Podcast Review: Radiolab

February 11, 2016

  1. Radiolab (35 episodes and counting)

There are a few things I credit with having “this changed my life” status (other than having my family). UTNE reader, NPR and Radiolab. I seriously believe that if I had begun listening to Radiolab at an earlier age, I might have chosen a science-based career instead of social work. This series has had me laughing out loud and moved to the point of tears streaming down my face while I sat in traffic. Sometimes while listening to the same episode.

Description: Radiolab is hosted by two men who have a good natural chemistry with one another. They are quite different from each other which adds to their impact. One is an old school journalist from NYC and the other is a sound guy, Lebanese-American.  The main trust of the show is ‘science and curiosity’ so they feature a wide range of stories about humans and the world we inhabit. Over time, they have reached further afield and traveled further to gather interviews and information for their show. However their earlier, simpler shows are classics in mind.

What makes them unique is that they use beautifully engineered sound to add character and tone to their, at times, highly academic topics. Cells become animated with children’s voices, choirs sing chemical formulas and music provides punctuation to elaborate and skilled story-telling. The sound keeps you company as you sit with your thoughts.

Why I love it: The stories told on this podcast, are beautiful and moving, but sometimes they are also highly amusing or just trigger deep thinking. I just simply couldn’t recommend this series more. It reveals how amazing, inspiring and flawed we are as humans.

My only complaint: I would like more women’s voices and stories that include the female reality. For example, they have done an episode on sperm, but nothing that corresponds with female biology. One of their most recent episodes dealt with the topic of birth and even that featured a surprising amount of male experience and perspective. The presence of their female producers sense to have increased over time however I am basing these statements solely on my own subjective experience.

My favorite episodes are: Patient Zero, Limits, Sleep and the heart-breaking Memory and Forgetting.  But there are so many more. They are all very, very good, but most are even incredibly good. Please listen to a couple of episodes and I would love to know what you think. In fact, start with Detective Stories, the Goat on a Cow segment in particular.


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