Mar 7, 2019

Asking for Another Friend

Part 2: Last year, we ran a pair of episodes that explored the greatest mysteries in our listeners’ lives - the big ones, little ones, and the ones in between. This year, we’re back on the hunt, tracking down answers to the big little questions swirling around our own heads.

Today, we take a look at a strange human emotion, and investigate the mysteries lurking behind the trees, sounds, and furry friends in our lives. 

This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, Arianne Wack, Carter Hodge, Sarah Qari and Annie McEwen, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, Arianne Wack, Sarah Qari, Annie McEwen, and Simon Adler. 

Special thanks to Yiyun Huang, lab manager at Yale's Canine Cognition Center. Check out Code Switch's "Dog Show!"

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

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                                    [Intro theme]

Jad Abumrad:               Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

Robert Krulwich:          I'm Robert Krulwich.

Jad Abumrad:               This is Radiolab.

Robert Krulwich:          And today we'll start with a prelude.

Annie McEwen:            Hello, hello England are you there?

Jad Abumrad:               From our producer Annie McEwen.

Rupert P.R.:                  Hello.

Annie McEwen:            Oh, hi, yeah.

Rupert P.R.:                  Is that Annie?

Annie McEwen:            It is. Is this Rupert?

Rupert P.R.:                  Well done. Yes. Well done.

Annie McEwen:            This is Rupert Pennant-Rae.

Rupert P.R.:                  Right. Hello.

Annie McEwen:            He's 71 and he's had a very busy, very successful career.

Rupert P.R.:                  Yes. Perhaps the two most prominent things I've done, I was on the staff of The Economist for many years and editor. I then went from there to the Bank of England where I was deputy governor.

Annie McEwen:            So you can imagine Rupert is a very knowledgeable guy.

Rupert P.R.:                  Absolutely.

Annie McEwen:            Especially when it comes to things like.

Rupert P.R.:                  Interest rates, or exchange rates, or commodity prices and ha, ha.

Annie McEwen:            He knows all about that stuff.

Annie McEwen:            This whole time he's been this super successful guy he's been living with this one big-

Rupert P.R.:                  Big.

Annie McEwen:            Cavernous.

Rupert P.R.:                  Gap in my life. Yeah.

Annie McEwen:            Until very recently Rupert knew absolutely nothing about science, and when I say nothing I mean like he had no clue about how the natural world around him worked in any way.

Rupert P.R.:                  Literally.

Annie McEwen:            For instance ...

Rupert P.R.:                  The periodic table. I never heard of the periodic table.

Annie McEwen:            Until last year, and when one day his wife told him he was a mammal.

Rupert P.R.:                  Well that was a shocker.

Annie McEwen:            He had no idea.

Rupert P.R.:                  I said, “No, no, of course I'm not a mammal.”

Annie McEwen:            What?

Rupert P.R.:                  I thought she was using it as a term of abuse.

Annie McEwen:            He'd use words like fiber optic cable.

Rupert P.R.:                  Many, many times.

Annie McEwen:            And say things like ...

Rupert P.R.:                  Oh, that's radioactive.

Annie McEwen:            When describing something he felt was bad or dangerous.

Rupert P.R.:                  Without a clue of what I meant by that phrase.

Annie McEwen:            I guess like what was it like to be a very important person, in very important circles but have this gap?

Rupert P.R.:                  Well I'll tell you what I became good at bluffing. I was on the board of a number of mining companies and I hope none of my colleagues from those companies are listening.

Annie McEwen:            Part of being on the board meant he had to read all these geologist reports.

Rupert P.R.:                  Yeah.

Annie McEwen:            And [mathmatologist 00:02:34] reports.

Rupert P.R.:                  Yeah.

Annie McEwen:            A blah.

Rupert P.R.:                  And then we would have board discussions about all this and I would sit there stroking my chin in a way I hoped would look like a wise chap, but I didn't really have a clue what people were talking about.

Annie McEwen:            What was your schooling like that you didn't have ...

Rupert P.R.:                  Well this is where it all began of course. I come from Zimbabwe and I went to school there.

Annie McEwen:            It was a boarding school. The kind of school where you wear uniforms, you play cricket and for some reason if you're extra clever instead of studying any science at all you study Greek.

Rupert P.R.:                  Of course the irony today is that I remember virtually no Greek at all. So it's not as though it did me a huge amount of favors.

Annie McEwen:            So he always thought ...

Rupert P.R.:                  As soon as I have time.

Annie McEwen:            He would right this wrong.

Rupert P.R.:                  That's what I'm doing now. I'm studying science for the first time at the age of 71.

Annie McEwen:            And he's really going for it. He's got a tutor.

Rupert P.R.:                  Who I see for three hours a week.

Annie McEwen:            Studying physics, biology and his favorite.

Rupert P.R.:                  Chemistry. I have been really absorbed by chemistry.

Annie McEwen:            I guess you are married to a scientist. Is that correct?

Rupert P.R.:                  I am. I am.

Annie McEwen:            Okay so what is that influencing your studies at all or ...

Rupert P.R.:                  Yeah we had an agreement that at some point I would put this right, coupled with another agreement that she would be a very helpful tutor to me, which indeed she's proving to be. I think there's a danger now that's she's going to rather wish that she never encouraged me to do this because I-

Annie McEwen:            Oh really.

Rupert P.R.:                  I never stop saying “Wow, have you noticed this?"

Annie McEwen:            What are the wows? What are the wows?

Rupert P.R.:                  I mean all sorts of things. It was partly the periodic table. When I first discovered this I couldn't believe how elegant it was, how compressed and how beautifully defined it all was. I'm very, very devoted to it and have a copy of it close by most of the day.

Annie McEwen:            Oh really.

Rupert P.R.:                  Oh yes.

Annie McEwen:            Oh my gosh you're very committed. This is amazing.

Rupert P.R.:                  Then there are other things.

Annie McEwen:            Okay.

Rupert P.R.:                  The whole principle of electricity and how it lights up bulbs and how it then moves on and goes all around the house and comes out at the other end. Things like speed and velocity and acceleration, and cells and then you are talking about plants, you are talking about animals.

Rupert P.R.:                  Something as simple as a glass of water I've got on the table by me now. I now look at it with a huge amount of respect.

Annie McEwen:            Oh.

Rupert P.R.:                  I think my God if only I could have a look with microscope eyes, and see those little molecules of hydrogen and the single atoms of oxygen and how they will all join together, it would be such a delight.

Annie McEwen:            I can see why your wife is like rolling her eyes a little bit.

Rupert P.R.:                  Oh yeah. This is getting tedious I think, you know.

Annie McEwen:            Rupert go to bed. Yeah. It sounds very much to me like you've fallen in love.

Rupert P.R.:                  Yeah it does, it feels like that. It's all fresh and wonderful and exciting and you can't really believe it. It's like one day having a miracle laser surgery on your eyes and they turn from being colorblind to being fully functional and seeing the richness of the world around you. Thinking my God and there I was in that one dimensional color and now I've got all of this to revel in.

Annie McEwen:            I picture you in a musical sort of like swinging your briefcases about as you jump home from work and dance around lamp posts and stuff like that.

Rupert P.R.:                  Well, that would be nice. I wouldn't recommend my dancing but-

Annie McEwen:            Oh no.

Rupert P.R.:                  I do like the image.

Jad Abumrad:               Thanks Annie.

Annie McEwen:            Sure.

Robert Krulwich:          Speaking of reveling and reveling in.

Jad Abumrad:               Reveling in the one, or getting back to basics. Like asking the questions you never got a chance to ask.

Robert Krulwich:          That's what we're going to do.

Jad Abumrad:               That's what we're going to do. This is one in a series of shows we've been doing.

Robert Krulwich:          All of us are curious about this, that and the other, and some of the this, and the that and the others won't go away.

Jad Abumrad:               They won't go into the show either.

Robert Krulwich:          No they won't go into the show either.

Jad Abumrad:               This show increasingly has these big investigative things.

Robert Krulwich:          Right.

Jad Abumrad:               Feels like okay lets make a space for the this, that and the others.

Robert Krulwich:          So we did. We decided to just devote a few shows to small questions asked by our people that wouldn't go away so what the heck we'll just answer them.

Jad Abumrad:               Yeah, and maybe in the process you get back to that [Rupertarian 00:07:03] state of renewal of wonder.

Robert Krulwich:          Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               Alright, so you ready Bobby K.

Robert Krulwich:          I am.

Jad Abumrad:               We're going to start things off with ...

Molly Webster:            Hello, hello.

Oriana Aragon:             Hello.

Arianne Wack:              Hello.

Molly Webster:            Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               An interrogatory duet.

Robert Krulwich:          Ooh.

Jad Abumrad:               From producers Molly Webster.

Molly Webster:            This is Molly.

Oriana Aragon:             Hi Molly.

Jad Abumrad:               And ...

Arianne Wack:              Arianne.

Jad Abumrad:               Arianne Wack.

Oriana Aragon:             Arianne.

Arianne Wack:              Hi.

Oriana Aragon:             Hi Arianne.

Arianne Wack:              Nice to meet you.

Oriana Aragon:             Nice to meet you too.

Molly Webster:            So we're going to jump right in to the conversation that we had with this researcher.

Oriana Aragon:             Alright. Well my name is Oriana Aragon and I'm an assistant professor here at Clemson University.

Molly Webster:            Okay.

Arianne Wack:              She studies human behavior and emotion.

Molly Webster:            So maybe you can you just tell me what made you first run into this question?

Oriana Aragon:             Well it was a summer-

Molly Webster:            2011.

Molly Webster:            Oriana was a grad student at Yale at the time and one night she was just sitting around ...

Oriana Aragon:             Watching late night television.

Announcer:                  It's Conan.

Oriana Aragon:             Conan O'Brien, and ...

Conan O'Brien:             We've talked about this before.

Oriana Aragon:             Leslie Bibb.

Conan O'Brien:             Very beautiful, talented woman.

Leslie Bibb:                  Thank you.

