Radiolab is a radio program produced by WNYC, a public radio station
in New York City, and broadcast on public radio stations in the United
States. The show is nationally syndicated and is available as a
podcast. In 2008, live shows were first offered.
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show focuses on topics
of a scientific and philosophical nature. The show attempts to
approach broad, difficult topics such as "time" and "morality" in an
accessible and light-hearted manner and with a distinctive audio
Radiolab received a 2007
National Academies Communication Award "for
their imaginative use of radio to make science accessible to broad
audiences". The program has received two Peabody Awards; first in
2010 and again in 2014. In 2011, Abumrad received the MacArthur
Radiolab is a "limited run series," numerous seasons of five
to ten episodes each have been produced; the 15th season is currently
7 Program sponsorship
10 External links
Having majored in experimental music composition and production at
Jad Abumrad worked for New York City Pacifica
WBAI before landing a job freelancing for National Public
Radio (NPR). In 2002 he produced a series of post-9/11 radio
documentaries called 24 Hours at the Edge of Ground Zero, and
regularly contributed material to Studio 360, both for WNYC. The
first weekly episodes of
Radiolab aired in May 2002, and each compiled
two hours worth of
NPR stories around a particular theme with
between-story commentary from Jad Abumrad. These themes were not
necessarily science-related, but tackled issues such as the death
penalty, religious fundamentalism and politics in
Africa and the
In 2003 Abumrad was given an assignment to interview
ABC News science
Robert Krulwich and the two men discovered they had a lot in
common: both were alumni of
Oberlin College (though 25 years apart),
and both had worked at
WBAI before moving on to
WNYC and NPR. They
became fast friends and began collaborating on experimental radio
pieces, the first of which they sent to
Ira Glass for a proposed Flag
Day episode of This American Life. "It was horrible," said Glass of
the tape in an interview with Abumrad and Krulwich. "It's just amazing
that you were able to put together such a wonderful program after
Not to be dissuaded, Abumrad and Krulwich continued to collaborate. By
Radiolab had become an hour-long, science-themed program
characterized by Abumrad's unique sound design style, and Robert
Krulwich appeared as a "guest host" on a program about time in early
June. By the following episode (Space, aired two weeks later),
they were co-hosts, launching into the program's first official season
Formerly distributed nationally by NPR,
WNYC began distributing the
show in 2015. The change was noticeably marked by the omission of
NPR's name in the show's opening audio sequence after the tagline,
"You're listening to Radiolab...from WNYC."
Radiolab is aired on over 300 radio stations across the U.S. Each
episode is one hour long and tackles various philosophical and
scientific topics. However, the show began in 2002 as a three-hour
weekly show on New York City radio station WNYC's AM signal. It
wasn't until 2004 that Krulwich began appearing as a regular guest and
eventually as a co-host.
Radiolab episode is elaborately stylized. For instance,
thematic—and often dissonant and atonal—music accompanies much of
the commentary. In an April 2011 interview with The New York Times,
Abumrad explained the choice in music: "I put a lot of jaggedy sounds,
little plurps and things, strange staccato, percussive things." In
addition, previously recorded interview segments are interspersed in
the show's live dialogue, adding a layered, call-and-response effect
to the questions posed by the hosts. These recordings are often
unedited and the interviewee's asides appear in the final product. In
the same New York Times interview, Abumrad said, "You're trying to
capture the rhythms and the movements, the messiness of the actual
experience.... It sounds like life." And unlike traditional
journalism, in which the reader is given only access to the final
article, not the interview, Abumrad added that Radiolab's process is
Radiolab has been widely acclaimed among listeners and critics alike.
Around 1.8 million listeners tune into the show, though most of them
access it via podcasts. It has even been hailed, along with This
American Life, as one of the most innovative shows on American
In a 2007–2008 study by Multimedia Research (sponsored by the
National Science Foundation), it was determined that over 95 percent
of listeners reported that the science-based material featured on
Radiolab was accessible. Additionally, upwards of 80 percent of
listeners reported that the program's pace was exciting, and over 80
percent reported that the layering of interviews was engaging.
Radiolab has won several awards, including two Peabody Awards for
broadcast excellence. In spring 2011, Krulwich and Abumrad
took the show on a live, national tour, selling out in cities such as
New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
In April 2015, the podcast titled "60 Words" (aired on April 18, 2014)
garnered a second
Peabody Award for Radiolab.
On September 24, 2012, in a podcast titled "The Fact of the Matter",
the program ran a segment about the yellow rain incidents in
surrounding countries in the 1970s. Included in the story was an
interview with Hmong veteran and refugee Eng Yang, with his niece Kao
Kalia Yang serving as translator. After hearing the segment, Kao Kalia
Yang and others complained that her uncle's viewpoints had been
dismissed or edited out, that interviewer
Robert Krulwich had treated
them callously, and that the overall approach to the story had been
racist. The complaints prompted several rounds of allegation, apology,
rebuttal, and edits to the podcast, as well as commentary in various
sources such as the public radio newspaper Current.
