Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KNKX, and hosts Sound Effect. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KNKX moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways to Connect

Credit Gabriel Spitzer

All Things Considered host Ed Ronco and Morning Edition producer Ariel Van Cleave came to learn their respective instruments after things didn't work out with their first choice.

Ed started with the trumpet, but the combination of the smaller mouthpiece and a mouth full of braced turned out to be a painful experience. So he moved to the baritone horn, which had a larger mouthpiece, and never looked back.

Ariel, on the other hand, just had a distaste for her assigned instrument, the trombone, and at the encouragement of her father, she switched to euphonium. 

Credit Kevin Kniestedt

There are still certain parts of our youth that we identify with and often don’t want to let go of. And the number of subcultures out there that people have come to identify with is expansive. For Jillian Venters, there is little question in her mind as to the subculture she identifies with.

“I’m kind of a romantic goth with Victorian goth tinges. I get more Victorian goth as the weather gets cooler. It is really hard to wear velvet frock coats and top hats during high summer.”

Meet A Leader Of The Flat Earth Movement

Nov 18, 2017
Credit Gabriel Spitzer

 

When it comes to scientific arguments nowadays, there’s a good chance sooner or later someone will be compared to people who believe the earth is flat.

Most would consider that an insult, but not Mark Sargent. The Whidbey Island resident spends much of his time promoting the belief that the earth is not round or spherical but actually, definitely flat.

Courtesy of Vanessa Davids

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

Vanessa Davids did most of her military service “inside the wire,” as an Arabic translator on a base in Iraq. Her job called on her to translate audio and video recordings, in hopes of gathering intelligence, foiling attacks and probing enemy action. She translated bomb plots, beheadings, even in some cases child pornography. As a result, she got an intimate, and dark, perspective on human nature.

photolibrarian / Flickr

This story originally aired on February 7, 2015.

In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a state-of-the-art engineering achievement, a dramatic suspension design spanning a strait of Puget Sound. Sure, it had a bit of a "bounce," but the engineers all assured the public that was normal. Only a handful of bridge workers seemed truly alarmed. 

Rosemary Thielman

In April of 1977, five nuns took a week-long vacation to Grayland Beach State Park. Just south of Westport on the Washington coast, this park is known for its rolling sand dunes and expansive beaches where drift logs often wash onto the shores. 

 After spending the week cooped up in a camping trailer, the sisters took one last walk when the sun finally came out. That’s where this story begins. In a matter of seconds, water flooded the coastline and with little time to react, two sisters were overtaken by the ocean’s strong currents and flung into the air.

TK

Jason Detwiler is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington, and he’s on the hunt for a natural phenomenon that is insanely rare.

It's a specific reaction called neutrinoless double-beta decay -- a term so egg-headed that when he sat down to explain it to Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer, Gabriel made him give it a nickname: the “jelly doughnut.” (Perhaps Gabriel was hungry.)

There’s a good payoff for this hunt -- if Detwiler does find a "jelly doughnut," it may explain why the universe exists.

Courtesy of Arik Cohen

Arik Cohen’s grandparents survived the Holocaust, all four of them.

The likelihood of that happening is astronomical -- and he has the calculations to prove it.

A self-professed geek, Cohen began looking at the history of his family to figure out the statistical odds of each person surviving and contributing to a grandson: himself.

Cohen’s crunching of the numbers also allowed him to look closer at four individual tales of survival against the odds.

Credit Gabriel Spitzer

The population of Concrete, Washington in 1938 was about 1,000 people. But one October evening that year, while a famous radio broadcast was frightening a good portion of the population across the country, things in Concrete got even stranger.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Near the coast of Washington state, on the banks of the Copalis River, lies a ghost forest -- a stand of gray, dead trees in the middle of a healthy forest.

How did it get there?

Could the key lie in another mystery, a mysterious tsunami recorded by samurai in 18th-century Japan? 

Linking these seemingly unconnected phenomena became a goal for ambitious scientists using everything at their disposal, from computer models to chainsaws.

Courtesy of Rachel Kessler

Seattle Writer Rachel Kessler started this discussion by reading a passage from an essay she wrote  that was recently anthologized in a book Ghosts of Seattle Past.

Andrea Morales / S-Town


It all started with an email with the subject line, “John B. McLemore lives in (expletive) Town Alabama.” For reporter Brian Reed, it was a gateway into the long and twisting saga that would become S-Town.

Courtesy Draze

In some parts of the world, music isn’t a hobby or even just a form of art -- it’s the stuff that connects the culture. And that’s the environment musician Dumisani Maraire Jr. was raised in.

“I like to say in our family, it’s not like ‘are you going to perform?’ You just are going to perform. Literally, it’s just a part of who we are and what we do,” said Maraire.

Credit Melissa Bird

 

Andre Sanabria discovered at 21 he had a deadly disease, and the only cure was a double-lung transplant.

But that did not stop him from making music. In fact, he says music is what was keeping him alive.

Fearing the risks of an operation, and facing his declining health, he instead focused his time and energy on composing, performing and touring even when he could barely hold a guitar. And this was not quiet music, but metal-tinged hardcore punk. And Sanabria would sometimes sing (or scream) vocals.

The Helix

In 1968, in the town of Duvall, Washington, a piano was dropped from a helicopter in front of about 3,000 people.

One of the few people who can explain how and, more importantly, why something like this happened is Paul Dorpat.

The founder and editor of the Seattle counter-culture magazine Helix, Dorpat was one of the people that helped pull off an event that even he calls absurd.

Jennifer Wing / KNKX

 

It’s hard to imagine a time when karaoke did not exist in the Northwest. Today, any night of the week, you can go out with friends and find some place where you can belt out your favorite tunes in front of a crowd.

