Hurricanes topple plenty of trees, but when you think about it, the more amazing thing is that many trees can stand up to these 100-mile-per-hour winds.
Now a French scientist has come up with an explanation for the resilience of trees. And astonishingly, the answer was first described by Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago.
Leonardo noticed that when trees branch, smaller branches have a precise, mathematical relationship to the branch from which they sprang. Many people have verified Leonardo's rule, as it's known, but no one had a good explanation for it.
The digital cloud became a household word in 2011.You can now store and share things via the Internet in ways you never could before. But what does the cloud look like, and where can we find it?
The section of the cloud we visited has a lot of concrete and security.
Behind a ballistics-grade door, data center owner David Sabey ushers us into a spotless Seattle-area facility the size of nine football fields. It's crammed full of racks upon racks of powerful servers, sophisticated computers that serve up information. There are lots of blinking lights and wires everywhere.
At rodeos, barrel racing has long been a popular event. Riders, often young women, race their horses in a cloverleaf pattern around barrels in an arena. Using quarter horses, the sport has grown in popularity in recent years and has its own circuit of races and competitive riders.
But in Gretna, Fla., a plan to turn barrel racing into a betting proposition has run into opposition. Quarter horse breeders and trainers are suing to stop it, saying the new event could destroy their industry.
In 2011, Novak Djokovic had just about the best year a male tennis player has ever had, including wins at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
"This is the athlete of the year," says Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated. "This is a brutal, brutal sport. This guy is playing on six continents, every surface....This is one of the all time great years in open tennis history."
This year, Djokovic also kept to a gluten-free diet. Must have been particularly difficult since his family's business is a pizza parlor.
Harold O'Neal is a jazz pianist with an unusual resume. Born in Tanzania and raised in Kansas City, Miss., O'Neal is also a hip-hop dancer, martial artist and actor. He's just released a new album with an unusual back story of its own: Marvelous Fantasy is a largely improvised collection of solo piano pieces, an homage to the music of silent films.
Onlookers gather in front of the Garabedian family home in the Bronx in this 2004 photo. The Garabedians have decorated their home for nearly four decades with lights and hundreds of animated figurines.
Credit George Bodarky / For NPR
The Garabedians make their own life-size mannequins for their annual display.
A few strings of lights and an inflatable Santa are enough for some people when it comes to holiday decorations. But not for the Garabedian family of the Bronx, whose over-the-top Christmas displays have been a traffic-snarling must-see for nearly four decades. And "traditional" is definitely not the right word for this holiday attraction.
The first giveaway might be the music the Garabedians play through speakers outside their home. Instead of a Christmas carol, you're more likely to hear a hit single from a singer like Engelbert Humperdinck.
Earlier this year, Alabama passed a tough immigration law that prompted thousands of migrant workers to flee the state.
Shortly after, NPR spoke with Jamie Boatwright, a fourth-generation tomato farmer in Steele, Ala. When the law was passed, about 20 of Boatwright's farmhands — all of them from Mexico — left and his business was devastated.
There are a lot of photo apps out there for the iPhone. With most of them, you take a picture, put a filter on it and maybe add some lens blur. But many of them don't have a built-in way for you to share the photo.
"When we combined those two key ingredients, we came up with something that became Instagram," says Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, who is also one if its founders.
In the week since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq and Washington announced the end of the war there, bombs have killed scores in Baghdad and the government is being driven by sectarian discord. NPR's Sean Carberry speaks with host Audie Cornish about the latest events from Baghdad.
Increased deportations in the U.S. have led to more broken families among immigrants. Reporter John Faherty recently profiled three undocumented high school students living together without their families in a trailer in Phoenix, Ariz. Host Audie Cornish speaks with Faherty about his reporting on how Arizona's immigration law has impacted immigrant children.
Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign has suffered a setback on this Christmas weekend. Gingrich failed to get enough signatures to be on the ballot in Virginia, calling into question his organizational ability to sustain a long campaign.
Occupy Wall Street-style protesters in Des Moines, Iowa, are making plans to camp out at the headquarters of presidential candidates and disrupt campaign events leading up to the Iowa caucuses. They say they're dissatisfied with the response of candidates from both parties to their concerns, so they're organizing their own caucus-style event two days after Christmas.
Anchorage, Alaska, probably has more wildlife within its borders than any other city in the world. Bears, lynx and king salmon all coexist with city dwellers — peacefully, for the most part — so it's no shock when the snow piles up in the mountains and hundreds of moose descend on the city each winter.
But learning to live with the quirky beasts takes some patience.
The original Christmas presents were gold, frankincense and myrrh. That's what wise men brought to the baby Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Frankincense is still used today — for perfumes, incense and traditional medicines — but a new study suggests that its future looks grim.
John Hunter's fourth-graders are remarkably successful at resolving world crises peacefully.
Hunter, 57, has been teaching for more than three decades. He wanted to get his students to think about major world issues, so he invented the World Peace Game. Students are divided into countries, and then given a series of global crises — natural disasters, political conflicts — that they have to solve.
2011 was a year of intense and compelling news stories: from the Arab Spring, to the nuclear disaster in Japan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
It's often assumed that people bury their heads in frivolous news when hard news is too much to take. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says that this year media consumers embraced the hard news.
"They were often transfixed by it," he tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Audie Cornish.
Turns out some of those dour security officers who make you take your shoes off at the airport have plenty of Christmas spirit. Travel isn't usually a highlight of the holidays, but at Los Angeles International Airport some of the Transportation Security Administration workers enjoy the season so much they sing.
True to its duties, the LAX TSA Chorus isn't joking. Its singers are actually TSA employees who don Santa hats during the holiday season and perform in the middle of the airport.
At the time, animal lover Bart Centre, the creator of Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, had 259 clients whose pets he promised to look after in the event that they were raptured in the next 10 years. Those clients paid $135 for the first pet and $20 for each additional pet.
The Christmas holidays always mean big money for Hollywood. The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve is traditionally the biggest box-office week of the year. But this year something weird is going on: more movies are opening on Sunday instead of the traditional Friday. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks with NPR's movie critic Bob Mondello about what this will mean for the holiday movie season.
Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with Lucy Craft, a reporter based in Japan, to get an update on the status of the country 10 months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Craft says Tokyo appears mostly normal, but northern Japan still has a long way to go.
Republican Representative Bob Inglis was one of only a few Republicans in the House of Representatives who lost their seats to Tea Party challengers in 2010. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz spoke with Inglis, a longtime conservative, just over a year ago before he left Congress. He checks back in with Inglis to find out what he has been up to since he left politics.
On a Friday night this past July, it was July 22nd to be exact, we began to hear details about a shooting in Norway. Now, at first, it seemed like an isolated incident. But by Saturday morning, the full extent of the attacks started to become clear. A series of explosions, and then the systematic killing of dozens of young people by an extreme right wing gunman named Anders Behring Breivik.
That morning, we called journalist Anders Giaever. He's a columnist at one of Norway's largest newspapers and he was shaken.