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.

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11:38am

Wed January 2, 2013
Krulwich Wonders...

Grrr, Said The Grylloblattid. I'm Not Leaving. Not Yet.

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 5:01 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

12:26pm

Mon December 31, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Another Year And I'm Still Here: A New Year's Meditation

Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 12:17 pm

Rogier Wieland Vimeo

Updated Jan. 1, 2013: I've added a postscript to this post. You can find it at the bottom of this page.

Look at yourself. Right now.

You are muscle,skin, bone, brain, blood, warmed by energy, and all of you, every cell, even the subsets of those cells, all trillions and trillions of them, are going to tire, waste and depart. In 10 years almost every bit of you will have been replaced by new bits.

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11:40am

Wed November 21, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Double Thanks

Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 12:58 pm

monkey
vimeo

11:57am

Mon November 19, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Why Not Say It Simply? How About Very Simply?

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 12:27 pm

xkcd: "Another thing that is a bad problem is if you're flying toward space and the parts start to fall off your space car in the wrong order. If that happens, it means you won't go to space today, or maybe ever."
xkcd

There are people (and I hear from them constantly) who think if a subject is sophisticated, like science, the language that describes it should be sophisticated, too.

If smart people say torque, ribosome, limbic, stochastic and kinase, then the rest of us should knuckle down, concentrate and figure out what those words mean. That's how we'll know when we've learned something: when we've mastered the technical words.

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5:28am

Sat November 17, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

The Big Apple's Mayor Makes A Very Scary Video

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 10:15 am

YouTube

10:21am

Tue November 13, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Death, But Softly

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 2:35 pm

Michel de Montaigne
Wikimedia Commons

It was 1569, or maybe early 1570, when it happened: A young French gentleman was out for a ride with his workers, all of them on horseback, when suddenly, "like a thunderbolt," he felt something thick and fleshy slam him from behind. (It was an overzealous, galloping assistant who couldn't stop in time.) Michel de Montaigne's horse crumbled, he went flying up, then down, he crashed to the ground. Then things went black.

When he came to, a minute or so later, he says,

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8:34am

Sat November 10, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Finnish Underwater Ice Fishing Mystery Finally Solved

That's ordinary air pouring out of the pail.
YouTube

8:59am

Mon October 29, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Celebrating Autumn All Year Round ... By Becoming A Leaf

Originally published on Mon October 29, 2012 11:04 am

Piotr Naskrecki

It is autumn, and where I live the leaves are peaking; there is a riot of them everywhere, narrow ones, broad ones, droopy ones, crunchy ones. Leaves come in so many shapes, hues, textures — the closer you look, the more differences you see. Botanists have names for every leaf type, and clumped together, says writer Robert Dunn, they sound like free verse poetry ...

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10:39am

Fri October 19, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Charles Darwin And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 10:45 am

Aaron Birk

I guess everybody, even the smartest people who ever lived, have days when they feel dumb — really, really dumb. Oct. 1, 1861, was that kind of day for Charles Darwin.

In a letter to his friend Charles Lyell, Darwin says, "I am very poorly today," and then — and I want you to see this exactly as he wrote it, so you know this isn't a fake; it comes from the library of the American Philosophical Society, courtesy of their librarian Charles Greifenstein. Can you read it?

It says:

Whoah! You know the feeling, right?

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11:20am

Wed October 17, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Tough Old Lizard To Face Grave Romantic Troubles, Say Scientists

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 11:44 am

Courtesy of Piotr Naskrecki

Oh, dear.

First off, this lizard? It's not really a lizard. It's an almost vanished species, a reptile like no other.

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11:53am

Fri October 12, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Sun Goes Down. Up Comes A Mystery

minutephysics YouTube

Here's a question you probably didn't know was a question: Why is the sky dark at night?

