podcast cover

The Constant: A History of Getting Things Wrong

Mark Chrisler

Did you know that Europeans used to believe that sheep grew from Mongolian trees? Have you heard about the misbegotten discovery of a new form of water in the 1960s that set off a cold war arms race? Ever seen the gleaming Las Vegas hotel that accidentally shoots heat rays at poolside guests? The Constant is an audio history of getting things wrong. From ancient science to contemporary blunders, we take you on journeys of misadventure and misapprehension, filling your brain with juicy nuggets of the sometimes comical, sometimes tragical and always fascinating ways people mess things up.

open in your podcast player
+4 fans
Best
Newest
Looking for recently uploaded episodes
Three Years of Sundays

Dec 26th, 20170:00

It's difficult to honor the spirit of the season when you're making a show about mistakes, foibles and failures, but we've done our best. This week, the most uplifting story about prime numbers you'll hear all season. Promise.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
You Gotta Fry a Few Eggs

Dec 6th, 20179:22

A preview of things to come: this is our "stress test" mini episode to try to work out all the kinks. Music byLee Rosevere http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/  and Animeistrash

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

In 1926, the quiet, small-town of Kittanning, Pennsylvania was descended upon by a mob of salesmen and hucksters selling solutions to a peculiar problem: a mysterious and inexplicable epidemic of baldness. This week, we look at the weird and wacky history of baldness cures, and the even stranger story of a town in need of them.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Boom Town

Jul 3rd14:00

In 1896 two trains, going full-speed, slammed into one another in the middle of the 2nd largest city in Texas. Just like they were supposed to.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Lord Morton's Mare

May 3rd16:04

A fly bites, a sickness spreads, a horse is born, an idea returns. This week we attempt to correct an oversight.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

Would you like a serious deep-dive into the technical history of cryptocurrency? Too bad. That does sound like something we'd do, but instead we're giving you a political comedy piece by host Mark Chrisler, performed for The Paper Machete, a weekly live magazine out of our hometown, Chicago Illinois. We'll be back next week with more sober examinations of historical ephemera. For this week, give yourself a little break. You've possibly earned it.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

It's Halloween and that means it's time for a spooky one. This week, for the last episode of our Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong) season, we've got a real-life story of ghosts, possession and a weird nexus where superstition meets science. Plus, there's chance for you to force Mark into getting that tattoo from way back in season 1. All it takes is to donate to our Kickstarter fundraiser right here. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong)

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
What The Fork?

Oct 23rd14:40

Forks! A handier, less-controversial item would be difficult to imagine. Yet, for hundreds of years Europeans recoiled from the fork with a hilarious zeal: condemning anyone who used one to jokes, shame and even death. For the third episode of our Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong) season, we're looking at the anti-fork panic that seized a continent for centuries. We're less than two weeks from the end of our fundraiser, so when you're done listening, go take a look here. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong)

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Typis and Errirs

Oct 16th26:13

To honor all the flubs of our first year, we're going down the rabbit hole of the worst typos and mistakes in history. From sacrilegious Bibles to doomed space missions to a certain cartoon Sailor Man and his super-powered vegetable. This is the second episode of our Kickstarter season so be sure to take a look while the lookin's good! (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong)

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Dis-Covered

Oct 9th32:50

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And then... well, that's the question. What exactly did this dude do? And where did the myth of Columbus come from? For the first episode of our new Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong) season, we're finding out. Oh, you wanted to hear more about that 'kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong)'? You can do so right here. (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468920813/the-constant-a-history-of-getting-things-wrong)

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
It's a Gamble

Oct 2nd1:36

Four weeks, four new episodes. Starting Tuesday, October 9th.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

It was a dark and stormy night. A dark and stormy year, really. And it gave birth to a monster, a New Prometheus which descended upon the panicked world, leaving death and destruction in its wake. For this, our season finale, we give you the most frightening and dangerous invention of the 19th century. The bicycle.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Make It Rain

Jul 31st33:44

In the late 19th century, Americans moved into the western states because of one simple phrase. But despite what you learned in junior high, it wasn't "manifest destiny." Today we're talking about the real maxim responsible for westward expansion, a maxim that centered a bizarre bit of pseudo-science that shaped America and then nearly destroyed it.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
The Ox and The Shark

Jul 24th14:17

This week we're back at The Paper Machete for more political comedy, talking about Trump and Russia. Which is probably the last thing you need to hear more about, because the world is a confusing, terrifying morass of impossible contradictions that's only deepened in its horror by the wash cycle of unthinkable news stories. But maybe there's a way to ride that wash cycle! And maybe it comes from looking back at two animals that challenge how we think we know what we know. Or! Maybe it's all just a longwinded setup to a cheap punchline. Only one way to find out!

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Turks, Turks!

