Every Little Thing
ELT is here to answer your burning questions.
Why do we cry? Did cavemen really carry clubs? Can swearing make you stronger? On ELT, you call with a question, we find you an answer. Our helpline is open 24-7. Call 833-RING-ELT or send an audio message to email@example.com.
Listener Gĩtaũ has a serious problem: every so often his home in rural Kenya is invaded by an army of ants. They coat the floors, climb the walls, and rain down on Gĩtaũ and his family while they sleep. Gĩtaũ wants to know: Why are these ants torturing us? Entomologists Dino Martins and Piotr Naskrecki have ant-swers. Special thanks to Caswell Munyai, Caspar Schöning, and Daniel Kronauer.
Terriers have won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show 48 times. Dachshunds? Never. Listener Yona wants to know why terriers triumph but dachshunds don’t get their due. Dog show judge Laurie Williams and dachshund-diehard Kim McCalmont take us behind the scenes of the dog show world.
Caller Leña had COVID-19 last October and temporarily lost her sense of smell. As it started to come back, she noticed something strange — fruity things smelled like burnt hair and condoms. Where are Leña’s mystery smells coming from? Rhinologist Simon Gane fills us in on COVID-related smell loss.
The Earth is surrounded by a halo of trash — defunct satellites, discarded fuel tanks, one of Elon Musk’s Teslas. Listener Ryan wants to know: Does any of it ever fall down to Earth? ELT talks trash with Lottie Williams, the only person known to have been hit by falling space debris, and Ted Muelhaupt, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Study.
It’s spring-cleaning time! To help get you in the mood, we’re dusting off an episode from our archive. Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr tells us when it’s OK to use your own saliva as a cleaning agent, and addresses some listener “cleanspiracies” like: Will vodka clean my clothes? For more cleaning tips, check out Jolie’s podcast Ask a Clean Person.
Listener Paige heard a rumor: we only breathe through one nostril. Can it be true? ELT gets an answer from someone in the nose — rhinologist Simon Gane. Plus, Science Vs. host Wendy Zukerman joins Flora for an important wombat-butt update.
Listener Charlotte has been rewatching “The Sopranos” and the punches keep hitting her ear. Why do Hollywood wallops sound so punched up? Foley artist and Emmy Award-winning sound editor Joanna Fang shares her punch recipe. Plus, do real-life investigators actually connect the dots with red string and thumbtacks? Retired FBI agent Jerri Williams solves the evidence board mystery.
Listener Malenia wants to know how her favorite word game came to be. It turns out it took a while for Scrabble to score big. Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak, fills in the blanks. Plus, can you beat Flora's most embarrassing story?
We’re revisiting one of our favorite episodes this week. A few years ago, listener Annie asked ELT to settle a longstanding family debate: exactly how old is Winnie-the-Pooh? To hunt down an answer, we consult with professional age-guesser Ben Ramey, bear biologist Rae Wynn-Grant, and Sarah Shea, a professor who has studied this question.
Listener Taylor was making a medieval stew when she noticed a prominent ingredient was missing from the recipe: potatoes. Potato biologist Maria Scurrah and journalist Charles Mann explain the potato’s twisting route to stewpot domination. Special thanks to Graham Thiele, Bruce Owen, Alan Covey, and Gary Urton.
Listener Christina gets ruffled by a stiff breeze and wants to know if she’s alone in her wind rage. Atmospheric science historian Vladimir Jankovic introduces Christina to her people, and iconic couples therapist Esther Perel, host of “How’s Work” and “Where Should We Begin,” helps Christina rethink her relationship with the wind.
How are essential workers doing now? We check in with some of the essential workers we talked to back in April and hear what it’s been like to teach, fly on planes, ship packages, and drive a truck during a pandemic. Thanks to Rob, Justin, Tamasha, Lucy, Jacob, Kaleb, Ian, and Dawn.
Listener Gab is clumsy — white sweaters, stemmed wine glasses, and sharp edges are off the table. Can Gab learn to be less clumsy? Professional steady hand Bryan Berg and kinesiologist Priscila Tamplain share tips for foiling fumbles. Special thanks to Carl Gabbard and Michael Wade.
Attention all you #hortihotties, this week caller Esther asks about houseplants: When did we start keeping them, and has there ever been another houseplant heyday? Guests Catherine Horwood, author of Potted History, and Charlotte Salter-Townshend of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin sift through the facts and expose the shady side of houseplant history.
