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The Trouble with Everything

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 05:49 PM

New stars being born in the Elephant's Trunk Nebula New stars being born in the Elephant's Trunk Nebula (NASA/JPL/Caltech)

The desire to trace your way back to the very beginning, to understand everything -- whether it's the mysteries of love or the mechanics of the universe -- is deeply human. It might also be deeply flawed.

In this short, Jad and Robert talk to a writer and two physicists who are all grappling with versions of the same enormous question: is it possible to understand everything, or are we chasing an impossible dream... one built on questions that always lead to more questions?

Jenny Hollowell kicks things off with her gorgeous short story "A History of Everything, Including You." It's a powerful tale with a sweeping scope -- the history not just of one couple, but everything that led to them -- distilled into a poetic crush of just a few pages. The piece was born out of a sense of frustration Jenny felt about trying to account for "everything" in order to understand her life. And in many ways, her solution speaks to an eerily similar moment of uncertainty in physics. Inspired by an essay written by physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, Robert pays a visit to Brian Greene to ask if the latest developments in theoretical physics spell a crisis for science -- where we find we've reached the limit of what we can see and test, and are left with mathematical equations that can't be verified by experiments or observation.

Read more:


Brian Greene, Jenny Hollowell and Alan Lightman


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Comments [79]

Jake from Baltimore, MD

It was tough to continue listening to this episode. I have mixed feelings about the first part. It was poetic and made me leave the context of the present to think all the way back to the beginning of the universe, but there was also a naive self-centered view.
The second part was really unproductive. Not sure what they were aiming to do.

Nov. 12 2015 09:22 AM
Mitch Carpenter from Indiana

As far as infinite universes with infinite variety are concerned:

The idea that attempting to understand might be worthwhile becomes redundant in a number of ways.

For instance, an infinite number of universes just accomplished The Understanding. And then an infinite number of universes having accomplished it found it not worth while. While another infinite number found it to be quite worthwhile. Actually an infinite number of universes never having accomplished full understanding lived happier than another infinite number of universes that accomplished it.

Also an infinite number of "yous" just read this. An infinite number having read it picked their nose. Oh you didn't? Well an infinite number of you didn't either. An infinite number made an embarrassing noise just to feel like an individual -the exact same embarrassing noise. (Go ahead and make one) See how it feels to be an infinitely redundant number of yous. An infinite number then went on to live out their life exactly as you have. Exactly as you have. Which one would you have preferred if you had a chance to meet say 10,000 of them.

In an infinite number of universes you would see a spectrum where they advanced at infinitely different rates technologically. An infinite number would learn how to communicate with and us somehow. And actually an infinite number did communicate with an infinite number of other universes, just now. Some had to wait two seconds, well not some, but you get the idea.

And out of all of those infinite universes. None. Not one. Contacted us. You would think that with an infinite number of universes being able to communicate the noise would be deafening.

Shh can you hear them? Listen careful now. An infinite number of universes just chose you as their first point of contact. Every infinitesimal second of your life (and everyone's life) has been a passing moment when an uncountable number of universes just chose them as the first point of contact. Even if there was a rule against it, protected by thousands of green lanterns, many universes would break it.

...Or maybe that is one of the underlying mathematical rules. Not data between universes. And so to search is redundant.

Dec. 31 2014 12:45 AM

Can someone help me with this? I can't figure out who is who in the debate with Brian Greene, they both sound like Jad and Robert to me. Who was the one making the "coherence" thing that kept going on towards the end of the discussion and who was the other one?

Dec. 08 2014 02:06 PM
Tom from Kingston, Canada

Perhaps the other Universes are the dark matter and energy we can't see within our own universe. Non locality and quantum mechanics would allow for that in my limited understanding. What could the other universes be? All other possibilities or choices of what could be perhaps.

Jul. 25 2014 01:24 PM

I would also like to know what music was playing towards the end of Jenny's story. Very moving, especially when paired with her story. I thought of my own parents, the path of their lives, and more. It brought me to tears and I don't think it will leave my thoughts anytime soon.

May. 23 2014 08:46 PM
h b

What is the music playing at the end of Jenny's reading of her story??

May. 03 2014 03:49 PM

This caught my eye when I was scrolling the webpage. I myself can relate to this feeling. How does this work, why is this, and is it possible, are common questions of mine. I personally believe in God but I do wonder about the massiveness of the universe. The world is just so incredibly expansive and beautiful that it's unfathomable to think about it all. We humans will probably never get answers to all of these questions, but it doesn't stop us from asking them. The excerpt she read was very poetic. She summed up humanity beautifully. It's in our nature to ask questions and to be curious. That will never end.

Apr. 28 2014 05:00 PM

I really enjoyed the storytelling of Hollowell’s short story. The flow of the story created a really intriguing beginning-to-end type narrative that really made me think. If one were to really take into consideration ones entire existence from life to death, the number of decisions, and meetings, arguments, and conversations, it’s almost like a conglomerate of interwoven paths from beginning to end that’s just too great to put yourself at the center at; it’s being part of something bigger.

Apr. 25 2014 10:32 PM
Robin from Lawrence KS

The 'debate' with Brian Greene was funny.

The line of thinking Mr. Krulwich was using was akin to attempting to lift the chair you stand on. Premise --> Conclusion --> New Premise Negating Original Premise.

If we can proceed from Premise to Conclusion at all there must be some level of coherence, even if we are not privy to its deeper mysteries yet.

If there is no coherence beyond our universe then all bets are off and Krulwich might as well concede that Greene is as right as can be.

Mar. 26 2014 04:05 PM
Jacques from Brooklyn, NY

I enjoy this podcast for the most part (sans stupid "he said" "and then they said" voice edits like I'm too dumb to follow what people are saying), and have listened to most of them, but this was the first one I had to skip because of the Jenny H. bit. Jesus. Absolute crap.

Mar. 10 2014 01:37 AM
Cindy from Camas, WA

The more I know about science, the more I believe in the possiblity of a creator(s). That's why it's so stupid for religious people to fear science!

Jan. 15 2014 01:21 PM
Marilyn from Gardnerville Nevada

"Universe" - infinite/totality - oxymoron - literature/science - science as religion and religion as science - on and on we go. If we come to the ultimate answer (apart from 42 - a retired baseball jersey) will it free us from the conflicts we create over what we believe has been proven? Isn't it the mystery that calls us to pursue understanding? Don't we need faith that we can come to know what is not known? If we answer all the questions are we done? What helps us live day to day?

I would like to point out that in this back and forth argument over science and religion that fundamentalist thinking exists on both sides mostly due to errors in translation. Math is a language, literature is in language, psyches produce great graphics . . . The Buddhists and Hindus describe a "ten thousand-fold universe", the desert fathers studied a Kabbala that is only 1/10th manifested on the plane of our understanding, and the Tao relieves our boggled minds with a simple fluctuating duality (. . . on . . . off . . . on . . . off . . .).