Jul 17th26:13

Without accidents, mistakes and foolishness, there would be no military history. Nearly every war ever fought was determined, to some large degree, by someone getting something wrong. Napoleon, Hitler, Robert E. Lee, Hannibal... you name it. So to tell a war story on The Constant, that story would have to be an act of military stupidity orders of magnitude greater than the norm. Luckily for you, this week we have just such a story. And for some reason, we're giving it to you in the style of an old school nintendo game.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Here Be Dragons

Jun 26th23:16

Through nearly all time, humankind believed in leviathans and krakens and mermaids. People didn't give up believing in sea monsters until the turn of the 20th century. Then, in 1925, one washed up on the shores of Santa Cruz.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
The Reflex

Jun 19th28:34

In the 1840's, a mysterious disease was running roughshod through a Viennese hospital, killing new mothers in terrifying numbers. On this, our season 3 premiere, we're looking at one of the greatest medical mysteries of all time, the tragic story of the genius who solved it, and why no one listened to him.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Catchup

Jun 7th1:12

Season 3 begins June 19th. In the meantime, we'll be dropping a couple of these meta-ads. Hope you enjoy. Share, like, subscribe, rate, review and... catchup.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

Did you ever wonder where babies come from? So did all these guys! But only one of them managed to figure it out. This week, for our season finale, the remarkable story of how we came to know the most fundamental and critical of human questions, and all the bumps along the way.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
People This Isle

Apr 10th21:34

Look, out in the sea: it's an earthquake, it's a boat fire, it's a sea monster! It's a tiny, newborn volcanic island! In 1831, a small scrap of land suddenly formed in The Mediterranean. Lifeless, inhospitable, fiery and useless. So, naturally, the world went to war over it. Settle in and listen to the short and ludicrous history of (deep breath) Correo-Hotham-Graham-Ferdinandea-Nerita-Sciacca-Julia.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Everyone Loves a Mystery

Apr 3rd17:58

Today the story of a mysterious grave in the foothills of Appalachia, and the two wannabe detectives that set about deciphering it. This episode is a little different than most. It's a personal story. And we want more of them going forward. To that end, we've setup a hotline you can call to leave YOUR story of getting things wrong. We really want to hear from you. 708-761-0493 Warning: This episode also contains stories of harm to children. If you're not up for that or have sensitive listeners in earshot, please go ahead and skip this one for now.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Do Good Carefully

Mar 27th23:12

Here's something you don't see everyday: parachuting cats. It did happen, though. In the 1950s, The Royal Air Force airdropped parakitties onto the Island of Borneo. Why would they do such a thing? Stick around and find out.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

We give Aristotle a pretty hard time here at The Constant. But we can't hold an Aristotle-hating candle to the guy in this episode. A man whose distaste and distrust for Aristotle is responsible for the birth of the enlightenment, and--maybe--his own demise. It's time you got to know Petrus Ramus.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Ice and Fire and Fury

Mar 13th20:30

It started off as an innocent enough idea: what if the moon was made of ice? But from there it grew. Into an alternative-science, into a grand conspiracy theory and, finally, into one of the greatest evils in history.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Shipwreckless

Feb 27th27:30

In 1867, The Eliza set out to sea with a fresh crew, a full hold and fair weather. Yet no one expected her to ever make land again. This episode we look at why, and why, throughout the 19th century, hundreds of ships sank every year in entirely preventable circumstances. It's a story of high seas adventure, murder for profit and... a London coffee shop? It also happens to bear a more than passing resemblance to the gun debate happening in America today.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Tidbits and Trimmings

Feb 14th10:22

While we work away on season 2, here's a few extra stories related to the content from season 1 that didn't make their way into the episodes. More art hoaxes! More diligent prime number seekers! More birds on The Moon!

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Way to Go, Einstein!

Jan 30th25:28

We could've called this show "Whoopsie!" or "Oops!" or "People Believe The Strangest Things." But instead, we called it "The Constant." On this, the season finale, we finally explain why. That means it's time to fawn about Einstein, and the thing he called "the biggest blunder of his life." It also means it's time for Mark to get a tattoo. Which... Look: let's not talk about it, okay?

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

Throughout time people have twisted the most humdrum of creatures until they were fantastical, bizarre, unbelievable monsters. From a logistically unfeasible hybrid to a self-castrating quarry, we're bringing you a suite of four stupefying animal myths, and then tracing them to their surprisingly humble beginnings. Plus, do you know what's in your vanilla flavoring? Do you want to? Well, listen anyway.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon

This week: a whirlwind history of bad medical practices, worse medical practices and medical practices that--while still pretty awful--looked fantastic by comparison. Western medical history began with a madman who threw himself into a volcano to prove he was a god, and it only went downhill from there. For our story, we look at how one man managed to change 19th century medicine for the better, and how his discovery managed to make 20th century medicine worse.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
We're Still Here

Jan 9th15:29

"Threatening the world with Famine, Plague and War: To Princes, Death! To Kingdoms, many Crosses; To all Estates, inevitable Losses! To Herdsmen, Rot; to Plowmen, hapless Seasons; To Sailors, Storms, To Cities, Civil Treasons!" -John Gadsbury, 1665. This week we get superstitious with comets, the great bearded stars that herald wishes made true. Or else fiery death. One or the other. For millennia mankind was panicked by these heavenly signs, not knowing what they were. And once we did find out what they were... well, then we panicked differently.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Art is Dead

Jan 2nd18:47

You don't know this story. You don't know the killer. You don't know the victims. You don't know the artist and you don't know the artworks. But in 1998 Yugoslavia, a series of mutilated corpses shocked the public, rocked the art world and, maybe, changed politics forever.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
1% Inspiration

Dec 19th, 201710:07

In the 1960's, scientists discovered a new form of water, kicking off millions of dollars of research, Nobel Prize consideration and a new Cold War arms race between the USA and USSR. This episode we investigate the history of the miraculous discovery that almost changed the world, and the unbelievable story of why it didn't.

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon
Why Do Birds Suddenly (Dis)Appear?

Dec 12th, 201717:48

Have you ever wondered where birds go in the winter? Of course not. But throughout history, many people have. On this, the season premiere of The Constant, we dive into some of the incredible explanations people concocted for this seemingly obvious question, and give you the surprising story of how we eventually came to know what we do. https://theconstantpodcast.weebly.com/

echo icon
play iconadd to queue icon