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  • Last week, Lulu heard an interview that trapped her in her car. She decided to play it for Latif.

    The interview – originally from a podcast called The Relentless Picnic, but presented by one of Lulu’s current podcast faves, The 11th – is part of an episode of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark, second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row. But the segment that Lulu brings Latif is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.

    The episode of The 11th this comes from is “I’m Here to Pep You Up.” The Relentless Picnic is currently running a series of episodes called CABIN, an audio exploration of isolation, which you can listen to here. The organization where Matt volunteers as a counselor is called SUDEP. The Lu Olkowski story Lulu recommends at the end of the episode is “Grandpa,” and the lobster story Latif recommends is “The Luckiest Lobster.”

    Special Thanks:

    Eric Mennel, senior producer at The 11th, and host of the podcast Stay Away from Matthew Magill.

    Lu Olkowski, voracious listener, super reporter, and host of the podcast Love Me.

    Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

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  • It would seem that hackers today can do just about anything they want - from turning on the cellphone in your pocket to holding your life's work hostage. Cyber criminals today have more sophisticated tools, have learned to work collaboratively around the world and have found innovative ways to remain deep undercover in the internet's shadows. This episode, we shine a light into those shadows to see the world from the perspectives of both cybercrime victims and perpetrators.

    First we meet mother-daughter duo Alina and Inna Simone, who tell us about being held hostage by criminals who have burrowed into their lives from half a world away. Along the way we learn about the legally sticky spot that unwitting accomplices like Will Wheeler find themselves in.

    Then reporter and author Joseph Menn tells us about the surprisingly lucrative professional hacker structure in places throughout the former Soviet Union. Finally, the co-creator of one of the most notorious online marketplaces to ever exist speaks to us and NPR cyber-crime expert Dina Temple-Raston about how a young suburban Boy Scout can turn into a world renowned black hat hacker.

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  • What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth?

    We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went wrong, and what we think it felt like to be there in real time. (Spoiler: not so hot.) We hear a hymn for the dead from the ancient kingdom of Axum, the closest we can get to the sound of grief from a millennium and a half ago.

    The horrors of 536 make us wonder about the parallels and perpendiculars with our own time: does it make you feel any better knowing that your suffering is part of a global crisis? Or does it just make things worse?"

    Thanks to reporter Ann Gibbons whose Science article "Eruption made 536 ‘the worst year to be alive" got us interested in the first place.

    In case you want to learn more about 536, here are some other sources:

    Timothy P. Newfield, “The Climate Downturn of 536-50” in the Palgrave Handbook on Climate History

    Dallas Abbott et al., “What caused terrestrial dust loading and climate downturns between A.D. 533 and 540?”

    Joel Gunn and Alesio Ciarini (editors), “The A.D. 536 Crisis: A 21st Century Perspective”

    Antti Arjava, “The Mystery Cloud of 536 CE in the Mediterranean Sources”

    And for more on the composer Yared, watch Meklit Hadero’s TED talk “The Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Sounds”

    Credits: This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Lulu Miller, and produced by Simon Adler. With sound and music from Simon Adler and Jeremy Bloom.

    Special Thanks: Thanks to Joel Gunn, Dallas Abbott, Mathias Nordvig, Emma Rigby, Robert Dull, Daniel Yacob, Kay Shelemey, Jacke Phillips, Meklit Hadero, and Joan Aruz.

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    Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

  • This past year was a flop. From questionable blockbuster reboots to supply chain shenanigans to worst of all, omnipresent COVID variants. But, in a last ditch effort to flip the flop, we at Radiolab have dredged up the most mortifying, most cringeworthy, most gravity-defying flops we could find. From flops at a community pool to flops at the White House, from a flop that derails a career to flops that give NBA players a sneaky edge, from flops that’ll send you seeking medical advice to THE flopped flop that in a way enabled us all. Take a break from all the disappointment and flop around with us.

    Special Thanks to: Kaitlin Murphy, Dana Stevens, David Novak, Pablo Pinero Stillman

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  • When Alana Casanova-Burgess set out to make a podcast series about Puerto Rico, she struggled with what to call it. Until one word came to mind, a word that captures a certain essence of life in Puerto Rico, but eludes easy translation into English. We talk to Alana about her series, and that particular word, then turn to an old story about treating words as signals of something happening just beneath the surface.