Narrow minded political/empirical corruption and tainting of both religion and science attempts to rob us of potentials for living with understanding.
Not that I care . . .

Dec. 05 2013 03:18 PM
Brennan from Earth[?]

Did you know that the energy core that powers the internet can also conduct volcanic surging-bridges across cosmic instances of neo-Logistic's {cerebral/celestial alignment} universal=balance in visual delivery < and > dbl-blind hope? Defining the equation is the mathematics of definition (((huh :))). One can [only] be delivered and one [can] only received; such is the polarity of wisdom which cannot_be_known, only achieved - in time & space : with the [dynamical] physics of chemistry & grace.

Nov. 20 2013 07:44 AM
Rigel from Querétaro, México

Hey guys, why don't we give a chance to the fact that the reality we perceive is not “The everything”. In fact, the reality that we perceive is pretty different that the one perceived by our neighbor, brother or schoolteacher. Other worlds and dimensions obviously exist and they are not necessarily made of physical matter. Other beings are among and around us each moment (some of us perceive them, some don’t). Why don`t we give a chance to the fact that our reason and our mental capabilities are not the only parameters to establish reality (lets talk about intuition and the heart for example). Why don’t we give a chance to the reality where everything is linked by the fact that it exists, by the fact that it is a fractal of the Absolute Conscience or Being (however we want to call it). Because one thing is for sure, we are “floating” in a beautiful sphere called Earth, in a space called Universe; where EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.


Nov. 07 2013 08:39 PM
Jack Graceffa from Hollis,NH.

Where can I obtain a hard copy of A HISTORY OF EVERYTHING INCLUDING YOU by Jenny Holloway?

Oct. 23 2013 09:31 AM


Sep. 18 2013 11:07 PM
Isaac from PA

I'm pretty sure he said "curate," meaning:

- select, organize, and look after the items in a collection or exhibition.

- select acts to perform at (a music festival).

- select, organize, and present suitable content (typically for online or computational use).

I hear it most often in relation to "curators" at museums, who manage the collections.

Sep. 18 2013 02:05 AM

In the beginning, the announcer said that NPR recently asked them to "curay" a series of stories. What is that word that sounds like "curay"? Thanks.

Sep. 17 2013 07:52 PM
Antonino Calapai

For the second part: The Neanderthal Parallax

one of those universes is populated only by Neanderthals instead of Sapiens.

Sep. 16 2013 04:01 PM
aldona skonie

Ive loved and lostI love the part about looking 4 true

Aug. 31 2013 02:15 PM

@Devin from WA:
I am a person who "has faith" in science and admires people like Brian Greene who have spent decades educating themselves, researching, studying, calculating, theorizing, and at times tearing their hair out to try and understand and explain the nature of the universe. But thanks to you, I now know what a fool I've been. I should have been listening to people like you - an obviously modest and selfless person who, unlike the rest of us can "recognize and ignore his own biases."
And BTW, Jenny Holloway's story was just that - a story, i.e. she made it up. It's interesting that you mistook it for a personal essay, even though it was made clear in the podcast that it was not. But I guess a true narcissist could not begin to understand that anyone could so intimately imagine a life that is not their own. The view from their own 24/7 navel gazing so just too limited.

Aug. 28 2013 06:02 PM
Devin from WA

Jenny's story impressed me with its unrepentant narcissism. It goes beyond pre-Copernican Earth-centric idiocy: Earth isn't the center of the universe, some extremely boring human who didn't do anything interesting with her life is the center of the universe. I feel so ... enlightened. But then, that describes practically every self-absorbed, self-important piece of "modern literature" I was forced to read in college. "Ooo, I'm so lyrical like poetry! Who cares that my message is navel-gazing?"

On a different note, I think you are taking the wrong tack with these faith vs. science conversations. The problem is, there are a lot of people who invest their faith in particular scientific concepts because some books told them these things are true (or at least supported by Occam's Razor), and they froth at the mouth if you tell them you have doubts about how well we understand those concepts. These people do not understand that they should be placing their faith in the scientific method itself, not in the particular concepts it illuminates. The scientific method can only tell us about the things that we can observe in an objective, repeatable, systematic manner, and even then, we have to remember that the scientists who implement it are not gods. People who treat "Science" as omniscient need to not forget that flawed human beings, few of whom can recognize and ignore their own biases, have collected information using limited equipment, and they have only collected the information that someone has thought might be potentially interesting or useful enough for a grant-money allocation. Add to that the drama of who-knows-whom in the scientific community, the interference of social and governmental censure of certain issues, and the internal pressures of pride and fear of failure, and you get a system that will always fall short of its ideals. This is why there has to be some faith involved in believing in scientific concepts.

Because of the nature of the scientific method, the more times a question has been asked and answered in different ways, the more you can trust that answer, but that trust is still an act of faith that we have been asking the question correctly and attempting to answer it correctly. Much of the time, that faith is in something at least partially true. But sometimes, such as in practically every advance in the field of nutrition (it seems), we are too quick to proclaim that an answer has been found. People like Brian Greene can tell some interesting stories, but too much of what they say sounds like answers instead of questions, and too many of those answers are based on speculation (mathematical or otherwise) rather than on the actual scientific method. Just because the narratives of those speculations match up with current scientific knowledge, that doesn't make it any less a work of well-thought-out, mathematically-beautiful science fiction. I am a big fan of Brian Greene's books in the same way that I am of Star Trek.

Aug. 15 2013 02:34 PM
Jeff Wu from Santa Clara, CA

I largely agree with Prof. Brian Greene that it can still be useful to have a general form of the equations governing nature, even if some constants within those equations are unspecified. I think this is what he was trying to tell Robert Krulwich all along, without using the word "constants".

However, I was deeply troubled by the way Prof. Greene talked about the multiverse as if arising from the "fundamental equations" of physics. The multiverse only arises from certain versions of string theory, which is one of many *candidate* theories of resolving the currently unresolved problem of uniting all the particles and forces of nature into a single set of equations. Unfortunately, there is no new prediction that string theory makes that has been verified by experimental evidence. In fact, the latest results of the Large Hadron Collider puts one of the fundamental assumptions of string theory (i.e. supersymmetry) in serious doubt.

The current state-of-the-art of physics is the Standard Model of particle physics and Einstein's theory of general relativity. Both of these theories have been validated by massive amounts of experimental evidence. Even though one of the main goals of string theory is to unify these two standard theories, it has not done this job yet, nor does it any experimental evidence to suggest that it has done the right unification, or even show that it reduces to any of the state-of-the-art theories in some limit. String theory, and the multiverse, therefore cannot be called part of the "fundamental theory" of nature.

