A two-time Peabody Award-winner, Radiolab is an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea. In the Radiolab world, information sounds like music and science and culture collide. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder. WNYC Studios is the producer of other leading podcasts including Freakonomics Radio, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media and many more.

LATEST EPISODE

X & Y

A lot of us understand biological sex with a pretty fateful underpinning: if you're born with XX chromosomes, you're female; if you're born with XY chromosomes, you're male. But it turns out, our relationship to the opposite sex is more complicated than we think. This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Matt Kielty. With scoring, original composition and mixing by Matt Kielty and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The "Ballad of Daniel Webster" and "Gonads" was written, performed and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Thank you to the musicians who gave us permission to use their work in this episode?composer Erik Friedlander, for "Frail as a Breeze, Part II," and musician Sam Prekop, whose work "A Geometric," from his album The Republic, is out on Thrill Jockey. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.  
00:39:02 6/29/2018

Past Episodes

At 28 years old, Annie Dauer was living a full life. She had a job she loved as a highschool PE teacher, a big family who lived nearby, and a serious boyfriend. Then, cancer struck. Annie would come to find out she had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was so aggressive, there was a real chance she might die. Her oncologists wanted her to start treatment immediately. Like, end-of-the-week immediately. But before Annie started treatment, she walked out of the doctor's office and crossed the street to see a fertility doctor doing an experimental procedure that sounded like science fiction: ovary freezing. Further ReadingA medical case report on Annie's frozen ovariesWhat's primordial germ cells got to do with it? This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Pat Walters. With original music and scoring by Dylan Keefe and Alex Overington. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Jad Abumrad. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
00:36:47 6/23/2018
At 28 years old, Annie Dauer was living a full life. She had a job she loved as a highschool PE teacher, a big family who lived nearby, and a serious boyfriend. Then, cancer struck. Annie would come to find out she had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was so aggressive, there was a real chance she might die. Her oncologists wanted her to start treatment immediately. Like, end-of-the-week immediately. But before Annie started treatment, she walked out of the doctor's office and crossed the street to see a fertility doctor doing an experimental procedure that sounded like science fiction: ovary freezing. Further ReadingA medical case report on Annie's frozen ovariesWhat's primordial germ cells got to do with it? This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Pat Walters. With original music and scoring by Dylan Keefe and Alex Overington. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Jad Abumrad. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
00:36:08 6/23/2018
At 28 years old, Annie Dauer was living a full life. She had a job she loved as a highschool PE teacher, a big family who lived nearby, and a serious boyfriend. Then, cancer struck. Annie would come to find out she had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was so aggressive, there was a real chance she might die. Her oncologists wanted her to start treatment immediately. Like, end-of-the-week immediately. But before Annie started treatment, she walked out of the doctor's office and crossed the street to see a fertility doctor doing an experimental procedure that sounded like science fiction: ovary freezing. Further ReadingA medical case report on Annie's frozen ovariesWhat's primordial germ cells got to do with it? This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Pat Walters. With original music and scoring by Dylan Keefe. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Jad Abumrad. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
00:55:33 6/22/2018
At two weeks old, the human embryo has only just begun its months-long journey to become a baby. The embryo is tiny, still invisible to the naked eye. But inside it, an epic struggle plays out, as a nomadic band of cells marches toward a mysterious destiny, with the future of humanity resting on their microscopic shoulders. This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Jad Abumrad. With scoring and original composition by Alex Overington and Dylan Keefe. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The "Ballad of the Fish" and "Gonads" was composed and sung by Majel Connery, and produced by Alex Overington. Special thanks to Ruth Lehmann and Dagmar Wilhelm. Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
00:55:33 6/14/2018
