kottke.org posts about Robert Krulwich

How does the snow-diving fox hunt?Jan 09 2014

First of all, how cute are these foxes jumping up and diving down into the snow after mice?

So. Cute. Here's Robert Krulwich on what they're up to:

Think about this ... an ordinary fox can stalk a mole, mouse, vole or shrew from a distance of 25 feet, which means its food is making a barely audible rustling sound, hiding almost two car lengths away. And yet our fox hurls itself into the air -- in an arc determined by the fox, the speed and trajectory of the scurrying mouse, any breezes, the thickness of the ground cover, the depth of the snow -- and somehow (how? how?), it can land straight on top of the mouse, pinning it with its forepaws or grabbing the mouse's head with its teeth.

Look at those ears and how the fox moves his head around to zero in on the mouse's location...reminds me of the pre-radar acoustic location devices (sometimes called war tubas) used in the early 20th century to detect approaching aircraft:

War Tuba

Let slip the tubas of war! Aaaaanyway, as the acoustic location device gave way to the more effective radar, so too is the fox more successful at hunting when he is pointed northeast -- a kind of magnetic radar, if you will. Fascinating.

The natural curves of human movementJan 25 2011

No one has been able to figure out why humans can't walk, swim, or even drive in straight lines without reference points. Instead, we go in circles:

(via df)

What's the longest English word?Jan 21 2011

Ok smartypants, put your hand down. It's antidisestablishmentarianism, right? Maybe not. Robert Krulwich explains.

Science writer Sam Kean, in his book The Disappearing Spoon, worked really hard on this and after much sleuthing, he landed on a word that comes not from dancing English nannies but from virus-hunting scientists. It's a protein, found in a virus, but this is a very dangerous, economically important virus, the first ever discovered.

Compare with the Wikipedia entry on long words, which contains this glorious non-word: Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun. (via @bobulate)

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