Binge Bytes: ‘Radiolab’


Ashlyn Cary

“Cereal is no longer an unhealthy bowl of sugar and milk, but a delicious reward that I have earned by being alive.” (Design by Ashlyn Cary | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ray H., Arts Writer

Have you ever wanted to learn about something interesting or random in an easy-to-digest format during your limited free time? I’ve found this solution through a podcast called “Radiolab.” The podcast covers a range of topics from Typhoid Mary to the strongest punch in the world, coming from a shrimp. If you’ve ever searched for podcasts to just fill the time with a bit of science or some science-fiction, then this podcast probably has popped up in your feed. “Radiolab” is on the top of many recommendation lists.

“Radiolab” is a podcast hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich from WNYC Studios. This radio show explores the strange and obscure of our world, and almost nothing is considered off-limits. Long drives or long shifts at work feel less stressful, less like you’re on autopilot and far more productive or enlightening. By the end, you might think “I actually learned something” or “I’d like to explore more about this obscure topic.” These are the goals the podcast seeks — to teach their audience about something new through learning about it together.


To Binge or Not to Binge?

This podcast is a highly recommended binge if you want to feed your mind. “Radiolab” provides continuous changes in topic from episode to episode — except for topics that end up running too long and need a part two or require an update. You don’t need to worry about starting from episode one in order to know what’s going on. Just choose any episode that might sound interesting, since even a title may not explain all that you might learn. Randomizing a podcast like this leaves its listeners with a feeling of curiosity or suspense to find out what topic they might dive into next. I’ve listened for over a year now.

With the use of music, sound effects and charismatic speakers, “Radiolab” captures an almost perfect harmony to engage listeners. While techniques of engaging sound design are common in podcast storytelling, this program has found one of the best combinations, with its unique musical transitions, excellent timing and the editing of prerecorded interviews with the show’s hosts. The show has been awarded two Peabody Awards and the National Academies Communication Award for its unique way of investigating via the radio and making complex scientific topics more accessible to a wider scope of listeners. 

Abumrad and Krulwich together make a beautiful mesh of narrating, which draws the audience even more into the show. Abumrad brings a younger, curious perspective while Krulwich has an older, more patient tone. Both have smart and engaging personalities, and it’s always intriguing to hear their comments and reactions. “Radiolab” also makes use of various guest speakers in order to provide explanations, evidence and experience for each topic. Ultimately, what makes this show a recommendation isn’t the guest speakers or the hosts, it’s the way the information flows. Listeners are treated as if they are present, exploring the bombs being dropped during World War II or understanding dolphin language. The podcast has also never been afraid to go into controversial topics, such as race or religion. In conjunction with each episode, pictures, film and transcribed audio are provided on the “Radiolab” website as support for each episode.  The show has a lot of material to appeal to a wide range of audiences.


Best Episode

One of their best episodes is “After Life,” which discusses what happens after death. The episode covers several theories throughout history, including one peculiar theory that proposed the soul has weight. Guest speakers describe some ridiculous contraption made by a physician in order to judge the weight of a person before and after death, compared to the weight of books. The process was used to back up the theory that our souls leave our bodies after death, resulting in a tabloid amusingly titled “Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks.” Overall, the episode covers more than 50 theories discussing the world of death and explores how the theories were divulged.


Similar Shows

“The Infinite Monkey Cage,” “Stuff to Blow Your Mind,” “Stuff You Should Know,” “Star Talk Radio” and “The Dork Forest”


Trigger Warnings

Most of the podcast’s content is PG, though some episodes that cover topics such as war or medical procedures may be more explicit. Make sure to look at the titles and read the descriptions if there is any concern. Additionally, the hosts will usually give content warnings.



5/5 stars

Available on some local stations, iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, NPR or WYNC’s website. In addition “Radiolab” also regularly goes on live tours.

Hundreds of episodes continuously posted and archived, approximately 40-60 minutes each.


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