Robot or Not?
Jason Snell asks John Siracusa to rule on the meaning of various words and concepts. It’s not just about robots anymore.
Have a question for John? Email email@example.com.
March 20, 2023
Sometimes they’re wicked, sometimes not. Can an adult call a parent’s new wife a stepmom? Bonus: Can you be too old to be an orphan?
March 6, 2023
Listener Chris clues us into an important ice safety campaign.
February 20, 2023
Shoes, socks, sandals, boots. Footwear is complicated.
February 6, 2023
What makes a university? Is it the buildings, or the people, or the big hole you throw money into?
January 23, 2023
252 Friend of the Show
Listener Rob and Listener Reiner, who are not Director Rob Reiner, want to know if they are Friends of the Show.
January 9, 2023
251 Happy New Year
Are we too late to say it?
December 26, 2022
250 Roomba Update
Some deeper questions about whether certain Roomba behavior makes it more or less of a robot.
December 12, 2022
249 Blaine the Mono
Blaine is a pain, and that is the truth.
November 28, 2022
248 The Follow-Up Episode
For the very first time, we do some housekeeping about holes, Russian robots, salad, genocide, Voltron, and available sales leads.
November 14, 2022
Is garlic a vegetable, an herb, a spice, or what?
October 31, 2022
246 Undead Zombie Spider Robots
October 17, 2022
If you’re a werewolf, are you a werewolf all the time?
October 3, 2022
244 House or Boat?
It’s a house, but it floats.
September 19, 2022
243 Wheels and Doors
Sometimes, everyone on the Internet wants John’s opinion.
September 5, 2022
242 A Group of Robots
When robots flock together naturally, will humans give them a name? Or will we be too busy dying?
August 22, 2022
Many robots, one robot, or no robots?
August 8, 2022
240 Holes in a Straw
Topology can be tricky.
July 25, 2022
It’s a big thing in the middle of nowhere. Does it need to be a rock to be a monolith?
July 11, 2022
238 Electronic vs. Electric
When is something electronic, and when is it electric?
June 27, 2022
Is that just a really short acting part, or is it only a cameo?
June 13, 2022
236 Stay-at-Home Moms
We salute all Moms, no matter their classification.
May 30, 2022
235 Robot Loathing
Listener/Professor Lisa can handle conceptual analysis on her own, but she does wonder why campus delivery robots make her so angry. (It wasn’t just because they’re Russian.)
May 16, 2022
234 Pasta Draft
A bunch of baseball writers drafted pastas. John has thoughts.
May 2, 2022
233 Magnetic Slime
Does texture matter when it comes to robots?
April 18, 2022
Paul Atreides and the Fremen sure look cool, but won’t they die of hyperthermia in those suits?
(Incomparable Members will find a special bonus episode of Robot or Not in the First Class feed today. Become a member for lots of goodies!)
April 4, 2022
231 CAPTCHAs of South African “robots”
Select all ROBOT RELATED PODCASTS.
If there are none, click Stop.
March 21, 2022
John has one, but also doesn’t have one. Mary married some merry carrots.
March 7, 2022
Listener Ashley wants to know about the true meaning of friendship.
February 21, 2022
Why do Americans crowd out the rest of two continents from the namespace? John thinks it’s about imperialism; Jason thinks it’s because our country has no proper name.
February 7, 2022
227 Semi-Homemade Cooking with John Siracusa
Listener Scott wants to know what “homemade” cooking is. Jason made this episode from scratch. (But the theme song was store-bought.)
January 24, 2022
226 Email, and Preparing the Way (for Roombas)
Jason starts to ask John a question, but everything gets derailed.
January 10, 2022
What makes a car a car, and not a truck, or an SUV, or a crossover?
December 27, 2021
224 Next Wednesday
When is Next Wednesday? Is it Wednesday? Or the Wednesday after that?
December 13, 2021
What makes something money? Is gold money? Is Bitcoin?
November 29, 2021
Do Sundays start the week, or end it? When does the week end, and is that the weekend?
