The Disappearing Spoon podcast

Topsy-Turvy Tales from Our Scientific Past


Our impact on the natural and built worlds

Bundle of bacteria on Oleander plant

The Mysterious Mote

This bonus episode highlights an excerpt from Ferris Jabr’s book Becoming Earth.

Mugshot of Nikolai Vavilov imprisoned.

The Seeds of Starvation

A scientific mystery straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

A man wearing a helmet and flashlight points to a natural nuclear reactor inside a cave in Gabon, Africa.

The World’s Only Natural Nuclear Reactor

French authorities thought uranium had been stolen for rogue atomic bombs. The truth was much more incredible.


The Roadside Apocalypse

We all know how much the automobile changed the world for people. This episode explores how drastically it changed—and harmed—wildlife.

An image of Korea's DMZ, both the natural landscape and the fence surrounding it

The Scariest Paradise on Earth

Explore the contradictions of Korea’s biggest natural wildlife refuge: the war-ravaged border between the North and South known as the DMZ.


Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and the Irish Giant

Learn how the daring heist of an anatomical wonder forever sullied the reputation of a great scientist.


The Screwiest—and Perhaps Most Original—Idea of the 20th Century

An entomologist from Texas supposedly came up with ‘the single most original idea’ to eradicate screwworms.

Illustration of a white-throated sparrow.

The Bird with Four Sexes

Find out what a strange little sparrow can teach us about love, sex, and human biology.


History’s First Car Crash Victim

How a steam-powered automobile in 1869 snuffed out the life of the brilliant naturalist and astronomer Mary Ward.


How Climate Change Will Remake the Human Body

Scientists know how other animals’ bodies will change in warmer climates, but how will human beings respond?


The Death of the Lord God Bird

How greed—and a group of Nazi prisoners—killed off one of the most iconic birds in American history: the ivory-billed woodpecker.