Previewing 'Science Out of the Box'

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In coming weeks, NPR science reporters will explain the basic science underlying groundbreaking discoveries. And they'll answer questions that nag at many of us, such as "Why does the curtain stick to me when I'm in the shower?" We preview the feature.


Weekends should be a time to allow your imagination to wonder free, to ponder questions that you might not have time to ask during your weekday rush. Starting next weekend and every Saturday after that, we'll be letting our minds roam free out into the universe and down to the tiniest subatomic particle. We hope to bring you on our journeys with a regular feature called Science Out of the Box.

Our crack team of NPR science reporters will help us unpack the nuts and bolts of science and look at stories that fall outside the usual realm of news coverage. One of our guys will be David Malakoff, who's in the studio with me now.

Hi, David.


ELLIOTT: What do you have in store for us?

MALAKOFF: Well, you know, we've got a lot of stories that aren't exactly news stories, and they're not exactly feature stories. They're stories that are motivated more by simple questions that people might have. You know, so for instance, one of the ones that Joe Palca is going to look at is, he was taking a shower the other day and he got to thinking about, you know, why does the shower curtain always bow in when you take a shower and stick to your skin? What is going on there? Why doesn't it blow out away from the water?

So you know, that's one of the great scientific questions that we'll be tackling.

ELLIOTT: And I understand that now Boyce is going to look at one of the big annoying questions of all time, and that's those speaker systems at the airport or at the drive-thru restaurant and why they are so bad.

MALAKOFF: Yeah, well, Debbie (makes "bad audio" sounds). Yeah, we are going to be looking at those (makes "bad audio" sounds) systems that, you know, give us our train times and help us miss our planes. It is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

ELLIOTT: And I understand that Chris Joyce is going to be exploring the industrial sphere. What exactly is that?

MALAKOFF: Yes, the industrial sphere. You know, you drive down a highway and you're looking out your windows, and suddenly you realize there are all these objects on the landscape and you have no idea what they are. There are towers. There are steel boxes. There are machines that look very bizarre. And there's a wonderful book out that takes a look at a lot of these machines, and we're going to go wandering around the industrial sphere with the author and with Chris.

ELLIOTT: Thanks, NPR's David Malakoff.

MALAKOFF: Thank you.

ELLIOTT: And we'd like to invite you to send us your science questions. If there's something in our natural world that you've been wondering about, write to us. Go to and put the words Science Out of the Box in the subject line.

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