Constant Wonder



Stay in tune with our phenomenal world. Join Marcus Smith for explorations of hidden marvels in nature, forgotten heroes of history, and life stories that both humble and inspire. Constant Wonder is a production of BYUradio.

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1320 episodes

ARCHIVE BONUS: Pho-nomenal!

An exploration of delectable foods and the people who make them: Pho is delicious and nutritious, one of the best comfort foods. Learn some tips for making your own pho at home. Every week, 400,000 food lovers wait anxiously for a new video about pasta from their favorite YouTubers: authentic Italian grandmothers. And, St. Vith, Belgium is home to the only sourdough library in the world—they are dedicated to preserving and researching sourdough for current and future generations. Guests: Andrea Nguyen, cooking teacher, editor, consultant, and author of "Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors" and "The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles” Vicky Bennison, creator of “Pasta Grannies” YouTube channel Karl De Smedt, Sourdough Librarian at Puratos Sourdough Library, St. Vith, Belgium

Aug 10
Conjoined Twins

Conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton had a love for each other that helped them weather exploitation and tragedy. And, how the world's most famous Siamese twins broke free from bondage.

Aug 08
S2 E25: Where Is Hope? Towns Rebuild Their "Lifescapes" After Disaster Strikes

When widespread disaster strikes, survivors lose not just their homes and belongings, they also can lose their "lifescape": their relationships with their neighbors, the places they frequent daily, their support systems. Meet some survivors from around the world who have held on to their lifescapes with creativity and tenacity. From out of the rubble, stories of inspiration and hope. Guests: Lucy Easthope, author of "When the Dust Settles: Stories of Love, Loss and Hope from an Expert in Disaster" Marc Mattox, Public Works Director and Town Engineer for the City of Paradise, CA Jeff Marcus, retired principal and former special teams football coach at Paradise High School Rick Printz, retired head football coach from Paradise High School Josh Alvies, former player and current JV football coach at Paradise High School

Aug 03
S2 E24: Summer Shorts: Adventure Stories

Travel with us to otherworldly places, both beautiful and strange. You may never get to see these places in person, but we'll take you there: volcanoes in space, the tips of the mighty redwoods, the sunken Titanic. We've mined our archives for breathtaking adventure stories. Guests: Richard Preston, author of "The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring" Robin George Andrews, author of "Super Volcanoes: What They Reveal about Earth and the Worlds Beyond" Palani Mohan, author of "Hunting with Eagles in the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs" Kerry McCauley, author of "Ferry Pilot: Nine Lives over the North Atlantic" Doug Peacock, author of "Was it Worth It? A Wilderness Warrior's Long Trail Home"

Jul 27
S2 E24: The Sun Can Heal the Planet

Brilliant Planet, founded by an enthusiastic dreamer who has always believed in the power of photosynthesis, borrows a simple process from nature to produce food and sequester carbon. And, an ocean farm that needs no seeds, no fertilizer, no fresh water, no LAND. Through the non-profit GreenWave, its farmer teaches his competitors how do it, too. Guests: Raffael Jovine, Founder and Chief Scientist, Brilliant Planet; author of "How Light Makes Life: The Hidden Wonders and World-Saving Powers of Photosynthesis" Bren Smith, Co-Founder of Greenwave; author of "Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer" Photo credit: Brilliant Planet

Jul 20
What Makes a City Great? Featuring: Top of Mind

Constant Wonder is giving listeners a sneak peak of another BYUradio show, Top of Mind. Millions of Americans move each year in search of a better house, neighborhood, job, or quality of life. Is leaving the only way to live some place better? What would it take for an imperfect place to become your perfect match? Today we crisscross the country and check in with Top of Mind listeners about what makes a city great. Guests: Majora Carter, author of “Reclaiming your Community” Jim and Deb Fallows, co-authors of “Our Town: A Journey into the Heart of America” Melody Warnick, author of “This Is Where You Belong” and “If You Could Live Anywhere” Lynn Kreutz, Hayley Trotter, Reed Wolfley, Erika Layland, Jenny Van Stone, Kim Parati – Top of Mind Listeners

