June 5, 2013 What can you do with beach sand? Build a sand castle. Dig a canal. Make a snake. What can you do with MIT's "smart" sand? One day, you will turn it into a hammer, fork, chair, anything you want. And when you're done? Poof! It's sand again.
June 3, 2013 It's not easy making friends with wild animals, especially when the animal is impossibly small, very shy, hiding under a pile of leaves. But when the writer Rachel Carson heard a "ting! ting! ting!" coming from her backyard — like someone ringing a teeny bell — she had to meet this creature, the one she called "the Fairy Bell Ringer."
May 28, 2013 Dolphins make their own toys. They do this by producing perfect little air rings in the water, which they then shove, bite, sculpt and swallow. And they aren't the only ones. Today we celebrate (you should pardon the expression) toroidal vortices.
May 25, 2013 It has no center. No "off" switch. No brain. The Internet was designed to be virtually indestructible. But what if, one day, somehow, it stops? We can't have it anymore. What would that be like? Here's a short video about a French couple. She's ready. He's not.
May 24, 2013 You, you with your lips, throat, cheek muscles and hands, you, with no effort can drink a glass of water. But what about your cat? Your dog? They don't have the advantages you do. Nor do pigeons. And yet, through ways both brilliant and mysterious, they too can drink. Here are their secrets.
May 22, 2013 "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.
May 20, 2013 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.
May 18, 2013 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.
May 17, 2013 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.
May 14, 2013 Bees could build flat honeycombs from just three shapes: squares, triangles or hexagons. But for some reason, bees choose hexagons. Always "perfect" hexagons. Why?
May 11, 2013 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.
May 10, 2013 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.
May 9, 2013 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.
May 8, 2013 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.
May 7, 2013 Turns out our solar system — with its medium sized sun, its four small rocky planets, its four big gassy ones farther out — isn't like the others. We are unusual. Very unusual. Says one prominent astronomer, we are "a bit of a freak."