History

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. 

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)

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) 

Divine Weapon: The Trident

What are we to make of the trident? The three-toothed spear has seen service as the divine weapon of mythic deities, the fishing implement of common mortals and a symbolic weapon in gladiatorial combat. What does it mean, and was it ever a practical weapon? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick look for answers in myth, archaeology and military history. 

The Ashen Light

Does the dark side of Venus occasionally glow with a dim, haunting phosphorescence? It’s one of astronomy’s oldest and most enduring mysteries. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for an examination of the ashen light.

From the Vault: The Inca Kingdom of Fibers

Welcome to the Kingdom of the Inca, where hundreds of rope bridges connect an imperial highway system and fiber-armored soldiers wield woven slings against the enemies of the Emperor. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the khipu system of knotted, colored string that served as a physical notation system in lieu of written language. (Originally published March 8, 2016)

Chariots of the Gods

Chances are, you’re already quite familiar with the notion the ancient astronauts visited the earth and gave humans the tech support they needed to climb the ladder of civilization. There's no true proof to back it up, yet ancient astronaut speculation is a 20th century invention -- and one tied closely to a single bestselling author. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick discuss Erich von Däniken and Carl Sagan's thoughts on ancient aliens.

From the Vault: Humanzee

Chimpanzees are humanity's closest living relative, but there's both wonder and existential horror in that closeness. A species barrier separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but what if a chimp/human hybrid were to bridge that barrier? Join Robert Lamb and Christian Sager as they explore the case history of Russian biologist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov and his attempts to breed a human/chimp hybrid in the early 20th century. (Originally published Jan. 21, 2016)

Interview: Carl Zimmer on Heredity's Power

Why does heredity hold such power over us? How did the ancients contemplate it and how is genetic technology changing the shape of future heredity? Robert and Joe chat with acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer about the topics explored in his new book “She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.”

From the Vault: Early Days Electric, Part 2

Electricity lost its magic over the course the 18th and 19th centuries. The "invisible fire" steadily transitioned from a mysterious force of wonder to a mundane reality of daily modern life. In this two-part edition of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe explore the various electrical experiments, stunts, inventions, performances, innovations, occultisms and atrocities that transformed the tractable thunder. (Originally published Feb 11, 2016)