Dec 12, 2019

Things

From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.

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Speaker 36:

Wait, wait your listening...

 

Speaker 36:

Okay.

 

Speaker 36:

Alright.

 

Speaker 36:

Okay.

 

Speaker 36:

Alright.

 

Speaker 36:

You're listening to Radiolab.

 

Speaker 36:

Radiolab.

 

Speaker 36:

From noon.

 

Speaker 36:

WYNC.

 

Speaker 36:

C.

 

Speaker 36:

Yeah.

 

Speaker 36:

At NPR.

 

Jad:

Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad:

This is Radiolab and today...

 

Robert:

We're going to begin in a place.

 

Will Roseman:

Robert come in here. Check out this place.

 

Robert:

Oh. Oh my god. A place full of wonderful things.

 

Will Roseman:

This is the actual sled that Henson and Peary used to first go to the North Pole. These are Napoleon's books on his conquest to Egypt.

 

Tamar:

Look at the antlers over there.

 

Jad:

Hey so wait, where are you exactly.

 

Robert:

Well before I tell you that let me just explain something.

 

Robert:

My wife and I Tamar have been having an argument for roughly it's going on now 40 years, and it's always about things.

 

Jad:

Like objects?

 

Robert:

Like objects. Yeah, so as you know...

 

Jad:

You have a thing about things.

 

Robert:

You give me like an autograph, like an Abraham Lincoln autograph, I think okay.

 

Jad:

Yeah.

 

Robert:

Abe Lincoln stood in front of this very piece paper in order to write his signature in this very way. He had to be standing exactly where I'm standing, and therefore he and I share this space. I literally believe that I am standing in Abraham Lincoln's shadow. So to touch an Abraham Lincoln autograph is a form of time travel, a form of love, it's all those things, and I can do that without even blinking.

 

Jad:

Right.

 

Robert:

Tamar...

 

Tamar:

Not at all. Also, Robert's sense of the magic of it extends to we have a really, really ugly floor lamp from a long time ago. Every time I would say “Enough already let's get rid of it.” He would say-

 

Robert:

It's older than me.

 

Tamar:

"I've had it all my life.”

 

Robert:

Which makes it beautiful.

 

Tamar:

No.

 

Robert:

You don't have that at all.

 

Tamar:

I don't have that at all.

 

Robert:

So, in honor of our topic today I decided that we're going to settle this argument once and for all. I took Tamar to the Explorers Club right here in Manhattan.

 

Jad:

Ah. Wait what's the Explorer's Club?

 

Robert:

It's a little private club where explorers deposit things that they've collected.

 

Will Roseman:

Everything in this building has some historical significance in some sense.

 

Robert:

That's Will Roseman their executive director. He gave us a tour.

 

Will Roseman:

This is the actual bell from the SS Roosevelt when Peary and Henson first went to the North Pole. How cool is that?

 

Tamar:

Very cool... but not magic.

 

Will Roseman:

Cool doesn't cut it.

 

Robert:

No.

 

Will Roseman:

The chair over there belonged to the Empress Dowager of China, the last emperor's wife.

 

Robert:

What do you mean that chair there? He points to it, it looks like a little desk chair.

 

Robert:

The Empress Dowager of China sat in it?

 

Will Roseman:

Yeah, that was her chair?

 

Tamar:

Does this make you want to sit in it?

 

Robert:

Yeah. Why don't you sit in it first. She sits.

 

Tamar:

Nothing.

 

Robert:

You feel nothing.

 

Tamar:

Nothing.

 

Robert:

Alright, just close your eyes.

 

Tamar:

Nothing.

 

Robert:

Imagine that you are the last empress in a hugely long line of Chinese empresses going back probably a 1,000 years.

 

Tamar:

I would order them to make more comfortable chairs.

 

Robert:

Wait, don't get up yet. Just give it a chance.

 

Tamar:

There's nothing that's going to seep into me.

 

Robert:

Yes there is.

 

Tamar:

No there isn't.

 

Jad:

I don't know man.

 

Robert:

Look this was never going to be easy. Tamar is a New York Times reporter, very reasonable, very sensible. After all it was just a chair, this was just the beginning. Like they have things in this place. I was going to break her, step by step.

 

Robert:

Will walked us to the next room...

 

Will Roseman:

These are-

 

Robert:

Where they had pieces of fabric that were framed on display.

 

Will Roseman:

You know early planes were made out of canvas, and these are actual pieces of those early planes. Here's the Wright's Brother plane.

 

Robert:

What do you mean? Do you mean this is the fabric from the actual first-

 

Will Roseman:

Absolutely.

 

Robert:

Oh my. There was a small brown piece of fabric, not much larger than your fist, it was cut from the wing of their first airplane.

 

Robert:

So the wind rushed over that little piece of fabric for their first time.

 

Will Roseman:

Yeah.

 

Robert:

Oh.

 

Tamar:

Very cool, very interesting. Happy to see it.

 

Robert:

No, but when you're standing next to the fabric that lifted into the sky for this first time in America. You don't feel just a touch closer to Wilber and Orville Wright. Not even a touch?

 

Tamar:

I feel what a wonderful collection. How interesting.

 

Speaker 4:

I mean I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it. That's amazing.

 

Jad:

And Tamar?

 

Tamar:

Do I feel that? No.

 

Robert:

So...

 

Will Roseman:

I'm trying to think of something that will [inaudible 00:04:23].

 

Speaker 4:

He's trying to pull out the big guns.

 

Robert:

I don't see how you could get bigger than what you already offered.

 

Will Roseman:

Well there's more.

 

Robert:

Alright.

 

Will Roseman:

Maybe this will convince you. This is an actual flag, an Explorer's Club flag that accompanied Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong when they first landed on the moon in 1969.

 

Robert:

Oh.

 

Will Roseman:

This is one of these cool things.

 

Robert:

Oh my God. That piece of cloth right there.

 

Will Roseman:

It is, yeah.

 

Robert:

So it was on the moon.

 

Will Roseman:

Absolutely. It was carried by Neil Armstrong when he first landed on the moon in 1969.

 

Robert:

Oh my God. It was in a little glass box. You could see it was a royal blue Explorer's Club flag, very small probably made of silk.

 

Robert:

You'd let her touch it?

 

Will Roseman:

Yeah, I can. You know what I have to get the key.

 

Robert:

Lets have her touch the flag that was the first flag ever. On the day that humans got onto the moon.

 

Tamar:

What do you think is going to happen. You think they will emanation will come and there will sparks-

 

Robert:

Yes.

 

Tamar:

That go into my body, and some way boom.

 

Robert:

Yes. Yes.

 

Robert:

Okay we opened up the cabinet, you now got it in your hands.

 

Will Roseman:

Go ahead Tamar.

 

Tamar:

It feels very nice. It feels nice.

 

Robert:

Right it's a little flag. This was on the moon.

 

Tamar:

Yes, so.

 

Robert:

This was on the moon.

 

Tamar:

Yes.

 

Robert:

Brought there by the people from our planet. The first people ever to land on the moon, and they brought this with them.

 

Tamar:

Yes.

 

Robert:

Touch it again.

 

Tamar:

Okay, you touch it.

 

Robert:

Well I'm going to touch it.

 

Tamar:

Okay.

 

Robert:

Alright, here I go.

 

Will Roseman:

Pretty neat, right?

 

Robert:

Oh, man.

 

Speaker 7:

It's good Neil we can see you coming down the ladder now.

 

Robert:

One second.

