November 11, 2011

So Crazy It Just Might Work

A few years ago a cancer researcher named Jonathan Brody gave a speech at his alma mater saying that people in his field really needed to think outside the box to find a cure. Afterward he was approached by his old orchestra teacher, who had something way out of the box—a theory that he could kill cancer cells with electromagnetic waves. And other stories.

Image of the Rife-Bare device's plasma light courtesy of Gabriel Rhodes.


Host Ira Glass talks with science writer Paul Hoffman about a mathematician named Frank Nelson Cole, who demonstrated a groundbreaking idea at a conference in 1903. Paul explains that in addition to their celebrated breakthroughs, many of the greatest thinkers in history have entertained some very crazy ideas. Paul is the author of many books including The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, and is director of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. (7 minutes)

Act One

Mr. Holland's Opus

One day a successful cancer researcher named Jonathan Brody gave a talk at his alma mater, about how people in his field need to think outside the box if they're going to find a cure. Afterward Jonathan's old music teacher Anthony Holland shared an idea that was way out of the box: Killing cancer cells with electromagnetic waves. Gabriel Rhodes tells what happened next. Gabriel is also working on a documentary film version of this story, called The Cure. (35 minutes)

Correction: Ira writes—In an edit of Gabriel Rhodes's story, I mistakenly asked him to insert erroneous information about sound waves and electromagnetic waves, and then acted so completely confident about it—misremembering a science show I worked on years ago—that nobody in the editing process bothered to fact check it. The people in the story were using electromagnetic waves, not sound waves, for their experiment. This was very much my mistake and not Gabe's, and I regret telling him to insert a mistake into his otherwise carefully researched and fact checked story. Thanks to the many listeners who wrote to point out the error. We've gone back and fixed this, so the versions aired in 2012 and posted here on the website have the correction.