Television
12:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

The Science Behind 'Breaking Bad'

Cooking crystal meth is just "basic chemistry" for Walter White, the fictional chemistry teacher and anti-hero of the TV drama "Breaking Bad." Organic chemist Donna Nelson serves as science adviser to the show; she explains how the series' writers work to get the science right.

Environment
12:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Searching For A Ghost Bird

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 12:42 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Birding. Birding doesn't seem like a risky pastime, does it? What's the worst that could happen? Sunburn, a little rain, a little cold, lost binoculars. Well, not always. In 2010, Tim Gallagher, editor of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird magazine, went in search of a rare woodpecker and was lucky to make it back alive.

Our multimedia editor Flora Lichtman talked to Gallagher about it and has this story.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: The imperial woodpecker is two feet tall. That's huge.

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NPR Story
12:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Birders Fan Out to Count Feathered Friends

The 112th Audubon Christmas Bird Count is underway. Citizen scientists armed with binoculars are recording data vital to monitoring bird health and conservation. But before you can count a Snowy Owl or a Rufous Hummingbird, you need to identify it. Birder Richard Crossley has some tips.

NPR Story
12:00 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Kepler Telescope Narrows Hunt For Earth's Twin

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 12:33 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. If you're scanning the Milky Way for life, where do you look? Well, probably someplace not too different from planet Earth, right? So you want to find a planet about the same size as Earth to increase the chance it has a rocky surface, with oceans of course rather than being a giant ball of gas like Jupiter, and it should be just the right distance from its star, in what they call the Goldilocks Zone: hot enough to have liquid water but not so hot that the surface has completely scorched.

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Politics
10:50 am
Fri December 23, 2011

What's Behind House GOP's Payroll Tax Reversal?

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 11:01 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A bitter fight in Congress is come to an end just in time for Christmas. The House and the Senate this morning, approved an extension of payroll tax cuts for every worker and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.

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The Salt
10:46 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Senator Finds Government-Funded Food Waste Far Beyond The Compost Bin

The Washington State Fruit Commission received $100,000 in federal money to promote cherries in Indonesia, but Sen. Tom Coburn says this is a waste of taxpayer money.
Jeff Goulden iStockphoto.com

As Eater reported this week, some politicians believe this country is awash in food waste. But this isn't the stuff in the garbage — it's the way we pour money into building restaurants, promoting American food products abroad, and encouraging the purchase of local foods.

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World Cafe
10:45 am
Fri December 23, 2011

A Holiday Extravaganza From World Cafe

Carole King's new album is titled A Holiday Carole.
Elissa Kline

On today's special, Christmas-themed episode of World Cafe, we're gathering several big-name artists and their best holiday songs to spread some seasonal cheer.

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Opinion
10:37 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Bittersweet Anticipation: Expecting The Expected

iStockphoto.com

Ben Dolnick is a writer based in Brooklyn.

Lately, just in time for Christmas, I've discovered that I've been acting in a play. A kind of holiday pageant, really. Working title: Things Are Always Better Before You Have Them.

Act One: I learn about the existence of something I want. Say, a book. (Ooh, a book of letters between William Maxwell and Eudora Welty!)

Act Two: I add the book to my Amazon wish list, which I proceed to circulate shamelessly to my family.

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It's All Politics
10:23 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Boehner's 2012 Challenges Highlighted By Payroll Tax Misstep

House Speaker John Boehner announces a payroll tax cut extension agreement, December 22, 2011.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Mon December 26, 2011 11:09 am

When the histories of the current 112th Congress are finally written, maybe it all will become clear.

But for right now, there seem to be many more questions than answers.

For instance, why did House Republicans ever think it was a good idea to stake out a position on the payroll-tax issue that would leave them holding the bag for a new year's tax increase for 160 million workers? That has now been averted with Congress' passage Friday morning of a two-month extension of the current payroll-tax holiday.

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The Two-Way
10:10 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Cue The Scary Music: 'Space Ball' Crashes In Namibia

The space ball. What is it?
Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 11:43 am

It's said to be made of a "metal alloy known to man," according to Agence France Presse. (We enjoyed that Spock-like line.)

But there's much that isn't known about what's being called a "space ball" that came down in Namibia last month: Such as where or what it came from.

Officials from NASA and the European Space Agency have been contacted.

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