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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.
288 Episodes
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What If?

What If?

2020-10-2342:0713

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

2020-10-0246:3448

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

2020-09-2537:3934

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.      
More Perfect: Sex Appeal

More Perfect: Sex Appeal

2020-09-1954:51181

We lost a legend. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18th, 2020. She was 87. In honor of her passing we are re-airing the More Perfect episode dedicated to one of her cases, because it offers a unique portrait of how one person can make change in the world.   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. 
Falling

Falling

2020-09-1758:1539

There are so many ways to fall—in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    
Today, we return to the lab of neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai, which brought us one of our favorite stories from four years ago - about the power of flashing lights on an Alzheimer’s-addled (mouse) brain. In this update, Li-Huei tells us about her team’s latest research, which now includes flashing sound, and ways in which light and sound together might retrieve lost memories. This new science is not a cure, and is far from a treatment, but it’s a finding so … simple, you won’t be able to shake it. Come join us for a lab visit, where we’ll meet some mice, stare at some light, and come face-to-face with the mystery of memory. We can promise you: by the end, you’ll never think the same way about Christmas lights again. Or jingle bells. This update was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Rachael Cusick. The original episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Molly Webster, with help from Simon Adler.  Special thanks to Ed Boyden, Cognito Therapeutics, Brad Dickerson, Karen Duff, Zaven Khachaturian, Michael Lutz, Kevin M. Spencer, and Peter Uhlhaas. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     Molly's note about the image: Those neon green things in the image are microglia, the brain’s immune cells, or, as we describe them in our episode, the janitor cells of the brain. Straight from MIT’s research files, this image shows microglia who have gotten light stimulation therapy (one can only hope in the flicker room). You can see their many, super-long tentacles, which would be used to feel out anything that didn’t belong in the brain. And then they’d eat it! Further reading:  Li-Huei and co’s gamma sound and light paper: Multi-sensory Gamma Stimulation Ameliorates Alzheimer’s-Associated Pathology and Improves Cognition  
Fungus Amungus

Fungus Amungus

2020-09-0432:1657

Six years ago, a new infection began popping up in four different hospitals on three different continents, all around the same time. It wasn’t a bacteria, or a virus. It was ... a killer fungus. No one knew where it came from, or why. Today, the story of an ancient showdown between fungus and mammals that started when dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. Back then, the battle swung in our favor (spoiler alert!) and we’ve been hanging onto that win ever since. But one scientist suggests that the rise of this new infectious fungus indicates our edge is slipping, degree by increasing degree. This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Molly and Bethel Habte, with production help from Tad Davis. Special thanks to Julie Parsonnet and Aviv Bergman.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.   Further Fungus Reading: NYTimes feature on the mysterious rise of Candida auris.   Arturo's paper: “On the emergence of Candida auris, Climate Change, Azoles, Swamps, and Birds”, by Arturo Casadevall, et al. “On the Origins of a Species: What Might Explain the Rise of Candida auris?”, a report from the CDC.  
Translation

Translation

2020-08-2701:05:3061

How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That's the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that's way deeper than language. This episode, a bunch of stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.   Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra
Lebanon, USA