We originally posted this episode in 2015, and it inspired producer Molly Webster to take a deep dive into the wild and mysterious world of human reproduction. Starting next week, she'll be taking over the Radiolab podcast feed for a month to present a series of mind-bending stories that make us rethink the ways we make more of us. You know the drill - all it takes is one sperm, one egg, and blammo - you got yourself a baby. Right? Well, in this episode, conception takes on a new form - it's the sperm and the egg, plus: two wombs, four countries, and money. Lots of money.  At first, this is the story of an Israeli couple, two guys, who go to another continent to get themselves a baby - three, in fact - by hiring surrogates to carry the children for them. As we follow them on their journey, an earth shaking revelation shifts our focus from them, to the surrogate mothers. Unfolding in real time, as countries around the world consider bans on surrogacy, this episode looks at a relationship that manages to feel deeply affecting, and deeply uncomfortable, all at the same time.  Birthstory is a collaboration with the brilliant radio show and podcast Israel Story, created to tell stories for, and about, Israel. Go check 'em out!  Israel Story's five English-language seasons were produced in partnership with Tablet Magazine and we highly recommend you listen to all of their work at  http://www.tabletmag.com/tag/israel-story This episode was produced and reported by Molly Webster. Special thanks go to: Israel Story, and their producers Maya Kosover, and Yochai Maital; reporters Nilanjana Bhowmick in India and Bhrikuti Rai in Nepal plus the International Reporting Project; Doron Mamet, Dr Nayana Patel, and Vicki Ferrara; with translation help from Aya Keefe, Karthik Ravindra, Turna Ray, Tom Wasserman, Pradeep Thapa, and Adhikaar, an organization in Ridgewood, Queens advocating for the Nepali-speaking community.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. Audio Extra: Tal and Amir had a chance to meet each surrogate once - just after the deliveries, after all the paperwork was sorted out, and before any one left Nepal. As Amir says, they wanted to say "a big thank you." These meetings between intended parents, surrogate, and new babies are a traditional part of the surrogacy process in India and Nepal, and we heard reports from the surrogates that they also look forward to them. These moments do not stigmatize, reveal the identity of, or endanger the surrogates. Tal and Amir provided the audio for this web extra.
00:55:33 6/7/2018
When reporter Brenna Farrell was a new mom, her son gave her and her husband a scare -- prompting them to call Poison Control. For Brenna, the experience was so odd, and oddly comforting, that she decided to dive into the birth story of this invisible network of poison experts, and try to understand the evolving relationship we humans have with our poisonous planet. As we learn about how poison control has changed over the years, we end up wondering what a place devoted to data and human connection can tell us about ourselves in this cultural moment of anxiety and information-overload. Call the national Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone. This episode was reported by Brenna Farrell and was produced by Annie McEwen. Special thanks to Wendy Blair Stephan, Whitney Pennington, Richard Dart, Marian Moser Jones, and Nathalie Wheaton. Thanks also to Lewis Goldfrank, Robert Hoffman, Steven Marcus, Toby Litovitz, James O'Donnell, and Joseph Botticelli.   Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.   Further Reading:  The Poisoner's Handbook, by Deborah Blum The Poison Squad, by Deborah Blum Illinois Poison Center's latest "A Day in the Life of a Poison Center" post You can find out more about the country's 55 poison centers at the American Association of Poison Control Centers, including a snapshot of the latest available from the National Poison Data System (2106):  "Poison Politics: A Contentious History of Consumer Protection Against Dangerous Household Chemicals in the United States," by Marian Moser Jones:  2011 article from The Annals of Emergency Medicine: "The Secret Life of America's Poison Centers," Richard Dart  A 1954 article from Edward Press -- one of the key figures in creating a formalized poison control system in Chicago in the early 1950s, Press and Gdalman are credited with starting the first poison control center in the US in 1953 in Chicago: "A Poisoning Control Program" Edward Press and Robert B Mellins 
00:55:33 5/31/2018
This week, we're throwing it back to an old favorite: a story about obsession, creativity, and a strange symmetry between a biologist and a composer that revolves around one famously repetitive piece of music. Anne Adams was a brilliant biologist. But when her son Alex was in a bad car accident, she decided to stay home to help him recover. And then, rather suddenly, she decided to quit science altogether and become a full-time artist. After that, her husband Robert Adams tells us, she just painted and painted and painted. First houses and buildings, then a series of paintings involving strawberries, and then ... "Bolero." At some point, Anne became obsessed with Maurice Ravel's famous composition and decided to put an elaborate visual rendition of the song to canvas. She called it "Unraveling Bolero." But at the time, she had no idea that both she and Ravel would themselves unravel shortly after their experiences with this odd piece of music. Arbie Orenstein tells us what happened to Ravel after he wrote "Bolero," and neurologist Bruce Miller helps us understand how, for both Anne and Ravel, "Bolero" might have been the first symptom of a deadly disease.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. Read more: Unravelling Bolero: progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex Arbie Orenstein's Ravel: Man and Musician
00:55:33 5/22/2018
Seven years ago chatbots - those robotic texting machines - were a mere curiosity. They were noticeably robotic and at their most malicious seemed only capable of scamming men looking for love online. Today, the chatbot landscape is wildly different. From election interference to spreading hate, chatbots have become online weapons. And so, we decided to reinvestigate the role these robotic bits of code play in our lives and the effects they're having on us. We begin with a little theater. In our live show "Robert or Robot?" Jad and Robert test 100 people to see if they can spot a bot. We then take a brief detour to revisit the humanity of the Furby, and finish in a virtual house where the line between technology and humanity becomes blurrier than ever before. This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler. Our live event was produced by Simon Adler and Suzie Lechtenberg. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. Note from the Managing Editor: In the original version of our "More or Less Human" podcast, our introduction of neuroscientist Mavi Sanchez-Vives began with mention of her husband, Mel Slater. We've edited that introduction because it was a mistake to introduce her first as someone's wife. Dr. Sanchez-Vives is an exceptional scientist and we're sorry that the original introduction distracted from or diminished her work.   On a personal note, I failed to take due note of this while editing the piece, and in doing so, I flubbed what's known as the Finkbeiner Test (all the more embarrassing given that Ann Finkebeiner is a mentor and one of my favorite science journalists). In addition to being a mistake, this is also a reminder to all of us at Radiolab that we need to be more aware of our blind spots. We should've done better, and we will do better.  - Soren Wheeler 