Aug. 01 2013 03:36 PM
Limeygal from Santa Barbara, CA

I agree with many of the comments already made that this show was a little 'off' of the Radiolab we have come to love and adore. I have a sense that this was due to the creative differences that Jad alluded to at the start of the show. Didn't he sound less enthused, less invested, more churlish in the second half of the show? I definitely preferred the first half and Jenny's short-story which had me gasping to catch a proper breath as I was running this morning (make mental note: don't listen to emotionally charged material while trying to exercise).
The second half just seemed simplistic and clunky.
Let's just chalk this one up to a creative disparity and trust things get back on track. Roll on live tour!

Jul. 25 2013 01:10 AM
Chad Matteson from Hailey, ID

I can't believe Alan Lightman said we may know everything and have pushed the limits of what man can know about the Universe.... that is like the infamous saying "there is only a use for about 5 computers in the world..." History has shown us that Brian Greene is much closer to the truth when he says most of what we do is probably wrong, not because we are making mistakes but because we are probably asking the wrong questions.

I love it that you think you can "win" an argument with Brian Greene, that is precious, I would love to just have an argument with him...

What if Math is not the basis?
What if we are in a very similar situation to Europe in the 15th century there are maps around showing lands no one remembers exists, Antarctica, for example, but no one knows how to get there. And if they do get there the well mapped coastline is under 1000 feet of ice... Al we will ever get is clues to the workings of the Universe. Other than that, we are just guessing...we can map and measure and it and it is fun and interesting and sometimes enables us to interact with the Universe better, but we are just guessing.

Jul. 20 2013 03:39 PM

One point that was interesting to me is that looks like everybody jumps when listening to the "f" word: faith. I think Robert tried to use it in a proper context: believe in something without any current proof of that "something" behaving or being as you believe it is at this moment. I think every scientist or science person have "faith" in the sense that that "something" they are looking for will come up. Now, here faith is different to dogma (that "something" is this or the other way, period, no analysis needed at all) or blind faith.

Jul. 19 2013 01:17 PM

Scientists can know everything,, as in the fate of the universe.

So what about uncertainty principle, incompleteness theorem, chaos theory

that pretty much talk about the unpredictable determinism of the Universe ?

Jul. 16 2013 08:41 PM
Paul from New York City

A very important point was missed in the discussion with Brian Greene: the equations that Brian says point to the existence of the Multiverse, could also point in another direction, if one chooses to interpret them that way. That is, they could be evidence that the Universe was designed purposefully so that life as we know it could exist. In other words, that it had a creator.

I am not religious personally and have no investment in either idea, but the omission needs to be pointed out. Having grown up in a family of scientists, I have a basic grasp of the concepts: As scientists gained greater understanding of the fundamentals of the Universe mathematically, it became clear that these were so overcomplicated, so amazingly, precisely calibrated that the slightest, infinitesimal, deviation would render all of existence as we know it impossible. They calculated that the chances of this occurring randomly are so astronomically high, that randomness is not a rational explanation. Therefore a creator was implied.

Of course, the idea of a creator of the Universe is so anathema to most scientists that an alternative explanation needed to be developed. The theory of the Multiverse allows randomness to be revived as an explanation for existence: There are an infinite number of universes, and perhaps each moment generates not just countless possibilities, but countless manifestations in the form of a new Universes. There is an infinity of infinities and in this scenario our otherwise incredibly unlikely existence becomes easily conceivable: we are, of course, living in the anomalous Universe that allows for our existence.

However, as was pointed out in the show, there is absolutely no evidence for this theory and it is very possible there never will be. Because the Multiverse is not the only conclusion that can be drawn from these equations, Brian’s belief in the Multiverse is absolutely a matter of faith and he is disingenuous to claim otherwise.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which unprovable, unlikely idea you have more faith in: a single Universe that was designed to support life, or the infinity of infinities that is the Multiverse.

Jul. 13 2013 09:10 PM

Please - stop with the idiotic "faith" religious crap. We're talking about science not Santa. Do you always have to try and squish those ridiculous thoughts into logical conversations? It is so tiresome. I'm glad Brian Greene had the patience for it but I'm sorry he has to.

Jul. 06 2013 03:19 PM
Michael Whelan from Danbury, CT

I love Radiolab and have enjoyed listening to your podcasts for years. But the program discussed here was disappointing.

Though I enjoyed Jenny's writing - and reading- I agree with Ludd and many others that the attempts to try to get scientists to " admit " faith seems childish and self serving. Mr. Krulwich, who, like many Creationists, seems to be bent on nitpicking scientific attitudes with the intent of thus ( in their minds, anyway) invalidating all scientific evidence that condradicts their religious beliefs. For a show like Radiiolab, I feel it is out of place and does a disservice to your listeners.

But it was the " Can we know everything" part of the show that truly dismayed me. The question itself is shockingly naive, to begin with. If the universe is infinite, then of course we cannot know everything. How could a reasonable person think otherwise?
In discussions such as these, I am always dismayed by the lack of differentiation between " knowledge" and " understanding", And this show could have emphasized that difference more. Given an unlimited future ( a concept redolent of unbridled hubris on the part of a species that has only been on Earth for a tiny amount of time so far), we may amass a nearly limitless amount of information, and perhaps attain an expanded accumulation of knowledge. But understanding is dependent on a finite resource: our mental capacity. There are surely conceptual levels that are as unattainable to the average human as celestial mechanics is to the average dog. We can no more perceive them than we can see the world through the eyes of a mantis shrimp. I can't see why this obvious fact is so difficult for people to grasp.

Jul. 06 2013 11:41 AM
eiaboca from NYC

Public intellectuals (and anti-intellectuals, for that matter) have been claiming for centuries that we are reaching THE END of human knowledge; that's it! No further! And time and time again, over and over and over and over they have been disproven. It's a ridiculous, myopic argument that will likely never be true. Even if there are parts of the multiverse that we can never reach--that does not logically entail that we will reach a limit to human knowledge: there might be more things in the universe that we can investigate than we have time left in the universe (before the big chill, heat death, or big crunch--maybe we'll even find a way around these things, a way to survive [if we don't kill ourselves] these nearly unimaginable events.) TO investigate! How exciting!

It amazes me that a professional scientist can look out over all of the problems we have discovered in the last several centuries and claim with a straight face that we have reached our limits. It reeks of small-minded imperiousness, and I'm sad for him. I mean, I can even grant that there might be a limit to our knowledge and still believe wholeheartedly that we have discovered a fraction of a fraction of a percent of all there is for us to discover. I draw this conclusion from years of reading a wide spectrum of philosophical and scientific papers, each of which has a new question to ponder.

This doesn't even go into the possibility that we might someday augment our intelligence and our bodies to understand things we can't even begin to dream of yet.

Jul. 04 2013 10:50 PM

this has been one of my favorite shows, and a breath of fresh air when This American Life was getting really stale. it makes me sort of disappointed with myself that i never took the time to write in with positivity. but this is the first time i'm writing in, and i went through the whole 'create an account' bit just to tell you how disappointing the second half of this podcast was. i'm so sick of krulwich talking like everyone is an 8 year old. Even if the guest might have had interesting points to make, we go down, yet again, Krulwich's faith v science rabbit hole. UUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHH!!!

