Radiolab is a public radio program that focuses on scientific issues with a dash of philosophy thrown in, a description which makes it seem much more mundane than it really is.  This is a really fun, innovative show that is as interesting to non-science folks as it is to those well-versed in the sciences. It tackles large, serious ideas like pain, color and deception to name just three.  It is produced by WNYC, a New York City public radio station.  It is in its tenth season, is nationally syndicated and has won a Peabody Award.

It is co-hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.  Jad Abumrad is also the producer.  He is a musician by training, and studied at Oberlin.  Krulwich was an ABC News science reporter and is 25 years Abumrad’s senior.  They met when Abumrad was sent to interview Krulwich. They became great friends and when Abumrad began a science-based radio show in 2004 he featured Krulwich as his guest host. The rest is history – Krulwich became the co-host and they launched their first season of Radiolab in 2005.

This is not traditional journalism!  Each episode focuses on one topic, examined from several angles.  There are pre-recorded interview segments thrown into the live show along with the musical rhythms and sound effects. The co-hosts are just plain curious, and they explore their topics much the way a toddler explores his first piece of layer cake.  “We get confused, we get excited and sometimes we get it totally wrong” says Abumrad, and that all happens in front of their audience.  It makes for a fun, real and energizing listen.

The show produces five hour-long episodes per season.  In between the episodes there are several ‘shorts’ that are 20 minutes long and in their words “follow some detour or left turn and generally try and shake up your universe”.

It has a distinctive production style, using music and other sound effects to punctuate comments made by guest experts on the topic at hand. I listened to one podcast about color, which was fascinating, and the producer gave the rainbow a voice by using a choir.  It was very well done!

Their next segment will be on morality.

You can download any Radiolab podcast from iTunes.

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