myth

Gáe Bulg: The Spear of Death

Irish myth tells of a spear so deadly, that its deployment is certain death. Forged from the bones of sea monsters, the Gáe Bulg would send barbs through its victim’s every vein -- but only if the hero threw it with their foot. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick unravel the myth, history and science of this impractical Irish wonder weapon. 

From the Vault: Tree of Life

Sacred trees. World trees. Holy trees of wisdom, immortality and the soul. They seem to grow from every culture on Earth and their roots dig deep into the soil of prehistory. What do they mean? Why are we so drawn to their symbolic power? Join Robert Lamb and Christian Sager for a stirring exploration. (Originally published Nov. 30, 2017)

Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe

Twas the night before Christmas and deep in the woods, a sacrifice was planned by the Gauls and their Druids… Yes, in this holiday episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the curious biology of everyone’s favorite smooch-inducing tree parasite -- as well as some of its alleged magic powers and scientifically-studied properties. 

From the Vault: The First Monster

Humans love monsters, but when did we first dare to dream up bestial hybrids and chimerical horrors? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick consider the 35-40 thousand-year-old Löwenmensch statues. Who created these images of lion-headed men? What do they represent and what do they reveal about human cognition? (Originally published October 27, 2017)

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.

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 Gods Must Be Counterintuitive

What’s the key to a lasting myth, a captivating religion or a sensational film pitch? Some cognitive scientists and anthropologists argue that the key is a minimally counterintuitive narrative: the right balance of the mundane with just a dash of the unreasonable and unexpected. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick as they discuss the minimal counterintuitiveness effect. 

Unicorns of the Mythic World

Jorge Luis Borges tells us that the oldest unicorn legends are nearly identical to the most recent ficitonal treatments -- but why is that? Why is the notion of a sacred, one-horned horse so resilient in human culture? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for a look at the history of global unicorn myths and legends. Plus, don't be shocked if a satyr shows up. 

Carl Sagan and the Samurai Crabs

Legend has it that a variety of crabs contain the ghosts of a drowned samurai army -- and each bears a grimacing warrior face on their backs to prove it. But what can we really gather from this biological peculiarity? In the book and TV series “Cosmos,” Carl Sagan argued that it presented a case of artificial selection, but critics disagree. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for a discussion of the Heikegani.

Aquatic Humanoids, Part  1

From the sirens of 'The Odyssey' to 'The Creature From the Black Lagoon' and beyond, humans have always imagined their underwater doubles. In this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration, Robert and Joe discuss the revealing myth and fiction of mermaids and gillmen -- as well as the aquatic ape theory and the biological possibilities of an aquatic humanoid.