Fri August 10, 2012
Joe's Big Idea

So You Landed On Mars. Now What?

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 6:28 am

Adam Steltzner, the leader of the rover's entry, descent and landing engineering team, cheers after Curiosity touched down safely on Mars on Sunday.
Bill Ingalls/NASA Getty Images

The Mars rover Curiosity is beginning its fifth day on the red planet, and it's been performing flawlessly from the moment it landed.

That's been especially gratifying for NASA landing engineer Adam Steltzner. Last Friday, while Steltzner was still on pins and needles waiting for the landing to take place, I told the story of Steltzner's decision as a young man to give up his life as a rocker and go for a career in space engineering.

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Thu August 9, 2012

Study: Humans, Elephants User Similar Vocalizations

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 11:02 am



Finally, this hour, a trick question. What sound does an elephant make? If you have a toddler nearby, you're no doubt getting an imitation of this.


CORNISH: But what most kids and their parents don't know because most of us have never been within hugging distance of an elephant is that their most common form of communication is this.


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Thu August 9, 2012

How A Texas Town Became Water Smart

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 11:02 am

An area in San Antonio's Brackenridge Park where treated wastewater is pumped into the San Antonio River, one of many measures the city has taken to combat drought.
Mose Buchele StateImpact Texas

Faced with a booming population and a disappearing water supply, the city of San Antonio responded by dramatically cutting consumption, pioneering new storage techniques and investing in water recycling and desalination projects. It now boasts that it is "Water's Most Resourceful City."

There are so many programs and projects that Chuck Ahrens of Water Resources and Conservation with the San Antonio Water System can hardly keep track.

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Thu August 9, 2012

Paleontologists Unearth Possible Pre-Human Fossils

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 2:30 pm

Fossils discovered in East Africa suggest that Homo erectus, the species believed to be humans' direct ancestor, may have shared Earth with two genetically distinct but similar species. Some paleontologists believe that these species may be distant relatives to modern humans, while others need more evidence.


Thu August 9, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Nature Comes Into Full View On Twitter

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 6:48 am

Storm cloud near Belmar, New Jersey, last month.
Barbara J King

On Sunday, I went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach. As I swam along laterally, in the trough between two lines of waves, I daydreamed about how far those waves had traveled and which other animal species had encountered them along the way.

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Thu August 9, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Olympic Bodies: They Just Don't Make Them Like They Used To

Originally published on Tue August 14, 2012 12:55 pm

Adam Cole NPR

The Olympic Games seem to celebrate the extremes of athletic physique — from tiny gymnasts to impossibly huge shot-putters. But why are they shaped that way?

We've put together an infographic that explores how athletes' bodies have changed over the last century, and the role physics plays in each event. Here on Shots, we're taking a look at some of the athletes featured in the graphic.

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Thu August 9, 2012

Building For Birds: Architects Aim For Safer Skies

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 1:07 pm

Architect Guy Maxwell holds a printout of his proposed design for the new Bridge Building at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
John W. Poole NPR

Second of a two-part series. Read Part 1.

Modern architecture's love affair with tall glass buildings takes a toll. Every year, millions of birds crash into glass windows in North America.

These collisions may seem like an intractable problem. But in New York City, an architect is trying to find a solution.

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Thu August 9, 2012

INFOGRAPHIC: The Physics Of Olympic Bodies

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 1:57 pm

Adam Cole NPR

Olympians from the 1912 games seem a bit shorter, a bit scrawnier, a bit more ... average. Over the past century, elite athletes' bodies have changed a lot, and this evolution has been propelled by the laws of physics.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


Wed August 8, 2012
The Salt

Here's Where Farms Are Sucking The Planet Dry

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 5:49 pm

Check out some of the world's most important - and threatened - aquifers. Click to see a high-resolution version of this map.

This map is disturbing, once you understand it. It's a new attempt to visualize an old problem — the shrinking of underground water reserves, in most cases because farmers are pumping out water to irrigate their crops.

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Wed August 8, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Discussing The Mars Landing With My 137-Year-Old Grandfather

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 12:23 pm

Percival Lowell's drawings of "canals" on Mars.
Universal History Archive Getty Images

Yes, it was an amazing landing, an engineering triumph, a 150-million-mile slam dunk, spectacular in every way, except ... I think my grandpa would be disappointed. I'm not sure of this, since he died 50 years ago, but I have a hunch.

It starts with a handwritten letter he wrote back in 1907. He was a travelling salesman. He sold men's hats, and his job was to visit retailers all over the country. "One evening," he wrote, "train riding between Chicago and Kansas City or St. Louis, sitting the club car, I read a magazine, The Century..."

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