Return Home
Season 8 | Episode 3


« previous episode | next episode »

There are so many ways to fall—in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls. 

We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling.


Professor Fred Coolidge, David Eagleman, Brian Greene, Joan Murray, David Quammen, Garrett Soden and Neil deGrasse Tyson


Lulu Miller

Letting Go

Two stories about heart-stopping falls:

1. Falling Time: David Eagleman gets to the bottom of what goes on in our brains during those life or death moments when time seems to slow way down.

2. Falling in Love: Lulu Miller brings us the story of Sarita and Simon, who fell in...and then out...of love.

Comments [48]

Taking the Plunge

Three stories that upend our pre-conceived notions about falling.

Comments [31]

Still Hanging On

Two stories of falling in everyday life, and one fantastical leap:

6. Falling Asleep: Professor Frederick Coolidge argues that our tree-dwelling ancestors are to blame for a hiccup in our sleeping patterns.

7. Walking as Falling: David Eagleman explains walking as the act of calibrating our steps to turn falls into forward motion.

8. Falling Apart: Neil deGrasse Tyson takes us on a one-way trip into a black hole.

Comments [10]

Comments [99]

Jim Newell from Newark, VT

Your bit about Niagara Falls neglected to include the first person to jump over the Falls. Sam Patch jumped twice off a tower on the Canadian side in 1830, the second time before 10,000 spectators. Later he jumped off the Genesee Falls in Rochester, NY. After his second jump there he didn't surface and they found his body 6 months later, 12 miles down stream.

A myth grew up around Sam Patch and despite his disappearance/death, there were sightings of him throughout the Northeast. Sam Patch gained wide recognition because of a New York actor portraying his jump in theaters throughout the U.S.
Andrew Jackson named his favorite horse "Sam Patch".

Oct. 18 2017 11:15 PM
Sean from Philadelphia

Great show on falling today. I'm a regular skydiver (fun jumper ). On a regular day we climb to 13500'. That's approx 2.5 miles up. Free fall lasts around 60 seconds to about 3500' at speeds averaging 125-150mph. Depending on how you fly your canopy flight times under parachute can last from 3 to 10 mins. Jumping and flying with friends is the best feeling ever.
If you've done it no explanation is necessary. If you haven't, none can come close. It'd be like describing sex to a vergin.
Thanks for the show on falling.

Oct. 15 2017 01:19 PM
Ryan Sitler from Asheville, North Carolina

Radiolab never ceases to impress. This episode reminds me of my favorite, the translation episode.

Big credit to those that put together the soundtrack to go along with the best story - notably enjoyable.

Thanks as always.

May. 01 2016 02:25 PM
Nick from St. Louis

Just heard the rerun of the program again today.
Did you know that in 2011, Michael John LaChiusa wrote an Off-Broadway show about Annie Edson Taylor? I don't know if it used the lyrics from Joan Murray's novel-in-verse, but it shares the same name. I can't find any credit given to Murray where the LaChiusa show is mentioned on various websites, so maybe the title and subject matter are all they have in common.

Apr. 30 2016 05:19 PM

with regards to the story about the elderly falling. As a person ages, neurotransmission is slowed by intrinsic or extrinsic factors. The effect of which causes slower reaction time to equilibrium. However, it is the spinning of the earth that causes a person to lose ones balance and fall. If you were to observe, a compromise person always falls with the direction of spin.


Norman A. Smith

next week, why natives are succumbing to the zika virues and it's not mutation

Apr. 30 2016 04:17 PM
Cambias from Massachusetts

I also found it pretty repulsive to hear the hosts and the guest gloating over the death of the man (you never even told us his name!) who won fame for going over Niagara Falls. Hooray for feminism because a man got gangrene? Who will snicker about your death a century from now?

Apr. 30 2016 04:09 PM

My cat fell 2 stories out of a screened window when she was 3. She had been running back and forth in our apartment and must've not been able to stop in time. It was 1130 at night. When we found her, she had a torn claw!. No other injuries were noted. I had no idea it was that common for cats to fall out of Windows! She's 12 now and doesn't run toward open windows any more.

