For more than 20 years, the indie-pop group The Magnetic Fields has been singing songs about love, though not always in the traditional sense. With a style that ranges from bitter to sincere to ironic, Stephin Merritt — the group's frontman, writer and producer — has created a growing cast of characters surviving love's vicissitudes.
In his characteristic deadpan, Merritt tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that he owes the inspiration for many of those characters to a particular ritual of his.
In 2009, jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez showed up in Laredo, Texas, with only a suitcase, some sheet music and one aim: to collaborate with Quincy Jones. A Cuban seeking amnesty in the U.S., Rodriguez ended up arrested by Mexican border officials. He says they questioned him for hours and demanded money.
These days it can take a village to create a child. Technology means someone who never thought they'd be able to conceive can use a sperm donor, an egg donor and a surrogate — a woman who bears a child for someone else. But the law has not kept pace with technology, and with so many people involved, a key question remains: Who is a legal parent?
After a financial bailout earlier this year, fees in Portugal's health system have risen substantially. As a result, nongovernmental organizations say, the poor and elderly in Western Europe's poorest country can no longer afford essential care. Some Portuguese fear that austerity measures are threatening not only their livelihoods, but their lives.
Alfredo Silva, 67, showed up at an anti-austerity protest in Lisbon last month dressed as a skeleton. He says the costume shows the effect of Portugal's $100 billion bailout on retirees like him.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 7:14 am
North Korea this week quite literally demonstrated an old truism, with the world as an anxious witness. It turns out that reaching space is, as the saying goes, as tough as rocket science.
The much hyped launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea said was meant to place a satellite into orbit to celebrate the centenary of the country's "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, apparently failed Friday shortly after launch. It was the fourth time North Korea had tried and failed to do it, adding to the growing worldwide history of failed rocket launches.
In a new book, Relics: Travels in Nature's Time Machine, Harvard entomologist and photographer Piotr Naskrecki documents his travels, from New Guinea to New Zealand and beyond, looking for organisms whose genes can tell us something about conditions on Earth millions of years ago.
When M. Night Shyamalan's fantasy film The Last Airbender — panned by both critics and fans of the wildly popular TV series on which it was based — flopped majestically at the box office, it looked like the end of a valuable franchise.
But now, with The Legend of Korra, which premieres Saturday on Nickelodeon, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender have been given a rare chance to rebuild a world that was taken away from them.
Imagine an era when mainstream music wasn't filled with synthesizers. When electronic music wasn't a force propelling everything from pop and hip-hop to music from the underground. There was a time when this world existed. Then Kraftwerk emerged, and the world we knew changed.
After rescuing his neighbor from a burning building, Newark Mayor Cory Booker joins an elite list of politicians who have performed heroic acts while in office. While it's inspiring anytime a stranger reaches out to help someone, it's not often that the person risking his or her life happens to be an elected official.
We've compiled a partial list of past heroic feats performed by pols.
Iran's suspect nuclear program will again be in the spotlight this weekend when negotiators from Iran and six international powers meet in Istanbul.
Iran was reluctant to have Turkey host the meeting, reflecting Iran's growing unhappiness with Turkish foreign policy moves, especially its call for regime change in Syria, Iran's key ally in the Arab world.
Analyst and columnist Yavuz Baydar says Turkey has stuck its neck out for Iran in the past, defending what it calls Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program and even voting against U.N. sanctions on Iran two years ago.
Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 11:19 am
Before the iceberg, before the lifeboats, before the sinking, there was the dinner.
On the evening of April 14, 1912, the first-class passengers aboard the Titanic sat down for a sumptuous 10-course meal. The menu included oysters, filet mignon, poached salmon, chicken Lyonnaise, foie gras, roasted pigeon, lamb with mint sauce and Punch Romaine, a palate-cleansing ice flavored with oranges and drenched in champagne.
When President Obama recently complained to news media executives about their ostensibly even-handed "pox on both of your houses" coverage of the partisan battles in Washington, it might have seemed like, well, a partisan shot from a Democratic president.
The two suspects in last Friday's killings in Tulsa of three African-Americans and wounding of two others were formally charged today with "three counts each of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and five counts of malicious intimidation or harassment," the Tulsa World repo
How do astronauts take a bath in space? What happens to their sense of smell in a weightless environment? Two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station discuss the challenges of life in low Earth orbit and how their research is a stepping stone for future space exploration.
In a new book, To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure, engineer Henry Petroski chronicles disasters from the sinking of the Titanic to the destruction of space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Petroski discusses why these accidents are often caused by factors other than a design flaw.
Up next, some improbable humor. If you're a loyal listener, you know my next guest. He's been a SCIENCE FRIDAY regular for, oh, 20 years. Wow. Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. You know that. We play the first annual Ig Nobel Awards. They awards given to science that makes you laugh and then makes you think. Marc Abrahams is the co-founder and the emcee of the Ig Nobels. He's also the editor and founder of the Annals of Improbable Research, and he writes a weekly column for The Guardian. Welcome, Marc.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. It's easy to assume that we humans rule the Earth. After all, we can clear-cut forests, we can chop the tops off mountains. We can harvest anything we want from the land or the sea. But before we get too cocky, let's not forget about those other titans of the Earth, the bugs.
Originally published on Fri April 13, 2012 1:17 pm
Days after it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, reports have emerged that Instagram now has more than 40 million users in its photo-sharing community. The gain, which was derived from the service's API, represents a spike of 10 million Instagram users added in the past 10 days, according to Venture Beat.
Switching gears now, often, stories about politicians in their off hours take on kind of a scandalous turn. Not this one. When Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker went home last night, his neighbor's house was on fire. A woman who had escaped the inferno told him that her daughter was trapped inside and what happened next is something really out of an action movie, with Cory Booker in the starring role.
Here's Newark Fire Director Fateen Ziyad describing the scene to New York station WABC.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we will hear the latest entry in our Muses and Metaphor series for National Poetry Month. Those are our tweet-length poems. We'll have another one in just a few minutes.
But first, we turn to election news and a controversy that's keeping the battle for women voters in the spotlight. Polls show women voters strongly favor President Barack Obama over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The White House just posted word that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama filed 2011 tax returns showing an "adjusted gross income of $789,674" and that they paid "$162,074 in total [federal] tax." That works out to about 20.5 percent of the AGI.
About half of the first family's income was from the president's salary. The rest came from royalties generated by his books. According to the White House: