Perhaps the reason I’m so endlessly fascinated with Radiolab is because I know so little about science. Sure, I studied the basics in school, the types of clouds (cumulus, right?) and the whole photosynthesis thing. But I had pretty much checked out, mentally at least, by the time I got to physics.
Anyway, I’ve been making up for lost ground with Radiolab. Maybe you’ve heard of the public radio program. There are 50 episodes, each focusing on a theme with an hour of bizarre and bewildering science. All of it true, and it never fails to boggle my mind.
One episode relates the story of a chimpanzee named Lucy, who was raised as a human child in a bizarre 1970s psychology experiment. Lucy learned to brew tea and drink gin at the kitchen table. Perhaps most disturbing, she developed a sexual attraction to men and learned to communicate to her human parents – in English.
Another episode talks about two scientists who discovered a genetic mutation of Genghis Khan. The mutation was traced to over 16 million people living in Central Asia today. That was a lot of raping and pillaging.
A few more:
Did you know that a German Jewish scientist, who rebelled against the Nazi regime, invented the poison gas used in concentration camps?
Or that Orson Welles produced a radio play in 1938 about martians invading New Jersey. It caused mass hysteria and fooled over a million people. A radio station in Ecuador translated the play, aired it years later, and seven people died in the resulting chaos.
How about the episode in which a scientist unknowingly caused one of the world’s oldest trees to be cut down?
And did you know the Unabomber went to Harvard? He was subjected to a bizarre stress test designed to safeguard American troops from brainwashing. But that test, administered by a Harvard professor, might have set him on the path to his terrifying bombing campaign.
Anyway, I could keep going. The episodes are an hour-long each, free, and can be downloaded to an iPod. Perfect if you’re trying to pass the time on a long car ride.
I’ve been listening for months now. But Radiolab continues to surprise me. Anyway, check it out. It might spark your curiosity. I know it has mine.
But I still cringe when thinking about physics.