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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Donate to the Sharknado sequel and you’ll also be supporting shark conservation

Sharknado movie

Let it never be said that the producers of Sharknado 2: Sharknado Harder only care about fictional sharks that are delivered via violent weather system. They also have plenty of love in their hearts for real, living, sea-bound aquatic predators -- which is why they're sending some of the donations they collect for a fan-funded bonus scene to conservation projects.

Ecorazzi reports:

The studio reportedly became interested in supporting shark conservation and science after the huge success of “SharkNado,” and is hoping to raise at least $50,000 to pay for the fan-funded bonus scene. The studio has pledged to donate 10 percent of the contributions to the RJD Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami to further the college’s ongoing shark conservation research.

Read more: Living

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Salamanders are doing their best to stave off climate change

salamander
Bill Bouton

If we can't get through to Republicans, at least we have one slimy little crawler* that's helping to mitigate climate change. A new study indicates that woodland salamanders help keep carbon out of the atmosphere, thanks to their diet of insects that feed on dead leaves.

Here's how it works: Salamanders eat mostly "shredding invertebrates," bugs that survive by ripping leaves to pieces and eating them. Shredding the leaves releases their carbon into the atmosphere -- but when there are fewer shredding invertebrates, leaves stay on the ground and decompose, with their carbon eventually being absorbed safely into the soil. By eating the shredders, salamanders help carbon be directed into the ground and not into the air.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The future of genetically modified plants could include potatoes with tiny hamburgers in the middle

hamburgato

io9 has a roundup of where genetically modified plants could be going in the next few generations, and it's a heck of a lot weirder than tomatoes with fish genes. Writer Daniel Berleant envisions oak trees that reproduce via spores and wheat that can fix nitrogen in the soil as well as beans, but shit gets really wacky when he starts talking about modifications that would make produce taste better. Here are some of his weirdest visions for the future of food:

Hamburgatoes: If you can make Quorn, a fungus that tastes like chicken, why can't you make carrots that taste like potato chips, or "potatoes with small hamburgers in the middle"? Presumably this means a small amount of potato-based matter that tastes and behaves like hamburger, but I'm preferring to envision cutting open a potato to find a fully dressed burger on a bun.

Read more: Food

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This is the sweetest, mushiest bike map you’ve ever seen

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

Vincent Meertens and his girlfriend Larissa tracked all their bike trips for a year, and the result is a dense, cross-hatched map of their travels as individuals and as a couple. It's like one of those Facebook relationship pages, but centered on biking.

Meertens' routes are picked out in blue and Larissa's in red. The paths mark their solo activities, their favorite haunts, and their adventures together (although Meertens was more zealous about tracking and some of the blue-only routes, like the one around the perimeter of Manhattan, are actually trips they took as a couple). The yellow dots are places where they took photos.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Even “green” K-Cups kinda suck for the environment

ecocup
Mother Parkers

We recently found out that K-Cups, those single-serve thingers you use in your office's Keurig coffeemaker, create so much trash that debris from the ones sold just in the last year would circle the planet almost 11 times. And if that wasn't enough to drive you back to old-school percolators, try this on for size: Even the new "EcoCup," billed as a green K-Cup alternative, is pretty crappy for the environment.

The EcoCup, made by coffee company Mother Parkers, is designed to work with Keurigs and to provide single servings of coffee grounds or tea with a slightly less disastrous environmental footprint. The main innovation? It's recyclable. But, uh, not that recyclable, according to Treehugger:

Read more: Food, Living

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Watch commuters live your public transit nightmare as they avoid a rat in a subway car

Everyone in New York has made peace with the idea that there are rats in the subway. But usually there aren't rats IN the SUBWAY, as in running around inside the cars. When that happens, it's pretty horrifying:

Well, half horrifying, half hilarious to watch everyone standing on the seats squealing, with one subway rider executing a deft little jump as the rat comes barreling towards his feet.

Read more: Cities

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20 percent of the tricolored blackbirds on Earth are in imminent danger — but you can help save them

Blackbird_tricolored_male_summer_california_monte-m-taylor
Tsuru8

The tricolored blackbird is pretty rare -- populations have rebounded since they were first classified as endangered, but there are still fewer than 250,000 of them on the planet (up from 35,000 in the '90s). Which means it's really, really serious that a flock of 50,000 tricolored blackbirds is under imminent threat. That's 20 percent of the extant population.

The birds are nesting in a private field, which is due to be harvested tomorrow to feed dairy cattle. (Agriculture encroaching on their habitat constitutes the biggest threat to tricolored blackbirds.) Luckily, you can help them. The Audubon Society is trying to raise enough funds by tomorrow to remove the birds from danger, and you can sponsor a bird for a dollar -- or five birds for $5, or four-and-twenty blackbirds for four-and-twenty dollars, or 100 tacos for $100. Wait, not that last one.

5-dollars-5-birds

Read more: Living

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Sped-up video of ocean creatures is kind of terrifying

You know what? We take it back. Don't save the oceans. There's some really freaky stuff in there.

This video consists of 150,000 shots of corals and sponges, compressed into less than four minutes. A lot of the motion is intended for desedimentation, shaking off detritus like sand and fish excrement that threaten to bury them. At normal speed, it might take weeks for some of these changes to be obvious, but in the video the creatures judder alarmingly or throw tentacles at your face.

Read more: Living

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The week in GIFs: Booze, meat, and coffee

This week we found out how to brew booze at home and learned why you shouldn't throw your coffee cup into space. (Last week was brought to you by Liz Lemon.)

You can make your own alcoholic ginger beer:

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Samuel L. Jackson is going vegan -- but it turns out vegetarians have worse health:

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Read more: Living

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Samuel L. Jackson thinks going vegan will make him live forever

jackson_burger

If there's anyone who should know about superhero shit like nigh-invulnerability, it's Nick Fury. So please take note: Samuel L. Jackson's stated goal in adopting a vegan diet is "trying to live forever."

OK, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Jackson doesn't actually think going vegan will make him immortal. Dude is real smart, in case you didn't know; you have to be smart to deliver a line like "I have had it with these monkeyfighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane" with conviction.

In fact, he was probably mostly poking fun at the fact that he has apparently sold the rest of his life to Marvel:

When asked by a reporter what his secret is, the 65-year-old actor replied, “It’s a new vegan diet.”

“Is it for a particular role?” the reporter inquired.

“No. Just trying to live forever. Trying to finish out my Marvel deal.”

Read more: Food