 

Neil Armstrong:

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

 

Will Roseman:

[Andy 00:06:10] you better touch it.

 

Speaker 4:

I mean I'm pretty pumped to touch it.

 

Neil Armstrong:

Proof of [inaudible 00:06:15]

 

Speaker 4:

Tamar you don't get any of this.

 

Tamar:

No I don't get a swoon.

 

Robert:

How can you not get a swoon from this.

 

Tamar:

I don't get a swoon.

 

Robert:

This is first trip to the moon.

 

Tamar:

I know.

 

Will Roseman:

That sent shivers up my spine.

 

Tamar:

I mean I don't have it. I just don't have it.

 

Robert:

That's so-

 

Tamar:

I got to go to work so.

 

Robert:

Okay.

 

Tamar:

This has been a total treat.

 

Will Roseman:

Well it was our pleasure. Thanks so much for coming.

 

Speaker 4:

You lose.

 

Robert:

Oh man.

 

Jad:

Look maybe she's just open to the future. She doesn't want to have to carry all that baggage that came up.

 

Robert:

I think that's exactly right.

 

Jad:

You know-

 

Robert:

That's what she'd say.

 

Jad:

You're going into a swoon about a lamp that's clearly an ugly ass lamp. [crosstalk 00:06:54] And she's like “throw out the lamp.”

 

Robert:

It's not an ugly ass... Don't take her side.

 

Jad:

"Give me a new lamp."

 

Robert:

No.

 

Jad:

Let's be available to the new lamps of the world.

 

Robert:

I'm not going to admit or even consider anything you just said. Except that you're probably right about the future orientation.

 

Jad:

Do you know what else I'm right about?

 

Robert:

What?

 

Jad:

That every story that we have in this hour is basically that argument you just had with your wife in story form.

 

Robert:

Yeah.

 

Jad:

Object form.

 

Robert:

In each of these stories there's a thing, and the thing beckons.

 

Jad:

Or not.

 

Jad:

Today on Radiolab.

 

Robert:

Things.

 

Jad:

Everybody say something.

 

Vin:

Hello.

 

Robert:

Hello.

 

Jad:

Hello. Alright so what are we doing?

 

Vin:

Well we're talking about objects I believe.

 

Jad:

Yes.

 

Vin:

I understand you guys are kicking around some ideas, but it seems my ideas are on a bit of different orbit than yours are. Maybe there's a connection.

 

Jad:

Yeah, I don't know that we have an orbit yet. I think we've launched.

 

Jad:

Okay so our first story comes from TV producer [Vin Liotta 00:07:55]. Long time TV guy who connected up with us because turns out he is making a documentary about this very thing, people's connection to objects.

 

Vin:

My interest in objects is things that have accidentally gotten meaning.

 

Jad:

For Vin, even if you have a little scrap that's gone to the moon and back.

 

Vin:

It's nothing compared to Rick Rawlings sugar egg.

 

Jad:

Rick Rawlings sugar egg.

 

Vin:

Rick Rawlings sugar egg.

 

Robert:

Rick Rawlings sugar egg.

 

Vin:

Yes.

 

Jad:

Actually the story he wanted to tell us has three parts.

 

Vin:

It's about a candy egg, a box, and a tree.

 

Jad:

A candy egg, a box-

 

Robert:

A box, and a tree.

 

Vin:

Yeah, so this is what I would suggest. I have some clips, some short clips, and I'd like to sort of weave the clips together. Maybe throw it out that way rather than telling you about them. Why don't we try.

 

Jad:

I see we're dealing with a storyteller.

 

Robert:

Yes.

 

Vin:

Wait until you hear the clips first. Right? Okay let me just play a clip. This is a short clip. This is just an intro to Rick.

 

Rick:

I love this box.

 

Jad:

Wow.

 

Vin:

It's about the size of a shirt box.

 

Rick:

It's made out of maple. Very light in color, very delicate.

 

Vin:

He keeps his most treasure objects in it.

 

Rick:

One of them is this sugar egg that we were talking about.

 

Jad:

It's about a real egg.

 

Rick:

No, it's molded sugar. It's hollow in the center, light yellow.

 

Jad:

Something someone might eat.

 

Rick:

Someone might eat it. I have not eaten it. I've saved it since 1970 when I was given this egg.

 

Jad:

Since 1970. What? He saved it.

 

Vin:

Yeah.

 

Jad:

This is an edible egg?

 

Vin:

This is an edible egg. Yes.

 

Robert:

Does it say edible if you kept it from 1970.

 

Rick:

It looks remarkably good for a 40 year old.

 

Jad:

It hasn't dissolved under the weight of time, and it's-

 

Vin:

No apparently it's pristine. I've seen it.

 

Robert:

What is a sugar egg? What is that? I've never heard of it.

 

Vin:

Well apparently it's a half of an egg, it's hollow, it's made out of sugar, and you would put things like jelly beans in it. You seal the edges with frosting, and then you decorate the outside of it.

 

Robert:

So there must have been some reason why he has memorialized this egg.

 

Vin:

I'm glad you mention it. I just happen to have another clip to play for you.

 

Robert:

Imagine my surprise.

 

Rick:

The day that we were to leave.

 

Vin:

Oh, wait can we stop for a second?

 

Jad:

Yeah sure.

 

Vin:

I'm sorry. You know I didn't set up, because one of the things I have to say about Rick was, when he was kid his family moved around a lot.

 

Jad:

Apparently Rick's dad did a lot of work for the government. So almost every year he would find himself in a totally different town.

 

Vin:

To make things worse he was a very shy kid.

 

Jad:

Kept to himself a lot.

 

Vin:

So for Rick friendship just often seemed impossible.

 

Jad:

But, Vin say's there was this one moment.

 

Vin:

When he was eight they lived in Washington state, only for a year. He found himself in a dilemma because he had finally made a friend, and his friend David invited him to a birthday party.

 

Rick:

It happened to be that his birthday party was scheduled the very day that we were to move again. So my father was once again transferred, this time from Washington back to Idaho. My parents had decided that I couldn't attend the birthday party because there wasn't time.

 

Rick:

So the moving van was sitting there, everybody was ready to. I don't think I even asked my parents. I don't think they know that I left, but I took off, and I ran up the street to David's house. I still can picture this moment. His house was a brick house and he had a large porch that was completely empty, and I know that I paused there.

 

Rick:

Even though I was only eight I must have known that our friendship really wasn't at the point where it demanded a goodbye, especially if that meant that I had to interrupt his birthday party.

 

Rick:

I rang the doorbell, and his mother answered the door. I remember seeings basically from her knees down, and beyond her into the back of house which was bright and loud where the party was going on. A few seconds later David showed up. He was behind her, and I don't remember saying a word.

 

Vin:

You were just standing at the front door.

 

Rick:

I was just frozen and standing there, completely embarrassed, and not knowing why I had done this. I was about to leave when David's mom apparently asked him to go get something, and he left. A few seconds later he returned and handed me this yellow sugar egg.

 

Vin:

The very same egg here in your box?

 

Rick:

Yes. I walked back to my parents house. We were loaded into the back of their station wagon, and we drove from there to Idaho. I know that I held this in my hand the entire way. I didn't let go of it. I put it in a drawer, and it has lived in various places for all these years.

 

Vin:

Why?

 

Rick:

Yes, it begs the question, doesn't it. You know the truth is I knew its importance immediately, and it hasn't changed. I looked at this egg, and it was proof, physical proof that I had been invited to a birthday party, and that there was a hope of making a friendship. I held onto it because I needed that proof.

