Jad Abumrad on Making Radiolab

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jad Abumrad in CR2 talking with Brian Lehrer (Jody Avirgan)

Jad Abumrad, host of Radiolab and 2011 MacArthur fellow, talks about his favorite Radiolab episodes, how the show gets made, and takes your calls.

→ Bonus: Jad's Picks

1. Follow on Twitter: Vaughanbell, Andrew_zolli; brainpicker

2. BBQ you should eat: Smoke Joint, Fort Greene

3. Music you should BUY: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

4. Short Stories You Should Read: Anything by Tim Kreider

5. What You Should Drink: Kings County Kentucky Bourbon

→ Episodes, Audio, and More Discussed on the Show

The Mantis Shrimp Chorus

Zelda Quits Smoking

Finding Emile


Jad Abumrad

Comments [16]

Scott from NJ

Thanks for the answer(neuroscience).Seems to go to the nature of consciousness and the self, which we experience as continuous and coherent (except in sleep), but is actually the output of these competing impulses and forces to which we impute meaning.

You didn't answer the second part of my question (most interesting brain structure), but to me it's the amygdala, which seems to play a central role in mediating this process and is at the core of both our humanity and inhumanity.

Beyond that is what Michael Gazzaniga (discovered left brain/right brain split in the 60s and many other breakthroughs) calls "the interpreter" ("Who's In Charge?", which constantly imputes this post hoc meaning to our actions and the world.

You could clearly do a show on this and I'd definitely look up Dr. Gazzaniga. When I first heard Dr. Gazzaniga's discussion of "the interpreter," I thought this is exactly what Buddha said about consciousness and reality from a different angle and, as you noted, these issues go to the core of our understanding of religions, beliefs and meaning.

Anyway, thanks and everyone support WNYC and great shows, like Radiolab!

Oct. 24 2012 12:23 PM
Alina Arenal from Nyc

I have a ten year old son who is dyslexic. He absolutely loves radio lab. He is read to and engadged in discussions at home, but at school the remediation he needs keeps him from having the in depth learning experience he craves. Radio lab is such a perfect opportunity for him to learn by listening and to handle complex ideas. Radio lab and what they do would make a great way to approach teaching youngsters who struggle with reading and writing but desperately crave a chance to be creatively intellectually engadged.

Oct. 24 2012 11:58 AM
elizabeth from Brooklyn

Hooray Jad and Brian. Your discussion of Bach and place of music in rendering what seems ordinary as sweeping as our lives reminded me - of course! - that it's art. And, your show, your approach is, well, art.

Oct. 24 2012 11:52 AM

RADIOLAB: Best. Show. Ever. It makes people smarter, which is desperately needed today. Shut up and take my money!

Especially, I applaud Radiolab for being principled on the issue of the Chemical Weapons in the Yellow Rain Segment (Episode: Fact of the Matter).

Did you intend to ironically turn a show on Facts and Perception into a massive social experiment on widespread intellectual relativism?

Please don't give in to the bullies!

Oct. 24 2012 11:52 AM
Edward from NJ

Has the controversy around Jonah Lehrer effected which episodes Jad selects to rebroadcast?

Oct. 24 2012 11:51 AM
Robert from NYC

Yes Bach. Ah Venice, Ah Bach!

Oct. 24 2012 11:44 AM

Please ask Jad why he thinks facts need to be dressed up with sound effects.

Oct. 24 2012 11:28 AM
Jon from Brooklyn

Jad- The banter between you and Robert always seems off-the-cuff in a really fun way. And yet, it's clear from the design of the show that every story is rigorously researched and prepared. Can you talk about how you and Robert prepare to record a show? Do you know how it will end up when you start recording?

Oct. 24 2012 11:28 AM
John A

I think Jad is contributing to a culture of distraction all the time, but, where do you stop? I have gotten a few facts from the show to say the least, but waiting through all the fluff makes me think we are an overindulged society at present.

Oct. 24 2012 11:27 AM
Jeff from NY, NY

Oct. 24 2012 11:26 AM

The first hour of today's show was about Race. Let's continue the discussion this hour. Please discuss Radiolab's treatment of the Hmong Experience in their segment on Yellow Rain.
Please respond to Kao Kalia Yang's brave response:

This is a great opportunity to talk about race and privilege.

Oct. 24 2012 11:23 AM
Dennis Maher from Lake Luzerne

I think it was Stephen King who wrote an interesting and frightening short story about a man who wanted to quit smoking. He was guaranteed success if he would sign a contract.... He didn't notice that his friend had lost fingers and his wife and children....

Oct. 24 2012 11:22 AM


Oct. 24 2012 11:12 AM
Robert from NYC

And I experience you both as others experience you both. Not all the time but when I do that's how I experience you.

Oct. 24 2012 11:10 AM
El from Upper East Side

Would Jad please comment on the story he did with Robert on the Hmong called "Yellow Rain" in which Robert bullied a survivor of torture? I saw the apology from Robert days later and only after a lot of listener outrage, and though I am not as mad as I was when I heard the segment initially, I still have hesitation regarding supporting this show in the future.

Are Jad and Robert doing anything further to rectify that situation? Can he further clarify what happened and his position on the matter?

Thank you.

Oct. 24 2012 10:33 AM
Jill from Westchester

"Sometimes Behaves So Strangely"
Best. Radio Piece. Ever.
That episode aired years and years ago and I have never forgotten it --or the tune of the title, for that matter. Thanks for that.

Oct. 24 2012 10:32 AM

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