Curiosity Desk

8:26 am
Fri April 18, 2014

239 Years Ago, Minutemen Flew The Forster Flag, The First With 13 Stripes

The Forster Flag
Credit Courtesy Doyle New York

They came from all over: Sudbury and Framingham, Billerica and Chelmsford. Farmers, shopkeepers, even ministers. Some had muskets. Some had knives. Some carried no weapons at all.

This time the British had gone too far. Seven hundred redcoats were advancing on the town of Concord, determined to destroy a cache of colonial military supplies. The colonies’ disparate town militia — the Minutemen — were resolved to turn them back. The American Revolution had begun.

Read more
11:05 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Chelsea On Fire: 1908

Courtesy George Ostler

It was a warm — and very windy — morning in Chelsea on April 12, 1908, Palm Sunday, when an unthinkable disaster began to unfold.

Read more
10:59 am
Fri March 28, 2014

How Boston Lost The Patriots And 'New England' Grabbed the NFL's 'Gold Standard'

Fenway Park was transformed into a football field for a Pats home game in 1963.
Credit Boston Public Library

In March of 1971, there was no Twitter. There was no 24-hour sports radio in Boston. No ESPN. It was in the newspaper, 43 years ago this week, that area football fans learned that the Boston Patriots were no more. They were now the New England Patriots.

“The Patriots were gonna be called the Bay State Patriots," said Pat Sullivan, former general manager of the Patriots, laughing. "That concept lasted about two weeks.”

Read more
7:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Memories Of The 1980 Olympic Boycott Still Sting

Kurt Somerville in his rowing days, third from left.
Credit WGBH News

Usually, when athletes meet the president, it’s a celebratory affair. You’ve won the World Series or the Super Bowl or a gold medal. But that wasn’t that case in 1980, when President James Carter gathered more than 100 Olympic athletes at the White House for an announcement. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan a few months prior, and the United States had been threatening to boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. On March 21, a decision was made.

"I can't say at this moment that other nations will not go to the Summer Olympics in Moscow," Carter said at the time. "Ours will not go."

Read more
7:42 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Big Bang Theory: A Roman Catholic Creation

A nighttime view of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way, like every star seen in this photo, was set in motion by the big bang.
Credit Abdul Raham / Flickr

Between the announcement this week that scientists have detected primordial gravitation waves and FOX's reboot of Carl Sagan's groundbreaking series, "Cosmos", the Big Bang theory is enjoying its biggest moment since it banged the observable universe into existence 13.8 billion years ago.

Read more
6:06 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

What Menino's Cancer Diagnosis Means

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been diagnosed with cancer.

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who days ago announced he has an advanced form of cancer that has spread to his liver and lymph nodes, finds himself among the small percentage of people whose cancer can't be tracked back to its origin.

Read more
10:41 am
Fri March 14, 2014

What The MBTA Owes To The '88 Blizzard

Weather map of the Blizzard of 1888.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The winter of 1888 was nothing like this winter. “Snow was the furthest thing from people’s mind,” said Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New york, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway. “New York City, Boston, the entire Northeast was winding down one of the mildest winters on record.”

That all changed here on the evening of March 11.

Read more
2:12 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Paralympic Curlers Chase Gold From Falmouth to Sochi

Meghan Lino throws a curling stone. Wheelchair curlers get into a stationary, tandem position for stone throws and use a a delivery stick - a pole with a bracket that fits over the rock handle, allowing the rock to be pushed while applying correct rotation.
Credit Patricia Alvarado Nunez / WGBH

  The U.S. Wheelchair Curling team's hopes for a medal at the 2014 Paralympics came to an end today after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Great Britain in their ninth and final preliminary round match.

Following Thursday's action on the ice, American team members David Palmer, of Mashpee, and Meghan Lino, of East Falmouth, along with their coach Tony Calacchio posted on their blog on the Cape Cod Curling Club website.

Read more
10:38 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Blame The Bay State For Voter Registration

In the early days, voting here in Massachusetts was pretty informal.

"You showed up at the polls and you said who you were and the notion was that people there, and town officials, would know who you were and they would know whether you met the requirements," said Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The requirements were simple: You had to be a man. You had to have established residency in your town. And you had to own property. Notably, you did not have to be white.

Read more
This Week In History From The Curiosity Desk
11:11 am
Fri February 28, 2014

How Shacks For The Shipwrecked Spawned Mass. General Hospital

Lifeboat manned by Cohasset Crew, April 2, 1918
Credit Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts/Massachusetts Historical Society

In Boston in the 1780s, there were fewer places more dangerous than Boston Harbor.