Jul. 03 2013 03:39 PM

I wish I could've listened to the podcast, but unfortunately the Radiolab app for iphones functions so poorly that it is incredibly difficult to get through an episode without cancelling my subscription in frustration. The This American Life app has zero of these problems. Please look to it or any other competent podcast app for guidance. Thanks.

Jul. 03 2013 03:08 PM

For those who want more science, let's not forget that at its foundations modern science is a branch of philosophy, so philosophical speculations and arguments are certainly within the purview of science.

My question: why do we want or need to know everything? The hubris that takes as a matter of faith that the human mind is capable of knowing all things is just the sort of self-apotheosis that leads to colonialism, imperialist conquest, and other such historical travesties. I will remain agnostic about whether humans are capable of such comprehensive knowledge; I think it is more important to be clear about our motives.

Jun. 28 2013 02:31 PM
Hajnalka from Northern NC

I really enjoyed Jenny H's story. Trippy and out there, but it made me think a lot more about the world around me. Well done.

I didn't care at all for the second part of this podcast, for many reasons listed by smart posters above. You've got me interested about multiverse theory, then partway through you have to stop and debate/explain whether gravity still works?

I felt an absence of Jad at least adding some small humor or pertinent question (or great editing) for us non-theoretical physicists. This is ALL theory. It may be interesting theory, but it is speculative and seems to be biased. Certainly didn't cause me to care, or learn anything new (as most of your podcasts do.)

Jun. 27 2013 08:53 PM

wth is this?

Brian Greene's multiverse theory sounds like nothing more than a premise for a fantasy movie that comic-book-guy would write about, based on absolutely nothing in the observable universe, much less based on any real science.

and drawing a comparison from Copernicus to himself is misdirected self-flattery; Copernicus made his radical hypotheses based on things he observed, not something he pulled out of his butt.

Jun. 27 2013 02:19 PM
robert from WDC

I loved this, nice to hear you back on track thinking about the big questions.

Jun. 27 2013 07:38 AM

This is just silly. The first half was kind of cute and succeeded in making everyone feel terribly mortal all the sudden, but the arguments in the second half about "knowing everything"?? Come on! This rides on the assumption that once we do know everything about our little, known universe - as in, for example, where you would end up if you kept going in one direction at an arbitrarily fast speed - this knowledge will offer up absolutely no clues as to the larger scheme of things, of the larger construct the universe and others like it exist in! All these big bangs - where are they happening? In what environment? Is there truly no way to traverse that space? If the fundamental mathematical laws have to be the same across all universes - or at least in any place where one can distinguish among "one", "many", and "none" - that's already no small feat, since these laws include the great elusive mystery of prime numbers (a mystery we've been pondering over for millenia). If Krulwich wants to bask in the bafflement of divinity, that's the place to do it. Also, it's not a "belief" that fundamental mathematical laws have to be the same, it's just the way it is: in what universe does 2 + 2 = 5 or 1 - 1 = 1, ever? I don't get how that's a matter of faith.

Seriously - as other commentators have complained, "what happened??" Bring the science back here, and if you are gonna talk faith, do it with people who actually understand the science (or in this case, the math).

Jun. 26 2013 03:46 PM

@DD: You asked for someone to explain what made "A History of Everything, Including You" so exceptional. I'll try - I loved it. I can see how it might disappoint depending on your expectations. I listened to it like I would a poem - it's lyricism and rhythm swept me into that mindset. So rather than try to interpret it literally, I just went with the flow. That's how poetry speaks to us - we allow the words to move us, even though we're not sure what they mean. Try a relisten with that in mind and see if you like it better. HTH

Jun. 24 2013 09:42 PM

I have been disappointed in the show of late because of its straying away from science and into Oprah territory, but I have to admit I thought that Jenny Hollowell's short story was simply gorgeous. So much so I rewound the episode and listened again, right away. Should have stopped there, because the rest of the show was not worthy. Once again Krulwich infuriated with his naive and simplistic views on science and faith. Greene, though not my favorite celeb physicist, deserved a more worthy debating partner. He was very diplomatic and patient, but I could just picture him rolling his eyes at Krulwich's idiotic arguments. But I'm grateful for the short story reading because I might otherwise have never come across it. I'll be adding it to my folder of exceptional writing I've been collecting since college, pieces that speak to me in a profound way, like Hollowell's story did.

Jun. 24 2013 09:20 PM
Rodrigo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As far as we can possibly go today, with our processing capabilities.
In the future, more evolved humans will look back and say, "look at those pre historic humans listening to Radiolab, how little their technology allowed them to know" and then it will be their turn to be looked back upon and have the same thing about them.

Jun. 24 2013 08:51 PM
Anne Hambrock from Kenosha WI

The biggest moment I took from this podcast was the final question pertaining to how much of the ultimate answers human beings can comprehend.

It got me wondering: Can a honeybee ever understand a television set? Or a smart phone? Does the television or the phone even exist for the bee? I mean beyond the obvious "there's something I could land on and it doesn't have any pollen" type of comprehension. If we believe humans can evolve to understand "everything" must we accept the idea that, someday, the bee would evolve to the point that it would not only recognize the smartphone but would be capable of using it?

Jun. 24 2013 02:40 PM

What I have learned from your comments is that scientist are very pedantic and many seem to be unbending and quite sure of themselves (much like English majors). BTW Alan Lightman is an author of fiction. His book "Einstein's Dreams" is a very popular book (my credentials for that assessment: Powell's Books 7+ years, librarian for a decade) but it is quite sophomoric in the American fiction way of writing and reading. Unlike several of the "scientist" I enjoyed the short story in your piece but I think it may be difficult for a rigid scientific mind to let go of "fact" and enjoy it.
BTW my comment sounds a bit critical of scientist, because I think it is, but I love listening and reading all kinds of science as well as Radiolab.

Jun. 23 2013 11:36 AM
William Litsch from Fairfax, VA

My comment regards Brian Greene and his use of "we". He does not speak for all physicists. I have a couple degrees in physics and he doesn't speak for me. Brian Greene is not a scientist. He espouses theories that cannot be proven. The author Peter Woit elaborates this fact in "Not Even Wrong". Both String Theory and the Parallel Universes theory are non-scientific theories no better than an astrologer who claims that you will have an auspicious birth on a certain day. He relies purely on faith for his and as such is not a scientist. Scientists deal with what is observable and falsifiable. Brian's faith is that any mathematical object he dreams up has to have some real-world existence. Pure mathematicians don't even typically believe such non-sense. In Brian is combined the folly of the pure mathematician with the folly of the pure theoretical physicist who believes in their own power of creation so much that they cannot perceive the divergence between abstract ideas and reality. Is it hubris pure and simple. Few physicists actually believe that the universe is really just some giant super-computer chugging away on mathematical equations. Mathematical equations are an abstract tool people use to help their understanding of complex natural patterns. Beyond them are algorithms. These days mathematical equations fail regularly, largely because they fail to recognize both heterogeneity and a real concept of time. 'Time' in mathematical equations is really just a dummy variable that expresses correlations not causation. To get causation one must move to an algorithm framework and computer programming or simulation. From such simulations it is already becoming apparent that our mathematical equations are often special cases of aggregate or emergent phenomenon. String theory and multiple universes are unnecessary. I am a great fan of science-fiction and science, but I know where one ends and the other begins. In the mind.

