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The year 1968 was a time of incredible upheaval in the United States. The hippie movement, a subculture youth movement that rejected mainstream American life, was just getting started. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago was disrupted by riots, and both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy–two prominent progressive leaders–had been assassinated. In the midst of all that political instability, NASA’s first mission to orbit the moon ended up bringing the entire divided nation together. Listen to find out how.
Arctic foxes may be small, but they undergo powerful adaptations that help them survive in the snowy tundra, one of the planet’s most unforgiving biomes. One of their most important adaptations is the gift of camouflage: Arctic foxes’ fur changes color depending on the season. In winter, these animals grow dense white fur that keeps them warm and camouflages them in their snowy surroundings. In spring, they molt to reveal thinner, gray-brown fur to better blend in after the snow has melted away. Listen to hear more about this and other incredible adaptations of the Arctic fox.
On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists checked in for flights, boarded four planes and then hijacked them. The use of an air travel system to attack the United States was a shock to Americans and led to big questions about the effectiveness of airport security checks that allowed these men to board airplanes with small hand weapons and tear gas. Airport security immediately changed to make air travel safer, but have these changes really made us safer? Listen to learn about the ways security has changed since 9/11 and ways it can continue to improve.
Forty years ago, a military coup in Argentina triggered what has since become known as the Dirty War. During the seven-year dictatorship that followed, as many as 30,000 Argentines either disappeared or were killed. In this story, you will hear about human rights activists who want the United States to reveal what it knew about the Dirty War, and about President Obama’s recent trip to Argentina. Listen to learn more about possible U.S. involvement in the Dirty War, and what activists hope to discover from newly declassified government documents.
In 2013, a rare collection of paintings by Michelangelo was on display at the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. This audio story reflects on Michelangelo's life and looks at what makes his work so special. It focuses on the drawing of Cleopatra, which depicts her in two ways, beautiful and ugly, and well as some of his other captivating pieces. Listen to learn more about Michelangelo's life, his art, and why his work remains inspirational to many people today.
What is artificial intelligence? How does it differ from other computer programs? Currently, artificial intelligence is being used to help people in many ways, such as detecting when and where earthquakes will occur before they happen, determining how to slow down the spread of disease, and outlining the best way to get relief to people after a disaster. However, artificial intelligence is a developing field with ever-expanding applications. Listen to hear more about what artificial intelligence is, how it has developed over time, and how it can be used to help people.
While humans need food and water to survive, plants are able to get their energy from the sun through a process known as photosynthesis. Engineers are now trying to replicate this process of converting sunshine to power through artificial photosynthesis. They are trying to create an artificial leaf. Listen to learn how these problem solvers are approaching the challenge step by step.
During World War II, artists helped the war effort by creating a "Ghost Army." This was a battalion of artists, including painters, designers, and music technicians. They built rubber tanks, jeeps, barges, and other decoys to divert Nazi soldiers from real U.S. troop movements after D-Day. This audio story is about a documentary on the army of artists who worked to fool the enemy.
Australia is full of diverse and unusual animal life. It is home to hundreds of different species of marsupials, which are mammals that carry their babies in pouches, along with deadly snakes, spiders, and jellyfish. Listen to hear a story about exploring the Australian outback and learn about the unique adaptations and appearances of the animals living there.
In a world where there is so much darkness, author and poet Kwame Alexander aims to provide some inspiration, joy, hope, and, of course, light. Through his words in his novels and works of poetry, he hopes to engage his readers and keep them reading. Alexander is the author of Solo, Out of Wonder, The Crossover, and more recently, a book about boxer Muhammad Ali. Listen to hear Alexander describe what it feels like to write about painful topics and why he calls his poetry “a bridge.”
When a reader sees him or herself reflected in a character, that character can come to life. Some children, however, never find a character they can relate to. Pakistani and Muslim author Hena Khan had this unfortunate experience growing up, but it did not destroy her passion for reading and writing. Listen to hear how Khan infuses her Pakistani and Muslim roots into her stories and characters to fill the gap she experienced as a young reader.
Author Sharon Draper believes that life experiences, challenges, and writing about what is familiar are the foundation of an intriguing story. In her books, including Out of My Mind, Stella by Starlight, Blended, and the Sassy series, Draper draws from her own life experiences and the children she knows to develop stories that draw readers in. Listen to hear more about Draper’s books, her writing process, and the inspiration for her stories.
Jacqueline Woodson’s free verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, won the National Book Award in 2014. Woodson has published 30 books and won three Newbery Honor Medals. This book explores different perspectives in a desegregating America. In this interview, Woodson talks about her experience of segregation of race and religion, and how her experiences are often similar to students who she talks with today. She talks about the need for more diverse literature in schools, along with her book being appropriate for a wider audience-- not only brown students. Listen to hear her discuss how she integrates her personal experiences into her writing.