This week, some comfort food. For a lot of us, the holidays won’t be the same this year. Instead of arguing around the table with our extended families, we’ll be stuck at home with a single-serving of mashed potatoes, face-timing the people we love. So we invited ourselves to your place. We asked you to tell us about a meal you can't forget. And you delivered. Your stories made us laugh, cry and ge...
Flora’s sister Ruth claims last year’s jack-o’-lantern seeds sprouted... a litter of decorative gourds. ELT gets to the bottom of this pumper stumper. Plus, a spooky Face ID mystery, and a peek under the husk of corn mazes. Guests: professor of horticulture and pumpkin expert Steve Reiners; farmer and corn maze designer Angie Treinen.
Maybe it’s the spaghetti you ate sitting on the kitchen floor in your first real apartment. Or the congee your best friend made you when your heart got broken. Call and tell us the story about a home-cooked meal that you can’t forget. 833 RING ELT.
Listener Lily called in about a crying shame: She thinks she cries too much. ELT investigates why we cry, and whether wet cheeks were once très chic. Ad Vingerhoets, crying researcher and clinical psychologist, and Tom Lutz, author of Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, talk through tears.
Caller Juanita wants to know if her cats are southpaws. ELT calls in animal behavior researcher Deborah Wells and neuroscientist Sebastian Ocklenburg for an answer. Plus, why would slugs ditch the shell? Biologist Robert Cowie fills us in.
After their dad served 4-year-old fish for dinner one night, listener Max wants to know how long you can safely keep food in the freezer. Food safety expert Haley Oliver serves up the juicy details. Plus, can tiny eyes see things we can’t? Spider expert Sebastian Echeverri takes us behind some of the most impressive peepers in the animal kingdom. Thanks to listener Miles. In the original version of...
Listeners Marmie and Ryan have a quarantine quibble: How many times should you shuffle a deck of playing cards? Marmie says three, while Ryan says four or more. The couple place their bets and go all-in with applied mathematician Steven Strogatz and a full house of card-world VIPs.
ELT introduces How to Save a Planet, a new Gimlet Media podcast hosted by journalist Alex Blumberg and scientist and policy nerd Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. How to Save a Planet asks the big questions: what do we need to do to solve the climate crisis, and how do we get it done? Alex and Ayana scour the Earth for solutions, talk to people who are making a difference, ask hard questions, crack dumb...
Listener Erik saw a mysterious glow in the water during a trip to the beach, and he wants to know more. ELT talks to the “Jacques Cousteau of glow,” a scientist who has spent decades deep diving for answers. Guest: biologist and ocean researcher Edie Widder. Thanks to Eelke Dekker for the seagull and ocean sounds we used in this episode. Thanks also to Steven Haddock, Michael Latz, Matt Davis, Vinc...
Caller Hank wants to know where the sand on his central California beach came from. ELT gets the surprising scoop on how beaches are born. Guest: Kiki Patsch, California State University Channel Islands. Special thanks to Gary Griggs.
Flora is out this week force feeding her niblings flamingo facts, so we’re rerunning one of our favorite episodes. Does swearing make you more powerful? Plus, we talk to someone who turns the “mother f*ckers” into “manhole covers” for the TV versions of movies. Guests: Cognitive scientist Ben Bergen, author of What the F***; Gwen Whittle, supervising sound editor at Skywalker Sound. Thanks to calle...
Flora is away this week, so we’re revisiting one of our favorite episodes — about a summer visitor no one wants. Caller Jeremy has a problem: fruit flies have moved into his apartment, and he needs to know how they got there. ELT finds out where Jeremy’s freeloading flatmates came from. Guests: Biologist Marcus Stensmyr, Lund University. Chemical ecologist Kevin Cloonan, Acadia University, Nova Sco...
Flora is away this week at a flamingo fanciers convention, so we’re revisiting one of our favorite shows — a two-part, deep dive into cheerleading. It’s not all smiles and ponytails. Guests: Cheerleading researcher and professor at the University of Alabama Natalie Adams; Barbara Hazlewood; Sharita Richardson, cheerleading researcher, instructional coach at North Carolina A&T State University, and ...
Listener Amy gets lost a lot. She wants to know if some people are naturally better at finding their way, and whether there’s hope for her. An expert locates some answers. Plus, how the best navigators in the world get around. Guests: navigation and orientation researcher Giuseppe Iaria; former London cab driver David Styles. Thanks to caller Amy.
