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.
Americans happily ate monosodium glutamate for decades, but one (fake?) letter sparked mass hysteria and the bogus MSG scare was born.
Scientists have confirmed five basic human tastes. But is that all? Debate rages about adding other tastes to the Big Five.
James Mellaart discovered one of the most important archaeological sites ever. But his lust for treasure led him to lose it all.
He was behind the rise of the British Empire, a public-health epidemic, and the lost colony of Roanoke Island. Thomas Harriot has a lot to answer for.
How “Moldy Mary” helped produce the lifesaving drug and turned an insult into a triumph.
As recent tragedies reveal, it’s harder to reach extreme ocean depths than the Moon. Meet the people who got there first—and barely lived to tell to the tale.
How balloon geek Auguste Piccard inspired Hollywood and became a worthy namesake for Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek fame.
Meet Arthur Eddington, the weirdo scientist who made Albert Einstein the genius we know today.
It was the most powerful emotional moment of Albert Einstein’s life—the instant he knew he was a genius.
What can a railroad construction foreman’s devastating skull injury teach us about the brain’s ability to heal?
People love to retro-diagnose historical figures, even when it’s nearly impossible.
A scientific mystery straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.
In medicine, going rogue is never a good idea.
How paranoia doomed a nuclear patent lawyer.
Can you really collapse and wake up speaking a totally new language?
French authorities thought uranium had been stolen for rogue atomic bombs. The truth was much more incredible.
The downside of using genetic genealogy to fight crime.
Sam Kean examines the dark, restless side of the father of the atomic bomb.