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Radiolab

Radiolab

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Episodes

The Third. A TED Talk.

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.

2020-06-25
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Post No Evil Redux

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

2020-06-19
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The Liberation of RNA

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.  

2020-06-13
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Graham

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.  

2020-06-07
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Nina

Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina?s music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.

 Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.

2020-06-06
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Dispatch 6: Strange Times

Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It?s a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies.

This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-05-29
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Speedy Beet

There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit.

Big thanks to the folks at Brooklyn Philharmonic: Conductor Alan Pierson, Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola.

And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-05-22
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Octomom

In 2007, Bruce Robison?s robot submarine stumbled across an octopus settling in to brood her eggs. It seemed like a small moment. But as he went back to visit her, month after month, what began as a simple act of motherhood became a heroic feat that has never been equaled by any known species on Earth. 

This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. 

Special thanks to Kim Fulton-Bennett and Rob Sherlock at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. And thanks to the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra for the use of their piece, ?Concerto for Bassoon & Chamber Orchestra: II. Beautiful.? 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

If you need more ocean in your life, check out the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium live cams (especially the jellies!): www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

 Here?s a pic of Octomom sitting on her eggs, Nov. 1, 2007.  

(© 2007 MBARI)

 

2020-05-15
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Why Fish Don't Exist

Our old friend Lulu Miller ? former Radiolab producer, co-creator of Invisibilia ? has been obsessed by the chaos that rules the universe since long before it showed up as a global pandemic, and a few weeks ago, she published a book about it. It?s called Why Fish Don?t Exist. It?s part scientific adventure story, part philosophical manifesto, part chest-ripped-open memoir. Jad called her up to talk about how an obscure 19th century ichthyologist with a checkered past helped her find meaning in the world, and what she means when she says fish aren?t real.

You can buy Lulu's book Why Fish Don?t Exist here.

This episode was produced by Pat Walters. 

Special thanks to Pan?American.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-05-13
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David and Dominique

David Gebel and Dominique Crisden have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they?re both gay, and they?re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s, and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ?80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s. From our friends at WNYC's ?Nancy?, this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV.

Special thanks to Krishna Stone at Gay Men's Health Crisis, an HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy organization in New York. 

This episode was produced by Tobin Low, Kathy Tu and Matt Collette. Music in this episode by Jeremy Bloom and Alex Overington. Theme by Alexander Overington.

Note: A version of this episode first ran on May 7, 2017.

Support our work. Become a Nancy member today at Nancypodcast.org/donate.    

2020-05-08
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Dispatch 5: Don't Stop Believin'

Covid-19 has put emergency room doctors on the frontlines treating an illness that is still perplexing and unknown. Jad tracks one ER doctor in NYC as the doctor puzzles through clues, doing research of his own, trying desperately to save patients' lives. 

This episode was produced by Jad Abumrad and Suzie Lechtenberg.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-05-06
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Atomic Artifacts

Back in the 1950s, facing the threat of nuclear annihilation, federal officials sat down and pondered what American life would actually look like after an atomic attack. They faced a slew of practical questions like: Who would count the dead and where would they build the refugee camps? But they faced a more spiritual question as well. If Washington DC were hit, every object in the the National Archives would be eviscerated in a moment. Terrified by this reality, they set out to save some of America?s most precious stuff. 

Today, we look back at the items our Cold War era planners sought to save and we ask the question: In the year 2020, what objects would we preserve now? 

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with editing from Pat Walters and reporting assistance from Tad Davis. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-04-24
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The Cataclysm Sentence

One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students: ?If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?? Now, Feynman had an answer to his own question - a good one. But his question got the entire team at Radiolab wondering, what did his sentence leave out? So we posed Feynman?s cataclysm question to some of our favorite writers, artists, historians, futurists - all kinds of great thinkers. We asked them, ?What?s the one sentence you would want to pass on to the next generation that would contain the most information in the fewest words?? What came back was an explosive collage of what it means to be alive right here and now, and what we want to say before we go.

Featuring:

Richard Feynman, physicist (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out)

Caitlin Doughty, mortician (Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs)

Esperanza Spalding, musician (12 Little Spells)

Cord Jefferson, writer (Watchmen)

Merrill Garbus, musician (I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life)

Jenny Odell, writer (How to do Nothing)

Maria Popova, writer (Brainpickings)

Alison Gopnik, developmental psychologist (The Gardener and the Carpenter)

Rebecca Sugar, animator (Steven Universe)

Nicholson Baker, writer (Substitute)

James Gleick, writer (Time Travel)

Lady Pink, artist (too many amazing works to pick just one)

Jenny Hollwell, writer (Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe)

Jaron Lanier, futurist (Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now)

Missy Mazzoli, composer (Proving Up)

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Rachael Cusick, with help from Jeremy Bloom, Zakiya Gibbons, and the entire Radiolab staff. 