 

Robert:

That's actually very wonderful.

 

Vin:

Yeah, but wait there's the tree. The tree, we did the box, we did the egg, but then there's the tree.

 

Jad:

Do we need the tree? The egg, I'm swept into the egg.

 

Vin:

No I'll bring it together. I'll bring the narrative threads together.

 

Jad:

I want more egg Vin. Give me more egg.

 

Robert:

Exactly.

 

Vin:

We need to play the tree.

 

Rick:

So, yeah my parents bought a home in Idaho.

 

Jad:

This is right after the egg incident?

 

Vin:

Yeah.

 

Rick:

This is in the Snake River Valley in Idaho, it's very flat, it's very wide.

 

Vin:

Their new back yard was a barren landscape.

 

Rick:

So my family started planting all kind of things in the yard. They planted apple trees, and pine trees, cherry, and amongst them was a maple tree.

 

Vin:

That was Rick's favorite.

 

Rick:

It grew very quickly, and it enveloped the house in a certain way.

 

Vin:

In the breeze?

 

Rick:

Oh it sounded like suede rubbed together just [wind sounds 00:14:44] amplified by hundreds of thousands of leaves. It was beautiful.

 

Vin:

Rick lived there with his family for 10 years, until college.

 

Rick:

I moved to Boston, and I learned that my father has decided that the tree was planted to close to the house, and it would damage the foundation, and he chopped it down. It was a massacre, it was brutal, and I was very upset.

 

Rick:

So my mother knowing that, she mailed me a package, and I opened it to find that she had placed in it some small sprouted seedlings from the original maple tree.

 

Vin:

Rick dug a hole in the backyard.

 

Rick:

Plopped in the ground, behind the garage.

 

Vin:

And it thrived.

 

Rick:

It grew really well, and within a number of years it had grown to be a 30 foot tree. Reminding me obviously of the tree had loved and lost in Idaho. It became so large unfortunately that it also caught the attention of my landlord, who tragically... One night I got back from work to discover that he had chopped down the maple tree.

 

Vin:

The son of the tree.

 

Rick:

The son of the tree.

 

Vin:

The same grisly end.

 

Rick:

Well you would think so. I went out into the yard that night, and I salvaged the sections of the tree.

 

Vin:

Like gave the wood to a friend.

 

Rick:

A furniture maker in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

 

Vin:

Who turned into a box.

 

Rick:

This box. The one right here. Made from the maple that grew from...

 

Vin:

You know the story.

 

Robert:

Yeah, wow.

 

Rick:

There's this continuity, I find such comfort from that. So it in turn holds all these objects that have their own individual stories, and their own meaning to me.

 

Vin:

One of them.

 

Rick:

Is this yellow sugar egg.

 

Jad:

The egg, the tree, and the box.

 

Rick:

Yeah.

 

Robert:

That's nice.

 

Jad:

That's really nice Vin.

 

Robert:

That's very nice.

 

Jad:

Although part of me, doesn't part of you want to smack Rick a little bit, and be like-

 

Vin:

Well yeah I've certainly have-

 

Jad:

Okay it's a [explicit 00:16:51] tree.

 

Vin:

You're living in the past man.

 

Jad:

Move on.

 

Vin:

No I actually don't.

 

Robert:

Not me.

 

Vin:

Yeah.

 

Robert:

If he could put the box in a house made from the teeth of his dog, with the thing I would say "Okay, just keep multiplying it."

 

Jad:

Oh, how I wished we had left it there.

 

Lynn Levy:

You know the thing about objects is that you can't really experience them unless you touch them, and interact with them. That's how you get the essence of what's in there.

 

Jad:

At a certain point our producer Lynn Levy who really produces this show, had this great idea for an experiment that we could do.

 

Lynn Levy:

Where we would make 3D printed versions of the objects in the stories. Then have like an exhibit where people can come and see them while they listen to the audio, or even if they have access to a 3D printer they can just print a version wherever they are.

 

Jad:

So we asked Rick if we can scan his egg.

 

Rick:

I'm not sure what will happen, but I thought it was an intriguing idea.

 

Jad:

He was game so Lynn found a place that does that near him. We asked him to bring his egg in, the technician put into the scanner.

 

Lynn Levy:

It's a machine that takes like 360 degree images.

 

Jad:

Which you can then use to print a replica.

 

Rick:

Just a little bit of melted plastic, and then voila there it is.

 

Jad:

Here's what happened, Rick dropped the egg off for a scan. This egg that he had been cherishing for over 40 years.

 

Rick:

I had to leave it for a couple of hours.

 

Jad:

Shortly after he does he gets a call from the scanning technician, who tells him something happened.

 

Rick:

You know she said "The bottom line is the egg is broken." She said "I hope it wasn't a family heirloom."

 

Jad:

Vin met up with Rick as he was just getting back from the print shop with his bag of egg pieces.

 

Rick:

I closed this up at store. I didn't really even look too much. Oh my God. It looks like it's in about seven pieces in this plastic bag. There it is. Yes.

 

Jad:

Hi is this Rick?

 

Rick:

It is Rick.

 

Jad:

How are you? This is Jad from Radiolab.

 

Rick:

Jad hi, how are you doing?

 

Jad:

I just need to say that we are so, so sorry about what happened.

 

Lynn Levy:

I never had my heart sink in that way from any email I've ever opened.

 

Rick:

Well, thank you. It was such a strange clash to walk into this store that is devoted to the future, and all these machines sitting around that are turning out almost magically these new things. I on the other hand am standing there to collect the shards of sugar egg that I've held on to for 40 plus years.

 

Jad:

Wow.

 

Rick:

It just felt a dullness kind of heavy, like everything was just a little bit muddied for a while. It took a little while for that to wear off, and it did with an amazing clarity.

 

Rick:

Hey Max.

 

Max:

Hi.

 

Speaker 13:

Good to see you. Come on in.

 

Max:

How are you?

 

Rick:

One morning, I think it was two days after the egg had been broken.

 

Jad:

He says he woke up...

 

Rick:

And an I idea came to me.

 

Jad:

Thought I should call Max.

 

Rick:

Max.

 

Max:

I already finished an egg.

 

Jad:

Max is the son of a friend of his who lives down the street.

 

Rick:

So we do one half tablespoons of each.

 

Max:

Yeah.

 

Rick:

He's eight. Exactly the same age that I was when I got the first egg.

 

Max:

And a scoop of yellow sand.

 

Rick:

And, so I asked him if he would help me recreate the sugar egg.

 

Max:

Go in right here.

 

Rick:

He kind of smiled, and he said "Sure."

 

Max:

How many drops.

 

Rick:

Maybe two now that you've got some in there already.

 

Max:

And a scoop of yellow sand.

 

Rick:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Max:

Nice big scoop go in right here. Already finished an egg. Ooh.

 

Rick:

Whoa, all but one. I was exactly your age.

 

Max:

So exactly eight.

 

Rick:

Exactly eight years old, and I was invited to a friend's birthday party.

 

Max:

Yeah.

 

Rick:

And I couldn't go because my family was moving to another state.

 

Robert:

Special thanks to Vin Liotta who provided us with much of the tape you just heard of Rick and... Well pretty much the whole thing. He is doing a documentary, which is why he's got all of that stuff about people who attach to everyday things.

 

Jad:

Oh, and in terms of the egg breaking. We actually found somebody who does like restoration for movie stuff, and we've offered Rick to have that person fix the egg with epoxy or whatever.