Oriana Aragon:             It is a very talented and lovely actress is on, and she was talking about having encountered this cute puppy.

Leslie Bibb:                  Yeah, I mean there was this woman. I was just at the hair salon.

Conan O'Brien:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leslie Bibb:                  She had this little dog, it was kind of an ugly dog. It was like a Maltese, it looked real janky. She took this little curly hair and she must have straightened it with a flatiron and then she put one ponytail holder and then another ponytail holder, so it kind of looked like a water ox.

Conan O'Brien:             Yeah.

Molly Webster:            And then Oriana says “Leslie did something that just sort of struck her."

Oriana Aragon:             She started like gritting her teeth, scrunching her face, squeezing her hands.

Leslie Bibb:                  I just walked up to her and I was like, “This dog is making me so mad, I'm going to punch it. It's so cute."

Oriana Aragon:             You know she's like it's so cute you just want to smash it.

Leslie Bibb:                  She's so cute, but it's cute right.

Conan O'Brien:             So when you say I want to punch you, you make me so mad it means that you-

Leslie Bibb:                  Like I love it.

Conan O'Brien:             You see that would-

Leslie Bibb:                  I never say like-

Molly Webster:            Oriana was just sitting there watching this show and she was like huh.

Oriana Aragon:             Wow that's a strange reaction.

Molly Webster:            Like Leslie saw this cute sweet thing.

Oriana Aragon:             And she just wanted to kick in the head.

Molly Webster:            Which might seem odd, but as Oriana kept thinking about this moment she was like "Oh, yeah."

Oriana Aragon:             We do this.

Molly Webster:            We do this sort of thing all the time.

Arianne Wack:              I do this. I totally do this.

Molly Webster:            Side note Arianne is a new mom.

Arianne Wack:              Every single day when I see my baby. When I see his like little body, my joints tense up and my hands, my fingers start to curl and my teeth start to clench. Ah I just, I just need to eat his face.

Oriana Aragon:             I need to figure out what's going on here, this sort of like ah feeling with cuteness. What is it that we're doing and why do we do that? So anyhow ...

Molly Webster:            Back in 2011 Oriana set out to answer those questions and the conventional thinking at the time was that ...

Oriana Aragon:             You know if there is an aggressive expression.

Molly Webster:            Like gritting teeth or clenched fists or wanting to squeeze something.

Oriana Aragon:             Then it must be representing some sort of aggression.

Molly Webster:            Underneath that there's a little bit of violence. You want to hurt that thing.

Oriana Aragon:             Yes.

Molly Webster:            Which sort of makes sense to me because I think my first thought is duh, we were all cannibals at some point and there's something in there coming through, and it's not good in polite society, and that arg is just the urge sneaking out in some way.

Oriana Aragon:             Mm that's interesting. So work has continued for the last six years on this. I've found a lot, I've understood a lot now about what these expressions communicate, and what they represent.

Molly Webster:            When Oriana first started researching this one of things she had to figure out was when we see something cute.

Oriana Aragon:             Do we actually want to squeeze, or is this just an expression, a figure of speech I want to squeeze you?

Molly Webster:            She started doing these experiments where she would bring people into the lab and she would show them these pictures.

Oriana Aragon:             Like a little baby duckling.

Molly Webster:            Oh a duckling.

Oriana Aragon:             A little baby fluffy puppy.

Molly Webster:            Then give them bubble wrap.

Oriana Aragon:             It was funny because it was in this really quiet hall and throughout the entire semester you could hear pop, pop, pop, pop.

Molly Webster:            And for the really cute pics like baby ducklings.

Oriana Aragon:             You hear this like, it would just be ringing out sheets of bubble wrap.

Arianne Wack:              I identify with that because I was like bubble rap would not cut it for me.

Molly Webster:            So, Oriana was like okay it looks like there's real aggression here.

Arianne Wack:              Yeah.

Molly Webster:            Maybe this is not much of a shocker at the same time she found there's actually nothing negative going on inside these people.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Molly Webster:            They were actually full of joy and happiness while they were tearing bubble wrap apart.

Oriana Aragon:             So it's not about an actual latent aggression, we're just arg you know. We're just sort of expressing it this way but we don't mean that we're aggressive at all.

Jad Abumrad:               That's so strange to have this sort of weird schism where you're happy on the inside but aggressive on the outside.

Molly Webster:            Well it's actually not as weird as you would think.

Oriana Aragon:             No, mm-mm, no.

Molly Webster:            Oriana pointed out that in some ways it's so common we don't even notice it.

Oriana Aragon:             It happens all the time. You see athletes...

Clip:                             Whew.

Molly Webster:            Or sports fans.

Oriana Aragon:             In what looks like absolute fury.

Clip:                             Oh, oh my God.

Arianne Wack:              Punching the air, screaming.

Clip:                             Oh my God.

Molly Webster:            Or weeping ...

Clip:                             Yes, they won.

Molly Webster:            When something great happens, and that's another thing.

Oriana Aragon:             Think about you know ...

Clip:                             Are you serious.

Molly Webster:            Tears of joy.

Oriana Aragon:             You see brides and you see ...

Clip:                             You're the two million dollar winner.

Clip:                             I apparently am the 2-

Molly Webster:            Lottery winners or ...

Clip:                             Oh my God.

Molly Webster:            You see people weeping at the awe of nature.

Clip:                             A complete rainbow.

Oriana Aragon:             Think about all the times when what happens on the outside, the display doesn't match what's going on the inside.

Jad Abumrad:               I still feel like I'm at why. Why would you want to punch the cute puppy or weep at the rainbow?

Molly Webster:            So, Oriana started to look at all this stuff.

Oriana Aragon:             And having tested everything that I can think of, everything that's in the literature there is a thru line to what these expressions represent and communicate.

Molly Webster:            According to Oriana.

Oriana Aragon:             When you see tears.

Molly Webster:            Like all kinds of tears.

Oriana Aragon:             Whether they're for winning the medal, whether they're for looking at the beautiful sunset.

Molly Webster:            It's the same as tears at a funeral or tears of grief.

Oriana Aragon:             It communicates wanting to stop, wanting to be still.

Molly Webster:            Oh.

Oriana Aragon:             Wanting to pause.

Molly Webster:            Oriana said that when it comes to these like ...

Oriana Aragon:             Sort of aggressive arg expressions.

Molly Webster:            You know you see a cute puppy or you scored a goal or you actually want to fight somebody.

Oriana Aragon:             That's about wanting to go, wanting to move, wanting to approach, wanting to get close to. It's about moving forward or momentum.

Arianne Wack:              That's funny because when I see my baby at four o'clock in the morning when he gets up and wants to nurse, I'm exhausted. It's not until I see him and his face lights up like he's so excited to see me, and it ooh I want to like smush him and bite him. Right? Like that's the thing that gets me going. I feel like in those moments.

Oriana Aragon:             Right because that's definitely it. It's an elicitor of those care behaviors.

Arianne Wack:              It's just nice to know that in situations where we may not know what's going on. We may not be able to read our own emotions or know how to respond to the world. Our most basic bodily instincts they like boil down to this really simple set of choices.

Oriana Aragon:             Yeah.

Arianne Wack:              Or like urges.

Oriana Aragon:             Mm-hmm.

Molly Webster:            You know what I think is I find myself thinking in a way that I appreciate is, you know I'm not even going to get all these right but do you remember when humans used to think of themselves as composed of fire, water, wind.

Oriana Aragon:             The humors.

Molly Webster:            Yeah that's exactly it.

Oriana Aragon:             Yeah, yeah.

Molly Webster:            Somehow in this conversation I feel like oh we were right all along. It might not have been fire but it could have just been go.

Arianne Wack:              Yeah.

Oriana Aragon:             Yeah.

Molly Webster:            Maybe it wasn't water, but it was stop.

Arianne Wack:              Yeah, that's what I'm telling you we need a self help out of this.

Oriana Aragon:             Okay Arianne I'll get right on that.

Clip:                             Split.

Robert Krulwich:          Thank you Molly Webster, thank you Arianne Wack. Molly is here by the way.

Molly Webster:            I was like you're welcome Robert. I'm now disclaimer Molly.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh okay.

Molly Webster:            Which is just to say that Leslie Bibb has actually been on Conan a number of times talking about how she wants to punch dogs and punch babies, and in one she wants to slash Angelica Houston's face. Are All motivated by the same acute aggression reason.

Jad Abumrad:               Slash her face.

Molly Webster:            Slash her face. That was how she introduced herself to Angelica Houston.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh my god.

Molly Webster:            That's just to say that at the top of the piece-

Robert Krulwich:          What happened after that, just I'm curious?

Molly Webster:            I think Angelica Houston abruptly turned around and walked away.

Robert Krulwich:          Yeah, as one might.

Jad Abumrad:               As one might.

Molly Webster:            That's just to say that at the top of the piece while Oriana was inspired in 2011 by a Leslie appearance, we used a scene from 2018.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh, okay.

Molly Webster:            There was a black outfit in one and a red outfit in another.

Jad Abumrad:               Got it. Got it. Alright well thanks Molly.

Molly Webster:            Oh your welcome guys.

Robert Krulwich:          Thank you.

Molly Webster:            Yeah sure. Okay, have fun.

Jad Abumrad:               Hey Tracie.

Tracie Hunte:               Hey.

Jad Abumrad:               Should we ask you how you got the idea to do this?

Tracie Hunte:               Right.

Jad Abumrad:               Is that the right question to start us off.

Tracie Hunte:               It is a question and it will do for right now.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay.

Robert Krulwich:          So, Tracie facing the challenge of a completely blank page.

Tracie Hunte:               Uh huh.

Robert Krulwich:          Where any question at all might be legitimate.

Tracie Hunte:               Correct.

Robert Krulwich:          How did you land upon this one?

Tracie Hunte:               One of my friends-

Kat Chow:                     Am I here?

Tracie Hunte:               Her name is Kat Chow.

Kat Chow:                     I'm a reporter with Code Switch, a team at NPR that covers race and culture.