 

Special Thanks to:

Ella Frances Sanders, and her book, "Eating the Sun", for inspiring this whole episode.

Caltech for letting us use original audio of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. The entirety of the lectures are available to read for free online at www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu.

 

All the musicians who helped make the Primordial Chord, including:

Siavash Kamkar, from Iran 

Koosha Pashangpour, from Iran

Curtis MacDonald, from Canada

Meade Bernard, from US

Barnaby Rea, from UK

Liav Kerbel, from Belgium

Sam Crittenden, from US

Saskia Lankhoorn, from Netherlands

Bryan Harris, from US

Amelia Watkins, from Canada

Claire James, from US

Ilario Morciano, from Italy

Matthias Kowalczyk, from Germany

Solmaz Badri, from Iran

 

All the wonderful people we interviewed for sentences but weren?t able to fit in this episode, including: Daniel Abrahm, Julia Alvarez, Aimee Bender, Sandra Cisneros, Stanley Chen, Lewis Dartnell, Ann Druyan, Rose Eveleth, Ty Frank, Julia Galef, Ross Gay, Gary Green, Cesar Harada, Dolores Huerta, Robin Hunicke, Brittany Kamai, Priya Krishna, Ken Liu, Carmen Maria Machado, James Martin, Judith Matloff, Ryan McMahon, Hasan Minhaj, Lorrie Moore, Priya Natarajan, Larry Owens, Sunni Patterson, Amy Pearl, Alison Roman, Domee Shi, Will Shortz, Sam Stein, Sohaib Sultan, Kara Swisher, Jill Tarter, Olive Watkins, Reggie Watts, Deborah Waxman, Alex Wellerstein, Caveh Zahedi.



2020-04-18
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Dispatch 4: Six Feet

Since the onset of the pandemic, we exist in a constant state of calculation, trying to define our own personal bubble. We?ve all been given a simple rule: maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. But why six? Producer Sarah Qari uncovers the answer, and talks to some scientists who now say six might not be the right number after all. 

This episode was reported and produced by Sarah Qari and Pat Walters.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-04-11
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Space

One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren?t. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space.

In the 60?s, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism.

We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

 

 

2020-04-06
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Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity

More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that?s popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.

 

If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood. 

To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here

To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.

 And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.

 

If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

And lastly, Tatiana Prowell?s tweet that tipped us off is here.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

2020-04-03
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Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day

It began with a tweet: ?EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY.? Carl Zimmer ? tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show ? tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure ? and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic.


This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-04-01
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Dispatch 1: Numbers

In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-03-27
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The Other Latif: Episode 6

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 6: Washington, D.C.

Despite being cleared for transfer back to his family in Morocco in 2016, Abdul Latif Nasser remains stuck at Guantanamo Bay. Why? Latif talks to some of the civil servants actually responsible for Abdul Latif?s transfer and they tell him a dramatic story of what went on behind the scenes at some of the highest levels of government.  It?s a surprisingly riveting story of paperwork, where what?s at stake is not only the fate of one man, but also the soul of America.  

This episode was produced by Sarah Qari, Annie McEwen, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser, and reported by Sarah Qari and Latif Nasser. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Dylan Keefe, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-03-17
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The Other Latif: Episode 5

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 5: Cuba-ish

Latif heads to Guantanamo Bay to try to speak to his namesake.  Before he gets there, he attempts to answer a seemingly simple question: why Cuba? Why in the world did the United States pick this sleepy military base in the Caribbean to house ?the worst of the worst??  He tours the ?legal equivalent of outer space,? and against all odds, manages to see his doppelgänger? maybe.

This episode was produced by Bethel Habte and Simon Adler, with Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. Help from W. Harry Fortuna and Neel Dhanesha. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Simon Adler, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-03-06
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The Other Latif: Bonus Episode!

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.



BONUS EPISODE

Since we released the first episode of The Other Latif, we?ve been contacted by many new sources. Which is great! But it also means we need a little extra time to cobble together Episodes 5 and 6. So while we wait, Jad and Latif chat about Abdul Latif?s response to the series, a character who fell out of episode 4, and a tiny moment in Latif?s youth that helped put him on the path he?s on now.

This episode was produced by Suzie Lechtenberg and Latif Nasser. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. With help from Sarah Qari.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-03-03
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The Other Latif: Episode 4

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 4: Afghanistan 

Latif investigates the mystery around Abdul Latif?s classified time in Afghanistan. He traces the government?s story through scrappy training camps, bombed out Buddhas, and McDonald?s apple pies to the very center of the Battle of Tora Bora.  Could Abdul Latif have helped the most sought-after and hated terrorist in modern history, Osama bin Laden, escape? The episode ends with a bombshell jailhouse interview with Abdul Latif, the most reliable evidence yet of what was going on in this man?s mind in the months after 9/11.

