Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design (The Guardian): "Piped water may be the greatest convenience ever known but our sewage systems and bathrooms are a disaster" [more inside]
The public radio science program Radiolab recently wrapped up a tour featuring their latest live show, Apocalyptical. It is, as you might have guessed, about the end times. The show, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and featuring live performances from comedians Kurt Braunohler and Reggie Watts and an appearance from dinosaur puppets, is now available for free on YouTube.
In this episode, Al Letson and guest producer Lu Olkowski visit a tiny town in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio where, for a century, residents have shared the common bond of identifying as African-American despite the fact that they look white. The middle segment of the episode, in which a daughter has split from her mother and sister and chosen to identify as white, has been re-edited and aired as a Radiolab short: Ally's Choice
That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
On September 24th Radiolab posted a new episode, The Fact of the Matter. It included a segment titled Yellow Rain. Radiolab's website says that it's "a detective story from the Cold War, about a mysterious substance that fell from the sky in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam war." Robert Krulwich's interview with two of the segment's guests has prompted outrage at his treatment of them. One of the guests, writer Kao Kalia Yang, talked with Hyphen Magazine.
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides from Radiolab's morality episode: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp' versus a calculator-wielding rationale."
Are the X-Men Human? The US government says yes, these people are no different from you or I, but Marvel claims their strange mutations and powerful augmentations move them beyond humanity into the realm of monsters, angels and devils. This Radiolab short explains why Marvel Toys argued in the US Court of International Trade that Wolverine, Professor X and Storm are inhuman. [more inside]
"Kohn" is an award-winning radio story produced by Andy Mills (a graduate of the Salt Institute) that was honored in the 2011 Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. The story, which features the musicians of Hudson Branch/Dogs on Tour, tells what happens when someone hears his own voice for the first time and finds that it's not what he expected. (And a Radiolab short based on the story explains why what we hear in our heads isn't always what the world hears from our mouths.) In a similar vein, another Third Coast winner, Seizure's Lament, tells the story of a radio producer who wanted to know what her seizures look like to other people.
In the cold open for this week's RadioLab (Loops), Jesse Thorn (MeFi's own) commemorates one of the craziest, most unconventional comedy bits in modern memory: Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler's "Kristen Schaal is a Horse", a sketch that starts out funny, then turns decidedly un-funny, then becomes hilarious. Ten minute version. Schaal on The Sound of Young America.
Rob Walker, who writes the "Consumed" column for the New York Times Magazine, talks with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich about the whys and wherefores of their popular WNYC science radio show and podcast, RadioLab.
NASA - The Frontier Is Everywhere. A NASA promo video made by a fan. Narration edit and music taken from an older video, though the words are obviously originally by Carl Sagan, from A Pale Blue Dot (previously). [more inside]
Words can change the way we think and feel. An exploration of how language connects our inner thoughts to the outside world. [more inside]
Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) is a small songbird that lives almost exclusively in the lower peninsula of Michigan. During the 1970's they were on the verge of extinction, partially due to the fact that they prefer young jack pine trees as a nesting place, and improved fire safety efforts had led to a lack of new growth in the forests. To address the lack of young jack pines, the Forest Service started a controlled burn on May 5, 1980. The fire quickly got out of control, and the resulting wildfire lead to the death of local firefighter Jim Swiderski, and the destruction of 64 homes. A recent Radiolab segment has again raised the question: how much is a species worth? [more inside]
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment (Henry David Thoreau)
After hearing our show about moments of death, filmmaker Will Hoffman went out in search of moments of life. What follows is what he found. What is a moment? From the RadioLab Blog at WNYC, [via]
In 1962, in a mission-run girls' boarding school in Kashasha, Tanzania, a student started laughing uncontrollably. Her laughter spread throughout the school, and the girls grew violent when teachers tried to calm them. Administration closed the school, sent some girls home, and the "epidemic of laughing and crying" spread to villages up and down the Bukoba district. [more inside]