Lebanon, USA

2020-08-2142:5128

This is a story of a road trip. After a particularly traumatic Valentine's Day, Fadi Boukaram was surfing google maps and noticed that there was a town called Lebanon... in Oregon. Being Lebanese himself, he wondered, how many Lebanons exist in the US? The answer: 47. Thus began his journey to visit them all and find an America he'd never expected, and the homeland he'd been searching for all along. This episode was made in collaboration with Kerning Cultures, a podcast that tells stories from the Middle East and North Africa.  The original "Lebanon USA" story was reported by Alex Atack with editorial support from Bella Ibrahim, Dana Ballout, Zeina Dowidar, and Hebah Fisher. Original sound design by Alex Atack.  The new update of the story was produced and reported by Shima Oliaee.  We had original music by Thomas Koner and Jad Atoui. Be sure to check out Kerning Cultures at their website www.kerningcultures.com, instagram @kerningcultures, or twitter @kerningcultures. You can read more about Fadi’s trips and see his photographs at lebanonusa.com or on his Instagram at @lebanonusa. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this episode, we inaccurately described a grain elevator. We have updated the audio to reflect the correction. --- If you would like to donate to Beirut at this time, we have links here (from NYT): The Lebanese Red Cross dispatches every ambulance from North Lebanon, Bekaa, and South Lebanon to Beirut to treat the wounded and help in search-and-rescue operations. You can make a contribution here.  The United Nations’ World Food Program provides food to people displaced or made homeless after the blast. Lebanon imports nearly 85% of its food, and the port of Beirut, the epicenter of the explosion, played a central role in that supply chain. With the port now severely damaged, food prices are likely to be beyond the reach of many. You can donate here. The NGO Humanity and Inclusion has 100 workers in Lebanon, including physical therapists, psychologists and social workers. They are focusing on post-surgical therapy in Beirut following the explosion. You can make a contribution here. International Medical Corps is deploying medical units and will provide mental health care to those affected in Lebanon. The humanitarian aid organization also provides health services to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and vulnerable Lebanese. You can donate here. Islamic Relief, which specializes in food aid and emergency response, is helping to put a supply chain in place for emergency aid in Beirut. You can donate here. Save the Children have launched a Lebanon’s children relief fund, to which you can donate here. UNICEF, the United Nations agency specializing in aid to children, is providing medical and vaccine supplies in Beirut, and supplying drinking water to rescue workers at the Beirut port. Its on-the-ground team is also counseling children traumatized by the blast. You can donate here. Impact Lebanon, a nonprofit organization, has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help organizations on the ground, and is helping to share information about people still missing after the explosion. The group had raised over $3 million as of Wednesday and donated the first $100,000 to the Lebanese Red Cross. The health care organization Project HOPE is bringing medical supplies and protective gear to Beirut and assisting the authorities on the ground. A donation page is available here. Over 300,000 people in Beirut were displaced from their homes by the explosion. Baytna Baytak, a charity that provided free housing to health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, is now raising funds with Impact Lebanon to shelter those who have been displaced. For those in Beirut, here is a list of urgent blood needs. Several social media accounts have also been set up to help locate victims.  
The Wubi Effect

The Wubi Effect

2020-08-1455:5082

When we think of China today, we think of a technological superpower. From Huawei and 5G to TikTok and viral social media, China is stride for stride with the United States in the world of computing. However, China’s technological renaissance almost didn’t happen. And for one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn’t fit on a keyboard.  Today, we tell the story of Professor Wang Yongmin, a hard headed computer programmer who solved this puzzle and laid the foundation for the China we know today. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with reporting assistance from Yang Yang. Special thanks to Martin Howard. You can view his renowned collection of typewriters at: antiquetypewriters.com Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Uncounted

Uncounted

2020-08-0751:1530

First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it’s not a state, and it wasn’t until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? Music in this episode by Carling & Will This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser’s new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Invisible Allies

Invisible Allies

2020-07-3142:5362

As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they’ve come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe’s biggest foe. This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen, Pat Walters, Simon Adler, and Molly Webster, with production help from Tad Davis. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
Baby Blue Blood Drive

Baby Blue Blood Drive

2020-07-2401:07:21106

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. 
Dispatches from 1918

Dispatches from 1918

2020-07-1701:11:5477

It’s hard to imagine what the world will look like when COVID-19 has passed. So in this episode, we look back to the years after 1918, at the political, artistic, and viral aftermath of the flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people and left our world permanently transformed. This episode was reported and produced by Rachael Cusick, Tad Davis, Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, with production assistance from Tad Davis and Bethel Habte. Special thanks to the Radio Diaries podcast for letting us use an excerpt of their interview with Harry Mills. You can find the original episode here. For more on Egon Schiele’s life, check out the Leopold Museum’s biography, by Verena Gamper. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  
The Flag and the Fury

The Flag and the Fury

2020-07-1201:14:5645

How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained “officially” flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading.  This episode was reported and produced by Shima Oliaee, with production assistance from Annie McEwen and Bethel Habte.  It was a collaboration between OSM Audio and Radiolab. You can check out upcoming releases from OSM at: https://www.osmaudio.com/ To read or listen to Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Heavy/Kiese-Laymon/9781501125669. To visit the Hospitality Flag website: https://declaremississippi.com/.
The Third. A TED Talk.