Tracie Hunte:               I saw her tweeting one day because this is how I keep up with all my friends. I just look at what they're tweeting. She was feeling very vulnerable right now because she's working on a story that was going to involve Sampson.

Kat Chow:                     Yes.

Tracie Hunte:               I want to know a little bit about how did you meet Sampson.

Kat Chow:                     I got Sampson in 2015 and in 2015 this weird thing happened where all of a sudden I became obsessed with just wanting a dog. All of a sudden all I could do was browse these dog adoption websites in the D.C. area.

Tracie Hunte:               There was a lot of going to shelters and going to rescue groups and finally this rescue group that I think she had been in contact with emailed her and said “Why don't you come and meet Sampson."

Kat Chow:                     I clicked on his profile, and he was this really, really adorable beagle mix. They had this cute video on YouTube where he's jumping around and he looks so happy, and he's romping in a field playing with other dogs. The profile didn't really say much about him just that he was a little shy, he was a stray in South Carolina.

Kat Chow:                     I arranged to got meet him at this adoption event. When my partner and I go to the event we find Sampson and he is just as cute in person except we notice that he's super, super scared.

Tracie Hunte:               Oh.

Kat Chow:                     Where he's like shaking.

Tracie Hunte:               Oh.

Kat Chow:                     He can't even stand on his own and the people at the adoption event had to have him in his lap. I don't know maybe that should have been a red flag for anyone who knows dogs, but for me I was like “Oh, he's going to come out of his shell. I'm going to be the one that brings him out of his shell.” We can't bring him home.

Tracie Hunte:               Sampson was living with a foster family.

Kat Chow:                     They wanted to do a home visit so ...

Tracie Hunte:               The foster came over with Sampson.

Kat Chow:                     To my apartment, my little basement apartment in D.C., and we go on this walk.

Tracie Hunte:               A little exploratory walk around the neighborhood, and while they're walking ...

Kat Chow:                     We pass by a man who is black and he's wearing a sweatshirt. The foster turns to me and goes “Oh, he doesn't like men in hoodies."

Tracie Hunte:               Huh. So Kat is thinking, and I'm thinking it when she's telling me this. Are you saying he's scared of guys in hoodies or are you saying that he's afraid of black men?

Kat Chow:                     Right, but Sampson was also afraid of me and I still really badly wanted a dog and Sampson seemed just like he needed me. I don't know maybe this is the patronizing human adopt a dog thing. I don't know. I don't know. We decided, my partner and I decided to adopt him. We loved him so much and we love him, we love him present tense, so much.

Tracie Hunte:               So Kat and her partner takes Sampson in and ...

Kat Chow:                     Almost immediately.

Tracie Hunte:               Kat would have a friend over who was black.

Kat Chow:                     He was just bark at them.

Tracie Hunte:               Bark at her friends who were brown.

Kat Chow:                     For a long time. He especially did not like on of my Korean American friends.

Tracie Hunte:               When they would go outside.

Kat Chow:                     He was just afraid of anybody who was African American or like Latinesc.

Tracie Hunte:               He would growl at them.

Kat Chow:                     It was just very obvious but then it became this-

Tracie Hunte:               Well yeah lets slow down. To clarify this one thing you yourself are not white.

Kat Chow:                     I am Asian American.

Tracie Hunte:               Okay.

Kat Chow:                     Yes I'm Chinese American.

Tracie Hunte:               Did you think that Sampson maybe, because you said he was a little afraid of you at first. Do you think that he maybe was afraid of you because you weren't white?

Kat Chow:                     I don't know. He did like my partner more and my partner is white.

Tracie Hunte:               Oh no. Kat did put Sampson in training but that didn't seem to work so we was just left looking at this adorable little that she had just taken in thinking ...

Kat Chow:                     Is he racist?

Robert Krulwich:          Mm.

Tracie Hunte:               I should say quick. This is a question that a lot of people have.

Larry David:                  I'm really sorry.

Wanda Sykes:               You know what's going on.

Larry David:                  Huh.

Wanda Sykes:               You have a racist dog.

Tracie Hunte:               You know this is not the first time I've heard ...

Speaker 20:                  Like this morning my mom called me-

Tracie Hunte:               This idea that dogs can be racists.

Speaker 20:                  She thinks her dog is racist.

Speaker 21:                  Whoa, whoa.

Tracie Hunte:               It comes up in TV shows all the time.

Speaker 22:                  He seems to get really aggressive towards people with darker color skin. I'm so sorry.

Tracie Hunte:               There's articles about it in Huffington Post and Psychology Today and actually-

Speaker 27:                  Okay mostly-

Speaker 23:                  Can I be on the news?

Tracie Hunte:               Went around to some dog parks and asked some fellow dog owners. Have you ever heard of this idea that a dog can be racist?

Tracie Hunte:               There were a bunch of people who were like ...

Speaker 24:                  I have.

Tracie Hunte:               Oh yeah.

Speaker 25:                  Totally.

Speaker 26:                  Once a long time ago.

Speaker 27:                  Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 23:                  I don't know what you're talking about.

Tracie Hunte:               You know I heard stories about.

Speaker 28:                  I'll walk by somebody and they're like “He doesn't like white girls."

Tracie Hunte:               Dogs that maybe didn't like white woman.

Speaker 29:                  You'd be by them and just-

Tracie Hunte:               Black woman. Black men I guess all of this is just a long way of saying that this is definitely you know a thing.

Tracie Hunte:               So my question is, is it actually a thing? Okay now I'm rolling. This is going to be a fun conversation about race, but also dogs. To try to answer this question Kat and I sat down with this woman.

Alexandra H.:                Sure, sure. I'm Alexandra Horowitz. I study at the Dog Cognition lab in Barnard.

Tracie Hunte:               Does researching dogs, thinks about dogs, writes about dogs.

Alexandra H.:                All things dogs.

Kat Chow:                     Okay, so-

Tracie Hunte:               To jump in Kat told Alexandra about how she had taken Sampson in.

Kat Chow:                     He barked at-

Tracie Hunte:               He seems to be kind of racist. Is that even possible?

Kat Chow:                     I don't know can a dog be racist?

Alexandra H.:                Um.

Tracie Hunte:               She was like well, obviously dogs aren't racist the way humans are racist. I mean racism is rooted in our history.

Alexandra H.:                The history of our country and how we've dealt with different groups of people, but dogs do not know about that. What a dog knows about comes from its own life, that dog's own life.

Robert Krulwich:          Yeah.

Tracie Hunte:               But.

Alexandra H.:                Dogs are-

Tracie Hunte:               As we were talking through what dogs can do. We ended up having this conversation about the most basic elements of being a racist.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm, a racist anything.

Tracie Hunte:               Yeah, so think about it. Step one is just putting people in these different groups in your head.

Kat Chow:                     I was trying to think about this too, though. Can dogs remember types of people or just-

Alexandra H.:                Well I do think that dogs are sensitive to new things and differences.

Tracie Hunte:               One thing that Alexandra told us that she's seen in her work is that ...

Alexandra H.:                Dogs do seem to play differently with different breeds for instance. They play better with ones that look like them.

Jad Abumrad:               Wait so dogs have a bias, like they are prejudice for their own kind.

Alexandra H.:                Maybe.

Tracie Hunte:               Dogs have cliques at the dog park?

Alexandra H.:                Yeah, they do and partly it might be because they have the same kind of equipment. The same length tail, the same kind of ear shape, the same body size so they understand each other's cues a little better.

Tracie Hunte:               It might just be easier.

Alexandra H.:                That's what I'm saying is dogs notice differences in the world.

Tracie Hunte:               When it comes to noticing differences between people there are some at least anecdotal evidence that dogs can see, can tell men and woman apart.

Robert Krulwich:          Mm.

Jad Abumrad:               They can't see differences in skin color, right, because aren't dogs colorblind?

Alexandra H.:                They absolutely can see color differences.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh, they can.

Alexandra H.:                Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               What does the world look like to a dog?

Alexandra H.:                The best approximation is that they're probably seeing something like the color spectrum when it's dusk, and it feels like yellows and so forth, and oranges have disappeared or have been muted.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay so the dog can see color.

Tracie Hunte:               Yeah, so it seems like it's possible that maybe dogs can tell the difference between skin tones.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracie Hunte:               Then the next question is, can a dog then make associations? You know like light skin people are like this and dark skin people are like this and then carry that forward in all its other interactions whenever it meets another person like that person.

Jad Abumrad:               Yeah, group bias I guess.

Tracie Hunte:               Right, yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               Yeah.

Tracie Hunte:               Can it do that with dark skin people?

Jad Abumrad:               That's an interesting question.

Tracie Hunte:               You know then do this.

Robert Krulwich:          How would you ever test a thing like that?

Tracie Hunte:               Well, so Kat actually did a story for Code Switch.

Kat Chow:                     Okay, it is rainy.

Tracie Hunte:               And as part of that she found this woman named Lori.

Kat Chow:                     Hi.

Lori Santos:                  Oh, hi.

Tracie Hunte:               Lori Santos. She is another dog cognition expert except this time she's at Yale.

Kat Chow:                     I give her a call and I'm like “Hi, I think my dog is racist."

Tracie Hunte:               And she kind of said the same thing as Alexandra.

Lori Santos:                  I think the word racist has a lot in it, you know the history of race in America and all these things.

Tracie Hunte:               In her work she has been trying to answer this very basic question.

Lori Santos:                  Can a dog show preferences for certain racial groups?

Tracie Hunte:               So Lori designed a study.

Lori Santos:                  A dog version of a very famous human study known as an IAT.

Tracie Hunte:               Which is the Implicit Association Test. I don't know if you guys ever heard of this test.

Robert Krulwich:          I don't know what it is.

Tracie Hunte:               Okay, so the Implicit Association Test. It's put out by Harvard, right?

Kat Chow:                     Right, so basically that test you can take it online. It kind of feels like a computer game where-

Tracie Hunte:               Where you get these words, and you have sort whether they are positive or negative, and then you're also getting faces, like just faces of people and you have to sort whether they are black or white.

