Based at WNYC, Radiolab can best be summed thus: imagine This American Life with a scientific and philosophical twist.
Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take the listeners through various situations… whether it be a man with uncontrollable fits who is calmed by his parrot, a woman with epilepsy who became an ultra runner to alleviate her seizures or most recently, the quest for symmetry… and then goes deeper into the whys and hows of what they are focusing on. The result is an infinitely enjoyable program that is both entertaining and extremely informative.
The symmetry episode, which is the most recent, was amazing… and I believe highlights the best of this program. It begins with an ancient quote regarding Zeus splitting us from our perfect pairs… then moves into a brain researcher trying to find matches in brain activity and positing the question of whether someone who’s brain patterns match another would be similar in personality… from there it goes into a live show of theirs and a discussion with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the nature of matter and chirality… and finally, a look at how which side you part your hair can have a massive impact on how you appear to both yourself and others and the difference between the you others see and the you in a mirror. In a nutshell… symmetry. Simply beautiful.
This is by far the best produced podcast I have ever had the privilege to listen to. At times I’ve wondered whether or not my player has died or has been interrupted because they will actually allow silence… silence to think… silence to allow the story to sink in… silence that will be filled with ideas… with thought… with wonder. And then they will break that silence with a mental exercise… perhaps little more than the two hosts disagreeing… or them talking over what an interview subject is saying… and using that subjects exact words. It’s a stellar singular experience that will leave you thinking about the program for hours, if not days, later.
I will admit to being a bit of a latecomer to this program… it was recommended to me by a co-worker/friend who figured this would be square in my wheelhouse… and he couldn’t have been more correct. It’s fascinating and often times weird… but I can’t seem to get enough.
Their website can be found here and you can download the podcast at their site or via iTunes. Like many of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab is an NPR program. And if you don’t believe NPR should be funded by the government because it doesn’t offer a more balanced approach, give this a listen and try to defend your position. The only position this show takes seems to be that its listeners are not idiots and don’t need to be pandered to in any way shape or form… and if you have a problem with that, then perhaps you shouldn’t be making decisions for anyone else. (Sorry… can’t help myself)
There are no radios in my lab,
Cornelius J. Blahg