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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Is China trying to steal this city?

China seems to be turning its countryside into a sort of Baudrillardian Euro-Epcot -- they've got two replica English villages, a mini-Barcelona and mini-Venice, a Scandiavia-esque "Nordic Town," and a German district in the city of Anting. Now they're planning to add a replica of the Austrian village of Hallstatt, and the original Hallstatt is pretty pissed. Apparently the architects who are copying the town, right down to its lake, in the province of Guangdong didn't warn Original Flavor Hallstatt that it would be cloned. Hallstatt residents are house-proud -- it's a UNESCO heritage site -- and opinions on Hallstatt …

Read more: Cities

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Interactive climate change maps show just how screwed we are

The Climate Hot Map, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, notes climate trouble spots worldwide. These are by no means all the effects of global warming -- for instance, we're guessing that Canada is not in fact a charmed oasis, untouched by climate change outside of one river in the Northwest Territories. But it does give you a sense of just how widespread the crisis is. (And maybe they'll keep updating it until it's just a mass of flags.) That's all well and good, but what if you're trying to decide whether to invest in a snow shovel or a …

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The Pope is getting a hybrid car

The next popemobile will be a hybrid -- not just a hybrid between a pick-up truck and a dunking booth, like usual, but a gas/electric hybrid car that can go around 16 miles in all-electric mode.  The Vatican apparently flirted with the idea of an all-electric vehicle, but decided it wouldn't have the horsepower to outrun would-be assassins in an emergency. That might be code for "too expensive" (not for the Vatican -- His Holiness does not pay for his own hoopty -- but for popemobile-purveyors-to-the-stars Mercedes Benz). But the pontiff's current ride only gets 12.5 miles to the gallon, …

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Sexually frustrated dolphins go on murderous rampage

A major threat to the world's porpoises comes from an unexpected quarter: Dolphins who aren't getting any. Dolphins sometimes kick the crap out of porpoises just for funsies -- they don't really compete for food, and science has not yet established the existence of dolphin racists, so it wasn't clear that there was any rhyme or reason to the vicious watermammal-on-watermammal attacks. But now it turns out that the aggro dolphins are mostly young males, so conservation expert Mark Cotter theorizes that this is basically aquatic Fight Club. Get ready for some science talk: Young male dolphins don't have thumbs. …

Read more: Animals

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The oceans may be going extinct

Ocean ecosystems are taking a faster nosedive than anyone predicted. Without urgent action, coral reefs and entire fish species could disappear in a generation. Why is this happening? Do you really need to ask? Hint: It rhymes with shmarbon shmioxide. CO2 in the atmosphere increases the temperature of ocean water, throwing off the pH and making the oxygen-hogging algae population explode. Result: OCEAN DOOM. Our options for approaching the problem are pretty much: Massive changes to our stewardship of the planet, including reducing carbon emissions, halting overfishing, closing unsustainable fisheries, and nipping pollution in the bud, OR A terrible revenge …

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Bamboo iPhone speaker amplifies music with zero electricity

The iBamboo speaker makes use of the naturally resonant properties of bamboo to provide zero-electricity amplification for the iPhone 4. Yeah, you could get more gadgets to go with your gadget, but this is probably cooler -- no wires, no energy use, and it adds as much Zen cool to your desk as a tiny portable waterfall (which would need to be plugged in anyway). The inventor is looking for patrons on Kickstarter -- he's already gotten enough backers for the project to be funded, but you can still pledge your support and secure yourself a spot as an early …

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Look how much more space we'd have without sprawl

  If we could just get everyone in the world to pack in a little tighter, we'd have a hell of a lot more open space to work with. Imagine the possibilities! We could pack everyone into the Midwest, fill Canada with wind turbines, and leave everything else for wildlife. Okay, maybe that's not realistic, but the point is that dense living frees up a lot of the Earth's surface area.

Read more: Cities, Sprawl

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Republicans love bike and rail — so why don't Republican politicians?

Listen up, Limbaugh: It's not actually ridiculous for a Republican presidential candidate to take global warming seriously. Americans want solutions, like bike lanes and increased public transit, that will address climate change, and that's true across the political spectrum. In a recent poll, 74 percent of Republican respondents supported bike lanes, and 80 percent wanted more public transportation. People are actually less concerned about federal action on climate change now than they were pre-recession (the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, which performed the study, theorizes that they have other things to worry about). But even so, a …

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Could eating poo-burgers save the Earth?

Eat sh*t, cattle farming industry! No, literally, eat sh*t. Japanese scientist Mitsuyuki Ikeda has developed a way to make meat substitute out of "sewage mud," which is exactly what it sounds like. He extracts (bacterial) protein from what is essentially a soup of human feces, then blends it with soy protein and steak sauce to form a sort of poop patty. According to initial tests, the stuff actually tastes like beef, which raises the question: WHO THE HELL DID THEY GET TO DO THESE TESTS?  (The funniest thing about that video, by the way, is the artificial hand that Ikeda uses …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Military spends more to air condition tents than NASA's entire budget

Steve Anderson, a retired brigadier general who was Petraeus' chief logistician in Iraq, says that the Pentagon spends $20 billion a year just to air condition tents and temporary buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's more than NASA's entire annual budget. There's an easy fix, says Anderson: Spray tents with polyurethane foam. An existing $95 million contract to spray-insulate tents is providing $1 billion in cost-avoidance, Anderson says. But insulating tents instead of air conditioning them is still not official military policy.

Read more: Climate & Energy