00:55:33 5/17/2018
Astronauts at the International Space Station can make one request to talk to an earthling of their choice. For some reason, Astronaut Mark Vande Hei chose us. A couple weeks ago, we were able to video chat with Mark and peer over his shoulder through the Cupola, an observatory room in the ISS. Traveling at 17,000 miles an hour, we zoomed from the Rockies to the East Coast in minutes. And from where Mark sits, the total darkness of space isn't very far away.  Talking to Mark brought us back to 2012, when we spoke to another astronaut, Dave Wolf. When we were putting together our live show In the Dark, Jad and Robert called up Dave Wolf to ask him if he had any stories about darkness. And boy, did he. Dave told us two stories that  became the finale of our show. Back in late 1997, Dave Wolf was on his first spacewalk, to perform work on the Mir (the photo to the right was taken during that mission, courtesy of NASA.). Dave wasn't alone -- with him was veteran Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev. (That's a picture of Dave giving Anatoly a hug on board the Mir, also courtesy of NASA). Out in blackness of space, the contrast between light and dark is almost unimaginably extreme -- every 45 minutes, you plunge between absolute darkness on the night-side of Earth, and blazing light as the sun screams into view. Dave and Anatoly were tethered to the spacecraft, traveling 5 miles per second. That's 16 times faster than we travel on Earth's surface as it rotates -- so as they orbited, they experienced 16 nights and 16 days for every Earth day. Dave's description of his first spacewalk was all we could've asked for, and more. But what happened next ... well, it's just one of those stories that you always hope an astronaut will tell. Dave and Anatoly were ready to call it a job and head back into the Mir when something went wrong with the airlock. They couldn't get it to re-pressurize. In other words, they were locked out. After hours of trying to fix the airlock, they were running out of the resources that kept them alive in their space suits and facing a grisly death. So, they unhooked their tethers, and tried one last desperate move. In the end, they made it through, and Dave went on to perform dozens more spacewalks in the years to come, but he never again experienced anything like those harrowing minutes trying to improvise his way back into the Mir. After that terrifying tale, Dave told us about another moment he and Anatoly shared, floating high above Earth, staring out into the universe ... a moment so beautiful, and peaceful, we decided to use the audience recreate it, as best we could, for the final act of our live show. Pilobolus creates a shadow astronaut during Dave Wolf's story on stage (photo by Lars Topelmann): The audience turns Portland's Keller auditorium into a view of outer space with thousands of LED lights (photo by Lars Topelmann): Here's Dave Wolf in the dark darkness of space, performing a spacewalk in 2009 (courtesy of NASA): To give you an idea of what it looks like during the brightness of day, here's another photo taken in 2009 -- more than a decade after the adventure described in our podcast -- this time of astronaut Tom Marshburn (Dave Wolf is with him, out of frame, photo courtesy of NASA): This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Soren Wheeler.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.
00:55:33 4/26/2018
Border Trilogy While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh. This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness. In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called "Prevention Through Deterrence." Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.   Part 3: What Remains  The third episode in our Border Trilogy follows anthropologist Jason De León after he makes a grisly discovery in Arivaca, Arizona. In the middle of carrying out his pig experiments with his students, Jason finds the body of a 30-year-old female migrant. With the help of the medical examiner and some local humanitarian groups, Jason discovers her identity. Her name was Maricela. Jason then connects with her family, including her brother-in-law, who survived his own harrowing journey through Central America and the Arizona desert. With the human cost of Prevention Through Deterrence weighing on our minds, we try to parse what drives migrants like Maricela to cross through such deadly terrain, and what, if anything, could deter them. This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte and was produced by Matt Kielty and Tracie Hunte.  Special thanks to Carlo Albán, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve, Chava Gourarie, Lynn M. Morgan, Mike Wells and Tom Barry. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.   CORRECTION: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly stated that a person's gender can be identified from bone remains. We've adjusted the audio to say that a person's sex can be identified from bone remains. 
00:55:33 4/19/2018

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