Robert Krulwich

Robert Krulwich is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk, reporting on the intersections of science and technology with culture, politics and religion. His specialty is explaining complex news — economics, technology, science — in a style that is clear, compelling and entertaining. "I like talking about 'invisible ideas' and trying to find a way to explain what you've learned so people can grasp it," he said.

Additionally, Krulwich co-hosts WNYC's NPR-distributed scientific documentary series Radio Lab with host/producer Jad Abumrad and serves as substitute host on NPR news magazines and talk programs including Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation.

Krulwich first joined NPR in 1978 and served as economics reporter until 1985 when he joined CBS News. Since 1994, Krulwich has been an ABC News correspondent, appearing regularly on Nightline, World News Tonight and Good Morning America. He contributed to NPR occasionally until his recent return to NPR.

With Ted Koppel, he co-hosted an eight-part primetime series "Brave New World," which probed the "eight biggest questions facing humankind." With Peter Jennings, he produced an animated history of Bosnia for a children's special. With Barbara Walters, he explored possible cures for cancer.

Krulwich has been called "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide, "the man who makes the dismal science swing" by the Washington Journalism Review, and "the man who simplifies without being simple" by New York magazine.

He is also a regular correspondent on the PBS investigative series Frontline where he won an Alfred I duPont-Columbia University Award for his coverage of campaign finance in the 1992 presidential campaign, a national Emmy Award for his investigation of privacy on the Internet, "High Stakes in Cyberspace"; and a George Polk Award for an hour on the savings and loan scandal. His ABC special on Barbie, a cultural history of the world-famous doll, also won a national Emmy.

Krulwich has also anchored a cultural affairs series on PBS (and a simultaneous series on the BBC) called The Edge. He has also hosted Live From Lincoln Center and appeared on Jay Leno's premiere Tonight Show broadcast.

Once a year Krulwich hosts a semi-fictional year-in-review called "Backfire," with friends Jane Curtin, Buck Henry and Tony Hendra. In 1995, the group performed at the White House at the invitation of President and Mrs. Clinton.

He has received numerous awards for his reporting, including the Extraordinary Communicator Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2000, four consecutive Gainsbrugh Awards from the Economics Broadcasting Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Excellence in Television Award in 2001 for a NOVA special on the human genome. TV Guide named Krulwich to its All Star reporting team; and Esquire placed him in its Esquire Registry in 1989. In 1974, Krulwich covered the Watergate hearings for Pacifica Radio and in 1976, he was Washington bureau chief for Rolling Stone magazine.

Krulwich received a bachelor's degree in U.S. history from Oberlin College in 1969, and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School in 1974. He lives in New York City with his wife, Tamar Lewin, a national reporter for the New York Times. They have two children, Jesse and Nora Ann.

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12:42pm

Wed October 1, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Is That A Lark I Hear? A Nightingale? Surprise! It's A Bat

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 2:19 pm

Quoctrung Bui NPR

Bats produce "pings" or "clicks," right? They make these high-pitched sounds, too high for us to hear, but when their cries ricochet off distant objects, the echoes tell them there's a house over there, a tree in front of them, a moth flying over on the left. And so they "see" by echolocation. That's their thing. They are famously good at it.

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5:48am

Sun September 28, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

2 Ways To Think About Nothing, One Mo' Time

NASA

This being my last weekend with this blog, I wanted to repost a story I wrote a few years ago that has continued to intrigue me ...

I'm going to show you two kinds of nothing.

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11:53am

Fri September 19, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

'Murdersquishing' Them To Death: How Little Bees Take On Enormous Hornets

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 3:28 pm

Courtesy of Matt Inman

I know, I know. You have Putin to worry about, ISIS to worry about, Britain's near breaking, Washington's broken, and the globe keeps getting warmer — so why bring up Japanese giant hornets? You have worries enough. But I can't help myself. I've got to mention these hornets because, as bad as they are — and they are very, very bad ...

... this story has a happy ending.

Hornets From Hell

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7:03am

Sun September 14, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Howling Babies Drove Prehistoric Warriors Into Battle?

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 10:26 am

iStockphoto

If you have ever seen, or spent time with (or, God forbid, had to live with) a colicky baby, this will make perfect sense to you. It may not make actual sense, but when the baby is crying you don't think very straight.

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12:51pm

Fri September 12, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

What Makes A Star Starry? Is It Me?

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 5:55 pm

Courtesy of Tyler Nordgen

5:40pm

Wed September 10, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Souls Tumbling In The Light

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 12:58 pm

BirdCast YouTube

Every year on Sept. 11, this happens ...

