Before the public radio show, WNYC's Radiolab became a cult hit, Jad Abumrad and his future co-host, NPR's Robert Krulwich, would meet up at a local diner and argue about scientific curiosities. Through a series of happy accidents, these debates became the basis for their hugely popular radio show.
Jad joins host Ophira Eisenberg on the Ask Me Another stage to explain how radio became an unlikely medium for him to explore his interests in both music and writing, and why he is hesitant to classify Radiolab as strictly a "science show."
"Ultimately I'm interested in walking to that place beyond which we can only speculate and dream, and engage in mystery and wild conjectures," he says. "But I don't want to do that in a cheap way. Not in a get-high-in-your-dorm room kind of way."
Watch "Symmetry," a Radiolab short film.
On each episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert tackle tough questions about life, the universe, and the relationship between humans and nature. Some themes the show has attempted to explore seemed impossible at first, like when they tried to depict sonically what a mantis shrimp might see as it looked at the rainbow. But they did it. "I no longer believe in the limitations of what we do," Jad says.
Later in the show, Jad finds himself in the puzzle hot seat for a quiz about other scientific accidents – ones that led to some important discoveries and inventions. And because he's a certified genius, Ophira tells Jad that he must get a perfect score on this quiz. Can he do it? Anything can happen in the lab of this trivia experiment.
About Jad Abumrad
The son of a scientist and a doctor, Jad Abumrad did most of his growing up in Tennessee, before studying creative writing and music composition at Oberlin College in Ohio. Following graduation, Abumrad wrote music for films, and reported and produced documentaries for a variety of local and national public radio programs, including On the Media, PRI's Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and WNYC's "24 Hours at the Edge of Ground Zero".
In the video below, Jad demonstrates how Radiolab features sound as a storytelling tool.