RadioLab

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RadioLab is a radio show out of WNYC in New York that addresses various issues from an interesting scientific perspective, with an emphasis on those areas where the scientific meets the philosophical (and the unusual). With 5 episodes for each of its season runs, Radiolab has 3 seasons under its belt, with a fourth season to begin in 2008. All episodes are available for online listening and freely downloadable as mp3 podcasts.

Actually, the description of the show on the website is quite good and worth quoting: “Radio Lab is an investigation of an unusual sort. Each episode is a kind of sonic joyride through a different universe of ideas, often slamming on the brakes for closer inspection.” The show’s co-hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwhich do a fantastic job.

I started listening to this show based on the recommendation of a friend. I was somewhat surprised, mind you, because this particular friend (hi Khader!) is more likely to recommend shows that are about philosophy or psychology than science. It was clear when I started listening to the show, however, that the show was really about all three of these topics, and about life in general.

Here’s a bit of a preview of what’s on offer in each on of the show’s different seasons. I tried as best I could to provide a brief description of each episode, but you can find a longer description on the Radiolab website iself:

  • radiolab brainSeason 1 (2005) featured episodes: “Who am I?” (from a neurological perspective, how does consciousness happen?), “Stress” (what is it and why does it exist?), “Emergence” (how do different constituent parts/organisms manage to act in unison?), “Time” (it turns out, is not as ’standard’ as we think, with each of us possibly having a different experience of it), and “Beyond Time” (is time unfolding in a linear fashion past/present/future? or is it always there, having already happened before we even experience it in the present?).
  • radiolab ancient stuffSeason 2 (2006) featured episodes: “Detective Stories” (an exploration of how we learn what really happened in the past), “Musical Language” (what is music? and why does it affect us the way it does?), “Morality” (where does it come from? is there a morality center in the brain?), “Where am I?” (can the mind and body be out of sync? is there such a thing as an out of body experience), and “Space” (an investigation into our complex relationship with space and space exploration, and our place as humans in the larger scheme of things).
  • radiolab sleepSeason 3 (2007) featured episodes: “Placebo” (an exploration of the concept and reality of the healing power of non-medicine and its relation to belief and imagination), “Sleep” (attempts to answer the simple question: why do living beings sleep?), “Zoos” (looks at humanity’s complex relationship with wild animals), “Memory and Forgetting” (examines how and why memories change, evolve, and die off), and “Mortality” (a look at death and dying, why we age and die and whether we can do something about it).

I’ve been listening to these podcasts constantly at work while building my spreadsheets and doing my work, and managed to go through all but two within the span of 2 weeks. I can’t wait for the fourth season, just around the corner in the new year. I think you will enjoy them as well.

Go to the RadioLab page.