Arroyo

shittiest radiolab ever. please don't mint the fucking coin.

Feb 7th
Reply

Ryan Persaud

This is one of the most unbelievably stupid podcasts you have ever done. It's like answering half a question. It's asking "oh, where's the inflation? it's not here yet? okay, let's never worry about it." It's going to come eventually.

Feb 4th
Reply

Billy Weinheimer

saying that only police or military need weapons is a foolish argument. It would be like saying the only people that need skis is the 10th Mountain division of the army. All citizens must turn in their skis. Besides the police have No Special Duty to protect you and me. See the RadioLab episode No Special Duty. The military of the governing body that ruled over the colonies is the reason for the second amendment. As for the militia, the commas kept that statement as an example , one of many, as if the i.e. was invoked, to name what arms were for and by not having all the arms in one location but by having all arms spread through the populace the Shot Heard Round The World would be delayed as when leaning in the door to retrieve one gun one hundred would be defending from all angles. The British would have not just one location to deal with. As for the common "if being attacked, run or fight hand to hand". Those that suggest that must dislike old and debilitated people. Let them protect themselves with a firearm. Now let's not get into the argument that only professional chefs need to own knives.

Feb 4th
Reply

Andres Rosales

Was hoping for the show to be the spark of a bigger conversation. turns out it was just about the show. also had to skip about 5 minutes because the story of the founding of the concept just dragged on.

Feb 4th
Reply

Brittany Wright

The interview with the Yangs was so hard to listen to. I can't imagine how marginalized and frustrated they must have felt.

Feb 2nd
Reply

BC

Robert!

Feb 2nd
Reply

Tomato

Another unlabeled rerun. Fuck these. I can listen to old episodes already, don't clog up my feed.

Feb 1st
Reply

SPYDOR

Another RepeatLab episode from Oct 6th 2015.

Jan 29th
Reply

Billy Weinheimer

I went to electronics school with two people, each on a separate destroyer that was above the incident when the crash happened. They were listening on sonar when the USS Swordfish ran into the rear of the soviet sub and deformed the prop shaft that broke the seal and let in the seawater. They listened while the sound of popcorn popping came through the sonar as the sub was being crushed by water pressure. The subs were playing hide and seek while displaying the ability to suddenly disappear and then reappear somewhere else. Unfortunately they were too close at one point.

Jan 29th
Reply

Yoshua Day

No fear of consequences? These people were taking selfies. Yes, saying we are here! Listen to what we have to say because we don't agree with what our politicians were doing... NOTHING like those looting and beating people in the streets in the name of BLM covering their faces with their arms full of other peoples livelihood. This intro is such a one sided story. I don't believe they were right in storming the capitol but their intent wasn't violent. I do believe the view of many who were rioting with the BLM thought that only through violence will we be heard. I know you're in the business of telling stories/selling stories, but tell both sides. #dobetter

Jan 20th
Reply (1)

Aaron H

Are you really saying that increasing supply doesn't decrease the value? Economics 101 is wrong? Forget all that, I know a magic formula! Watch as I wave my hand

Jan 20th
Reply

Lois Schwert

very glad to be able to hear this in chronological order and by those defending our capitol.

Jan 19th
Reply
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