It's hard to imagine how this teeny little rock — it's not even a whole rock, it's just a grain, a miniscule droplet of mineral barely the thickness of a human hair — could rewrite the history of our planet. But that's what seems to be happening.
Part of the nation's physical landscape is changing. Nature writer and commentator Craig Childs has been watching the dramatic transformation of a mighty river that is running dry.
Small porpoises once swam in the brackish estuaries of the Colorado River delta. Jaguars stalked the river channels and marshes. It's not like that any more, though. The Colorado River no longer reaches the sea in Northern Mexico. It hasn't since 1983.
Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 1:05 pm
Tai Shan and his mother, Mei Xiang, enjoy frozen fruit treats at the National Zoo in 2006.
Credit Avie Schneider / NPR
Xiao Liwu made his public debut Thursday at the San Diego Zoo. Fans crowded around the exhibit, their camera lenses extended, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 5-month-old giant panda cub. If they're lucky and actually do see the 16-pound panda (his Chinese name means "Little Gift"), there'll be much oooing and aaahing.
You'd have to be heartless not to agree that pandas, especially the youngest of them, are as cute as all get-out. Right? But why?
Chances are they already speak more languages than you: children from Papua New Guinea's Andai tribe of hunter-gatherers wait for their parents to vote in the village of Kaiam. Over 800 languages are spoken in PNG, a country of about six million people.
Credit Torsten Blackwood / AFP/Getty Images
Some years ago, Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, was sitting around a campfire in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He'd recently had a conversation with a New Guinea friend who spoke a total of eight languages: five were local to the friend's village and the friend had just picked them up as a child, the other three he learned in school.
Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 4:48 pm
The three solar fields and their respective towers. October 2012.
Credit Jamey Stillings
According to photographer Jamey Stillings, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will be the "world's largest concentrated solar thermal power plant" when complete at the end of this year. That's if we want to get all technical.
In plain terms: There's a huge solar plant under construction in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and Stillings has been documenting the process since the very beginning. Did you know this was happening? I didn't.
He's off at the lower left, waiting for filmmaker Bryan Smith to say go. Then Dean Potter starts to climb, moving with no pack, no ropes, nothing, up the side of Cathedral Peak in Yosemite until he reaches the highline that will take him straight to the moon. He steps out, arms stretched, no pole; you can watch the line sag a little as it takes his weight, and he's off ...
An illustration shows the Earth's night sky 3.75 billion years from now, with the Andromeda galaxy (left) beginning to distort our own Milky Way as the two collide. While galactic collisions are eye catching, could something bigger be just over the horizon?
Credit Z. Levay/R. van der Marel/T. Hallas/A. Mellinger / NASA/ESA
Maybe some readers recall Immanuel Velikovsky's 1950 mega bestseller Worlds in Collision. The book, which caused a real sensation at the time, was an attempt to "explain" many of the big cataclysms and "miracles" recorded in mythic and folkloric narratives of ancient cultures as real astrophysical events. Velikovsky's thesis was that narratives of floods and mass destructions were not just allegorical or metaphorical but records of events that did take place.