Mon December 24, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

We're Taking A Holiday Break

With Christmas upon us and the New Year just around the corner, we're taking a two-week break from regular posting on 13.7. You may still see a few "micro posts" over the next two weeks. But we won't be back to our regular schedule until Monday, January 7. We hope to see you again then.

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Mon December 24, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Which Is There More Of: Kindness Or Unkindness? A Christmas Accounting

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 11:57 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

Here's a notion. It comes from Kevin Kelly, author, editor and friend. He was imagining this:

Suppose, he said, that you could count every kindness, every good deed, every smile, every caress, every act of charity, love, tenderness, every generous moment that occurred on the planet this year, and add them all up so you'd have a Total Incidence of Goodness for 2012, a grand sum.

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Mon December 24, 2012

The Science Behind Santa's Christmas Eve Journey

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 7:11 am

With billions of children to visit in just one night, how does Santa make it to every house? And how does he fit down the chimney — assuming your house has one. Astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson talks to David Greene about the science of Santa.


Sun December 23, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Wait, Maybe We Are Living In A Simulation.

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 5:45 pm

A month or so ago, I wrote a post asking if everything we experience is nothing more than the result of a giant simulation run by super-advanced aliens.

"That's crazy!", some folks responded. "What are you smoking?"

Now a team of physicists at the University of Washington have announced research that might just be able to answer the simulation question (well, maybe get a start on answering that question).

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Sun December 23, 2012

Forget Fracking: 2012 Was A Powerful Year For Renewables

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 11:44 am

Wind turbines stand alongside an electrical tower at the National Wind Technology Center, run by the U.S. Department of Energy, outside Boulder, Colo.
Brennan Linsley AP

Natural gas may have reshaped the domestic energy market in 2012, lowering energy prices and marginalizing the coal industry, but America's shale boom hasn't undermined renewables.

In fact, while analysts were paying attention to fracking this year, a record number of solar panels were being slapped on roofs — enough to produce 3.2 gigawatts of electricity.

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Sun December 23, 2012
Around the Nation

With Growth Of 'Hacker Scouting,' More Kids Learn To Tinker

Originally published on Sun December 23, 2012 12:41 pm

Kids build robots with Popsicle sticks at an Oakland meeting of Hacker Scouts, a group that encourages young people to create do-it-yourself crafts and electronics.
Jon Kalish for NPR

Countless kids have grown up with the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts or Campfire Girls, but for some families, the uniforms and outdoor focus of traditional Scouting groups don't appeal.

In recent months, Scoutlike groups that concentrate on technology and do-it-yourself projects have been sprouting up around the country. They're coed and, like traditional Scouting organizations, award patches to kids who master skills.

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Sat December 22, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

It's December. Brrrr. Is My House Shivering?


What if, and I'm just being silly here, but what if houses were warm-blooded, and got cold in December like we do? What if?

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Fri December 21, 2012
Shots - Health News

Killer's DNA Won't Explain His Crime

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 9:21 pm

A person's DNA can say a lot about a person, but not why someone has committed a horrific crime like mass murder.

Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Wayne Carver, has raised the possibility of requesting genetic tests on Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Carver hasn't said precisely what he may want geneticists to look for, but scientists who study the links between genes and violence say those tests won't reveal much about why Lanza did what he did.

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Fri December 21, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Riddle For A Winter Morning

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 5:10 pm

A sunset in Sicily

I love jokes and riddles. Today I want to share one of my favorites. I'll post the answer on Monday.

I first heard this one sitting with friends at an outdoor table during sunset at a village near the shore in Sicily back in 2008. The strange pink color of this morning's sunrise here in Berkeley reminded me of that evening, and the riddle. I think it was my friend Giovanni Frazzetto who offered up the joke. He definitely organized the evening.

What is greater than God

Worse than the Devil?

The poor have it.

The rich need it.

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Fri December 21, 2012

Future Fibers May Be Spun From Slime

The hagfish or "slime eel" shoots out slime containing silk-like fibers of remarkable strength. Douglas Fudge, a biologist at the University of Guelph, says it could be a good substitute for today's synthetic fibers--it's 10 times stronger than nylon, for example--and bacteria can be trained to make it.