 

But, everything has a beginning. Things have to start somewhere, right? For American style karaoke in the Northwest, it was at Bush Garden in Seattle’s International District.

 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

This story originally aired on April 2, 2016. 

It’s a reality of life on the Pacific Coast — occasionally, dead whales wash up on the beach. So when a deceased gray whale appeared in the surf in Long Beach, Wash., the city fathers took steps to bury it in the sand.

Courtesy Caprice Hollins

So, there’s this online test. The faces of people of different races flash up on your screen along with words, like good, bad, sweet and bitter. And you have to immediately click on one of the words when you see the face. It tests our implicit racial biases in a way that’s really hard to fool.

The results can be enlightening. Or horrifying, because it turns out almost all of us have implicit bias.

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia

Washington State is, of course, named after founding father George Washington. But there’s another George Washington, also a founding father, who settled in a little corner of the territory with his wife Mary Jane nearly 150 years ago. There he founded a town called Centerville, later changed to Centralia.

What makes Washington an unusual pioneer-type is that he was African-American, born in Virginia to a white woman and a black slave.

Credit NIAID/Flickr

Seattle Attorney Bill Marler is often thought of as a bug…an agitator…an annoyance to the beef and poultry industries, and even the companies that grow leafy greens. He’s the guy you call if you are unfortunate enough to fall victim to E. coli, salmonella, listeria, or any other bacteria that somehow works its way into mass food production and into your stomach.

E. Coli entered everyday lexicon when three people died and hundreds of others were sickened after eating Jack In The Box hamburgers back in 1993. One of the epicenters of the outbreak was here, in Washington State.

Worldoflucky / Wikimedia Commons

    On June 10, 1999, Bellingham residents began reporting the strong smell of gasoline. Then, within minutes, 911 operators were flooded with reports of a massive explosion.  A fuel pipeline had burst, dumping nearly 300,000 gallons of gasoline into nearby creeks.  

And then it ignited.  

Black smoke rose 30,000 feet in the air and flames shot out for over a mile. It’s considered a miracle there were only three deaths.  

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

There’s Ms Nimbus, Queen of the Air, and Drake, King of the High Dive. There’s the high-wire artistry of the fabulous Dmitry and Annette.

And then, of course, there’s Marcel, the world’s only “mime flea.”

These are just a few of the cast members of a unique Seattle attraction: Professor Payne’s Phantasmagorical Flea Circus.

Courtesy of Graham Owen / Film Flies

When Hollywood needs a housefly, they call Graham Owen. The head of the company Film Flies is a specialist when it comes to creating fake insects (and spiders and centipedes) used in movies, print ads and commercials. 

 

Owen has watched his creations appear in a Spider-Man movie, alight on the lip of Adam Sandler and even the star in a Breaking Bad episode. Each bug is meticulously recreated, leading to specimens so realistic that they have fooled real bugs into trying to mate with them.  

Courtesy Gracelynn Shibayama

College is really expensive. People take out loans, they work a million odd jobs, and if you’re lucky, you have parents who set up a college fund. When Gracelynn Shibayama was 17 years old, she had a college fund. But then, she got an email from her parents.    

“We had to use your college fund to pay for Calvin’s rehab. So, at that point it was like, Oh, this is getting really serious and if I want to go to college, and I thought that was going to be there, I’m going to have to start thinking about it now,” says Gracelynn.

Courtesy of Wil Miller

In the late 1990s, WIl MIller was working as a King County prosecutor in Seattle. And for the first time, he was exploring the gay nightlife. Spending his evenings in the city’s gay bars introduced him to his future lover and, through him, to crystal meth.

“If you're a gay man in the 90s and you're a little overweight and you’re a little self-conscious, it really seemed to solve all of my problems,” Miller said. “It played into every one of my weaknesses.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Last June, Ana Ramirez headed to a meeting of the Western Washington University student government. She had just been elected as Vice President for Governmental Affairs and, as it turned out, the meeting was about her.

Ramirez, now a 19-year-old sophomore, is an undocumented immigrant, brought into the United States from Mexico when she was six months old. She had just learned from university administrators that she wouldn’t be allowed to assume the position she had campaigned for and won.

And sure enough, when she arrived at that meeting, she was told to leave.

Courtesy of Michael Henrichsen

Michael ​Henrichsen’s parents met at a Duran Duran concert. He’s named after the lead singer of INXS. He practically has 1980s and 90s pop music in his DNA. So maybe it’s no surprise that, after hearing a Debbie Gibson song in a piano bar, the 30-year old Henrichsen got a little obsessed.

Credit Chris Cozzone

Tricia Arcaro Turton’s career started with a big fat “no.” She says she was never one to be discouraged just because someone tells her she can’t do something. And at a young age, she was told that she couldn’t be a 

boxer. She decided to write off the sport all together.

But later in life she would undergo grueling training, and eventually became a professional boxer. This, of course, came after she played elite rugby on the United States national team. She’d rack up 8 wins and 4 losses as a boxer before retiring in 2005, and now she has her own gym.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

 

When Meg Martin first moved to Olympia, Washington from Montana in 2007, she was recovering from a drug addiction and looking to start a new life. In Olympia, she threw herself into outreach work. She volunteered for a program that uses bicycles to deliver clean needles to people on the street who use injection drugs.

 

Night after night, she’d encounter people who were homeless. Because these men and women were actively using drugs, they were not eligible to stay in area shelters.

 

Courtesy Daniel Brown

For many in the Seattle area, Royal Brougham might be little more than a regal sounding street near Safeco Field. But Royal Brougham was actually one of the longest tenured reporters in U.S. newspaper history, working 68 years, primarily as a sports columnist and editor, for the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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