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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5:48am

Sat June 14, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Unstealing Treasures: A Reverse Burglary

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:58 pm

MinutePhysics and RadioLab

I've got this friend, Craig. He's not exactly an outlaw, but if the world needs something moved that is not supposed to be moved, he will move it anyway. Only in the interest of justice. Like Batman.

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6:03am

Wed June 11, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

How We Learned That Frogs Fly

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 10:51 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

There are places where frogs could be — but aren't.

And places where frogs could be — and are.

Ninety years ago, scientists were debating the question of animal dispersal. How come there are kangaroos in Australia, and none in southern Africa --which seems, environmentally, very kangaroo-friendly? Certain frogs show up in warm ponds in one part of the world, but warm ponds a thousand miles away have none. Why?

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7:03am

Wed June 4, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

How Chocolate Might Save The Planet

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 12:11 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

When you unwrap it, break off a piece and stick it in your mouth, it doesn't remind you of the pyramids, a suspension bridge or a skyscraper; but chocolate, says materials scientist Mark Miodownik, "is one of our greatest engineering creations."

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12:29pm

Wed May 28, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

A Little Bird Either Learns Its Name Or Dies

Robert Krulwich NPR

I've been wondering lately, do animals invent names? As in names for themselves? Names for each other? I've always thought that what we do when we call ourselves "Ralph" or "Laura" is unique, something exclusively human. But it turns out that's wrong. Other animals have name-like calls that they use much like we do. I've posted about this before (regarding horses, dolphins and little parakeets) ...

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7:03am

Sun May 25, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

A Young Woman Falls In Love With Everything

Xiangjun Shi Vimeo

You start with difference, with mystery. Some things spiral, some become spheres, some branch, some don't. We know that inert atoms quicken, become bees, goats, clouds, then dissolve back into randomness. We look at these things, all these very, very different things, and we wonder, are they really different, or is every thing we see one thing, expressed differently? Does the universe have rules? How many? Could there be a single generating principle, a oneness?

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2:26pm

Thu May 22, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Jupiter's Dot And Mine. Why Life Is Unfair

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 11:58 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

When I was 9, my dad drew this picture of me. You will notice something on my left cheek — a little brown spot.

That's a mole. The doctor called it "a birthmark." My mom called it "a beauty mark." I was born with it. Having grown up before supermodel Cindy Crawford became famous, I was not familiar with the allure of beauty marks and, anyway, I'm a guy. My mom said it was hardly noticeable. I didn't believe her.

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7:03am

Wed May 21, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

So What If It's Ugly? It Just Keeps On Going ...

Courtesy of Rachel Sussman

Far, far, far away is a great place to be — if you want to stay marvelous. There is a plant, called Welwitschia mirabilis (mirabilis being Latin for marvelous), found only one place on Earth. You can get there, as artist/photographer Rachel Sussman did, by driving through the vast emptiness of the Namibian desert, the Namib Naukluft, in Africa.

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5:27am

Sun May 18, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Intriguing Lime-Green Blobs Appear In The Andes Mountains. Are They Alive?

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 10:09 am

Courtesy of Terrace Lodge

Oops.

Someone dropped lime sherbet on the desert — and it's melting. Who's going to clean this up?

Nobody. Because this — believe it or not — is a plant. It may look like a glob of goo, but it's not at all gooey. It's solid to the touch — so solid that a man can lie on top of it and not sink in, not even a little.

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12:25pm

Fri May 16, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

When Numbers Bleed, Freeze, Starve And Die On A Battlefield: The Dark Poetry Of Data

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 4:43 pm

Roger Viollet Collection Getty Images

6:49am

Thu May 15, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

How To Marry The Right Girl: A Mathematical Solution

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 2:34 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

Poor Johannes Kepler. One of the greatest astronomers ever, the man who figured out the laws of planetary motion, a genius, scholar and mathematician — in 1611, he needed a wife. The previous Mrs. Kepler had died of Hungarian spotted fever, so, with kids to raise and a household to manage, he decided to line up some candidates — but it wasn't going very well.

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5:33am

Sun May 11, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Did Homer Simpson Actually Solve Fermat's Last Theorem? Take A Look

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 8:18 am

Numberphile YouTube

7:03am

Wed May 7, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Draw My Left! No, No, My Other Left! A Hidden Bias In Art History Revealed

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 9:48 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

Look at this guy.

He is half-smiley, half-frowny. I drew the mouth carefully to make it equal parts sad and happy.

But when you look at him — take him in whole — would you say he's having a good day or a bad day?

Most people would say: good day. He seems a little more smiley than not.

That's because, says science writer Sam Kean, when we look at somebody, the left side of that person's face is more emotionally powerful and "determines the overall emotional tenor."

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5:05am

Sun May 4, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Listen To These Lovely Cats. No, Actually, Don't

John Pitcher iStockphoto

10:37am

Fri May 2, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

'Wassup, Sheep?' He Asked

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 2:39 pm

YouTube

2:33pm

Tue April 29, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Plants Talk. Plants Listen. Here's How

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:06 am

Robert Krulwich NPR

They don't have eyes. Or ears. Or what we would call a nervous system. But plants can talk. And they listen. Let me show you how.

First, we'll need a plant eater. This one's perfect: It's an aphid, a hungry little critter who loves to munch on fresh, green leaves ...

Next, we arrange lunch. We choose a bunch of young, healthy bean plants with lots of broad, green leaves ...

