The First High Five?

If you’re a fan of podcasts or radio or fun people talking, you’re hopefully already listening to Radiolab. The WNYC show covers science and cultural stuff with as much (or more) creativity and pure genius as the the subjects of their stories. You don’t have to trust my word on the genius part; one of the hosts, Jad Abumrad, won a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant that gives $500,000 to individuals to keep doing their thing.

(All things considered, I’m probably not allowed to confer “genius” status on anyone. My credentials aren’t at the point where I can credibly recognize genius. I think I’m right around the point where I can grant someone the title of “one smart cookie” and no one will call me on it.)

For all you non-listeners, draw your attention to their latest episode, “Patient Zero”. As the title suggests, Abumrad and co-host Robert Krulwich delve into different stories about patient zeroes: of AIDS, of a typhoid outbreak, even of the high five.

It turns out, finding a patient zero for the high five is tough. There are a lot of candidates for the position. My personal theory: when something is as primal and good-feeling as the high five, people will gravitate towards it. It’s in our genetic code to high five. We can’t deny it.

I’m guessing Glenn Burke would be on the same wavelength. Some cite the former baseball player as the first, after he high-fived one of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates. A guest on this episode quotes Burke as saying, “Yeah, think about that feeling you get when you give someone the high five. I had that feeling before everybody else did.”

Listening to the high five segment is advised. Listening to the rest of this and all other Radiolab episodes is downright necessary.

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.