Adam Cole

The Amorphophallus titanum is a striking plant even before you get close enough to smell it. Its scientific name means giant, misshapen phallus and it is not hard to see why. A giant column called a spadix rises 7 feet into the air from the center of a pleated funnel.

Worm isn't a scientific term. According to one of the Smithsonian's worm experts, Anna Phillips, a worm is just "an organism that is long and thin ... without legs ... that's not a snake."

The latest episode of the podcast Invisibilia explores the idea that personality — something a lot of us think of as immutable — can change over time.

At the end of 2013, snowy owls started showing up far south of their usual winter range. The big white birds were reported in South Carolina, Georgia, even Florida.

Dave Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, had never seen anything like it.

Finding success in science requires smarts, determination — and sometimes a bit of luck. NPR's Skunk Bear created the Golden Mole Award For Accidental Brilliance to celebrate that last part.

Author Isaac Asimov once wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, 'That's funny ... ' "

Good scientists search for the significance of surprises, coincidences and mistakes. With a little curiosity and perseverance, they can turn unexpected incidents into new insights.

The history of science is full of happy accidents — most folks have heard that penicillin was discovered in 1928, when a few mold spores landed on some neglected petri dishes in a London lab. But sometimes serendipity's role is a bit less ... mainstream.

Editor's note: It's National Popcorn Day! We're celebrating by bringing back this tale, first published in 2014, about the history of the beloved snack.

The armed militants occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon come from as far away as Texas and Montana. But they are hardly the refuge's first out-of-state visitors.

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