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8:03am

Sat April 26, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Come Dance With Me

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 12:34 pm

Urban Dance Camp YouTube

12:32pm

Fri April 25, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

'Don't Touch Me,' Said Canada. 'I Won't!' Said The U.S.A. So They Moved 20 Feet Apart

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 6:55 pm

National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

The U.S. and Canada may be as lovey-dovey as two neighbors can get, but according to this charming video history by CGP Grey, both countries agreed to tuck themselves a little bit in, 10 feet back for America, 10 feet back for Canada, creating a corridor of open, surveillable, clear space between them.

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12:33pm

Wed April 23, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Music That Burns, Literally

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 4:49 pm

Veritasium/YouTube

7:10am

Tue April 22, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Introducing A Divorce Rate For Birds, And Guess Which Bird Never, Ever Divorces?

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 7:06 pm

Robert Krulwich/NPR

There is love. And then there's albatross love.

In his new book, The Thing With Feathers, Noah Strycker says albatrosses have a knack for coupling. "These globe trotters, who mate for life and are incredibly faithful to their partners, just might have the most intense love affairs of any animal on our planet," he writes.

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11:03am

Sat April 19, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

So This Is How They Do It! Zebras Getting Stripes

Originally published on Sat April 19, 2014 12:42 pm

Ricardo Solis

How did it happen? How'd the zebra get its stripes?

In Rudyard Kipling's version, a gray, horsey-looking beast went into "a great forest 'sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-batchy shadows," stayed there awhile, and after a "long time"... got stripy.

OK. Not bad.

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1:57pm

Thu April 17, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

'Why Am I Dead?' He Never Asked. Here's The Answer He Never Heard

Robert Krulwich NPR

Shara Yurkiewicz is a med student. She's doing rounds now, moving from department to department. Much of what she sees, she's seeing for the first time. Not yet a doctor, there are moments, many moments when she has the eyes of a patient. She gets scared. She feels helpless. She's too involved. She's at that place in her training where everything is so sharp, so new, she feels the full, fresh stab of it, and sometimes, very privately, she bleeds.

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11:34am

Wed April 16, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

The Ultimate Animal Experience? Losing A Memory Quiz To A Chimp

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 1:34 pm

Time to be embarrassed. You're about to be bested by a young chimpanzee in a memory test.

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5:39am

Sat April 5, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

The Power Of Poop: A Whale Story

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 1:46 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

This, I would think, should be self-evident: Generally speaking, big creatures eat smaller creatures that, in turn, eat even smaller creatures, like this ...

And just as obviously, one would expect the food chain to be pyramid-shaped: a few big creatures at the top eating more middle-sized creatures in the middle, that eat many, many, many little creatures at the bottom, like so:

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12:59pm

Thu April 3, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

'Oh, Hello,' Says Andrew, As He Suddenly Grabs You By The Leg Or Neck

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 2:22 pm

Andrew Ucles YouTube

Some people like a nice walk, some a gentle run, others a cup of tea. But not Andrew Ucles. There is nothing relaxed about Andrew. You can find him chasing after wild animals on his videos, grabbing them with his bare hands and then, while they squiggle, scratch and lunge, he tells them, "Settle, settle," shows them to the camera, brags a little and lets them go.

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1:45pm

Tue April 1, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

The List Of Animals Who Can Truly, Really Dance Is Very Short. Who's On It?

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 3:05 pm

Courtesy of Irena Schulz/ Bird Lovers Only

5:03am

Sat March 22, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

I Can't Believe What I'm Seeing: A Springtime (Froggy) Miracle

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 11:19 am

NOVA scienceNOW

Two weeks ago this animal was frozen solid. If you found one in the woods, packed in the topsoil, hiding under a leaf, you could pull it from the ground and it would feel like an ashtray. You could bang it (lightly) on a table — it would go, "Konk!" like a rock. It doesn't seem to be breathing. It reacts to nothing. It's so dead. Or seems to be. And then, this (I want to call it a miracle) happens ...

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4:43pm

Tue March 18, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

An Imaginary Town Becomes Real, Then Not. True Story

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 5:38 pm

Booklist American Library Association

This is the story of a totally made-up place that suddenly became real — and then, strangely, undid itself and became a fantasy again. Imagine Pinocchio becoming a real boy and then going back to being a puppet. That's what happened here — but this is a true story.

It's about a place in upstate New York called Agloe. You can see it here, circled in blue ...

... just up the road from Roscoe and Rockland.

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7:08am

Thu January 9, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

A Rain Forest Begins With Rain, Right? Is This A Trick Question?

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 1:50 pm

MinuteEarth YouTube

Think of a rain forest — rich with trees, covered by clouds, wet all the time.

Then ask yourself, how did this rain forest get started?

I ask, because the answer is so going to surprise you. It's not what you think.

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8:27am

Wed January 8, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Am I Going To Die This Year? A Mathematical Puzzle

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 12:56 pm

Robert Krulwich NPR

A few years ago, physicist Brian Skinner asked himself: What are the odds I will die in the next year? He was 25. What got him wondering about this, I have no idea, but, hey, it's something everybody asks. When I can't wedge my dental floss between my two front teeth, I ask it, too. So Brian looked up the answer — there are tables for this kind of thingand what he discovered is interesting. Very interesting. Even mysterious.

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4:33am

Sun January 5, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Oh Say, Can You See? A Musical Salute

Jon Batiste star-spangles our banner.
YouTube

Some things are so familiar, so fixed in our heads, that we stop noticing them. Buckle-your-seat-belt instructions in an airplane, for example. You don't have to listen. You know the drill.

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