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Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience

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X & Y (Jun 30th, 2018)

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 “Balla...

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Fronads (Jun 23rd, 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 s...

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The Primordial Journey (Jun 15th, 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 ...

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Birthstory (Jun 8th, 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 t...

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Poison Control (Jun 1st, 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 conn...

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Unraveling Bolero (May 22nd, 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 pa...

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More or Less Human (May 18th, 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 o...

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Dark Side of the Earth (Apr 26th, 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...

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Border Trilogy Part 3: What Remains (Apr 20th, 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...

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Border Trilogy Part 2: Hold the Line (Apr 6th, 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 la...

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Border Trilogy Part 1: Hole in the Fence (Mar 23rd, 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...

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Rippin’ the Rainbow an Even Newer One (Mar 15th, 2018)

One of our most popular episodes of all time was our Colors episode, where we introduced you to a sea creature that could see a rainbow far beyond what humans can experience.


Peacock mantis shrimps are as extraordinary as they are strange and boast what may well be the most complicated visual system in the world. They each have 16 photoreceptors compared to our measly three. But recently researchers in Australia put the mantis shrimps’ eyes to the test only to discover that sure, they can SEE ...

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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - The Gun Show (Feb 23rd, 2018)

The shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, reignited an increasingly familiar debate about guns in this country. Today, we’re re-releasing a More Perfect episode that aired just after the Las Vegas shooting last year that attempts to make sense of our country’s fraught relationship with the Second Amendment.


For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was an all-but-forgotten rule about the importance of militias. But in the 1960s and 70s, a movement emerged...

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The Curious Case of the Russian Flash Mob at the West Palm Beach Cheesecake Factory (Feb 20th, 2018)

We don’t do breaking news. But when Robert Mueller released his indictment a few days ago, alleging that 13 Russian nationals colluded to disrupt the 2016 elections, we had a lot of questions. Who are these Russian individuals sowing discord? And who are these Americans that were manipulated?? Join us as we follow a trail of likes and tweets that takes us from a Troll Factory to a Cheesecake Factory.


This episode was produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen with reporting help from Becca Bress...

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The Curious Case of the Russian Flash Mob at the West Palm Beach Cheesecake Factory (Feb 20th, 2018)

We don’t do breaking news. But when Robert Mueller released his indictment a few days ago, alleging that 13 Russian nationals colluded to disrupt the 2016 elections, we had a lot of questions. Who are these Russian individuals sowing discord? And who are these Americans that were manipulated?? Join us as we follow a trail of likes and tweets that takes us from a Troll Factory to a Cheesecake Factory.


This episode was produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen with reporting help from Becca Bress...

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Smarty Plants (Feb 14th, 2018)

Do you really need a brain to sense the world around you? To remember? Or even learn? Well, it depends on who you ask. Jad and Robert, they are split on this one. Today, Robert drags Jad along on a parade for the surprising feats of brainless plants. Along with a home-inspection duo, a science writer, and some enterprising scientists at Princeton University, we dig into the work of evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano, who turns our brain-centered worldview on its head through a series of c...

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Ghosts of Football Past (Feb 4th, 2018)

In anticipation of Super Bowl LII (Go Eagles), we're revisiting an old episode about the surprising history of how the game came to be. It's the end of the 19th century -- the Civil War is over, and the frontier is dead. And young college men are anxious. What great struggle will test their character? Then along comes a new craze: football. A brutally violent game where young men can show a stadium full of fans just what they're made of. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn -- the sons of the most ...

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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - One Nation, Under Money (Jan 31st, 2018)

An unassuming string of 16 words tucked into the Constitution grants Congress extensive power to make laws that impact the entire nation. The Commerce Clause has allowed Congress to intervene in all kinds of situations — from penalizing one man for growing too much wheat on his farm, to enforcing the end of racial segregation nationwide. That is, if the federal government can make an economic case for it. This seemingly all-powerful tool has the potential to unite the 50 states into one natio...

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The Voice in Your Head - A Tribute to Joe Frank (Jan 23rd, 2018)

How do you pay proper tribute to a legend that many people haven’t heard of?


We began asking ourselves this question last week when the visionary radio producer Joe Frank passed away, after a long struggle with colon cancer.  Joe Frank was the radio producer’s radio producer.  He told stories that were thrillingly weird, deeply mischievous (and sometimes head-spinningly confusing!). He had a big impact on us at Radiolab.  For Jad, his Joe Frank moment happened in 2002, while sitting at a mixin...

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How to Be a Hero (Jan 9th, 2018)

What are people thinking when they risk their lives for someone else? Are they making complicated calculations of risk or diving in without a second thought? Is heroism an act of sympathy or empathy?  


A few years ago, we spoke with Walter F. Rutkowski about how the Carnegie Hero Fund selects its heroes, an honor the fund bestows upon ordinary people who have done extraordinary acts.


When some of these heroes were asked what they were thinking when they leapt into action, they replied: they did...

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