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The Wonder of Youth

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At the age of thirteen, mathematician Steve Strogatz was astonished to find that pendulums and water fountains had a strange relationship that had previously been completely hidden from him.

And as a young boy, neurologist and author Oliver Sacks pored over the pages of the Handbook of Physics and Chemistry, fantasizing about the day that he, like the shy gas Xenon, would some day find a companion with whom to connect and share. And he feels a great gratitude to the "Siberian bigamist" who revealed what matches might be most likely.

Parabolas, a video by Will Hoffman and Derek Paul Boyle:

Read more:

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

Steven Strogatz, Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order

Comments [20]

Normski from Banbury Oxfordshire UK .... Follow the link

May. 18 2015 06:39 PM
Kate from New York City

Do you make transcripts of your shows? If so, how long before this one will be transcribed? Thanks.

Dec. 07 2013 04:50 PM

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Mar. 07 2013 04:49 AM

it's cello-- and it's the first of bach's cello suites.

Apr. 05 2011 01:38 PM

scratch that -- i meant the violin piece that played when they saw the picture of mendeleev as moses.

Apr. 03 2011 11:56 PM

can anyone tell me what was the violin piece that played during Mendeleev's dream?

Apr. 03 2011 11:50 PM
Aaron from Oklahoma

I find it very intriguing that in the middle of the show a scientist made comments about science in a fashion that is usually found in faiths and philosophical arguments. That the universe seems to have formed to be observed and discovered by a part of itself, that it has to be known and be observable to exist. Or If I was wanting to push an agenda I might say: That the universe demands that it be known to those that it made. The similarity between a statement such as that and a faith based one are at very least distant cousins, no?

Oct. 28 2009 05:54 PM

By far the most entertaining episode! Thanks Radiolab!!

Aug. 20 2009 11:56 AM
James L. Rota from CANADA

Although I have not seen/heard the show, thank you for finding it, Elise! If you want to know more about the Rota Period, I will provide the answers via my website. It's a long story, but basically the Rota Period makes it easy to do the chemistry (how 2 elements might combine) because it is based upon valence (positive and negative charges) instead of orbital theory.

May. 20 2009 08:37 PM
Marya from South Bend IN

Great segment!

My moment of discovery came in HS biology when my lab partner and I were dissecting a sheep's eye. I don't know if students still do this, so I should just say the sheep's eye was a gristly, fatty, bulbous object which made us all want to run the other way. But once we had nerved ourselves up to investigate, inside was this totally smooth, rainbow iridescence. Beauty in a totally unexpected context. I think this was the moment I became hooked on science.

Apr. 10 2009 07:58 PM
Kathy from South Bend, IN

I am usually expected to be entertained, informed, and surprised by your program...but in going back to listened to this one - I am very much moved.

Loved the discussion that you prompt on "what's the point of being a scientist anyway" - and creative acts versus acts of discovery and understanding...

Really well done.

Mar. 06 2009 03:43 PM
Elise from State College, PA

First, I can't seem to go a week without bringing up something I learned on your show. Thanks for the geek encouragement. :)

Second, in my internet wanderings I came across something called the rota period. Which is a man named James Rota's way of "looking" at the periodic table.

just wondered what it meant or if there where other interpretations out there.

Mar. 04 2009 08:27 PM

The cello piece from the Mendeleev segment is Praeludium from Cello Suite No. 1 by J. S. Bach (BWV1007).

Feb. 08 2009 05:42 PM
Richard Whiteford from Philadelphia metro area

This is the most fantastic programs I've ever heard. Please keep it coming. I'm probably your newest fan and I will tell everyone I know about it.

Feb. 04 2009 07:32 PM
loren burkhart from wv

I, too, want to know the name of that cello piece.

Feb. 01 2009 08:24 PM
mike gill from MD

hi im intrigued by these mp3's. and i kno this is random but in this clip i heard an incredibly brilliant piece of music that ive heard b4. id really just like to kno the name of this song. i realize how amazingly off topic but im 15 and thats just my interest. i love the story but its the music that inspires me.

Jan. 26 2009 03:52 PM
John Phillips from Friday Harbor, WA

Wonderful segments on discovery! The periodic table/Mendeleev/Sacks connections were great. You just missed one piece that brings the story full circle. That is, the discovery in the mid 1920's that the periodic nature of the elements is due to the internal arrangement/energies of their component electrons. So...the original table, a triumph of observation and classification (and a few dreams!) is based upon the behavior of a particle that classical physics could not describe! From "the macroscopic to the sub-microscopic." One of the most amazing "connections" in all of science! Thanks for the great program!

Jan. 04 2009 04:57 PM
Laura Picard from Harpers Ferry, WV

Wonderful production! You guys make FABULOUS radio - I'm glad I discovered you last week - I can't wait for next week's show.

Dec. 14 2008 09:21 PM
Susan Cubar from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The correct title of the book is the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. I worked on an edition of the Handbook years ago, and I was tickled to hear Oliver Sacks say lost himself in the pages of the smaller edition when he was a kid.

Dec. 12 2008 02:35 PM
David Monington from Berkeley, CA

Is there a link or anything to get the Brooklyn Tech cheering squad track? That was fun!

Dec. 11 2008 05:54 AM

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