Radiolab

Navigate
Return Home

Thomas Jefferson Needs A Dead Moose Right Now To Defend America

Thursday, January 16, 2014

There are no moose in America, said the French count to Thomas Jefferson. They don't exist there. Americans see a reindeer and just call it a new name, saying it's bigger. But the only thing that's big here is your American imagination. Jefferson was incensed. You are an ignoramus, he said tactfully. Then he promised to deliver an American moose to Paris. Here's what happened next.

Read More

Comments [2]

Who's Got A Pregnant Brain?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Something happened to dolphins. Then it happened to humans. Both creatures had good-sized brains when, for reasons no one truly understands, dolphin brains suddenly got larger and larger, until — 15 million years ago — they stopped growing. Two million years ago it was our turn. Our brains went from the size of an orange to the size of a cantaloupe. Why the start? Why the stop? Who's next?

Read More

Comments [6]

Go Where Raisins Swell Into Grapes, And Lemons Light The Sky

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Come to a place where peppers are so hot, fire trucks come to douse them. Pomegranates explode like grenades there, spaghetti threatens innocent sailors, and the moon is made of cinnamon. Two French food photographers imagine all this, and then let a polar bear water-ski through a plate of marshmallows.

Read More

Comments [9]

A Rain Forest Begins With Rain, Right? Is This A Trick Question?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

This is a "Which came first?" riddle. Not chicken vs. egg. This one is about rain forests. When rain forests begin, do they start with rain ("Yes!" say I) or trees ("No! That's ridiculous!" say I)? I should warn you: Sometimes nature has a sense of humor.

Read More

Comments [1]

Oh Say, Can You See? A Musical Salute

Thursday, January 09, 2014

You've heard it a thousand times, maybe 10,000. Is there any way to make "The Star-Spangled Banner" fresh? Even fascinating? There is (Jimi Hendrix aside). Here is a new one that did it for me — the Jon Batiste version.

Read More

Comments [2]

Am I Going To Die This Year? A Mathematical Puzzle

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

What are the odds that you will die this year? Whatever they are, the mortality tables suggest those odds will double eight years from now. Death, apparently, moves closer at a curiously regular pace. Why this eight-year progression? Is it something biological? Random? What is it about eight that attracts the Grim Reaper? Let's ask.

Read More

Comment

Billboards That Drop Angels On Your Head

Saturday, January 04, 2014

There you are in a train station, and if you stand in the right space, suddenly an angel — a lady with enormous wings, looking like the real deal — appears at your side. She's not real. She's a billboard display gone wild. Which is what a bunch of billboards have been doing lately. We visit three of the wildest.

Read More

Comment

'You're Invisible, But I'll Eat You Anyway.' Secrets Of Snow-Diving Foxes

Friday, January 03, 2014

They leap into the air, adjust their tails, land headfirst in the snow, burrow down and hit a teeny moving target — buried three feet below. It's their lunch. How does a fox catch a mouse in winter? This is amazing.

Read More

Comments [7]

Animal Loses Head But Remembers Everything

Thursday, January 02, 2014

They're little flatworms that glide along riverbeds and perform miracles. Chop off their tails, they grow them back. Split them in half, they grow whole again. But chop off their heads, and not only do they grow new heads, but those new heads contain old memories! Whoa!

 

Read More

Comments [5]

This Is Bo, Who's Putting New Beats In New Places. You Should Meet Him

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

This isn't science. Not today. It's art — in this case, the sly performance of a young comedian who is accosted backstage by not-so-nice "fans." But he gets free (wait for this, it comes a few minutes in) by using his pointer finger. I was enchanted.

Read More

Comments [4]

What Chickadees Have That I Want. Badly

Monday, December 23, 2013

First I look in my right coat pocket. Nothing. Then my left. Nothing. Then my pants, right side — no. Then my pants, left side — yes! This is me at my front door, looking for my keys. Every day.

Read More

Comments [8]

Weekend Special: Name That Sound!

Monday, December 23, 2013

I'm going to play you a sound that you hear all the time. But this time, instead of hearing it in context (in a familiar setting — the movies, an Xbox, on TV, in a phone), it's all alone. Naked. Will you be able to identify it?

Read More

Comments [10]

One Man. One Cat. Multiplied

Friday, December 20, 2013

I'm thinking of a man and his cat. A real man. His real cat. Then I'm imagining a bunch of world-famous cartoonists, Calvin & Hobbes' Bill Watterson, Wile E. Coyote's Chuck Jones, Gary Larson, Maurice Sendak — all of them drawing this same man and his cat. Then I'm staring at very different men and very different cats. Then I'm giggling.

Read More

Comments [8]

Finding Grandpa On My Dinner Plate (Part 2)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

You order a lobster and the waiter shows you an animal that is, he says, older than you are. It's had more birthdays than you. For some people, this is a meal-stopper. Especially, if you are on in years, and what's on the plate is just as elderly (and just as wise?) as you are.

Read More

Comments [1]

John McCluskey’s Brain

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In our Blame episode, we asked whether the condition of a criminal’s brain should lessen the punishment for his crime. Now there’s a headline-making story about this very question.

Read More

Comments [13]

Why We Need Grandpas And Grandmas (Part 1)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The idea seemed sensible: Send young elephants from a crowded national park in South Africa to an emptier one, where they could form a new herd and thrive. The problem? Elephants need elders. Without them, all hell breaks loose.

Read More

Comments [2]

What's That Clinging To The Towering Wall And Why Doesn't It Fall Off?

Monday, December 16, 2013

They look, at first, like dangerously protruding rocks on this towering, almost vertical wall in the Italian Alps. But then, uncannily, they move. What are they? And why don't they fall off? What are they doing?

 

Read More

Comments [2]

What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Whatever happened on Easter Island, it wasn't good. Polynesians landed there, farmed, thrived, built their famous statues, and then things went very bad, very fast. Sixteen million trees vanished. What happened? Was this a case of ecological collapse? Not exactly, say two anthropologists. It was, arguably, worse than that.

Read More

Comments [16]

How Important Is A Bee?

Friday, December 06, 2013

When bees disappeared from central China years ago, Chinese apple farmers had to pollinate by hand. Embarrassing — people doing bees' work, but then came the big discovery –- a surprise that still haunts the conservation movement. What if people outperform bees?

Read More

Comments [4]

How To Keep The Dust Off Your White Pants With 7 Desk Fans

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Look inside most machines today and what do you find? Computer chips functioning mysteriously. Gaze at a 1920's Rube Goldberg cartoon and what do you find? Machines powered by hungry parrots and angry ladies. Will future tools stay inscrutable or become more Rube-like? Here's a guess.

Read More

Comment