As a good portion of the country grapples with snow, here's a fresh way to think about those accumulating — and sometimes aggravating — inches of pure whiteness: as art canvas. That's how Simon Beck sees them.
For the past year or so, NPR's Joe Palca has been on a new beat. He's calling it Joe's Big Idea. And it's been a chance for him to explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors, to find out what really makes them tick. We thought it might be a good time to check in with Joe and see what big ideas he has encountered along his journey. Hey Joe, thanks for being with us.
When you think about a scrumptious meal, airline food does not come to mind.
There are plenty of challenges to tasty airline meals, like the fact that many airlines now charge you for anything more than a tiny bag of chips and a plastic cup of non-alcoholic drink, at least on domestic flights. Plus, you can't cook on an airplane, so anything you're served has probably been chilled, then reheated. And flight delays certainly don't help with the freshness factor.
As the year winds down, we here at NPR are looking at a few key numbers that explain the big trends of 2013.
Today's number: 1.6 million.
That's 1.6 million acres — about the area of the state of Delaware.
That's how much land was removed this year from the federal Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, which pays farmers to keep land covered with native grasses or sometimes trees. Most of that land now will produce crops like corn or wheat.
This morning, astronauts Michael Hopkins and Richard Mastracchio stepped outside the International Space Station. Their mission: to conduct one of three urgent spacewalks to repair a coolant system. Mission Control seemed happy with today's effort.
(SOUNDBITE OF MISSION CONTROL RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: OK. Really nice work, guys. We're about an hour and a half ahead. Let's take some steps beforehand. First, we want to do an ammonia inspection.
There are lots of lists as the year draws to a close: best films, best books, Persons of the Year. This year, NPR is looking at the numbers that tell this year's story. So, our math guy, Keith Devlin, has a nomination for number of the year. He joins us now from Stanford University, where he's a professor of something that's too long for me to state. Keith, thanks very much for being with us.
KEITH DEVLIN: Hi, Scott. Good to be with you again.
SIMON: All right. Drum roll, please: the number of the year is...
Under throbbing loudspeakers at a NASCAR track south of Miami, vaguely humanoid robots with two legs, four legs and tank treads take up garages that normally house race cars.
The robots, along with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lockheed Martin, NASA and 13 other teams from around the world, are in Homestead, Fla., for the robot Olympics on Friday and Saturday.
NASA astronauts will be heading out to conduct critical repairs on the International Space Station early Saturday morning. The 6 1/2-hour spacewalk, the first in a series, will replace a faulty piece of cooling equipment.