Whenever you look at the teeming, rich and oh-so-various world, if you've got the right eyes, if you've got the eyes of a mathematician, you will find patterns — simple, elegant forms hiding in everything you see.
In the 1960s, Americans lived very long lives — among the longest in the world. Since then, we've improved our lot, but not as fast as the French, the Australians, the Swedes, the British, the Canadians, the Dutch, the Germans and the Japanese. They are galloping away from us. What happened?
Writer Malcolm Gladwell calls them "eminent orphans" — an intriguingly large number of successful politicians, statesmen, poets, scientists who lost a parent when they were young. Why the pattern? Is it just coincidence? Or is it something more?
Daniela Rus' lab at MIT is inventing new, ever more remarkable "reconfigurable robots." Don't know what they are? Well, take a look at what her grad students have made and prepare to be frightened — or delighted. Me? I'm kinda delighted.
This fall, the staff of WNYC's Radiolab is producing their second multi-city tour, Apocalyptical. In this new live stage performance, Radiolab turns its gaze to the topic of endings, both blazingly fast and agonizingly slow. Today Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich join The Takeaway today to discuss some of the topics they're exploring and how we look at endings today.
Zoos are where you go to look at "them," the animals. But not in this video of a zoo in Amsterdam. Here, differences melt away, and all the animals, including the ones with hats, coats and strollers, are just as curious, just as odd, just as silly as the monkeys, hippos and tigers.
Ready, get set, go! Let's compare a sperm whale plowing through the ocean to a human sperm plowing through a glass of water: The whale barely notices the water it's in; the sperm — oh, gee — it's got a problem. How it solves that problem — being much closer to the size of the water molecules around it — is ... well, masterful.
In the book "Arabian Nights," Prince Husain, the eldest son the Sultan, buys a magic carpet which comes with these instructions: Think of a far away place and "Whoever sitteth on this carpet ... will, in the twinkling of an eye ... be borne thither." We're updating that tale, with a real magic carpet — but this time with feathers.
It's been frustrating, this 100-year search by physicists all over the world for a Unified Theory of Everything, and Tim Blais, physics grad student, a capella singer, Queen fan, feels their collective pain in this — his Bohemian Rhapsody on String Theory. Don't miss the Albert Einstein hand puppet in a hail storm, crying his heart out.
Two short tales: One about bad guys in a fishing village in Pakistan, the other about good guys in Baghdad. And the question is posed: in the long arc of time, which side prevails, those with the impulse to take or those with the impulse to give?
What I'm going to say sounds ridiculous, but once upon a time it wasn't ridiculous at all. You could wake up one morning in North America and decide to walk to Morocco, have breakfast, and a few hours later, there you are — in Africa. No sweat. Or wander from Australia into Bangladesh. Not a problem. Let me show you how.
Suppose you wanted to slip into a space quietly, secretly. Would you wear a dazzling, many-colored ball gown? I think not. So how do we explain what the Dutch government is doing on Google Maps? Is this any way to keep a secret?
If you care about the environment, if you're a good person, you try (in many little ways) to cut back, do with less, live more simply. But when nobody's watching, when you're feeling naughty, you dream of "More-ing," which is both totally irresponsible and crazy fun.
If we had enough time, enough brain power, the right computers, the occasional genius, is there any limit to what we can know about the universe? Or is nature designed to keep its own secrets, no matter how hard we try to crack the code? What can we never know?