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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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The $50,000 playhouse that oil built

Ever wonder what oil executives do with all the money they make from wrecking the planet? Well, take a tour with me through the playhouse that oil exec John Schiller ($7.7 million in compensation in 2010, including a $2.6 million bonus) had built for his 4-year-old. That's an artist's conception above, not the actual blueprint, but all the features -- air conditioning, running water, fireplace, 32-inch flat-screen TV -- are for real. (The New York Times has pictures, too.) Built in the same Cape Cod style as the Schillers’ expansive main house, the two-story 170-square-foot playhouse has vaulted ceilings that rise from …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil

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The EPA does not want you feeding arsenic to your baby

It's only 16 months until the next election, and you know what that means: We are in the thick of political ad season. Mostly that makes everybody want to crawl under a sofa, but sometimes you get arresting ads like this one from American Family Voices.

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Paper antennas pull electricity from the air

The air is full of energy -- not in a woo-woo crystal-gazing way, but in a scientific electromagnetic-radiation-from-TV-stations-and-phone-networks kind of way. That ambient energy is just being wasted. But a team from Georgia Tech is developing inkjet-printed paper antennas that could generate enough energy to power a small gadget, right out of thin air. The researchers have already successfully operated a temperature sensor using electromagnetic energy captured from a television station that was half a kilometer away. They are now preparing another demonstration in which a microprocessor-based microcontroller would be activated simply by holding it in the air. Right now …

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Painting roofs white could save a year's worth of emissions

The White Roof Project has a simple mission: Paint black roofs white. Here's what that tiny effort gets you, according to the organization (click the picture for a more extensive infographic): A 24 billion metric ton reduction in CO2 emissions, if every roof is painted white by 2030. That's a year's worth of CO2. $5 billion in energy cost savings for the United States. 14 power plants' worth of energy savings in 11 large cities. Reduction in smog, blackout risk, and heat-related deaths. The approval of Bill Clinton, who wrote last week that "Every black roof in New York should …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Where do greenhouse gases come from?

This chart from the United Nations Environment Programme (click to embiggen) looks complicated, sort of like a traffic sign cross-bred with a banyan tree. But it basically just traces the path of greenhouse gases from polluting industries, through uses, out into the atmosphere. So you can tell at a glance, for instance, that energy industries produce by far the most greenhouse gases, or that most of the methane comes from oil processing and livestock.

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Amazing bamboo bike is grown, not manufactured

The complicated weave of the Ajiro bike would be work-intensive to achieve through conventional means -- it takes a lot of energy to bend bamboo stalks into shape. So instead, design student Alexander Vittouris tensioned the bamboo over a mold as it grew, then harvested a completed bike frame.  There's probably just going to be one Ajiro for now. Bamboo can grow up to three feet a day, but this is still a much slower process than punching out an aluminum bike frame. Who knows, though ... as the energy use of manufacturing becomes a greater and greater concern, maybe …

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Oh good, the heat wave really IS a government conspiracy!

I mean, Dave Weigel is a journalist! He wouldn't make things up. What a relief! Rush Limbaugh was right, it's not hot at all, it's just those scientists confounding your mind. Incidentally, Weigel tried for an alternate joke, but, uh, it wasn't a joke: Listen to the end of Limbaugh's rant, and weep.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Meet your newest green candidate: Double Rainbow guy

It turns out that Double Rainbow guy, everyone's favorite non-cat meme producer since Tay Zonday, has a name (it's Paul Vasquez) and a face (it's sort of Cheech Marin meets Hurley). He also has an alternative energy platform and a presidential campaign, of sorts. A Facebook app called Votocracy allows normal (for some value of "normal") people to declare their candidacy, garner votes, and even debate each other in a sort of American Idolesque shadow campaign.  In a race where the "serious" candidates have included Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump, it's becoming increasingly hard to distinguish this kind of reality-show …

Read more: Election 2012

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Which cities pay the most for gas?

Which cities eat up the most gas? Mint.com has the lowdown on how often their users buy gas every month, and how much they spend (click for a larger infographic). The slobbiest gas guzzlers, according to Mint data, are San Jose, Calif. and Birmingham, Ala. The daintiest gas sippers are New York, Brooklyn (a kind of New York), D.C., and Boston -- places with robust public transportation systems. (And also, to be fair, places where it's expensive to buy gas -- people who commute into the city would be crazy not to buy gas in their own suburban enclaves, and …

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Watch a whale jump for joy after being freed from a net

It's worth watching a guy scramble around in a Speedo to see this boatload of conservationists save a humpback whale caught in a net. If you don't want to sit through tense Speedo-clad net-cutting, though, you can skip ahead to about 6:30 and watch the newly freed whale repeatedly leaping into the air in what looks like a show of joy and gratitude.

Read more: Animals