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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

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The Egg Makes Its Move In A New Version Of Which Came First: The Chicken Or the Egg?

Feb 11, 2013

Which came first? I just bumped into a new take on this old puzzler.

Everybody knows you need a chicken to lay an egg. Everybody knows you need an egg to produce a chicken. What nobody knows is how the cycle started. Once upon a time, did Heaven create a first-of-its-kind egg, or a first-of-its-kind chicken? (Or to put the question in a more sciencey way, did a new, different egg make a sudden appearance? Or did it start with new and different chicken?)

This, of course, is a slippery question. But in this new video from AsapSCIENCE, instead of getting all philosophical, Mitchell Moffit gets cleverly technical.

He asks, "Is a chicken egg one laid by a chicken or only one that simply contains a chicken?"

Yes, I had to read this a few times to make sense of it. What he's saying is, a long, long, time ago, an animal looking a lot like a chicken (It was genetically very, very close, but not quite there; we'll call it a "proto-chicken.") laid an egg. An animal resembling rooster had fertilized that egg, but when dad's genes and mom's genes fused, they combined in a new way, creating a mutation that accidently made the baby different from its parents. While it would take thousands of years and generations to notice the difference, that egg was different enough to become the pioneer of a new species, an animal we now call ... A Chicken. So if we look at that first egg, created by accident from two almost-chickens — couldn't we say it all started with a new and different egg?

So it's the egg! The egg came first? No?

Now you are ready to watch the video ...


AsapSCIENCE is the brainchild of Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, two former University of Guelph classmates from Ontario who regularly produce three minute videos answering questions that normal people with no science training ask themselves while staring out windows on long train trips.You can find their YouTube channel here.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.