kottke.org posts about Radiolab

Radio show story structuresApr 09 2014

Bradley Campbell drew the story structures of various public radio shows down on cocktail napkins. Here's the structure of This American Life:

This American Life ___! ___! ___!

"Napkin #1'' is Bradley's drawing for This American Life, a structure Ira Glass has talked about ad infinitum: This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. (Those are the dashes.) And then a moment of reflection, thoughts on what the events mean (the exclamation point).

The description of Radiolab is the most fun to read. That show doesn't quite have the non-linearity of Pulp Fiction, but it's a good example of hyperlink radio (a la hyperlink cinema). (via explore)

Beethoven's pulsing dance beatsMar 01 2013

Late in his life, just after the invention of the metronome and after completely losing his hearing, Beethoven went back and adjusted the tempos of his symphonies to much faster than you might expect. Radiolab investigates.

thought / music = language (on the radio)Aug 13 2010

The brand-new Radiolab episode "Words" is characteristically terrific; I tweeted this after listening to just the opening section:

I love hearing @JadAbumrad's voice fill my room, but @wnycradiolab's "Words" is fucking me up right now. You've made a grown man cry. Shit.

There's also an accompanying video, made by Will Hoffman, Daniel Mercadante, and Keith Kenniff:

Also, it's not the VERY best section of the program, but there is a very nice exploration of Shakespeare's inventive use of language that word/history nerds like me will especially enjoy. (I'm using inventive in its proper dual sense of innovative inventory, making new use of material already at hand. It's easy to overstate how many words Shakespeare "actually" "invented.")

Now "Words" is mostly about the relationship between language and our ability to make conceptual distinctions to connect or distinguish between different things. The 2006 episode "Musical Language" traces the other path words take to the brain, through our ears. (Note: I still think this is the greatest episode of Radiolab of ALL TIME. Story, reporting, production - just note and letter perfect.)

This show starts out by introducing a random earworm so insistent and amazing, it would wreck everything if I were to give it away. Instead, I'll just give you the summary of the historically-tasty middle of the show, and let you take it away from there:

Anne Fernald explains our need to goochie-goochie-goo at every baby we meet, and absolves us of our guilt. This kind of talk, dubbed motherese, is an instict that crosses cultural and linguistic boundaries. Caecilius was goochie-goochie-gooing in Rome; Grunt was goochie-gooing in the caves. Radio Lab did our own study of infant-directed speech, recording more than a dozen different parents. The melodies of these recordings illustrate Fernald's findings that there are a set of common tunes living within the words that parents all over the world intone to their babies.

Then, science reporter Jonah Lehrer takes us on a tour through the ear as we try to understand how the brain makes sense of soundwaves and what happens when it can't. Which brings us to one particularly riotous example: the 1913 debut performance of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." Jonah suggests that the brain's attempt to tackle disonant sounds resulted in old ladies tackling each other.

What are you waiting for? Go! Listen to them both!

Parasites are fascinatingSep 14 2009

The newest episode of Radiolab is about parasites. It features what is one of my favorite links from the past few years: the story of Jasper Lawrence's quest to infect himself with hookworm in order to cure his asthma (also available here).

Based upon what I read, and what I learned about the hookworms I decided that I was going to try and infest myself with hookworms in an attempt to cure my asthma. I was not willing to wait ten or more years for the drug companies to bring a drug to market. It was obvious to me that hookworms, for a healthy adult with a good diet, are quite benign. This account details my experiences, how I went about it, and the things I have done since infestation to calibrate my level of infestation so that in the end I was able to cure my asthma and hay fever with hookworms. These same techniques are of course applicable to any hookworm infestation, whether you want to control asthma, hay fever, colitis, Crohn's disease or IBD.

Lawrence even sells hookworms to others so that they won't have to travel to a third world country to contract them.

Live chat with Radiolab's Jad AbumradNov 14 2008

Afternoon todo list -

3pm: Listen to Radiolab's season premiere about Choice live on WNYC or online.

4pm: After the show's over, head on over to The Morning News for their inaugural TMN Talk, a live text chat with Radiolab's Jad Abumrad. The chat will begin here at 4pm.

A short (too short, perhaps) interview withApr 28 2008

A short (too short, perhaps) interview with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of Radio Lab.

It got really weird when you said, "If I'm a Buick and I'm made of parts, am I alive?" And he said, "Well, some people would say a Buick is alive."

A recent RL show explored Laughter and included a segment on its contagiousness. I've been showing Ollie the video of himself laughing at card shuffling and he laughs along with his onscreen self. He found the laughing baby videos on YouTube funny as well.

Good music in moviesFeb 25 2008

Jad Abumrad from Radio Lab curates The Morning News' Video Digest and selects clips from movies with good music.

Quick hitter from Radiolab as a previewFeb 13 2008

Quick hitter from Radiolab as a preview of the new season: composer David Lang talks about a piece of music he made for a morgue. Appropriate listening for the crappy rainy day here in NYC. Hopefully the weather will be better for Radiolab's live premiere of their fourth season on Feb 21 at the Angelika.

Radiolab has been getting some love fromFeb 08 2008

Radiolab has been getting some love from quite a few of the sites I read (Snarkmarket originally turned me on to the show), so I thought I'd offer mine as well. I don't listen to the radio or to podcasts, but lately I've made an exception for Radiolab. It's about science, the editing is wonderful and unique, Jad Abumrad is one of the best radio voices I've ever heard, and to top it off, their shows are really fascinating.

Their show on Memory and Forgetting from last June is particularly good. If you don't have time for the whole thing, the Adding Memory (especially Joe Andoe's story) and Clive segments are almost must-listens.

You can listen to Radiolab on their site, on a variety of US radio stations, as a podcast, or though iTunes.

Update: Radiolab did a session at the Apple Store in Soho about their editing process and thought process. (thx, dan)

Tags related to Radiolab:
Jad Abumrad audio podcasts music interviews science

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