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Updated: 2 hours 7 min ago

Post No Evil

August 17, 2018 - 7:20am

Back in 2008 Facebook began writing a document. It was a constitution of sorts, laying out what could and what couldn’t be posted on the site. Back then, the rules were simple, outlawing nudity and gore. Today, they’re anything but. 

How do you define hate speech? Where’s the line between a joke and an attack? How much butt is too much butt? Facebook has answered these questions. And from these answers they’ve written a rulebook that all 2.2 billion of us are expected to follow. Today, we explore that rulebook. We dive into its details and untangle its logic. All the while wondering what does this mean for the future of free speech?

This episode was reported by Simon Adler with help from Tracie Hunte and was produced by Simon Adler with help from Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to Sarah Roberts, Jeffrey Rosen, Carolyn Glanville, Ruchika Budhraja, Brian Dogan, Ellen Silver, James Mitchell, Guy Rosen, and our voice actor Michael Churnus.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Categories: Science

The Bad Show

July 27, 2018 - 9:00pm

With all of the black-and-white moralizing in our world today, we decided to bring back an old show about the little bit of bad that's in all of us...and the little bit of really, really bad that's in some of us.  

Cruelty, violence, badness... in this episode we begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgram's famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it's both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918...around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why?

This episode was produced with help from Carter Hodge.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Categories: Science

Sex Ed

July 27, 2018 - 12:41am

In this episode, an edited down version of a Radiolab Presents: Gonads Live show, host Molly Webster brings together a cast of storytellers, educators, artists, and comedians to grapple with sex ed in unexpected and thoughtful ways. 

"Sex Ed" is an edited recording of a live event hosted by Radiolab at the Skirball Center in New York City on May 16, 2018. Radiolab Team Gonads is Molly Webster, Pat Walters, and Rachael Cusick, with Jad Abumrad. Live music, including the sex ed questions, and the Gonads theme song, were written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. 

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.

Categories: Science

Dana

July 22, 2018 - 12:56am

When Dana Zzyym applied for their first passport back in 2014, they were handed a pretty straightforward application. Name, place of birth, photo ID -- the usual. But one question on the application stopped Dana in their tracks: male or female? Dana, technically, wasn’t either.

In this episode, we follow the story of Dana Zzym, Navy veteran and activist, which starts long before they scribble the word "intersex” on their passport application. Along the way, we see what happens when our inner biological realities bump into the outside world, and the power of words to shape us.

This episode is a companion piece to Gonads, Episode 4, Dutee.

"Dana" was reported by Molly Webster, and co-produced with Jad Abumrad. It had production help from Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. Wordplay categories were written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. 

Special thanks to Paula Stone Williams, Gerry Callahan, Lambda Legal, Kathy Tu, Matt Collette, Arianne Wack, Carter Hodge, and Liza Yeager.

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. 

Categories: Science

Dutee

July 22, 2018 - 12:53am

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.

This story is a companion piece to Gonads, Episode 5, Dana

"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. 

Categories: Science

X & Y

June 30, 2018 - 6:00am

A lot of us understand biological sex with a pretty fateful underpinning: if you’re born with XX chromosomes, you’re female; if you’re born with XY chromosomes, you’re male. But it turns out, our relationship to the opposite sex is more complicated than we think.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Matt Kielty. With scoring, original composition and mixing by Matt Kielty and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The “Ballad of Daniel Webster” and “Gonads” was written, performed and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.

Thank you to the musicians who gave us permission to use their work in this episode—composer Erik Friedlander, for "Frail as a Breeze, Part II," and musician Sam Prekop, whose work "A Geometric," from his album The Republic, is out on Thrill Jockey.

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.

 

Categories: Science

Fronads

June 23, 2018 - 6:45pm

At 28 years old, Annie Dauer was living a full life. She had a job she loved as a highschool PE teacher, a big family who lived nearby, and a serious boyfriend. Then, cancer struck. Annie would come to find out she had Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was so aggressive, there was a real chance she might die. Her oncologists wanted her to start treatment immediately. Like, end-of-the-week immediately. But before Annie started treatment, she walked out of the doctor’s office and crossed the street to see a fertility doctor doing an experimental procedure that sounded like science fiction: ovary freezing.

Further ReadingA medical case report on Annie’s frozen ovariesWhat’s primordial germ cells got to do with it?

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Pat Walters. With original music and scoring by Dylan Keefe. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Jad Abumrad.

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.

Categories: Science

The Primordial Journey

June 15, 2018 - 4:00am

At two weeks old, the human embryo has only just begun its months-long journey to become a baby. The embryo is tiny, still invisible to the naked eye. But inside it, an epic struggle plays out, as a nomadic band of cells marches toward a mysterious destiny, with the future of humanity resting on their microscopic shoulders.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Jad Abumrad. With scoring and original composition by Alex Overington and Dylan Keefe. Additional production by Rachael Cusick, and editing by Pat Walters. The “Ballad of the Fish” and “Gonads” was produced by Alex Overington and sung by Majel Connery.

