Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top 10 Podcasts: #2 Radiolab

[Editor's Note: The following is the latest in a series covering my top 10 podcasts and my favorite episodes from each. Here's what we know so far:
#2 - Radiolab
#3 - This American Life
#4 - Real Time With Bill Maher
#5 - Doug Loves Movies
#6 - Savage Love Podcast
#7 - Freakonomics Radio
#8 - The Moth Podcast
#9 - The Ricky Gervais Podcast
#10 - Fresh Air with Terry Gross]

What I'm about to reveal is kind of embarrassing to admit.
I consider myself a learned individual, an intellectual and someone who generally tries to stay informed on the prescient matters of the day. But if I'm being completely honest, I very nearly exclusively get all my information about the discipline of science from one source: Radiolab.
In my younger days I used to say that I wanted to be a scientist. This is back when I thought the work consisted mostly of pouring steaming, brightly colored liquids into vials and holding them over Bunsen burners until some exciting reaction took place.
Then I found out how much math was actually involved. And then I turned eight and re-focused my interests.
But Radiolab is a pure joy to listen to. It reminds me of what I loved about science in the first place: the joy of discovery. I don't start an episode unless I'm sure I can finish it in one sitting. The production is lush, spastic and high-quality. There is never truly a bad episode. I love the way it makes me think of tired concepts in a new way.

Essential Listening

There's really no bad place to start with Radiolab. I like the hour-long episodes as opposed to the shorts, but that's just because I want it to keep going and going. One of my personal favorites is the episode "Placebo" in which hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich basically blew my mind with the revelation that the effects for any drug you could ever take are already locked inside our brains, all that's missing is the impetus (the drug, or in this case, the placebo) to release those chemicals. Or what about the episode "Parasites" which contains the story of a man who intentionally infected himself with intestinal parasites to cure his asthma -- and it worked? (He now sells his own "home-grown" parasites to others with similar conditions.) Or how about the episode "The (Multi) Universe(s)" in which they explore the theory that there are parallel universes happening besides our own?
Point is, if you're not listening, you're doing yourself a disservice. Few other pieces of media have changed my perspective on the nature of the universe as much as Radiolab.


  1. Parasites is one of my favorite hours of any medium. Interesting story after interesting story! It is great.

  2. I love it too. Can't get enough.