Episodes
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...
Published 11/27/19
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...
Published 11/08/19
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...
Published 10/30/19
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...
Published 10/23/19
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...
Published 10/16/19
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...
Published 09/27/19
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...
Published 09/18/19
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...
Published 08/28/19
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...
Published 08/23/19
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...
Published 08/09/19
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...
Published 07/30/19
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...
Published 07/26/19
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...
Published 07/17/19
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...
Published 06/28/19
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...
Published 06/14/19
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...
Published 06/07/19
On a Tuesday afternoon back in the summer of 2017, Scotty Hatton and Scottie Wightman both made a decision to help someone in need. They both paid a price for their actions that day, which have led to a legal, moral, and scientific puzzle about how we balance accountability and forgiveness.  In this episode, we go to Bath County, Kentucky, where, as one health official put it, opioids have created “a hole the size of Kentucky.” We talk to the people on all sides of this story about stemming...
Published 05/24/19
Back in 2003 Belgium was holding a national election. One of their first where the votes would be cast and counted on computers. Thousands of hours of preparation went into making it unhackable. And when the day of the vote came, everything seemed to have gone well. That was, until a cosmic chain of events caused a single bit to flip and called the outcome into question. Today on Radiolab, we travel from a voting booth in Brussels to the driver's seat of a runaway car in the Carolinas,...
Published 05/08/19
Using high-powered ballistics experiments, fancy computer algorithms, and good old-fashioned ancient geology, scientists have woven together a theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs that is so precise, so hot, so instantaneous, as to seem unimaginable. Today, we bring you this story, first published on Radiolab in 2013, plus an update: a spot on planet Earth, newly discovered, that - if it holds true - has the potential to tell us about the first three hours after the dinos died. This...
Published 05/03/19
In 1903 the US Supreme Court refused to say that Isabel González was a citizen of the United States. Then again, they said, she wasn’t a exactly an immigrant either. And they said that the US territory of Puerto Rico, Isabel’s home, was “foreign to the United States in a domestic sense.” Since then, the US has cleared up at least some of the confusion about US territories and the status of people born in them. But, more than a hundred years later, there is still a US territory that has been...
Published 04/19/19
When Nancy Holten was 8 years old her mom put her in a moving van. She fell asleep, woke up in Switzerland, and she's been there ever since. Nancy is big into animal rights, crystals, and various forms of natural and holistic healing. She’s also a viral sensation: the Dutch woman apparently so annoying, her Swiss town denied her citizenship. In this episode we go to the little village of Gipf-Oberfrick to meet Nancy, talk with the town, and ask the question: what does it mean and what does it...
Published 03/29/19
This week Jad and Radiolab alum Tim Howard revisit a favorite episode from 2012. Because moments of total, world-shaking bliss are not easy to come by. Maybe that's what makes them feel so life-altering when they strike. And so worth chasing. This hour: stories of striving, grasping, tripping, and falling for happiness, perfection, and ideals.   With Alexander Gamme, Arika Okrent, Richard Sproat, and Ken Libbrecht. This update was produced with help from Audrey Quinn. Support Radiolab...
Published 03/21/19
Part 2: Last year, we ran a pair of episodes that explored the greatest mysteries in our listeners’ lives - the big ones, little ones, and the ones in between. This year, we’re back on the hunt, tracking down answers to the big little questions swirling around our own heads. Today, we take a look at a strange human emotion, and investigate the mysteries lurking behind the trees, sounds, and furry friends in our lives.  This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters, Molly Webster,...
Published 03/08/19
Last year, we ran a pair of episodes that explored the greatest mysteries in our listeners’ lives - the big ones, little ones, and the ones in between. This year, we’re back on the hunt, tracking down answers to the big little questions swirling around our own heads. We reached out to some of our favorite people and asked them to come along with us as we journeyed back in time, to outer space, and inside our very own bodies. This episode was reported by Rachael Cusick, Simon Adler, Becca...
Published 03/01/19
Our lives are filled with loops that hurt us, heal us, make us laugh, and, sometimes, leave us wanting more. This hour, Radiolab revisits the strange things that emerge when something happens, then happens again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and… well, again. In this episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert try to explain an inexplicable comedy act, listen to a loop that literally dies in your ear, and they learn about a loop that sent a shudder up the collective spine of...
Published 02/22/19