Tracie Hunte:               Basically they are trying to test to see if you associate certain groups of people with certain kind of negative or positive images or thoughts.

Kat Chow:                     Correct, yes. Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               How on earth would you give this to a dog?

Tracie Hunte:               Well.

Lori Santos:                  I think our dog is here right now, so we can-

Tracie Hunte:               Lori found with implicit bias research.

Lori Santos:                  Similar kinds of studies have been done with human babies.

Robert Krulwich:          Human babies.

Jad Abumrad:               Babies?

Tracie Hunte:               Yes to see if they have racial preferences and since they are babies, and they can't use computers with words researchers use photos.

Lori Santos:                  Photos of different human faces.

Kat Chow:                     So-

Lori Santos:                  Welcome Vader, hello.

Speaker 32:                  Hi Vader.

Kat Chow:                     To do this for dogs ... Awe.

Tracie Hunte:               Lori had this pit bull mix named Vader come in.

Kat Chow:                     What she does is she brings the dog into this little room.

Tracie Hunte:               And they have the dog sit kind of near the center of the room where there is a research assistant.

Lori Santos:                  So we're going to start with another picture show that we have.

Kat Chow:                     She has this box and it kind of reminds of a little puppet theater where it's open on one side and you can slide in different images at the front that the dog will see.

Tracie Hunte:               So the research assistant gets this box ready.

Kat Chow:                     Okay.

Tracie Hunte:               Slides in a picture and then ...

Lori Santos:                  Vader, look.

Tracie Hunte:               Pulls off this cover to show Vader a picture of a black person. Just a straight faced head shot and then they show the same picture to Vader.

Kat Chow:                     Over and over-

Lori Santos:                  Vader look.

Kat Chow:                     And over again.

Lori Santos:                  Vader.

Tracie Hunte:               The same straight faced black person.

Kat Chow:                     But then.

Lori Santos:                  Vader look.

Tracie Hunte:               The researcher shows Vader this picture of a smiling happy looking German Shepard, and then a black person.

Lori Santos:                  Vader look.

Tracie Hunte:               Smiling German Shepard.

Lori Santos:                  Look.

Tracie Hunte:               It's all very randomized, so sometimes it's black person, black person then smiling dog and you know you get the idea.

Lori Santos:                  Good job.

Speaker 32:                  Good boy.

Robert Krulwich:          What is it that they're looking for here?

Tracie Hunte:               Well so that day with Vader they only showed black faces and happy dogs. When Vader comes in again they'll likely show him another kinds of combinations, white faces with angry dogs, black faces with angry dogs and so on.

Tracie Hunte:               What they're looking for and this is the same thing they're looking for when they do this test on babies is to see whether the dog is attentive and focused or bored and unfocused. Basically how is a dog reacting to these two different pictures being put together.

Kat Chow:                     The way Lori put it was if a dog shows like a pro-white bias then they should find the categories of white faces with happy dogs easier to process and therefore more boring. So they might look away more or they might not be able to stay focused.

Tracie Hunte:               Boredom implies that that dog might have a preference for white people, but then if they see a black face and a happy dog and they stay really focused on it and they're not bored that could possibly mean that maybe they're surprised that these two things go together, and maybe that's evidence of a little bit of prejudice.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm. What has Lori learned?

Tracie Hunte:               Well Jad here it is, the big news, and it's too soon to tell. It's still too early to tell.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh.

Lori Santos:                  Yeah. I mean we're really at such early stages it's really hard to say. I guess one thing we have learned is that so many people are interested in the results of this study. People really want to know the answer to the question of how dogs see these categories, and that's been really compelling just to realize how fascinated people are with this question.

Tracie Hunte:               How often do you get the is my dog racist question?

Alexandra H.:                I hear it regularly. Sure.

Tracie Hunte:               Again Alexandra Horowitz.

Alexandra H.:                You know because we see dogs as mirrors of ourselves. We see our dogs as mirrors of ourselves.

Tracie Hunte:               In many ways they are because regardless of what a dog can see or not see or whether they associate negative feelings with different faces. The one thing that dogs are very, very good at and this is something that both Lori and Alexandra made a point of, is paying attention to us, and more specifically how we behave.

Alexandra H.:                For instance-

Tracie Hunte:               Remember this idea that a dog can tell men and woman apart.

Robert Krulwich:          Mm-hmm.

Tracie Hunte:               Well she was like it probably has nothing to do with what men and woman look like.

Alexandra H.:                But instead-

Tracie Hunte:               It's how we behave.

Alexandra H.:                Men and woman deal with dogs a little bit different on the whole.

Kat Chow:                     I should have brought some treats. Why didn't I bring treats? I didn't bring treats.

Alexandra H.:                Woman are more effusive.

Kat Chow:                     Oh, you're so pretty. You're so pretty.

Alexandra H.:                Woman are more likely to talk to dogs in a-

Kat Chow:                     You pretty baby.

Alexandra H.:                Higher pitched voice. Woman might be more likely to crouch down to a dog instead of kind coming right up to a dog. These are obviously generalizations but I think a dog is very sensitive to those behavioral differences.

Tracie Hunte:               Alexandra says “The person whose dogs are the most sensitive to, whose response they're paying the closes amount of attention to is you.” You the guardian, you the owner.

Alexandra H.:                We have created a species to be sensitive when we feel tense.

Kat Chow:                     I wonder if I suspected this thing, it became this sort of funny but not really funny thing that I always wondered, and somehow confirmed it or made it happen just by the anxiety of oh my gosh is my dog is my dog actually, is he racist quote, unquote.

Alexandra H.:                If for instance and I don't want to put behaviors in your ... I don't want to say you're doing something when you're not. If you tense up when you see your dog starting to have a reaction to somebody, and your dog is on the leash or they're at some level in your control then the dog will feed off of that.

Tracie Hunte:               Kat do you think that, that's something you do? Do you think that you have almost this pre-reaction to Sampson's reaction, that might tell Sampson to react?

Kat Chow:                     Yes and no. I don't know. This could be a situation where this has become such a running joke among our friends that our friends who, you know many of our friends are people of color they come over and they're already like this stupid dog, like this dog. He's going to bark at me, he might bite me. I don't want to touch him really or maybe I do. So maybe a host of things reinforced to Sampson, or maybe he is racist. There is a potential that I have created this world in which my dog now sees the constructive race through me, just because I have taught that to him through my subtle non-verbal cues of a lot of stuff. If only we could talk to dogs and just understand.

Tracie Hunte:               If you had 5 minutes to talk to ... No, I'm going to make it harder. If you had two and a half minutes to talk to Sampson what would you get out of the way? What questions would you ask?

Kat Chow:                     Okay this would be so hard to do. I would want to know about his history but that would obviously take up way too much time. I feel like being a southern boy he would have a really hard time talking fast.

Tracie Hunte:               Right.

Kat Chow:                     I think I would just spend those two, and a half minutes being like “You are such a cute dog. Everybody in general regardless of race I don't even know if you can tell the difference between people, they would love you.” He loves attention so much and when he does get settled into a situation he can be such a cute diva where he always wants pets and scratches. I would say to him “Sampson is you were this nice to every single person on the street, and you just didn't let fear dominate you, people would love you so much."

Tracie Hunte:               Awe.

Kat Chow:                     I know I wish I could give him that pep talk every day. I wish someone would give me that pep talk too.

Kat Chow:                     Sampson come on, let's go on a walk. Come here. Come here. Yes, good boy. Okay. Okay. Sit. Good job.

Jad Abumrad:               Ms. Tracie Hunte, thanks also to Kat Chow from NPR's Code Switch. You can find a link to her original story at Radiolab.org. Thanks also to Sampson and tolerant dogs everywhere.

Rafil K-Z:                       Natural waste, canine companions and the lure of inattentively pooping in public. What a title.

Robert Krulwich:          Sticking with dogs for just another beat. Rafil here.

Rafil K-Z:                       Rafil Kroll-Zaidi. I write for Harper's Magazine.

Robert Krulwich:          Has had a long standing question, one that was answered by a German scientist Matthias Gross, in that scientific paper he just mentioned.

Rafil K-Z:                       So this began for the author of the paper much the same way that it began for me. It was an idle curiosity, he was raising three kids. He would take them to park, there are children and families around, but there was also this sort crisis level of dog poop. He sees people letting their dogs poop and then just walk away. He starts to wonder how can you just leave the poop. How can you do something so specifically antisocial as leaving feces on the sidewalk? What's with these people? What going on in people's heads?

Rafil K-Z:                       On the way to work in the morning he would follow people at a certain distance without talking to them and take notes.

Robert Krulwich:          You have the study there in front of you?

Rafil K-Z:                       I have the study here in front of me. And I quote “Neighbors watch poop falling out of the dog. What it means to poop in public? The huge pile of excrement on the ground and on the way back the dog owners look away from their pooping dog." In the afternoon he does the same thing through the medium of poop.

Rafil K-Z:                       The earlier science had, my God the fact that there're previous studies, which is kind of great. In the previous studies on this, which he cites. The typical distinction is between people who pick up the poop and people who just leave the poop. Which they categorize as responsible and irresponsible dog ownership.

Rafil K-Z:                       After he's observed these people for a while he starts to recognize that there was something more complicated, intriguing and subtle going on. One of the behaviors he observes is people bagging the poop, going through that trouble and then just leaving it.

Robert Krulwich:          You mean scooping the poop up, putting it into an envelope, a plastic envelope of some kind and then they don't throw it away.

Rafil K-Z:                       Yes people will bag and abandon. Sometimes right next to garbage cans that are not overflowing.

Robert Krulwich:          Mm-hmm.

Rafil K-Z:                       The more intriguing version he observes is people bag it and then display it in some prominent place. Sometimes hung on a fence, sometimes hanging in bushes or shit trees, which is the actual vernacular term.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh my God.

Rafil K-Z:                       Yeah, actually my favorite mysterious example that the paper points to is people hanging the bags of poop on a construction fencing with flashing lights on it, so that at night it creates a kind of disco for the poop. That's how he describes it.