November 15, 2021
What’s cooking? Is making tea cooking? John’s answers may surprise you. They certainly surprised Jason.
November 1, 2021
The proper way to eat popcorn. 🍿
October 18, 2021
Listeners Jono and Chris, and friend Tony Sindelar, have questions about what John defines as ‘camping.’ Suffering is surprisingly part of the calculation.
October 4, 2021
Listener Beth seeks enlightenment about what makes something a photo.
September 20, 2021
217 Floating Bridge
Listener Isaac wants us to judge if a certain “floating bridge” is actually a ferry. This leads, of course, to a discussion of infinite bridges and whether a fairy is a ferry in California.
September 7, 2021
216 Grocery Robot Swarm
If robots at a grocery-store warehouse works in tandem, are they robots? If they have a hive mind, are they still robots?
August 16, 2021
215 A Criterion of Data
Singular or plural?
August 2, 2021
214 Religious or Spiritual
When you see an org chart and money changes hands, your spirituality has become something else.
July 19, 2021
213 Daylight Saving Time
Should we really spring forward and fall back?
July 5, 2021
When do you run the dishwasher? Do you rinse the dishes first? And wouldn’t it be nice if our dishwashers were robots?
June 21, 2021
211 Rules for Watching TV
Do you always start watching at the beginning? And do you have to watch till the end?
June 7, 2021
210 Burrito, Part 2 (Qdoba v. Panera)
The strange case of the burrito sandwich.
May 24, 2021
209 Dog-Shaped Dogs
What is the shape of a dog?
May 10, 2021
208 Self-Driving Cars, Part 2
Tim Cook thinks that self-driving cars are robots. Does John want to revisit his opinion?
April 27, 2021
207 Pandemic Changes (or not)
Has the pandemic made John reconsider some of his previous rulings? (One guess.)
April 5, 2021
Not all pickles are pickles, and not all relish is pickle relish.
March 22, 2021
205 Pots and Pans
What divides pots from pans?
March 8, 2021
204 Peanut Butter
Chances are pretty good that the peanut butter you eat is terrible.
February 22, 2021
203 Bagel Update
A very unfortunate bagel on either side of the Atlantic.
February 8, 2021
Is a book a bound, printed collection of pages, or is it something more?
January 25, 2021
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the robot, happy stuff: When does the apocalypse start, and when do we reach post-apocalyptic times?
January 11, 2021
200 Microscopic “Robots”
We celebrate our 200th episode by going back to where it all started—news about whether something is a robot or not. Also, we may have inadvertently started a religion. (Congratulations, Listener Eric!)
December 24, 2020 Christmas tree death
199 Christmas Special
In the spirit of the season, we discuss when a Christmas tree is dead. (Thanks to Listener Darran.)
December 14, 2020
Fizzy water. Is it soda, or pop, or a soft drink, or something else?
(Incomparable members also get a bonus episode about Coca-Cola and cocaine, also released today.)
November 30, 2020
When are we indoors and when are we outdoors? And where do tents fit in?
November 16, 2020
Is a GIF a video?
(Incomparable members also get a bonus episode about movie studio logos, released today.)
November 2, 2020
When is a child no longer a child?
October 19, 2020
When the definition escapes its antecedent.
October 5, 2020
When is it a puppet, and when is it just someone in a suit? And what does this mean for the future of Gritty?
September 21, 2020
192 Backup Brain
If we clone your body and transfer your memories to it, is it you?
September 7, 2020
The universe is Candy Land.
August 24, 2020
You can use this podcast as a pillow, if you like, but it’s still not a pillow.
August 10, 2020
189 What We’re Owed
When a book series hasn’t completed, what does the author owe us?
July 27, 2020
Beginning in this episode, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto will be portraying John and Jason. Or not.
July 13, 2020
187 The Cloud
Is The Cloud just Other People’s Computers? Watch out for Cloud Men!
June 29, 2020
Most people aren’t eating light bulbs.