On August 12, 2017,
Radiolab removed an episode titled "Truth Trolls"
about the attacks on LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner's
HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US art project by far-right trolls. The
program had been criticized for appearing to condone the actions of
extremist groups, with Turner condemning the reporting as "abhorrent
and irresponsible" for describing the white supremacist vandalism and
harassment they had been subjected to as "a really encouraging story"
and "comforting." Abumrad issued an apology for giving the
impression that they "essentially condoned some pretty despicable
ideology and behavior," while
WNYC stated that they supported
Radiolab's decision to remove the podcast, adding that "Radiolab
unambiguously rejects the beliefs and actions of the trolls, and
deeply regrets doing anything that would imply differently."
Main article: List of
Through stories, interviews, and thought experiments, each hour-long
episode usually deals with a specific topic and investigates it from
several different angles.
Sound design (not a common practice in
modern radio programming), rapid dialog edits and sound effects are
used to build a soundscape constructing an expository conversation,
and usually feature brief, seemingly unscripted tangents. The episode
credits are generally read by people who were interviewed or featured
on the show, rather than by the hosts, while the program credits are
read by listeners.
Episode 3 of Season 12, titled "Apocalyptical - Live from the
Paramount in Seattle", was recorded at one of the live show tour
Radiolab performed. Unlike most shows, this show was
recorded both visually and auditorily, and can be viewed on their
official website. The tour covered 21 cities and primarily focused
on a speculative fringe theory regarding the Cretaceous–Paleogene
extinction event that has not been published in a peer-reviewed
journal. The fundamental new idea surrounding this theory is that when
a large asteroid impacted the Earth, the asteroid driving into the
ground caused the rock to become heated so extremely that it became
gaseous. This "rock-gas" was then ejected outside the Earth's
atmosphere and into space. The rock-gas, after cooling into many tiny
glass particles, was pulled back in by Earth's gravity. The majority
of this "glass-rain" burned up in the Earth's atmosphere upon
re-entry, causing the Earth's atmosphere to become superheated,
killing most of the species living on the surface of the Earth within
a matter of hours. The episode did not include any discussion of the
problems with the theory or that it has not been published in a
Radiolab was sponsored by
Audible.com from 2013-2016. Previously, and
since that period the program credits have been a variation of: "...
Radiolab is supported in part by the
National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation and
by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation."
As of June 15, 2009, the podcast offers full, hour-long episodes on a
regular schedule with a variable number of podcasts in between "that
follow some detour or left turn, explore music we love, take you to
live events, and generally try to shake up your universe". These
extra podcasts, referred to as "Shorts", are occasionally combined
into full-length compilation episodes.
Radiolab Live. WNYC, Retrieved October 11, 2012.
^ "'In Search Of Memory' Wins 2007 Best Book Award From The National
Academies; WNYC's Radio Lab And Writer
Carl Zimmer Also Awarded Top
Prizes". The National Academies Office of News and Public Information.
^ "WNYC's RADIOLAB Wins Peabody Award". WNYC. March 31, 2011.
^ a b "
WNYC Wins Two 2014 Peabody Awards for
WNYC. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
^ "MacArthur 'Genius' Award Winner Jad Abumrad". Retrieved
^ Transcribed from the introduction in the "Musical Language" MP3
WNYC Radio. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
"From WNYC, New York Public Radio, this is Radiolab. This is one of
five episodes from Season Two.
Radiolab is a limited run series."
^ "WNYC –
WNYC Radio. Retrieved
^ Abumrad, Jad. "About the Staff". Retrieved 2007-05-31.
^ Radiolab: "Jad and Robert: The Early Years". WNYC, May 6, 2008.
^ Radiolab: "Time". WNYC, June 4, 2004. Retrieved 2010-8-6.
^ Radiolab: "Who Am I?". WNYC, February 4, 2005. Retrieved 2010-8-6.
WNYC to self-distribute Radiolab, On the Media
^ a b c d Walker, Rob (April 7, 2011). "On 'Radiolab', the Sound of
Science". The New York Times.
^ Bottomley, Andrew (January 11, 2012). On Radio:
Radiolab and the Art
of the Modern Radio Feature. Antenna: Responses to Media &
^ Flagg, Barbara (May 19, 2009). Listeners' Evaluation of Radiolab:
Choice Archived July 10, 2012, at Archive.is. InformalScience.
^ "The Peabody Awards". www.peabodyawards.com. Retrieved
^ 70th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2011.
^ Rainey, James (March 9, 2011). "On the Media: 'Radiolab' takes its
audio smörgasbord on the road". Los Angeles Times.
^ "60 Words (
WNYC Radio)". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved July 11,
^ Bob Collins (October 25, 2012). "The Yellow Rain fallout". Bob
Collins news cut. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved October 25,
^ Andrew Lapin (October 24, 2012). "Search for 'truth' results in
Radiolab apology". Current. American University School of
Communication. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
^ a b Chen, D. (August 13, 2017). "
Radiolab removes its 'Truth Trolls'
episode from podcast feed". David Chen. Retrieved November 26,
^ a b Abumrad, J. (August 12, 2017). "A Note From Jad About "Truth
Trolls"". Radiolab. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
^ Quah, N. (August 15, 2017). "New York City makes the claim that it's
the podcast capital of the world (but is that a good thing?)". Nieman
Lab. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
Radiolab Live". Radiolab. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
WNYC Radio. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
Audio interview with Krulwich & Abumrad on the public radio
program Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
Podcast interview with Jad Abumrad
Jad Abumrad and
Robert Krulwich interviewed by Charlie Rose on January
List of episodes
Steven Berlin Johnson
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
Neil deGrasse Tyson
History of science
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