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1:08pm

Wed October 10, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Obama's Secret Weapon In The South: Small, Dead, But Still Kickin'

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 3:10 pm

Ron Blakey Northern Arizona University

Look at this map, and notice that deep, deep in the Republican South, there's a thin blue band stretching from the Carolinas through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. These are the counties that went for Obama in the last election. A blue crescent in a sea of red.

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11:10am

Wed October 3, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Are Those Spidery Black Things On Mars Dangerous? (Maybe)

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 4:43 pm

Michael Benson NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Kinetikon Pictures

You are 200 miles directly above the Martian surface — looking down. This image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 27, 2010. (The color was added later.) What do we see? Well, sand, mostly. As you scroll down, there's a ridge crossing through the image, then a plain, then dunes, but keep looking. You will notice, when you get to the dunes, there are little black flecks dotting the ridges, mostly on the sunny side, like sunbathing spiders sitting in rows. Can you see them?

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1:14pm

Mon October 1, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Do You Know Where Your Children Are? Is That Always A Good Thing?

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 1:32 pm

iStockphoto

There was a time — and it wasn't that long ago — when kids would leave home on a summer morning and roam free. "I knew kids who were pushed out the door at eight in the morning," writes Bill Bryson of his childhood in the 1950s, "and not allowed back until five unless they were on fire or actively bleeding." That's what kids did. They went out. Parents let them, and everybody did it. "If you stood on any corner with a bike — any corner anywhere — more than a hundred children, many of whom you had never seen before, would appear and ask you where you were going," Bryson writes.

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10:49am

Fri September 21, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Getting Slower And Slower: How Slow Can You Go?

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 11:36 am

Vincent Liota

Before we go slow, let's go fast, so fast you can't go any faster. That would be light in a vacuum, traveling at 670 million miles per hour ...

Light, of course, can slow down. When light passes through water, it loses speed. A diamond is an even better speed bump. It can slow a beam of light by 40 percent.

But moving on, you and I are going pretty fast right now, though we don't notice. The planet we're on is zipping around the sun at 66,000-plus miles per hour ...

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9:44am

Wed September 19, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 4:34 pm

National Technical Information Service via Alex Wellerstein

So you're minding your own business when all of a sudden, a nuclear bomb goes off, there's a shock wave, fires all around, general destruction and you, having somehow survived, need a drink. What can you do? There is no running water, not where you are. But there is a convenience store. It's been crushed by the shock wave, but there are still bottles of beer, Coke and diet soda intact on the floor.

So you wonder: Can I grab one of those beers and gulp it down? Or is it too radioactive? And what about taste? If I drink it, will it taste OK?

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11:58am

Fri September 7, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Volcano Shoots Geyser Of Water Up Into Space

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 11:53 am

Michael Benson

What we have here is a moon — a small one (slightly wider than the state of Arizona) — circling Saturn.

If you look closely, you will see a small splay of light at its top, looking like a circular fountain.

That's because it is a fountain — of sorts. A bunch of volcano-like jets are sending fantastically high geysers of water vapor up into the sky, so high that you can see them in this remarkable print by Michael Benson, back lit by light bouncing off of Saturn.

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8:27am

Wed September 5, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

What's With Frosty? Why Isn't He Showing Up On Time?

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 8:57 am

iStockphoto.com

Check out this graph of America's "Growing Season" — it measures the number of continuous days and nights when it never gets below 32 degrees. You could call this our "frost-free" time of year. In many places, the frost-free season begins in the spring and ends somewhere in October.

As you can see, over the 20th century, it's been staying frost-free longer...and longer...and longer...

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12:10pm

Tue July 24, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Which Is Bigger: A Human Brain Or The Universe?

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 1:46 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

This is one of those fun-to-think-about questions. A brain isn't much to look at, after all. It's about the size of your two fists put together, three pounds to hold, but oh my, what it can do.

With our brains, we can think backwards, imagine forwards, conjure, create things that don't exist, leap vast distances. For example, suppose I say to you, close your eyes and imagine this:

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10:45am

Tue July 17, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 2:23 pm

Atom Central/YouTube

12:13am

Sun July 8, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Weekend Special: Guess What? Sweat Is Not Smelly! (So Why Do I Smell?)

