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Adam Cole

NPR's Skunk Bear / YouTube

Finding success in science requires smarts, determination — and sometimes a bit of luck.

Author Isaac Asimov once wrote, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but, 'That's funny ... ' "

Good scientists search for the significance of surprises, coincidences and mistakes. With a little curiosity and perseverance, they can turn unexpected incidents into new insights.

The history of science is full of happy accidents — most folks have heard that penicillin was discovered in 1928, when a few mold spores landed on some neglected petri dishes in a London lab. But sometimes serendipity's role is a bit less ... mainstream.

Hennig Brand was a German alchemist in the 1660s. I'm not saying he was a gold digger — but he did marry first one rich lady, and then, after her death, a second rich lady. And he used their money to literally try to make gold.

NPR's Skunk Bear / YouTube

Editor's note: It's National Popcorn Day!

The armed militants occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon come from as far away as Texas and Montana. But they are hardly the refuge's first out-of-state visitors.

On Monday, NASA started accepting applications for its new class of astronauts. Applying is simple: Just log in to USAjobs.gov, search for "astronaut," and upload your resume and references. The job description says "Frequent travel may be required."

Watch a scary movie and your skin crawls. Goose bumps have become so associated with fear that the word is synonymous with thrills and chills.

But what on earth does scary have do to with chicken-skin bumps? For a long time, it wasn't well understood.

When it comes to feats of speed and strength, Homo sapiens is a pretty pitiful species. The list of animals that can outsprint us is embarrassing. There's the cheetah, of course, but also horses, ostriches, greyhounds, grizzly bears, kangaroos, wild boars, even some house cats.

The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded Monday to three scientists for their work on parasitic diseases.

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura were recognized for discovering a compound that effectively kills roundworm parasites. A Chinese scientist, Dr. Youyou Tu, won for her work in isolating a powerful drug in the 1970s to fight malaria.

Hundreds of you sent in questions for Skunk Bear's live conversation with three astronauts and NASA's chief scientist on Tuesday. Thanks! The most common question was: "What happens when you get your period in space?"

I didn't end up asking them this question because:

a) The question itself has a lot of historical baggage;
b) The answer is pretty boring.

But since people were genuinely curious, I decided to answer it here.

In the history of life on Earth, evolutionary forces have pushed some species to become incredibly large. After most dinosaurs died off 66 million years ago, some mammals and marsupials grew bigger and bigger, taking the dinos' place.

Make Lava, Not War

Jun 25, 2015

The Man v. Horse Marathon starts out like a typical cross-country race. Hundreds of runners stream past the starting line, through the town of Llanwrtyd Wells and then up into the Welsh hills.

But 15 minutes later, a second set of competitors takes off. Fifty horses and their riders chase the runners up and down ridges, across streams, and past hundreds of bewildered sheep.

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