June 15, 2020
Listener James sends us a special message from beneath his blanket.
June 1, 2020
184 Indie Developer
What’s an Indie Developer, and is John one now? What does it mean to be “indie?”
May 18, 2020
183 Slots and Ports
Is a port a slot? PCMCIA cards have slots, but USB devices have ports. Either way, Jason has to make amends.
May 4, 2020
182 Working From Home
Whatever this is called, a lot of us are doing it these days.
April 20, 2020
My other car is also a camera.
April 6, 2020
Tabs or spaces?
March 23, 2020
179 Grocery Store
But what if they also sell shampoo there?
March 9, 2020
Morning has broken, like the first… morning?
February 24, 2020
177 Walking Distance
It’s within walking distance. How far is that?
February 10, 2020
176 Swipe Right
Where does your finger go when you “swipe right”?
January 27, 2020
When is it stubble and when is it more?
January 13, 2020
It’s fundamental, yes. But is it something you can do with your ears?
December 30, 2019
When is a body of water a river?
December 16, 2019
172 Soup, Part II
Is soup a drink? What separates liquids from food?
December 2, 2019
From dish to plate to bowl.
November 18, 2019
Does it all come down to the U.S. Postal Service?
November 4, 2019
And do sliders have to slide?
October 21, 2019
168 Augmented Reality
An Accidental AR podcast.
October 7, 2019
167 Pet Names
Can we differentiate between how people name pets and how they name children? Listeners Rover and Whiskers, drop us a line.
September 23, 2019
166 Smart Devices
Where do we draw the line between a regular device and a “smart” device?
September 9, 2019
When does a meal turn into leftovers?
August 26, 2019
164 Cover Version
Listener Luke sent in this week’s theme song. Is it a cover version of our canonical theme song? When is a new version of a song not a cover?
August 14, 2019
What constitutes family? Blood relatives only? Are friends family? Are co-workers family? Can you escape your family?
July 29, 2019
What about when they’re ajar?
July 15, 2019
Select all the STOREFRONTS to prove that you’re a human.
July 1, 2019
By popular demand, John has done his research—or maybe not?—and is here to break down what is bacon and what is an impostor.
June 11, 2019
159 Campus Delivery Robots
Prompted by a note from Listener Zach, we discuss the trend of “autonomous food delivery vehicles” on college campuses.
June 3, 2019
The entire conversation is pants. (The Brits will get that.)
May 20, 2019
157 Board Games
How much board is required?
May 6, 2019
156 Combination Restaurants
We’ll see you at the Carl’s Jr./Green Burrito/KFC/Taco Bell.
April 15, 2019
155 TV and Movies
When is it a TV show and when is it a movie? It’s confusing.
April 1, 2019
154 American Food
It all goes back to Mesopotamia.
March 18, 2019
153 Live Action
If the new “Lion King” film features CGI animals talking with other CGI animals, is it a “live-action” movie or just a different kind of animation? What about a movie like “Avengers: Infinity War”?
March 4, 2019
Legal news: Is Almond Milk milk?
February 18, 2019
151 “Chick Flick”
What is a “Chick Flick”? Let’s start off by taking apart the term itself.
February 4, 2019
150 Marty the Supermarket Robot
In a rare topical episode, John and Jason discuss Marty, the tall, googly-eyed robot that may soon be roaming the aisles of a supermarket near you. Does Marty meet the Roomba test? Are the googly eyes fooling anyone?
January 21, 2019
149 Simulated Universe
Is this real or are we in a video game? How can we tell the true nature of the universe?
January 7, 2019
Do hackers do good, or bad, or both?
December 24, 2018
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Merry Christmas, everybody!
December 10, 2018
Choosy mothers pronounce it differently.
November 26, 2018
Where spreadsheets and databases collide.
November 12, 2018
“You haven’t done soup yet, have you?”
October 29, 2018
Smartphones, dumb phones, feature phones, and computers in your pocket.
October 15, 2018
Slot toasters, toaster ovens, and the definitions thereof.