Apr. 30 2016 01:35 PM
Ryan from Amsterdam

wow radiolab!!!

Brilliant work!
my favorite after the colours episode!!
love the support of music to explain a point..
good work guys!
love from amsterdam X
Ryan Reddy

Apr. 29 2016 09:58 AM
John from US

Neil deGrasse Tyson is very irritating. I'm sure he's very intelligent, but he's also very, very irritating.

Apr. 28 2016 09:33 AM
Luvradiolab from California

I love your show but i find your explaination of gravity by imagining a rubber mat with the earth on it creating a curve and thus we are constantly falling into the curve....well thats explaining gravity with a property of gravity. The 'fall' into the curve is in itself the very thing you're trying to explain yet it's presented as the explaination.

Apr. 27 2016 03:44 PM
Larry Press

David Eagleman's segment hypthesizing that slowing nerve transmission rate explains old people stumbling rang a bell. I am an old athlete and I feel I have lost some coordination while running. I had thought that might have been due to a TIA during sleep, but Eagleman's hypothesis would also explain my experience. Has there been further research?

Jan. 06 2016 08:54 AM
Lea from California

I listened to most of the "Falling" episode while driving. There was a poem or short essay by a man about walking and falling in love with everything he saw. He returns to his kitchen and falls in love again with something in the kitchen. It was beautiful, but I can't find it. I re-listened to the pod cast segments, but couldn't find it. Any information?

Feb. 12 2015 12:29 PM
Katniss K. Bond from USA

I liked the part where we learned about the twitch we experience in our sleep.

Feb. 09 2015 05:38 PM
Jim Schaefer from Schenectady, NY

Great segment. Thoroughly enjoyed. I may have missed it but one of the BEST falling songs is by Peter Gabriel "Falling." During his Afro-Celtic era. The video is terrible but the lyrics and African counter verses (Swahili?) & beat is haunting. If you the extend segment try it!

Feb. 09 2015 04:53 PM
Harold Hallikainen from San Luis Obispo, CA

In the segment on old people falling, you discuss our speed of perception. How long after something happens do we sense that it happened. This generally fits into our perception of scale. What is fast; what is slow; what is big; and what is small. we COULD live in what Saturday Night Live called the "metric day" where each day is 100 hours. Or, perhaps we'd live for a nano second and perceive things in picoseconds. It's all a matter of scale.

But, in the scale that we live, various things can affect our speed of perception. I've always wondered about the effects of nitrous oxide. When the dentist uses it, it SEEMS that my perception is further delayed. I can tap my finger and feel it later. It's like we're experiencing life through a tape recorder. Events are put on the tape at the record head. A little while later this portion of the tape reaches the play head, and we perceive it. It FEELS like nitrous oxide is slowing down the tape. The delay between events and perception is increased. The dentist does his painful work while the tape is slowed down. When done, the nitrous oxide is replaced with oxygen. The tape speeds up and the slowly recorded pain zips past the play head giving us a brief moment of pain instead of an hour.

So... the scale of our world and the speed of our perception is interesting. Is my theory on nitrous oxide anything close to accurate?

Thanks for the great show!


Feb. 08 2015 02:08 PM
reggie from the outer limits

is this piece on cats a re-run? i'm having a moment. you either did this whole piece before or you cribbed it from someone esle?

Feb. 07 2015 12:29 PM

Still catching up with the show, which I' loving. But every once in a while I hear things that make me do a double take. And not in a good way.

I agree with the post from Dean, Nov. 18 2010. Just because a random, completely unassociated man is able to achieve fame and fortune from his own actions, where somebody before has tried to no avail, is certainly no reason to vilify such a person, nor should it entitle anyone to say that his death was well-deserved, merely because he was more successful. Of course, my heart goes out to the old lady, who is victim to a world that idolizes only the young and beautiful, but certainly this other man can't be blamed for an entire world view. Please be more objective, these are still people we are talking about.

