A podcast of scientific questions and stories featuring guest hosts and reporters.
No Inoculation without Representation!
Nov 13, 2017 • 9 min
Vaccinations, in one form or another, have been around longer than the United States. In fact, during the Revolutionary War in 1776, future first lady Abigail Adams pursued the controversial scientific technique to protect her 5 children against a threat…
Cosmic Ray Catchers
Oct 30, 2017 • 10 min
Cosmic rays from outer space sound like science fiction. They’re not—invisible particles flung from outer space pass through our bodies every minute. But not all cosmic rays are equal; Some are immensely powerful and very rare. For decades scientists have…
Three Letters on Broom Bridge
Oct 16, 2017 • 10 min
Every October 16th hundreds of people gather in Dublin to celebrate Ireland’s greatest mathematician, William Rowan Hamilton. And get this – It was his act of vandalism on Broom Bridge in 1843 that put him in the history books – it actually changed…
After A Flood
Oct 2, 2017 • 9 min
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left devastation in their wake all across the southern United States as unimaginable quantities of water swallowed up small towns and cities alike. But what happens to that water and how can cities better prepare ahead of time?…
Bowl Tastes Delicious
Sep 18, 2017 • 10 min
What if the size of our dinner plate, its color, the material of our cutlery - even background sounds - all affect how our food tastes? In other words, what if it’s not just about what we cooked for dinner, but the context of the meal itself? Reporter…
Hurry Up and Listen
Sep 4, 2017 • 10 min
Underneath our vrooms, beeps, and rumbles, natural sound may be more important than we think.
A Job for the Bee Team
Aug 21, 2017 • 10 min
On May 2, 2015, beekeepers Pam Arnold and Kristy Allen got hit with a pesticide. They couldn’t see it or smell it, but when they saw their bees writhing on the ground and dying they knew something was seriously wrong. They called a panel of scientists at…
An Ovarian Transplant Between Twins
Aug 8, 2017 • 11 min
Thirty-six-year-old twins Carol and Katy are physically identical in every way but one: Katy was born without ovaries, and wanted to start a family. The science and ethics behind ovarian transplants as a treatment for infertility.
Tick Tock Biological Clock
May 16, 2017 • 11 min
The headlines are often full of advice for women about when they should have children. Marnie Chesterton goes digging into the fertility stats and myths for modern women. Prepare to be surprised.
Owning the Clouds
Apr 28, 2017 • 10 min
Humans have always been interested in controlling the weather. In the past we used raindances and sacrifices; today we turn to science. Cloud seeding is practiced all over the world, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. Delve into the…
Spotting Fake Art — with Math
Apr 3, 2017 • 7 min
Visual stylometry is a branch of mathematics that can determine the style of a particular artist’s body of work.
Engineering NYC from Below
Mar 9, 2017 • 10 min
Head underground to hear how the first subways were built and how they are built today.
700 Fathoms Under the Sea
Feb 7, 2017 • 8 min
Something unusual happens about a half mile under the sea. Ocean physics create a special zone where sound travels for hundreds, even thousands of miles. Whales use it, and cold warriors plumbed its secrets. Listen in.
Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Shake it Up
Jan 19, 2017 • 24 min
For the next few episodes, we’re featuring the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, and humanity unexpectedly overlap — just like in their museums. In this episode: an astronomer who has turned the night sky into a…
Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Butting Heads
Dec 9, 2016 • 19 min
For the next few episodes, we’re featuring the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor. This time, two besties turn into lifelong enemies over a dining room; a researcher embraces the panda craze; and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.
Sidedoor from the Smithsonian: Masters of Disguise
Nov 30, 2016 • 19 min
For the next few episodes, we’re featuring the Smithsonian’s new series, Sidedoor, about where science, art, history, humanity and where they unexpectedly overlap — just like their museums. Up first: tales of scientific deception and trickery.
Dance: It’s Only Human
Nov 10, 2016 • 10 min
Dancing is something we see in almost every human culture. Yet we are the only animals that make such synchronized movements together to music. Why is that, and what is it about dance that gives us a feeling of togetherness?
The Words are a Jumble
Oct 20, 2016 • 10 min
Vissarion Shebalin was not a great composer. But his music could unlock an important truth about how the brain processes music and language.
The Art and Science of Polynesian Wayfinding
Sep 21, 2016 • 11 min
Ancient navigators traveled across the Pacific without the aid of maps or instruments. We’ll hear from modern-day navigators in New Zealand, Hawai’i and North America about the techniques used to do so.
Remaking the Science Fair
Sep 2, 2016 • 7 min
Schools are remaking science fairs to include more actual science and less papier-mâché volcanos.
Peeing in Your Pants… In Your 30s
Aug 6, 2016 • 9 min
Some studies suggest that one out of 10 women in her 30s is peeing herself. Others say the numbers could be much much higher. But it’s tough to talk about. Producer Lauren Whaley shares her story and the scientific approaches to hopefully one day solving…
The Ghost in the MP3
Jul 21, 2016 • 11 min
What’s lost when a song is compressed into an MP3? To the untrained ear, perhaps nothing. But to one composer, these “lost sounds” are a source for his stunning and ghostly musical compositions.
