Radio Lab: Choice

Sat, 03/07/2009 - 3:00pm

Hosts, Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich.

Alan Klein

Radio Lab, airing Saturdays, March 7, 14, 21, and 28 at 3 p.m. on AM 1370 and WXXI-FM HD 91.5-2, returns for its fifth season with all new programs. This season includes stories about making choices, race, and diagnoses.

Radio Lab is an experiential investigation that explores themes and ideas through a patchwork of people, sounds, and stories. In each episode, Radio Lab experiments with sound and style allowing science to fuse with culture and information to sound like music.

Hosted by Jad Abumrad with co-host Robert Krulwich, Radio Lab is designed for listeners who demand skepticism but appreciate wonder; who are curious about the world, but also want to be moved and surprised.

Choice airs Saturday March 7 at 3 p.m.
Having an abundance of choices is the hallmark of freedom, but does it make you happy? Just because we have more choices doesn't mean we're better at choosing. We scan rows upon rows upon rows of brilliantly colored, sensuously textured fruits in an upscale market seeking the peak of gustatory delight. We jostle through the sensory overload of the ding! ding! ding! place your bets of an Atlantic City casino calibrated to overwhelm and overpower our cool, calm logic. Then escape into the quiet mind of a perfectly rational man on our journey to understand how emotion and logic interact to guide us through a million decisions a day. We turn up the volume on the voices in our heads and try to make sense of the babble. Forget free will, some important decisions could come down to a steaming cup of coffee.

airs Saturday, March 14 at 3 p.m.
Peering through his microscope at the seeds of human life, the discoverer of sperm thought he was seeing the smallest incarnation of a human soul. If that was the case, why so many wasted souls? We turn to the animal kingdom to answer that question, which lands us on a tour of sperm battles in ducks, flying pig sperm, and promiscuous whippoorwills. We ponder the necessity of males in a world where sperm can be frozen and kept for all eternity. And we sit quietly in the stark sonic space with a widow struggling to keep some essence of her husband alive through sperm collected from his body minutes after his death.

Race airs Saturday, March 21 at 3 p.m.
At the turn of the millennium, researchers succeeded in sequencing the entirety of the human genome and our President exulted in announcing that humans, regardless of race, are more than 99.9 percent the same. But as scientists continue to parse the genome into smaller fragments, is turns out that maybe race, or rather ancestry, does have a genetic signature. We find ourselves at the scene of a crime swamped by news reporters and fearful citizens, and visit a DNA lab where machines hiss and thump as they map out the identity of a single human. We migrate with our ancestors across geographic and cultural boundaries, and wind up in the lunchroom of one of the country's most diverse middle schools to talk about the rainbow of hyphenated ethnic distinctions in teenage life. Finally, we follow an Iraqi man back through his memories of the narrow divisions between Sunni and Shi'a that terrorized daily life in Baghdad.

Diagnosis airs Saturday, March 28 at 3 p.m.
What's in a name? Everything, if that name is carcinoma, or Alzheimer's, or AIDS. Diagnosis comes with a tangled entourage of emotional, social, and medical implications for patient and diagnostician alike. We ride along on the subways and streets of NYC with a young man who's been keeping his mental disorder a secret from his family. We step behind the curtain that separates patients from doctors and find a roller coaster of detachment, empathy, and Gallows humor that accompanies the responsibilities of medical professionals. And we lose ourselves in a historical mystery racing to find our way back from a wrong turn that led to the fatal radiation treatment of healthy babies.