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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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A look inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

This video shows the status of restoration work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, two months after the plant's safety systems first failed (and a week after the TEPCO power company officially confirmed that the plant was in meltdown). Offices are still littered with debris from the earthquake damage, and workers wear gas masks and Oompa Loompa TV suits that they can only remove inside sealed temporary structures. TEPCO has provided a guide to the areas shown so you know what you're looking at, which is really handy (for instance, what I thought was green paint -- sprucing up already? …

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The U.K.’s emissions targets are awesome

Oh, United Kingdom! Whatever else can be said about your bad food and stupid weddings, this much is clear: You are world leaders in funny sci-fi, classic sketch comedy, thwarted imperialism, and now emissions reduction targets. The U.K. has committed to cutting emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2025, a target that's well beyond the European Union goal of 20 percent by 2020. It's an ambitious plan that takes an uncommonly long view -- no other country has set legally binding targets that far in the future. That 50 percent is the absolute minimum level of cuts recommended …

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Could climate disruptions lead to an increase in GIANT SNAKES?

Here's another reason to combat climate change: Severe weather events can flush out terrifying giant snakes. This photo -- which gives me ALL THE WILLIES. ALL OF THEM -- was taken in Louisiana near the Morganza spillway, a flood control structure that was just employed to relieve pressure on the levee system after recent floods. So basically, this snake is relocating due to flooding, like everyone else in the affected area. Man, as if the sharks in Brisbane weren't bad enough. I dearly want this photo to be fake -- snakes are creepy enough when they're not a hundred feet …

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Project Aura bike lighting system puts wheel reflectors to shame

Project Aura is the brainchild of two Carnegie Mellon students, who challenged themselves to make a bike lighting system that would make night riding more secure. Currently, most bike lights focus on the front and back of the bike, and are all but invisible from the side; with Project Aura's wheel-mounted LEDs, bikes are unmissable from the side and more visible overall. You still need a headlight -- these distributed LEDs don't look like they generate enough light for you to see the road, and it's not like you want to be hit from the front or rear any more …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Another danger of non-organic farming: Exploding watermelons

People opt for organically-farmed food for all different reasons, but here's one of the more compelling ones we've seen: Agricultural chemicals can make watermelons explode.  Chinese watermelon crops just had an unfortunate run-in with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron, which makes plants' cells divide faster to pump up growth rates. Supposedly forchlorfenuron can bump up harvest schedules by two weeks and increase fruit size by 20 percent. But if farmers spray too late or in the wrong conditions, acres of melons explode like "land mines" in a scene of carnage that one farmer said haunted his dreams. This is, of course, …

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More evidence cell phones kill bees

There's a new study fingering cell phones as the culprit behind mysteriously dwindling bee populations. That's been one of the theories floating around for years -- others include viruses, global warming, insecticide, and en masse return to the planet Melissa Majora -- but new research out of Switzerland provides solid evidence that cell phone signals confuse bees, making them abandon hives, fly erratically, and get lost and disoriented. Inhabitat points out that, while bees are crucial to the ecosystems where they live, it's unlikely that we can get the entire world economy to cut down on cell phone usage just …

Read more: Animals

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Eco-geeks rejoice: Here is Nathan Fillion with an electric car

Remember when we called the Arcimoto SRK "an electric car for the Facebook generation"? Apparently it's also an electric car for the "Firefly" generation. Actor Nathan Fillion got all excited about the car at its launch, and his remarks get at the main reasons for wanting an electric car: Spaceship resemblance and revenge. Thank you for giving me a way to stick it to big oil and big auto companies. Because... I am a vengeful man. And they've been sticking it to me for a long time. No matter how old I get, I don't think I'll ever get tired …

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Anti-climate change study is copied off someone else’s crummy paper

Note to climate change deniers: If you're going to lean heavily on a particular paper, make sure it's not copied out of Wikipedia. The journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis has retracted a 2008 report by statistician Edward Wegman, which claimed the climate change consensus is an artifact of overly-intimate collaboration between scientists -- essentially, peer pressure. Denialists love this, needless to say; it's a federally funded report published in a peer-reviewed journal that doesn't just oppose the scientific consensus about climate change, but criticizes the whole idea of scientific consensus. Only problem: It's plagiarized. Oh, and it sucked to begin …

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Watch an entire country lose its sh*t for a bullet train

This surprisingly emotionally affecting video was shot in Japan right before the recent tsunami. It's a commercial for a new bullet train line, which completed a network running nearly the full length of the country, connecting all of Japan in a way that people clearly found deeply meaningful. The tsunami hit the day before the line opened, so the commercials were pulled -- but looking back, it's a pretty beautiful display of national togetherness and serious enthusiasm for rail. Can you imagine a day when the U.S. could unite like this in excitement over a train line? The words at the …

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The Pope gets down with climate change

Is climate change a serious problem that requires drastic action? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Finally, these two questions go together for reasons beyond heavy sarcasm. The Vatican's scientific advisory panel, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, has issued a report calling for an urgent reduction in carbon emissions. "We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home," says the report. Okay, so the current Pope …