Jul 13
S2 E23: Power Struggles in the Peaceable Kingdom, Part 2

Adam Nicolson went looking for tranquility and reflection when he built tide pools along Scotland's harsh coastline. He found plenty to reflect on, but things were not so peaceful in the pools. He discovered that to maintain harmony in the wild, species need to be at each others' throats. Guest: Adam Nicolson, author of "Life Between the Tides"

Jul 08
S2 E22: Power Struggles in the Peaceable Kingdom, Part 1

There's plenty of warfare in animal kingdom, even within a species: battalions of mongooses square off against each other, hermit crabs evict each other in the quest for the perfect shell, ravens rally their brothers to back them up in a rumble. Sounds almost like West Side Story. But all of this conflict actually leads to more peace and harmony, not less. Guest: Lee Alan Dugatkin, author of "Power in the Wild: The Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Ways Animals Strive for Control over Others" Photo courtesy of Harry Marshall/Banded Mongoose Research Project

Jul 06
S2 E21: The Unfinished Story of America's Anthem

A true national anthem isn't set by law: it's chosen by the people, often emerges out of conflict, and its meaning shifts over time. All of that and more is true of The Star-Spangled Banner. But still, it was sung by four generations of Americans before it became our official anthem. It's been translated into 40 languages, requires extraordinary athleticism to sing, and has long been both an object of awe and a lightening rod for controversy. Guest: Mark Clague, author of "O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner" and a professor of musicology at the University of Michigan.

Jun 29
Tomatoes That Leave Earth Behind

At an improbable greenhouse in the Utah desert, yummy tomatoes grow without soil and produce for nearly an entire year. The greenhouse gets heat and CO2 from a natural-gas power plant to which it is linked by a sort of umbilical cord. Within this bubble of clean, warm air, bumblebees pollinate the vines, and wasps fend off parasites. Whether you hope to build a colony on Mars or just aim to get a good tomato when there's snow on the ground, this is a good place to start. Guests: Travis Jones, General Manager of Longvine Growing Co. Martin Weijters, Head Grower at Longvine Growing Co.

Jun 22
S2 E19: A Passion for the Past

"The past is never dead," wrote William Faulkner. "It's not even past." Ron Coddington was a young boy at a flea market one Saturday, when he stumbled on a book of Civil War-era photos and felt his world shift beneath his feet. The boy's passion deepened as he grew to adulthood, maturing into a deeply felt obligation to uncover these stories. Many photos of the time were preserved on calling cards ("cartes de visite") that people would hand out to others, much like the profile pictures we post on social media today. Guest: Ron Coddington, Editor and Publisher of "Military Images" magazine Cartes de visite featuring Daniel Waldo, Martin C. Clark, and Almira Newcomb McNaughton Lockwood Fales from Ron Coddington's personal collection. These images are used with his permission.

Jun 15
S2 E18: Body, Soul & Memory: What would you do with a lock of George Washington's hair?

An old friend of Benjamin Franklin always regretted not having asked the founding father if he could taxidermy his body. He thought Franklin might have agreed, and then maybe George Washington might have also followed suit. But (maybe to our collective relief) what we do have, instead, as a tangible reminder of our first president are several collections of cuttings from his hair. In the days before photography, a lock of hair might be the only proof that a person had access to a notable man like Washington. After his death, some pseudoscientists used Washington's hair to "prove" the biological superiority of America's founders. Others used their clippings to prove that they, too, were there at America's founding. Now, in our digital age, are these kinds of physical relics and mementos still important? Guest: Keith Beutler, author of "George Washington's Hair: How Early Americans Remembered the Founders" and professor of history at Missouri Baptist University