Feb. 18 2014 07:02 PM
Vuk Palibrk

Hey, can anyone tell me what is the short music sequence at 29:45? It sounds like one serbian folk song but I am not sure what it is. Anyway, I live in Serbia and I am a big fan of Radiolab :)

Oct. 23 2013 03:57 PM
Aaron S. from Cincinnati

The piano song on the latest episode at 7:22, as well as more of the work of Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou is on youtube:

playlist of her work:

Sep. 23 2012 09:05 PM
Jim H from University Place, WA

As a first-time listener I found your program initially intriguing, but you didn't stay with any one topic long enough to be really interesting so it seemed very choppy to me - a series of jumps so loosely connected as to almost be non-sequiturs. Also, your seeming amusement at the gangrene-related death of the man who became famous for surviving Niagara Falls in the barrel as against the woman who did not become famous/wealthy - well that was practically the definition of misandry (the hatred of men - opposite of mysogyny) and your casual equating that to social justice was pretty disgusting.

Sep. 22 2012 03:45 PM
Victoria McKenzie from NYC

I find myself in the unenviable position of relating to several segments of "Falling:"

Not only have I experienced the slowing-down of time after being catapulted into the air after a car plowed into the motorcycle I was riding, I am also the owner of a Manhattan cat, Max, who survived 4-story plunge from the bathroom window to the basement.

I had several conversations with myself while soaring over the the hot pavement of a Jamaican country road ("I'm not wearing a helmet..... I sure hope I don't hit my head....Do they have 911 in Jamaica? ...Where's my purse.... I hope my camera doesn't break.) I wonder what went through poor Max's mind as he dropped through the airshaft.

Max fared better than I. According to the vet he suffered only a broken palate and experienced some aches and pains over the next several days. After my flight through the air, I broke my leg in 3 places.

Together we share varying degrees of post traumatic stress.

Sep. 22 2012 12:45 PM
ch from cleveland

yes i had to immediately find out what that piano song was at 7:22. it really, really moved me and had to find out

and i see several others have posted the same thing

Sep. 21 2012 07:31 PM

Fun show. I think you could have used Juliee Cruise's song "Falling" somewhere in it too, otherwise known as the theme for Twin Peaks. Props for using a Lauri Anderson song though.

Sep. 21 2012 01:06 PM
Alex from Michigan

Einstein's analogy (at least as told by Robert) of a curve in time-space is faulty, as it uses the idea of gravity (falling down a slope) to explain itself. I know I'm a bit cocky to criticize any idea of Einstein's, even if it was a reinterpretation. But I had the thought, so why not share it. Feel free to contest it! Also, I love the mashup of Primus/Tom Petty/ and other tunes after the Niagra segment. As always, the show is AWESOME!

Jul. 31 2012 09:12 PM
Dylan from 6th Ave and 72nd St

How has only one person commented on the fact that there is no "6th Ave and 72nd St" in Manhattan.

Feb. 10 2012 12:06 PM
Ramona Teagarden from Ukiah, California

I love this show! What an amazing episode, and an amazing show. My son introduced me to Radiolab, it is so wonderful to actually learn all kinds of things about EVERYTHING in such a fun, absorbing way. Thank you, I'm hooked.

Jan. 14 2012 08:38 PM

Will you please publish the entire song list from this podcast? I'd love to make a playlist from it. Thanks. :)

Nov. 28 2011 01:46 PM
Sydney from SLC

What is the song played at 23:05

Oct. 10 2011 07:20 PM
Poul from Sweden from Sweden - Helsingborg

@Brian from Seattle, WA

Thanks, even tho I found it on my own just now, before i noticed your reply! Thanks ^_^

Aug. 04 2011 08:58 AM
Brian from Seattle, WA

@ Poul from Sweden the music at the 50 min. mark is Suzanne Vega "Stay Awake".

Listening to the rest of the show, it sounds like Simon had a hypnic jerk.

Jul. 06 2011 11:58 PM

Nice to hear Galaxie 500 in the mix :)

Jun. 07 2011 01:42 AM
Poul from Sweden

I was wondering who's singing and what song it is @ 50:03

Thanks for a great show! soon listened to all of it.

May. 15 2011 02:06 PM

I really enjoy listening to this podcast! It touches on some pretty cool ideas. My favorite part was the explanation from Fred Coolwitch about the twitch you get when you are about to sleep.

May. 10 2011 06:40 AM
Colleen from Pittsburgh

Don from Bethesda, MD said:
"At 19 minutes 50 seconds into Falling, I lost my heart. The few words of two lovers who were no more came like an emotional Tsunami.

The music or simply the sound cradling the words demanded to be played again and again.


PS. What is that wonderful music?"

I'm not sure if you ever found your answer, but it's Stokkseyri by Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) and his boyfriend Alex. If you don't know his music, check it out. You'll fall in love and become heartbroken all at once.
My heart broke in the same way yours did when hearing this part of the show... over and over again.

Mar. 09 2011 01:08 AM
Shailesh Phansalkar from Mountain View, CA

I agree with Dr. Tyson, that the data is flawed or insufficient. There are probably more dead cats falling from floors 9 and above which don't get counted in this experiment. And once terminal velocity is reached, no matter where you fall from, the chances of getting hurt should be the same, if indeed terminal velocity is reached!

Mar. 07 2011 06:57 PM
Don from Bethesda, MD

At 19 minutes 50 seconds into Falling, I lost my heart. The few words of two lovers who were no more came like an emotional Tsunami.

The music or simply the sound cradling the words demanded to be played again and again.


PS. What is that wonderful music?

Jan. 24 2011 05:00 PM
John from Oregon

"Falling" could make a great drama TV Show with each episode's theme revolving around falling whether it be in love, going over the falls, Joe Kittinger's jump, etc. Each episode a short story, like the Twilight Zone was.

Jan. 22 2011 04:11 PM
Kevin Billamore from Arkansas

i am an aspiring documenter of the human condition. this show is inspiring, and definitely heroic.

Jan. 18 2011 05:22 PM
Hayley from Conshohocken, PA

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode just as much as I love all RadioLab episodes. But I was particularly delighted to hear Jad use, "Help Me" by Joni Mitchell to close the Falling In Love story. It's not often you hear Joni these days and that song is from one of my favorite albums. Despite the melancholy tone of the story, hearing the song made me smile.

Jan. 11 2011 03:34 PM
Alex from Seattle

Sounds like it was raining cats and dogs hahaha I guess you never hear about dogs falling out of windows because cats have nine lives and dogs don't

Jan. 06 2011 12:36 AM

Clarification on the previous post regarding gravity. The application's help section does explain that the cylinder formed by rolling up the spatial dimension is "multi-layered" such that time is not repeating (it's not the same spot in time each cycle around). This makes me think the flat view with a trough would work, but would be visually less compact.

Dec. 27 2010 03:34 PM

@cameron & William
Indeed the rubber sheet metaphor is a poor one, and I am constantly frustrated by popular physicists using it. I've been bothered by it for a while, and finally I found something online that better visualizes what is happening (though it still leaves some confusion in my mind). Basically, the approach takes just one spatial dimension and time, such that you have a two-dimensional space-time. A non-moving object (spatially) is then always moving in time, but not in space. A beam of light travels only in space, and not in time (from its perspective). A massive object curves both space and time such that movement through time is redirected into the spatial dimension (the line is straight, but space-time is curved, thus from an outside perspective the line appears curved). The greater the curve, the more conversion. This explains BOTH the acceleration due to gravity AND time dilation (the greater the gravitational field, the slower you move through time since some of your normal "time travel" is converted into "space travel"). Light bends because of curvature of multiple spatial dimensions, but only its wavelength is affected by space-time curvature.
My one problem with the animation is that time loops, which is clearly not how it works. I figure you could unfold the cylinder and have a flat sheet with a trough, but I don't know if a line going only through time and not space would get curved into space travel by such a trough.

Dec. 27 2010 03:09 PM

Dan from Illi:

That's a good point. Also check out "space adaptation syndrome" for an effect related to what you're talking about.

Dec. 15 2010 07:15 PM

Dan S. is right. I think you put elegantly what I experienced skydiving. The data may be wonky, but a cat resting at terminal velocity would be experiencing something much different than one accelerating..

