Return Home

Product Safety Announcement

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 06:17 PM

We received an email today that we'd like to share in the hopes that it can help others.

Dear Radiolab,

I have just declared my workshop a Radiolab Free area. No one is allowed to listen to Radiolab there. Especially not me. I think you must warn the public about the dangers of listening to Radiolab while trying to do other things. I'm a 54 year old carpenter with my own woodworking shop. I've always been able to listen to music and NPR news while I'm working in the shop. Several years ago with the advent of the iPod I was able to listen even while running power tools. Table saws, routers, band saws, etc. have the annoying effect of interrupting the music or news. So with noise-canceling headphones and an iPod I was now able to listen to music uninterrupted. So far so good. Then I figured out how to put podcasts on my iPod. Radiolab was at the top of my list for podcast downloads.

After 30 years as a full time carpenter and woodworker I'm very fortunate to have all my fingers. Many of my colleagues are missing fingers or parts of fingers. I've had some close calls but felt pretty confidant around my machinery. Then came Radiolab. I don't think it was the first time I was listening to Radiolab in my shop that I took a big saw kerf out of my left thumb with the table saw. So I didn't put two and two together right away. Two weeks later I cut 1/3 of the way through my middle finger with the band saw while I was listening to another Radiolab podcast. I was merely trying to combine my love for woodwork with my love for Radiolab. When trying to figure out how I had gone all those years without any serious cuts and then within a couple of weeks receiving two it suddenly occurred to me what I had been doing. The common denominator was Radiolab. In retrospect it was quite stupid. Listening to Radiolab is so overwhelmingly attention grabbing it should be done while strapped down in a comfy chair with all sharp objects placed safely out of reach. No doubt the vast majority of your listeners are much smarter than me in this respect but in case I can save someone else the pain and embarrasment of a Radiolab influenced injury I hope this warning will prove its worth.

Thank you,

Paul Tucker

In light of the aforementioned consumer feedback, we are now recommending that one avoid operating heavy machinery while under the influence of Radiolab. Also, watch out for traffic while walking and listening to Radiolab. (We've had a few reports of near misses there, too.) With greater public awareness about the dangers of listening to Radiolab, we hope to avoid issuing a product safety recall. Be safe out there, folks.


More in:

Comments [51]

Barbara P

I've found that Radio Lab improves my "Bejeweled" scores. Seems like my higher-level thinking shuts off and something else takes over. I wonder how that works? Maybe you all should do a show on it!

Apr. 25 2010 08:38 PM

How I love my long bus ride to and from the math department every day! Note to self: keep radio lab on the bus only.

Apr. 13 2010 05:30 PM
Dan Suthers

Radio Lab definitely takes one to another space. I had two wipe-outs, skinning my knees, when listening to Radio Lab while trail running.

Apr. 09 2010 12:58 AM

Do an episode on the popular delusion that we're capable of multitasking.

Apr. 01 2010 01:46 AM

Agreed. I've been listening while bike commuting to work, and have almost been "doored" more times listening to RadioLab than ever. Almost is close enough for me, when never even close is the normal rate. Damn good programing, not so good for focusing on the rest of the present world while listening though.

Mar. 29 2010 11:33 AM

It's similar to speaking on a cell phone while driving--it's not the act, it's the inability to divide attention between two events competing for cognitive resources...just not enough to go around. RadioLab is great. I do NOT listen to it in my CAR..

Mar. 22 2010 03:28 PM

I listen to RadioLab at the gym on my ipod. I've timed my time on the treadmill to the same length of time on the podcast so I miss nothing! I too wonder what my neighbors think when I burst out in laughter or an enlightened a-ha! Keep up the good work, and I'll stay away from the heavy weights while you're on!

Mar. 22 2010 02:37 PM

I can assure you that listening to Radiolab is perfectly possible whilst soldering or sewing (I work on physical computing projects). I do however from time to time catch my hand hovering in the air with a needle or a soldering iron, mouth a little open, ears sharp, whilst focussing on the wonderful science stories poaring out of my speakers. Thanks Radiolab - and please keep the bzzz trrr blim blim moments. They carry the science, give it texture.

Mar. 20 2010 01:04 PM

I only recently found out about this amazing podcast and I simply can't get enough. I am so excited that my new job involves driving, a lot, so that I can just listen and listen and listen!
Now if only my iPhone would stop randomly jumping to the beginning of the podcast...or worse yet, to an entirely different episode!
Thank you for stimulating my mind!

Mar. 15 2010 11:40 PM

I find that listening to RadioLab in the car yields the same side effects that they warn you of in sleep medication commercials. I leave work, and before you know it, I'm home, with no recollection of the atrocious traffic that I battled to get there.
I also listen to the podcasts while creating mapping and graphics. It helps the tedium of reloading screens immensely.