Rafil K-Z:                       What the author reads into this is that it's a kind of middle ground between responsible and irresponsible actions. Maybe you bag the poop to begin with because someone is watching you. You want to be seen as a good citizen, but then later it switches to a form of rebellion against the unnatural constraints of civilization. Leaving the poop returns humans to nature in a way. Humans can no longer run around pooping freely in the wilderness, so the dog becomes a proxy through which this aggressive, mischievous, atavistic desire can be played out.

Robert Krulwich:          Wow. I want to drop my pants and just poop on the street but my dog does it for me.

Rafil K-Z:                       Something like that, yes.

Robert Krulwich:          Does that mean that when you see a man or woman with a dog who poops on the street, what you should be thinking of is she's just pooped?

Rafil K-Z:                       Well, at the very least if you decide to get into it and tell somebody pick up your poop, the you is ambiguous.

Jad Abumrad:               It's so weird. I'm honestly speechless by that Robert. I did not see that coming.

Robert Krulwich:          Well Rafil just walked in and left it there for us. Then it was picked up by our producer Simon Adler who bagged it and put it on display.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay.

Robert Krulwich:          As sometimes happens.

Jad Abumrad:               By which we mean of course that Simon produced it. That interlude.

Robert Krulwich:          I guess it's time to take-

Jad Abumrad:               Yes we should go take a break. We'll be back with a few more questions and answers.

Robert Krulwich:          Coming up right after this.

Chelsea Gibson:            This is Chelsea Gibson calling from Dayton Ohio. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Enhancing understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.Sloan.org.

Pat Walters:                 Hey everybody Pat Walters here. I'm a producer a Radiolab. I'm here because I need your help. This summer I'm hosting a series of stories on the show, and I have a request for those of you who spend a lot of time with kids, parents, aunts and uncles, teachers. We're looking for stories about what we're calling Tiny Moments of Childhood Brilliance.

Pat Walters:                 Basically, I want to hear about those times when a kid you know did something that just made you lean back and say whoa how did they do that. Maybe it was the moment that a kid you've been reading to for months started reading back to you. Or maybe the kid was at piano lessons, and you suddenly noticed they were doing advanced math on the margin of their musical score. Or maybe the kid was in math class, and you noticed they're writing music in the margin of their geometry homework.

Pat Walters:                 We're interested in those small specific moments where a kid does something super smart, but it doesn't have anything to do with a test. If you have a story please share it with us. Go to Radiolab.org/brilliance and record a short audio message for us. Again that's Radiolab.org/brilliance. Thank you so much.

Robert Krulwich:          Hi I'm Robert Krulwich, Radiolab is supported by Capital One. With a Capital One saver card you could earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment. That means 4% on checking out that new French restaurant and 4% on bowling with your friends. You also earn 2% cashback at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Now when you go out you cash in. Capital One. What's in your wallet? Terms apply.

Robert Krulwich:          Hi I'm Robert Krulwich, Radiolab is supported by Delta. Delta flies to 300 cities around the world. That's 300 cities where people miss someone in one of our other 299 cities. Where people think that they're the only ones who know about that 1 place. 300 cities where people sing in the car, or in the shower, or both poorly. Delta doesn't fly just merely to bring us together but to show us we're not that far apart in the first place. Delta. Keep climbing.

Jad Abumrad:               Jad.

Robert Krulwich:          Robert.

Jad Abumrad:               Radiolab.

Robert Krulwich:          So we're going to continue in our little cavalcade of questions and answers.

Jad Abumrad:               The next one up comes from producer Pat Walters.

Pat Walters:                 Hello, Emily are you there?

Emily:                           I'm here.

Pat Walters:                 Alright, so a few months ago I called this tree scientist.

Emily:                           I'm Emily Burns and I'm the science director with Save the Redwoods League.

Pat Walters:                 Okay. I have so many questions about trees for you.

Emily:                           Alright, awesome.

Pat Walters:                 But I really just had one question.

Pat Walters:                 I read this little tiny article in the spring I think, which had a fact in it that really shocked me. The fact was that Redwood trees have 12 times as much DNA as humans. Is that true?

Emily:                           Well it looks like it is turning out to be about eight times bigger than the human genome.

Pat Walters:                 Okay, eights times, so 12 is close a little overestimated, maybe this is not a reliable source. The idea though these trees would have so much more DNA than us just kind of twisted my brain up in seven different ways.

Emily:                           Yeah. It's pretty crazy.

Robert Krulwich:          You usually think of genes as having something to do with complexity.

Pat Walters:                 Exactly.

Robert Krulwich:          So if you're Mozart, or you're a tall tree like who is going to have the most genes.

Pat Walters:                 Right like a Redwood tree is basically just a big pine tree.

Robert Krulwich:          Mm-hmm.

Pat Walters:                 What is all that extra DNA even doing?

Emily:                           Well I'm not a geneticist.

Pat Walters:                 Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Emily:                           I'm a forest conservationist.

Pat Walters:                 One thing Emily was able to tell me is that I was missing the forest for the trees, sort of speak.

Robert Krulwich:          And why is that?

Pat Walters:                 Emily told me ...

Emily:                           That coast Redwood while it does have a very large genome.

Pat Walters:                 There are tons of things that have way more DNA than us.

Emily:                           It's kind of mind blowing.

Pat Walters:                 You've just got to know who to ask.

Robert Krulwich:          Mm-hmm.

Pat Walters:                 Can we just do like a run down.

Ryan Gregory:              Okay, alright, yep. I can do that.

Pat Walters:                 Cool.

Ryan Gregory:              So, an onion has five times as much.

Robert Krulwich:          An onion.

Pat Walters:                 Yeah a boring little onion.

Ryan Gregory:              There are some salamanders with 40 times as much.

Pat Walters:                 40 times. Wow. I've got a list here.

Ryan Gregory:              Things like lungfishes.

Pat Walters:                 Lungfish.

Ryan Gregory:              Yep.

Pat Walters:                 A cockroach, a newt, bread wheat.

Robert Krulwich:          Really.

Pat Walters:                 A lobster.

Robert Krulwich:          A lobster just lies in the bottom of a cold sea and molts.

Pat Walters:                 It gets even worse because at the top of the list arguably the organism with the most DNA in the world with 50 times more DNA than a human is a tiny not so remarkable looking little Japanese flower.

Robert Krulwich:          That's deeply strange.

Ryan Gregory:              I know it's puzzling.

Pat Walters:                 This by the way is biologist Ryan Gregory.

Ryan Gregory:              Professor at the University of Guelph in Canada and my area of study is why certain salamanders have 40 times more than DNA then you and I do.

Pat Walters:                 Ryan told me no one knows exactly why that's the case.

Ryan Gregory:              Well that's why I still have a job is because this is something we're trying to figure out.

Pat Walters:                 According to Ryan here's what we do know.

Ryan Gregory:              So in your genome and I say yours, and I mean that in mine too.

Pat Walters:                 Yeah.

Ryan Gregory:              I'm not trying to single you out.

Pat Walters:                 Take the human genome.

Ryan Gregory:              Your genome is about one and a half to 2% genes.

Pat Walters:                 Only about one to 2% of your DNA is involved in making the stuff that makes up you. That's the stuff we call genes. Now there's another couple of percent that we now think are there to turn those genes on and off which is important. The vast majority of your DNA is ...

Ryan Gregory:              Kind of accumulated detritus.

Pat Walters:                 It could a gene that sort of ...

Ryan Gregory:              Mutates and degrades and no longer works.

Pat Walters:                 It might be random redundant copies of other DNA.

Ryan Gregory:              For example, it might be ATATATAT a million times.

Pat Walters:                 Some of it is bits of virus.

Ryan Gregory:              That became essentially stuck in the genome and so now they're passed on from parent to offspring.

Pat Walters:                 Oh. The key thing is that all these little random bits of DNA, they're just hanging around. They're not really doing anything. Which Ryan says is how you can end up with a huge genome even though you're just a tree, or a frog, or a worm, or even a single cell.

Ryan Gregory:              That's right.

Pat Walters:                 If they're not doing anything to help me why?

Ryan Gregory:              Well they would be doing things to help themselves.

Pat Walters:                 Help themselves.

Ryan Gregory:              So it's a little bit like if you think about the bacteria in your gut. Most of them are probably just there because you're a nice warm bag of nutrients that is a great place to live if you're bacterium. That would be kind of the same sort of thing that might be happening in the genome, which is-

Pat Walters:                 But they're not like alive, right. Like their-

Ryan Gregory:              Well.

Pat Walters:                 Or are they? I don't-

Ryan Gregory:              Well I don't know. I think that depends a lot on your definition of alive. I mean a virus is alive.

Pat Walters:                 Mm-hmm.

Ryan Gregory:              That's a philosophical question that is pretty difficult. The shift that you have to make in thinking about the genome is less that it's basically the recipe for making you or the blueprint for a human or any of those kinds of the things. Think of it almost more like a little eco system, a jungle with all kinds of different entities doing their own thing.

Pat Walters:                 The one thing that they all do is use us.

Ryan Gregory:              To make copies of themselves.

Pat Walters:                 In this vast eco system in some part of your DNA you'll get some ancient virus that just keeps copying itself. A little further down the line another one doing the same thing. Then in some other part of your DNA you've got this weird junk just copying itself again, and again, and again, and again. Almost everywhere you look you have these dumb bits of DNA just copying themselves over and over again. Filling up your cells with useless DNA.

Ryan Gregory:              It's like a hitchhiker that gets into your car, and you turn around suddenly and instead of Fred there's now Fred and Fred.

Pat Walters:                 Yeah.

Ryan Gregory:              And then you turn around again and there's Fred, and Fred and Fred.

Pat Walters:                 Right.

Ryan Gregory:              And then Fred, and Fred, and Fred, and Fred.

Pat Walters:                 That's pretty much how you end up with these super huge genomes, and sometimes that can be a problem.

Ryan Gregory:              Ah. Okay.

