Radiolab is one of our favorite podcasts. We listen to it regularly at the Addicaid office. It’s a show that explores the sometimes blurry boundaries between science, philosophy, and human experience. Hosts Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich describe it as “highly produced meditations on weird, obscure subjects involving chemistry and biology” (some typical episode titles/themes include Stochasticity, Parasites, Sperm, After Life, Cities, Time, Patient Zero, and Deception).
The reason the show works so well is because they discuss difficult subjects in an easy, unthreatening way that attracts an audience of science lovers and newcomers alike. They make science fun and geeking out about it socially acceptable.
Using their trademark sound design, a mix of ambient music, effects and interwoven narrative viewpoints, they weave scientific themes out of stories such as the medicine cabinet in everyone’s minds, the extraordinary endurance of extreme athletes, out-of-body experiences brought on by G-forces, and the elasticity of time.
They come off sounding spontaneous, but each episode is painstakingly assembled and treated more like a small movie than like a regular radio program.
The episode Help! (season 9, ep. 3) asks the question: What do you do when your own worst enemy is…you? Through 3 stories, Radiolab looks for ways to gain the upper hand over those forces inside us–from unhealthy urges, to creative insights–that seem to have a mind of their own. We meet a Cold War negotiator who, in order to quit smoking, backs himself into a tactical corner, and we visit a clinic in Russia where patients turn to a radical treatment to help fight their demons. Plus, Oliver Sacks lays out strategies for doing battle with your creative muse.
Listen to Help! here.