Mar. 15 2010 05:41 PM
Zach Bosteel

I have a repetitive, white noise filled, sedentary day job with occasional blips of intense client-generated stressfully incited activity. I find RadioLab to be perfect for maintaining mental readiness and exercising brain plasticity while waiting for client poo to hit the fan. However, I must turn it off when stuff starts going down. Definitely not a show that shares brain matter well.

Mar. 15 2010 01:23 PM

I too am afflicted. I work nights and weekends, and if there is a new podcast AND a new Wait Wait, I'm toast for a couple of hours. Luckily, I have my own office, so I've been able to conceal my weakness so far. Is there a support group?

Mar. 14 2010 10:04 PM

I ended up writing something about parasites while mistakenly listening to your podcast while doing my schoolwork. . . My mom wondered why there was a sentence about parasites in the middle of an essay on Mary Cassat.

Mar. 14 2010 08:56 AM
Julian Brummitt

unlike others who are suffering injuries as a result of AD, I have managed to put 150 pages of my portfolio together whilst listening to radio lab. It is true that the last 20 pages somehow ended up with pictures of Lucy, which have absolutely nothing to do with my design studies, but I'm sure when I explain, my instructors will be so mystified by the stories I'm regurgitating, that they'll understand.

Mar. 14 2010 06:11 AM
Rick Tarrant

Thank you for your "flashy editing techniques" mentioned earlier. I have been a radio producer for most of my life and it's not often that I hear anything on the radio that captures my imagination. RadioLab, however, never fails to captivate, educate and entertain. I had listened to several programs, in fact, before I realized it was a science show. I just knew it was interesting and great radio.

In a world where corporations have nearly eradicated creativity in radio you guys have given us a reason to crank it up again! Thanks.

Mar. 12 2010 03:40 PM

I listen to the podcasts while walking my dogs, and the only reason we're all alive is because the dogs were trained to acknowledge traffic years before the magic of Radiolab entered my life.

Maybe people who donate to Radiolab could get some kind of protective head gear, inflatable sumo suit, or mesh pinny emblazoned with the podcast logo instead of a tote bag. You know: protection, behavioral explanation, and advertising tchotchke in one handy item. :-)

Mar. 07 2010 10:57 AM

I listen to radiolab while on the bus to college every day. You're probably wondering why I take the bus every day -- I'm from India(yes, RadioLab's reach's pretty far..).

Fantastic podcast.

Mar. 07 2010 04:33 AM

I often ponder if Radiolab influenced my passion again for the love of science and philosophy. I'm applying to a grad program for cognitive and brain science next Jan. Thank you for being so engaging.

Love this show...

Mar. 04 2010 05:26 PM

while i can understand the "guy ritchie" analogy made by marc (previous commenter) when it comes to radiolab, i can't entirely get behind it. sometimes the show's aural gambits do fall on their face & do detract from the story or overall theme of the show. more often than not, though, jad's forays into the narrative capacity (or, at least, the ability to enhance narrative capacity) of pure sound is groundbreaking.

i imagine a lot of hip-hop production pioneers suffered the same kind of slings & arrows when they were just coming out of the gate (e.g., "that's NOT music -- that's using somebody else's music ...").

as for the all-encompassing nature of the 'radiolab experience', i'm in full agreement. for purely captivating radio i thought nothing would top "this american life".

i was wrong.

when there's months between new episodes of radiolab, i feel genuinely bereft. i've been unemployed nearly a year -- lost my apartment, health insurance, ending up sleeping in a spare bedroom in sister's place in goshen, ny, & i'm up to my ears in financial debt. still, i contribute to wnyc almost solely on the basis of radiolab.

that's a chunk of myself i'm happy to give up.

keep it up,


Mar. 04 2010 04:24 PM

Radiolab's content is as fascinating as its productions values are frustrating.

The over-reliance on audio effects, flashy editing techniques and often blatant suspense building montages may be partly to blame for your listeners' state of distraction during the program.

The show itself and the stories you guys report are nothing short of brilliant, but I find so difficult to sift through what sounds like an hour long audio production demo-reel made by Guy Ritchie.

Although I find the the dialogue on its own enough to keep me interested (AND focused on my other activities), I can understand the choice to use these elements to make their presentation more fun.

But please... don't dilute your stories by turning them into mash-ups.

Mar. 03 2010 06:39 PM

Radiolab needs to do a story on the stop safe table saw and how the major tool industry companies totally don't want the stop safe technology in their equipment...

