"Someone asked me," Benjamin Franklin once said, "what's the use of a balloon?" They don't do much. They just float. What are they good for? And Franklin replied, "What's the use of a new-born baby?" They just sit there. They don't do much. You have to imagine possibilities. This is Franklin, in the 1780s, thinking about balloons.
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?
If you live in North America, this week we had a crescent moon — a skinny sliver of light shaped like a toenail in the sky. Why that shape? Astronomers say it's a "phase." Most of the moon is in shadow. Pixar knows better. Meet the Moon Sweepers. A Grandpa, a dad and a boy.
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.
They're out of the lab now, flying through the air, crawling in the grass, buzzing near you, swimming in the ocean. They're robots. They're among us. We don't notice yet. But we will.