The average tree squirrel can bury up to 10,000 nuts every fall. How do they keep tabs on that stash? Guest: animal behaviorist and pro squirrel watcher Mikel Maria Delgado exposes the secrets of squirrel pantry maintenance. Thanks to caller Cayra.
This weekend, SpaceX and NASA successfully launched the first crewed spacecraft from U.S. soil in almost a decade. Preparing for a mission to space takes astronauts years, but listener Daniel wants to know — what does the other end of that journey look like? What happens when space travelers come home? Guest: record-holding NASA astronaut Christina Koch.
We’re celebrating the little things you miss from life before quarantine. Those small joys you can’t stop thinking about, in the midst of such big sadness. Thanks to listeners Ron, Sophia, Karen, Hayden, Priyanka, Melissa, Kim, Kai, Will, and everyone who called in to share, shout, and sob into the void.
Listener Natalie had a dreamy question: Can you change something in your waking life by dreaming about it? ELT talked to a lucid dream expert to find out if we can optimize our snooze time. Guest: Daniel Erlacher, sports scientist at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Thanks to Natalie for the call.
In the time of “puzzle and chill,” listener Myco needs to know: how are jigsaw puzzles made? Plus, why are clouds of terrifying black birds gathering in listener Amanda’s neighborhood every evening? ELT puts the pieces together. Guests: Thomas Kaeppeler, President of Ravensburger North America, Inc.; bird expert Judith Bailey. Thanks to callers Myco and Amanda.
If a baby couldn’t nurse, what did prehistoric parents do before baby bottles? Julie Dunne, a biomolecular archaeologist and pot lady, analyzed some adorable ancient artifacts to answer the question. Plus, a big day for niblings. Thanks to callers Kate and Michael. Guest: Pot lady Julie Dunne.
Fear, pride, relief, anger — ELT listeners who deliver packages, stock shelves, and drive buses share how their lives have changed during the pandemic. Thanks to Jacob, Megan, Ian, Lucy, Tamasha, Justin, Kaleb, Jane, Dawn, Rob, and everyone who called in to tell us how their jobs and lives have changed. And a gigantic thank you to everyone risking their own health to keep the rest of us safe.
Listener Elizabeth always says “please” and “thank you” to her Google voice assistant, and her husband says she’s weird. ELT talks to former Alexa insider Daren Gill and expert in human-robot interactions Leila Takayama to find out just how weird Elizabeth is. Plus, we right a #noboe wrong. Thanks to caller Elizabeth. Guests: Daren Gill, director of product at Spotify; human-robot interaction resea...
Does an orchestra’s triangle player get the same pay as a violinist? Do conductors ever fall off their podiums? Which section do the other musicians love to hate? ELT dishes symphony secrets from two orchestra insiders. Guests: violinist Akiko Tarumoto and conductor Rob Kapilow. Special thanks to Nathan Cole and danke schön to caller Laszlo.
A troubling image of a flamingo family has the flam world in a frenzy. ELT’s resident flamingo expert tells us what’s really happening in that viral pic. Plus, listener Paul goes in for an appendectomy, and wakes up with a bizarre craving. What happened when he went under the knife? Guests: Flamingo expert Felicity Arengo and anesthetist Kate Leslie. Thanks to caller Paul.
A police sketch artist reveals how she turns your fuzzy memory into a sharp drawing. Sketch artist Kelly Lawson from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation walks us through the process. Thanks to Gary Wells, Gil Zamora, and caller Lex.
Listener Emily is dying to know: what are actors actually using when they do drugs on screen? A prop czar takes ELT behind the scenes. Plus, a tribute to percussionist Emil Richards. Guest: prop master Lynda Reiss. Thanks to caller Emily.
We asked you, the ELT family, to share your favorite underutilized words -- words that you love and want other listeners to love too. And you delivered. Now, with your help, we want to get one of those words into the dictionary. A professional word nerd tells us which of your submissions have the best chance of making it into the big book. Guest: former Merriam-Webster Dictionary editor Kory Stampe...
Did cavemen really carry clubs? Live in caves? Wear leopard-print one-shouldered dresses? Paleoanthropologists Melanie Chang and Genevieve von Petzinger help bust our biggest cavemen myths — and tell us what our ancestors were really like. Special thanks to caller Lauren, and to historian Matthew Goodrum.