Mar. 02 2010 06:40 AM

Radiolab has helped me bring science into my English classroom. I have found many ideas for lessons from the Radiolab airwaves. The show and the lesson that followed the Morals episode was very popular. Say what you will, Radiolab is a very entertaining and thought-provoking show

Mar. 02 2010 12:28 AM
David X. Mitchell

"Attention grabbing" is right. Rather than story we get stunts. Overlapped voices, equipment-failure or stroke-induced gaps punctuated by poorly enunciated staccato speech patterns, nonsensical sound effects, and needless, pointless repetition. None of it in service to the story. All of it instead of actual writing and radio craft.
The result? A wheedling attention-grabbing distraction from, rather than a member of, the listener's day.
Yes, I said it, and I'm looking at you, Radiolab.

Mar. 01 2010 05:25 PM
heather acq

i usually get a late start in driving to work and find myself driving even slower with radiolab on.
i start my conversations now with "i heard on radiolab" or "i was listening to radiolab and ..." while ignoring the blank, uninterested looks on my friends' faces.

Mar. 01 2010 02:31 PM

I first discovered RadioLab in Madagascar. I was listening to my satelite radio while waxing my floors with a flea-repelling concoction. I should note that I was waxing my floors by hand in an unairconditioned, but very well ventilated (read: poorly insulated) house. There I was, on my hands and knees, dripping with sweat, and contemplating the effects of the petrol-smelling wax that was slowly coating my hands and arms when along came RadioLab to carry my mind away to another place while my body continued working on its own.

Feb. 28 2010 05:49 PM
Go Away

[[Comment from Rob III Date: February 18, 2010, 7:11 pm…side effects may include vacant facial expressions and a swelling sense of enlightenment.]]

::sigh:: so you disapprove of the show and yet you read the whole thing and invested enough time to write a comment. ironic, much?

Feb. 27 2010 02:58 PM
Annabelle Winters

oh, Mr. Tucker! I sure hope you have recovered your skillful dexterity swiftly!

I was listening to radiolab, as is my custom while searching through endless article to review for my master's thesis (still a fledgling). As I read I inserted notes to the first draft of my introduction.

A week later I was due to hand that draft in to my advisor, upon proof-reading I saw I had unwittingly peppered in bits from the story I was listening to. Maybe I should become a "transcriptionist" rather than my current path!

Thanks RadioLab!


Feb. 27 2010 12:35 PM
Joan Huhn

I agree. I LOVE this program. I find myself "coming to" as I try to move around the house getting things done. Time has passed. I am disoriented. Is it another dimension I have chanced in to? It is RadioLab! Superb.

Feb. 25 2010 09:25 AM

I used to live at the top of a hill above UC Berkeley. My walk home from campus involved a long, steep stairway of about 300 steps and several narrow alleys. All of this was poorly-lit, as there were not many streetlights and trees blocked the ones that were there. I often had to duck to avoid branches or cobwebs strung across the path; once, I came within a few feet of a seven-point buck that was calmly enjoying a view of the Bay.

I loved listening to NPR on those commutes, but when I listened to RadioLab, I would start to hear things in the trees directly above me, or swear there was something in the bushes. It creeped me out, but I loved the show so much; what to do? So I moved.

Feb. 24 2010 04:47 AM

Notice above how my spelling was"effected" by the RadioLab Charm.

Feb. 23 2010 09:12 PM

I ONly wish I could Listen to RadioLab while also practicing music. Im finding difficult to do either affectively. I have got a real problem here people!

Feb. 23 2010 09:05 PM

My wife and I listen as we work (we run a small business repairing laptops), and inevitably we get less done on Radio Lab days than we do others. This isn't just because of the actual time spent listening, there's often a period of at least 30 minutes after the show that we spend discussing it, during which time no work gets done at all.

Today, it was talking about the ethics of animal experiments after listening to the Lucy episode.

Feb. 23 2010 03:02 PM
Jenny O'Brien

In my jewelry studio my helpers and I have to agree- "are we done with our brains for a while?" and if nobody has a brain-heavy task, we listen gleefully. Although we have occasionally forgotten to pick up children from school due to a Radiolab stupor.

Feb. 23 2010 02:23 PM

Well I feel sorry for all those who have had near misses while listening to Radiolab, but it really speaks about the quality of the programming.

Try being as captivated as Paul Tucker (the woodworker) when you're listening to Science Friday. Heh (I'm not belittling Science Friday; Radiolab is inherently more interesting than it). Also, the production time for Radiolab is sky-high in comparison to most other– albeit less captivating– shows.

So ... be safe out there. We don't want a government regulation like "No listening to Radiolab while driving."