 

Robert:

An offer he agreed to accept.

 

Jad:

Happy to say, and also interestingly enough mid-scan, you know the scan that broke the egg.

 

Robert:

Yeah.

 

Jad:

Actually we have that scan, because the scanning machine was actually running at the very moment when the egg broke. So we actually have a scan of the millisecond when it feel apart.

 

Robert:

Really.

 

Jad:

It's at Radiolab.org.

 

Vin:

Hi this is Vin Liotta.

 

Rick:

Hi this is Rick Rawlings.

 

Vin:

Radiolab is supported in part by the National Science Foundation, and...

 

Rick:

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

 

Vin:

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.Sloan.org.

 

Speaker 14:

End of message.

 

Speaker 15:

I'm Clemency Burton-Hill and I'm here to tell you about the Open Ears Project. The new podcast from WNYC studios, and WQXR. In which people share stories about the classical music that gets them through their lives. People like director Sam Mendez, musicians John Baptiste, and Wynton Marsalis, Call Your Girlfriends Aminatou Sow, and our very own Alec Baldwin. It's part mixed tape, part southern love letter. Kind of like a daily musical journey into other human lives. Listen for free wherever you get your podcasts and sign up at OpenEarsProject.org.

 

Jad:

Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad:

This is Radiolab and today...

 

Robert:

Things.

 

Allison:

I just wanted to check in. This is the usual Radiolab style which it means that I can basically natter on forever.

 

Jad:

Forever.

 

Robert:

Whatever you like.

 

Jad:

Right so this is Allison Gopnik, she's a professor of psychology and philosophy.

 

Allison:

At the University of California, at Berkeley, and the author of The Philosophical Baby.

 

Jad:

The reason we called her up is that, you know truthfully after the egg situation...

 

Robert:

We broke an egg to make this programming if you're just joining us.

 

Jad:

We weren't planning to, it just happened. We feel really crappy about it frankly, but it got us thinking about the fragility of objects. For me that cult mind an idea that I've always been thinking about, you know being the father of two young kids, about object permeance.

 

Jad:

Which is this whole idea in child psychology that when babies are really young, when an object disappears from their view they think it's gone forever

 

Robert:

Right, that's the peek-a-boo game.

 

Jad:

Exactly that's what makes it fun, because from their perspective the thought is that you're gone forever, and then you're back, and then you're gone forever, and then you're back. So I thought this would be a cool idea for us to explore about how like from the very beginning we're born with no concept that objects stick around. But when we talked with Allison Gopnik the first thing she told us was that...

 

Allison:

Well it's a little more complicated than that.

 

Robert:

Of course.

 

Allison:

Of course, right, it's science.

 

Jad:

So we got into a conversation that went in some strange directions. She began by telling us about some new research which shows that actually babies do have an idea that objects stick around. You know if you do these experiments where you show them an object behind a screen, and then make it disappear. They think “Whoa where did it go, it should be there.”

 

Allison:

Exactly.

 

Jad:

How do you know the whoa?

 

Allison:

You know the whoa because babies look much longer at things that they don't expect, that are surprising.

 

Jad:

Oh I see.

 

Allison:

It's as if they're sitting there saying "What the."

 

Robert:

They very rarely finish that expression, though.

 

Jad:

Alright, so I was wrong. Fine.

 

Allison:

Here's the really surprising thing. Now suppose what happens is a yellow duck goes behind the screen.

 

Jad:

Moving left to right, and then out the other side...

 

Allison:

Instead of the yellow duck there's a little blue bunny.

 

Jad:

Now most adults if they saw thing would be like...

 

Allison:

What the... But the babies are totally blasé about that.

 

Jad:

What.

 

Robert:

Oh.

 

Allison:

If a yellow duck goes in one side of the screen, and then magically the blue duck appears on the other side of the screen, until they're about a year old babies don't seem to be fazed by that.

 

Jad:

And she suspects that the reason for that is that the most important thing about the duck to the babies is not that it is yellow, or round, or duck like in any way, it was its trajectory, its story.

 

Allison:

What it did in the past, what its history is.

 

Jad:

Like this is an object that was moving left to right, and when it emerged from the screen it was still an object moving left to right.

 

Allison:

And there are experiments with adults that are kind of amazing.

 

Robert:

Where you sort of see the same thing.

 

Allison:

You take a roomful of students, divide them in half. You say “Okay everybody on the left half of the room is now going to get a University of California at Berkeley mug.” Then you say to them “Alright all of you guys who have a mug, how much would you sell your mug for.”, and then you ask the people on the other side of class. “How much would you pay to buy that mug.”, and you get people to write it down on a piece of paper.

 

Allison:

Well it turns out the people who actually already have the mug on their desk think that it's much more valuable than the people on the other side. So they would demand much more for their mug.

 

Jad:

Keep in mind they've only spent one minute with this mug, but somehow over that minute she says that the mug gets imbued with something. Some kind of...

 

Allison:

Essence. There's something, and again you can see this even with children. There's something about mind-ness, there's something about possession, about the relationship that I have to the objects that I care about that goes beyond just what their superficial features are.

 

Robert:

Oh, I think that makes such deeply obvious sense to me. I'm surprised that it was even a discovery. If I have a relationship with a thing, like I'm going to see my girlfriend and the railroad man gives me the ticket, and it turns out to be a fabulous date. Then I put the ticket in my pocket, and then I save the ticket for 40 years. Any time I want to go back to the day that I had the great date, I just touch the ticket.

 

Jad:

Yeah, I don't have that at all.

 

Robert:

You don't have that at all?

 

Jad:

Well no, I have it a little bit, but I just no... I throw, yeah.

 

Robert:

You throw them away.

 

Jad:

I threw them away. You got to purge man.

 

Allison:

You know some of us are more sentimental about the past, and about objects than others are.

 

Jad:

And she says interestingly for those weirdos like you Robert, who get super romantic about their things. There might be a deep evolutionary reason for it. Now you always take these evolutionary reasons with a grain of salt, but she says...

 

Allison:

If you look at patterns of caching for example is what it's called in biology. You know like the squirrel who hides his nuts. The squirrels keep really good track of which nuts they have, and what their histories are. One possibility is that some of our relationship about at least physical objects stems from this history of being mammals who keep track of what we got and what we don't have.

 

Robert:

It's my inner squirrel.

 

Allison:

Right. You know we do talk about people squirreling things away, because there's something that's got this kind of deeper evolutionary background. I think there is some evidence of that.

 

Jad:

Isn't there also like a counter squirrel instinct. I mean like there's that famous thing with observation that young male baboons when they get to a certain age will get gripped by wanderlust, and then just wander away from the troop. Which is good because it prevents inbreeding.

 

Allison:

Yeah, I think there is actually reason to think that we all live on this kind of emotional bungee cord.

 

Jad:

You know [boinging 00:29:30] between the squirrel and the baboon. And she says it's interesting to think about what's going to happen to our bungee-ness now that we're entering a world where objects are becoming just information.

 

Allison:

What will happen when we have 3D printers that are going to be like the replicators on Star Trek that can just keep producing replicas of objects.

 

Jad:

It might actually mess with some of our most basic instincts.

 

Allison:

Philosophers are always great about having wonderful, crazy thought experiments to try to demonstrate this, so one of them is the swamp man.

 

Jad:

It's a famous thought experiment. I'm not exactly sure why it's a swamp man, and not some other kind of man, but here's how it goes.