Pat Walters:                 Ryan told me about this particular salamander.

Ryan Gregory:              Certain groups of salamanders called Bolitoglossinae.

Pat Walters:                 Is part of a very large family of salamanders that live all over the western half of North America.

Ryan Gregory:              You can find them in, they live in the U.S.

Pat Walters:                 At some point a long, long time ago something happened in the environment that made the salamander's get littler, which is fine except for this one problem.

Ryan Gregory:              They have big genomes, and the more DNA there is the bigger the cell is. So more DNA, bigger cell.

Pat Walters:                 All the DNA has to go in the nucleus of every single cell. So as the salamander is shrinking smaller and smaller and smaller their bodies are getting smaller, and their heads are getting smaller, but because they have these huge genomes.

Ryan Gregory:              They tend to have big neurons, and now you're trying to cram a whole bunch of big neurons into a tiny little skull. Well you're not going to fit as many and so relative other salamanders that haven't been miniaturized.

Pat Walters:                 Their vision starts to degrade slightly. Their ability to look around in the world and distinguish what's an insect and what's a leaf gets worse.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh dear.

Ryan Gregory:              They can't do the kind of visual predation that you normally see in their closer relatives. Instead, they've shifted to being lie and wait predators.

Pat Walters:                 Basically having a huge genome made these salamanders get dumb. I couldn't help but think about all the extra stuff that you accumulate. It's so full of stuff it's almost hard to get in and close door behind you. My partner and I have this storage closet that's just packed with crap.

Pat's Partner:               A watering can, a broom.

Pat Walters:                 And a car battery.

Pat's Partner:               Pile of button down shirts.

Pat Walters:                 One is a little bit too small, one is just kind of boring.

Pat's Partner:               Pat Walter is very uncomfortable getting rid of things.

Pat Walters:                 Yep a lot of it I don't even know why we have it in there.

Pat Walters:                 Also there's like a three and half foot tall row of brown paper.

Pat's Partner:               Several unfinished art projects. We're on a break period right now.

Pat Walters:                 On top of that there's a flower pot.

Pat's Partner:               Four air conditioners.

Pat Walters:                 Oh, there's another backpack.

Pat's Partner:               A shoe box-

Pat Walters:                 I remember when I was in my 20s and everything I owned fit in a couple of suitcases. I was light, agile, free, but now ... Tupperware bucket full of paint.

Pat's Partner:               Charcoal. Unused fabric.

Pat Walters:                 I have so much of this stuff.

Robert Krulwich:          At least you don't have a closet in which shoes replicate themselves over and over again.

Pat Walters:                 Honestly sometimes it feels that way. I don't want to complain, I feel very lucky to have all of these possessions but sometimes the pile up starts to feel like a burden.

Robert Krulwich:          It does. It feels like a burden.

Pat Walters:                 I feel like I'm going down the salamander road just getting bigger and dumber and slower, and bigger and dumber, and slower.

Carl Zimmer:                There are definitely surprises.

Pat Walters:                 But then I talked to science writer Carl Zimmer and he made me feel a little bit better about all the extra junk in my closet or in my cells.

Carl Zimmer:                Yeah, literally none of us would be here if not for that one gene.

Pat Walters:                 He says there's one little bit of DNA that climbed out of the junk closet and made all of us possible.

Robert Krulwich:          Well what is it?

Pat Walters:                 Well you've actually heard about it before.

Robert Krulwich:          The thing that's really special about mammals is that ...

David Quammen:          Female mammals or at least placental mammals carry young around inside the body.

Pat Walters:                 David Quammen told us about it in a piece we did a while ago called infective heredity. It's basically this gene that makes a protein.

Carl Zimmer:                Which helps makes some cells.

David Quammen:          These very special layers of cells.

Pat Walters:                 In the placenta. Cells that let it ...

Carl Zimmer:                Grab on to the mother's uterus and pull nutrients in to feed the embryo.

David Quammen:          So it carries nutrients in, it protects the fetus from the mother's immune system.

Pat Walters:                 Now when we talked to David about it.

David Quammen:          How did we get that good idea. Well we got that good idea from a virus.

Pat Walters:                 We were sort of amazed that this gene had come from a virus. What I learned from Carl is that this little gene sat in the junk closet of our DNA for millions of years doing nothing, making little copies of itself, not helping me at all until suddenly.

Carl Zimmer:                Millions of years later there's a mutation.

Pat Walters:                 And that little useless strip of DNA.

Carl Zimmer:                Got repurposed. Co-opted, it took on a new job for us.

Pat Walters:                 That's amazing.

Carl Zimmer:                Now we evolved a dependence on it so that we have to have it.

Pat Walters:                 Or couldn't be us without it.

Pat Walters:                 A big box. I got a picture frame.

Pat's Partner:               Some notebooks.

Pat Walters:                 Guitar case.

Pat's Partner:               Fishing poles.

Pat Walters:                 You never know.

Pat's Partner:               You never know.

Pat Walters:                 You never know. That's like the motto of this room, it's like you never know.

Pat's Partner:               Whatever the hell this is. What is this?

Pat Walters:                 It's a piece of the drafting table that ... Where is the drafting table?

Pat's Partner:               I don't know.

Pat Walters:                 Did we bring it back to Pennsylvania?

Pat's Partner:               No it must be in that extra room.

Pat Walters:                 Who knows. There's a drafting table somewhere that's missing.

Pat's Partner:               Maybe I do want this. Oh.

Robert Krulwich:          I know this feeling.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm.

Robert Krulwich:          I know this feeling completely.

Jad Abumrad:               What's that like rummaging around for the-

Robert Krulwich:          I just don't like to let things go because I think that they will always bounce back at some point.

Jad Abumrad:               They'll have their placental revival at some point.

Robert Krulwich:          Placental-

Jad Abumrad:               Those old pants. The bike without the wheels.

Robert Krulwich:          Yes I have tight pants that are waiting for me to get skinnier. Sitting in the corner of the closet. This is about real optimism. That the weight you carry is actually one day going to come back and make you light and airy and beautiful.

Jad Abumrad:               That is a perfect segue to our next question Robert.

Robert Krulwich:          That's right.

Jad Abumrad:               Which is itself imbued with the spirit of optimism and hope, and reconciliation.

Robert Krulwich:          In a very dark crowded and ugly place.

Jad Abumrad:               Yes.

Robert Krulwich:          Whoa.

Jad Abumrad:               Indeed.

Robert Krulwich:          Indeed.

Jad Abumrad:               It comes from producer Carter Hodge.

Jad Abumrad:               Hi Carter, hi.

Robert Krulwich:          Hello Carter.

Carter Hodge:               Hi. Hi guys how are you.

Robert Krulwich:          Where are you calling us from?

Carter Hodge:               I'm in the studio at WUNC in Chapel Hill.

Robert Krulwich:          This is a rare privilege to put Broadway [music 00:56:31].

Carter Hodge:               Yes.

Robert Krulwich:          In a territory which is usually choose it.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh, what are you-

Robert Krulwich:          I'm talking about your fervent hatred of American song book.

Carter Hodge:               Whoa.

Jad Abumrad:               I'm not a fundamentalist about it.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh, okay.

Jad Abumrad:               I thought we were talking about the subway noise. Is that true?

Robert Krulwich:          No, no it's just a subway noise, it has nothing to do with the subway.

Carter Hodge:               It is the subway noise. It has a little to do with Broadway.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay Carter maybe you should just begin by framing the question, the deep mystery.

Carter Hodge:               Yeah. Oh sure. The deep mysteries around this sound that I've been hearing in the subway since I was a younger person. Probably since I was in middle school. The sound that you hear when you're standing on the platform and the train is just about to leave the station, and you hear these three pure high tones. Doom ta ta.

Robert Krulwich:          Er pa, pa. That's the one.

Carter Hodge:               Yeah that's the noise.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh my God that is the New York sound.

Carter Hodge:               Yeah. It's a very New Yorkie sound, and if you're a fan of musicals you can only hear that sound as one thing. That's totally unmistakable as the opening note to the most famous song in West Side Story. Somewhere.

Julie Talon:                   I'm pretty sure that it struck me the first few times that I heard it. Da, da, da. There's a place for us ... I mean just as soon as I heard it.

Carter Hodge:               In the course of reporting this story I talked to a bunch of different New Yorkers.

Julie Talon:                   My name is Julie Talon. I'm a writer and director.

Carter Hodge:               Who are all curious about this sound. Is it supposed to be West Side Story, is that intentional.

Jamie Bernstein:          I used to look around the subway car and wonder. Hey all you guys did you notice that, that sounded just like Somewhere from West Side Story. I almost wanted to stand up and make an announcement.

Carter Hodge:               That's Jamie Bernstein. Her dad is Leonard Bernstein who wrote the music for West Side Story.

Jamie Bernstein:          I've talked to my brother and sister about it a lot. All kinds of friends would just randomly email me. Have you noticed that the subway plays the opening notes of Somewhere? People were really noticing it around New York City.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay so the question is there's a sound in the subway.

Carter Hodge:               Right.

Jad Abumrad:               How would you finish the sentence?

Carter Hodge:               There is a sound in the subway where does it originate from and is there anything interesting and beautiful about why it exists.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm.

Carter Hodge:               That's my question.

Jad Abumrad:               Do you have any a guess what makes that sound?

Robert Krulwich:          Is it the train that is singing this to me or is it the steel rails under the train.

Jad Abumrad:               That's what I thought it was.

Robert Krulwich:          That is singing it to me. I thought maybe it was-

Jad Abumrad:               I thought it was the steel.

Robert Krulwich:          Singing rails actually.

Jad Abumrad:               I thought it was the train coming, rounding the corner as it's coming into the platform, it's scrapping its side against the incoming thing, and that's creating a squeal that just so happens to always hit that pitch.

Carter Hodge:               Uh, no. That's not it.

Jad Abumrad:               Did you solve the mystery?

Carter Hodge:               Well you're just going to have to listen and find out.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay.

Carter Hodge:               So Sarah Qari the producer who had been helping me made a call to the MTA.

