In the book "Arabian Nights," Prince Husain, the eldest son the Sultan, buys a magic carpet which comes with these instructions: Think of a far away place and "Whoever sitteth on this carpet ... will, in the twinkling of an eye ... be borne thither." We're updating that tale, with a real magic carpet — but this time with feathers.
It's been frustrating, this 100-year search by physicists all over the world for a Unified Theory of Everything, and Tim Blais, physics grad student, a capella singer, Queen fan, feels their collective pain in this — his Bohemian Rhapsody on String Theory. Don't miss the Albert Einstein hand puppet in a hail storm, crying his heart out.
Two short tales: One about bad guys in a fishing village in Pakistan, the other about good guys in Baghdad. And the question is posed: in the long arc of time, which side prevails, those with the impulse to take or those with the impulse to give?
What I'm going to say sounds ridiculous, but once upon a time it wasn't ridiculous at all. You could wake up one morning in North America and decide to walk to Morocco, have breakfast, and a few hours later, there you are — in Africa. No sweat. Or wander from Australia into Bangladesh. Not a problem. Let me show you how.
Suppose you wanted to slip into a space quietly, secretly. Would you wear a dazzling, many-colored ball gown? I think not. So how do we explain what the Dutch government is doing on Google Maps? Is this any way to keep a secret?
If you care about the environment, if you're a good person, you try (in many little ways) to cut back, do with less, live more simply. But when nobody's watching, when you're feeling naughty, you dream of "More-ing," which is both totally irresponsible and crazy fun.
Snails getting ready for winter are natural carpenters. They construct doors, or maybe you'd call them walls, inside their shells. They do this without hammers, nails or cement. Instead, they use their foot — and of course, their favorite material, mucus. Welcome to the ingenious world of snail construction.
India has just banned dolphin entertainment parks. They are "morally unacceptable," says a government ministry. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the U.S. Navy announced that 24 dolphins trained to sniff for underwater mines will be replaced by robots.
Moving north: two vans. Moving east: three taxis, a peddle cab and one lady walking. Moving west: six motorcycles, another taxi, a truck and a van. Moving south: a bicyclist, two cabs and a truck. All of them meet and there are no rules. Who lives? Who dies?
Take a bunch of broccoli, or make it a Slurpee, burger, pizza and fries, swallow, and ask yourself, "How much energy did I just consume?" Enough to light a flashlight? Run an electric toothbrush? If I were a lunch-eating light bulb, how long would I glow? Here's the answer.
Be really careful when you carve your name onto an ancient Egyptian temple. Not because it's wrong (which it is), but because sometimes the temple comes back to haunt you. The true story of Luther Bradish, an American spy who didn't keep his secret.
Join us for a night of nanospectucular wonders, hosted by Robert Krulwich, live from the World Science Festival tonight (May 30) at 8pm ET here on radiolab.org. Watch below, and join two Radiolab producers for a live chat as the event gets underway.
Take a metronome. Then take another. Then another. Set them ticking at different times. Look. Lift. (That's the key part.) Watch. Then Laugh. Because you will be dumbfounded.
What do you get when you get a college diploma? To hear David Foster Wallace tell it, you get a muscle that will help you forever after — in shopping lines, overcrowded parking lots, in traffic jams. This muscle, he says, frees you when the world gets painfully dull.
Sex is nice, but can animals make babies without it? One summer, two little boys, their tutor and the tutor's two friends did an experiment to explore this question. What they discovered, back in 1740, shocked the world.
Bees could build flat honeycombs from just three shapes: squares, triangles or hexagons. But for some reason, bees choose hexagons. Always "perfect" hexagons. Why?
What would it be like to be a string that made music? Not anything simple, like a guitar string or a cello string, but a magical string, a sine curve that's taut then loose, that doubles then doubles again, that sheds then dissolves into showers of notes.
Welcome to the New World in which, no kidding, insects run robots. In this case, 14 moths take 14 drives in a wheeled vehicle and steer right to the target. Seeing is believing.
SpaceX calls it the "Grasshopper" — it's a rocket that doesn't fall back to Earth haphazardly after launch. It carefully returns itself to the launchpad standing up, right where it started.