Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?

The writer investigates why endangered monk seals are being killed in Hawaii:

“‘This place should be crawling with monk seals!’ Robinson said as we got out to explore one bluff. ‘Something’s awfully wrong here. Awfully wrong.’

“Dana Rosendal, the pilot for the family’s helicopter company, was unfazed. We’d covered only a quarter of the island, he told Robinson, and we’d already seen 10 seals.

“‘Dana,’ Robinson cut in, ‘we’ve only seen five or six, plus one lousy turtle.’

“Rosendal ticked off each sighting, then counted up his fingers. Ten, exactly.

“‘Well, whoop dee do!’ Robinson shot back. ‘Ten seals!'”

Published: May 8, 2013
Length: 32 minutes (8,010 words)

The Recluse

The writer becomes pen pals with an ornery old poet, Hayden Carruth:

“For most of his life, the beard was cropped and average — it was an unserious beard. But by the time I met him in 2003, it was the broad, white beard of a poet in exile, grown out in his desolate corner of America, a nothing-town near Syracuse called Munnsville. ‘The kids call it Funs-ville,’ he told me. Walking into his rickety red house, I said something like, ‘What a nice house’ — to be polite. ‘Hayden tried to commit suicide in this house,’ his wife, Joe-Anne, shot out reflexively.

“‘No, I didn’t,’ Hayden said, barely turning his head from the picture window. ‘Yes, you did,’ Joe-Anne shouted. She nagged him. They bickered a while. Then he raised his voice, interrupted her and settled it: ‘The pills were in the house,’ Hayden said, ‘but I did it in the car.'”

Source: Radio Silence
Published: May 31, 2012
Length: 6 minutes (1,584 words)

The History and Mystery of the High Five

I was calling Sleets because I wanted to talk to the man who invented the high five. I’d first read about him in 2007 in a press release from National High Five Day, a group that was trying to establish a holiday for convivial palm-slapping on the third Thursday in April. Apparently, Sleets had been reluctantly put in touch with the holiday’s founders, and he explained that his father, Lamont Sleets Sr., served in Vietnam in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry — a unit nicknamed The Five. The men of The Five often gathered at the Sleets home when Lamont Jr. was a toddler. They’d blow through the front door doing their signature greeting: arm straight up, five fingers spread, grunting “Five.” Lamont Jr. loved to jump up and slap his tiny palms against their larger ones. “Hi, Five!” he’d yell, unable to keep all their names straight.

Source: ESPN
Published: Jul 30, 2011
Length: 12 minutes (3,128 words)

Can Animals Be Gay?

The science of same-sex pairings in the wild.

Published: Mar 31, 2010
Length: 35 minutes (8,838 words)

Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering

In the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, even amateur scientists are building life forms.

Published: Feb 14, 2010
Length: 21 minutes (5,294 words)