Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Radiolab is Pure Genius

I've been meaning to blog about some of my favorite podcasts for a few weeks now, and today I have the perfect impetus to get started because...Jad Abumrad, one of the hosts and producers of my all-time favorite podcast Radiolab, has won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant (putting him in the good company of  poets Kay Ryan and A. E. Stallings, also winners this year). 

Jad Abumrad (along with Robert Krulwich) tackles topics weaving science, philosophy, and often sounds and music (Abumrad is a composer) in this fascinating show that teaches you something in each episode. If you don't like science, don't worry. This is for the thinking person, but not necessarily the tekkie. Everything is clearly explained, and the bigger questions behind them are explored in historical contexts.

For me, reading and listening to popular science books and shows generates new ideas. It was from a Radiolab episode about (among other things) the chemist Dmitri Mendelev (who organized, or invented, the correct verb is debated during the podcast, the periodic table) that I came up with the idea for a poem about Mendeleev.

Some other favorite Radiolab episodes are about symmetry,  a world without words, the edge of human limits, the relationship between music and language, how cities are fundamentally different, numbers, will power, memory and forgetting, the walls of Jericho, sperm, randomness...well, clearly I could go on and on.

There's pretty much nothing they don't discuss on Radiolab. For instance, here's an episode featuring poet Mark Doty. Krulwich even gave the commencement address at my alma mater.

Available only twice a month, each episode of this show is impatiently awaited by a growing audience. You should join us!


Mary Bast said...

Wow, thanks for this. After my cancer surgery, and even though I have a very positive prognosis, I decided to create my own literary version of the Buddhist meditation on death. Emotionally, the strongest experience has been editing a client's memoir about his young wife's death from leukemia; also affecting is Sallie Tisdale's "The Sutra of Maggots and Blowfles" in Conjunctions: The
Death Issue. Now I've just heard Mark Doty's memories of his partner Wally's death and I'm again humbled.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Mary, I'm glad you found this powerful. I really enjoy all their podcasts. They run the gamut, this one being a little more off the beaten track than usual.

I will look for Sallie Tisdale's piece. Thank you for citing it.