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The Kid Should See This

Engine Trouble, a quick science history trip with Robert Krulwich

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“Try to name the inventions that most dramatically changed our world. What comes to mind? The wheel? Making fire? Language? Art? Those were huge, no question, but in this video, we suggest a new one—only a couple of hundred years old—that will alter our planet in ways that haven’t been seen for the last two and a half million years. Let us take you on a quick trip, backward and forward, to see what has been and could be our fate again.”

Go back in history—around 250 years and two-and-a-half million years—with science correspondent and Radiolab alum Robert Krulwich. In Engine Trouble, an animation by Nate Milton, Krulwich shares how Earth’s delicate balance was transformed by the invention of the modern engine.

looking back in time
exhaust
Fueled by coal, oil, and natural gas, the engine replaced slower but more sustainable sources of power and gave rise to myriad new inventions that our societies now depend on. And today, those fuels have polluted our atmosphere with CO2 molecules, trapping heat and warming the planet.

melting popsicle

“If we quickly cut down emissions now, scientists say that we can slow the melt way, way down. We can give ourselves a few hundred years, maybe even a few thousand years. Yeah, a thousand years to cope and adjust.

“But if we keep letting things get warmer, at some point—and we don’t know when, which is a big problem, Greenland ice will hit a physical tipping point and the glaciers will collapse in on themselves automatically…”

wind turbines and bicycling

“Engines really aren’t our problem—we like engines, we need them, we use them, they make life so much easier. It’s the carbon that powers those engines, that’s the challenge. Keep the engines, lose the carbon. And that way, maybe we can slow the changes down that are coming our way.”

Engine Trouble is one in a series of animations about the climate by Krulwich, Milton, and This American Life, based on the work of Aatish Bhatia. Music by Buck St. Thomas.

renewable energy
Watch these solution-filled videos next on TKSST:
Why are electric cars the future?
• How to Save Our Frozen Worlds: Clean Energy
Can you power your home with a bicycle?
Can mirrors and ceramic sand solve our energy problem?
The Solar Grandmothers of Ambakivao, Madagascar
Geothermal energy in Iceland
How did John Magiro build a mini-hydropower station for his neighbors?

Bonus: Take Charge: RSC’s Global Battery Experiment.

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