 

Allison:

Here's the story of the swamp man.

 

Jad:

Imagine you're standing next to a swamp. You're you.

 

Robert:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Jad:

And in the swamp...

 

Allison:

There's a bunch of bubbling gases.

 

Jad:

Chemical reactions.

 

Allison:

Bubbling and interacting in some weird organic way.

 

Jad:

But whatever you're just standing there. But then... A bolt of lightening comes out of the sky and kills you.

 

Robert:

Ooh.

 

Jad:

And then another one comes out of the sky and hits the swamp, catalyzing all that chemistry into overdrive, and somehow miraculously for just a moment the reactions come together in just the right way to form...

 

Robert:

Hi, I'm Robert.

 

Jad:

A man.

 

Allison:

Completely identical to you Robert.

 

Robert:

Yeah, I'm Robert.

 

Jad:

A brand new you.

 

Allison:

If you took every single molecule in the swamp mans body it would be exactly like yours at this very moment. So here's the question. Does swamp Robert remember that date, or does swamp Robert care about the ticket?

 

Jad:

You're saying that swamp gas Robert is molecule for molecule, atom for atom identical to this Robert right here.

 

Allison:

Molecule for molecule. Exactly.

 

Jad:

So you're saying are the memories and experiences of his life suddenly contained in that facsimile?

 

Allison:

That's the question. And most people intuition is...

 

Robert:

No.

 

Allison:

Nah. Absolutely not.

 

Robert:

Absolutely not. I'm not even hesitating.

 

Allison:

Absolutely not.

 

Jad:

Wait, why not?

 

Robert:

Because I believe that my date, and the ticket that took me to that date, they belong to me and not to atoms. If you ask me what's the difference between me, and my atoms. I don't know, but I know it's there.

 

Allison:

Right.

 

Jad:

Well because the atoms of you sitting right there actually went on that date. Whereas the atoms of swamp gas Robert weren't there.

 

Allison:

Right. I think you got it exactly right Jad. It's something about the history. It's the fact that Robert's atoms really were in that place. They really were there with that person.

 

Jad:

Although I could tell a version of the swamp gas Robert that would I think solve this problem. If this Robert, instead of the lightening he just got into the swamp, submerged himself, co-mingled his atoms with the swamp gas atoms, and then he got out and went on his way.

 

Allison:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Jad:

If then later, even like years later the swamp-

 

Robert:

Hi, I'm Robert.

 

Jad:

Spat out a copy. The fact that the real Robert was there to begin with, and that the copy somehow touched, almost like a baton passing. I could see that the date would be in the copy too.

 

Robert:

I think you might be-

 

Jad:

Do you agree with me?

 

Robert:

I think you're right. I've always explained to myself, view as a sense of touch. That is my wife has a very different view of this than me, but I one day while sitting around in the office get a letter, unbidden from the first man on the moon. From Neil Armstrong.

 

Allison:

Huh.

 

Robert:

Just writes something about... I had written him, [inaudible 00:32:50] and it says Commander Neil Armstrong that's very flattering. If it had come in any other form but by email I would've framed it. I would have given it a special place of honor. Since it arrived from a machine to my machine, and then out of a machine to another machine to a flat piece of paper.

 

Jad:

You can't give it to a thing.

 

Robert:

I can't give it the ticket to the date thing.

 

Jad:

Huh.

 

Robert:

I can't.

 

Jad:

That's weird. Why?

 

Robert:

Because Neil Armstrong never touched it.

 

Allison:

Hmm. Yeah, but you and I are old Robert, so maybe that's a...

 

Jad:

No, with the-

 

Robert:

Well yeah so Jad you don't have that feeling?

 

Jad:

Well no, the moment you said it I thought, I was constructing an image in my mind of Neil Armstrong at a computer touching the keyboard, and there's an unbridgeable gulf between his fingers, and that paper you're holding. They never actually touched each other.

 

Robert:

Hmm.

 

Jad:

I mean if you think about it as touch then you're right I guess.

 

Robert:

He's now dead and I think if just touching the paper he would just be a little, I don't know, closer somehow.

 

Allison:

Well it's a funny tension I think, because you know what both science and at least some philosophical, and even religious traditions tell us, is that the world is impermanent, nothing in it stays the same. We don't stay the same, our bodies don't stay the same. The people that we love, and the things we love don't stay the same. That's just the truth of the matter is that there's this constant impermanence in this constant flux.

 

Allison:

Some philosophers have argued over the years we should just embrace that. We would be freer if we didn't try to hold that flux for a moment. I have to say my feeling about it is, part of what makes everything so precious to us is exactly the fact that we know it's going to disappear, we know it's impermanent, we know it won't last.

 

Allison:

What we love is this thing now. We love our... For me the most dramatic example of this is our relationship to our children. So, we know that they're going to go, we know that in 20 years from now if they treat us with affectionate contempt we'll be doing really well.

 

Allison:

That doesn't change the fact that right now it's this child, and not any other child in the universe. Just this one, and I think there's something really deep and profound about our human lives. The fact that we can do both of those things. That we recognize the impermanence, but that we feel the attachments. That seems to me to give our life its very special texture.

 

Robert:

Wow, that's exactly... I could just put that whole thing you just said in a frame. Right, just bow down to it.

 

Jad:

Well don't bow to soon my friend, because the next segment is going to...

 

Robert:

Hurt.

 

Jad:

It's going to hurt. A Tamar wind is blowing, that's all I'll say.

 

Speaker 18:

My name is [Annalise 00:35:51] and I'm calling right before going to bed in Des Moines, Iowa. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.Sloan.org.

 

Craig:

Life seems very small as it is day to day, and then you just have these moments that just open it up.

 

Regan:

Ah, a scorpion sighting.

 

Craig:

Into something much more complex and rich.

 

Regan:

Where is it?

 

Jasper:

Don't move your leg dad.

 

Jad:

Hey I'm Jad Abumrad.

 

Robert:

I'm Robert Krulwich.

 

Jad:

This is Radiolab, and today...

 

Robert:

Things.

 

Jad:

Our next story involves one thing, three people. Craig.

 

Craig:

I'm Craig Childs.

 

Jad:

Who you just heard.

 

Craig:

I'm a writer and traveler from western Colorado.

 

Jad:

Regan.

 

Regan:

I am Regan Choi. I'm an artist, and a mother and an educator.

 

Robert:

You know each other?

 

Regan:

Oh yeah, we're married.

 

Jad:

And finally, Dirk.

 

Dirk:

Dirk Von. I was a street cop in mostly Denver.

 

Jad:

Craig's unlikely best buddy.

 

Dirk:

I mean if we would've been at school together I would have just beat the [explicit 00:37:08] out of him in the playground. You know?

 

Craig:

You know we drive each other mad, but in the end we can still scramble around just fine.

 

Dirk:

Part of what joined us is we were in love with wilderness.

 

Jad:

For years, they would take these trips together out into the wilderness of Colorado, or Utah.

 

Dirk:

No maps, no GPS.

 

Craig:

No trails.

 

Jad:

No campfires even.

 

Craig:

Dirk and I would go off for weeks in the desert together. I think the longest trip we took was a month out. Just wandering, looking for routes.

 

Jad:

It was on one of these trips that they made a discovery that I think is fair to say still haunts them today, and recently almost killed one of our producers.

 

Dirk:

So we had been out for a couple of days.

 

Jad:

On this particular occasion the three of them are together, and they're in a couple days into a hike. Where are we again? We're in Utah. Is that right?

