Sep 23, 2022

Terrestrials: The Mastermind

Lulu Miller, intrepid host and fearless mother of two, went off on her own and put together a little something for kids. All kids: hers, yours, and the one still living inside us all. 

Radiolab for Kids Presents: Terrestrials

And it’s spellbinding. So much so, that we wanted to put this audio goodness in front of as many ears as possible. 

Which is why we’re running the first episode of that series here for you today. 

It’s called The Mastermind. In it, Sy Montgomery, an author and naturalist, shares the story of a color-changing creature many people assumed to be brainless who outsmarts his human captors. If you want a SPOILER of what the creature is, read on: It’s an octopus. We hear the story of one particularly devious octopus who lost a limb, was captured by humans, and then managed to make an escape from its aquarium tank—back into the ocean! The tale of “Inky” the octopus calls into question who we think of as intelligent (and kissable) in the animal kingdom.

Learn about the storytellers, listen to music, and dig deeper into the stories you hear on Terrestrials with activities you can do at home or in the classroom on our website, 

Find MORE original Terrestrials fun on Youtube.
And badger us on Social Media: @radiolab and #TerrestrialsPodcast

And if your little ones or you want to hear more of Team Terrestrials amazing work on this series, please search for Radiolab for Kids Presents: The Mastermind, wherever you get podcasts or subscribe here

Terrestrials is a production of WNYC Studios, created by Lulu Miller. This episode is produced by Ana González, Alan Goffinski and Lulu Miller. Original Music by Alan Goffinski. Help from Suzie Lechtenberg, Sarah Sandbach, Natalia Ramirez, and Sarita Bhatt. Fact-checking by Diane Kelley. Sound design by Mira Burt-Wintonick with additional engineering by Joe Plourde. Our storyteller this week is Sy Montgomery. Transcription by Caleb Codding.

Our advisors are Theanne Griffith, Aliyah Elijah, Dominique Shabazz, John Green, Liza Steinberg-Demby, Tara Welty, and Alice Wong.

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Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


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LATIF: Okay, well, I know I know what we're here to talk about, but because it's like a jubilant day, but let's—let me—let me feign. Let me pretend here. Lulu, what are what are we doing here in the studio? What are we here to talk about?

LULU: That was great theater. Okay, well, yes, yeah, I am here to come out of the closet as a children's entertainer. For the—Yeah, for the past year, I've been working with a small and wonderful team on a radio series for kids. And it's called Terrestrials, and it is about the strangeness waiting right here on Earth.

LATIF: I've already heard it. I mean, it's great. It's so great. It's like... 

LULU: He's contractually obligated to say that. 

LATIF: A jewel of a delight! It's, it's, it's just yeah, it's so fun. What was the— was there a kind of a, you know, a grain of sand around what you built this pearl of a series?

LULU: I mean, so it's partly a kind of boring story, I became a mom. Now I have two little boys, and I became interested in how kids minds worked. I hadn't. I'm the youngest of my whole extended family, I didn't really babysit growing up. So I didn't really know kids until I had them. And they always kind of intimidated me. But now that I spent a lot of time with them, like their minds are so psychedelic. And there's just this space of openness and curiosity and humor. And so that's I think that's part of it, that becoming a mom and being interested in kids' journey. But I think in a way I'm making this for my past self, who was a little bit of a sad kid as I hit that 8,9,10 area where I just I was haunted by the sense that there is no magic on Earth. And honestly, this series is a is an attempt to use science and close looking to say like, "Yeah, okay, maybe there's not magic dragons up there in the sky, but..."

LATIF: But, but there are Komodo dragons, here on Earth.

LULU: But there are Komodo dragons, here on Earth. Exactly! Like it might not be up in the sky, but—but it might be right here on Earth. And not only might we see beautiful things, but we might see things that cha—even break some of the rules we thought applied to all life. And that's the spot that I'm passionate about.

LATIF: Does that mean it's just for kids and the sort of half begrudging parents that are sitting with them?

LULU: Um, well, no, I mean, you might have the bar of getting over the fact that you have to go subscribe to the Radiolab for kids feed. But I think if you're just an adult, and like if you need if there's a day where you need 20 minutes of your life to hang out with your very nerdy friends who want to take you outside and show you something and pointing at it, and like sing a little kind of review and cheer you up a little we are waiting there. We would love if you join us.

LATIF: And it is—it does—it sort of grabbed you by the years and it's like look human the way you live in the world, it's not the only way, and that's like—to me that's—kids are are especially receptive to that because they're just getting used to these sensory inputs, I guess. But—but I think that's to me, that's an important lesson for all of us. 

LULU: Yeah. Yeah. 

LATIF: It really is. It's—it's a—it's a work of art. I'm really, I'm really impressed. So impressed. I just can't wait for the world to hear it. Just go listen. Go listen, if you're a kid or wherever a kid or if you live on planet Earth, either of those things.

LULU: Okay, I think now we just play it right? We just let them listen to—to the pilot? 

LATIF: Oh, yeah. And this is this is and this this genuinely was the pilot. This is the first one you made a long time ago. 

LULU: Yeah. 

LATIF: So here we go. The first episode of the series Terrestrials from Lulu Miller and Radiolab: The Mastermind. Enjoy!


Lulu Miller: Three. Two. [Whispering.] One.

Sy Montgomery: Imagine you are a liquid creature.

(A thumping dance beat plays. If it were playing through your speakers, you could feel it vibrate! Then, as if to join the party, a bucket of bubbles float past.)

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