*Reprint* I ♡ Radiolab
I wrote this ode in August of 2009. I’m “reprinting” it today as I am struck by the realization that I’ve grown to need Radiolab… for support, for inspiration, for a connection–in a world where the homogenized, trite and shrill voice of mainstream culture succeeds in alienating me.
In my elementary, middle and high school education I excelled more in the language arts and humanities. I wrote my way out of atrocious grades, learning early that one writing assignment could compensate for a term’s worth of lacklusterness. As a tight-lipped introverted wallflower extraordinaire or, later, the queen of truancy, the voice I expressed through writing had always been my saving grace. It still is now in many ways at Columbia, my job and my personal life.
But alas, I did very poorly in high school, barely graduating because of gym deficiencies, way too many absences and horrid grades in my science and math classes. In my senior year I was taking college level fine art and 10th grade math. In science, I was even further behind, much to the frustration of my 2-year chemistry teacher, Ms. Riew. But I pulled through, spending my junior and senior years with the underclassmen in my math and science classes and, finally, passing the state regents exams.
English, history, psychology, sociology: these disciplines are conveyed through language and, in many ways, story telling. But math and science were foreign languages to me, languages expressed in technical terms and enigmatic mathematical code, languages I could not master because I could not experience them (or didn’t realize I was). Math and science instruction during that time was not the media-rich, inquiry-based active learning that happens now in good science classrooms. It was not connected to me in a way that was clear and discernible. Combine that with the egocentricity of adolescence, and I became a science/math drop-out.
As years passed I left the confines of viewing the world through me, myself and I and began to see the patterns of human behavior as symptoms of much larger forces, inspired by the mysterious simplicity and routines within nature and biology. This mind frame seemed to evolve purposefully as a sort of coping mechanism. It helped me through the ebb and flow of my life as I had the habit of taking myself and my failures very seriously. So science became everyday as my natural curiosity hunted for reason, logic and consequence under the complex and seemingly random. I wondered all the time and found great pleasure in deconstructing that which I had taken for granted: my breath, my feelings, my relationships with other life. The me in these inquiries was just a humble beginning in which to enter the expansive and far more interesting realms of biology, neuroscience, ecology, biochemistry, etc. *Nerd alert*: There seemed to be something romantic about being so helpless to these giant forces.
Yadda yadda yadda… so Radiolab, a podcast put out by WNYC, has perfected science narrative. Combining the mystery and romance of science phenomenon with language and story telling, Radiolab delivers science in its most penetrating state: not watered down, not dry, but infused with the human experience: passion, curiosity, humor, emotion. Each episode is an exploration of a single topic (sleep, stress, time, choice, love, laughter, etc) and includes commentary from leaders in the field, amongst other inspiring and fascinating anecdotes that affirm and illuminate while simultaneously shrinking us to our natural state: not-so simple machines in the grand schemes of science and nature.