Dec. 08 2010 06:26 PM
Dan S. from Ill-Annoy

I just listened to the "Gravitational Anarchy" podcast, and I think there's a potential flaw in Dr. Tyson's reasoning: he fails to take into account that cats are terrestrial animals, used to being in a 1G gravitational field that's resisted by the ground beneath them. As such, their inner ears register as "normal" the 1G upward force exerted by the ground against gravity (which, in fact, is called the "normal force").

When the cat begins falling (the acceleration phase), its inner ear will register the absence of the normal force, and this will be cause for alarm. But once the cat's reached terminal velocity, the 1G normal force returns (provided by air resistance instead of the ground, but the same force as far as the inner ear is concerned). At that point, the cat has to choose: its balance/velocity/acceleration system is telling it that all is well, while its visual system is telling it that there's no ground supporting it. Which system wins out? If it's the inner ear, then indeed the cat will likely relax... which could increase its aerodynamic drag and slow it down still further.

Dec. 08 2010 04:14 PM

hello. could you please say what song is playing right at the end of the segment on falling fortunes? the song with the acoustic guitar and the slide guitar? thank you so much.

Dec. 07 2010 01:22 AM
Dean from San Francisco, CA

Come on Joan Murray, why do you have to be spiteful? there is cosmic justice because the guy died from an injury? thats like saying writer/musician A creates a work of art, which does not sell well, then writer/musician B comes along and creates his/her own rendition of the not so popular work and it is a massive success... the just thing to happen is for artist B to die? Thats quite vindictive.
The guy who became famous didn't sabotage the lady's performance, for all we know he was doing it in her honor.
ps thanks to everyone who makes radiolab a reality, its a great show.

Nov. 18 2010 06:44 PM

What is that pretty piano sonata between the "Falling in Love" and "Falling Cats" segment?

Nov. 14 2010 04:43 PM
Lucy from NYC

I live on the UWS; is there a 72nd & 6th Ave? Where is the vet? This distracted my mind while listening, but otherwise fantastic show, as always. I recommend Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams.

Nov. 02 2010 07:21 AM
Marc from Monterey, CA

RE: the Tyson speech on black holes in San Francisco - "Herbst" (as in Herbst Theater) means Autumn in German, or, alternatively...FALL.

Great show, as always.


Oct. 27 2010 11:57 PM
WBT from Pittsburgh, PA

To skydiver Andy-
I just went last week and had a different experience. It's not like roller-coaster falling, that's true - it's much faster and more "real" but (at least for me) did not have nearly as much fear element as I expected. Then once you're "under canopy" it's much less the feeling of falling (though more like a roller coaster, motion sickness potential) and more like the feeling of sitting in the middle of the air - like on top of a very high mountain, but with nothing underneath you.
Great segment, thanks!

Oct. 25 2010 10:17 PM

What happened with the face-forgetting couple????

Oct. 25 2010 09:25 PM
andy from manhattan

as a one time skydiver- i find it tremendously surprising that you didn't note the fact that when one lets go of the airplane in skydiving (at least during accelerated free-fall jumps) there is no sensation of falling at all. instead you feel like you are still in space, but that things are moving past you at a great speed- much like standing beside a freeway in which extremely fast cars are moving by you.

as a lover of rollercoasters and the feeling of my stomach in my throat, i was tremendously disappointed there was no "falling" until floating.

did i have an anomylous experience?

Oct. 24 2010 03:43 PM
andy from manhattan

as a one time skydiver- i find it tremendously surprising that you didn't note the fact that when one lets go of the airplane in skydiving(at least during accelerated free-fall jumps) there is no perception of falling at all. instead you feel like you are still in space, but that things are moving past you at a great speed- much like standing beside a freeway with extremely fast cars moving by.

Oct. 24 2010 03:28 PM

Regarding all the requests for songs played in the episodes, it seems like the reasonable and ethical thing to do. Please give credit to the artists whose music is lifted and mixed into the shows. I know Jad makes same great sound art, but I think it's only fair and ethical to let people know what creations are his versus the work of Stars of the Lid, Brian McBride, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Flying Saucer Attack, etc. so that these widely underappreciated artists get the exposure they deserve.

