carbonNPR’s Robert Krulwich does it again. As part of a long special series that NPR has begun about carbon and climate change, he starts out with a really really good piece (with his usual level of humour and sound effects – and graphics on their website) on carbon. What is it with carbon that makes it such a special element to us, our biology, our planet? What is it about carbon that makes it so happy to stably bond into chains (storing energy), and so stably that we get huge reserves of energy stored underground in the form of fossil fuels (oil, etc).

mill engine by Fiona CampbellWhat do we do with it when we burn fossil fuels, etc., and why does it like turning into carbon dioxide, which gets released into the atmosphere? He talks about what changed in our history as a species that really hugely altered our relationship to carbon and the earth:- The industrialization of extracting and using of coal and oil… a subject that is picked up in a later excellent piece (by Renee Montagne) about Coalbrookdale, in England, where Abraham Darby started using coal to mass produce smelted iron pots. (Image left from the piece on the web by Fiona Campbell.)

It’s an excellent piece (as is the one by Renee Montagne). Even if you know the answers to all the questions above, it is fun to listen to (e.g. the square dancing (probable) NPR staff in the background, as an illustration, is a lot of fun!), so go ahead…. the site is here (the transcript on the page is not representative of what is in the radio piece…..that seems to be there to set up the videos that you can watch on the site.).



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One Response to Carbon

  1. Samantha says:

    I am embarrassed to say that the Robert Krulwich radio piece, in an AMAZINGLY succinct way, joined all the dots for me. I KNOW they should have been joined before. But it is 20 years since I took any Organic Chemistry.

    It really was a tour de force example of how effective humour and simple analogies can in explaining a subject people either find hard or boring. If only I could teach my classes as well as that.