A show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. RadioLab explores the dramas of science and scientific practice, occasionally pitching its analysis in overly populist terms. But some episodes dare to cross into truly complex territory, using “sound” to make ideas come alive.
Especially teachable episodes
Loops is a particularly sublime piece of audio. It pairs a surrealist comedy sketch about looping with first-person stories about biomedicine, consciousness and time. It would work especially well in a lesson about learning, repetition and time.
From Tree to Shining Tree: an immersive exploration of the nature of networks. Here’s a suggested approach: assign the full episode to listen before class, and then in class re-listen to two segments together as a class:
(listen to a selection in class, from 8:57 to 11:04). “All these trees were sharing their food underground…. It was like a huge network…. circles, sprouting lines…. Just this incredible communications network that people had no idea bout in the past because we didn’t know how to look…. You think they’re individuals, but no, they’re all linked to each other…. The Wood-Wide Web…. This is going places.” (start again at 21.11, and listen until 27.04) “… Is there anyone whose job it is to draw little chalk outlines…? They have found salmon in tree rings…. The scale of this is so vast, and we didn’t know this until very very recently. You have a forest, you have mushrooms… they’re networked… and they’re capable of forestrial behaviours that are deeply new, and they’re so interesting.”