Oct. 21 2010 10:54 AM
That One Girl from That One Place

This is awesome, i think BBC radio did a touched on the gravity topic, as well. Can anyone tell what the woman singing at 51:00? I cant figure it out and it has been driving me crazy/

Oct. 20 2010 10:11 PM

This was great, very interesting. Is there any way to get a list of the songs that were used?

Oct. 20 2010 04:23 PM
Will from Black Mountain, NC

here's a recent video about gravity, stylistically and conceptually resonating with this episode:

Oct. 19 2010 07:14 PM
JeffZ from NYC

Kittinger's record setting jump was made from 102,000 ft. where the atmosphere is only 1% as dense as it is at sea level.
A "back of the envelop" calculation tells me that Kittinger reached his terminal velocity of 614 mph after falling for approximately 30 seconds and after falling a distance of about 3 miles.
After that his speed must have gradually decreased, as the atmosphere became more dense during his descent, to about 140 mph by the time he reached 18,000 ft.
Using "Donnie from Austin's" numbers, Kittinger fell about 16 miles in about 5 minutes making his average speed around 190 mph.
Amazing that this was 50 years ago and the record is still unbroken.
Just my 2 cents.

Oct. 16 2010 07:35 PM

Why are you not playing Fresh Air of Belprince? this is garbage

Oct. 13 2010 04:20 PM

why would you preempt "fresh air" for a rerun of a show that's been aired several times already?

why do you always do this at the same time you're asking for money?

Oct. 13 2010 03:29 PM

It's almost criminal that this show is airing in place of Fresh Air, especially when it's an episode where she is investigating where all of g becks crazy, inflammatory rhetoric comes from.

Where are the priorities here. Why would I chew bubblegum when I want filet mignon?!?

Oct. 13 2010 03:19 PM
SK from NYC

This program is idiotic. The fact that you are preempting Terri Gross for this is an outrage!

Oct. 13 2010 02:17 PM

It should be added to the cat part, that the mechanics of the cat's legs, they are able to absorb much more of the acceleration change on impact, than say, a human. Combined with the flipping over, terminal velocity, and the relaxing, this is what allows cats to survive long falls.

On a side note, I have a cat without a tail, she is unable to flip over when falling. :(

Oct. 12 2010 02:24 PM
Bridget Budbill from Boston, MA

I just loved the story about Simon and Sarita. You couldn't have invented a more compelling scenario for a broken love than that, and the end part, where he listens to her talk about walking by him without his knowing who she was made me cry! (And I also loved the cat story--that was just cool).

Oct. 10 2010 04:06 PM

I'm a great fan of the show! But something felt weird about this show ... it was interesting and all but not as fascinating or captivating as the usual RadioLab shows? Maybe because of the series of smaller stories?

Anyway, RadioLab is among my two favorite radio shows/podcasts ('This American Life' being the other)! Looking forward to the next episode :)

Oct. 09 2010 08:24 AM

Did Sarita & Simon get back together?

Oct. 08 2010 11:55 PM
wildingb from san diego


could you guys put up a playlist of all the songs that you use in an episode?

Oct. 08 2010 08:00 PM
stega from SF

There are two piano pieces at the end of the second segment. The second is from _Ethiopiques, vol. 21_, but what is the the first piece which plays through much of the end of the segment and then leads in to the Orbison song?

Oct. 08 2010 04:13 PM
Donnie from Austin

On August 16, 1960, Joe Kittinger made his final jump from the Excelsior III at 102,800 feet. Towing a small drogue parachute for initial stabilization, he fell for four minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet. Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled up to twice its normal size. He set historical numbers for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.
- Wiki

That is one of the truest definitions of falling!

Oct. 07 2010 10:51 AM

I love this show and now I have a huge crush on Prof. Fred Coolidge....anyone know him...haha...well I am half serious.