We’re clearing out our inbox and answering some of your burning follow-up questions for our last episode of 2019. Guests: Captain Nick Anderson, retired Virgin-Atlantic airline pilot, Airline Pilot Guy Show; Microbiologist Jenny Hayden, Cedar Crest College; Jason Torchinsky, senior editor at Jalopnik. Thanks to callers Mattie, Toku, Piper, Aviv, Meghan, Anna, Liz, Kathi and Carl.
Caller Shannon is at a loss for words when it comes to describing her favorite vegetable -- corn. ELT enlists a professional food describer to help Shannon expand her tasting vocabulary. Guest: sensory specialist Gail Vance Civille of Sensory Spectrum. Special thanks to Shannon for venturing outside of her palate’s comfort zone.
Caller Lisa wants to know why her butt hurts whenever she sees someone else get injured. ELT finds out whether some people really can feel your pain. Guest: pain researcher Stuart Derbyshire. Thanks to queen of Chapped Cheeks Lisa, and to researchers Natalie Bowling, Melita Giummarra, Helena Hartmann, Marina López-Solà, Bridget Rubenking, Jamie Ward, Scott Vrana, and Jamil Zaki. May your cheeks be ...
Wendy Zukerman, host of Science Vs, has a burning question: Do ants help each other out? ELT goes down the anthole to find the antswer. Guests: ant researchers Erik Frank at Université de Lausanne and Christina Kwapich at Arizona State University.
Do twins communicate in the womb? Can they read each other’s minds? ELT tackles listeners’ twin questions and investigates some burning twin-spiracies. Guest: Nancy Segal, psychology professor at California State University, Fullerton, and author of Twin Mythconceptions. Thanks to twins Kelly and Kristina, Reply All’s Phia Bennin, and everyone who called with twin questions.
ELT tackles some animal, vegetable, mineral mysteries with special guest Amy Sedaris. Plus, caller Maria is troubled by a hole in front of her condo — will she be swallowed by the earth? And the scoop on spinach tooth. Guests: Comedian and rabbit expert Amy Sedaris; Jim Correll, plant pathologist, University of Arkansas; geologist and sinkhole expert David Wilshaw. Thanks to callers Anthony, Eddie ...
A mass spider invasion at his office left accountant Steven with a burning question: How many can there be? ELT does some spider number-crunching, and meets the man who discovered one of the largest spider gatherings on record. Guests: Freddie Gowin, retired park ranger, Lake Tawakoni State Park, Texas; Linda Rayor, arachnologist at Cornell University. Thanks to caller Steven.
How do nailpolish colors get their names? ELT digs into this FAQ, and finds out how painting our nails became a thing. Plus, an update on Jeremy’s reported fruit fly infestation. Guests: Fashion historian Suzanne Shapiro, author of Nails: The Story of the Modern Manicure; Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, co-founder and Brand Ambassador of OPI Products Inc., and author of I’m Not Really a Waitress. Chemical ec...
Images of little green aliens are everywhere: Area 51, bongs, your ‘90s chain wallet. But why did we start depicting extraterrestrials that way? ELT uncovers the moment that beamed little green aliens into our homes (and hearts).
Caller Jeremy has a problem: fruit flies have moved into his apartment, and he needs to know how they got there. ELT finds out where Jeremy’s red-eyed roommates came from. Plus, please help caller Austin name that tune.
Every year the TSA confiscates millions of pounds of pocket knives, sunscreen and snow globes from airport travelers. Where does it all go? ELT investigates. Plus, tips for sneaking your weed onboard from a former TSA agent.
When did organ music and baseball become an item? ELT talks to some pro organ players to find out how organs and ballparks got together. Plus, meet Nancy Faust — the legendary organist who brought trolling to modern baseball music.
For most of human history, tooth care has been pretty bare bones. How did we go from charlatans pulling teeth in a public square, to the modern dentist’s office? ELT exposes the roots of tooth care. Plus, meet the technician who makes movie stars’ teeth look terrible.
Does swearing make you more powerful? Caller Mark’s dad thinks a well-timed “word of power” is the key to efficient yardwork. ELT asks a swearing expert about that theory. Plus, we talk to someone who turns the “mother f*ckers” into “manhole covers” for the TV versions of movies.
