There's an upside to the end of the space shuttle program: Now that the shuttle has been grounded, NASA can turn its attention to acres of contaminated soil and groundwater, the result of chemical spills from shuttle launches. And they're doing it in a novel way: with an oil-based emulsion that's made of corn and looks like dressing. The technique was first designed in scribbles on the back of a napkin, perhaps after eating a salad.
As of yesterday, new and renewed private insurance plans will now have to cover contraception, according to a ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services. Given that population reduction is one of the best things we can do for the planet, this is awesome news -- it removes the biggest financial barrier to people having only the number of kids they want and no more (or having no kids at all).
All of a sudden, these normally gentle creatures are becoming agitated and making noises with their mouths! What is it, guys? Is Timmy stuck in a well?
Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Edward Markey (Mass.), of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, have been keeping tabs on Republican votes to undermine environmental legislation. They say that since taking over the majority in January, Republicans have voted 110 times to block or weaken legislation intended to protect the environment.
Auckland Transport Blog points out a sobering calculation from the book The Option of Urbanism: The financial cost of owning and maintaining a car is equivalent to the cost of owning a small house. (Well, a small house in a cheap area. But still.) AAA calculated that the average cost of car ownership and maintenance for a typical car in 2006 was $7,800 per year. This covers loan payments, fuel, parking, maintenance, insurance and incidental costs … … The result is that owning an average car is the equivalent of having an additional $135,000 mortgage (mortgage interest is tax-deductible, and …
Mapnificent lets you see how far you can get on public transportation in a set amont of time, in more than 60 metro areas worldwide. (Above: 15 minutes on bus and rail in Chicago.) It's a new way of visualizing how easy it is to navigate a city without a car. You can use it to check out places where you might want to live or visit, to get an idea of how far transportation will get you and how much of your day it might take up to get where you need to go. Here's what 15 minutes looks like in a few more cities:
Plastic is actually a pretty revolutionary material — we wouldn't want to go back to a time before it existed (just a time before people started throwing it in the ocean). But it's made from petroleum, and we haven't really got any to spare. So viable plastic alternatives — corn plastic, algae plastic, chicken feather plastic — could be big business. The newest approach comes from art student Erik de Laurens, who developed a plastic made out of fish scales discarded by the fishing industry. There's nothing added to it but dye for color, so you could probably throw it …
Bill Nye's years of experience teaching science to children seem to have prepared him well for talking to Fox News hosts. Here, he attempts to help Happening Now host Jon Scott grasp difficult concepts like "volcanoes are not connected to the burning of fossil fuels" and "the science that happens on the moon ... is the same science that happens on Earth." Favorite line: "When you say to yourself, well, I'm going to ignore all the evidence of climate change, you're saying, I'm going to ignore the best ideas anybody's ever had."
This infographic from the BBC shows how much newly built North American, and especially U.S., homes dwarf those currently being built in Europe. The average new U.S. home is more than twice as big as the average new home in the U.K.