Robert Krulwich is co-host of Radiolab, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning program that examines big questions in science, philosophy and the human experience through compelling storytelling. Today, Radiolab is one of public radio's most popular shows. Its podcasts are downloaded over 4 million times each month and the program is carried on 437 stations across the nation. In addition to Radiolab, Krulwich reports for National Public Radio. “Krulwich Wonders” is his NPR blog featuring drawings, cartoons and videos that illustrate hard-to-see concepts in science.
For 22 years, Krulwich was a science, economics, general assignment and foreign correspondent at ABC and CBS News. Krulwich has been called “the most inventive network reporter in television” by TV Guide. His specialty is explaining complex subjects, science, technology, economics, in a style that is clear, compelling and entertaining. On television he has explored the structure of DNA using a banana; on radio he created an Italian opera, “Ratto Interesso” to explain how the Federal Reserve regulates interest rates; he also pioneered the use of new animation on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight.
He has won Emmy awards for a cultural history of Barbie, the world famous doll, for a Frontline investigation of computers and privacy, a George Polk and an Emmy for a look at the Savings & Loan bailout, and the 2010 Essay Prize from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Krulwich also won the AAAS Science Journalism Award for a 2001 a NOVA Special, Cracking the Code of Life, The Extraordinary Communicator Award from the National Cancer Institute, and an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Award.
Krulwich earned a BA in history from Oberlin College, a law degree from Columbia University in 1974.
It's nighttime. You are hovering high off the planet looking down. Things are happening. Strange, beautiful, wonderful things.
For example, as night falls in the new world, North America seems stage-lit, it's so bright with street lights, traffic lights, window lights. South America ...
Norbert Rosing /National Geographic/Getty
This couldn't be.
A 1,200 pound male polar bear (especially when it's autumn and he hasn't eaten for four months) doesn't make play-dates with an animal from another species. He doesn't arrive every afternoon to cuddle, nuzzle, hug and roll around ...
A hundred million years from now, when we're all dead and gone, a team of geologists will be digging in a field somewhere ...
... and they will discover, buried in the rocks below, a thin layer of sediment — very thin, ...
It was found in Baja California, in the water, scuttling about. It's an isopod — a many legged, many jointed, bottom-crawler, related to prawns and crabs and it happily eats dead things. Scavengers aren't that particular about what's for dinner. When they find it, ...
You are a snail. You are a plant. You like where you are. The temperature's right. It suits you.
But then, gradually, over the years, it gets warmer. Not every day, of course, but on more and more days, the temperature climbs to ...
We're closing in on March, when wind, "blowing in like a lion," takes its big annual bow. Wind is invisible, of course, except for what it moves, touches. "I saw you toss the kites on high," wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. ...
... And blow the birds about the sky;
He could fly like a speeding bullet, leap tall buildings in a single bound, but that's not what made Superman super. The real source of his power, we learn from five fine dancers, is the love he had for a certain newspaper reporter: A dancer's valentine.
If you've ever had to raise a noisy, fussy, crying baby, consider this alternative: I know a bunch of moms who produce newborns that stay blissfully, totally silent (and still!) for weeks and weeks and weeks. Let me make you jealous.
You can cuddle them, live with them, protect them, but when animals look at you — even when they're purring or licking your face — what's really going on in their heads? In yours? A cartoonist explores this question.
When "Benjamin," the world's last captive Tasmanian Tiger, died in 1936, a 23-million-year run of marsupial (pouch-bearing), doglike animals very likely disappeared from the planet. But before Benjy went, he had his revenge on the humans who hunted his kind to extinction.
She found them in the Key West library: an old stash of "Look at What I Caught!" photos, proud fishermen showing off their big catch of the day back in the 1950s, '60s, '80s. As she looked, she noticed something odd. Something important.
Living with a pet is usually a pleasure, but now and again, it isn't. Fate hands you the wrong animal, but it's your animal, so what can you do? You try to love it. This tale of a boy and his parrot is a hard case. Even on its way to parrot heaven, it creates trouble.
Passenger pigeons went. Dodos went. Buffalo nearly went. But here's the surprise. Three of the weediest, everywhere-ist animals we know (the common pigeon, the white-tailed deer and Canada geese) — they almost went too! Everything, it turns out, is fragile.
There they are, up on the power line, side by side by side by side by side. Starlings, each one like the other — rubber-stamped birds, a mob (or murmuration) of indecipherably similar critters, always the same, sitting or flying. But wait! What if there's such a thing as an Exceptional Starling? I think I've found one (or maybe ... four!), hiding in a video.
It's been there for thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years — a huge, solid, endless mass of white ice. Then, all of sudden ("It's starting, Adam," says an onlooker) there's a crack, then another, and whoosh, an immense field vanishes — splits, splits again, and right before your eyes (you've got to see this) sinks into the sea. This is how ice leaves our planet.
Alice had this problem when she went through the looking glass: You start in a known place. You advance, step by steady step. Nothing is amiss, nothing misplaced. But when you land, everything has turned totally weird. Nothing makes sense. All you can do is go, "Huh?" Let's "Huh?" together.
It's getting close to Super Bowl time, so here's a little fantasy. What would happen if a British sports announcer who has no idea how American football works (not a clue) were suddenly thrown on the air and had to do play-by-play for a game between Alabama and Notre Dame? He knows nothing. What would he say?
There are no moose in America, said the French count to Thomas Jefferson. They don't exist there. Americans see a reindeer and just call it a new name, saying it's bigger. But the only thing that's big here is your American imagination. Jefferson was incensed. You are an ignoramus, he said tactfully. Then he promised to deliver an American moose to Paris. Here's what happened next.
Something happened to dolphins. Then it happened to humans. Both creatures had good-sized brains when, for reasons no one truly understands, dolphin brains suddenly got larger and larger, until — 15 million years ago — they stopped growing. Two million years ago it was our turn. Our brains went from the size of an orange to the size of a cantaloupe. Why the start? Why the stop? Who's next?