Robert Krulwich

Robert Krulwich works on radio, podcasts, video, the blogosphere. He has been called "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide.

Krulwich is a Science Correspondent for NPR. His NPR blog, "Krulwich Wonders" features drawings, cartoons and videos that illustrate hard-to-see concepts in science.

He is the co-host of Radiolab, a nationally distributed radio/podcast series that explores new developments in science for people who are curious but not usually drawn to science shows. "There's nothing like it on the radio," says Ira Glass of This American Life, "It's a act of crazy genius." Radiolab won a Peabody Award in 2011.

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 has pioneered the use of new animation on ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight.

For 22 years, Krulwich was a science, economics, general assignment and foreign correspondent at ABC and CBS News.

He won Emmy awards for a cultural history of the Barbie doll, for a Frontline investigation of computers and privacy, a George Polk and Emmy for a look at the Savings & Loan bailout online advertising and the 2010 Essay Prize from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Krulwich earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Oberlin College and a law degree from Columbia University.

Forty-five years ago, this week, 123 million of us watched Neil and Buzz step onto the moon. In 1969, we numbered about 200 million, so more than half of America was in the audience that day. Neil Armstrong instantly became a household name, an icon, a hero. And then — and this, I bet, you didn't know — just as quickly, he faded away.

"Whatever Happened to Neil Whosis?" asked the Chicago Tribune in 1974.

I'm standing on a beach and I see, a few hundred yards out, a mound of water heading right at me. It's not a wave, not yet, but a swollen patch of ocean, like the top of a moving beach ball, what sailors call a "swell." As it gets closer, its bottom hits the rising shore below, forcing the water up, then over, sending it tumbling onto the beach, a tongue of foam coming right up to my toes — and that's when I look down, as the wave melts into the sand and I say,

"Hi, I'm from New York. But what about you? Where are you from?"

"I'm sitting next to a swimming pool and somebody dives in," says the great physicist Richard Feynman in a conversation recorded in 1983. Other people jump in as well.

They're odds. That's all they are. Not fate, just probabilities. Lauren Weinstein, cartoonist, is having a baby, and she's told — out of the blue — that she and her husband are both carriers of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. They are sent to a genetic counselor. What happens next — told in five beautifully drawn, emotionally eloquent cartoons — tells what it's like to walk the edge for a few weeks. She's so many things (sad, funny, scared, puzzled), and then there's the ender. Take a look.

OK, I'm doing great science experiments. We've done sex (see previous post). On to lunch!

This is the story of a bird, a puzzle, and a painting. The painting, curiously, helped solve the puzzle, which is: How do vultures find food?

Done right, a good science experiment is simple, clear and revealing. Done splendidly, it's a tale you don't forget. Let's do the sex one first. It took place in Italy, in the 1760s, when a Catholic priest and scholar, Lazzaro Spallanzani, was thinking about sperm — which is why he decided to dress frogs in pants, like this ...

We live in a sea of air. It holds us, weighs on us, keeps us tethered. The earth, of course, holds us too, keeps us pinned. But not all of us. I want you to meet Storyboard P, a dancer who floats.

What can you do with a spotlight?

You can light a spot.

But what if you give yourself more options and invent a tool that lets light spill, splash or tighten into a beam as thin as a pencil line — a beam of light that can draw!

Draw what? Oh my God, so many things: a galloping unicorn, a friendly girl, a guy who kicks you in the face, a wormhole, a ball that splashes into a fluid, a cube, a spiral, a rabbit, a squid, a scribble.

I've got this friend, Craig. He's not exactly an outlaw, but if the world needs something moved that is not supposed to be moved, he will move it anyway. Only in the interest of justice. Like Batman.

There are places where frogs could be — but aren't.

And places where frogs could be — and are.

Ninety years ago, scientists were debating the question of animal dispersal. How come there are kangaroos in Australia, and none in southern Africa --which seems, environmentally, very kangaroo-friendly? Certain frogs show up in warm ponds in one part of the world, but warm ponds a thousand miles away have none. Why?

When you unwrap it, break off a piece and stick it in your mouth, it doesn't remind you of the pyramids, a suspension bridge or a skyscraper; but chocolate, says materials scientist Mark Miodownik, "is one of our greatest engineering creations."

I've been wondering lately, do animals invent names? As in names for themselves? Names for each other? I've always thought that what we do when we call ourselves "Ralph" or "Laura" is unique, something exclusively human. But it turns out that's wrong. Other animals have name-like calls that they use much like we do. I've posted about this before (regarding horses, dolphins and little parakeets) ...

You start with difference, with mystery. Some things spiral, some become spheres, some branch, some don't. We know that inert atoms quicken, become bees, goats, clouds, then dissolve back into randomness. We look at these things, all these very, very different things, and we wonder, are they really different, or is every thing we see one thing, expressed differently? Does the universe have rules? How many? Could there be a single generating principle, a oneness?

When I was 9, my dad drew this picture of me. You will notice something on my left cheek — a little brown spot.

That's a mole. The doctor called it "a birthmark." My mom called it "a beauty mark." I was born with it. Having grown up before supermodel Cindy Crawford became famous, I was not familiar with the allure of beauty marks and, anyway, I'm a guy. My mom said it was hardly noticeable. I didn't believe her.

Far, far, far away is a great place to be — if you want to stay marvelous. There is a plant, called Welwitschia mirabilis (mirabilis being Latin for marvelous), found only one place on Earth. You can get there, as artist/photographer Rachel Sussman did, by driving through the vast emptiness of the Namibian desert, the Namib Naukluft, in Africa.

Oops.

Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch — so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

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