Jun. 22 2013 03:43 PM

How can we ever understand an ever-expanding reality, when reality - and all it's rules - changes the more we know. When scientists became meditators they will not only see a lot further into the depths of the universe, they will be able to keep up with the continual growth and change, and feel the peace that knowledge imparts - every yogi knows this.

Jun. 21 2013 03:40 PM

First, that story was not a story. All I heard was "me me me." Her comments about being in therapy seem to reveal that the author is looking for some truth in wrong places. Truth is within you. If your parents were emotionally unavailable then it is only up to you to get over it. Some shrink cannot help you do that. Just terrible.

Second, faith and science are not comparable. I used to get caught up in this logical trap but falsifiability and skepticism of itself make science a truly different way of understanding the world.

Last, I don't understand why the potential that we might not be able to understand everything is "disturbing." I think that mentality is disturbing.

I love you Radiolab, but this is just awful.

Jun. 21 2013 01:00 PM
Kurtis from Raleigh, NC

I am a graduate student in functional genomics and have been listening to this show for a long time. However, I have been checking the site less and less recently and feel that it may be time to stop all together. The reason is what has been mentioned before by others, it lacks interesting science. Some may say that "what about the recent episodes on light or the universe?" I would respond that, topics like those are indeed science, they are not unique, especially to those who came to your podcast specifically for interesting science. For simple topics like these there are to many alternative already (big picture science or skeptics guide to the universe come to mind).
What I heard in this podcast was literature and grand speculation. If I wanted that I could easily talk to the English majors on campus or download one of hundreds of other podcasts that cover the same topic.
I know that Jad and Rob do not agree with me (according to one of their answers on the Reddit AMA) and I find that disappointing. There is nothing wrong with the new direction they are taking the show and it might even result in more listeners but I am certain that me and like minded people will not be among them.

Jun. 21 2013 01:52 AM
Alan Tower from South Pasadena, CA

I followed for many years the work of Brian Swimme, a cosmologist writing about the wonders of the Epic of Evolution and The Universe Story.
I can tell you that I came across numerous renditions of the kind of thing Jenny H was writing about. Many of them from people I know as well as
know authors. Not to take anything away from Jenny's work, to me there was
not a lot of power or uniqueness in her approach but that is a factor of my experience with it all and of course could be just that for others or course.

Jun. 20 2013 11:17 PM
Matt Fletcher

I enjoyed the debate but I believe Faith/Religion have zero pertinence in the discussion of Science and Multiverses. The difference between Science and Religion are most evident in the manner that each are "practiced". Science is evolving, mutating, changing -whichever verb you prefer- every time a new experiment is completed our understanding of this universe at least is increased even if just by a nano-bit. Science is always changing while Religion is history. Studying a text that is however many millennia old and pondering upon its ramifications while the text remains the same. Unlike Science there aren't going to be any revised editions based on new evidence. The Gospel may be enlightening but there is no more of it coming down the pike. This doesn't mean we can't learn from Religion but religious faith in the context of multiverses is a dead end.

Jun. 20 2013 05:01 PM
cc_ctc from Australia

Sorry silly error t2= m/E(d2 + π2r4) ok but this means
time= √(m/E)√(d2 + π2r4). And also
E= m/t2(d2 + π2r4) and so
√E= ((√m)/t)√(d2 + π2r4).
Perhaps these relationships between energy and time are not convincing so if preferred use momentum and a triangle as in the Utube "minutephysics" video "E=mc2 is incomplete" which I saw after I thought to turn Einstein into a circular form! After all, space is curved!

Jun. 19 2013 06:24 AM
geoffv from Berkely

For anyone questioning Alan Lightman: Lightman co-wrote *the standard book* on radiative processes in astrophysics. Radiative processes in a nutshell: if you move stuff around out in space, how does is shine? It is basically the only tool we have for studying the cosmos, and everyone learns it from his book. I've never met him, but given his contribution, I'd assume he's a more nuts-and-bolts kind of guy who is interested in calculating the answers to well-defined questions, and interpreting data. You know, science. His fiction is also very entertaining and thought provoking, but it's just fiction.

Jun. 19 2013 01:13 AM
geoffv from Berkeley

Brian Greene was wrong about one important thing. And I'd bet that he'd admit to the mistake if someone pointed it out to him.

Saying that the question of why the Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun is "The Wrong Question" misses an important point. The process of planet formation is one of the most important open questions in contemporary astrophysics. The question of why we have the planets, in their rough arrangements, is just as important a question as why do we have DNA, or why does economics exist.

Planet formation is a lot more subtle than just throwing some rocks into a pile and some of them land in random places. Often profound insights come from someone asking a question that no one realized was even a question. This gets to the idea of "emergence", something that radiolab discusses (in one way or another) in several shows.

All of this discussion also illustrates an interesting psychological/cultural phenomena. The string-theory/inflation-theory types very often dismiss almost all of the rest of science in as "asking the wrong question". Sorry Prof. Greene, planet formation is interesting, even if it isn't directly in "God's Thoughts". I really do understand the point you were trying to make about the weak anthropic principle, but hopefully we can shift the somewhat elitist attitude that head-in-the-clouds physics is the only important physics, the rest might as well be what's for dinner. However, isn't it amazing that if you take the hot fireball from the Big Bang, and wait long enough, you get fried tofu and egg rolls? Why is that?

