Right Now in Stuff to Blow Your Mind

Vampire legends are a global phenomenon, and the trope of the blood-sucking humanoid shows no signs of vanishing from human traditions. But can we trace its origins back to any specific diseases and medical symptoms? In this blood-stained episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick haul up the vampire’s casket and look for signs of rabies, syphilis, dermatitis, tuberculosis and more.

From the Vault: Ghoul

If your fictional diet contains significant quantities of horror or dark fantasy, then you've likely encountered the ghoul: a scavenging, grave-robbing race of unnatural beings with an insatiable hunger for the dead. As Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore in this episode, the roots of ghouldom sink back into pre-Islamic Arabic folklore -- as well into the distant evolutionary history of humanity itself. (Originally published October 29, 2015)

The Curse

What does it mean when a beggar, wizard or witch spits a curse at another human being? Why does this particular work of magic weigh so heavily in human history? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick take a scientific, historical and cultural look at various curse traditions. 

The Great Basilisk

Behold the Great Basilisk, the crowned monster whose mere glance can kill a mortal and reduce wilderness to desert ash. Medieval bestiaries attest to its might, but today some futurists dread its name as an all-powerful malicious artificial intelligence. Will it imprison all those who oppose it within a digital prison of eternal torment? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick consider the horror of Roko’s Basilisk. 

From the Vault: Carnivorous Plants

Are humans truly safe from the hunger of meat-eating plants? Can we trust the trees that loom over us? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe discuss myths and fictions of killer trees, the science of carnivorous plants and the curious absence of mean-eating plants in our natural world. (Originally published October 18, 2016)

The Killer's Mask

The masked psychopathic killer is a staple of horror fiction, and yet almost no real-life serial killers employed masks in the commission of their crimes. Why is this? What does the discrepancy between fact and fiction reveal both about the reality of murderer and the nature of our myth-making? Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind. 

Jenny Greenteeth: Horror at the Water’s Edge

According to certain English folktales, a vile creature lurks in the slime-caked dark of local ponds. When little ones wander too close to shore, she lashes out to drown them in her slippery embrace. She has many names: Nelly Longarms, Peg Powler, the Grindylow... and Jenny Greenteeth. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick discuss these old tales of aquatic terror, their instructional nature and the real-world predators who swim the shores in search of terrestrial prey. 

From the Vault: John C. Lilly

The figure of John C. Lilly as psychedelic dolphin communicator burns in the collective memory as a counterculture avatar, yet his legacy embodies far more than the mythologized and/or vilified figure that most of us know. Join Robert Lamb and Christian Sager as they examine the life, career and ideas of Lilly the scientist, Lilly the counterespionage researcher and Lilly the psychonaut. Welcome to the province of the mind. (Originally published Feb. 23, 2016)

Listener Mail: Robots of Theseus

It's listener mail time again and the plan to gradually replace every part of our mailbot Karnie is complete. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick as they read and respond to various listener mail from the past month. 

Salamander Talk with Mark Mandica

Wade into the amazing and weird world of salamanders and other notable amphibians as Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick chat with Mark Mandica, executive director of The Amphibian Foundation. Gain a new level of appreciation for these fabulous organisms and learn what you can do to help them. 

Mini-Review: Mandy (2018)

Robert Lamb discusses the 2018 film 'Mandy,' directed by Panos Cosmatos and starring Nicholas Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache.

From the Vault: Mixologia

While the cocktail is an inherently American invention, the history of combining alcohols with other substances to create potent, drinkable concoctions dates back to ancient times. While you might expect dangerous ingredients to have a place in a wizard’s potion or a philosopher's goblet, modern cocktails and spirits have also dabbled with nefarious elixirs. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick as they explore the history, myth and science behind it all in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind. (Originally published Jan. 12, 2017)

Age of the Earth, Part 2

Scientific consensus currently holds that the Earth is a 4.5 billion-year-old planet in a 13.8 billion-year-old universe. But how do we know? Why do religious models of a much younger (or older) Earth fail to pass the baloney test? In this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the answers.

Trailer: Daniel & Jorge Explain the Universe

There's a new show coming that we think you'll dig! Daniel’s a particle physicist who conducts research using the Large Hadron Collider. Jorge’s the cartoonist behind PhD comics, one of the web’s geekiest (and funniest) comics! And with their powers combined, they’re on a mission to Explain the Universe!  Join them as they discuss some of the simple but profound questions about existence, explaining the science in a fun, shorts-wearing and jargon-free way. Daniel & Jorge Explain the Universe premieres on September 25th. Click here to subscribe.

Age of the Earth, Part 1

Scientific consensus currently holds that the Earth is a 4.5 billion-year-old planet in a 13.8 billion-year-old universe. But how do we know? Why do religious models of a much younger (or older) Earth fail to pass the baloney test? In this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the answers.

From the Vault: Syphilis

Doctors have called it the great imitator because this destructive venereal disease can manifest almost any symptom. Initially spreading through sexual contact, Syphilis can remain dormant in the body for decades before flaring up again in brutally disfiguring, debilitating and deadly ways. It's difficult to overstate the impact of syphilis on the Western world, and it remains a threat to this day despite effective antibiotic treatments. In this classic episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Julie Douglas explore the history of the illness and its cultural effects, from powdered wigs and false noses to surgical advances and vampire myths. (Originally published August 26-28, 2014) 

The Obvious: Invisible Gorillas of the Mind

What is truly obvious in life? What does the word even mean? Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for a look at how we engage with the natural world -- from invisible gorilla experiments to the realm of phenomenology. 

On Teasing

We all know teasing when we see it or experience it, but what role does it play in human interactions? Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind as they explore hurtful, playful and educative teasing.

From the Vault: Black Stone of Mecca

The Kaaba marks the geographic center of the Islamic world, and here one finds Al-Hadjar Al-Aswad, the Holy Black Stone of Mecca. Islamic traditions hold that the once white white stone blackened with humanity’s sins, but various scientific theories point to geological and potentially cosmic origins. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick discuss the mythic, historical and scientific substance of the Kaaba. (Originally published on Feb. 16, 2017)

Kirk Allen and Maladaptive Daydreaming

We all daydream and many of us funnel our imagination into creative acts. But what happens when these exercises overpower us? In this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the strange case of nuclear physicist Kirk Allen, whose imagination may have gotten the better of him -- and his psychoanalyst. Dive into the world of cooperative illusions and maladaptive daydreaming.