The Wholesome Show

A podcast

Oceans of Nuclear Waste!

Between 1946 and 1993 a bunch of countries dumped 85 PBq* of radioactive waste into the ocean. Slurries, solids, reactors - you know, the stuff you find lying around and just want to put in the ocean.**

It was terrible, and it seems we've mostly stopped it. But that shit is still down there... So we explore!

* I don't really know how much a PBq is, but it's a lot more than 'nothing', and 'nothing' is the correct amount of radioactive waste that should go into the ocean

** No, you don't find it lying around and you don't want to put it in the ocean, you're a good person listener.

Further reading

The Unusual Health Beliefs of John Harvey Kellogg!

Corn flakes are delicious. But did you know they were originally invented to lower sexual desire? (Try it yourself next time you have a bowl, but be careful!)

Their invention was part of a quest of John Harvey Kellogg's not only to improve the health of society, but to stop people from a range of other practices, including drinking, smoking, having sex and masturbating.

In this episode we explore the weird - and really quite repressive - health beliefs of John Harvey Kellogg! Today we’re joined by Sam Vilkins and Matt Phung!

The Bone Collectors

In the dying days of the Second World War, allied troops entering Strasbourg made a grisly discovery - the purpose built beginnings of a skeleton collection. This pseudoscientific collection was an attempt by the Nazis to showcase - in physical form - the alleged racial inferiority of the "Jewish race" in contrast to the German Aryan Übermenschen.

It's both disgusting, and very definitely not science. But Nazis weren't the only ones to collect human bones...

We explore the terrible terrible bone collectors!

(Australian Indigenous listeners are advised this episode contains discussion of deceased Indigenous Australians).

Further reading and references:

Museums are returning indigenous human remains but progress on repatriating objects is slow

Indigenous bones returned from overseas reveal cruel treatment

Material Legacies: Indigenous Remains and Contested Values in UK Museum Collections

Jewish Skeleton Collection

August Hirt

Wolfram Sievers

National Museum of Australia: Repatriation

The Anatomy Inspector and the Government Corpse

Anthropophagy! (It Means Cannibalism)!

Everyone has food they hate eating. For some people it's mushrooms, for others it's onions, for others it's aniseed. (For Will it's watermelon. It's the lamest melon).

But if you're starving on a desert island and there's only mushrooms, onions, aniseed or watermelon there, sure, you'll bend your rules.

But what about... other humans? How hungry do you have to get to turn to anthropophagy (it means cannibalism)?

In this episode, we explore the science, history and anthropology of anthropophagy (it means cannibalism)!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch!

Do you listen to The Wholesome Show in the shower? You can, it's totally fine with us!

So... if you're in the shower now, take a look down at the floor. Look at the drain and watch your suds go down... Where do they go? Well, down the pipe, down the river, and all the way down to the very bottom of the Mariana Trench!*

So that's fine if your suds are wholesome and non toxic to the environment, but sadly *heaps of garbage* is being washed down our drains all the way to the ocean. This makes us intensely sad. So to understand more, we explore the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!

*Maybe more symbolically than literally


Listener I distinctly remember being told, when I was about 4, that even the Queen does poos. (It's true, she does!)

Well, there's nothing to be ashamed about, it's all part of life. But about 4.5 billion of us don't have access to safe and hygienic toilets, and that is a shame. So for this episode we explore the history and technology of the toilet! Enjoy!

Piltdown Man and Other Fossil Fakes!

Have you ever wished the made up dinosaurs from the latest Jurassic Park movies were real? Well, you're not the only one! It turns out fossil hunters around the world are ... a little prone to inventing their own dinosaurs!

We explore the Piltdown Man and other fossil fakes! Enjoy!

Transcranial Electromagnetic Stimulation!

Have you ever wanted to be just a little bit smarter? To think a little bit more clearly, to remember better, to have a higher IQ? Well it turns out, people are trying a variety of government approved - and home made - techniques to do just that. But they're not consequence free... We explore Transcranial Electromagnetic Stimulation!

The Moral Entrepreneurs of The Momo Hoax!

Earlier this year teenagers around the world began* to receive* sinister text messages... from a half bird half woman half ghoul thing from the depths of despair. The messages instructed* these teenagers to do bad things - to hurt themselves - or the creepy ghoul known as Momo would get them!

But - you know the story listener - it was all bullshit. Just a scary image and a made up moral panic, whipped into shape for clicks by moral entrepreneurs. But there is something interesting here - who falls for these things, and why do they fall for them when they do? We explore!