Outside Podcast: Devil’s Highway, Part 2
Jun 21, 2016 • 29 min
Outside podcast Science of Survival, episode 4: In the spring 2001, a large group of men set out from Mexico to cross the border into Arizona through some of the harshest desert terrain anywhere. The tragic result helped researchers develop the Death…
Outside Podcast: Devil’s Highway, Part 1
Jun 2, 2016 • 28 min
Outside Podcast’s Science of Survival, episode 3: In the heart of the Sonoran Desert is the remarkable story of Pablo Valencia, a gold prospector who spent six days wandering in 110-degree heat before stumbling into scientist William McGee’s camp.
Outside Podcast: Struck by Lightning
May 19, 2016 • 43 min
Outside Podcast’s Science of Survival, episode 2: Most of the time, when lightning makes the news, you’re hearing about it because something really unlikely has happened. Like the park ranger who was struck by lightning seven times. Or the strike survivor…
Trace Elements: The Musical
May 5, 2016 • 15 min
Birds of a feather may flock together — but they don’t sing together if they live in the city. It turns out birds that live in the city sing at higher frequencies, louder, and more often than their rural friends to outmatch the noise pollution of cars and…
Trace Elements: Mystery at the Lake
Apr 21, 2016 • 14 min
In the 1970s, a geochemist and a biologist banded together to solve a mystery at Lake Oneida in upstate New York. What they found is changing the way we think about human life, and where the origins of life come from.
Trace Elements: Upgrade
Apr 7, 2016 • 19 min
Third episode featuring Trace Elements. Hacking your hearing aid to implanting NFC tags into your hands — we are now in the age of DIY Bio. Dive into the growing underworld of body modification from the backrooms of tattoo shops to the lab in your kitchen.
Outside Podcast: Frozen Alive
Mar 30, 2016 • 31 min
Brought to you by Outside Magazine and PRX, the Outside Podcast aims to apply the magazine’s long-standing literary storytelling methods to the audio realm. The podcast’s first series delves into the science of survival in some of nature’s most extreme…
Trace Elements: Fooled Ya
Mar 24, 2016 • 17 min
Marco Tempest is not your average magician. He uses robots to do magic tricks on stage — but the real trick is in how easily he can get an audience to believe that robot has personality and is almost human.
Trace Elements: The Reset
Mar 10, 2016 • 14 min
Two hosts, one adventure: This episode marks the beginning of five weeks of special Transistor episodes featuring Trace Elements. Hosts and producers Cristina Quinn and Alison Bruzek take listeners on an off-road trip into the science that connects us. In…
The Invention of the Home Pregnancy Test
Feb 29, 2016 • 11 min
We love a good backstory to a scientific invention that is ubiquitous today. Meet the women who got pregnancy tests out of labs and into homes.
Rodney Learns to Fly
Feb 12, 2016 • 12 min
“Biophilia” refers to the instinctive affection humans have for nature. This story is about one such connection: Rodney grew up selling dope and guns. But he’s always loved caring for birds. The drugs landed him in jail. The birds helped set him free.
Imagine All the People
Jan 26, 2016 • 9 min
Casey is just four, but he already has an imaginary grandson. What does science say about what imaginary friends do for kids and adults?
Disease Detectives On the Case
Jan 7, 2016 • 9 min
Ebola, salmonella, even measles. All of these have a source, and disease detectives trained at the CDC know how to find the culprits. Join two rookies as as they solve the case of the nutty dish.
Orbital Path: Must Be Aliens
Dec 17, 2015 • 14 min
Why are humans so quick to attribute unknowns to the work of aliens? Hosted by Michelle Thaller and featuring guest Phil Plait, the “Bad Astronomer”.
Bluegrass…for Wolves?
Dec 6, 2015 • 9 min
Do animals like music? Science might know.
All By Myself…Maybe
Nov 20, 2015 • 8 min
“52 Hz” is the name given to a mysterious whale that vocalizes at a different frequency than other whales. Some refer to him as “The World’s Loneliest Whale,” but other scientists aren’t convinced that its unique call has left the whale isolated at all.…
Nautilus special: “To Save California, Read Dune”
Nov 5, 2015 • 20 min
The sci-fi epic “Dune” takes place on a desert planet. There, the water in even a single tear is precious. Can “Dune” offer lessons for the drought-stricken California of 2015?
The Indiana Jones of Math
Oct 5, 2015 • 8 min
Join us for a math adventure. Just bring your thickest jacket.
Forensics in Flames
Aug 18, 2015 • 12 min
Over the past 20 years, there’s been a revolution in the science of arson investigations. Many of the clues that had been used for decades to determine that a fire was not accidental have been proven to be false. Reporter Michael May looks closely at two…
That Crime of the Month
Jul 16, 2015 • 11 min
What does it mean when a woman commits a crime and attributes her actions to PMS? We revisit the court case for — and the science behind — the first use of the “PMS defense” in this country, back in 1981. Featuring the true crime show, Criminal.
The Last of the Iron Lungs
Jul 6, 2015 • 8 min
Step inside an archaic machine on the brink of extinction: the iron lung.