Jun 08
S2 E17: Downton Shabby

Meet the improbable rescuer of a dilapidated English manor house: Hopwood DePree, a Hollywood producer having a mid-life crisis. He'd heard rumors about his family's ancestral castle, and when he discovers that it really exists–but in a shocking state of disrepair–he goes all in to save it. Guests: Hopwood DePree, author of "Downton Shabby: One American's Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family's English Castle" Geoff Wellens, historian Bob Wall, caretaker of Hopwood Hall; historical and heritage building specialist Zena Howard, PR & Communications for Hopwood DePree and Hopwood Hall Estate

Jun 01
ARCHIVE BONUS: The Dressmakers of Auschwitz

In Auschwitz, twenty-five Jewish slaves used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust. The Upper Tailoring Studio, run by the commandant's wife, Hedwig Höss, and a prisoner, Marta Fuchs, was created to design, cut, and sew popular fashions for the Nazi elite. But it was also the means of saving Jewish women from the gas chambers. Guest: Lucy Adlington, author of "The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive"

May 25
S2 E16: It's Complicated: Our Fraught Relationships with Animals

Why do some cultures object to dogs the way that we object to rats? And why do we object to rats? Simon Barnes says they're our brothers. We explore who's really domesticating whom in the pet ownership process, why we choose to protect certain wild animals over others, how there's no such thing as the natural world, and many other assumptions about our relationships with animals. Guests: Hal Herzog, psychologist; author of "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight about Animals"; blogger at "Animals and Us" blog in Psychology Today Simon Barnes, author of "The History of the World in 100 Animals" Madi Vazquez, veterinary nurse

May 18
S2 E15: Superplants vs. Superbugs

After losing a leg as a toddler and struggling with repeated infections, Cassandra Quave became obsessed, even as a young child, with preventing infection. That obsession has led her from Florida's swamps to the Peruvian Amazon in pursuit of plants that can defeat antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Her stories are personal, riveting and inspiring, and they offer hope for a medical future that's quite different from our present. Guest: Cassandra Quave, author of "The Plant Hunter: A Scientist's Quest for Nature's Next Medicines" and Associate Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory School of Medicine

1h 6m
May 11
S2 E14: Animal Duets

Clarinet duets with laughing thrushes, nightingales, whales and cicadas. Philosopher and ornithologist David Rothenberg poses the question: do birds make music, or do they just make sounds to defend a territory or attract a mate? We also talk to a zoomusicologist in Scotland, and we listen to a trio of two oboes and a dog. Guests: David Rothenberg, musician, composer, author, philosopher-naturalist, and Professor of music and philosophy at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Emily Doolittle, composer, zoomusicologist, and Athenaeum Research Fellow and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

May 04
Featuring: The Apple Seed

Constant Wonder is giving listeners a sneak peak of another BYUradio show, The Apple Seed. In this episode, a musician and a couple of actors take unlikely approaches to sharing scripture. (4:58) Detroit storyteller and blues guitarist Robert B. Jones talks about how he became an ordained minister (9:51) Rev. Jones tells the story of he built his guitar from the wood from different parts of his childhood home to stay connected to his hometown in the story “Detroit Guitar,” recorded live in the Apple Seed studio (25:32) Host Sam Payne connects with his Greek grandparents by learning to cook Greek food in today’s entry in The Radio Family Journal (34:03) Two New York pals connect to their heritage by performing Torah stories for families as a duo called The Bible Players

Apr 27
BONUS: Our Animal Superpowers (Extended Version)

Extended version of our conversation with Jackie Higgins.

Apr 22
S2 E13: Our Animal Superpowers

Meet the crustacean that packs the biggest punch in the animal kingdom and the river-dweller that could be called a "swimming tongue." We investigate animal superpowers to celebrate what marvels our fellow creatures are, and also to remind ourselves of our own often-neglected senses. Guest: Jackie Higgins, author of "Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses"

Apr 22
S2 E12: Street Vet

He walked the streets in secret, a veterinarian in his off-hours, looking to help the pets of the homeless. Now his work in the subject of the tv show "Street Vet." He describes how his work has changed the lives of both pets and their owners. And his own. Guest: Kwane Stewart, veterinarian and co-founder of Project Street Vet

