There are people (and I hear from them constantly) who think if a subject is sophisticated, like science, the language that describes it should be sophisticated, too.
If smart people say torque, ribosome, limbic, stochastic and kinase, then the rest of us should knuckle down, concentrate and figure out what those words mean. That's how we'll know when we've learned something: when we've mastered the technical words.
I didn't know what to make of this when I saw it. I live in Manhattan, in a city where people bike, take buses, subways, trains, live and work in towers where they share elevators, share water, share electricity. I thought my town is setting the example for energy-efficient, communal living. And then, the guy who runs the place, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, releases a study — including (see below) a shocking video — that says, you think New York is great on energy? You think that? Well, check this out...
You walk into a room. There are people there, cars outside, dogs, phones ring, the radio is on, somebody coughs; it's the pleasant blur of a busy world, until something, someone catches your attention. Then you lean in, the other sounds fade back, and you focus. That's how listening works -- for most of us.
It was 1569, or maybe early 1570, when it happened: A young French gentleman was out for a ride with his workers, all of them on horseback, when suddenly, "like a thunderbolt," he felt something thick and fleshy slam him from behind. (It was an overzealous, galloping assistant who couldn't stop in time.) Michel de Montaigne's horse crumbled, he went flying up, then down, he crashed to the ground. Then things went black.
I'm going to take you somewhere, but before I do, I should warn you that there's something not quite right about what you'll see. This place I'm going to show you will be astonishingly beautiful. It will be cold. It will be wet. But it will also be a touch -- more than a touch -- mysterious. So watch carefully.
Surgically, this will be complicated. Mathematically, it will be elegant. What we are going to do is take an ordinary bagel, and rather than cut it in half, we are going to turn it, delicately, into two intertwining, interlocked bagel parts, connected, unbroken, one twisting through one the other. In other words, a Mobius bagel.
You know Carl Linnaeus, right? The great Swedish naturalist who categorized plants and animals in the 1750s? He was a singular figure in botany. But when he got a headache, he stopped being singular. He doubled, from one Carl to two.
When a species gets rare, its market value rises. The higher its price, the more it's hunted. The more it's hunted, the rarer it gets. Not a happy cycle, and this keeps happening ...
Illustration by NPR
A lizard-like creature that's endured since the days of the dinosaurs now faces an uncertain future. Robert explains, and shares some stunning photos.
Robert goes way, way, way back in time for some political insights...and finds a surprising factor: plankton. Take a look at how geology makes a mark on political maps of the Deep South.
Every spring, spidery black thingies show up on Mars. Take a look at some photos, and read a few of the best explanations for what scientists think they might be.
Robert responds to concerns about the "Yellow Rain" segment from our latest podcast, and offers an apology. Read his full statement here.
Robert offers some practical advice on what to do if you survive a nuclear blast... and really want to drink that beer that made it through with you.
Robert takes a look at a series of dissected cities, and finds himself falling for the charmingly crooked bits and pieces of one in particular.
Thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch our first-ever Google Hangout. We had a blast!
They weren't crazy. They weren't being punished. All but one volunteered to do this (which makes it all the more astonishing.)
Krulwich explores some wonderfully dizzying, and mind-altering-in-a-perfectly-legal-and-healthy-way, 3D drawings.
Robert praises the hardworking, often maligned, but utterly lovable vulture.
Krulwich considers the strange powers, and brilliant hue, of horseshoe crab blood. Read the full post here.
Robert puzzles over why sunsets on the Red Planet are blue. Find out why, and take a look at some photos and an animation from NASA.