Sunday, July 01, 2007

Radio Lab Podcast

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I recently discovered WNYC's Radio Lab podcast, and it has instantly become one of my favorites. This excellently produced show probes all sorts of "science" topics in a light-hearted and curious way, yet is often quite thoughtful and even profound. I say "science" in quotes, because I didn't even realize until a few shows in, that most topics centered around some area of science. Here is an article from the Washington Post that describes the genesis of this show in 2006:

"Radio Lab" seeks to tell stories of cosmology, neuroscience and anthropology in a language new to broadcasting. Krulwich brings his affinity for sound effects, dramatizations and a narrative style reminiscent of great children's literature together with Abumrad's experiments in manipulating recorded speech to emphasize ideas and to break through media clutter.

A "Radio Lab" story includes traditional elements like interviews with scientists and a reporter's narration, but the story is regularly interrupted by words that suddenly repeat three or four times, vowel sounds that are elongated and warped to accentuate their meaning, and bits of electronic distortion or snatches of music that shift the mood and focus listeners' attention.

Add a continuing, partly scripted and partly improvised conversation between Abumrad and Krulwich, and the storytelling is hard to ignore. This is not your father's NPR.

That description is a bit too clinical. The show definitely has lots of sound effects, but they just add polish to an already hip production (I'm a glitzy gal after all). Jad Abumrad is like a young contemporary sitting down with you over a cup of coffee and veteran broadcaster Robert Krulwich is like the really cool uncle you never had. The two of them together are extremely engaging and I never want the shows to end. You'll laugh and say "wow", "aha" and "yes, that's it" a lot.

Thank you George for turning me on to these guys even though you listen to it the old-fashioned way on the actual radio! It's on Sundays at 10pm on WBUR for those in the Boston area. You can also subscribe to their podcast here.

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