October 1, 2018
What makes something a podcast? OMG, are we one?!
September 17, 2018
Bread is bread, but what about hot dog buns, bagels, tortillas, and pitas?
September 3, 2018
139 Planets, and also Pluto
John is given the opportunity to endorse or reject the rulings of the International Astronomical Union.
August 20, 2018
138 Job Security
John’s worked (and left) a lot of jobs. What’s his personal philosophy about job security versus going it alone as an independent?
August 6, 2018
137 Nerds and Geeks
The subtle and vexing difference between a nerd and a geek.
July 23, 2018
What is computer programming? And what doesn’t qualify?
July 9, 2018
135 Reality TV
When is a game show a game show, and when is it reality television? Also, we reveal our favorite reality TV show.
June 25, 2018
134 Personal Computers
Is a Mac a PC? Is an iPad a computer? Does John favor a broad definition or a narrow one?
June 11, 2018 Pasta existentialism
What makes pasta pasta?
May 28, 2018 Endless mildness?
The conundrum of seasons versus eternally pleasant weather.
May 14, 2018 What about a bacon donut?
131 Savory Donuts
Bagels are not donuts, people.
April 30, 2018 It’s all unraveling
Listener Ed, we’ve got bad news.
April 16, 2018 Do chickens count?
What makes an animal a pet?
April 2, 2018 What are the boundaries?
128 The Midwest
Did both of Jason’s parents both come from the Midwest, or only one? What are the true boundaries of America’s heartland?
March 19, 2018 Canonical flavors
127 Potato Chips
From Sour Cream & Onion to BBQ, what are the “real” potato chip flavors?
March 5, 2018 And what about Staycations?
If you don’t go anywhere, is it a vacation? What if you go somewhere, but you don’t relax?
February 19, 2018 Not a pie
Is cheesecake cheese, cake, pie, tart, or none of the above? Does the angle of the pan matter? Does crust content matter? Do any of us matter, really?
February 7, 2018 Ethical problems
124 The Trolley Problem
As recently highlighted on “The Good Place”, it’s a classic ethical conundum that John wants absolutely no part of. And what if the trolley drives itself?
January 22, 2018 Not a woman.
123 Janet from “The Good Place”
Never believe what a robot tells you.
January 8, 2018 Woof!
122 Night (bark) Joggers (bark)
A dog interlude.
December 25, 2017 Ho, ho, ho
121 Holidays and Holiday Movies
What makes a movie a holiday movie? How do they celebrate winter holidays in warm climates? Merry Christmas to all, especially in Australia!
December 11, 2017 This is the big one
Okay, time to call it. Time of death— wait, wait, everybody hold on. How do we define death?
November 27, 2017 It’s made of Life Stuff
How can we call something alive?
November 13, 2017 There’s only one R in Sherbet
118 Ice Cream
It would seem like ice cream versus frozen yogurt would be the main debate. But the pronunciation of a third competitor completely derails us.
October 31, 2017 Meal times and sleep times
We discuss the names of meals and when they happen, and make an interesting(?) digression into human sleep cycles.
October 16, 2017 Fruit Salad? Yummy yummy.
From leafy greens to sugary Jell-O concoctions, all sorts of things are called salads.
October 2, 2017 BBQ
Continuing our confused series of episodes about food-related topics, it’s time for John and Jason to talk about Jason’s favorite food style and what happens when you put food on a grill.
September 18, 2017 Will it blend?
If everything can be a smoothie, then nothing is. So we try to define what makes a smoothie and acts as a bulwark against the milkshake.
September 4, 2017 But is it art?
I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.
August 21, 2017 Two blind men describe an elephant.
We don’t know quite what an old-fashioned donut is, but we know what we like… and what we don’t.
August 7, 2017 When is a machine truly intelligent?
111 Artificial Intelligence
What makes machine intelligence “real AI”? And what is the difference between strong and weak AI?
July 24, 2017 What defines Anime?
110 Anime and Kaiju
The very definition of video entertainment from Japan.
