"Gherkin" — I like saying it. It's vaguely Indian sounding. "Kerfuffle." That's just fun, with so many F's packed into three syllables. "Diphthong" is sly because it's hiding a silent H, the H right after the P; it's there, but you wouldn't know it. And "hornswoggle?" Just hearing it, I'm on the deck of a frigate, there are seagulls soaring above, and someone is playing a jig.
One of these four words, the "Final Four" in Ted McCagg's "Best Word Ever" contest, became a champion this week.
Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 1:39 pm
Credit Chris Jackson / Getty Images
If you had a sudden urge to put a horn on your head, not use your knees and chew on some leaves, you may be catching the spirit of World Rhino Day. It's being celebrated all over the world with art shows, auctions, walk-a-thons and lectures with the theme of "Five Rhino Species Forever."
In a couple weeks, the prestigious Nobel Prizes will be announced. But this week, the Ig Nobels honored the silliest discoveries of 2012. A study on the physics of the ponytail; a paper on why coffee spills when you walk; and a prize for a group of psychologists who scanned the brain of an unpromising patient: a deceased Atlantic salmon. Even more unlikely were their findings: the dead fish had thoughts. Who knows - maybe dreams. Craig Bennett did the experiment and accepted the award with good humor, and a couple of fish jokes.
President Obama named a new national monument on Friday: Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado. With two sandstone spires soaring from a mesa, not only is Chimney Rock a spectacular place; it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient people who lived in that region more than 1,000 years ago.
Finally this hour, to California, where space shuttle Endeavour made its final flight today. Endeavour left Andrews Air Force Base this morning on the back of a 747. It flew over San Francisco and Sacramento before heading south to Los Angeles. There, it will find new life as an exhibit in a science museum. Before Endeavour touched down, it made a low-level pass over a number of Southern California landmarks. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was with some elementary school students as the shuttle flew by.
Up next, an entirely different kind of food problem. Recycling paper and plastic, as you know, is an effective way to save money and energy. So why not recycle all the uneaten food that goes to waste? And there is an awful lot of it. Forty percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, which means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of 165 billion - with a B - billion dollars worth of food each year. But that's not all. Food waste, as it decays in landfills, also produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Over 115,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and most of them are in need of a kidney. Now, what if we could just create a kidney for them in the laboratory? One of my next guests has experimented with printing out organs using an inkjet printer, but instead of ink, he uses cells.