WYSO

Robert Krulwich

Wanna Live Forever? Become A Noun

Sep 28, 2011

Adam: When I say "Henry Shrapnel, Jules Leotard, Robert Bunsen," you think — what?
Me: That they're inventors?
Adam: No. Better than that. Each one has become immortal. They're nouns!
Me: Is that a good thing, becoming a noun? ...
Adam: Are you kidding? It's a wonderful thing. A thing to sing about.
Me: You're going to sing?
Adam: If I may ...

There are two apartment buildings in my Manhattan neighborhood that share a block. They sit very close. One is about nine inches from the other. In the small vertical space between them, a horde of finches have built themselves nest upon nest upon nest rising for nine human floors. It's a finch skyscraper. In March and April you can see finches busily flying in and out of this vertical crack, bearing twigs, grasses and nest-building material.

There should be a law that says food on a plate shouldn't move.

Especially when you're about to eat it.

It's hot. I know, I know.

But, have you ever wondered how much heat you can take?

232 years ago, three British gentlemen decided to find out.

They designed a room, sealed it off, and heated it to 211 degrees, that's one degree shy of water-boiling hot.

What would happen, they wondered, if they stepped in and stayed? Could they take 211 degrees? How about 212? How about higher?

At what point does a person start to boil? These were very daring gentlemen. And just to make it more interesting, they brought three other "subjects" into the room:

Me: So what's this?

Dave Mosher: A state-of-the-art, baseball-catching robot.

Me: A what?

DM: A robot that catches baseballs without a glove. And when I say balls, that's what I mean: this guy can catch two bare-handed — at the same time!

Me: You don't need to catch two balls in baseball.

DM: Germans built this robot...

Me: Ah...

DM: Anyway, you've got to see this...

Me: Wow!

Pages