Read more
6:07 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Blustery Boston: Why Is The City So Windy?

Let’s face it: this winter’s been fierce. It’s not just the unrelenting cold and snow; some days, the wind is so strong it nearly lifts you off your feet. In certain spots around the city, the wind is intensified by the surroundings, creating a wind tunnel effect. 

WGBH Curiosity Desk reporter Edgar Herwick went out to discover why are some places so much windier than others.

Read more
5:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Quincy Man Threw Himself On Grenade To Save Fellow Marines At Iwo Jima

Pfc. William Robert Caddy
Credit Wikimedia Commons

In February 1945, a few days into the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most indelible images of the World War II was captured on film: Five Marines and one Navy corpsman, raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi.

Read more
From the Curiosity Desk
2:17 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

You're Reading This Correctly: Why Was It So Warm This January?

The Polar Vortex is a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure.
Credit NASA

What do you get when you add hefty snowfall to the Polar Vortex and sprinkle in a bit of Bombogenisis on top? The fourth warmest January on record.


It’s been a good old fashioned winter here in Boston, complete with 2 degree nights, 21.8 inches of snow, and (hyperbole alert) 8,342 stories in the local press about whether you can use a lawn chair to save your parking space.

Read more
Local News
4:29 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

How Does Mayor Walsh's $175,000 Salary Stack Up?

Mayor Marty Walsh joined Jim and Margery on Friday for the first of many monthly segments on Boston Public Radio.
Credit Patricia Alvarado / WGBH News

We learned last week that new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will earn $175,000 this year, the same salary as his predecessor Tom Menino. (Walsh also unveiled the salaries of his key staffers)

That got the Curiosity Desk wondering how his paycheck measures up against his fellow mayors across the country.

Read more
From the Curiosity Desk
4:47 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Navigating Boston's Wintry Streets On Two Wheels

A bicyclist in Somerville braves the February 5 snowstorm.
Credit WGBH/Amanda Kersey

On a recent snowy winter morning, I spotted Shelly Pearson cycling on the bike path along Memorial drive in Cambridge. As she approached, it was pretty clear she knew what I wanted to talk to her about.

“This is not the best weather to commute in,” she said, laughing, as she slowed to a stop.

Read more
7:53 am
Thu January 23, 2014

MBTA Bus Skipped Your Stop? Here's Why

An Out of Service MBTA bus pulls in to the Haymarket Station.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

It's a winter evening. Rush hour. It's dark, and relatively mild for January. But it's raining.

Read more
From the Curiosity Desk
5:26 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Going Turncoat In America

Benedict Arnold
Credit Wikimedia Commons

January 13 marked what would have been the 273rd birthday of America's most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold. Arnold's betrayal during the American Revolution is so notorious that today his name is actually a synonym for the word traitor. But Arnold was by no means the only man to turn go turncoat on the U.S.A.

Read more
Local News
6:00 am
Mon December 23, 2013

The Life Cycle Of A Boston Christmas Tree

Mahoney's Christmas tree farm in Nova Scotia.
Credit Courtesy Mahoney's Gardens

Katalin Coleman is from Hungary - she now lives in Sweden - but every Christmas she travels here to spend the holidays with her brother and father.  

Among her duties each year: select the family’s Christmas tree. This year she went to Mahoney’s, a garden center in Boston. And so she’s picked out a 7-foot balsam fir, one of the most popular choices for a Christmas tree here in New England.

Read more
5:45 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Previewing The Hilltop Steakhouse Auction

The iconic Hilltop Steakhouse closed earlier this year. On Saturday, the venue will auction off the remains of the restaurant (sign not included).
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

The iconic Hilltop Steakhouse served its last meal back in October, but this Saturday, the restaurant will open its doors one last time — not to serve up steak dinners, but to hold an old-fashioned on-site auction, where everything from kitchen equipment to memorabilia will go up for sale.

Read more
Local News
11:52 am
Wed October 23, 2013

The Duo Behind The Sound Of Fenway Park

Meet TJ Connelly, the official DJ of the Red Sox.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

There is nothing quite like the sound of 37,000-plus Red Sox fans, crammed into every nook and cranny of baseball's oldest ballpark on Yawkey Way in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. The swelling chorus of approval for each David Ortiz home run, each John Lester strike out, each Drew-to-Pedroia-to Napoli double-play can be heard for miles.

But as the Red Sox filtered onto the field at Fenway Park earlier this week for an afternoon workout in preparation for the 2013 World Series, it was quiet at the ballpark. A tour guide led a small group along the mezzanine as batting practice got underway. You could even hear the buzz of the fluorescent stadium lights echoing through the empty stands. That is, until TJ Connelly went to work.

