Old-Time Radio Reborn: Why Podcasts Work

Narrative is the backbone of any successful podcast, although there's a whole lot more to great audio entertainment than just the stories.

Alex Goldman: What makes a good podcast is a real attention to narrative and writing and trying to tell stories that haven't already been told. A lot of shows are actually doing just radio play essentially. There are shows like The Truth that are actually doing radio fiction. It's like The Shadow or Welcome to Night Vale. It's like '30s radio. It's like '30s serialized radio. And honestly, and I don't remember who coined the phrase, but radio is the theater of the mind. It's like you can – you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, a word is worth a million pictures. If I say tree, you can visualize millions of different trees. So we give you these stories; we give you sound, but you create the world in your head and there's something immensely satisfying about that. I mean you know roughly what we're talking about, but much like reading a book, it's like you decide what the characters look like; you decide what the host's look like; you decide what environment they're in; where it's being recorded; what the subject look like; what the world that the subjects are describing looks like. There's something really — there's a certain level of imagination inspiring and control that you get with radio that you don't get with movies or 3D or any other modern technology.

Narrative is the backbone of any successful podcast, though there's a whole lot more to great audio entertainment than just the stories. According to Reply All's Alex Goldman, podcasts and radio are "the theater of the mind." If a picture is worth a thousand words, Goldman says, a word is worth a million pictures. Thus, the most important aspect of a good podcast is the ability of its hosts and producers to spark visual storytelling in the listener's mind using only the power of sound.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.