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Episode 1590

Primary Colors

Centuries ago, monks who took a vow of silence developed their own hand signs, with hundreds of gestures, that are still in use today. Plus, how do speakers of different languages distinguish similar shades and tints of colors such as red, yellow...

Sugar of Lead

Writing in Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Bookshop|Amazon) about his youthful fascination with chemistry, Oliver Sacks notes that lead acetate once went by the more appetizing name sugar of lead. This is part of a complete episode.

GUTs, Toes, and a View from the Cosmos

When theoretical cosmologists speak of GUTs and TOEs, they’re not talking about anatomy. GUT is an acronym for Grand Unified Theory and TOE stands for Theory of Everything. These are just two fun facts in the fascinating book The End of...

Sundog Origins

Eleven-year-old Ben calls from Rapids City to ask about the term sundog, the meteorological phenomenon in which a bright spot appears to the left or right of the sun. No one knows the origin of this term. Synonyms include mock sun, weather gall, and...

Smell-Feast and Smellfungus

Linguist Brianne Hughes has compiled more than 1200 cutthroat compounds, including smell-feast meaning a freeloader, and smellfungus, a chronic complainer. For a lively primer about such compounds, check out her video. This is part of a complete...

Vog Air Pollution

Vog is the air pollution caused when sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases react with oxygen. The word vog is a portmanteau of volcano and fog. This is part of a complete episode.