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Q&A with the Hosts of ‘Radiolab’

WNYC’s science duo Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich preview tonight’s live Seattle show.

By Laura Dannen March 30, 2011

They blinded me with science! Radiolab hosts Jad Abumrad (left) and Robert Krulwich

Are you the lucky few who have tickets to tonight’s Radiolab show at 5th Avenue Theatre? It sold out before I even knew what Radiolab was—a testament to how many Seattleites appreciate public radio. This WNYC-produced program/podcast is a quirky crossbreed of This American Life and Bill Nye the Science Guy, with hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich picking a topic such as "Symmetry" (tonight’s hit word) and using physics, philosophy, history, pop culture, music, and old-fashioned storytelling to explore its meaning. Same goes for past topics: "Time," "Race." "Sperm" ran the gamut, from flying pig sperm to fatherhood.

For their first "in-the-flesh, on-a-stage, in-front-of-an-audience" Seattle performance, they’ll be joined by San Francisco cellist Zoe Keating, who’ll "play a cello with loops, so she loops herself over and over and over," said Jad. "It’s really like 16 Zoes are all going to be onstage with us." As for how they’ll dissect "symmetry"? I’ll let them explain that one.

The show’s all about "symmetry." What direction will it go in?

Robert: All directions.

Jad: For me, it started with a story of this woman searching for her soulmate, thinking she’d found it and then right at the last minute, being disappointed. There’s that symmetry of the person that completes you, your other half. But then we got to thinking about symmetry in a more mathematical frame of mind…and then in terms of balance and order, which leads you to think about, on a grand scale, the physics of the universe.

Robert: If you’re just looking for bullet points, we’ll touch on a) Abraham Lincoln’s face, b) Superman’s hair (very important, Superman’s hair), brains, love. …We have a boy who feels he was never hot until he changed the side of his part.

Jad: We also have the ordinary business of looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling like that person is somehow off, and an explanation of why your mirror self is somehow dangerous to your real self.

Robert: And then the ultimate point: We ask, Why is everything in the entire universe here? Because when the universe was born, it was born in two equal parts: one was called matter, the other was called antimatter. And whenever matter and antimatter meet they annihilate each other. We shouldn’t be here, but for some reason, we’re left over, so we were wondering why that is. That’s all in the same show.

Jad: We’re taking a real panorama of the word symmetry.

Robert: Yeah, life, universe, sex, faces, hair, presidents, and the universe.

Radiolab Live: Symmetry is at 5th Avenue Theatre March 30 at 7:30. This show is sold out, but as of this morning, a few tickets were available on craigslist.

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