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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Panda poop could revolutionize biofuels

One down side of biofuels like ethanol is that they rely on easily processed crops that are also staple foods. The more farm space is given over to raising corn, soybeans, and sugar for fuels, the less is available for raising those crops to feed humans. Luckily, scientists have just discovered microbes that could help turn waste plant matter like corn stalks and wood chips into fuel. All they needed was a little bit of panda poo. Pandas, as any first-grader knows, eat basically nothing but bamboo, and bamboo is tougher to digest than the concept of President Bachmann. They …

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Here's a quick roundup of the insane ways the right is reacting to Irene

If you thought Katrina represented the pinnacle of storm-related fail for right-wing politicians ... well, you're right. But that doesn't mean they don't really reach for the crazy when a lesser storm hits the East Coast. Current and former Republican presidential candidates and their little dog Fox were all whipped to great heights of lunacy by Irene's winds, and they busted out some grade-A artisanal tomfoolery over the weekend. First up, Ron Paul thinks we don't need a FEMA response to destruction from Irene. Hey, makes sense to me -- they didn't help much in Katrina, did they? And unless that …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Jaded New Yorkers aside, Irene was serious business

With Hurricane Irene, now a tropical storm, going relatively easy on Gotham, some New Yorkers are feeling ripped off. The New York Times quotes several locals furiously white-whining about extra batteries, too much tuna fish, and the general "buzz kill" of not being subject to death and property damage.  But don't worry, New York, plenty of other people and towns got destroyed! There was the good Samaritan who died saving a 5-year-old, and the 20-year-old woman who drowned in her car, and at least 24 others.  Vermont experienced its worst flooding in a century. Above, you can see floodwaters overpower …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Just shut up and love this bicycle mustache

"Oh, there's no way I'm that much of a hipster," you say. "Sure, I like to bike to my community garden to pick up some herbs to go with the eggs from my rooftop chicken coop while listening to Dave Roberts' latest music recommendation, but ironic facial hair for a bike -- it's just a bridge too far." Bull crap. You know you want a handlebar mustache for your handlebars. Just go with it, they're only $5 for crying out loud. (Via @brainpicker)

Read more: Uncategorized

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Our new favorite city is inside this guy's brain

Okay, so this is more amazing folk art than realistic urban design, but think of it as your Friday 10 minutes of Zen. Jerry Gretzinger has been making and remaking his incredibly detailed maps since 1963, and he's basically generated an entire alternate universe. In this mini-documentary, he details his complicated creative process, which is really not any more arbitrary than the way a lot of actual cities are laid out.

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Whole Foods will tell you how to eat healthy, for a price

Unable to tell shiitake from Shinola? Don't know sea bass from a hole in the ground? Don't worry -- as long as you're willing to pay a giant wad of cash every month, you never have to be confused about what a "vegetable" is again. For a mere $49 a month -- only like a quarter of the average person's food budget! -- Whole Foods will hold your hand while you purchase their exorbitantly priced groceries. In other words, if you're rich enough to eat healthy, you can spend more money to be assured you're eating healthy. Their propaganda video …

Read more: Food

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State Department backs Keystone XL pipeline

The atmospheric pressure is dropping in D.C. as the hurricane prepares to move through. But in front of the White House, where protestors are pushing Obama to nix the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, the pressure has probably just ratcheted up. The State Department just released a report saying that the pipeline would have "minimal" environmental effects, which is a big step toward approving its construction. Thanks a lot, State Department. This definitely isn't the last word on the subject. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn't have to weigh in on the pipeline until the end of the year, and the project …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil

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Here's the video that will convince you to go to the tar-sands protests [CORRECTED]

If you're not out getting arrested at the protests against the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, we get it! Not everyone is Tim deChristopher, and that's not the only valid way to take action. But if you're on the fence about whether to head down to D.C. and get your civil disobedience on, this video might be the thing that makes up your mind.  CORRECTION, 8/29/11: The narrator in this video says, "The tar sands produces an unbelievable 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per day." Unfortunately, that stat really is unbelievable -- it confuses yearly emissions with daily emissions. In …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil

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How to make a 100 percent energy-independent island

The Danish island of Samsoe is 100 percent energy self-sufficient, and even generates enough energy to export some back to the mainland. How'd they manage that? Well, it doesn't hurt that there are only 4,000 people living on Samsoe, but the place is also bristling with turbines and sports a solar plant and three biomass plants. Click the Samorost-lookin' graphic above for an infographic showing how they did it.

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Poop-fueled batteries could clean water while generating energy

If there's one thing humans can apparently generate an endless supply of, it's shit. So why not use that to produce things we need but don't have enough of, like clean water and energy? Environmental engineer Bruce Logan is developing fuel cells that may be able to do that, cleaning wastewater while generating and storing energy. The secret is that the batteries are full of bacteria, which eat their way through the waste and release electrons, which the fuel cells can store. The bacteria can generate electrical power, but they can also produce hydrogen, which means they could have even …