Apr 20
S2 E11: Mockingbirds

Darwin hated peacocks because he couldn't explain their excess beauty. He likely would have hated mockingbirds for the excessive complexity of their songs. Where many birds are content with a few simple chirps, mockingbirds learn hundreds of sounds from other birds and animals and mix them together using sophisticated musical techniques, the kind human musicians often employ. Their songs go far, far beyond anything necessary to find food, defend territory, or attract a mate. Why do they do it? Guests: David Rothenberg, author, composer, musician, and Distinguished Professor of Humanities & Social Sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Dave Gammon, Professor of Biology, Elon University

Apr 13
Sprouting a Seed That Survived the Roman Siege

This seed could symbolize the resilience of an entire people. Atop a lonely desert fortress near the Dead Sea, a Judean date seed lay inert for over 2,000 years. We talk to the scientists who brought that tree to life, named it Methusaleh, and rejuvenated an extinct species. Guests: Elaine Solowey, Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies R.A., Ketura, Israel Sarah Sallon, Hadassah University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel Jodi Magness, Professor of Archeology, University of North Carolina.

Apr 06
To Rescue an Animal, You've Got to Think Like One

Giraffe's don't like to swim, so how do you get them off an island that's flooding? How do keepers feed a violent, orphaned baby elephant that's been traumatized by humans? The answer is to think like an animal. Meet some empathetic rescuers who had to get creative to save the animals in their care. But their efforts paid off, and, turns out, the humans' lives were better for it, too. Guests: David O'Connor, President of Saves Giraffes Now Ami Vitali, filmmaker and National Geographic Magazine photographer Jake Owens, Director of Conservation at the L.A. Zoo

Mar 30
Living Boldly with Blindness

When Daniel Kish was a toddler, he got around. One night he climbed out of his window and made his way over multiple chain link fences, but the neighbors knew who he was. "All the neighbors knew who the blind kid belonged to," he says. As a kid, Daniel climbed trees, rode bikes, and swam in pools. Today he is one of the world's leaders in human echolocation and does pretty much whatever he wants. And he's teaching younger generations to do the same. Part 2 of 2. Guests: Daniel Kish, President of World Access for the Blind Robert Just, retired medical record transcriber

Mar 25
The Real Batman

Daniel Kish is blind and he navigates the world kind of like a bat—making clicking sounds with his mouth and, from the echoes he gets back, building a picture of the world he's moving through. "The sonic environment is incredibly alive," says Kish, who lost his eyes to cancer when he was barely one year old. He doesn't just get around. He reveals in the physical beauty of the world. "Domes are pretty special," he says. "So I've been in these tropical gardens, for example, where they'll have these dome structures over these gardens. And when you find the apex of the dome, your every sound that you make, and every sound that's being made in that dome is highly, highly resonant." Come along with us while we walk alongside one of the world's leading experts on echolocation. Part 1 of 2. Guest: Daniel Kish, President of World Access for the Blind

Mar 23
Our Team

Larry Doby, Sr., became the second Black player in the MLB, and his home run during the '48 World Series turned the series around for the Indians. Behind him stood the team's free-thinking owner, Bill Veeck, who wanted to upend the sport, opening his doors to Negro league players and bringing a carnival atmosphere into the stands. Baseball would never be the same again. Guests: Larry Doby, Jr., son of Larry Doby, Sr.; union stage hand, Local One IATSE, New York City Luke Epplin, author of "Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball"

Mar 16
Flavor: More Than a Matter of Taste

We examine why flavor is our "most neglected sense" and we meet a restaurant owner who, in the spirit of the fictional "Babette's Feast," is spreading the message that "Food Is Love."

Mar 09
Cystic Fibrosis Patients Who Changed Medicine Forever

The fight against cystic fibrosis has impacted medicine as a whole.

Mar 08
The Railroad War That Made the West

Two rivaling railroad companies, both scheming to dominate the American frontier.

Mar 07