July 10, 2017 Baseball? Is not sport, is game.
What makes something a sport, and not an exercise or a game?
June 26, 2017 Ketchup or Peanut Butter?
108 Condiments and Favorite Foods
Exploring Jason’s favorite food, what a “favorite food” even is, and the hazy dividing line between condiments and other edibles.
June 12, 2017 Sci-Fi or Fantasy?
107 Science Fiction
What’s science fiction? And more importantly, is Star Wars science fiction, fantasy, or something else?
May 29, 2017 Microchips. Not potato chips.
106 Computer Chips
Is everything a computer chip? Is nothing a computer chip? Jason thinks this is gonna be good. John thinks it’s obvious.
May 15, 2017 Bialys!
105 Canonical Bagel Flavors
What is the canon of bagels? Why are some ingredients allowed in an Everything Bagel but not any other bagel style? What makes raisins an acceptable ingredient, yet bars blueberries? Mr. Siracusa, native of the great state of New York, educates Mr. Snell, one of those California hippie types, about what a real bagel is.
May 2, 2017 Canonical pizza toppings
104 Pizza Toppings
What toppings are allowed on pizza? And what about using a knife and fork to eat pizza? There are many rules.
April 17, 2017 You have left Pizza Country.
John weighs in on what makes something a pizza, including the horror of the Turkey Dinner Pizza.
April 3, 2017 What is a sandwich?
Exploring what makes a sandwich, while also discussing the history of food, sandwiches as satire, and the difference between llamas and camels.
March 20, 2017 How super is my villain?
John helps Jason figure out the precise moment when a villain becomes a supervillain.
March 6, 2017 At long last… the end?
100 The Robot
Your hosts return to where it all began and then prepare to set out for new horizons.
(Robot or Not will return in two weeks with a new series of episodes.)
February 27, 2017 John Siracusa and Jason Snell themselves.
99 Your Hosts
Are John and Jason robots? All will be revealed!
February 20, 2017 Us
98 Human Beings
Could it be? Are we all robots?
February 13, 2017 Fill in the blank.
What does a robot do when it gets to a web page with a checkbox that says “I’m not a robot”?
February 6, 2017 Gatekeeper droid or door?
96 The Gate at Jabba’s Palace
The gate at Jabba’s palace in “Return of the Jedi” talks to droids, or has something inside it that talks to droids. So is it a robot?
January 30, 2017 Roomba of the Sea?
95 Autonomous Sailboats
They roam the ocean, scanning for important data and relaying their information home. There are no humans on board. Are these lonely sea voyagers robots?
January 23, 2017 A monster from the Dark Tower
The robotic guardian of the Beams. He looks like a bear but has a satellite dish on his head. He’s a thousand years old.
January 16, 2017 Nintendo’s Robotic Operating Buddy
93 Nintendo R.O.B.
Game controller, robot, or total embarrassment?
January 9, 2017 Robutt or not?
ˈrōˌbät or rōbət?
January 2, 2017 iPhone, Unadorned
91 Naked Robotic Core
An unadorned iPhone can be a Naked Robotic Core, but is it a robot?
December 26, 2016 John loves him.
Look who was under the tree! It’s a giant mechanical monster!
December 19, 2016 They fight!
Among the fiercest creatures in the machine kingdom are the Battlebots. They’re designed for fighting! But are they really robots, or is that just a clever marketing name?
December 12, 2016 Educational toys or robots?
88 School Babies and CPR Dummies
High school students carry them around and learn what it’s like to be a parent. Or you learn how to revive them by pressing their chest and breathing into their mouths. But are these learning tools also educational robots?
December 5, 2016 Does it follow Asimov’s laws?
87 K5 Mall Robot
It patrols the mall. Sometimes it knocks over small children.
November 28, 2016 It’s in the brain!
86 The Hosts of “Westworld”
The HBO series “Westworld” makes us contemplate whether its central characters, the Hosts, are robots or not. (We recorded this episode after the first seven episodes of season one had aired; forgive us if it was revealed later that “To Serve Man” was actually a cookbook.)