 

Regan:

Yeah, Utah.

 

Jad:

Think desert, but rocky.

 

Regan:

Slick rock, sand stone cliffs.

 

Jad:

Canyon land. So they're hiking through all these canyons.

 

Craig:

And we actually split up. Regan said she wanted to set her own camp, and so she stayed in one canyon, and Dirk and I popped over into the next canyon over.

 

Jad:

Really is that a normal thing, or were you guys fighting?

 

Craig:

No that's normal.

 

Regan:

We weren't fighting at all. It's one of the great things about being out together is that there's an ease with that.

 

Robert:

So separating is part of the deal.

 

Craig:

Yeah, and I think Regan was looking at Dirk and me, and saying “You guys are going to go scrambling, and get weird. I'm going to stay over here.” I don't know if that was the case.

 

Regan:

Well part of it was just that I was at least five months pregnant, and I was just starting to have a really hard time tightening my backpack, so that the weight wasn't all on my shoulders.

 

Jad:

And she says while she was hiking the pregnancy hormones were giving her bouts of vertigo. It was just starting to hit her like wow in a couple of months things are going to be really different. So she needed some alone time, she set her own camp.

 

Jad:

Dirk and Craig meanwhile scale up this cliff face to get to the next canyon over.

 

Dirk:

We get very close to the top and there's a little flat area.

 

Craig:

This balcony of rock overlooking the canyon below.

 

Jad:

This little ledge.

 

Dirk:

So, we said well okay...

 

Jad:

Let's just sit here have some lunch.

 

Dirk:

Break out the pipe.

 

Jad:

Smoke some pot.

 

Dirk:

Exactly. So we sit down, and we literally both have the first lung full...

 

Jad:

When Craig decides to take his backpack off.

 

Dirk:

And he leans over...

 

Craig:

I notice as I'm bending over a round object underneath the edge of boulder back under the shadow.

 

Dirk:

And he says "Hey there's a pot under there."

 

Robert:

So is it straight vertically below you?

 

Craig:

I'm eye to eye with it.

 

Robert:

Oh.

 

Craig:

Then I dropped to my knees and looked into this shadow, and there was this beautiful red jar.

 

Jad:

Low and flat, covered in maybe 700, 800, maybe a 1,000 years of dust.

 

Craig:

It's a kind that's called a seed jar, with just thing narrow mouth on the top, and it had black paint design around the mouth. We're talking about early Pueblo people. Cliff dwellers. People who lived out in that desert a 1,000 years ago.

 

Jad:

As he looked closer he could see that this particular jar.

 

Craig:

It had a crack down the front of it. It had two holes drilled around the crack, and then a piece of [Yaka 00:40:38] twine had been used to tie the holes together.

 

Robert:

Oh, so it was precious to somebody.

 

Craig:

Yeah.

 

Dirk:

So they might have left it there.

 

Craig:

Maybe it was during a migration.

 

Dirk:

Thinking they would return at some time.

 

Jad:

Maybe they were on the run.

 

Robert:

I mean someone was hiding it from other people.

 

Regan:

Yes.

 

Craig:

You don't know who it was. If it was male or female, or what clan, or any of those stories, but you know it was human being in the same position that you're in right there. Doing the same thing, the same gesture.

 

Craig:

You can see the hand reaching out, and placing the object. You can imagine the hands, and the feet, and the people, and the sounds they would make.

 

Jad:

They stared at it for about an hour not really saying much. Then suddenly it just hits Dirk.

 

Dirk:

Oh.

 

Jad:

Wait a second.

 

Craig:

We've got to move this thing. Somebody else is going to find this.

 

Dirk:

It just felt like if we can just kind of look into it.

 

Jad:

What's to stop some four wheel driving.

 

Dirk:

By beetle pillager.

 

Jad:

From doing the same.

 

Dirk:

Because it's an access route. I don't know I felt sort of protective of it.

 

Jad:

Because you know pot hunters were all over the southwest looting dig sites, and that jar would be worth a lot of money.

 

Dirk:

Tens of thousands of dollars at least.

 

Jad:

He wanted to make sure they somehow didn't get their hands on this.

 

Dirk:

So I thought well let's hide it.

 

Jad:

Craig was like “No."

 

Craig:

I said "Absolutely not."

 

Jad:

The moment we touch that jar.

 

Craig:

It no longer is part of that story, it's now part of our story.

 

Dirk:

He's a purist.

 

Craig:

We do not move this thing.

 

Dirk:

Not move it, protect it. Let's cover it. I wanted to build a corral of stone around it to camouflage it.

 

Craig:

That's exactly what I would be looking for. In fact, I wouldn't notice the seed jar, I'd notice the rock, and I would go "Ooh somebody is hiding something."

 

Dirk:

Yeah, right.

 

Craig:

Dirks looking at me going “You and your Yoda crap.”

 

Dirk:

God damn.

 

Craig:

And he says “We can give this another 700 years of life."

 

Dirk:

Hell it had been there probably 1,000 years.

 

Robert:

Well so how do you resolve this?

 

Craig:

I said, “You know we'll come back tomorrow, and we'll just leave it for now.”

 

Jad:

Oh, so you left in a draw.

 

Craig:

We left in draw, and we actually hopped back over to the canyon to find Regan.

 

Dirk:

Regan is kind of this bad ass samurai chick. I thought well oh yeah I would be able to draft over into my side.

 

Jad:

So they hike back up to that ledge, yelled out for her, and the next day she hiked on over to where they were.

 

Craig:

I remember her hitching up her pants pregnancy style, and kind of squatting down to get in there.

 

Jad:

What was your first thought when you saw it?

 

Regan:

Focus... And just being right there completely consumed in that moment. I think it went on for a long time because eventually they're like “So... What do you think?”

 

Craig:

I want to hear the truth, what we should do.

 

Regan:

Oh, you guys argued back, and forth for at least an hour and a half, and I just ignored you for most of it, because I was just looking at the seed jar.

 

Regan:

I wasn't really thinking to be in the position of arbiter. I just got fed up, and I was like “That's enough you guys, leave it alone.” It's part of an ongoing story, like just give it up, leave it alone.

 

Robert:

Ooh, and so...

 

Dirk:

So she takes some pictures, and we walk away.

 

Jad:

Within a year of that moment...

 

Dirk:

Everything just like went whirlwind.

 

Jad:

Regan, and Craig had a baby. Craig decides to become a writer. He writes a book, it becomes a best seller.

 

Dirk:

I quit the business, and got divorced.

 

Jad:

Everything changed.

 

Jad:

But even on that day they knew.

 

Craig:

This will be the center of things we talk about for the rest of our lives. The seed jar. Yeah, the day we found the seed jar.

 

Robert:

You think it's still there?

 

Craig:

I think it's still there. I think it is. The route is pretty complicated.

 

Dirk:

With that particular location, no, I'd say 50/50 tops.

 

Robert:

Huh.

 

Jad:

Again if only that were the end of the story.

 

Craig:

I would think it would be in the same view.

 

Regan:

No, he said he wouldn't-

 

Jad:

Yeah, we could've done the thing where you're just like “Oh the narrative power of objects met up, blah, blah.” No we were like “Is the dame thing there, or did someone take it.” We got so curious about this that we convinced Craig, Regan, and Dirk to go back.

 

Regan:

Now there're here.

 

Jad:

And check. We sent our producer Molly Webster along for the ride.

 

Molly:

Half the camp has just arrived.

 

Regan:

We have been at camp for a while.