This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. With help from Neel Dhanesha, Kelly Prime, and Audrey Quinn. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Annie McEwen, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-02-25
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The Other Latif: Episode 3

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 3: Sudan

Latif turns his focus to Sudan, where his namesake spent time working on a sunflower farm. What could be suspicious about that?  Latif scrutinizes the evidence to try to discover whether - as Abdul Latif?s lawyer insists - it was just an innocent clerical job, or - as the government alleges - it was where he decided to become an extremist fighter.  

This episode was produced by Suzie Lechtenberg, Sarah Qari, and Latif Nasser. With help from Niza Nondo and Maaki Monem. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Jeremy Bloom, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-02-18
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The Other Latif: Episode 2

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 2: Morocco

Latif travels to Abdul Latif?s hometown of Casablanca, Morocco, to try and find out: was he radicalized? And if so, how? Latif begins by visiting the man?s family, but the family?s reaction to him gets complicated as Latif digs for the truth. He finds out surprising information on a political group Abdul Latif joined in his youth, his alleged onramp to extremism. Tensions escalate when Latif realizes he?s being tailed. 

Read more about Abdul Latif Nasser at the New York Times? Guantanamo Docket. 

This episode was produced by Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. With help from Tarik El Barakah and Amira Karaoud. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-02-11
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The Other Latif: Episode 1

The Other Latif

Radiolab?s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda?s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser?s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab?s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn?t do. Along the way, Radiolab?s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 1: My Namesake

We hear the evidence against Abdul Latif Nasser -- at least the evidence that has been leaked or declassified -- and we meet Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, his attorney, who contests more or less every government claim against him. Sullivan-Bennis walks us through the excruciating process that came close to releasing Abdul Latif Nasser in the waning days of the Obama administration, but fell apart at the last minute. He is now technically a free man -- he was cleared for transfer home in 2016 -- yet he remains stuck at Guantanamo Bay, thanks in part to a Presidential Tweet.

 

A photo of Abdul Latif Nasser 

Read more about Abdul Latif Nasser at the New York Times? Guantanamo Docket. 

This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, and Suzie Lechtenberg. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Annie McEwen, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

  

2020-02-04
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The Bobbys

On the occasion of his retirement as cohost of Radiolab, Robert sat down with Jad to reflect on his long and storied career in radio and television, and their work together over the past decade and a half. And we pay tribute to Robert, inspired by a peculiar tradition of his.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty. Sound design & mix by Jeremy Bloom.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-01-31
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Body Count

Right now, at this very moment, all across the planet, there are 7.6 billion human beings eating, breathing, sleeping, brushing their teeth, walking their dogs, drinking coffee, walking down the street or running onto the subway or hopping in their car, maybe reading a summary of a podcast they?re about to hit play on ? and the number is only going up. Everyday 386,000 babies are born (16,000 an hour). We?re adding a billion new people every 12 years.

So here?s a question you?ve probably never thought about: Are there more people alive right now than have ever lived on the planet in history? Do the living outnumber the dead? Robert got obsessed with this odd question, and in this episode we bring you the answer. Or, well, answers.

This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters, with help from Neel Dhanesha. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Music and mixing by Jeremy Bloom. Special thanks to Jeffrey Dobereiner.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

2020-01-24
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60 Words

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

2020-01-07
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Man Against Horse

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

2019-12-28
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There and Back Again

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. Mix & original music by Jeremy Bloom.

 

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!

2019-12-18
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Things

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.

2019-12-12
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An Announcement from Radiolab

 

 

 

2019-12-05
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Breaking Bongo

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

2019-11-27
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Breaking News

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.

2019-11-19
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Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss

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

2019-11-08
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Songs that Cross Borders

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 

2019-10-30
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Birdie in the Cage

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. Mix by Jeremy Bloom.

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

 

2019-10-23
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Radiolab Presents: Dolly Parton's America

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 

2019-10-16
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Silky Love

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

2019-09-27
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Tit for Tat

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.

 

 

2019-09-17
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What's Left When You're Right?

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.

 

2019-09-05
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The Memory Palace

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

 

2019-08-28
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Right to be Forgotten

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.

2019-08-23
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More Perfect: Cruel and Unusual

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.

2019-08-09
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G: The World's Smartest Animal

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

2019-07-30
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G: Unnatural Selection

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

2019-07-26
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G: Unfit

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
2019-07-17
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G: Relative Genius

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

2019-06-28
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G: Problem Space

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

2019-06-14
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G: The Miseducation of Larry P

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.

2019-06-07
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