Jun. 19 2013 12:51 AM
cc_ctc from Australia

Part 3 of 3 posts, the remainder are below in reverse order.
However I don’t favor a theory of everything. That is because I think the Big Bang arose as a result of something being wrong, not right, and the explosion was immense involving a huge shockwave type effect such as Inflation. Thus there may have been the simulation of multiple universes but all these remained as probabilities, except one. That is, our Universe is the result of a massive correction effect that involved an explosion, due to a fault in a dormant field (a wiring problem), and there is never likely to be a theory of everything, because something is amiss!
Studies into possible variations of correction factors (e.g. Webb et al 2011 ), and of pendulums effect and non-linear gravity or thermodynamic theories, do not seem to be favored, although even wrong the experiments are likely to shed some light.
I believe that there is still possibly EM communication between the photons in entanglement, but it cannot be seen/observed either by our current vision or instruments, but in fact the photons conjoin to behave as one wave, and on one side we can observe the U and on the other the upside down U or the opposite behaviour by the second photon, and what we are really seeing is different sections of the same wave.
Alternatively they join like two streams and then split again with different properties if both cannot have the same property afterwards. Otherwise their motion is circular, and what we are seeing is the forward motion of one and the backward motion of the other in a looped circle with both photons from the same source, probably being the same, but it is too quick for us to detect. This would fit with the idea of circularity as shown by the atom and as possible for Einstein’s energy equation discussed in the above Problem 1.
These two experiments indicate that either the addition of light or the subtraction of light leads to effects that cannot be directly observed, and as in the massive light-producing galaxies that surround dark holes, all that can be seen by our current observational efforts is darkness. We have collectively decided there must be another form of energy i.e. dark energy. However it seems to me that both the pendulum and the entanglement show that in addition or subtraction of light (sorry, can’t expand on that), photons are no longer able to emit light, and instead the energy is found in another form, so communication occurs but it cannot be seen except in some rather obstruse ways. In my opinion this is probably not evidence for any form of dark energy, but rather electromagnetic radiation in another form that so far we have been unable to detect, other than the standard model says it is there. That is normal EM is still there but we are not seeing it, and either reduction or increase causes a change in its properties that results in manifesting without light emission.

Jun. 18 2013 03:59 AM
cc_ctc from Australia

Same person as before, using a nickname. Part 2 due to word length.
. But it is indeed interesting that both the movement of the electron in an atom and the model of space as curved, possibly even an inflating sphere, are all representations of circular motion, which Einstein’s equation partly but not fully describes. This is where I believe some work needs to be done, as even if my invented equations just prove to be spurious, the problem of representing Energy and curvature with an equation that only describes the dimension of distance remains. So you will have to forgive me for just having a stab in the Dark. The problem of Darkness is now discussed in Problem 2.

PROBLEM 2 Dark energy or not?
Quantum entanglement and the effects of a solar eclipse on pendulum may both represent the same problem, which could be seen as representation of dark energy. That is, two photons appear to be able to relate to each other over distance, with no light in between, thus implying an energy connection of some kind. The Moon blocks most of the Sun’s light although Peter Ford has pointed out that there is still infrared energy (his posts on dark matter podcast site: ). However before, during and after the absence of such immense radiation, the pendulums move all over the place, with the effect occurring over hundreds of kilometres, eventually snapping back into some type of synchronised motion after the event. This has been shown by decades of investigations (e.g. the Eastern European ones in 2008 ), so that as in the wonderful synchronised metronome podcast ( ) there may be in fact an effect on the base i.e. the Earth’s magma, so this may be an EM effect related to light, and absence of it. There may also be a natural synchronisation involved in EM, and this may manifest during entanglement.
This leads one to believe that there may be something to theories of a thermodynamic basis for gravity, as shown by Peter Ford ( ), and also in a completely different way by Pazy and Argaman in 2012 ( ), which may eventually lead to a theory of everything.
I discuss this below in a third post due to word length.

Jun. 18 2013 03:52 AM
C Copley from Australia

This is going to be an example of sleuthing by someone with little more than first year university physics and maths, but it may throw up some ideas, and word limits mean it has to be done in two parts, so bear with me.

PROBLEM 1 Einstein’s E=mc2 is possibly half the equation.
This equation suggests two things to me. Firstly that it may represent part of an equation for a circle. Secondly that it only represents only the relationship of Energy (E) with distance, since c is the velocity of light, referring to distance/time (d/t). Therefore the equation could be rewritten
E= m(d/t)2,
which is probably not news to anyone.

With regard to Einstein’s fabulous curved space-time paradigm I must confess I see it slightly differently. Time is not an observable entity but rather an integral property of 3D, so to me it seems to be probably a differential, and thus obviously space and time cannot be separated. Time is seen by change in form, thus change in 3D. It is interesting though that space can appear to be curved. Time however can be measured by artificial methods whereby the distance an entity travels gives a measure of time, so I suppose that means I must temper my view by saying that time is not an entity itself, but is an integral property of change in form OR position.
Let’s just say that Einstein’s equation is missing the rest of the curved circle. That is, it is missing the other two real dimensions, which we can add by throwing in an equation for the area of a circle (πr2). Of course form takes many shapes, other than a circle, however it is evident that electrons travelling around a nucleus do so in a somewhat circular system, so it will do for now. I add this into the equation for E rather than multiply it in order to maintain a circular form of the equation, and do not use the area of a sphere as this inherently contains 3D so would be doubling up on distance. We therefore have the invented equation which so far does not stand for anything, but relates energy and time to 3 dimensions rather than 1D:
E= m(d/t)2 + m(πr2/t)2 which gives
E=m(d2/t2 + π2r4/ t2) and so
E= m/t2(d2 + π2r4) and so
Et2= m(d2 + π2r4) and so
t2= m/E(d2 + π2r4) and so
time= √m/E (d + πr2)
Time could thus be related to the dimensions of a circle and to the square root of mass and the square root of Energy, but it does not seem to manifest as a separate entity. I’ll leave it to others who are interested in working out how that means it could be a differential property!
E= m/t2(d2 + π2r4) and so
√E= √m/t(d + πr2)
Thus Energy is related to the mass and dimensions of a body over a time period.
Not sure if that helps, and it is probably nothing new, and interpretations are in my second post due to word length.

Jun. 18 2013 03:48 AM

Concerning the discussion with Brian Greene, an important retort to Robert is that the scientific tenets of falsifyability, repeatability, and experimentation are not present in a faith-based system. This is obvious.

But since things are not obvious to everyone, RadioLab could have used this opportunity to teach the relationship between the hypothetical multiverse and observable physics. If the connection exists only on paper, that's where the rub is. Leave the listener to pick sides with adequate information, rather than snippets of a conversation with unspoken--and inaccurate--assumptions.

That's one of the things that has disappointed me about RadioLab's shift in the last number of episodes: it's like the show itself has failed to demonstrate the ability to learn. That's sad. Also that at this point RadioLab has become simply a more opinionated version of This American Life.

I will follow up the criticism with problem-solving, at least: I do not think that RadioLab has to continuously out-innovate itself, as some comments have mentioned. I echo the idea that continued discussion on certain topics would be so wonderful and valuable.

RadioLab does not necessarily have to address past ideas: one important part of the grandeur of RadioLab was that it would take a personal story and used it to open up the universe through nature and science. Lately, personal stories have lead to the psychological detritus left behind by a personality when it leaves the room. Or, in the case of Greene v. Krulwich, a universal question was brought to its knees in favor of a rehash of a personal misunderstanding.

I'll keep looking forward to new RadioLabs, but I can't wait until I once more look forward to them with anticipation rather than dread.