Hundreds of years ago, the Aztec people established their capital, Tenochitlan, on top of a lake. They used mud to create islands, and channelled the lake into canals. It became the capital of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century, until Spain captured and destroyed the city. Since then, the city has supplied its many residents with water from the canals which still remain. Mexico City was built on top of this ancient city. Unfortunately, retrieving water from underground has created problems, and today, many residents do not have access to the water they need. Listen to the story to learn more about Mexico City’s history and water troubles.
A recent birth at the National Zoo has delighted millions of people. At age 22, the panda mom was rather old to successfully give birth to offspring, but she defied the odds and now has a beautiful cub that keeps growing and growing. Listen to the director of the National Zoo answer questions about pandas, an endangered species, and learn how the U.S. is working with China to continue bringing baby pandas into the world.
The people of Ancient Mesopotamia practiced mathematics from the early days of Sumer to the fall of Babylon in the 6th century. Until recently, most evidence suggested that math was used primarily for things like measuring land. A new discovery by a researcher in Berlin has shed new light on how Babylonians used geometry to measure the changes in the velocity of Jupiter over time as it moves across the sky. Prior to this discovery, the use of geometry in this manner was thought to have come in the middle ages. Listen to hear how this new discovery shows that Babylonian mathematics was more sophisticated than previously thought.
Before the European Renaissance (14th-17th centuries), loaning money, or usury, was considered sinful and strictly prohibited by the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, the banking industry flourished. In time, the idea started that one could pay for salvation. “Sinners” began donating money and artworks to the Church as a way of gaining favor with both the Church and God. As these indulgence flooded in, the Church didn’t protest. The massive influx of wealth to the church provided the fertile ground for the birth of the Renaissance. In this audio story, learn about the birthplace of banking and how many of today’s banking terms come from 14th century Florence.
What makes a person unique? What makes a person similar to or different from others? People sometimes try to hide their uniqueness in order to fit in. In the story The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Lucy is trying to find her place at school and on the basketball team. One girl doesn’t think Lucy, a short Chinese girl, should be the captain of the team. Listen to hear what happens at Lucy’s Halloween party when her great aunt comes to town and whips up some dumplings. Is what makes Lucy different actually what brings her closer to her peers?
Many World War II historians agree that the 1942-43 Battle of Stalingrad was the decisive battle of World War II in Europe. Fought between German and Soviet forces, the battle may well have turned the tide of the war in favor of the allies and against Nazi Germany. This story recalls some of the ways in which the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was so remarkable and also the enormous cost of victory. Listen to this story to hear from people looking back on the battle, its impact, and its connection to the present day.
What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Listen to learn about the other solutions that are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.
A variety of adaptations help animals survive the winter, when temperatures drop and food is scarce. Some migrate, some change how they eat and find ways to stay warm, and some hibernate, essentially going to sleep for many months. Listen to learn about how different animals adapt to the changing seasons and find out what happens when bears hibernate.
Over the past several years honeybee colonies have declined dramatically. There is no consensus over a single cause, and in fact, scientists point to multiple reasons for this problem. An important, yet often overlooked factor is basic land use decisions. Listen to learn about the importance of the symbiotic relationship between honeybees, flowers and humans, and what kids can do to help promote honeybees and other pollinators.
Flowers have many ways of attracting bees for pollination. Bees are looking for nectar and pollen when they visit plants and flowers, as well as various colors, patterns, and shapes. Recently scientists have discovered a new way that flowers attract bees. They can sense the electric fields around flowers. Listen to hear about the natural positive charges of bees, the negative charges of flowers, and how the electric attraction works for pollination to happen.
Many people know about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman whose struggle to communicate was immortalized in her 1957 autobiography, The Story of My Life. Keller’s book was made into several movies and adapted for the stage, making Keller a well-known figure. But few people have heard of Laura Bridgman, a woman who learned to overcome the loss of four of her five senses 50 years earlier than Keller. Listen to hear more about how one young woman, with disabilities similar to Keller’s, overcame great adversity.
Practice makes perfect--especially for a ballerina. The more ballerinas practice, the stronger they become and the more they can learn. Ballet is an art form that allows dancers to express themselves and share their talents with others. It can seem like pure magic every time a ballerina takes the stage. However, it takes years of dedication and practice in order for a dancer to perform at this level. Listen to the artistic director of the Washington Ballet talk about her love of the arts and ballet, and what it takes to be a ballerina.
Police officers have been a part of communities in America for a long time. Their job is to help keep people safe and ensure that citizens are following the laws. However, there have been many protests recently across the country because of how some police officers treat people of color, particularly those who are Black. There are many different ideas about how to improve police departments. Listen to hear a Black female police officer talk about her career and her thoughts about policing today.
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most well-known Founding Fathers of America. He helped write both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, although these accomplishments are not the only reason why Benjamin Franklin is remembered today. He was also interested in science and inventions, and made some amazing discoveries. Listen to the story of Benjamin Franklin’s life to learn more about this remarkable man.
