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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

A Nobel Laureate in Fargo

A humorous story from a North Dakota boy. Krista often teases me about how North Dakota will come up in any conversation I’m part of. (Yes, I’m proud of my roots!) So, of course I’m going to share this great story from Scientific American about Brian Schmidt, an astrophysicist who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-discovering dark energy:

"When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it. I was coming around so I decided I’d bring my Nobel Prize. You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo with it, and went through the X-ray machine. I could see they were puzzled. It was in my laptop bag. It’s made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it’s completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.

They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’

I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

They said, ‘What’s in the box?’

I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’

I said, ‘gold.’

And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’

'The King of Sweden.'

'Why did he give this to you?'

'Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.'

At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Cracks me up.



“It immediately looked right.”

It’s been 60 years since the double helix structure of DNA, the key to life itself, was first revealed to the world. The BBC’s “Science in Action” walks the listener along the journey of this discovery with some of the scientific giants of the time. The delight is still there in those voices. So wonderful.

Also clears up some of the debate over the credit of Crick and Watson. Their approaches to modeling and sense of beauty moved the idea forward… through actual base pairing cut-outs!

(h/t Krista Tippett)


Rapping the LHC
Marc Sanchez, Associate Producer

I was recently doing some research on Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczeck. Truth be told, I can barely spell “physics” much less grasp the concepts he works with, like quantum chromodynamics (QCD).

Currently, Mr. Wilczeck is trying to combine the theories of how to measure the four forces of nature — gravity, electromagnetism, strong force, and weak force — into one, unified theory. To help solve this problem, he has enlisted the help of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). That’s the gigantic particle accelerator that got people in a tizzy about sucking the Earth into a self-made black hole.

Physicists, including Mr. Wilczeck, have assured us that our universe is safe, but I still needed to wrap my head around the LHC. Enter Kate MacAlpine, an employee who works with the particle accelerator in Switzerland. She put together a rap that actually does a really good job of breaking down the science.