A Peek Inside Robert Krulwich's Digital Life

Dec 13, 2012

Robert Krulwich
Credit Jessica Goldstein

As part of our monthly newsletter, we'll talk with people involved in public media about how they wade through the digital news deluge.

This month we spoke with Robert Krulwich. Krulwich is a science correspondent for NPR.  His blog, “Krulwich Wonders” tackles the wacky and weird world of science. He also co-hosts Radiolab. He kindly took some time to answer our questions. 

Three daily must-reads

Every day I read Jason Kottke’s blog, which is a weird, wonderful smatter of things that I don’t always care about, but somehow I want to know what he’s seen and plucked from the web, because very, very often, I’m entranced.

I look in on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. She likes science, books, design, stories and mischief. She wakes up each day, pumps iron, then pumps out two, three, four remarkable essays and then, I assume, dances the night away at some club where I would never be allowed. She haunts me.

I go to Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong’s site that gathers news from important laboratories, journalism from leading (and often not-so-leading but excellent) science reporters and his daily picks of what’s interesting. You can’t do what I do without at least checking to see what he’s got.

Places you go online despite your better judgment

First is Bldgblog. It’s a crazy quilt of short essays and interviews by Geoffrey Manaugh, who teaches at Columbia University in an experimental outpost called Studio X, or some such. Geoffrey has taught me so much about writing and designing for the web. His use of drawings, photos, his prose style, his lyrical writing – I’ve been reading him for five years now. I don’t really know why. I’m not THAT interested in architecture or design. I don’t even agree with him that often, but he’s one of those secret delights, like bittersweet chocolate. He makes his world so tasty, I don’t care, I just go there.

Strange Maps. I have always liked maps. Love maps, actually. All kinds. I didn’t realize I like sidewalk stains that look uncannily like California, or historical maps that tell you one-of-a-kind history stories, or towns that are divided into two time zones, or two countries, with the international border going through a living room. But I do. So I tiptoe over to Strange Maps whenever I’m feeling like I want porn, cause this is my porn.  

There’s a Derek Miller who sings. He’s Canadian and he’s got a song called “Stoned for Days”. That’s not my Derek Miller. Mine’s Australian. He’s Derek K. Miller, and he’s a science guy in Australia who appears regularly on a webcast called Veritasium. He’s really good at explaining stuff. He also makes magnificent use of people-on-the-street interviews, which I've never done so well. When I grow up (or I guess in my case it would be down) I'd like to be Derek K. Miller.

Three accounts you’d pay to follow on twitter.

Well, I’m cheap. So I don’t know how much I’d pay, but I would definitely drop a few nickels (or pence) into David Fenton’s lap. He’s Scottish. (There’s an American David Fenton, who I used to work with when I was at Rolling Stone back in the day, but this is not that Fenton.) This Scottish one reads The Guardian and all these weird central European science journals that I would never see on my own. He also flirts with girls in about half the twitters, which is fun to read. If I ever met him, I’d blush.

Then there’s Aatish Bhatia. He’s a grad student at Rutgers and he sits at the vortex of a massively curious, info-rich, article swapping population of young science geeks, many from India, who see things, know things, exchange things way, way, way ahead of the curve, but don’t go there, because I’ve never “followed” him officially, and he doesn’t know that I’m peeking, and he’s the font of many of my ideas.

Maria Popova again. Because not only is she good at noticing stuff, she notices more than I would imagine is possible from an ordinary human living in my time/space continuum. Perhaps there are three Maria Popovas pretending to be one. Or seven. That would explain her insane productivity.

Three guilty pleasures online

LoverofBeauty – a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful meditation on water, weather, art, artists, bodies, poetry, maybe the single most remarkable collection of images and words I’ve ever seen online.

Anything by Richard Feynman. He was a Nobel Prize winning physicist. He taught science classes to undergraduates. He had a joy in him, a curiosity, and a playfulness that reminds me of the Coca Cola Polar Bear – adorable, and, on the web, everywhere. There are Feynman lectures, Feynman interviews, Feynman concerts (with bongos) – and they’re all—every last one of them—good.

Edible Geography – a site that thinks about food. Not exactly for foodies, since Nicki (the proprietress) doesn’t do recipes. She just surprises. She writes articles about the place in New York City that gets all the ripe bananas before they go onto supermarkets, food labels that lie, secret groups of roaming gormands – and she writes so well, even if you don’t care, you care.

First thing you check in the morning/last thing you check at night.

Icerocket blog search, to see if anybody read my blog.

Favorite news consumption time saver

The BBC’s on the hour three-minute newscasts.

Your most used mobile reporting tool or app

My Blackberry.

Words of wisdom for stations

NPR stations have found an audience. It’s big. It’s loyal. It’s a little fanatical from time to time, but it’s there, ready to listen to us many, many times a week. But – all those people are just a slice of who’s out there. There are tons of people who don’t, or hardly ever listen to our radio programs. And going to the web is a way of finding them. That’s what I’ve found. Doing the Blog “Krulwich Wonders” has put me in front of Russian readers, New Zealanders, hunters, crazy photo enthusiasts, deep sea divers, sports nuts, history buffs, people who don’t know what NPR is, or who I am, but who will bump into a story that interests them, then come back, and then, while NOT listening to the radio, stick with me on the web. So this is new territory. If you think of the future as a new frontier, this is it. This is where you can haul in new and different fish. It’s very exciting.