Feb. 22 2010 10:51 PM

Same thing happened to me today when I was listening to radiolab and I didn't hear a bunch of people head out to lunch...

Feb. 22 2010 10:43 PM

I listen while at work and productivity has suffered. I started listening at my relationship is suffering. If I were stranded on a deserted island i will bring all of my podcasts and happily let the days pass by.

Feb. 22 2010 02:55 PM

My first experience with Radiolab was on the radio on the way to a new dentist. I'd never been to the area-it was hilly-and the signal was extremely faint in parts so I circled around a few times to hear a segment on identity and the James-Lange theory of emotion. It was, indeed, dangerous--directing my car not in accord with traffic, but toward the part of the lane with the best reception.
I'll never forget it. Thanks Radiolab!

Feb. 22 2010 08:41 AM

I'm somewhat in the same position as Paul,
running hardcore machines that require full concentration wile npr runs eight hours a day on my /radio/ I've learned there are moments at least "16"!
that I better be careful before a body part is lost.
This is an unconscious awareness, what they call blocking.

I recommend Mr. Tucker gets rid of the headphones, plugs
his iPone into a real amp. with the volume cranked up, it may save a finger or two.
Who could ever deny them self of Radiolab.....!?

Feb. 21 2010 04:04 PM
John Weiss

I would like to suggest to all, that special care be taken when listening to ANY National Public Radio broadcast, or reading NPR tweets, FaceBook pages, or any other as yet to be developed methods of communication. RadioLab, and This American Life are hardly the only problem shows. I almost caused a nuclear disaster by attempting to drive past the Seabrook Nuclear Power plant while listening to "A Prairie Home Companion"!

Feb. 20 2010 02:56 PM

I'm a Physics student, but I can't listen to Radiolab in my actual lab or I won't get anything done! So instead, I listen to it at the gym. Side effects include confusing passersby with random laughter and insightful gasps; longterm side effects include a toned physique.

Feb. 20 2010 02:41 PM
Heather Prosser

True, true, true. I was once paralyzed in a lounge chair for an entire afternoon, with nothing but a cup of coffee to sustain me, listening to pod casts of the show while the beds went unmade, the dog went un-walked the phone went unanswered....thank god someone has finally spoken out. The show is, simply, too good.

Feb. 20 2010 02:19 AM

Uh, I listen to the show while working also. an 18-wheeler. Do you think this might be a concern? (I really am a truck driver!)

Feb. 19 2010 09:15 PM
Andrew Davidson

It's the sound design that's the culprit! It's way too good.

I used to listen while bike commuting, but no more. Uh-uh. To get the full richness of the audio experience, I would ride with both earbuds. One day, I was pedaling along a Seattle city street while listening and I almost crashed into traffic when I swerved violently to avoid something undoubtedly large approaching rapidly over my right shoulder.

When the adrenaline levels returned to normal and there was no sign of anything nearby, I realized that the sound had come from RadioLab, not the Seattle seat.

Now, my RadioLab listening is relegated to accompanying dish-washing chores. I am very happy to wash lots of dishes, being careful of the sharp knives, of course.

Feb. 19 2010 06:36 PM

I've almost walked directly into traffic myself while being completely engrossed in R-Lab. Probably the most embarrassing moment though was when a coworker was trying to flag me down from across the street while I was listening to the Numbers episode. She was blaring her car horn and screaming at me while I was long lost deep into the episode. Needless to say when I realized what was going on I was humiliated in front of a busy street of people. :)

Feb. 19 2010 04:53 PM
{ kat }

radiolab is also putting an intense strain on my personal relationships - my boyfriend and anyone trying to call, text, IM, or email me suffers from severe neglect when i am listening to it :P

Feb. 19 2010 04:10 PM
Michael Brainard

Music during machines. RADIOLAB during glue-up and assembly. I am a R-LAB loving ten-fingered woodworker as well.

Feb. 19 2010 02:40 PM

this warning came to late for the banners I was making hence the need to start again with a couple....
still it's always worth it

Feb. 19 2010 10:36 AM

a cutting edge program :)

Feb. 19 2010 04:41 AM

Luckily, I've been listening to Radio Lab from the safety of my bed at night.
Thank god I read this warning before I went off and did something silly like listen while driving.

Feb. 19 2010 02:02 AM

I am PhD student in analytical chemistry and I do most of my listening to Radio Lab while commuting to school by bicycle. However, my ride isn't long enough for an entire episode. Needless to say, my studies are suffering. It is kind of crazy to think they are suffering because of science.

Feb. 18 2010 11:42 PM

...side effects may include vacant facial expressions and a swelling sense of enlightenment.

Feb. 18 2010 07:11 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Supported by