RadiolabWebsite | Jad Abumrad By Kristy Puchko
Science hasn't been this fun since Mr. Wizard!
Ever wondered how carrier pigeons find their way home? Where the AIDS virus came from? Or what the truth is behind the myth of the jazzman that sold his soul to the devil for his music? These questions and many more are explored on Radiolab, a public radio broadcast and podcast that tackles topics of science and philosophy through true and remarkable tales of human experience.
With a background in music, Jad Abumrad unfolds compelling tales with co-host and gifted storyteller Robert Krulwich with a playful interview style and an immersive audio soundscape that makes Radiolab the playful cousin of This American Life. While many of their episodes begin with a heady scientific or philosophic concept, you don't need to be Einstein or Aristotle to follow the thread or find it thoroughly fascinating. The show shines an accessible light on a wide array of topics from the war on terror, to the link between creative genius and madness, to what it means to be a mutant, and the enigmatic allure of loops. Whatever the topic, the results are always enlightening, informative and entertaining.
Of all the wonderful offerings Radiolab has made through long and short format episodes, the best by far is Lost and Found. It kicks off with how the human brain allows us to instinctively map our surroundings. Then, following the story of a woman whose inner GPS tends to problematically spin on its axis comes an investigation about the pigeon's unique-and far more developed-mental mapping system and how it saved countless lives in World War II. And finally, the pièce de résistance, a story about love, hope and devotion so profound and so beautifully told that it is sure to make you weep. If you cry in public over this one, don't say I didn't warn you.
For a less intense introduction to this phenomenal podcast, check out the short Crossroads, which traces the roots of the jazzman mentioned above down some unexpected and thought-provoking paths. For your first full-length ep, I recommend Patient Zero, which begins with the incredible true story of the notorious Typhoid Mary, an Irish immigrant accused of being the source of a deadly outbreak in turn of the century New York. Then, experts step listeners back through the AIDS epidemic, beyond the flight attendant branded Patient Zero to the disease's true origins in a place far away and long, long ago. Next comes a bittersweet story about the creation of the high-five, and a finally a metaphor for the ways of the universe using the evolution of the classic cowboy hat. Balancing a sense of wonder and humor with topics that can be troubling--if not terrifying--Radiolab creates a listening experience that is as enveloping as it is stimulating.
Radiolab is available on iTunes or at radiolab.org
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