 

Craig:

Yeah, we've been-

 

Molly:

I didn't realize when they were giving each other hugs the first night at camp, and I was there with my recorder shoved in their faces, that like-

 

Jasper:

No it was.

 

Molly:

It was actually like a big moment.

 

Regan:

I guess this is a reunion trip. We haven't seen Dirk in ages.

 

Molly:

Regan had said that one of the last times, now that people have kids, and families, one of the last times they were together was this seed jar.

 

Craig:

What are you talking about. [crosstalk 00:45:47]

 

Molly:

Yeah, it was already here.

 

Regan:

Yay, we're so happy you're here.

 

Molly:

And, so they were really, really excited to be together.

 

Jad:

Wait, how long ago was this when they found the thing?

 

Molly:

It was 11 years ago.

 

Jad:

This was 11 years ago?

 

Molly:

Yeah, so the kids were, Regan was five months pregnant, and the kid she was pregnant with is Jasper.

 

Regan:

Turn off the light, and come on out.

 

Jasper:

Coming.

 

Regan:

Come say hi.

 

Molly:

He just had his 11th birthday.

 

Jasper:

Can I bring my backpack out?

 

Regan:

Close the door, and come say hi.

 

Jasper:

Hi.

 

Molly:

Hey man, I'm Molly.

 

Dirk:

I'm Dirk.

 

Jad:

Dirk had never met kids.

 

Molly:

Well he had, but the last time he saw Jasper, Jasper was a baby.

 

Jad:

Oh.

 

Molly:

The other thing is, I'm just going to say Craig and Dirk are like brothers from another mother.

 

Dirk:

Oh, yeah.

 

Molly:

Like they are like the bestest bromance I have ever seen. They love each other so much.

 

Molly:

So, anyway we get there and we drop our bags, and we go to sleep. Getting in the sleeping bag. Woke up, four wheel drove, or drive, I don't actually know how that goes, out into the Mesa's. Parked the cars, and then we hiked a mile and a half to the edge of the Mesa.

 

Jad:

Wow.

 

Molly:

Basically the entire landscape felt like they had just put me on a Bonanza set. It was like gnarled [wharfie 00:47:09] trees, red sandy, sand stone. Then you're on this mesa and then it falls off into this canyon, and then there's like another mesa, and then that falls off into a canyon, and there's another mesa. It's just this is unending landscape.

 

Craig:

Look we're floating up here now.

 

Molly:

Yeah.

 

Jad:

Is it just like [blowing 00:47:34]?

 

Molly:

There's no sound.

 

Jad:

There's no cars in the distance?

 

Molly:

No sounds, no nothing.

 

Craig:

It's intranet.

 

Dirk:

I mean I know we came out the top in a cross when we went back to get Regan.

 

Molly:

Basically our objective was to go somewhere into this canyon land.

 

Craig:

We dropped down to where Regan was camped before.

 

Dirk:

Yeah, and come along the-

 

Molly:

And somehow find a tine little seed jar.

 

Craig:

It's weird to go back, because I like to think of it... Like this is going to change things if it's not there.

 

Jasper:

If we do not find the seed jar I'm going to be so mad.

 

Craig:

I like to be out in the world, and just think about it. Just go okay there's a seed jar sitting there under a boulder, right now, and it will be there for the longest time, and its just quiet.

 

Craig:

I can imagine the wind going around it, and more sand building up, and it's just this really nice thought of isolation, and perpetuity.

 

Regan:

Hello.

 

Molly:

I kind of want to hear it echo. So we set up camp on the edge of a mesa, and then we all went to sleep.

 

Jad:

With the flute sound.

 

Molly:

I don't know. Craig apparently has a flute in his bag. Dirk calls him flute boy. It was weirdly appropriate. So anyway so we wake up like first light.

 

Molly:

Is today the day guys?

 

Craig:

Today's the day we go find out if the egg is still there in the nest.

 

Regan:

Today's the day.

 

Molly:

We start hiking, we go down this 800 ft decent.

 

Dirk:

Whoa. Whoa.

 

Craig:

Watch out for those rocks.

 

Molly:

No femurs are broken.

 

Regan:

Let me strap this down. The [Anastasi 00:49:24] were some tough people.

 

Molly:

We wind around this canyon.

 

Regan:

Moving on these cliff sides.

 

Molly:

Through a saddle around the back of another canyon.

 

Jad:

How long did this hike take?

 

Molly:

To get out there, it probably took six, maybe seven hours.

 

Jad:

Wow.

 

Molly:

We're going pretty slow. The kids were amazing, but also slow.

 

Dirk:

God damn it.

 

Molly:

It was starting to bug Dirk I think, is the way to say it. Wow it's really hot.

 

Regan:

The sun is straight overhead.

 

Dirk:

I think they'll end up having to park the kids somewhere.

 

Molly:

Sure enough at the end of the six hour hike.

 

Regan:

If you could leave your packs, so that they got extra water, and snacks.

 

Molly:

The kids need a break, and so we leave them in an alcove on the side of the canyon.

 

Jasper:

I want to come.

 

Craig:

Well we'll scramble.

 

Regan:

Well we'll figure out where it is, and then come get you, so you guys don't-

 

Jasper:

Luckily I brought my book.

 

Regan:

Okay, bye guys.

 

Molly:

Bye guys. Regan is like “Alright boys you have your emergency whistles. Remember three times, but no joking.”

 

Regan:

Okay, final ascent.

 

Craig:

Do you know if we went up that angle.

 

Dirk:

Yeah, we went up that diagonal there. I remember it really-

 

Craig:

Okay.

 

Dirk:

Really clearly.

 

Craig:

I'm all behind you.

 

Molly:

So there was this... We were slammed up against this canyon wall. We needed to get over it, and the only way to do that was that there was a boulder out in front of the canyon wall, and it created this skinny little shoot. We had to wedge ourselves into the shoot, and like go up it.

 

Dirk:

No I think getting up on it.

 

Molly:

60 ft.

 

Regan:

Take a breath there Molly. Hold on, take a breath.

 

Molly:

I would like to get off this plant.

 

Regan:

Okay.

 

Molly:

I had to put my back against one wall, and my feet against the other.

 

Regan:

Push between the two walls.

 

Molly:

And I had this moment where before I left Dylan told me not to die for Radiolab. So, I paused, and I was like “Okay, don't do this for Radiolab, do it for yourself."

 

Craig:

Don't be modest, just lean closer. There. There. There.

 

Molly:

Okay. Never doing that again.

 

Molly:

By the time we get done with gnarly ascent everyone is like “This [explicit 00:51:50] seed jar is going to be there, because no one else would do this.”

 

Molly:

That was really hard.

 

Craig:

Dirk says he's got the spot, just head down that bin.

 

Molly:

So, Dirk, and Craig are like okay.

 

Dirk:

This is it, we did that route. I'm absolutely certain we did that route.

 

Molly:

The seed jar should be around here somewhere.

 

Molly:

We're like walking around giant tumble boulders, looking under.

 

Molly:

We've got like a quarter of a mile of canyon face to figure it out.

 

Molly:

Just giant tumble boulders.

 

Molly:

Craig thinks it's to the left, Dirk thinks it's to the right.

 

Regan:

Anything Dirk?

 

Dirk:

No.

 

Molly:

No.

 

Craig:

It's so weird because-

 

Molly:

Does it look familiar?

 

Craig:

This is it. This is the spot.

 

Regan:

It's been 11 years.