Sarah Qari:                   I don't think his crosswalk works.

Carter Hodge:               They told us that we were supposed to hop on a train, A train and go way uptown to this warehouse, this big train warehouse. We were just told to find a guy named Sheldon.

Sarah Qari:                   Hello.

Sheldon:                      Hi. How are you?

Sarah Qari:                   Hi it's so nice to meet you finally.

Sheldon:                      Hi.

Carter Hodge:               Hi, I'm Carter.

Sarah Qari:                   Hi, sorry.

Sheldon:                      My name is Sheldon. Good to meet you.

Sarah Qari:                   Hi Sheldon.

Carter Hodge:               Nice to meet you Sheldon I'm Carter. Sheldon is this engineer who works for the MTA. He's been there like 13 years.

Sheldon:                      Anytime we can be of help.

Carter Hodge:               And.

Sarah Qari:                   This is really exciting for us.

Sheldon:                      This building was built in 192.

Carter Hodge:               He took us into this massive train repair room. Whoa oh my goodness.

Sarah Qari:                   Wow.

Carter Hodge:               And there were all of these subway cars up on lifts.

Sheldon:                      We call these [inaudible 01:01:08].

Sarah Qari:                   Wow.

Carter Hodge:               They just kind of look like these empty shells of train cars. We're walking into the electronic component shop and then Sheldon pulled us into this room off to the side through these heavy doors.

Sheldon:                      This is an electric component shop. Anything related to electric control is done by here.

Carter Hodge:               Are you bringing us here because part of what we're interested in has to do with an electric component.

Sheldon:                      Right.

Carter Hodge:               Cool. He took us over to a corner.

Sheldon:                      If you are interested the sound is generated by this.

Carter Hodge:               He pointed down at this rectangular piece of metal the size of a suitcase.

Sheldon:                      This we call a face module. A face module wanted to call face, it changes DC to three face.

Jad Abumrad:               Wait what is this thing? This is a part of the train?

Carter Hodge:               Honestly it was a little hard to know because he just launched right into engineering language.

Sheldon:                      The module's power source back to the DC 600 bolt.

Carter Hodge:               Yes it is part of the train. It's this little box that sits next to the motor and from here on out I would like for it to be referred to as the singing box.

Carter Hodge:               As for why it sings?

Sheldon:                      The sound comes from ... It's hard to explain to you why it has the sound.

Carter Hodge:               Sheldon kind of punted, and so we had to reach out to someone for some help.

Jeff Hackner:                Oh yeah I could tell you that. Absolutely.

Carter Hodge:               Sarah and I called up.

Jeff Hackner:                I'm Jeff Hackner.

Carter Hodge:               Jeff Hackner.

Jeff Hackner:                I'm an abject professor of electrical computer engineering at Cooper Union, where I've taught for 25 years.

Sarah Qari:                   I came across somebody, I think someone who works at the MTA and they referred to you as a legend in transit circles.

Jeff Hackner:                I'm not sure who said and how much they had to drink when they said that, but I've been involved for many years.

Carter Hodge:               Jeff broke down the singing box for us like this. He started by telling us how the box even got into the trains to begin with.

Jeff Hackner:                So what happened is in about the year 2000.

Carter Hodge:               Around the time America was obsessed with ...

Clip:                             Y2K.

Carter Hodge:               Computer bugs.

Clip:                             So called hanging chad.

Carter Hodge:               Stolen elections.

Jeff Hackner:                Transit authority decided they need to radically redesign the cars.

Carter Hodge:               The MTA was like we need a massive upgrade and so they brought in all of these new train cars.

Jeff Hackner:                Yes. R142s. We called them the new tech trains. New technology train.

Carter Hodge:               It was going to be a whole new era. These trains were going to be more energy efficient.

Jeff Hackner:                But.

Carter Hodge:               One big problem.

Jeff Hackner:                The newer trains, those require alternating current. The system is a direct current system, the third rail is direct current.

Carter Hodge:               In other words there was a power mismatch. The new trains ran on AC power the subway system could only provide BC power.

Jad Abumrad:               Wait they brought in trains that ran on the wrong kind of power?

Carter Hodge:               Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               One was AC, and one was DC.

Carter Hodge:               Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               What exactly is the difference between AC and DC again?

Jeff Hackner:                Well it's all based on the flow of invisible electricity.

Carter Hodge:               As Jeff explained it when you have DC power the flow is long, smooth.

Jeff Hackner:                It's steady like a straight line.

Carter Hodge:               With AC, it's like pulsing kind of.

Jeff Hackner:                It is, right. It's known as a sine wave, a sinusoidal wave. The same shape that governs the tides, the phase of moon, the angle of the sun.

Jad Abumrad:               So one is smooth and one is undulating.

Carter Hodge:               Exactly.

Jad Abumrad:               And AC and DC don't play well together?

Carter Hodge:               Definitely not.

Jad Abumrad:               And they knew this when they introduced the new cars?

Carter Hodge:               Yeah, they knew. The tracks have been providing DC power for like 96 years so they weren't going to remake the tracks because then you'd have to shut down the whole subway for years. They needed to use AC for these new cars because it was so much more energy efficient, and so it was a disconnect.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh like the Sharks and the Jets.

Carter Hodge:               Anyway the MTA had to figure out a way to take this kind of electricity and turn it into this, and that's where the singing box comes in.

Sheldon:                      An all face module, it changes DC to AC face.

Carter Hodge:               That box that Sheldon showed us, that's what translate the electricity from one kind to the other. Basically what these boxes do is that when the train is cruising along, drawing in DC power from the third rail. Power goes into that little box in the engine and inside that box are these little transistors.

Jeff Hackner:                You can think of these as switches, like light switches.

Carter Hodge:               The switches goes on and off, on and off, on and off really fast and in the process take that DC current and I guess you could say like chop it up.

Jad Abumrad:               Where does the sound come in?

Carter Hodge:               Okay, so this is the part that I don't fully in my soul understand. As Jeff explained it to us.

Jeff Hackner:                The flow of current in and out of these devices creates mechanical stresses within them.

Carter Hodge:               When you feed electricity into the box, the transistors on the inside of the box and the inductors and the various things they get sort of jostled, and when they do.

Jeff Hackner:                They act like little loudspeakers.

Carter Hodge:               Huh.

Jeff Hackner:                They're not designed as loudspeakers but any of these devices when you flow alternating current through them will have some tone admitted.

Carter Hodge:               And it's the current interacting with these physical parts?

Jeff Hackner:                Yeah, that's what's making the sound.

Carter Hodge:               Okay.

Jeff Hackner:                Then a bunch of very complicated stuff happens.

Carter Hodge:               All you really need to know is that when you run current through the box the stuff on the inside of the box gets stressed, it vibrates I guess, and that creates a hum.

Jeff Hackner:                A high pitched whining sound.

Carter Hodge:               Yeah.

Jeff Hackner:                That changes in pitch depending on speed.

Carter Hodge:               That's the key to the melody. The transistors chop up the electricity at different rates depending on how fast the train is going. The train has three gears, well you can think of them like gears. Gear one is when it starts out, transistors are doing their thing and this is the sound that comes out. Then the train shifts to a higher gear as it accelerates and then this is the sound that comes out. Then as the train settles into a groove the transistors slow and then this is the sound that comes out, which gives you that melody.

Carter Hodge:               Now we get to the real question which is, is that a fluke or could that melody be intentional? We asked Sheldon from the MTA.

Carter Hodge:               Do you think that those notes are just coincidence, like that's just the sound that it makes, or could they have been selected.

Sheldon:                      No, it's not. It's not on purpose to give you, to let you hear that sound.

Carter Hodge:               It's not to let us hear West Side Story in the subway.

Sheldon:                      No, no.

Jad Abumrad:               Boo.

Carter Hodge:               Then we talked to Jeff Hackner.

Jeff Hackner:                Every time that switch goes-

Carter Hodge:               He told us that when you're designing a system like the singing box with the three gears each gear does have its own setting, its own frequency of electricity, and if you're the engineer you're setting that for each of the three gears.

Jeff Hackner:                You're picking a frequency that is not going to overheat the equipment, and at the same time is fast enough that it's going to average out to this nice smooth sine wave.

Carter Hodge:               I think it's interesting that you use the word pick.

Sarah Qari:                   Pick.

Jeff Hackner:                Well this is part of your conspiracy theory.

Carter Hodge:               Yes. Yes.

Jeff Hackner:                That somebody designed these three notes.

Carter Hodge:               Yes.

Sarah Qari:                   Yes.

Carter Hodge:               I guess what I want to know is that whether or not it's possible to have that kind of control and choose the frequencies?

Jeff Hackner:                Yes. I mean an engineer could say I could pick a frequency between 1500 and 3000. I'm going to pick the A and the 6th octave because I think that's funny.

Sarah Qari:                   What?

Carter Hodge:               So that is totally possible?

Jeff Hackner:                Sure because you have a little bit of wiggle room within the design.

Jad Abumrad:               Interesting. So, he's saying it's possible that the engineer who designed the singing box set the gears at just the right frequencies to make just the right sounds. Is that what he's saying?

Carter Hodge:               Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               Did you find the person who made the design choices?

Carter Hodge:               Well you know we made a lot of calls but yeah we totally did.

Sarah Qari:                   Hey Carter can you hear us?

Carter Hodge:               Yes, hi. Yes.

Sarah Qari:                   Hello.

Carter Hodge:               Can you hear me.

Sarah Qari:                   Yes.

Matthew Vanasse:        Yeah of course.

Carter Hodge:               So, Sarah and I manged to track down this guy.

Matthew Vanasse:        My name is [Matthew Vanasse 01:10:22] , that's a very French name.

Carter Hodge:               We found him in Montreal.

Matthew Vanasse:        My friends call me Matt and my enemies call me Matt, so just go for Matt.

Carter Hodge:               He works for this Canadian manufacturer.

Matthew Vanasse:        Bombardier Transportation which is the original equipment manufacturer for the so called R142.