"Beowulf" is the oldest surviving long poem in Old English. It tells the story of a 5th century Nordic warrior who defeats monsters and becomes a king. In 2000, the Irish poet Seamus Heaney released a celebrated new translation of the epic poem. In this interview, Heaney discusses “Beowulf” and his approach to translating this famous text. Listen to learn more about “Beowulf’s” lasting appeal, and what the old poem tells us about Nordic pagan and early Christian values.
The civil war endangers cultural artifacts in Syria. Aleppo, Syria's largest cities and one of the world's oldest continually inhabited urban areas, is now the site of heavy fighting, damage, and death as a result of the Syrian civil war that began in 2011. In this audio story you will hear about a museum exhibit of ancient Aleppo to understand what's at stake with the violence of the civil war.
Bats, the only flying mammal, often go unappreciated. They are a diverse species, varied in size and habitat. Their ability to hunt in the dark using echolocation, or a series of high-pitched squeaks that bounce off their prey, is a unique adaptation. This audio story highlights fascinating facts about bats: their size, where they make their homes, and how they use echolocation to hunt for dinner.
The world is filled with many living things of all shapes and sizes. From plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, every living thing is important and plays a role on our Earth. The variety of living things in a habitat is known as biodiversity. Having biodiversity in a habitat allows for many different species to thrive. Listen to hear more about how all living things within a habitat depend on one another for survival, making it crucial to find a way to protect each of them.
Biologists studying right whales face the challenge of exploring rare and large organisms that spend the majority of their time underwater. These unpredictable animals are examined by researchers to try to understand the method of communication between male and female whales. Listen to learn why it's so hard to study these animals.
To copy the way a desert beetle gets water, scientists have designed a membrane that can extract water from the air. Since all air contains water, even in the desert, this could provide a very inexpensive way to supply drinking water. This process is called “biomimicry,” or using ideas from nature to solve technological problems. This discovery could lead to reusable water bottles that refill themselves. Listen to learn why this invention would be inexpensive and how close scientists are coming to making it work.
Populations of migrating birds have declined sharply, and scientists are trying to figure out why. This audio story features an interview with a biologist and bird expert about how and why scientists are tracking migratory birds and what people can do to help them. Listen to hear about how tagging birds with radio transmitters can help wildlife biologists understand their behavior and discover why migratory birds are disappearing.
Dinosaurs have long fascinated humans. Surprisingly, there are still dinosaurs on Earth today, but they look different from their multi-ton ancestors that went extinct millions of years ago. The dinosaurs that exist today are small, have feathers, and can fly. That’s right, they’re birds! Listen to learn more about extinct dinosaurs and how they are related to the ones that are still flying around the planet today.
Many of us have heard the “Star-Spangled Banner,” America’s national anthem that was written in 1814. But what do we know about how it was written? This audio story discusses the 200th anniversary of the writing of America’s national anthem by Francis Scott Key and what inspired the anthem. Key asked two questions in his poem, and some of the verses have words that we may take for granted today. Listen to hear explanations about what was written and learn more about the poem that later became our national anthem.
Early humans and their ancestors survived by successfully mastering their environments to meet their daily needs. They learned to control fire for cooking food, developed early stone tools, and over time, created increasingly more complex and finely-crafted tools. Recent research suggests that as far back as 165,000 years ago in southern Africa, early humans understood that fire could help them craft more effective tools. Listen to hear a scientist describe the evidence for early human “pyro engineering” and what it tells us about our evolution and development.
Until recently, few people knew that the American space program’s early success was due in large part to a group of African American women known as “human computers.” They were brilliant mathematicians but were made to use segregated offices, bathrooms, and equipment. Their stories are told in a book and movie by the same name, Hidden Figures. One such overlooked mathematician was Katherine Johnson, who began working at Langley in 1953. Her report laying out trajectory equations for getting a craft into orbit played a key role in the program’s success. However, despite the vital roles Katherine and her colleagues held, their contributions were mostly unheard of until the publication of Hidden Figures. Listen to learn more about the obstacles these African American women faced and how a story this significant stayed buried for decades.
Typically in the National Football League it’s all about the quarterback. But that is not the case in “The Blind Side”, a book about American football and the position of offensive left tackle. The author argues that the previously underappreciated position is vital to the game today. Incorporated into the story is offensive left tackle Michael Oher, who grew up in poverty, was adopted, and then played college football. Lewis traces the evolution of this pivotal position and explains how contracts and cash have shaped football. Listen to learn more about the author, American football, and the real-life story of Michael Oher.
"Blood diamonds" are typically mined in war zones and used to finance some of Africa’s most brutal civil wars. The uncut diamonds are sometimes mined in areas controlled by rebel forces in Africa. A system known as the Kimberley process was designed to certify uncut diamonds that can be proven to come from countries that support basic human rights. Listen to this story to learn about the diamond certification program and its influence in protecting human rights.