July 30, 2013 On certain nights, as helicopters settle on the sandy ground in Afghanistan, the air mysteriously bursts into loops of light that trace the path of the helicopter blades; no one's sure what causes this; no one knows what to call these dazzling light displays — but a war photographer has given them a name — and thereby hangs a tale.
July 29, 2013 If I say "meet me 28 miles from here," that doesn't seem very far, right? But what if the 28 miles is not on a road or a highway, but straight up? Take a trip with a space shuttle solid rocket booster as it tumbles back to Earth. Headphones on.
July 26, 2013 Car colors are getting cooler, even wintry: All over the world, car buyers are choosing white, silver, gray or black. So who favors warm, springtime colors? Think of a place where you spend half the year bundled up with mittens.
July 25, 2013 When the Isthmus of Panama connected North and South America, two independent dynasties of horses, rhinos, elephants, shrews, weasels, cats and dogs were free to mingle, fight, dominate or die. Who won?
July 24, 2013 Hippos, it turns out, do a wave. Not a get-drunk, get-crazy, paint yourself wave, but a hippo-to-hippo serial roar that moves up and down river banks in Africa. We thought: Wouldn't it be fun to compare a stadium wave and a hippo wave, and see who does it fastest? Which was a great idea — until we heard about honey bees.
July 20, 2013 You thought, didn't you, that when a caterpillar gets ready to turn itself into a butterfly, it spins itself a cocoon, using silk. I thought that. But, apparently, what happens is different, more like a scene from the movie Alien.
July 19, 2013 Vincent van Gogh painted rolling, tumbling air in the sky. He used paint and a brush. Ocean waves are also Van Goghs when they crash onto beaches. They paint the sky with salt.
July 18, 2013 How loud is the loudest sound we can produce? Kiss fans got a taste at an Ottawa concert, but Chris Butler got closer in his sealed, reinforced, amped-up car. Bombs aside, (we'd rather not, thank you ) can we go louder? How much louder?
July 15, 2013 The world's most famous ant scholar likes a good prank. His secret fantasy, he told the novelist Michael Crichton, would be to steal a 25 million year old alarm signal from an ancient ant and use it to panic a modern nest. Oh, what fun! But can he do it?
July 13, 2013 A med student is paired with a patient her age. She does her job. They talk. They bond. The patient gets better. She's thrilled. And then ...
July 12, 2013 Look where you like through the 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds of our planet, and you will find only one ounce of it. It's really, really, really rare. Possibly the rarest thing in the universe.
July 8, 2013 At first, you couldn't ask for a better meal plan. The food is free, delivered straight to you. It lands, literally, right at your feet. All you have to do is bend over and eat. Except: the portions are very small and tend to slip away rather quickly. That's why sandpipers seem so frantic when you see them at the beach. Their food keeps disappearing.
July 2, 2013 It's America's birthday this week, when we celebrate government of, by and for the People, which has me thinking of two particular people, my mother and my aunt, who argued politics at our family dinner table. If families in this country are anything like mine, America's democratic achievement is nothing short of a miracle.
July 1, 2013 One of the great dinosaur puzzles, the dinosaur mystery, is why did they suddenly die off? Scientists have been debating this question for almost a hundred years and one of the most beautiful notions came from an insect scholar who thought maybe caterpillars did it. I'm not making this up.
June 29, 2013 At night, in the ocean, they look like little Broadway billboards with dazzling trills of rainbow colored light. They have eight little runways on their bodies for light display. What are they?
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