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Showing posts tagged with #radiolab

Poison Control

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.

 

Further Reading: 

The Poisoner's Handbook, by Deborah Blum

The Poison Squad, by Deborah Blum

Illinois Poison Center’s latest “A Day in the Life of a Poison Center” post

You can find out more about the country’s 55 poison centers at the American Association of Poison Control Centers, including a snapshot of the latest available from the National Poison Data System (2106)

"Poison Politics: A Contentious History of Consumer Protection Against Dangerous Household Chemicals in the United States," by Marian Moser Jones: 

2011 article from The Annals of Emergency Medicine: "The Secret Life of America's Poison Centers," Richard Dart 

A 1954 article from Edward Press -- one of the key figures in creating a formalized poison control system in Chicago in the early 1950s, Press and Gdalman are credited with starting the first poison control center in the US in 1953 in Chicago: "A Poisoning Control Program" Edward Press and Robert B Mellins 



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Unraveling Bolero

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

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More or Less Human

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.

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Finding Yourself

Alecia Faith Pennington was born at home, homeschooled, and never visited a dentist or a hospital. By both chance and design she is completely invisible in the eyes of the state. We follow Faith as she struggles to free herself from one restrictive world only to find that she is trapped in another. In her journey to prove her American citizenship she attempts to answer the age-old question: who am I?

Radiolab then follows the story of David Weinberg, a man who found himself stuck.  He had been kicked out of college, was cleaning toilets by day, delivering pizzas by night and spending his weekends in jail. Then one night he heard a story on the radio and got it in his head that maybe he too could make a great radio story. He’d cast himself as the main character in a great documentary and he’d travel and live and steer his way out of his rut.

So he bought a recorder and began to secretly record every last meaningful and mundane minute of his life and he found his great idea transformed into a troubling obsession. The very thing that gave him hope and purpose was also distancing him from those he loved the most. What if he’d created an archive of his life that had become his life?

Faith’s original Youtube video is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPtpKNyaO0U

For updates on Faith’s journey, visit her Facebook page Help Me Prove It: https://www.facebook.com/Help-Me-Prove-It-882732628415890/

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

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Dark Side of the Earth

Astronauts at the International Space Station can make one request to talk to an earthling of their choice. For some reason, Astronaut Mark Vande Hei chose us. A couple weeks ago, we were able to video chat with Mark and peer over his shoulder through the Cupola, an observatory room in the ISS. Traveling at 17,000 miles an hour, we zoomed from the Rockies to the East Coast in minutes. And from where Mark sits, the total darkness of space isn’t very far away. 

Talking to Mark brought us back to 2012, when we spoke to another astronaut, Dave Wolf. When we were putting together our live show In the Dark, Jad and Robert called up Dave Wolf to ask him if he had any stories about darkness. And boy, did he. Dave told us two stories that  became the finale of our show.

Back in late 1997, Dave Wolf was on his first spacewalk, to perform work on the Mir (the photo to the right was taken during that mission, courtesy of NASA.). Dave wasn't alone -- with him was veteran Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev. (That's a picture of Dave giving Anatoly a hug on board the Mir, also courtesy of NASA).

Out in blackness of space, the contrast between light and dark is almost unimaginably extreme -- every 45 minutes, you plunge between absolute darkness on the night-side of Earth, and blazing light as the sun screams into view. Dave and Anatoly were tethered to the spacecraft, traveling 5 miles per second. That's 16 times faster than we travel on Earth's surface as it rotates -- so as they orbited, they experienced 16 nights and 16 days for every Earth day.

Dave's description of his first spacewalk was all we could've asked for, and more. But what happened next ... well, it's just one of those stories that you always hope an astronaut will tell. Dave and Anatoly were ready to call it a job and head back into the Mir when something went wrong with the airlock. They couldn't get it to re-pressurize. In other words, they were locked out. After hours of trying to fix the airlock, they were running out of the resources that kept them alive in their space suits and facing a grisly death. So, they unhooked their tethers, and tried one last desperate move.

In the end, they made it through, and Dave went on to perform dozens more spacewalks in the years to come, but he never again experienced anything like those harrowing minutes trying to improvise his way back into the Mir.

After that terrifying tale, Dave told us about another moment he and Anatoly shared, floating high above Earth, staring out into the universe ... a moment so beautiful, and peaceful, we decided to use the audience recreate it, as best we could, for the final act of our live show.

Pilobolus creates a shadow astronaut during Dave Wolf's story on stage (photo by Lars Topelmann):

The audience turns Portland's Keller auditorium into a view of outer space with thousands of LED lights (photo by Lars Topelmann):

Here's Dave Wolf in the dark darkness of space, performing a spacewalk in 2009 (courtesy of NASA):

To give you an idea of what it looks like during the brightness of day, here's another photo taken in 2009 -- more than a decade after the adventure described in our podcast -- this time of astronaut Tom Marshburn (Dave Wolf is with him, out of frame, photo courtesy of NASA):

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Soren Wheeler. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

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Border Trilogy Part 3: What Remains

Part Three of our Border Trilogy, in which we hear the story of a woman from Ecuador who died in the Arizona desert. And we ask, what could stop migrants from risking so much?

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Border Trilogy Part 2: Hold the Line

Part Two of our Border Trilogy, in which one Border Patrol agent changes the entire agency’s enforcement strategy, and one anthropologist tries to measure its deadly consequences.

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Border Trilogy Part 1: Hole in the Fence

Part One of our Border Trilogy, in which we chronicle an unlikely legal showdown between high schoolers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country and the US Border Patrol.

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Rippin’ the Rainbow an Even Newer One

The creature with the world’s most complex visual system seems to be terrible at telling colors apart.

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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - The Gun Show

In 2008, the Supreme Court stepped in to settle our fight over the Second Amendment’s meaning. They did. And they didn’t.  

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The Curious Case of the Russian Flash Mob at the West Palm Beach Cheesecake Factory

When Robert Mueller released his indictment a few days ago, alleging that 13 Russian nationals colluded to disrupt the 2016 elections, we had a lot of questions.

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Smarty Plants

Do you really need a brain to sense the world around you? To remember? Or even learn?

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Ghosts of Football Past

In anticipation of Super Bowl LII (Go Eagles), we're revisiting an old episode about the surprising history of how the game came to be.

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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - One Nation, Under Money

A look at the government’s secret power to control almost everything around you.

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The Voice in Your Head - A Tribute to Joe Frank

How do you pay proper tribute to a legend that many people haven’t heard of?

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How to Be a Hero

What are people thinking when they risk their lives for someone else?  Is heroism an act of sympathy or empathy?  

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Inside Radiolab (Video)

Meet our team and take a look behind the scenes here at Radiolab. Help make another year of curiosity possible. Radiolab.org/support

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Bigger Little Questions

When we dumped out our bucket of questions, there was a lot of spillover. Like, A LOT of spillover. So today, we’re back for round two. This time with some bigger, little questions.  

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Big Little Questions

Here at the show, we get A LOT of questions, tiny questions, big questions, weird questions, poop questions. Today, we’re dumping the bucket out.

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Super Cool

 Walter Murch (aka, the Godfather of The Godfather), joined by a team of scientists, leads us on what felt like the magical mystery tour of super cool science.

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