    Agatha Christie's clever detective novels may reveal more about the inner workings of the human mind than she intended. According to Dr. Ian Lancashire at the University of Toronto, the Queen of Crime left behind hidden clues to the real-life mysteries of human aging in her writing. Meanwhile, Dr. Kelvin Lim and Dr. Serguei Pakhomov from the University of Minnesota add to the intrigue with the story of an unexpected find in a convent archive that could someday help pinpoint very early warning signs for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Sister Alberta Sheridan, a 94-year-old Nun Study participant, reads an essay she wrote more than 70 years ago.

    La Brega update was produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez

  • Tuck your napkin under your chin. We’re about to serve up a tale of love, loss, and lamb chops - with a side of genetic modification.

    Several years ago we told a story about Amy Pearl. For as long as she could remember, Amy loved meat in all its glorious cuts and marbled flavors. And then one day, for seemingly no reason, her body wouldn’t tolerate it. No steaks. No brisket. No weenies. It made no sense: why couldn’t she eat something that she had routinely enjoyed for decades?

    It turned out Amy was not alone. And the answer to her mysterious allergy involved maps, a dancing lone star tick, and a very particular sugar called Alpha Gal.

    In this update, we discover that our troubles with Alpha Gal go way beyond food. We go to NYU Langone Health hospital to see the second ever transplant of a kidney from a pig into a human, talk to some people at Revivicor, the company that bred the pig in question, and go back to Amy to find out what she thinks about this brave new world.

    The original episode was reported by Latif Nasser, and produced by Annie McEwen and Matt Kielty. Sound design and scoring from Dylan Keefe, Annie McEwen, and Matt Kielty. Mix by Dylan Keefe with Arianne Wack.

    The update was reported and produced by Sarah Qari. It was sound designed, scored, and mixed by Jeremy Bloom.

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  • In this hour of Radiolab, stories of cross-species communication.

    When we gaze into the eyes of a wild animal, or even a beloved pet, can we ever really know what they might be thinking? Is it naive to assume they're experiencing something close to human emotions? Or is it ridiculous to assume that they AREN'T feeling something like that? We get the story of a rescued whale that may have found a way to say thanks, ask whether dogs feel guilt, and wonder if a successful predator may have fallen in love with a photographer.

  • In tape five, three stories: first, a tale of how the cassette tape supercharged the self-help industry. Second, cassettes filled with history make an epic journey across Africa with a group of Lost Boys. And finally, Simon meets up with fellow Radiolabber David Gebel to dig through an old box of mixtapes and rediscover the unique power of these bygone love letters.

    Mixtape was reported, produced, scored and sound designed by me, Simon Adler, with music throughout by me. Unending reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

    Special Thanks to: Shad Helmstetter, Vic Conan, Glenna Salisbury, Jerry Rosen, Richard Petty, Sharon Arkin, Angela Impey, William Mulwill for sharing his cassettes with me, and to the British library for sharing some of their recordings from their South Sudan collection, which is housed at the British Library Sound Archive.

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  • In 1983, Simon Goodwin had a strange thought. Would it be possible to broadcast computer software over the radio? If so, could listeners record it off the air and onto a cassette tape? This experiment and dozens of others in the early 80s created a series of cassette fueled, analog internets. They copied and moved information like never before, upended power structures and created a poisonous social network that brought down a regime.

    In tape four of Mixtape, we examine how these early internet came about, and how the societal and cultural impacts of these analog information networks can still be felt today.

    Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Top tier reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

    Special thanks to: Alex Sayf Cummings, Martin Maly, Piotr Gawrysiak, Joe Tozer, James Gleick, Jason Rezaian, Gholam Khiabany and Mo Jazi. And to Arash Aziz for helping us every step of the way with our story about Khomeini. And Simon Goodwin for making us that secret code. And to Micah Loewinger to tipping me off to these software radio broadcasts.

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  • As the Vietnam war dragged on, the US military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in their North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, they found it. It was an old Vietnamese folktale involving a ghost, eternal damnation and fear - a tailor made weaponizable myth. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, the military set out to win the war by bringing this ghost story to life.

    Today, the story of these efforts and their ghosts that still haunt us today.

    Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Indispensable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

    This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, with original music by Annie. Original reporting was contributed by Trung Dung Vo and Nguyễn Vân Hà.

    Special thanks to: Allison Boccia, Jared Tracy and Herb Friedman. And to Mathew Campbell for introducing me to the Wandering Soul tape to begin with. And to Erik Villard for all his help pulling those tapes and voices for us.