November 21, 2016 Robin Williams, Isaac Asimov, and Grobycs!
85 The Bicentennial Man
A robot slowly turns himself human. When does he stop being a robot?
November 14, 2016 Do metal men dream of robot sheep?
84 Metal Mario
Sometimes Mario is metallic. Does that make him a robot?
November 7, 2016 They have paddles.
They are boats with paddles. What else are they?
October 31, 2016 You will be assimilated.
82 The Borg
Straight out of “Star Trek” come these technological villains. Also, we discuss larger issues including AIs and hive minds.
October 24, 2016 Nothing outlasts the Energizer
81 The Energizer Bunny
It just keeps going, and going, and going….
October 17, 2016 They’re adorable…
80 Tachikoma and Fuchikoma
Little cute robots from “Ghost in the Shell.”
October 10, 2016 Robots (or not) in space!
Self-guided rockets and drone barges.
October 3, 2016 Sandwich or Not, part 2
78 Hot Dogs
They’re sure tasty, and it’s meat between bread, but are hot dogs sandwiches?
September 26, 2016 DJs or not?
77 Daft Punk
They sure look like robots. But who’s under the masks?
September 19, 2016 How do you like our owl?
76 Animals in “Blade Runner”
The owl and the snake from “Blade Runner” raise some interesting questions.
September 12, 2016
A little metal owl from “Clash of the Titans.” Crafted by the gods, can he possibly be a robot?
September 5, 2016 She’s a real woman, Jim.
The robot from “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, plus a long digression into Star Trek androids.
August 29, 2016 Synonym or not?
Is all animation “cartoons”?
August 22, 2016 Two animation robots.
72 Robots from “Castle in the Sky” and “The Iron Giant”
Two beloved metal creatures from animation.
August 15, 2016 RoboCop
That “Robo” prefix is sure interesting, and he’s probably a cop, but…
August 8, 2016 So many robots.
70 The Robots of “Futurama”
Bender, Calculon, and Hedonismbot.
August 1, 2016 Lightcycles are cool.
He fights for the users inside a computer. Can software people be robots?
July 25, 2016 Oh, Canada!
A fancy “robot arm” from Canada. But when is a robot arm just an arm, and when is it a robot?
July 18, 2016 Timely episode!
67 Silicone Stingray
Part animal, part machine. But is it a robot?
July 11, 2016 Listener David, thanks
66 Traffic lights in South Africa
Please obey robot.
July 4, 2016 Tennis or not?
65 Serena Williams
It’s Wimbledon time, and so our discussion turns to tennis, and Serena Williams—who is not a robot, despite her perhaps wishing she was.
June 27, 2016 R.U.R.
64 Rossum’s Universal Robots
Karel Capek’s play that made this podcast possible.
June 20, 2016 Charles E. Cheese Esquire
63 Animatronic Creatures
The Country Bears, Chuck E. Cheese, and the things from Five Nights at Freddy’s.
June 18, 2016 Our first live episode
62b Filesystems and Flowerpot Robots
Live from RelayCon WWDC 2016, it’s a special live edition of Robot or Not.
June 13, 2016 Cough, cough
62 General Grievous
He’s a droid with a cough. So what’s the deal?
June 6, 2016 Yes, we said elevators
They go up, they go down. They might even go sideways from time to time. And they can be smart. But are they robots?
May 30, 2016 What if penny met a dinosaur?
60 Inspector Gadget
Go go Gadget! Also we get off on a tangent about Penny, inspired by The Flop House.
May 23, 2016 Hologram or not
59 The Doctor from “Star Trek: Voyager”
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Can a hologram be a robot?
May 16, 2016
From the AMC TV series “Humans,” the lifelike Synths look like humans but don’t act like it. And they bleed a funny color.
May 9, 2016 “Big Hero 6”
He’s an inflatable, medical robot from “Big Hero 6”—but can you back up your personality and still be a robot?