Through the 1800s, babies in the U.S. were dressed in gender neutral clothing — you couldn’t tell the girls from the boys based on their outfits. So why did parents start color-coding their kids in pink and blue? Plus, ELT’s long quest to get a sports team to have a flamingo as their mascot is finally over… or is it?
When you fly do you really need to put your phone in airplane mode? Should you fear the tray table? What’s happening in the cockpit while you’re fighting over the armrest? Two airline pilots answer your burning air travel questions.
If you found millions of dollars worth of buried treasure, what would you do next? Take it to the bank? Sell it on eBay? Call 60 Minutes? ELT unearths the tale of the largest buried treasure ever found in North America. Plus, practical tips for dealing with new-found millions, and a nationwide treasure hunt, ELT-style.
How did one style of cheerleading come to dominate in so many American schools? In part one of a two-part episode, ELT flips through the history of cheerleading and meets the man who held cheerleading in the pompom of his hand.
When did organ music and baseball become a thing? ELT talks to some pro organ players to find out how organs and ballparks got together. Plus, meet Nancy Faust — the legendary organist who brought trolling to modern baseball music.
ELT gets to the bottom of a familiar aroma -- thrift store smell. Why do thrift shops all smell the same? Plus, is washing your clothes better than freezing them? ELT investigates listener cleanspiracies with expert cleaner Jolie Kerr.
Flora is hosting the Chapped Cheeks Book Club this week, so we’re revisiting one of our favorite episodes: How do U.S. postage stamps come to be? ELT explores the secret world of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, the group that decides what gets stuck on America’s envelopes. Guests: Bill Gicker, manager of stamp development at USPS; Jessica, ex-CSAC member; Kam Mak, artist and stamp illustrat...
Every year the TSA confiscates millions of pounds of pocket knives, sunscreen and snow globes from airport travellers. Where does it all go? ELT investigates. Plus, tips for sneaking your weed onboard, from a former TSA agent.
Why is pumpkin spice a thing? Flavor scientists explain why this particular combination is so appealing -- or not. Plus, how to make a new flavor, and ELT listeners pitch their ideas for the next flavor fad.
A Bulletin Board of Glory™ nomination from comedian Josh Gondelman takes ELT down a trashy rabbit hole, to a time before sanitation workers, when pigs roamed the streets. Plus, we meet the man who defied all odds to bring us the bag that cinches. Warning: Explicit.
Where does bubblegum flavor come from? A bubblegum bush? A beaver’s butt? We track down the original bubblegum flavor formula, and find out what’s in there. Plus, why turkey eggs aren’t a thing.
How did goldfish come to dominate our fish bowls and pet stores? We dive into the history of America’s favorite finned pet. Plus, the fanciest goldfish money can buy, and the best pet in a vocal performance.
If you dug up the graves of our founding fathers, what would you find? Tri-corner hats and puffy shirts? A grave expert fills us in on what remains. Plus, a terrifying sea creature that lurks in the waters off northern Australia.
When did “the wave” become a staple of stadium crowds? ELT talks to the professional cheerleader who first got fans out of their seats. Plus, the egg-laying mammal that is not a marsupial; we give monotremes their due.
Tucked into your car’s dashboard is a tiny arrow that points to the side of the car with the gas tank cap. Who came up with it? ELT tracks down the inventor of this tiny, brilliant car hack. Plus, do you really need to warm up your car?
How did they make the dinosaur roars in the Jurassic Park movies? Flora talks with the sound engineers behind the bellows. Plus, ELT goes deep into the Mesozoic to find out what dinosaurs looked (and tasted) like.
When did someone first see a cheese curd and think, “Yeah, I’m going to eat that"? ELT traces the delicious and X-rated history of cheese. Plus, a processed cheese expert on making the most of the dairy aisle.
There are mysterious symbols inside your tee-shirt -- do you know what they mean? ELT reveals the secrets of The DaLaundry Code. Plus, lobsters pee from their faces, koalas have human-like fingerprints, and other cocktail party fodder from our fact buddy exchange.
Some birds can fashion tools and create tiny works of art, so why do we always underestimate their bird brains? In this panel discussion, recorded at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival, Flora talks with writer Jennifer Ackerman and crow expert Alex Taylor about the genius of birds.
The history of the world’s most iconic movie scream. Hollywood's most iconic scream has a name—and over the course of the past seventy years, it has made an appearance in hundreds of films, television shows, and commercials. But what makes it so good? And how did it become a favorite inside joke for so many filmmakers?