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Wednesday, October 8, 2014 Permalink

Radiolab: Parasites

Could parasites be the shadowy hands that pull the strings of life? We explore nature's moochers, with tales of lethargic farmers, zombie cockroaches, and even mind-controlled humans (kinda, maybe). And we examine claims that some parasites may actually be good for you.



 Dickson DespommierDr. Robert SapolskyFuller TorreyPat Walters and Carl Zimmer

In Defense of Cheats

Carl Zimmer plays defense lawyer, trying to exonerate parasites for their wrongs, while Jad and Robert argue in defense of the victims. Our producer Lulu Miller comes in to moderate a lightning round of: "Parasites: are they evil, or are they awesome?" The parasites in question are the zombie waspthe nematode, and the lovey-dovey blood fluke.

Sculptors of Monumental Narrative

Dickson Despommier tells us the story of how the insatiable millionaire John D. Rockefeller turned an eye to the untapped market of the American South and ended up eradicating the hookworm (and, in the process, a number of other awful afflictions) with an ingenious contraption. ThenPat Walters introduces us to Jasper Lawrence, a modern-day entrepreneur whose passion for hookworms stems from lifelong battles with allergies and asthma. But unlike Rockefeller, Jasper sees this parasite as friend, not foe.

The Scratch

When executive producer Ellen Horne was expecting a baby, she really had no particular intention of becoming a self-made expert on a parasite named Toxoplasma gondii.Robert Sapolsky explains to us why Ellen had reason to worry when she was scratched by her cat, and he traces the unlikely path that the parasite might follow, right up to the point that it rewires a rat's brain. Fuller Torrey detailsToxoplasma's potential associations with other human disorders, possibly even schizophrenia.