Jun. 18 2013 12:09 AM
Sudhir Pattalil from Edison, NJ

My English may be bad... apologies. But I wanted to comment on this

I would request you to spend some research time about the contribution of Veda , which talks most of the current mathematicians and physicist trying to prove about this universe....I m also a student of various ancient Hindu books, when I go through those, I see, most of the western scientist try to find things which i s already mentioned in Vedas, I was wondering , why we wanted to re-invent the wheels. when I heard about Hollowell's story , I felt that I have read this story already in lots of Hindu Vedas and stories, so nothing new from her story, only difference is , she added some modern twist to it...that is all

I m from INDIA, love your program, I wish you spend some time to bring some ancient Hindu knowledge in one these days

Jun. 18 2013 12:04 AM
smrobbi from philadelphia

What I've recently realized about why I love this show so much is that it bridges left and right brain thinking. It blends the arts and the sciences and treats both with equal reverence. It takes a subject and examines it from hard science and the ethereal and from that a new way of seeing emerges. We live in a world of such excessive categorization and segregation of everything including thought and emotion when in truth all these things do not exist in separate vacuums and we are just beginning to realize the interconnectedness of it all.

Jun. 17 2013 11:30 AM
Rob Tompkins from Richmond, VA

My Background: M.S. Mathematics (focus: Mathematical Logic/Metamathematics).

I'm not sure if you guys have thought about this, but "Russell's Paradox" (Russell, as in Bertrand Russell) points to that our human concept of "Everything" is fundamentally flawed. I think philosophically "Everything" is just an idea that we use as a tool to understand things, but when we actually look at the idea it causes M.C. Escher style contradictions.

If you want more exposition from me on the matter feel free to contact me.

All the best,

Jun. 17 2013 10:55 AM
julian from daegu

To me Radiolab was about creating a sense of wonder in the listener that came out of newfound knowledge; something early on I compared to having got from "Reading Rainbow" as a child. It doesn't need to be science, it doesn't need special editing, and it certainly doesn't need to compete with the reporting styles of other great shows.

So i'll agree with Fernando, Ludd, and others who criticize Radiolab's shift this year. I'll add some thoughts:

This episode made me wonder why Krulwich is even a science reporter. I've seen his work and I know he's not a .... -_-. Anyway, we can't always have our A game, but as people have mentioned there's a trend. I understand that after the initial years of being innovative things might slip, but as someone mentioned, perhaps its time to look at the earlier shows and figure out what the magic was. If this were my job, that's what I'd do. I wouldn't try to do the same thing that's been done or produce sequels necessarily, but somewhere therein lies the DNA of an amazing program. Grab it, and reinvent yourself. Right now it feels like the notebooks are empty and I'd rather see a hiatus than more shorts.

That said, I've never kept an excellent creative thing running for years in my own life and I feel some shame in bearing a critical shoulder here. I am speaking out of empathy with other listeners who obviously love the show and are disappointed. I loved when an empty space of sound in the show created an involuntary reaction in me...a nod, a shake, a blank expression, straight posture, or a shiver. Someone could watch me with my earbuds in and know I was listening to Radiolab.

Jun. 17 2013 08:52 AM
Elliott from Chachi/segunda linea, Paraguay

Wow, great episode. I was blown away by the writing by Jenny Hollowell. She mentions some powerful things that really hold true to almost everyone when telling the story. Even though it just seems on the surface to be a brief and nonchalant paraphrasing, (I don't mean that in a scolding way)when I really listened, I felt the power and the weight of what she was saying. You have to think about all the circumstances behind the events she is mentioning and realize that each one is balancing on such a thin razors edge of probability of happening or not. Time and space being created, life, eyes and blinking, fire, love and everything else all could have easily been different or not happened at all. I really enjoyed this entire short episode and thank you all. Unfortunately I do not have time to contemplate much longer because I am a Peace Corps volunteer and have to ride my bike 8K in the rain and mud to catch a bus on the main road. Non the less, I enjoyed listening to this while getting ready in the morning. Radiolab is the best.

Jun. 17 2013 05:58 AM
McLir from Ann Arbor, MI

I believe physicist Lee Smolin would have a lot to say on this and other stories about things cosmological. A couple decades ago, he put forth a multiverse proposal which included the concepts of inheritance and Darwinian selection -- based on universes propagating by way of black holes. He has a new book out about time that sounds very interesting. You might consider having him on your show. He is unusually eloquent on these topics.

Jun. 16 2013 08:19 PM
baso from Seattle

Alan Lightman seems like more of a science fiction type writer than a theoretical physisist. I remember reading Einstein's dreams years ago and while it was entertaining it wasn't educational. Lightman's statement at the end that we may have reached the limit of our mental capabilities was some flat earth type thinking that left me annoyed by his lack of hope and imagination. Brian Greene's comments reflected an open minded and inquistitive approach to the subject that was refreshing for me to hear. It also seemed like they were talking about two seperate ideas when it comes to multiple universes. Lightman was talking about the, to me, absurb notion of universes exisiting in seperate dimensions based on string theroy. Greene seemed to be talking about the much more real and potentially observable idea of there being a vastly expanded space where there are seperate "universes" existing outside our own just as there are many seperate galaxies.

Jun. 16 2013 05:54 PM
Thom from Toronto

I'm dissatisfied with the ending of this episode (and that's never happened before). While Alan Lightman provided the requisite "or is it?" kind of statement that caps the show nicely and leaves us with our normal awe for the universe rightly restored, his message seemed wildly naive and baseless. At every point in the history of human discovery, there were certainly nay-sayers suggesting that we may have reached the end of human capacity for understanding. After years of documenting the progresses of human discovery, it's ironic that Radiolab would sign off the show by given voice to such quackery.

Jun. 16 2013 04:05 PM
Christopher from Breckenridge, Co

I love listening to my fellow man contemplate big questions. I'm constantly frustrated however when I know there is a source of information that sheds light on these questions and yet is never cited or consulted. Anybody who has read it feels confident in the truths it contains; anybody who has not, tends to reject it out of hand before even reading it and regard me as at best a deluded wacko. But to steal some words of wisdom from this book I declare that the truth never suffers from honest examination. The book is The Urantia Book. Read it if you are really interested in discovering truth.

Jun. 15 2013 10:47 PM
Ron Broberg

The math of other universes reminded me somewhat of Greg Egan's Luminous, a unique sf math tale.

Jun. 15 2013 07:11 PM

this is fucking terrible

Jun. 15 2013 05:00 PM

Radiolab is about humans trying to understand & define the world around them! In the grand tradition of science- it's about thinking we have the answers, only to discover something that turns everything we know on its head, and then trying to rebuild our understanding (a la Jenny's segment). It's about skepticism - even skepticism in regard to a very well known scientist's less-than-evidence-based hunch!