 

Craig:

Yeah, but I know this is the spot, I know it. Well.

 

Molly:

We don't see the spot.

 

Craig:

It's just getting trickier, and trickier.

 

Molly:

They were just going like really confused.

 

Craig:

We weren't that far down. We didn't...

 

Regan:

We've been looking, I don't know for an hour.

 

Molly:

And it all looks the same, but just everything looks the same to an untrained eye. Right? It's like where's Waldo land, and we're trying to find Waldo.

 

Molly:

Go over and find Craig, get his thoughts. I finally see Craig kind of far off down the canyon, standing by himself, just staring at the ground. I was like "Hey like, any luck?"

 

Craig:

I went down and looked at what would have been our likely route up.

 

Molly:

Yeah.

 

Craig:

Which is right up through here.

 

Molly:

Yeah. He points to the ground like right where we're standing, and he says “I think it's like right here. I think like this was the place."

 

Craig:

I don't want to think about this particular possibility. See all that stuff I just walked across.

 

Molly:

That went...

 

Craig:

Yeah. That's all fresh.

 

Molly:

Oh, seriously.

 

Craig:

Yeah.

 

Jad:

Wait, what does that mean, fresh?

 

Molly:

Well we were standing on this pile of really sharp rock. It was just all of these sharp little jagged knives. I mean it sort of didn't look like any of the other areas we had been in.

 

Craig:

It's possible that the cliff has fallen here, and covered everything. The top of that cliff.

 

Molly:

If you looked above us to the top of the cliff, it was like someone has just taken a meat cleaver to it. It was just sliced off.

 

Craig:

This whole thing broke off.

 

Molly:

The entire cliff face had fallen off, and annihilated everything, hundreds of feet in either direction.

 

Craig:

Its been totally destroyed.

 

Jad:

Oh no.

 

Molly:

Yeah.

 

Craig:

I mean it wouldn't have survived.

 

Molly:

Even the gian boulder protecting it.

 

Craig:

Like its just been wiped clean.

 

Molly:

It reminded me of like an iceberg caving. You see all those videos of the front of the iceberg just all of a sudden just cleaves off.

 

Jad:

Yeah.

 

Molly:

That's exactly what happened on this cliff.

 

Craig:

So you're talking like 10,000 tons of rock falling here.

 

Molly:

Just [00:55:14].

 

Craig:

Yeah. I mean that's not what I was thinking was a possibility. I'm not swallowing it just yet.

 

Molly:

So he calls in Regan.

 

Craig:

Regan comes toward us.

 

Molly:

And then Dirk comes wandering over.

 

Dirk:

It does kind of make sense I guess.

 

Craig:

No, if the pot has been here for 700 years it doesn't make sense at all it would happen the last 11 years.

 

Dirk:

Well that no, I mean it makes sense why it's not looking right. It was here, it was right in here. I know it was here.

 

Craig:

No, no, no. Oh my God.

 

Molly:

Craig's like leaning against the wall. Dirk was like "Wow man I guess this must be it." There was this real like they were grappling with something, and I was trying to figure like what they were grappling with. Craig just kept talking to me like not actually about the seed jar, but about the place.

 

Craig:

This is where I remember Regan hoisting up her pants, pregnant, squatting. Dirk, and me on our knees looking in on this thing for the longest time. You know it was very clear in my mind. To have the place itself gone, I'm fine, it's beautiful, it's wonderful, but Jesus. This is a different kind of sadness that I wasn't quite-

 

Molly:

Are you sad?

 

Craig:

Yeah. Yeah, this kind of sucks.

 

Craig:

If it was missing, if somebody had taken it that would be a sad of like, oh screw you people. Why do you do this? This is gravity.

 

Molly:

Dirk's gone.

 

Dirk:

We should start moving.

 

Molly:

Yeah.

 

Regan:

That's it, it's getting late.

 

Molly:

Alright.

 

Craig:

That's just too much of an irony.

 

Regan:

Why? I think it's perfect, it doesn't seem like irony at all.

 

Craig:

Just let it go.

 

Regan:

You're going to break into song.

 

Craig:

Let it go.

 

Dirk:

Take a little taco [inaudible 00:58:01].

 

Regan:

She likes you Dirk. She wants to hear what you have to say.

 

Molly:

It is like a mountain goat.

 

Jad:

Producer Molly Webster. Thanks also to Craig Childs, whose latest book is Apocalyptic Planet.

 

Robert:

And a special shout out to Henry Wright from Minute Physics, and Minute Earth. He has been spending time with us, got totally fascinated by Craig's story, and made a little, wonderful animation of a story that you didn't hear on our podcast, or our radio show. It's just on the web. So that is Henry's animation, and you should look for it at Radiolab.org.

 

Jad:

Yep, it'll be up soon at Radiolab.org.

 

Speaker 14:

Message to-

 

Dirk:

This is Dirk [Long 00:58:59].

 

Craig:

Hi, this is Craig Childs.

 

David:

This is David Childs.

 

Regan:

Hi, this is Regan Choi.

 

Jasper:

Radiolab is produced by WNYC, and distributed by NPR.

 

Regan:

Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad.

 

Craig:

Our staff includes Ellen Horn.

 

Dirk:

Soren Wheeler.

 

David:

Kim Howard.

 

Regan:

[Brenna Ferrel 00:59:17].

 

Dirk:

Molly Canyon grub Webster.

 

Regan:

Melissa O'Donnel.

 

Craig:

Dylan Keefe, Jamie York.

 

Jasper:

Lynn Lovey, Andrea Mills, and Kelsey Pageant.

 

Regan:

With help from Arianna Wack, Matt Kielty.

 

Dirk:

Simon Adler.

 

David:

And Lily Sullivan.

 

Dirk:

Special thanks to Mack Primo.

 

Jasper:

Everyone at make a bot.

 

Craig:

The edge of piers park museum, and Paige Phelps.

 

Regan:

Hope that works.

 

Dirk:

Thanks and goodbye.

 

Speaker 14:

End of mailbox.

 

Frankie:

Hi, this is Frankie. I have two things to destroy today. The first one is a beer stein that I painted at one of those paint your own pottery places with my stupid ex-boyfriend. It's a stupid mug, and it was a stupid relationship, so here it goes.

 

Jeremiah:

[screaming 01:00:05] This is Jeremiah calling from Chicago Illinois. That was me punching a wall.

 

Speaker 29:

Wow this is... Are you ready for this?

 

Caroline:

This is Caroline Gleeheart from Brooklyn, New York. I made this globe of the world puzzle. I did it when I was in high school, because I would spend a lot time in my room.

 

Speaker 29:

Oh my God this is...

 

Caroline:

I don't know things are getting better now, and maybe it's time to-

 

Speaker 29:

So you're willing to destroy it?

 

Caroline:

Let go of that part. So let's destroy it.

 

Mary:

My name is Mary, and I'm going to destroy a picture of me and my ex-boyfriend.

 

Speaker 32:

I am cleaning up all the paperwork from my classes and this is the sound of me ripping them up.

 

Speaker 33:

This is on of my father's computers.

 

Speaker 34:

And this week it's three years since the stroke that killed your father, so we're going to beat the [explicit 01:01:05] out of it with a hammer.

 

Speaker 33:

Yes.

 

Speaker 34:

That was satisfying.

 

Justin:

My name is Justin. Last year my life was like a country song. First I lost my girl, then I lost my job, then I lost my house, then my dog got killed, and this is the sound of me destroying my old life.

 

Justin:

Thank you.

 

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