It was a rainy night in October when my nephew Lewis passed the Frankenstein statue standing in front of a toy store. The 2 1/2-year-old boy didn't see the monster at first, and when he turned around, he was only inches from Frankenstein's green face, bloodshot eyes and stitched-up skin.
The 4-foot-tall monster terrified my nephew so much that he ran deep into the toy store. And on the way back out, he simply couldn't face the statue. He jumped into his mother's arms and had to bury his head in her shoulder.
At the American Physical Society's fluid dynamics conference this winter, there was a healthy infusion of biology. In between talks on propellers and plane wings, there were presentations about flying snakes, fire ants, humpback whales and hummingbirds. Physicists from all over the world are turning to the natural world to help them solve engineering problems.
Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.
In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.
Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.
Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.
There's a drive-thru ATM in Charlotte, N.C., that looks pretty standard, but it has an extra function: a button that says "speak with teller."
The face of a woman wearing a headset sitting in front of a plain blue background flashes onto the ATM screen. "Good afternoon," she says. "Welcome to Bank of America. My name is Carolina. How are you today?"
She's one of a cadre of Bank of America employees in Florida and Delaware call centers, where they remotely control ATMs across the country. I ask for $26.
The world's climate is warmer on average than it was a hundred years ago. Plants in some places are emerging earlier in the spring and insects that like warm weather are on the move. But scientists are finding out that the culprit isn't just warmth. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, it's also the absence of cold snaps.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: The idea that a warmer planet could mean avocados in Scotland or bananas in Montana may sound silly. But in fact, tropical plants are moving north. For instance, mangroves in Maryland.
For Syrians who remain in their country, you might think that computer security would be a low priority, but with a civil war raging, so, too, is an electronic war between groups allied with President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces. Anti-Assad groups use cyberspace to recruit fighters and coordinate with allies.
One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.
In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.
Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 1:42 pm
The indie gaming market is a growing force in the industry. And while the nature of the market makes it difficult to get exact sales figures, there is no denying that 2013 was a great year for introducing new and innovative titles to gamers of all stripes and on all platforms.