May 2, 2016 You know, that robot
56 The Incomparable’s Logo
Our own robot (or not) is in the spotlight at last.
April 25, 2016 You know, from “The Wizard of Oz”
55 The Tin Woodman
If he only had a heart.
April 18, 2016 “Terminator 2”
It’s made of liquid metal.
April 11, 2016 Feed me, or I die!
Is it even a game? What if you had a video game that featured a robot?
April 4, 2016 “Destiny”
52 The Robots of “Destiny”
From Bungie’s bestselling video game, Ghosts, Exos, Rasputin, and other things that might be robots.
March 28, 2016
51 Lego Simulated Worm Toy
A software model of a flatworm, piloting a Lego Mindstorms toy.
March 21, 2016 Hello, Mr. Anderson.
50 The Matrix
Agents and Oracles and Architects from the “Matrix” trilogy.
March 14, 2016 In IRC, on AOL, and elsewhere
They listen to us and talk back. But is that enough?
March 7, 2016 “Blade Runner”
Roy Batty, Pris, and all the rest. They’ve seen the Tannhauser Gate, but are they robots?
February 29, 2016 Confusion and delay in Sodor
47 Thomas and Friends
Living rail cars in Sodor.
February 22, 2016 MST3K bots
46 Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo
The bots from “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
February 15, 2016 Very tiny machines
Enter the realm of the very, very tiny as John and Jason ponder if size matters when it comes to whether something is a robot or not.
February 8, 2016 Bruce Schneier’s metaphor
44 The Internet of Things
Security expert Bruce Schneier said the Internet of Things was a robot, but what does John think?
You can probably guess.
February 1, 2016 Doctor Who monsters
43 Daleks and Cybermen
Two enemies wrapped in metal shells from “Doctor Who” face their ultimate foe—the judgment of John Siracusa.
January 25, 2016 “Saga”
42 Prince Robot IV
It’s right there in the name of this character from the acclaimed comic book “Saga,” but as we’ve learned, names can be misleading.
January 18, 2016 Sandwich or Not?
This one seems to have gotten in by mistake.
January 11, 2016 C-3PO’s toaster oven
40 Swimming Pool Cleaners
Things that clean your swimming pool: are they Roombas or just dumb hoses? Also, if a toaster can’t be a robot, can a robot be a toaster?
January 4, 2016 So who made the cars? And where are they?
39 Cars (from “Cars”)
If the cars in Pixar’s “Cars” movies aren’t cars, what are they, and where did they come from?
December 28, 2015 Are you listening to a robot?
Just in time for the holidays, some existential questions. Also, could a robot be on a podcast?
December 21, 2015 The Reverse Cybog Posit
37 Clockwork Droids
Doctor Who’s clockwork repair droids (from the episodes “Girl in the Fireplace” and “Deep Breath”) come under scrutiny. Sure, they start out as robots, but do they become something else..?
December 14, 2015 Marvel movie robots or not
36 Iron Man, Ultron, and Vision
From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and specifically “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” deep robot-or-not questions about Iron Man’s suits, Ultron, and the Vision.
December 7, 2015 Herbie is full of love
35 Herbie The Love Bug
A Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of his own!
November 30, 2015 Portal and Portal 2
34 Aperture Science
GlaDOS, Wheatley, turrets, cubes, spheres and more.
November 23, 2015 “Small Wonder”
33 Vicki from “Small Wonder”
She’s a small wonder, pretty and bright with soft curls.
She’s a small wonder, a girl unlike other girls.
She’s a miracle, and I grant you
She’ll enchant you at her sight.
She’s a small wonder, and she’ll make your heart take flight.
She’s fantastic, made of plastic.
Microchips here and there.
She’s a small wonder, brings love and laughter everywhere.
November 16, 2015 …or not
Cloud City’s majordomo from “The Empire Strikes Back” is in the spotlight.
November 9, 2015 What’s in that Skype window?
It’s right there in the name, but what about the things that connect to it? And what about when Merlin talks about putting things “in the robot”? We need answers, John!
