Robert Krulwich brings his Jewish
religion into his view of the world
as he reports on science.
Body Of Knowledge
Ace broadcaster brings viewers up to date on latest scientific
findings in new PBS series.
Special to the Jewish News
obert Krulwich loves to explore and looks for
innovative ways to get lots of TV viewers to go
along with him.
The broadcaster, seen regularly on ABC-TV feature
segments that delve into science's latest finds, believes a
fast-paced format keeps people tuned in and is using
that for a new PBS series, NOVA scienceNOW. The
goal is to bring audiences up to speed on cutting-edge
discoveries and introduce the scientists whose ideas are
moving them ahead of the crowd.
The series, with Krulwich as host and sometimes
reporter, consists of five magazine-style programs that
cover several subjects in each episode. The show debuts
at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, on WTVS-Channel 56 and
includes segments to explain the physiology of empa-
thy, sounds made by desert sands and the threat of hur-
ricanes in New Orleans.
The opening show also profiles James McLurkin, a
young technocrat developing groups of small robots
coordinated to complete tasks as a mechanical team.
"I like taking ordinary experiences and looking a lit-
tle more closely at them," says Krulwich, 57, whose
recent New Year's Eve commentary on ABC's World
News Tonight explained the dusty nature of champagne
bubbles. "I also like to look at scientists with a serious
eye, questioning and challenging them.
"I've worked with NOVA'S senior executive producer
Paula Apsell and learned that she was thinking of creat-
ing an hour in which there would be more than one
story. I invited myself in because I think shorter seg-
ments are more accessible."
As Krulwich mapped out the topics he wanted to
cover, he included one especially important to
Michigan viewers. He developed a piece on hydrogen
fuels and has interviewed Detroit Mayor Kwame
"President Bush has championed alternative fuels,
and I am interested to see how realistic the president's
strategy is," Krulwich says. "A lot of the auto
information comes from Michigan, but our
test drive and investigation of the engine
takes place in Connecticut."
The opening show of "NOVAscienceNOW" profiks James
McLurkin, a young technocrat developing groups of small robots
coordinated to complete tasks as a mechanical team.
Krulwich, a Columbia Law School graduate, attributes
his ultimate career decision to John Wharton, an attor-
ney for whom he worked briefly when he was new to
the legal profession. As mentor, Wharton noticed that
Krulwich had stronger interests than law and offered
time away to pursue those preferences.
The law firm had clients that included playwright
Arthur Miller and folk-rock singer Art Garfunkel, and
Krulwich realized that he was jealous of them. He
wanted to be in a field that was more creative and
found work with Pacifica Radio. Later moves placed
him as a bureau chief with Rolling Stone magazine,
business and economics correspondent for National
Public Radio, cultural affairs anchor for the PBS series
The Edge and a correspondent for several CBS pro-
After moving to ABC, Krulwich decided to give his
interns positive experiences similar to the one he had
with the Wharton law firm. Those upbeat contacts
have paid off as his former interns have alerted him to
some of the topics he will cover in NOVA scienceNOW.
Besides probing the everyday applications of science,
Krulwich intends to examine scientific issues that have
to do with fears or raise questions of morality. One
moral controversy involves stem cell research.
"I want to show what a stem cell is so people can see
how it works," explains Krulwich, named to TV Guide's
"All-Star" reporting team. "I also want to show why
there are moral questions about creating them.
"It's very easy to appeal to people's religious or moral
sense, but I think that should come with information.
Before you say 'bad, bad, bad' or 'good, good, good' or
`no, no, no' or Yes, yes, yes,' you should know some-
thing about what's going on."
On The Hom ont
"I've always had some intuition that what I see about
me is a conscious act," he says. "It feels like one. I've
been trained by my parents and my own prejudices to
see details that make me see short stories inside the big
stories, and in the short stories, I see a certain kind of
Krulwich shares professional interests with his wife,
Tamar Lewin, and his sister, Sara Krulwich. Both
women are journalists working for the New York Times.
His wife is a national reporter he met in law school,
and his sister is an arts and entertainment photogra-
pher who graduated from the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor.
When Krulwich is not working, he also is interested
in exploring, but his focus becomes more geographic
"I take a neighborhood that I hear about on the
radio or in the news, and I just go to it," says the New
Yorker and father of two teens invited to accompany
him. "I like to wander around an area I've never been.
This city is a spectacular place, and it has a rich, deep
and varied landscape. Its a city that's very fast moving,
so if you're not moving hardly at all, you become a
NOVA scienceNOW debuts 8 p.m. Tuesday,
Jan. 25, on WTVS Channel 56. Its compan-
ion Web site vvww.pbs.org/nova/sciencenow
will review what was covered and offer new
information and educational experiences.