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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Climate change could ruin the internet

Sure, climate change threatens animals and people and cities and all that life-as-we-know-it stuff, but apparently it can also make Bejeweled Blitz run super-slow. OUTRAGE! Something must be done! Seriously, I half suspect this of being a hoax by old people who think young people are only motivated by the Facebook anymore, but a government report in the U.K. warned today that climate change could threaten WiFi internet access. Higher temperatures can reduce the signal range, increased rainfall can affect reliability, and more severe storms could lead to more outages.  Other parts of the infrastructure are also at risk, the …

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D.C. will bribe people to shorten their commutes

If you live in the D.C. area, the Office of Planning wants you to get paid up to $12,000 to avoid a car commute. Wait, really? Car commuting costs a metric pantload in fuel and destroys your soul -- isn't this like trying to pay someone not to slowly pummel themselves to death with Faberge eggs? But some folks are so wedded to their suburban lifestyles that they apparently need a further incentive to give it up -- or they find city living so exorbitant that they can't afford to move. So D.C.'s Office of Planning has set aside $200,000 for bribing people …

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Rail gets a $2 billion shot in the arm from Rick Scott’s rejected funds

Remember when Florida's governor turned up his nose at $2 billion in federal funds for rail projects? Now his loss is everyone else's gain. The Department of Transportation today announced the redistribution of Florida's rejected wealth today, and it looks like Scott's tantrum will mean improved speed and performance in the Northeast Corridor, a high-speed line between Detroit and Chicago, better train cars throughout California and the Midwest, and forward movement on the planned L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed line. Thanks, sucker! Here's what Scott's $2 billion will buy: $795 million to upgrade the heavily-trafficked Northeast Corridor, running between D.C. and Boston. This …

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Awesome concept design makes buildings into bike racks

Floor space is at a premium in cities -- everyone wants to walk, bike, drive, and park their various human- and gas-powered vehicles on the same precious real estate. Vertical space, on the other hand, is available in abundance. And while the obvious use for this space is crazy-ass trompe l'oeil murals, the second-best option is doing something useful and innovative to take some of the space burden off the ground. Voila: The bike hanger. These aren't reality, yet, but the concept is brilliant. These vertical bike racks work something like a Ferris wheel or the motorized rack at a …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Airships may be the key to a greener, steampunkier future

Steampunk enthusiasts rejoice: The skies may soon be full of airships. Dirigibles are the low-carbon way of shipping goods long distances, according to a recent article in Scientific American. No word on whether it's greener to wear aviator goggles, petticoats, and button boots while flying them, but let's just go ahead and assume the answer is yes. Several companies, including Lockheed Martin, are developing freight dirigibles for cargo transport. They're especially valuable in areas without a lot of transport infrastructure -- they don't require runways or roads, like existing freight options do. That means that having a viable airship cargo fleet …

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Real-life Farmville kills the same amount of time, actually does some good

We knew things were going to get weird once we found out there was a real-world Angry Bird. Now a farm in England is turning itself into live-action Farmville. For a £30 ($49) annual fee, members of MyFarm will get to weigh in on every decision made at Wimpole Estate Farm in Cambridgeshire. They'll vote on what to plant, when to harvest, what livestock to purchase, how to allocate the farm's land, which pig is the best singer, whether Brad should marry barley or amaranth, and every other choice that's critical to an agriculture/reality show hybrid. MyFarm is a project …

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Nixing pollutants could save $76.6 billion in health care costs

Between medical costs and lost productivity for parents, environmental illnesses in children cost $76.6 billion annually, says a new study in Health Affairs. That’s the cost of all illnesses that are correlated with exposure to pollutants and toxins. (Some of the associations are better-documented than others, but many -- like lead poisoning, which costs $50.9 billion annually -- are well-established.) What could we get if we weren’t spending that money? Well, you could buy a private island in the Florida keys ($18 million) and sit on it in your diamond-encrusted bra ($3 million), reading your Gutenberg Bible ($35 million) and …

Read more: Pollution

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This Sunday, get Mother Earth a big bouquet of youth activism

Okay, normally it makes me throw up in my mouth a little to say "Mother Earth," but 16-year-old environmental activist Alec Loorz is just too cute, and he's helping to organize worldwide youth marches for the environment on Mother's Day. So the joke is inevitable. Your fault, adorable activist teen! Anyway, if you're looking for something green to do with your mom, there's probably a march in your town, and if there's not, you can start one! (Some of the marches aren't actually this Sunday, because of scheduling conflicts.) Here's the marches' raison d'etre, and if this doesn't make you pump your …

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Watch Amtrak’s coverage shrink over time

Amtrak just had its 40th birthday, and like many 40-year-olds, it is a diminished version of what it once was. It's still hanging on, and some lines have even been restored over time, in part thanks to the efforts of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (who made these maps for Greater Greater Washington). But is it any wonder more people don't take rail, when coverage has shrunk like a scrotum in a cold pool?

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How humans are forcing other species to evolve

Presumably everybody knows the basic depressing mechanisms of natural selection: In response to a cruel and unforgiving environment, those creatures that can adapt best or are already best-suited survive to reproduce, and everyone else dies horribly. It's all red-in-tooth-and-claw-y, and humans are well out of it, right? Yeah, well, about that: Turns out that now we've become the cruel and unforgiving environment. Whoops. An article (behind a reg wall, so we'll give you the highlights) in this month's New Scientist collects the effects humanity has had on shaping our fellow creatures: Tuskless elephants: In Zambia, the proportion of tuskless female …

Read more: Animals