November 2, 2015 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
30 Twiki and Dr. Theopolis
We take you back to the days of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” to debate the show’s two artificial sidekicks.
October 26, 2015 He’s alive!
29 Johnny 5
That little guy from “Short Circuit.”
October 19, 2015 They’re not built, they’re grown
28 The TARDIS
The blue box from “Doctor Who” might be sentient, might be alive, but is it a robot?
October 12, 2015 Star Trek: The Motion Picture
V’ger and the Ilia probe, both from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. Also, John complains about fake skin on androids.
October 5, 2015 Battlestar Galactica
The metal robots (and their fleshy successors) from the old and new “Battlestar Galactica.”
September 28, 2015 Conceptual toaster questions
25 Home Appliances
What would a toaster have to do in order to be a robot? This episode introduces Siracusa’s Law, which somehow involves kitchen countertops.
September 21, 2015 The Six Million Dollar Man
The bigfoot/sasquatch from “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
September 14, 2015 Doubles!
23 Space Probes
From golf carts on Mars to New Horizons flying past Pluto, these are impressive machines, but are they robots?
September 7, 2015 Dressed up like a ghost
He tried to hitch his way across the country, but was dismembered in Philadelphia.
Image by archier on Flickr.
August 31, 2015 The ethics of Star Wars sentience
Are droids robots? Do they have rights? Is the Empire based on a robo-slave economy?
August 24, 2015 Robots versus magic
Are we seriously talking about magic here?
August 17, 2015 Life… don’t talk to me about life
19 Marvin the Paranoid Android
Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with!
August 10, 2015 Androids and Robots
18 Commander Data
Is an android a robot?
August 3, 2015 I’ll be back
17 The Terminator
I know now why you humans cry.
July 27, 2015 What about Jason’s iPhone?
So-called intelligent agents.
July 20, 2015 Human brains, mechanical bodies
15 The Major
From “Ghost in the Shell,” a human brain in a mechanical body. And what about uploaded brains and bodies?
July 13, 2015 Big robots with little people inside
Big robots with people inside, as seen in “Shogun Warriors” and “Pacific Rim.”
July 7, 2015 Robots in disguise?
Like the song says.
July 2, 2015 Hello, Computer!
12 USS Enterprise
The main computer of the USS Enterprise.
June 29, 2015 Knight Rider
The “Knight Rider” car is cool, but is it a robot? What about KITT’s evil twin, KARR? Also, the dark pre-history of Pixar’s “Cars.”
June 25, 2015 Toy robots
Honda’s ASIMO, Sony’s AIBO, and other cute things that can do The Robot dance. Also, our Radio Shack memories.
June 22, 2015 Titans of industry
9 Assembly-Line Robots
Look for the union label.
June 19, 2015 The lowest possible form of robot?
Does a self-guided vacuum cleaner cross John’s minimum bar for a robot? And what does that have to do with ants and dogs?
June 15, 2015 Skype isn’t a robot
7 Telepresence Robots
They’re funny, but are they robots?
June 10, 2015 Are they robots or marketing?
6 Self-Driving Cars
Pondering sentient Google cars, Johnny Cab, and autopilots.
June 4, 2015 Love and other robots
The greatest prog rock album ever made.
June 2, 2015 Tin dogs
John and Jason try to understand robot dogs. Plus, a trip through old “Doctor Who” episodes.
May 29, 2015 Cyborgs and Sith Lords
3 Darth Vader
Cyborgs and robots and humans—how do we tell these things apart?
May 25, 2015 Supermarket self check-out and ATMs
2 Service Kiosks
John’s position on supermarket self-checkout machines, Jason’s need for beer when he visits his in-laws, and whether attaching arms to things makes them robots.
May 22, 2015 Domo Arigato
1 Mr. Roboto
We explain why we’re here, and then discuss the protagonist of Styx’s 1983 album “Kilroy Was Here.”
April 7, 2015 How it all started.
A flashback to past podcasts, as a way of explaining why this podcast exists.