Oct. 07 2010 12:21 AM
Emily from Pennsylvania

"Falling" has to be my favorite Radio Lab episode ever. It was very interesting pulling together a variety of stories with a common thread. I was pulled in to each story and when each story was over another equally captivating story was told. Thanks for the good work!

Oct. 06 2010 04:39 PM

Hi Jonrush58 - That version of "Stay Awake" is by Suzanne Vega.

Oct. 04 2010 10:15 AM

Who sang that version of "Stay Awake" from "Mary Poppins"? Perfect choice for the piece.

Oct. 01 2010 05:14 PM
Tim Ward from Indianapolis, Indiana

I story about the couple. BROKE MY HEART. I never get to feel.

Thanks radiolab! 1st time I've ever listened.

Sep. 30 2010 09:25 PM
Jay Weedon from New York

By odd coincidence (?), BBC radio covered the same "does time slow down when you fall" thing, in a little more detail (but with the same nuts from Texas) just this week:
Program title is "Tempus Fugit".

So who's stealing from whom?

Sep. 29 2010 01:59 PM
j from Durham, NC

since cats reach terminal velocity at 9 stories high, does that mean falling from 9 stories and falling from 100 stories makes the same impact? i think the physics answer is yes, but intuitively it seems like there's a difference in splat - and i think you know what i mean.

Sep. 27 2010 07:20 PM
J Tang from Seacoast, NH

I am a RadioLab junkie!
Not my favorite episode, probably because it was a lot more anecdotal than probing.
But still, I am left gaping at the end of each podcast in wait for the next one.
Sometimes I like to fall asleep to RadioLab...

Also, I thought this was appropriate:


Sep. 27 2010 09:49 AM
Wout from The Netherlands

I must say I disagree with the analagy that gravity is just something pushing you down and that falling means no gravity,,,

the way you discribed it it means you can only live on one side of the planet and if you live on the other side of the planet you will fall off....

gravity has nothing to do with movement if what I read was correct the amount of gravity something will depend on how big the object is(I.E. the bigger the planet the higher the gravity) not only that but every object around us has his own gravity pull. but none as great as the earth ofcourse it all depends on size

Sep. 27 2010 08:50 AM
William from Boulder, CO

@cameron the image of the taut rubber sheet is just an analogy for the information revealed by the underlying mathematics. Within the terms of the analogy, gravity is not the cause of the downward curve, mass itself is responsible for this, rather gravity IS the curvature. It is the name given to the effect of mass on spacetime. The metaphor falls apart if you try to parse it too carefully.

Sep. 26 2010 05:01 AM
Bebe from Asheville

Thanks, thoward!

Sep. 24 2010 02:36 PM
Patrick from seattle

great job - concept inspired by the "words" show?

Sep. 24 2010 02:17 PM
Complex Justice

For those interested in the piano music at 20 min...

Riceboy Sleeps - "Stokkseyri"

(off their self-titled album - a favorite of mine for relaxation)

Sep. 23 2010 06:21 PM

Hi Sadie and Bebe,
That lovely piano music - hopefully the one you're talking about - is "Song of the Abayi" by Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou, featured on the Ethiopiques vol. 21.

Sep. 23 2010 01:33 PM

saw this, which is kind of contrary to the first story on the perceptual chronometer . it's just 1 guy... but he IS able to see the number when he's falling and not when he's just observing it.

Sep. 23 2010 11:39 AM
Bebe from Asheville

I second Sadie's request for info about the mid-way piano music!

Sep. 23 2010 11:08 AM
jucal6405 model from Havana Cuba

the best radio station so far guys.

Sep. 23 2010 08:43 AM
getoffthecouch from Dallas

As a college student, there is nothing more relaxing and captivating at the same time than taking a break from homework and massive amounts of reading and studying to listen to an hour of radiolab!

Loved this episode, especially the music--I was also wondering if a list of the songs about falling that were used in between stories could be given for us to see? I'd love to download some of them from itunes...