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  • In 1946 Bing Crosby was the king of media. He was the movie star, the pop star and his radio show was reaching a third of American living rooms each week. But then, it all started to fall apart. His ratings were plummeting and his fans were fleeing. Bing however, was not going down without a fight.

    Today, the story of how Bing Crosby and some stolen Nazi technology won his audience back, changed media forever and accidentally broke reality along the way.

    Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon Adler. Invaluable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

    Special thanks to: Michele Hilmes, Pete Hammer, Rich Flores, Mara Mills, Jonathan Sterne, Claudia Mewes. Though their voices weren’t in the piece, input certainly was.

    And to Mary Crosby and Robert Bader, for opening up Bing’s archive for us, and enabling us to fill this episode with so much of Bing’s music.


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  • Through the 1980s, the vast majority of people in China had never heard western music, save for John Denver, the Carpenters, and a few other artists included on the hand-picked list of songs sanctioned by the Communist Party. But in the late 90s, a mysterious man named Professor Ye made a discovery at a plastic recycling center in Heping.

    In episode 1 of Mixtape, we talk to Chinese historians, music critics, and the musicians who took the damaged plastic scraps of western music, changed the musical landscape of China, and reimagined rock and roll in ways we never could’ve imagined.

    Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Invaluable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen. Additional reporting by Noriko Ishigaki, Rebecca Kanthor and our amazing anonymous Chinese reporter.

    Special thanks to: Paul de Gay, Juliette Kristensen, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Nick Lyons, Michael Bull, Jiro Ishikawa, Hayley Zhao, Megan Smalley and Deanne Totto.

    This episode would not have happened without each and every one of them.

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  • Ecologist Nick Haddad was sitting in his new office at North Carolina State University when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was... The U.S. Army. The Army folks told him, “Look, there’s this endangered butterfly on our base at Fort Bragg, and it’s the only place in the world that it exists. But it’s about to go extinct. And we need your help to save it.”

    Nick had never even heard of the butterfly. In fact, he barely knew much about butterflies in general. Nonetheless, he said yes to Uncle Sam. “How hard could it be?” he wondered. Turns out, pretty hard. He'd have to trick beavers, dodge bombs, and rethink the fundamental nature of life and death in order to rescue this butterfly before it disappeared forever.

    **CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Army moved a beaver; in truth, they killed it. We also overstated the current tally of St Francis Satyrs off range; they are around 200, not 800. The audio has been adjusted to reflect these changes.**

    This episode was reported by Latif Nasser, and produced by Rachael Cusick. Original music by Jeremy Bloom. Mixing by Arianne Wack.

    Special thanks to: Snooki Puli, Cita Escalano, Jeffrey Glassberg, Margot Williams, Mark Romyn, Elizabeth Long, Laura Verhegge, the Public Affairs and Endangered Species Branches at Fort Bragg.

    Want to learn more? you can ...
    ... read Nick Haddad’s book The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature
    ... take a peek at Thomas Kral’s original 1989 paper about the Saint Francis Satyr
    ... visit Fort Bragg's webpage about the Saint Francis Satyr

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  • One morning, Oliver Sipple went out for a walk. A couple hours later, to his own surprise, he saved the life of the President of the United States. But in the days that followed, Sipple’s split-second act of heroism turned into a rationale for making his personal life into political opportunity. What happens next makes us wonder what a moment, or a movement, or a whole society can demand of one person. And how much is too much?

    Through newly unearthed archival tape, we hear Sipple himself grapple with some of the most vexing topics of his day and ours - privacy, identity, the freedom of the press - not to mention the bonds of family and friendship.

    Reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte. Produced by Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte.

    Special thanks to Jerry Pritikin, Michael Yamashita, Stan Smith, Duffy Jennings; Ann Dolan, Megan Filly and Ginale Harris at the Superior Court of San Francisco; Leah Gracik, Karyn Hunt, Jesse Hamlin, The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, Mike Amico, Jennifer Vanasco and Joey Plaster.

    Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

    Episode originally published 09/21/2017

  • Today we have a story about the sometimes obvious but sometimes sneaky effects of the way that we humans rearrange the elemental stuff around us. Reporter Avir Mitra and science journalist Lydia Denworth bring us a story about how one man’s relentless pursuit of a deep truth about the Earth led to an obsession that really changed the very air we breathe.

    This episode was reported by Avir Mitra, and produced by Matt Kielty, Becca Bressler, Rachael Cusick, and Maria Paz Gutiérrez.

