The Disappearing Spoon podcast

Topsy-Turvy Tales from Our Scientific Past

The Science of D-Day

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings during WWII, we look at the surprisingly important role science played.


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.

Inventions & Discoveries

Burn After Watching

The world’s first plastic made Hollywood possible—and killed thousands of people along the way.


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.

Health & Medicine

Real-Life Zombies

What a bizarre psychological disorder can teach us about memory, human nature, and our sense of who we are.


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?

Health & Medicine

The ‘Mary Poppins’ Cancer

The life of chimney sweeps was nasty, poor, brutish, filthy dirty, and usually short, thanks to a rare cancer of the genitals.

Arts & Culture

Kangaroo (and Pig and Monkey and Dog and Donkey) Courts

The long, wacky, and surprisingly thought-provoking history of trying animals in human courts.

Health & Medicine

The Anatomy Riots

How early anatomists provoked some of the strangest riots in history by stealing the dead bodies of the poor.

Arts & Culture

When a Hole in the Head Is a Good Thing

How a rogue archaeologist in Peru found indisputable evidence of something previously unthinkable—ancient neurosurgery.

Health & Medicine

When Mosquitoes Cured Insanity

How an early 20th-century doctor pitted one scourge (malaria) against another (syphilis).


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.

Health & Medicine

Chewing It Over—and Over and Over and Over

How a weird “scientific” diet fad conquered America in the early 1900s.

Arts & Culture

What’s the Longest Word in the English Language?

And what does it have to do with the unusual chemistry of carbon?

Health & Medicine

Why Don’t We Have a Male Birth Control Pill Yet?

Scientists created an effective male birth control pill in the 1950s, but it had one undesirable side effect.

People & Politics

Crowdfunding Radium

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

Arts & Culture

Parking Lot or Peking Lot?

Have modern archeologists finally tracked down the legendary ‘Peking Man’ bones?

Health & Medicine

Orphan Vaccines

When the global vaccine supply chain depended on children.

People & Politics

Tales of Love and Madness from the Periodic Table

An interview with author Sam Kean.