When it gets dark, New York City turns on 88 7,000-watt xenon light bulbs to produce two powerful beams that shoot up, side by side, to remind us that once upon a time, two towers stood here, and then didn't, and this is how we remember the day they came down — by looking up.

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6:47am

Sun September 7, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Mapping What You Cannot See, Cannot Know, Cannot Visit

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 12:54 pm

Nature Video YouTube

When I was a boy I had a globe. I could take it in my hands, rest it on my lap, give it a spin and look down on Africa, Europe, North America and Asia spinning by.

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6:03am

Fri September 5, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Building Me: A Puzzlement

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 3:01 pm

It's a puzzle — the deepest puzzle I know. The question is: What are we?

One answer, from physicist-novelist Alan Lightman, is we are stuff. Just stuff.

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7:03am

Thu September 4, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Glenn Gould In Rapture

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 9:15 am

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

What's going on here, I can only guess, but here's what you're about to see: In the video below, the great musician Glenn Gould, supreme interpreter of Bach, is sitting at his living room piano on a low, low chair, his nose close to the keys. He's at his Canadian country house in his bathrobe.

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4:57am

Sun August 24, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Roadways You Can Install Like Throw Rugs

Courtesy of Erik Johansson

Magic carpets you know about. Aladdin had one. But how about this?

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12:49pm

Thu August 21, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

When Venus Was Filled With Venusians — 50 Billion Of Them

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 12:13 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

What a difference 180 years makes.

Back in the 1830s, a Scottish minister and amateur astronomer named Thomas Dick tried to calculate the number of intelligent creatures in the universe. He assumed that all heavenly bodies supported intelligent life, maybe not exactly like us, but similar to us in size and habits of living. Then he took population figures for Great Britain and, assuming that space aliens lived just as densely, he projected populations onto various planets.

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7:03am

Wed August 20, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

If You're Born In The Sky, What's Your Nationality? An Airplane Puzzler

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 9:52 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

Here's a puzzle I bet you've never pondered.

Imagine you are very, very pregnant. For the purposes of this mind game, you are a married American woman (with an American spouse) and you are about to board a plane and, pregnant as you are, they let you on.

Your flight, on Lufthansa Airlines, will leave Frankfurt, Germany, and travel nonstop to the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. Germany is cold, wet and unhappy-making, and you crave the aquamarine waters, the balmy skies of the Maldives.

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7:03am

Fri August 15, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

When Snails Lose Their Way

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 1:25 pm

Vi Hart YouTube

12:44pm

Tue August 12, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Elemental Storytelling

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 8:10 pm

Courtesy of Thomas Doyle

There's a photograph I know that shows a kid's bicycle lying on its side, one wheel turned upright, a smear of blood tracing its path on the concrete. There's a little package still latched to the back, waiting for its owner to return. You can see where the bike swerved, then lost its way. Someone's been hurt. Or worse. The blood is still damp, the trail fresh. Whose blood was it? A child's, I imagine — from an accident? A shooting? The photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz during a war in Yugoslavia.

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7:03am

Thu August 7, 2014

2:26pm

Tue August 5, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

How To Cross 5 International Borders In 1 Minute Without Sweating

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 1:25 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

So many nations are breaking up. Ukraine is in pieces. Moldova is teetering. Libya has no government to speak of. Sudan broke in two last year; now both sides are fighting. Yugoslavia is seven countries. Nigeria has a Christian/Muslim split. Syria has split so many ways it's barely there. Even Scotland is thinking of ditching Great Britain. With every break, we get new lines, new fences, new borders — further evidence of our failure to amalgamate, to get along.

The more borders we have, the more quarrels, the more wars. That's one way to think about borders — they're trouble.

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7:03am

Sat August 2, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Guess Who's Been Waiting In The Lobby For A Hundred Million Years?

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 11:22 am

Tanaka/Flickr

Sometimes the quiet ones surprise us.

Take moss — those fuzzy green pads you see on the sides of old trees, or hanging onto rocks. Who notices moss? It's just ... there, doing whatever it does — so slowly, so terribly slowly, that nobody bothers to think about it. Moss creeps up tree bark, sits quietly on crevasses in rocks. Moss is an old, old life form, one of the earliest plants to attach to land around 450 million years ago. It's very patient, very modest — but when you look closely, you discover it has super powers.

Pow! Crunch! Zap!

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12:19pm

Mon July 28, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Where The Birds Are Is Not Where You'd Think

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 7:33 pm

Robert Krulwich/NPR

This is a trick question. Where would you expect to find the greatest variety of birds?

Downtown, in a city?

