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.
Sam Kean explores how the legendary gardener’s reputation as the patron saint of the American wilderness ignores his boozy origins.
Trace how such a sweet treat has caused so much harm—from slavery to the Nazi death machine.
Follow blood thinner warfarin’s unlikely journey from moldy clover and cow killer to lifesaving drug.
The story behind notorious surgeon Walter Freeman’s contempt for his father, failures with his sons, and obsession with lobotomies.
When horses gallop, do all four hooves ever leave the ground at once? This episode recounts the saga that led to the answer.
Learn how the daring heist of an anatomical wonder forever sullied the reputation of a great scientist.
An entomologist from Texas supposedly came up with ‘the single most original idea’ to eradicate screwworms.
Find out what a strange little sparrow can teach us about love, sex, and human biology.
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.
The third episode in a three-part series on legendary physicists and their dumbest mistakes.
Learn about the physicist’s biggest-blunder-turned-greatest success.
Discover why the iconic physicist made an unbelievable error while hunting down criminals, and how you can avoid the same dumb mistake.
How cataracts nearly ruined the impressionist painter’s career—and then revived it by giving him an insect-like superpower.
Learn how an obsession with crustaceans guided the naturalist toward his most consequential insights.
An interview with Sam Kean about his book ‘The Violinist’s Thumb.’
How a simple operation—castrating little boys—produced the greatest singers the world has ever known.
How a bloody gun duel between two doctors in Transylvania sparked a frenzy of outrage—and helped create the American Medical Association.
How a feisty, suicidal Nobel laureate infuriated both Hitler and Stalin, and stalled cancer research for 50 years along the way.