The Third. A TED Talk.

2020-06-2518:3828

Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.
Post No Evil Redux

Post No Evil Redux

2020-06-1901:12:0748

Today we revisit our story on Facebook and its rulebook, looking at what’s changed in the past two years and exploring how these rules will impact the 2020 Presidential Election.  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, Mike Masnick, and our voice actor Michael Chernus. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 
The Liberation of RNA

The Liberation of RNA

2020-06-1328:1737

In June of 2019, Brandon Ogbunu got on stage and told a story for The Story Collider, a podcast and live storytelling show. Starting when he was a senior in college being shook down by a couple cops, Brandon tells us about navigating his ups and downs of a career in science, his startling connection to scientific racism, and his battle against biology's central dogma.  Brandon’s story was recorded by The Story Collider as part of the 2019 Evolution Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. You can find the full episode and learn more about The Story Collider here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  
Graham

Graham

2020-06-0701:01:1653

If former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s case for the death of George Floyd goes to trial, there will be this one, controversial legal principle looming over the proceedings: The reasonable officer. In this episode, we explore the origin of the reasonable officer standard, with the case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty with help from Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  
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Comments (920)

María José Pareja Rozo

This story was great and disturbing.

Oct 24th
Reply

Miles Brazitis

well that was unsettling

Oct 23rd
Reply

SPYDOR

03:40 to skip the begging.

Oct 23rd
Reply

Philly Burbs

Why oh why didn't you folks name this "History of Supreme Court" or "Why the Sup. Court has So much power?" Kittens kicking ....robot, no one wants to listen to that. Kittens are cute to watch, who listens to a kitten? Nice day.

Oct 18th
Reply

Wendy P

I really forgot how much I despised that song. gd

Oct 9th
Reply

María José Pareja Rozo

I miss More Perfect. I hope new episodes will come soon. I can't think of a better time than the present for its great insight on how the Supreme Court works.

Oct 9th
Reply (1)

Mark

This episode was hard to swallow Every day police put there lives on the line. They can't save everyone and they shouldn't be sued for trying there best. Yes they have a duty to protect and they do 99% of the time.

Oct 5th
Reply

Ariel Reynante

O.O I am absolutely mind blown and will be sharing this with almost all of my close acquaintances

Oct 4th
Reply

Andy Edwards

the way Alfred Douglas responded hearing that the cops have no legal obligation to protect citizens - that it was news to him, he'd have to process it, that they should loosen gun control in NY, that he'll have to tell his kids - just goes to show how fucked up and morally bankrupt the institution of policing is here

Oct 3rd
Reply (7)

Mae Lee Arant

how is this possible? heartbreaking and cruel reality for Ms. Gonzales and her three daughters.

Oct 3rd
Reply

Martin Spencer

I wouldn't leave anything written because how are we to know the person or persons will be literate and or English speaking...I would draw an image of a way to make fire. Or simply follow the rain ..in an illustration to catch up with lightning to steal fire ..and life blooms after rain. And just for shits and giggles the only words I would leave behind would be...GOOD LUCK !

Sep 29th
Reply

WWilder

I love this episode!

Sep 29th
Reply

Jada Daniels

massive audio issues. skipping audio and backgrounf noises :(

Sep 28th
Reply

Shem Boondoggle

fail I'm not even going to bother listening to this episode keep it more interesting neutral personal stories things that are not political or jammed up in the sideways news

Sep 26th
Reply (1)

Rebecca A

Oh my heart! Fletcher is the cutest! I think that is the guided meditation that made my heart smile the biggest. 💚

Sep 25th
Reply (1)

BC

I miss Robert

Sep 23rd
Reply

d r u m z i n

sus

Sep 22nd
Reply

hollarhooter

why don't we see this technology or at least some more research

Sep 22nd
Reply

Olga Shadura

Listening to Serita and Simone story was like "I'm not crying, you're crying!". Great episode, loved it!

Sep 21st
Reply

boson96

SJWs ruin everything.

Sep 20th
Reply
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