Sep. 23 2010 03:40 AM
benensky from Pottstown, PA USA

Agree with Bob - terminal velosity is about 120-150 MPH - No way could they be falling as fast as you said - everything else good

Sep. 22 2010 05:46 PM
sadie from san francisco, ca

Can someone tell me who does the piano music the comes into the broadcast at the almost half-way mark? I have heard this music before, and really want to know who it is!


Sep. 22 2010 05:16 PM
Cody Steineckert from Beaverton OR

It just so happens that i am going sky diving today! thanks for the awesome podcast radio lab!

Sep. 22 2010 02:14 PM
Shane_HK from Hong Kong

For weeks now I have been desperately looking for the new podcast. This morning on my way to work I got my fix.
Thank you for the good work, Falling is a super podcast. I dont remember getting off train and walking to taxi this morning. Had headphones on and Falling broadcasting on my iPhone. Thats how good you are.

Sep. 22 2010 01:58 AM

How could you have an article about the terminal velocity of cats and not get the terminal velocity of a tandem jumper right in your first story? terminal velocity for a single person is 120 mph, for a tandem is about 140 i think, depending if you use a drogue. The guy you recorded did not go to 200mph!

Picky literal net voice off

Sep. 21 2010 06:44 PM
Eddie Lin from Los Angeles

Man, Sarita & Simon's story. Heartbreaking. Great job, Lulu.

Sep. 21 2010 05:28 PM
cameron from nyc

I'm confused. If your description of Einstein's analysis is correct, what is the force that makes us "slide" down the curve toward the ball on the rubber sheet? Isn't it gravity? Haven't you defined gravity by saying its like the effect of gravity? I don't understand why the presence of a curve explains to me why two bodies are attracted.

Sep. 21 2010 11:00 AM
Cool E. Beans from Within your US of A

I'm afraid your Einstein made an error in his understanding of Gravity. You see, light is not affected by the forces of Gravity. If it were, no light would travel at the suggested maximum speed of light but all light would travel at least somewhat slower than the speed of light since all light is emitted by the greatest source of Gravity in each solar system.

What is actually happening is that Gravity is caused by matter squeezing the space that surrounds that matter and since light travels in a straight line, when you bend the line you bend the light but you don't slow it down.

As for why things fall it is because the space 'down' is squeezed tighter than the space 'up'. If you squeezed the space above you tighter you would fall up. This is also why there is zero G at the center of your planet. The greater mass of this planet is in the crust and this is where space is squeezed the most. You could stand on the inside of the crust, if you could survive the heat.

Black holes, as they have been defined, don't exist naturally anywhere in this universe or any other I've been to. You will find this out if you survive long enough to develope a Hyper G Drive of your own.

Essentially you project a G field of an intensity of your choosing and fall toward it. As you fall, you are projecting a new field farther ahead of yourself so that your acceleration at one G is actually more than 32 ft/sec/sec. This also eliminates G forces within your ship as you and the ship are falling at the same rate. You do need a second minor G field to maintain a 'down' within the ship and a third G field for the purpose of hovering or negating the planetary G field. As Gravity is universal, travel to and within any planetary system becomes only a matter of a sufficient G field generator to compensate for a planets own G field. As time slows down the faster you go, after you fall past the speed of light (time does go backwards) you can arrive at your destination only a short time after you left your starting point.

You still have to allow for your slowing down so you must only accelerate for half of the distance to your destination and decelerate for the other half of the trip. Your duration of travel is calculated during the pre-light speed and post-light speed portion of the journey.

I hope I have made this clear to you and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send an e-mail. I will be available until early December, 2012.

Sep. 21 2010 06:59 AM
Skipper from The Future

I wonder, would one experience a stronger hypnic jerk if they were both falling asleep and falling in love? Or if one went skiing for the first time earlier that day? The idea being that greater activation of the idea of "falling" in the brain would add up to a stronger sensation for the hypnic jerk.

Sep. 21 2010 04:36 AM
Caleb Daniels from New Zealand

You guys are amazing!

Sep. 21 2010 03:54 AM
Be from Earth

I *love* the new site! I'm so glad that I stayed up, now I can listen to the brand new podcast! This is the greatest moment of my life!

Sep. 20 2010 11:14 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.