Odd Pod: Popular Science’s ‘The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week’ rolls out facts to keep you floored

Science October 8, 2021
Listen to ‘The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week’

We don’t know about you, but we’ve learned plenty of weird things this week! Popular Science wants to stoke the flames of your curiosity with some interesting episodes, chock-full of odd facts and tidbits. But how did this podcast come to be? In research for the dozens of tech and science stories written each week, Popular Science’s writers and editors come across so many topics and facts. While most material makes it into their content, they saw the potential for unused facts, finding so many adjacent storylines to populate a unique space, like a podcast.

Hosts Rachel Feltman, producer Jess Boddy, and other Popular Science editors will share stories behind the facts, and you might find yourself absorbing enough material to win trivia rounds and drawing few blanks during awkward conversation lapses. Go, you!

Dax’s Odd Pod Pick

“The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week” is Podsauce’s Odd Pod this week. On a recent episode, Dax shared some of the craziest storylines from episodes: a skyscraper that could fry an egg; a self-decapitating sea slug; a beetle that passed through a frog’s intestines, unscathed; and a man who thought he could capture sexual energy in a cage. The podcast’s hosts also interact with listeners’ voicemails and they select their favorite facts and questions for show features.

Did you know that the game Candyland wouldn’t exist without polio? And Monopoly was created by unusual circumstances, too. What happened when a chimp was raised with a human baby? Can viagra lessen period cramps? What’s the deal with parachuting cats? Learn about topics like these in “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week’s” episodes.

Spooky stuff

There are some spooky themed episodes, too, if you’re celebrating spooky season. A recent episode detailed killer creeks. Wait, what? We’ll also hear about mysterious shipwrecks, dangerous pumpkin launching events, and scorpions. They’ll also cover the phenomenon of sleeping with your eyes open.

In another episode, we learned that chainsaws were invented for childbirth by Scottish surgeons. Before modern technology and anesthesia, deliveries could turn deadly. If babies were stuck in the birth canal, or coming out feet-first, doctors would cut through flesh and bone with a chainsaw to save the baby.

Medical vampirism?!?

Speaking of blood and gore, what is medical vampirism? It was a precursor to blood transfusions, swapping blood between animals and humans in attempts to alter the systemic state of a body. Early scientists wondered if blood from a young body could reverse aging for an older body or cure the unwell.

This concept goes back to 1st century Rome where epilepsy sufferers would drink the blood of gladiators to try to cure seizures. In the 15th century, transfusion science was happening in the Renaissance. An Italian scholar posited that if an aged person took the blood of an adolescent, the older person would be rejuvenated. At the time, Pope Innocent VIII was quite ill and received blood from teenagers, and he did not survive. For 100+ years, people also thought drinking diluted blood or sprinkling dried blood powder into wounds would heal them.

Blood-swapping with dogs

In the mid-1600s, British physician William Harvey got closer to discoveries and mapped the circulatory system. By 1666, Robert Lower developed a method to perform transfusions between dogs. He’d attach quills to dogs’ arteries, affix them to the recipient, and tie a string around the area to control blood flow. Dogs would sadly die. But they thought they were onto something.

Physicians began animal-to-human transfusions and selected people who were unwell. A former member of the clergy was selected because he had a history with mental illness. He received sheep’s blood in an attempt to cool his temperament. Did it work? A French physician, Jean Baptiste Denis, began doing the same process, and some of his patients survived. Later in the episode, we hear how these instances led to modern transfusions, and what scientists are finding out today.

On “Weirdest Things'” companion website and show notes, you might even learn tips you never knew you needed, such as how to remove cactus spines, even if they’re stuck in your throat. Oww!

New episodes are released on Wednesdays, wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Listen to ‘The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week’

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