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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 Permalink

Radiolab: Detective Stories


Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring out what really happened. In this hour of Radiolab, digging up the past leads to some very unexpected finds.

We begin at a trash dump in Egypt, where we find Jesus, Satan, sissies, and porn. Next, a goat on a cow leads us to hundreds of old letters scattered on the side of Route 101. And

lastly, a blood-sampling tour of Asia reveals a prolific baby-maker...and potentially a world conqueror.

The Greatest Hits of Ancient Garbage

What can a 1,000 years worth of trash tell us about ancient human behavior? Dirk Obink, Director of research and professor of papyrology and classics at Oxford, tells us about the "mother lode" of 2,000 year old paper found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in 1896 by two Oxford graduate students , B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt. A find so big, it’s beyond the scale of one human lifetime to translate it all. Deciphering fragments that look like cornflakes and sentences that break off right before they tell you want you need to know, Obink and his colleagues find enough secrets to rewrite the past. The “greatest hits of ancient garbage” may just change your mind about Jesus, porn, and what it means to be a hero. It might even convince you to change your tattoo.

Goat on a Cow

Producer and gumshoe Laura Starecheski brings us along on a hunt that traverses the country, and time. The mystery to unravel? A box of old letters found on the side of the road by Erick Gordon. Git your teeth ready for a nail-bitin' chase through clues and suspects--a Manhattan middle school teacher, homesick WWII soldiers, Rte 101, an estranged wife and mother from the past, Bob and Carol, unfriendly landowners--that all revolve around, yes, a goat standing on a cow.

Genghis Khan

By looking at our genes we can link ourselves to our parents, grandparents, and ancestors long long ago. Tatiana Zerjal and Chris Tyler Smith tell the tale of discovering the genetic relation of over 16 million men in Central Asia.