Or far, far from downtown — in the fields, forests, mountains, where people are scarce?

Or in the suburbs? In backyards, lawns, parking lots and playing fields?

Not the city, right?

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12:03pm

Wed July 23, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

An Animal Makes A $10,000 Deposit, But Not At The Bank

Originally published on Wed July 30, 2014 7:48 pm

Courtesy of I.M. Chait

Editor's note: We've added an update at the bottom of this post with results of the auction. Read on!

It's a highly specialized category to be sure: "Longest." But that's what the auctioneer is selling. According to the catalog of I.M. Chait Gallery, in Beverly Hills, "This truly spectacular specimen is possibly the longest example of coprolite ever to be offered at auction."

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1:55pm

Tue July 22, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

What's Better Than A Total Eclipse Of The Sun? Check This

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 2:54 pm

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Any eclipse is worth seeing. A total eclipse — where the moon completely blots out the sun, where day turns to night, where solar flares ring the moon's shadow like a crown of flame — that's the eclipse everybody wants to see, the alpha eclipse that eclipses all the other eclipses. Everybody knows this (me included), until I saw this ...

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11:51am

Wed July 16, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Neil Whosis? What You Don't Know About The 1969 Moon Landing

Originally published on Sun July 20, 2014 1:29 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

Forty-five years ago, this week, 123 million of us watched Neil and Buzz step onto the moon. In 1969, we numbered about 200 million, so more than half of America was in the audience that day. Neil Armstrong instantly became a household name, an icon, a hero. And then — and this, I bet, you didn't know — just as quickly, he faded away.

"Whatever Happened to Neil Whosis?" asked the Chicago Tribune in 1974.

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5:30am

Sun July 13, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

The Most Astonishing Wave-Tracking Experiment Ever

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 9:58 am

Sean Gallup Getty Images

I'm standing on a beach and I see, a few hundred yards out, a mound of water heading right at me. It's not a wave, not yet, but a swollen patch of ocean, like the top of a moving beach ball, what sailors call a "swell." As it gets closer, its bottom hits the rising shore below, forcing the water up, then over, sending it tumbling onto the beach, a tongue of foam coming right up to my toes — and that's when I look down, as the wave melts into the sand and I say,

"Hi, I'm from New York. But what about you? Where are you from?"

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7:03am

Wed July 9, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

A Tough Little Droplet Fights To Stick Around

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 3:58 pm

Zach Heller Flickr

7:03am

Sun July 6, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Tell Me, Wave, Where Did You Come From? Who Made You?

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 12:27 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

"I'm sitting next to a swimming pool and somebody dives in," says the great physicist Richard Feynman in a conversation recorded in 1983. Other people jump in as well.

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7:10am

Wed July 2, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Watch It Swallow An Entire Tree In Seconds

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 7:03 am

deniscimafinc YouTube

5:18am

Sun June 29, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Her Baby Is At Risk: Lauren's Story

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 3:55 pm

Courtesy of Lauren R. Weinstein/Nautilus

They're odds. That's all they are. Not fate, just probabilities. Lauren Weinstein, cartoonist, is having a baby, and she's told — out of the blue — that she and her husband are both carriers of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. They are sent to a genetic counselor. What happens next — told in five beautifully drawn, emotionally eloquent cartoons — tells what it's like to walk the edge for a few weeks. She's so many things (sad, funny, scared, puzzled), and then there's the ender. Take a look.

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1:48pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

What Not To Serve Buzzards For Lunch, A Glorious Science Experiment

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:07 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

OK, I'm doing great science experiments. We've done sex (see previous post). On to lunch!

This is the story of a bird, a puzzle, and a painting. The painting, curiously, helped solve the puzzle, which is: How do vultures find food?

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11:26am

Wed June 25, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Two Glorious Science Experiments: One About Sex, The Other About Lunch

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 4:19 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

Done right, a good science experiment is simple, clear and revealing. Done splendidly, it's a tale you don't forget. Let's do the sex one first. It took place in Italy, in the 1760s, when a Catholic priest and scholar, Lazzaro Spallanzani, was thinking about sperm — which is why he decided to dress frogs in pants, like this ...

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4:56am

Sun June 22, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Man Floats Free In Hotel Corridor

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 1:09 pm

Storyboard P dance down a hall in London.
BD YouTube

We live in a sea of air. It holds us, weighs on us, keeps us tethered. The earth, of course, holds us too, keeps us pinned. But not all of us. I want you to meet Storyboard P, a dancer who floats.

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9:46am

Fri June 20, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Wrong! Deconstructing 5 Famous History Stories

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:46 am

CGP Grey YouTube

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