Human brains are, quite simply, one of the most astounding things in the cosmos. They've written the works of Shakespeare, composed the lyrics to most Tool songs, and put people on the moon!

But they've also got... some terrible loopholes. In particular, there's a bizarre loophole in our brains where we can decide if someone we don't like ... isn't really human. And then, we can do awful things to them (sad face emoji).

Dehumanisation is a terrible process that has lead to many terrible things - the perfect thing for a Wholesome Explore!

Wherefore Art Thou Dinosaur Erotica?

Warning - this episode somewhat less safe for work than normal!

Azog is an underappreciated cavewoman in her tribe. The cavemen treat her like a piece a meat, and disrespect her at every turn. Azog cannot change this unless she proves herself as a hunter.

But when she discovers a clutch of baby velociraptors and decides to kill them and triumphantly bring them back to her tribe, things start to get a little weird...

This episode, we explore the weird world of dinosaur erotica, and the weird world on our side that brought it into being!

(Wherefore means why)

The Paradox of Meritocracy

On first glance, the idea of meritocracy sounds like a pretty sensible way of organising society. Put simply, all the good things - rewards and privileges and crowns and jobs and things - go to the people who work the hardest and are the best at things.

Sound pretty fair?

Well it probably wouldn't surprise you, intelligent listener, if we told you that the world today isn't 100% meritocratic. We still have monarchs after all...

But here's the thing. Not only do we not live in a meritocratic world, the idea of meritocracy itself is bad: the more people believe in it, the worse they become as humans. Ugh!

We explore!

Wandering Teeth!

An adult - if they've been good and brushed their teeth properly and haven't had any removed - can have 32 teeth in their mouth.

That's right, 32 teeth in their mouth...

We say 'in their mouth', because if they've been good and brushed their teeth *and they're lucky* they can have a fair few more in other parts of their body! We explore!

Phantom Itches!

What do you do if you have an itch? You scratch it! Of course you do, you're only human. But what if the itch is on a limb YOU NO LONGER HAVE? How do you scratch that, smarty pants?

We explore the weird (horrible) world of intense, intense itchiness!

Getting to Graham's Number

Numbers, by definition, go on forever. Whatever number you think of, you can always find one bigger - all the way out to infinity.

But have you ever stopped to think about what a really big number is actually like? That there are numbers you can't even write out long form inside this universe?

This episode we explore the march of big numbers, all the way up to Graham's Number!

Check out the Wait But Why post here.

People Who... Drink Their Own Urine!

Ok... to people who don't do it, it's weird and gross and wrong. But to people who do do it, it's basically the golden fountain of youth.

That's right, it's Urophagia, or the weird gross quack medicine that is drinking your own urine!

You may not have ever wanted to know about this practice, but your intrepid explorers at The Wholesome Show have done the hard yards for you today - so sit back, pour yourself a glass of something delicious, and enjoy!

Animals on Trial!

Bartholomew Chassenée, a distinguished French jurist of the sixteenth century, made his reputation at the bar as counsel for some... rats. That's right, he successfully defended some rats in court.

How did he get the rats off? What loophole did he find? These are interesting questions...

But perhaps the more interesting question is why were the rats on trial in the first place?

We explore the weird habit of the Middle Ages of putting animals in court room trials!

The Wholesome Show is Dr Rod Lamberts and Dr Will Grant, proudly brought to you by The Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science!

The 1947 Children's New Illustrated Encyclopedia!

The past - they say - is a different country. They do things differently there...

And the best way to see those differences (and laugh and cry at them) is to flick through old time encyclopaedias. So we sat down with the 1947 Children's New Illustrated Encyclopedia, and explored how the world was explained to children in 1947. Join us to find out!

The Indiana Pi Bill!

The number pi (π) is... rather unwieldy. It starts with a fairly simple '3', but then continues past the decimal place with a collection of basically random digits... Here's the first one hundred or so digits: 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067

Edward J Goodwin didn't like this messiness, so he had an idea: legislate a much simpler definition of pi! Instead of that long collection of numbers, just use 3! (Or 3.2, or 4...)

Well, that was a dumb idea. But we love dumb ideas at The Wholesome Show, so we explored!

Searching For A Truth Serum!

It's been the stock of movies for decades - and dreams for centuries - but do truth serums exist?

Spoiler alert (you already knew this): they don't. But that's not for the lack of trying! We explore the heroes (or villains) of science trying to bring this mythical chemical into being!