I echo the well-deserved kudos to Robert for calling Greene on believing & touting something he may never even be able to empirically prove. Robert's logic was hardly "fallacious" - calling it "faith" on Greene's part was calling a spade a spade.

And any of you who think Krulwich is a "spiritualist" nut-job, please do everyone a favor, give "Tell Me A Story" a re-listen, and then kindly stop impoverishing the conversation.

Jun. 15 2013 09:05 AM
David Briscoe from Tulsa, Oklahoms

This is my favorite kind of writing. I loved it. Beautifully written. No wasted words. Nathaniel Hawthorne nearly made me quit school. He produced the most unreadable torture I was required to read. Horrible writing, in my opinion.

Jun. 14 2013 07:42 PM
William Gerand

I don't understand these comments. If you look at the last few episodes of Radiolab, you find: the science of slowing down light, the speed of thought, a very dense treatment on epigenetics, a long story about prenatal ethics which involved a lot of science, a story about the efficacy of the Heimlich maneuver, two separate discussions of particle these stories not qualify as science??? If not, then i guess I don't know what the word means.

Just because they explore personal stories, which they've done FROM THE BEGINNING, does that mean they're anti-science?

Jun. 14 2013 05:06 PM

For part 1 of this podcast:

It was a nice story. Though seemed to me to be less about everything (too general) and more about the topic of determinism / existentialism.

That all events in our lives are predetermined from events past. Our being here with our desperate and flawed lives was made possible by the Big Bang which took place 13.7 billions years ago; and that's beautiful.

For Part 2 of this podcast:

Krulwhich was using a product of Theoretical Physics (multiple universes) to refute Theoretical Physics.... Wow.

Brian was being very understanding and patient with Robert, trying again and again to explain Robert's fallacious argument. Yet he kept going on and on.

The entire thing was essentially pointless, and an obvious logical fallacy on Robert's part.



Radiolab used to be about exploring questions of human nature and science. You guys have done great work.
Why not revisit some of the earlier podcasts?

Do part 2 of emergence, morality, etc. As science is constantly progressing why not revisit where there are new answers to old questions?


Jun. 14 2013 04:44 PM

also Ludd from Albany's comment is spot on, this show has definitely changed and Robert's one track mind is kind of boring to listen to because he's trying to validate this nebulous concept of things being mysterious. I'd like to see more actual content especially science content linked to stories like the older episodes which were much better

Jun. 14 2013 03:25 PM
Chase from Bellevue, WA

The conversation about what faith is was a bit frustrating to listen to because the colloquial definition of Faith and the actual definition are very different. Greene has true faith because "Faith is the evident demonstration of realities, though not beheld", he trusts or has faith in the equations because they are reliable and have proven accurate over time. Colloquial Faith is belief without evidence, or 'blind' faith, "Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15)

People in general are so trapped by words they fail to communicate the substance of their true thoughts, everyone has faith that the Sun will come up in the morning because it always does and because we know that the earth is bound to it by gravity and centrifugal force, and there is nothing unscientific in that belief, we'd be crazy not to belief in the face of clear evidence.

Jun. 14 2013 03:08 PM

Also I want to say that I 100% agree with "Ludd from Albany, NY" and I couldn't have put it better myself.

Jun. 14 2013 02:49 PM

Will somebody please explain to me why Jenny's story is remarkable or interesting in any way? Its boring, depressing, and banal. It sounds like the intro to a really awful television drama to be cancelled after the first season. That is NOT the history of me, and everything. Its the history of one individual, and very cringe-worthy at that.

Jun. 14 2013 02:43 PM
Arturo from Mexico

I think Robert pushed Green so much because Robert is constantly trying to find the limits of how much us humans can do and know.
Science is an endeavour to understand things, ideally, to its full extent. Green's view is that the universe is ultimately coherent, that it has some rules that are understandable in some way, somewhere. Robert on the other hand holds the other opinion, that "being understandable" is not a property that is required for the universe, as in, nowhere is it written than the universe Should be understandable, and that coherency is a human concept that we like to imagine the universe holds too.
Maybe Green likes to think of the hows and whys, while robert likes to think in the are's and is's. He reminds me a bit of this interview I saw of Richard Feynman, when he was asked if he thought physics will reach a theory of everything. Feynman said that he didn't really care if they did. The universe could have a theory that encompasses everything, or maybe not, maybe it works with a salad of theories, or maybe not. Rater than assuming the universe was something, Feynman was concentrated into discovering as much of the universe as he could. Discovery rather than understanding in a way.
I don't think either vision should prevail over the other. The universe may be understandable, it may not, it may even be impossible to tell, reaching into a higher level of under-underestandability. Who knows. I think either way it's really fun and fascinating.

Jun. 14 2013 01:55 PM

Great episode! I think faith and science have every business being juxtaposed together like this. Not necessarily matters of religion, but the belief in and trust that there is a system of thinking about and understanding the world is the essence of faith and scientific thought. And learning about others that go through crises of belief, only to survive and thrive after them, fosters the open-mindedness that allows great science to take place.

Bravo Radiolab!

Jun. 14 2013 01:17 PM
Aaron from Roeland Park, KS

I am at a loss to understand what is remarkable about Hollowell's story. It is a standard creation myth that becomes a run-of-the-mill tale of a couple struggling through life. There was no element that I haven't heard many times before, not to mention in more interesting ways.

Kudos for calling Greene out on his faith. Faith is belief without empirical evidence. Without empirical evidence, we will never know for sure what exists in beyond our universe until we cross that boundary.

Jun. 14 2013 10:13 AM
Ludd from Albany, NY

I don't know what has happened to this show but I'm very disappointed. There has been a clear move away from solid Science stories in favor of ‘This American Life’ style human interest stories. I'm not against that kind of thing by any stretch of the imagination, but the appeal of this show has always been the Science as it relates to human society and psychology. Lately it seems like the Science has become secondary and the focus has been bizarrely on 'faith'. There was an episode a few shows back about a guy having a crisis of religious faith. That was the entire substance of the show. Where is the Science in that? Nowhere. I’m not against that kind of story but it belongs on This American Life. Then they had a fairly interesting story about a Native American girl and the conflict between her biological father and white adoptive parents. Interesting, yes, but where is the Science? This last episode, while having an interview with Brian Greene to its credit, came across as Krulwich doing his mystery-mongering "ah so Science hasn't quite figured this all out yet, therefore my belief in 'spirituality' remains justified". As far as I'm concerned this is faulty logic and it translates into an unappealing and unenlightening show. I don't have a problem with people having faith. I do have a problem with people attempting to jam their irrational beliefs into Science stories/education. I don't know what has prompted this change in focus, but I don't like it. I'm not one to endlessly complain about informational/entertaining shows so I'm not just being a bitter internet troll. I honestly want to know what happened to this show and why it seems to have gone downhill so rapidly. I'm still listening of course but I'm definitely much less excited when I see that there is a new episode available.

Jun. 14 2013 08:15 AM

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