Bookmark and Share

Feathers - Thor Hanson

Feathers have remarkable properties - coveted for their marvelous engineering and for their beauty. Today we talk to biologist Thor Hanson about his new book, Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, and why he thinks feathers are a natural evolutionary wonder.

Part Two of The Current

Feathers - Thor Hanson

Dinosaurs may have been terrifying, unapologetic killers, but many looked quite dandy. Long before birds relied on plumage for flight, the terrible-lizards were in fine feathers. Today we spoke with the author of a new book about the ancient history of feathers and why they still tickle us today.

We began part two with the song of the golden-crowned kinglet - one of the tiniest visitors to Canadian forests. It's song is distinctive, but the truly remarkable thing about the kinglet is the insulating power of its feathers. They keep the tiny bird almost 80 degrees warmer than the surrounding air. That's just one of the more remarkable properties of feathers.

Thor Hanson is a biologist who delves deeply into the lore and science of these airfoils in his new book called Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. We reached Thor Hanson at his home on San Juan Island in Washington State.

Last Word - Four Feathers

We've been talking this morning about feathers and how they've often been worn as symbols of status and bravery. But not all plumage indicates pluck. When the hero of the Four Feathers resigns his commission in the British army, his mates and fiancé all send him white feathers.

Those feathers so infuriate him, he disguises himself as a poor Arab and tears off for the war in the Sudan. It begins a personal mission that becomes perhaps the most ripping of all stiff-upper-lip adventures. It's been made into a film seven times.
We ended the show with a clip from the 1939 version.

Related Links:

Other segment from today's show:

  • Commenting has been disabled for this entry.