The Disappearing Spoon podcast

Topsy-Turvy Tales from Our Scientific Past

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.


The Disappearing Spoon is Distillations’ sister podcast, hosted by best-selling author Sam Kean. The show examines overlooked stories from our past, such as the dental superiority of hunter-gatherers, the sex lives of dinosaurs, and many more moments that never made the history books. When the footnote becomes the real story, small moments become surprisingly powerful.

Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a man inside a circle with outstretched arms and legs
Early Science & Alchemy

The Brilliant, Groundbreaking, and Wildly Overrated Leonardo da Vinci

Revisit the reputation of the renowned Renaissance man with host Sam Kean.

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.

Health & Medicine

Death by Nutrition

How an antarctic scientific expedition turned deadly thanks to an unlikely source: dog liver.


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.

The front page of a newspaper from 1928 proposing a 13-month calendar
Arts & Culture

The Blind Visionary

The story of Thomas Schall, a U.S. Congressman dedicated to reforming our messy, lopsided, archaic, and maddingly inconsistent monthly calendar.

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.

Arts & Culture

The Naked Shibboleth

Naked mole-rats are blind, yet they can still recognize—and kill—outsiders. How? And what does it have to do with the Old Testament?

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.

men in a lab
Health & Medicine

The Life-Saving Rat Poison

Follow blood thinner warfarin’s unlikely journey from moldy clover and cow killer to lifesaving drug.

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.

Arts & Culture

The Murderer Who Made Movies Possible

When horses gallop, do all four hooves ever leave the ground at once? This episode recounts the saga that led to the answer.


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.

Health & Medicine

When the Brain Deceives Itself

Learn what two famous neurological traumas—one involving a U.S. president, the other a Supreme Court justice—can teach us about how our own brains perceive reality.

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.