Read more
Curiosity Desk
9:38 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Tesla Aims To Change The Way Cars Are Sold In Bay State

The Tesla store in the Natick Mall.
Credit CC Chapman [Creative Commons]

Car manufacturer Tesla’s most innovative idea of all might be it’s sales model. But that idea has them embroiled in a fierce legal fight whose outcome will affect every car buyer in Massachusetts for years to come.

Read more
4:52 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Why Did It Take NASA A Year To Realize The Voyager Left The Solar System?

NASA photograph of one of the two identical Voyager space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
Credit NASA

For the first time in history, we've left the solar system. 

NASA has announced that new data confirms their Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched way back in 1977, exited the solar system more than a year ago, entering interstellar space.

If you're wondering what exactly interstellar space is, Merav Opher, assistant professor of astronomy at Boston University and a Voyager team scientist explained that it's an area filled with material from past dead stars and wind.

Read more
8:46 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Sharks Jump The Shark: 4 Other Fascinating Sea Creatures In New England Waters

Sure, Shark Week is a neat idea. Yes, "Jaws" is an incredible movie. And, okay, "Sharknado" is a thing. But with New England shark sightings on the rise, parents vetoing swimming in area waters, and Chatham's use of sharks as the centerpiece for a marketing campaign, it's beginning to feel like the sharks are hogging the spotlight.

Read more
Curiosity Desk
3:00 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Maine's Jessica Meir Reports For NASA Astronaut Training

Harvard's Jessica Meir and her fellow Astronaut classmates reported for duty on Tuesday morning.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

One day the destination could be Mars, but Tuesday it was Houston.

Harvard scientist and Caribou, Maine native Jessica Meir and her seven classmates were formally welcomed to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston Tuesday as the space agency's newest astronaut class officially reported for duty.

Read more
5:11 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

What Makes A Blue Moon Blue?

At 9:45PM Tuesday look up! If skies are clear, you will see a big, bright Blue Moon.
Credit mark roy from Thursday Island, Torres Strait, Australia

If you were looking up at the skies on Tuesday night, you might have noticed a big, bright full moon. What you might not have realized is just how rare that full moon was. It wasn't blue in color, but it was a true Blue Moon. 
Full moons occur, on average, every 29.5 days. If you're standing on Earth, this means the sun is directly opposite the moon. 

Read more
10:22 am
Fri August 16, 2013

The Kickstarter Phenomenon

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website that connects people with ideas with the people who would like to see them become reality.

The products that have been available to us have, historically, often come from big companies. But now, thanks to a crowdfunding website called Kickstarter, that's all changing.

Read more
4:18 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Why Wasn't James 'Whitey' Bulger Charged With Murder?

A court sketch of James "Whitey" Bulger
Credit Margaret Small / AP

If you were following the verdict in the James "Whitey" Bulger trial in real time, whether on Twitter, TV or radio, you might have noticed something a little unusual.

Though Bulger was accused of playing a role in the murder of 19 people, he was not charged with a single count of murder.

Read more
2:59 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Chicago Stepping Invades Boston Dance Floors

A dance floor view of a few of the Original Steppers of Boston.
Credit Howard Powell

It's a steamy summer night in Dorchester and the air conditioner at the Carver Den is on the fritz, so a few industrial strength fans will have to suffice. It's Thursday, and that means heat or no heat The Original Steppers of Boston have some dancing to do.

Since 2006, this group has brought Chicago-Style Stepping to dance floors all over Greater Boston. Each Thursday, they hold a lesson and open dance at the Carver Den on Talbot Avenue in Dorchester.

Read more
10:22 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Did Life On Earth Begin On Mars?

A Curiosity rover selfie. Snapped in Gale Crater on the surface of Mars on October 31, 2012.
Credit NASA

As it turns out, we might all be Martians.

That’s the hunch of a team of scientists at Harvard, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Christopher Carr is a research scientist at MIT for that team, which is known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes (SETG). He said the big idea driving the research is that if life on Mars exists, it could be related to us.  

Read more
6:15 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Flushing Out The Truth About Boston's Public Toilets

This automated city toilet on Boylston Street in Copley Square was out of order earlier this week, but on Thursday morning when we went back and checked, it worked like a charm.
Credit Edgar B Herwick III / WGBH

To follow up on a report from earlier this week about public restrooms in Boston in which five of six automated city toilets were out of order, I caught up with Peter O'Sullivan, who runs the Boston's Coordinated Street Furniture Program. The program is responsible for many of the information kiosks and bus shelters you see around the city, as well as the city's eight automated public toilets.

Read more