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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Check out this solar-powered 3D printer

Yo dawg, I heard you like solar power, so I put some solar power in your 3D printer so you can solar power while you 3D print. The Solar Sinter, an art project by Markus Kayser, is probably not actually going to replace energy-hog fabrication processes. It's more of a concept piece, but it's a pretty spectacular one that beautifully demonstrates the awesome power of the sun. Kayser uses the strong sun in the Sahara desert (yes, contrary to appearances, he is not on the Black Rock playa) to melt sand into layers of glass, building gnarled glass objects that …

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Vegan condoms keep your junk cruelty-free

If you won't put animal products in your mouth, shouldn't it stand to reason you wouldn't put them on your wang? Or maybe you're courting a vegan, and you want to seal the deal. Lucky for you there are vegan lubes and condoms available, to replace the raw-meat-and-gelatin lube and condoms you were using before. I had figured that "vegan condom" was sort of a technicality -- you can get your facility certified as vegan, maybe, and thus gain the right to put a "vegan" label on your contraceptives. Sort of like getting declared kosher, but instead of a rabbi …

Read more: Living, Sex

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Build this beautiful shipping container house for only $40K

There's been a small vogue for houses and buildings made of shipping containers, which are cheap, plentiful, and often end up tossed in the sea (either on purpose or otherwise). This airy two-container dwelling is one of the prettiest we've seen, and it only cost $40,000 to build. Architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe removed most of the inward-facing walls from the two containers and placed them about a hallway's width apart. The material from the walls then became a roof and clerestory window for the hallway, which keeps the interior bright and cool, while the slightly expanded footprint keeps the whole thing …

Read more: Green Home, Living

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Even Republicans and climate skeptics support fuel efficiency and clean energy

Regardless of how they felt about global warming -- from "alarmed" to "dismissive" -- nearly everyone in this 2009 survey supported increased fuel efficiency standards. Even the ones who dismissed the threat of climate change weren't very strongly opposed. What's more, 90 percent of people think clean energy should be a priority for the president, including 85 percent of Republicans. And more than 80 percent support increased funding of renewable energy research. This is more or less unprecedented in terms of public support for policy options -- how often do you see 90 percent of people agreeing on anything? And …

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The U.S. is building an interstate highway system for bikes

One day you'll be able to head out on the highway WITHOUT getting your motor running first. Take that, Steppenwolf! Last week the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials breathed new life into a long-fallow plan to build an interstate bicycle system, approving new routes for the first time in more than 30 years. AASHTO has identified a number of likely corridors for a nationwide system of interstate bike paths, and got started on building them in the 1980s. But the project fizzled after establishing only two bike interstates: U.S. Bicycle Route 1 from Virginia to North Carolina and …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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We should all have plastic money like Canada

Canada has unveiled new polymer bills, which will replace paper $100 bills and, by 2012, paper 50s and 20s. They're super slick and futurey-looking (even though they still feature pictures of the prime minister from 1911). More importantly, they're designed to prevent fraud and will be better for the environment than paper money. From an environmental standpoint, the polymer bills have two advantages over the paper ones: They're more durable, and they can be recycled. The bills last two and a half to four times longer than regular bills, meaning that the Bank of Canada will have to fire up …

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A flooded nuke plant in Nebraska can’t be good, right?

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant near Omaha is basically sitting in a puddle of water after recent floods. That ... that can't be good, right? I mean, granted, nuclear fuel sort of sits in a puddle of water at the best of times -- that's how you keep it cool -- and a lot of the rumors floating around about the plant have turned out to be a bunch of bullroar. But even if there's no immediate danger from this plant -- which, as Rachel Maddow points out in the above clip, may or may not be true -- the …

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Drilling company's coloring book sells fracking to kids

Kids! Are you worried about natural gas companies pumping mysterious chemicals into the rocks near your house, leaking methane gas, poisoning cattle, and making your water flammable? Well, don't be! A coloring book from Talisman Energy says everything will be fine, and afterwards there will be deer and rainbows.  The book is written in Comic Sans and narrated by Terry the Fracosaurus, a hard-hat-wearing dinosaur/Fraggle hybrid who wants you to know that natural gas is "one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful of all energy sources." Terry mentions that fossil fuels are made from "organic materials," and kids can color in an …

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Russia lets VIPs ignore traffic laws

Do you hate sh*tty drivers? Well, in Soviet Russia, sh*tty driver hates YOU! Moscow's road rage problem is epic, perhaps due to the fact that their traffic solution involves giving special police-style sirens to "VIP" drivers (read: 900-plus important people, government officials and so forth, and the 900-plus folks who can get a hold of them in some other way). However poorly the U.S. is doing at managing traffic, Russian solutions make our roads look like a buggy path in Amish country. The VIP sirens, known as migalki, allow drivers to ignore all traffic laws, as if they were an …

Read more: Cities, Transportation

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Solar-powered laptop lets you play outside while you work

What's the best way to piss off a computer scientist? Buy her a laptop that only works when it gets enough sun. It's the perfect gag gift for the basement-dwelling, vitamin D-deprived coder in your life. Samsung's solar laptop doesn't need to be in the sun to function -- it can charge up while perched on a (presumably very secure and out-of-the-way) windowsill, storing an hour of battery life for every two hours of charging. But unlike with traditional laptops, you can work outside for the entire day without having to go in search of a plug. It has a …