    Special thanks to Cliff Davidson, Paul M. Sutter, Denton Ebel, and Sam Kean.

    Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at
    Radiolab.org/donate.

  • Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure. In this short, Diane tells us how her disability gave rise to an extraordinary ability.

    For Diane Van Deren, a charming mother of three, daily life is a struggle. But as soon as she steps outdoors, she's capable of amazing feats. She can run for days on end with no sleep, covering hundreds of miles in extreme conditions. Reporter Mark Phillips heads to Colorado to get to know Diane, and to try to figure out what makes her so unstoppable.

    Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

  • It has now been 20 years since September 11th, 2001. So we’re bringing you a Peabody Award-winning story from our archives about one sentence, written in the hours after the attacks, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

    In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) - has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

    In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

    Finally, we check back in with Congresswoman Lee, and talk to Yale law professor and national security expert Oona Hathaway, about how to move on from the original sixty words.

    Original episode produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. Update reported and produced by Sarah Qari and Soren Wheeler.

    Special thanks to Brian Finucane.

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  • Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, even psoriasis — these are diseases in which the body begins to attack itself, and they all have one thing in common: they affect women more than men. Most autoimmune disorders do. And not just by a little bit, often by a lot; in some cases, as much as sixteen times more. But why? On today’s episode, we talk to scientists trying to answer that question. We go back 100 million years, to when our placenta first evolved and consider how it might have shaped our immune system. We dive deep into the genome, to stare at one of the most famous chromosomes: the X. And we also try to unravel a mystery — why is it that for some females, autoimmune disorders seemingly disappear during pregnancy?

    This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Molly Webster. The Gonads theme song was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.

    Looking for something else to listen to? We suggest pairing “The Unsilencing” with “Everybody’s Got One,” an episode about an unknown super-organ that nobody on the planet would be here without: the placenta.

    Want to learn more? You can …
    ...check out a Montserrat Anguera XX study,
    ...read Melissa Wilson’s placental, pregnancy hypothesis,
    …and get a primer on Rhonda Voskuhl’s estriol & Multiple Sclerosis work.

    Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

  • We all think we know the story of pregnancy. Sperm meets egg, followed by nine months of nurturing, nesting, and quiet incubation. But this story isn’t the nursery rhyme we think it is. In a way, it’s a struggle, almost like a tiny war. And right on the front lines of that battle is another major player on the stage of pregnancy that not a single person on the planet would be here without. An entirely new organ: the placenta.

    In this episode we take you on a journey through the 270-day life of this weird, squishy, gelatinous orb, and discover that it is so much more than an organ. It’s a foreign invader. A piece of meat. A friend and parent. And it’s perhaps the most essential piece in the survival of our kind.

    This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Becca Bressler, and produced by Becca Bressler and Pat Walters, with help from Matt Kielty and Maria Paz Gutierrez. Additional reporting by Molly Webster.

    Special thanks to Diana Bianchi, Julia Katz, Sam Behjati, Celia Bardwell-Jones, Mathilde Cohen, Hannah Ingraham, Pip Lipkin, and Molly Fassler.

    Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

    For cool new research on the placenta:

    Check out Harvey’s latest paper published with Julia Katz.

    Sam Behjati's latest paper on the placenta as a "genetic dumping ground".

  • In 2014, India’s Dutee Chand was a rising female track and field star, crushing national records. But then, that summer, something unexpected happened: she failed a gender test. And was banned from the sport. Before she knew it, Dutee was thrown into the middle of a controversy that started long before her, and continues on today: how to separate males and females in sport. First aired in 2018, Dutee and the story of female athletes in sport are back in the spotlight this week, at the Tokyo Olympics. Join us for an update on Dutee’s second Olympic games, and the continued role testosterone has in shaping who is on the track, and who is off.

    This story was originally released as part of Gonads, a six-part series on the parts of us that make more of us. It is a companion piece to Gonads, episode 5: Dana.

    This update was reported by Molly Webster, with reporting and producing by Sarah Qari.

    "Dutee" was reported by Molly Webster, with co-reporting and translation by Sarah Qari. It was produced by Pat Walters, with production help from Jad Abumrad and Rachael Cusick. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.

    Special thanks to Geertje Mak, Maayan Sudai, Andrea Dunaif, Bhrikuti Rai, Joe Osmundson, and Payoshni Mitra. Plus, former Olympic runner Madeleine Pape, who is currently studying regulations around female, transgender, and intersex individuals in sport.

    Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.

    Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.