The walls are closing in, you’ve got no way out… and then, suddenly, you escape! This hour, stories about traps, getaways, perpetual cycles, and staggering breakthroughs.
The Great Escape Artist: Christopher Daniel Gay has broken out of jail more times than anyone else alive. He is the stuff of country songs and film rights. Reporter Ben Montgomery learned about him after Chris’s most notorious getaway; he had fled prison and stolen a tractor trailer so he could visit his dying mother. (Oh and somewhere in there he also made off with Crystal Gayle’s tour bus.) Running had become a way of life for Chris, and that big stunt made him into a folk hero—an underdog with seemingly good intentions, always one step ahead of the law. But the story behind the myth is more complicated. Producer Pat Walters joins Ben to unravel Chris’s past. They ask him, and those closest to him, why he keeps on running, and whether he can ever stop.
Is There an Edge to the Heavens? Edward Dolnick tells an escape story involving God, humanity, and a huge rewrite of cosmic laws. It began in 1665. A plague hit Cambridge University. All of the students were sent home. One of them is a twenty-something Isaac Newton, who spent his forced summer vacation solving “the problem of the moon” and explaining why that heavenly rock will never be free. Sucks for the moon. But Newton’s mental leap ultimately lead to humanity leaving the confines of planet Earth. And as producer Lynn Levy explains, we’re about to reach yet another new frontier. The Voyager probe (which we talked about in our Space episode) is about to become the first human-made object to leave the solar system. And the information it’s been sending us along the way has upended what we thought we knew about our little corner of the universe. Merav Opher is an astronomy professor at BU and a Voyager guest investigator. Ann Druyan is one of the creators of the 1977 Golden Album traveling on the Voyager probe. Together they describe how Voyager continues to surprise us.
Long Distance: In the mid-1950’s, a blind seven-year-old boy named Joe Engressia Jr. made a discovery that changed his own life and many others. While idly dialing information on the family telephone, he heard a high-pitched tone in the background and started whistling along with it. Slowly, he learned to recognize all kinds of tones, pulses, clicks and beeps that the phone system used to talk to itself. And when he got good at decoding those sounds, he became the grandaddy of a whole movement of like-minded obsessives known as “phone phreaks.” Phreaking-historian Phil Lapsley explains how Joe and his phreak-brothers explored the hidden arteries of Ma Bell. And Joe’s friend Steven Gibb helps us understand how telephony was the key to Joe’s great escape—out of the adult world and into an idyllic childhood he never had, complete with a new name.