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 1:28 pm

The Chemical Heritage Foundation via YouTube

It's hot today. Really, really, hot; over a 100 degrees Fahrenheit hot, and so I'm sweating.

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1:41pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Showing Vultures A Little Love

Originally published on Wed August 1, 2012 12:32 pm

iStockphoto.com

Think of a giraffe lying on the Serengeti plain. He has just died, maybe of disease, maybe he was killed by a pride of lions, but now he's a 19-foot-long, 4,000-pound mound of meat, which very soon is going to stink and rot and muck up the neighborhood.

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11:08am

Mon April 2, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

To Map Or Not To Map The Brain? That's Tonight's Question

Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 12:35 pm

Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman Portraits of the Mind

"Mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into," says the poet Diane Ackerman. "If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself? Worry about its soul? Do time and motion studies? Admire the shy hooves of a goat? Know that it will die?

...How can a neuron feel compassion?"

Yes, how?

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1:14pm

Fri March 30, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Neuroscientists Battle Furiously Over Jennifer Aniston

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 3:54 pm

Stephen Lovekin, Carlos Alvarez, Kevin Winter Getty Images

Think of Jennifer, or as we like to call her, "Jen." Jen of the dazzling smile, Jen of the gorgeous chin, Jen with her hair down, Jen tousled, Jen as Rachel, Jen with Brad; Jen without Brad, Jen with Vince, Jen at the Oscars, and, of course, Jen as a neuron in the medial part of the temporal lobe.

Maybe you missed that last Jen.

A few years ago, a UCLA neurosurgeon named Itzhak Fried, while operating on patients who suffer from debilitating epileptic seizures, discovered what he now calls the "Jennifer Aniston Neuron."

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9:59am

Wed March 28, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

How To Spot A Mimic Octopus — The Mystery Revealed

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 12:02 pm

xkcd

In my last post, I wondered: How did Asian fishermen manage to discover the mimic octopus? Thaumoctopus mimicus is a wildly talented cephalopod that lives in shallow waters off Indonesia and Malaysia.

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Radiolab

Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

More information about Radiolab, and podcasts from each show, can be found on their website.

Radiolab is heard around the country on over 300 stations.

Radiolab is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.

10:10am

Wed February 29, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 Years

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 10:07 am

John White

No, this isn't a make-believe place. It's real.

They call it "Ball's Pyramid." It's what's left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.

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1:30pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Krulwich Wonders...

Who Left A Tree, Then A Coffin In The Library?

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 3:35 pm

Chris Scott flickr

Update: The Library Phantom Returns! See Part 2 of the mystery.

It started suddenly. Without warning.

Last spring, Julie Johnstone, a librarian at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, was wandering through a reading room when she saw, sitting alone on a random table, a little tree.

It was made of twisted paper and was mounted on a book.

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12:01am

Wed September 28, 2011
Krulwich Wonders...

Wanna Live Forever? Become A Noun

Adam Cole NPR

Adam: When I say "Henry Shrapnel, Jules Leotard, Robert Bunsen," you think — what?
Me: That they're inventors?
Adam: No. Better than that. Each one has become immortal. They're nouns!
Me: Is that a good thing, becoming a noun? ...
Adam: Are you kidding? It's a wonderful thing. A thing to sing about.
Me: You're going to sing?
Adam: If I may ...

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12:01am

Mon September 19, 2011
Krulwich Wonders...

Lucretius, Man of Modern Mystery

Lucretius, circa 55 B.C.
Spencer Arnold Getty Images

Before he became a Professor of literature at Harvard, and way before he wrote his classic Shakespeare biography, Will in The World, Stephen Greenblatt was an I'll-read-anything kind of kid. One day, he was standing in the campus book store, and there, in a bin, selling for ten cents (good price, even in 1961) he noticed a thin, little volume called On the Nature of Things, by a Roman writer named Lucretius.

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