Where Math and Mime Meet
Jun 29, 2015 • 12 min
Math meets mime — and the result is unforgettable.
This is Crohn’s Disease
Jun 11, 2015 • 20 min
Told by the couple who lived it, this is a story of how Crohn’s disease can change lives when you least expect it. And it’s a story of how science can present multiple paths to — hopefully — relief or recovery.
Finding the Elusive Digital Stradivarius
May 29, 2015 • 9 min
In music, everything seems to have another digital, electric life. Pianists can play with different voicings on an electric keyboard. Guitarists can filter their instrument’s signal through a pedal or amp to create various effects. Why shouldn’t…
Totally Cerebral: Exercise and Your Brain
May 22, 2015 • 17 min
A scientific mentor can make or break your career. Dr. Wendy Suzuki introduces us to Dr. Marian Diamond, whose lively classes ushered Wendy into a career in neuroscience. And Wendy shares how she came to study how exercise profoundly affects the brain,…
Science’s Blind Spots
May 14, 2015 • 16 min
One of the things we assign to science is that there are true, absolute facts. But scientists are human and, it turns out, as prone to blind spots in their thinking as the rest of us, especially when cultural assumptions and biases get in the way.…
Early Bloom
May 7, 2015 • 9 min
When plant researcher David Rhoades found evidence that plants could communicate, it was a paradigm-shifting discovery. But it could not have come at a worse time.
The Next Generation of Galapagos Scientists
Apr 23, 2015 • 8 min
What motivates young people to become scientists? Meet Maricruz Jaramillo and Samoa Asigau, two young women scientists from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, whose professional aspirations have taken them to the Galapagos Islands. Science reporter…
Totally Cerebral: What’s That Smell?
Apr 16, 2015 • 32 min
Scents and tastes are powerfully evocative — one whiff of perfume or cooking aromas can transport you back to a particular moment, a particular place, a particular person. Dr. Wendy Suzuki speaks with neuroscientist Howard Eichenbaum, an expert on…
The Skinny on Your Skin
Apr 9, 2015 • 17 min
Your skin is your largest organ and is also is a thriving ecosystem, covered in bacteria. While many of us consider regular showers key to keeping our skin healthy, a group of scientists — and artists — are starting to ask: Could the future of skin care…
The Ultimate Wayback Machine
Apr 2, 2015 • 20 min
Looking through a telescope is like being inside a time machine — you are seeing light from the past. And some space telescopes allow astronomers to see light that is billions of years old and existed before there was an Earth or sun. Astrophysicist…
The Poison Squad: A Chemist’s Quest for Pure Food
Mar 26, 2015 • 9 min
In the fall of 1902, twelve young men in suits regularly gathered for dinners in the basement of a government building in Washington, D.C. The men ate what they were served, even though they knew that their food was spiked with poison. The mastermind…
Totally Cerebral: Think Pop Culture Gets Amnesia Right? Forgetaboutit!
Mar 19, 2015 • 36 min
Many depictions of amnesia in TV, movies and even in cartoons are just plain wrong — some laughably so. Host Dr. Wendy Suzuki talks with Prof. Neal Cohen, a Neuroscientist from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. For 20 years, Neal has used bad…
A Rainbow of Noise
Mar 13, 2015 • 10 min
Everybody knows about white noise — that sound that comes out of your TV when it’s not working quite right. But there are many other colors of noise, too: pink, brown, blue, and purple. Marnie Chesterton brings us this story on the colorful science of…
The Straight Poop
Mar 5, 2015 • 19 min
For one disease, poop — yes, human poop — is nothing short a miracle cure. Microbiologist Christina Agapakis takes a look at Fecal Microbiota Transplants or FMT and what happens when you take the really complex gut microbiome from a healthy person and…
Venus and Us: Two Stories of Climate Change
Feb 24, 2015 • 17 min
Space scientists are acutely aware of what can happen when climates change in other parts of our solar system. Take Venus, where it rains sulfuric acid and is 900°F on the surface, but it wasn’t always that way. Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller talks with…
Totally Cerebral: The Man Without a Memory
Feb 9, 2015 • 37 min
Imagine remembering your childhood, your parents, the history you learned in school, but never being able to form a new long term memory after the age of 27. Welcome to the life of the famous amnesic patient “HM”. Neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin studied HM…
Totally Cerebral: Untangling the Mystery of Memory
Feb 9, 2015 • 30 min
In her episodes of Transistor, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki introduces us to scientists who have uncovered some of the deepest secrets about how our brains make us who we are. She begins by talking with groundbreaking experimental psychologist Brenda…
Food, Meet Fungus
Feb 2, 2015 • 17 min
In her episodes of Transistor, biologist Christina Agapakis is exploring the microbiome: the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on our body. She starts with food. Bacteria-rich foods such as tempeh, cheese, pickles and yogurt have…
We Are Stardust
Feb 2, 2015 • 16 min
We’re closer than ever before to discovering if we’re not alone in the universe. The host for this episode of Transistor, astrophysicist Michelle Thaller, visits the NASA lab that discovered that meteorites contain some of the very same chemical elements…