Special thanks to Ruth Lehmann and Dagmar Wilhelm.

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.

Categories: Science

Birthstory

June 7, 2018 - 9:37pm

We originally posted this episode in 2015, and it inspired producer Molly Webster to take a deep dive into the wild and mysterious world of human reproduction. Starting next week, she’ll be taking over the Radiolab podcast feed for a month to present a series of mind-bending stories that make us rethink the ways we make more of us.

You know the drill - all it takes is one sperm, one egg, and blammo - you got yourself a baby. Right? Well, in this episode, conception takes on a new form - it’s the sperm and the egg, plus: two wombs, four countries, and money. Lots of money. 

At first, this is the story of an Israeli couple, two guys, who go to another continent to get themselves a baby - three, in fact - by hiring surrogates to carry the children for them. As we follow them on their journey, an earth shaking revelation shifts our focus from them, to the surrogate mothers. Unfolding in real time, as countries around the world consider bans on surrogacy, this episode looks at a relationship that manages to feel deeply affecting, and deeply uncomfortable, all at the same time. 

Birthstory is a collaboration with the brilliant radio show and podcast Israel Story, created to tell stories for, and about, Israel. Go check ‘em out! 

Israel Story's five English-language seasons were produced in partnership with Tablet Magazine and we highly recommend you listen to all of their work at  http://www.tabletmag.com/tag/israel-story

This episode was produced and reported by Molly Webster.

Special thanks go to: Israel Story, and their producers Maya Kosover, and Yochai Maital; reporters Nilanjana Bhowmick in India and Bhrikuti Rai in Nepal plus the International Reporting Project; Doron Mamet, Dr Nayana Patel, and Vicki Ferrara; with translation help from Aya Keefe, Karthik Ravindra, Turna Ray, Tom Wasserman, Pradeep Thapa, and Adhikaar, an organization in Ridgewood, Queens advocating for the Nepali-speaking community. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Categories: Science

Poison Control

June 1, 2018 - 4:56am

When reporter Brenna Farrell was a new mom, her son gave her and her husband a scare -- prompting them to call Poison Control. For Brenna, the experience was so odd, and oddly comforting, that she decided to dive into the birth story of this invisible network of poison experts, and try to understand the evolving relationship we humans have with our poisonous planet. As we learn about how poison control has changed over the years, we end up wondering what a place devoted to data and human connection can tell us about ourselves in this cultural moment of anxiety and information-overload.

Call the national Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

This episode was reported by Brenna Farrell and was produced by Annie McEwen.

Special thanks to Wendy Blair Stephan, Whitney Pennington, Richard Dart, Marian Moser Jones, and Nathalie Wheaton. Thanks also to Lewis Goldfrank, Robert Hoffman, Steven Marcus, Toby Litovitz, James O'Donnell, and Joseph Botticelli.  

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Categories: Science

Unraveling Bolero

May 22, 2018 - 6:45pm

This week, we're throwing it back to an old favorite: a story about obsession, creativity, and a strange symmetry between a biologist and a composer that revolves around one famously repetitive piece of music.

Anne Adams was a brilliant biologist. But when her son Alex was in a bad car accident, she decided to stay home to help him recover. And then, rather suddenly, she decided to quit science altogether and become a full-time artist. After that, her husband Robert Adams tells us, she just painted and painted and painted. First houses and buildings, then a series of paintings involving strawberries, and then ... "Bolero."

At some point, Anne became obsessed with Maurice Ravel's famous composition and decided to put an elaborate visual rendition of the song to canvas. She called it "Unraveling Bolero." But at the time, she had no idea that both she and Ravel would themselves unravel shortly after their experiences with this odd piece of music. Arbie Orenstein tells us what happened to Ravel after he wrote "Bolero," and neurologist Bruce Miller helps us understand how, for both Anne and Ravel, "Bolero" might have been the first symptom of a deadly disease.

 Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Read more:

Unravelling Bolero: progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex

Arbie Orenstein's Ravel: Man and Musician

Categories: Science

More or Less Human

May 17, 2018 - 10:39pm

Seven years ago chatbots - those robotic texting machines - were a mere curiosity. They were noticeably robotic and at their most malicious seemed only capable of scamming men looking for love online. Today, the chatbot landscape is wildly different. From election interference to spreading hate, chatbots have become online weapons.

And so, we decided to reinvestigate the role these robotic bits of code play in our lives and the effects they’re having on us. We begin with a little theater. In our live show “Robert or Robot?” Jad and Robert test 100 people to see if they can spot a bot. We then take a brief detour to revisit the humanity of the Furby, and finish in a virtual house where the line between technology and humanity becomes blurrier than ever before.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler. Our live event was produced by Simon Adler and Suzie Lechtenberg.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Categories: Science