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November 26,1872: Great Diamond Hoax Exposed

By Cassandra Willyard

On a foggy day in 1871, two men walked into the Bank of California in San Francisco. One held a rifle and the other gripped a large buckskin pouch. Both were covered in a thick layer of grime. Initially, the nervous teller took the shady drifters for bank robbers. But his anxiety turned to elation when they showed him the contents of their pouch — a shimmery bounty of diamonds, rubies and sapphires.

26 Nov 2008

October 31, 1992: Vacation reverses position on Galileo

More than three and a half centuries after the Vatican accused famed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei of heresy, Pope John Paul II officially welcomed him back into the fold, dismissing the whole messy episode as a “tragic mutual incomprehension.” At issue in what has become known as the “Galileo affair” was planetary motion. In the early 1600s, nearly all Europeans believed that the universe revolved around Earth. Not only was the idea widely supported by most scientists, but scripture seemed to dictate that it was so. Theologians pointed to biblical passages such as Psalm 104 — which proclaims, “[The Lord] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved” — as evidence of a geocentric system.
 
31 Oct 2008

Energy mission: "Kilowatt Ours"

“What if every time you flipped a light switch, a mountain exploded in West Virginia?”

In the new documentary “Kilowatt Ours,” filmmaker Jeff Barrie explains why that idea isn’t as preposterous as it sounds.

29 Oct 2008

Hot enough for ya? Investigating climate change in "Heat"

In FRONTLINE's urgent, ambitious new special "Heat," producer and reporter Martin Smith takes on a sweeping canvas of climate change, journeying from the disappearing glaciers of the Himalayas to the cement factories of India to the coal mines of the United States. There's a revealing look into the U.S.' role in the climate change conference in Bali last December, as well as into the plans of China's largest car company.

21 Oct 2008

Down to Earth With: Paleontologist and astronomer Tom Kaye

What do paleontology, astronomy and paintball guns have in common? For one, they have all been pursuits of Tom Kaye. Kaye, a research associate at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Wash., is a self-taught paleontologist and an amateur astronomer. But he’s not content with just digging fossils and observing constellations. His ambitions are much greater. In July, for example, he set off a paleontological debate when he and his colleagues suggested in PLoS One that soft tissue that was discovered in a tyrannosaur fossil in 2005 was nothing more than bacteria trapped in tiny grooves on the bone.
 
04 Oct 2008

Games: In Spore, cells divide and conquer

I’m no evolutionary biologist, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t just add a horn or an extra ear to your own body whenever you feel like you need a leg up on the competition, so to speak.

25 Sep 2008

Benchmarks: September 21, 1938: The great New England Hurricane strikes

After a disappointing golf outing (the wind made it impossible to drive a golf ball anywhere but straight up), golf pro Raymond Dennehy and his friends returned to the clubhouse of the seaside Kittansett Golf Club in Marion, Mass. Dennehy noticed something wrong: The incoming tide was much higher than normal. In fact, the ocean rose so high that it cut off the club’s grounds from the rest of the state. Then a car floated by./  As water filled the clubhouse, Dennehy took his German shepherd and ran to his car. He drove to the highest point on the golf course and waited. Sitting in the parked car with water around his ankles, Dennehy watched the two-story yacht club collapse under the weight of the rising water. Cottages crumpled. Panicked golf caddies climbed an oak tree to escape the rising sea.  
 
21 Sep 2008

Down to Earth With: Award-winning sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson

Don’t let Kim Stanley Robinson fool you. He may know a lot about the geography of Mars and ocean acidification, but he’s no scientist. He’s an award-winning science fiction novelist. Yet the science in his books is so convincing that many fans can’t help but be duped.
 
03 Sep 2008

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