And with much of the nation is in the middle of this brutal cold snap, let's take a moment to hear from scientists who study other planets or even the chilliest places on Earth. Those researchers commonly encounter temperatures that make this news-making cold seem downright balmy. We asked NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel to find out just how low it can go.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: I caught up with researcher Paul Mayewski yesterday just as he was headed out of town.
All right. Here are the voices of some meteorologists around the country. This was in Indianapolis.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is the coldest wind chill I've ever reported in on the Weather Channel. It's 41 below zero. The air temperature is 13. In fact, it has dropped eight degrees in four hours this morning, as that wind just eats right through you.
GREENE: And no surprise, it is also cold in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Britain's southwest coast is getting slammed by a winter storm, with high winds driving waves as high as 27 feet ashore in an unusual event that meteorologists say is likely linked to the bone-chilling "polar vortex" gripping much of the U.S.
European scientists were alarmed in 2008 when they discovered streams of methane bubbles erupting from the seafloor in Norway's high Arctic. This gas, which contributes to global warming, was apparently coming from methane ice on the seafloor. A follow-up study finds that methane bubble plumes at this location have probably been forming for a few thousand years, so they are not the result of human-induced climate change. But continued warming of ocean water can trigger more methane releases in the Arctic, with potentially serious consequences to the climate.
As an undergraduate major in the Symbolic Systems Program at Stanford University, I had amazing opportunities to interact with scholars from a variety of disciplines, and also plenty of awkward small talk ... of the in-flight variety.
On trips to and from Silicon Valley during school vacations, I inevitably found myself seated next to a well-meaning businessman who sensed my student status and asked the inevitable question:
Well-meaning businessman: What are you majoring in?
In the world of music, there is no more remarkable gift than having perfect pitch. As the story goes, Ella Fitzgerald's band would use her perfect pitch to tune their instruments.
Although it has a genetic component, most believe that perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — is a primarily a function of early life exposure and training in music, says Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.