NPR Picks


The Theft that Made the Mona Lisa a Masterpiece

"If you were standing outside the Louvre in Paris on the morning of Aug. 21, 1911, you might have noticed three men hurrying out of the museum. They would have been pretty conspicuous on a quiet Monday morning, writer and historian James Zug tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz."



Tim Minchin: Confessions of a Rock n Roll Nerd

"Tim Minchin is a tough act to explain. He's a musician, a satirist and a comedian; a frustrated rocker, an accomplished composer and an outspoken skeptic; a man who loves children as much as he does expletives."

"In 2005, the English-Australian performer won the award for Best Newcomer at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In just a few years, Minchin has gone from playing small clubs to selling out the Sydney Opera House and the largest arenas in Britain. He tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that creating his act — which combines elements of music, theater and comedy — took a little trial and error."


What Will Watch As Drones Evolve?

"Every week it seems there are reports about U.S. drones — unmanned, remote-controlled aerial vehicles — tracking down suspected terrorists in remote, unreachable areas of Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Pakistan. Drone technology is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible, with new potential for everyday use in the United States — and new worries for national security."


Starship Smackdown

"Football fans have the Super Bowl. Soccer fans have The World Cup. Sci-fi geeks have Starship Smackdown."



Florida Fossil Hunter Gets Credit For Big Find

"It's one of the most significant pieces of prehistoric art ever found in North America — a carving of a mammoth or mastodon on a piece of fossilized bone dating back to the Ice Age. An amateur fossil hunter found it several years ago in Vero Beach, Florida. Now, after three years of study, a team of researchers say they believe it's authentic."


What is the World's Favorite Number?

It's a simple question, really, but a cunning one, because the answers are so embarrassingly, voluptuously personal. Alex Bellos thought it up. He's a writer, math enthusiast, and nut.

Here's what he wants: He wants to know your favorite number. Just that. Tell me your favorite, and tell me why, he says.


Interview of George R. R. Martin

"George R. R. Martin is best known as the man behind the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. The latest volume, A Dance With Dragons, is now in bookstores after an epic six-year wait. An HBO series based on the first book, A Game of Thrones, just wrapped up its Emmy-nominated first season."

"But in the 1980s, Martin was a television writer, churning out scripts for shows like Beauty and the Beast."



Fibonacci's 'Numbers': The Man Behind the Math 

"Though generations of schoolchildren have cursed arithmetic, the world was a much more inconvenient place without it. Before the advent of modern arithmetic in the 13th century, basic calculations required a physical abacus."

"But then came a young Italian mathematician named Leonardo da Pisa — no relation to da Vinci — who, in 1202, published a book titled Liber Abaci. That's Latin for 'Book of Calculation.'"


Brain Bugs

"In Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives, Buonomano explains how and why our brains sometimes fail us when we try to do things like remember long lists of information, add large numbers in our heads or make long-term decisions. He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that the brain's weaknesses and strengths have evolved over thousands of years, based on what our ancestors needed — and didn't need — to survive."


Mediterraneans Abandon Their Famous Diet

It is hard to believe that Italians are as overweight as this segment indicates. I saw very few overweight, and virtually no obese, Italians during my 10 days in May.



The Troubled History of the Supermarket Tomato

"Supermarket tomatoes may look delicious — smooth, red and unblemished — but for the most part, they taste like nothing at all."


Privatizing Outer Space

"Hollywood history is littered with cautionary tales about corporate takeovers of outer space, but in 2001: A Space Odyssey, things looked oddly familiar: Interstellar travelers flew Pan Am and stayed in Hilton hotels."




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