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Podcast Reviews

Radiolab Podcast Review



“Radiolab” is a groundbreaking podcast that has been keeping listeners hooked since its inception in 2002. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (until Krulwich’s retirement in 2020), the show explores a wide range of topics at the intersection of science, philosophy, and human experience. Radiolab is definitely one of the podcast industry’s pioneers and has made mainstream its unique approach to storytelling, blending interviews, narration, and innovative sound design to create an immersive audio experience.

I can’t quite remember when I discovered Radiolab, but it must have been in the first few years of its existence as it immediately became one my favourite podcasts and opened my eyes to how good the storytelling through, at the time, a new format could be. 

Perhaps Radiolab’s greatest strength lies in its ability to tackle complex subjects and make them accessible to a general audience. Regardless of whether the episode is about neuroscience, exploring ethical dilemmas, or uncovering little-known historical events, “Radiolab” consistently finds ways to engage listeners and spark curiosity. The hosts’ nearly giddy enthusiasm for learning shines through in each episode, making even the most obscure topics feel relevant and exciting.

One of the podcast’s hallmarks is its exceptional production quality. The team behind “Radiolab” employs a rich tapestry of sounds, music, and audio effects to enhance the narrative and create a distinct atmosphere for each story. This sound design not only makes the listening experience more enjoyable but also serves to underscore key points and evoke emotional responses from the audience.

And as any longtime listener of this podcast will attest to, the chemistry between Abumrad and Krulwich was a crucial element of the show’s success for many years. Their friendly banter, thoughtful discussions, and occasional disagreements added depth to the storytelling and helped to humanize complex ideas. Since Krulwich’s departure, the show has evolved, bringing in new voices and perspectives while attempting to maintain its core identity. Some critics say that the show has never been the same post-Krulwich, but I maintain that the standard of quality has continued in his absence. 

That said, “Radiolab” excels at finding unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or events. Many episodes start with a simple question or observation before taking listeners on a journey through various fields of knowledge, often arriving at surprising conclusions. This interdisciplinary approach encourages listeners to think critically and see the world in new ways.

While the show’s primary focus is on scientific and philosophical topics, it doesn’t shy away from exploring social issues and current events. “Radiolab” has produced thought-provoking episodes on subjects like race, justice, and technology’s impact on society. These episodes demonstrate the show’s commitment to addressing important contemporary issues through its unique lens of curiosity and inquiry.

One potential drawback of “Radiolab” is that its stylized production and tendency to explore tangents may not appeal to listeners who prefer more straightforward, fact-based reporting. Additionally, some critics have argued that the show occasionally sacrifices depth for the sake of maintaining a broad appeal. However, these criticisms are relatively minor compared to the podcast’s overall quality and impact.

Where to listen to Radiolab | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Castro

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