The Disappearing Spoon podcast

Topsy-Turvy Tales from Our Scientific Past

People & Politics

Science in a world of rules, regulations, and war

portrait of Charles Darwin
People & Politics

Was Charles Darwin a Murderer?

Two men committed murder—and blamed the English naturalist. The aftermath solidified Darwin as the greatest scientist of his age.

illustration of Aji-No-Moto packaging
People & Politics

Mass Psychosis in Food Science

Americans happily ate monosodium glutamate for decades, but one (fake?) letter sparked mass hysteria and the bogus MSG scare was born.

Black and white photo portrait
People & Politics

Accounting for Taste

Scientists have confirmed five basic human tastes. But is that all? Debate rages about adding other tastes to the Big Five.

Colored clay model including figurines
People & Politics

If Indiana Jones Were a Swindler

James Mellaart discovered one of the most important archaeological sites ever. But his lust for treasure led him to lose it all.

Newspaper clipping of Paul Stoutenburgh being carried out by a medical examiner.
People & Politics

The Curse of Knowing Too Much

How paranoia doomed a nuclear patent lawyer.

portrait of Robert Oppenheimer sitting down smoking
People & Politics

The Real Tragedy of Robert Oppenheimer

Sam Kean examines the dark, restless side of the father of the atomic bomb.

People & Politics

Death Squared

Explore scientist John Calhoun’s mouse utopia and what it can tell us about the ways we impose lessons for society onto lab experiments.

illustration of Johnny Appleseed
People & Politics

The Debaucherous Legacy of Johnny Appleseed

Sam Kean explores how the legendary gardener’s reputation as the patron saint of the American wilderness ignores his boozy origins.

workers in a sugar cane field
People & Politics

Sugar: The Most Evil Molecule

Trace how such a sweet treat has caused so much harm—from slavery to the Nazi death machine.

People & Politics

The Making of a Lobotomist

The story behind notorious surgeon Walter Freeman’s contempt for his father, failures with his sons, and obsession with lobotomies.

People & Politics

Stephen Hawking and the Mistake That Made His Career

The third episode in a three-part series on legendary physicists and their dumbest mistakes.

People & Politics

Albert Einstein and the Worst Prediction in the History of Science

Learn about the physicist’s biggest-blunder-turned-greatest success.

People & Politics

The Unsung Heroes of Darwin’s Evolution

Learn how an obsession with crustaceans guided the naturalist toward his most consequential insights.

People & Politics

Crowdfunding Radium

When American women bought Marie Curie a vital gram of the element.

People & Politics

Tales of Love and Madness from the Periodic Table

An interview with author Sam Kean.