With the new decade fast-approaching, I can’t help but think about reinvention. Studio 360 has done several segments that take dusty old ideas and wipe them clean with poetry. Recycling them into verse can reveal surprises. Here are some of my favorites.
British poet Ruth Padel shares Charles Darwin’s DNA — she’s his great-great granddaughter. Inspired by the life of her (relatively) early relative, this descendant of the Descent of Man author pays tribute to her forefather in verse to commemorate the 150th anniversary of On The Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. Darwin: A Life in Poems tells the naturalist’s life story in spellbinding odes like “Survival of the Fittest,” which describes his guilt over the death of his 10-year-old daughter Annie, who was the product of his marriage to his first cousin Emma:
You can also listen to Kurt’s full interview with Padel:
And poetry isn’t the only lyrical form inspired by Darwin’s theories. Science historian Richard Milner punctuates his lectures with Jimmy Durante-style tunes about Darwin’s findings. It’s all a part of his effort to humanize him: “Everybody has to find their own Darwin,” says Milner. “He’s so large, you can find yourself in him.”
It’s almost exactly 150 years since On the Origin of Species was published, so for this week’s show we decided to put evolution to the test. We learned a lot of cool facts in producing this hour: did you know the human species was nearly extinct — dwindling to just 2,000 people — 70,000 years ago? And if you ever worried about genetic engineering going awry, don’t miss the amazing sci-fi short story we commissioned from writer Lydia Millet.
All our brainstorming for this show got me thinking about a favorite old TV program with an all-chimp cast. But this week’s Studio 360 didn’t have room for this particular pop culture reference, so our blog is where my love for Lancelot Link and the Evolution Revolution will live.