Carter Hodge:               These days he's the head of vehicle architecture for all of the different kinds of subway trains that Bombardier makes.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh, so he is the guy.

Carter Hodge:               One of the guys. Yeah. Back in about 2000 ...

Matthew Vanasse:        At the time I was a young and cocky design engineer for proposition and breaking.

Carter Hodge:               Matt told us he was part of the team that designed the R142 and all the stuff that goes inside it.

Matthew Vanasse:        There was a huge lab where we had all the proposition equipment set up including the motors.

Carter Hodge:               He say's they tested every single aspect of the design including the singing box, and when we asked him about the sound.

Matthew Vanasse:        This is the very distinct sound that everybody talks about.

Jad Abumrad:               Wait he knew about it.

Robert Krulwich:          Yeah.

Carter Hodge:               Not only that he's a musician.

Matthew Vanasse:        Actually I was a musician way before I was an engineer.

Carter Hodge:               What?

Matthew Vanasse:        Funny enough in a couple of hours I'm going to have to leave you if you're not bored to death by this story to practice with a band. We're giving a concert in a couple of days in Montreal.

Carter Hodge:               What's your band and what do you play?

Matthew Vanasse:        Actually we play very quirky, bizarre, funny French song that you would not understand but they're quite funny.

Carter Hodge:               This is his band playing ACDC in French. ACDC very appropriate, and some of their other stuff is very musical theater. Which made us think what if this West Side Story stuff was intentional.

Carter Hodge:               Here you have this musician turned engineer slipping in a little Easter egg, a little gift. To all the New Yorkers who ride the subway every single day. In fact Matthew told us that after the subways were unveiled and people began to notice the sound he even wrote a white paper where he came clean.

Matthew Vanasse:        Here's the spoiler alert. The punch of this white paper was the choice of notes is a pure coincidence.

Carter Hodge:               Uh.

Matthew Vanasse:        I know this is really spoiling your-

Carter Hodge:               Are you sure?

Matthew Vanasse:        I'm totally sure.

Carter Hodge:               No.

Jad Abumrad:               So they did choose the notes but not for any musical reason?

Carter Hodge:               Right, in fact just to sort of twist the knife a little bit, he told us.

Matthew Vanasse:        The first time I watched West Side Story was probably a couple of days ago, found it way too cheesy for me.

Carter Hodge:               What?

Sarah Qari:                   What?

Matthew Vanasse:        Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               What about, is it possible some of the other engineers had a ... Do you know?

Carter Hodge:               Do you think no one in that room recognized those intervals?

Matthew Vanasse:        I can assure that on my deathbed I will continue saying that no one at the time really cared or really knew.

Carter Hodge:               Darn. Even though my fantasy wasn't real I think what is real is the way it is received, and so it's there whether by incident or on purpose. The way it's received is by all these people who are either unconsciously or consciously hearing this more pleasant melody in the horrible screeching of the subway.

Robert Krulwich:          That's true.

Carter Hodge:               There's this like lovely reminiscent melody that so many of us are familiar with, and it's this romantic anthem to reconciling difference.

Jad Abumrad:               Wait remind me what is the story that they sing in that song Somewhere?

Robert Krulwich:          When at the end of the play when Tony and Maria have crossed the great barriers of culture and difference, a love so supreme.

Maria:                          Stay with me.

Tony:                            Marie I love you so much.

Maria:                          Don't leave me.

Tony:                            Whatever you want I'll do.

Jamie Bernstein:          Just when Tony and Maria are finally together in Marie's bedroom.

Carter Hodge:               That's Jamie Bernstein again.

Jamie Bernstein:          And yet-

Maria:                          It's everything around us.

Jamie Bernstein:          All this terrible stuff has just happened. They had the rumble and they're dealing with all this ghastly tragedy.

Tony:                            I'll take you away where nothing can get to us.

Jamie Bernstein:          And trying to rise above it.

Carter Hodge:               And, so they sing this song.

Tony:                            There's a place for us.

Carter Hodge:               They imagine this place that doesn't yet exist for them.

Jamie Bernstein:          They imagine this song that does in fact raise them all above the horror and the-

Tony:                            And open air-

Jamie Bernstein:          Tragedy and the violence.

Tony:                            And wait for us.

Carter Hodge:               Right, it's the characters are all about reconciling difference and finding this geographical space for acceptance in finding love. I don't know it's a very romantic anthem for these horrible subways in such a lovely city.

Jad Abumrad:               Just to lead into that metaphor, the subway platform is this democratizing space.

Carter Hodge:               Right.

Jad Abumrad:               Everybody is there.

Carter Hodge:               Right.

Jad Abumrad:               That is the place for all of us.

Carter Hodge:               You know not to belabor the point, but to belabor the point there's also this third level. The generation of the noise itself it's sort of poetic that the noise itself is created by something that is reconciling and old system-

Robert Krulwich:          Yeah.

Jad Abumrad:               Yeah.

Carter Hodge:               Of wave into a new motor to be efficient. Something in that translation process is creating these sounds.

Jad Abumrad:               It's like a little West Side Story of electricity.

Tony:                            There's a place for us.

Tony:                            Somewhere.

Tony:                            Somewhere.

Matthew Vanasse:        Now a true story though, true story. A couple of years after we were using the same technology for the Long Island Railroad.

Carter Hodge:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matthew Vanasse:        The M7 from Long Island, the traction package is made by Mitsubishi Electronics and the guys from Mel called Mitsubishi Electronic Corporation had figured out that this thing could sing. The demonstration they always do with their inverter is that they make it sing the Ode to the Joy. You know na, na, na, na, na.

Carter Hodge:               Wow.

Matthew Vanasse:        Na, na.

Carter Hodge:               That's pretty cool.

Jad Abumrad:               All right well thank you so much to Carter Hodge and to Sarah Qari for helping Carter produce and report that story.

Robert Krulwich:          And to Matt Kielty for putting the whole thing together.

Jad Abumrad:               Yes indeed.

Robert Krulwich:          And-

Jad Abumrad:               And to the folks at NPR's Code Switch who let us work with Kat Chow for her story about Sampson, and Andrea Burman and Danny Brown.

Robert Krulwich:          Yes you say it to them before I say it to them.

Jad Abumrad:               Okay because I have the advantage of I will remember the email address which you will never do.

Robert Krulwich:          That's true.

Jad Abumrad:               In fact go ahead.

Robert Krulwich:          I should thank them, and you can give the email address.

Jad Abumrad:               No, no.

Robert Krulwich:          That would make sense.

Jad Abumrad:               Why don't you do the whole thing. Let's see where this goes.

Robert Krulwich:          Alright let me do the first part.

Jad Abumrad:               Yeah.

Robert Krulwich:          Listen everybody listening to this show has probably at some point thought I have a question too. Something has entered my head and I can't get it out because I don't know the answer and I want to know the answer, and I'm a wee bit embarrassed to ask.

Jad Abumrad:               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert Krulwich:          But that embarrassment is no longer a problem, just write us here at Radiolab/-

Jad Abumrad:               At.

Robert Krulwich:          At. Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               W.

Robert Krulwich:          W.

Jad Abumrad:               N.

Robert Krulwich:          N

Jad Abumrad:               Oh my God.

Robert Krulwich:          YC. WNYC.org. I know that part.

Jad Abumrad:               Radiolab@WNYC.org.

Robert Krulwich:          That's fine I said it chippingly off my tongue, didn't I.

Jad Abumrad:               Yes you did, you got there eventually.

Robert Krulwich:          So that's it. So if you have the idea Radiolab@WNYC.org.

Jad Abumrad:               Send us a question we will answer it or we'll try to in our next-

Robert Krulwich:          Give you a slash thing like the Radiolab-

Jad Abumrad:               There're no slashes in email addresses.

Robert Krulwich:          Sometimes when you want to catch some particular questions you go to Radiolab@WNYC.org/stupid questions or something like that, and then we put them all in a little pile.

Jad Abumrad:               You don't do that with email addresses.

Robert Krulwich:          Oh.

Jad Abumrad:               That's a website.

Robert Krulwich:          That's a website. Yes I knew that.

Jad Abumrad:               Oh man.

Robert Krulwich:          Somewhere there's a place for me.

Jad Abumrad:               It's not the internet that's for sure.

Jad Abumrad:               Anyhow if you have a question send it to us Radiolab@WNYC.org and maybe in our next go around, who knows when that will be but we will try to answer.

Robert Krulwich:          Yes.

Jad Abumrad:               Till then.

Robert Krulwich:          Till then.

Jad Abumrad:               I'm Jad Abumrad.

Robert Krulwich:          I'm Robert Krulwich.

Jad Abumrad:               Thanks for listening.

Phone:                         To play the message press two. Start of message.

Ryan Gregory:              This is Ryan Gregory from the University of Guelph.

Matthew Vanasse:        Hi my name is Matthew Vanasse. I'm calling from Lisbon Portugal.

Kat Chow:                     Kat Chow here to read the credits with Sampson. Okay.

Ryan Gregory:              Radiolab was created by Jad Abumrad and is produced by Soren Wheeler.

Matthew Vanasse:        Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Suzie Lechtenberg is our executive producer.

Kat Chow:                     Our staff includes Simon Adler, Becca Bressler, Rachel Cusick, David Gebel.

Matthew Vanasse:        Bethel Habte or Habte.

Ryan Gregory:              Tracie Hunte, Matte Kielte, Robert Krulwich, Julia Longoria, Annie McEwen.

Matthew Vanasse:        Latif Nassar, Melissa O'Donnell, Kelly Prime.

Kat Chow:                     Sarah Qari, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster.

Matthew Vanasse:        With help from Shima Oliaee

Ryan Gregory:              Audrey Quinn and Neel Dhanesha. Our fact checker is Michelle Harris.

Matthew Vanasse:        I wish you a very good night.

Kat Chow:                     Thank you. Bye. Oh, Sampson speak. Speak. Sampson. Okay nevermind. The one time he doesn't speak. Bye thanks guys.

Phone:                         End of message.