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This cute solar puppy needs a name. Won’t you help?

solar-dog
CPS Energy

Everybody knows solar farms need solar sheep, but did you know solar sheep need solar dogs? And apparently, those solar dogs need solar names. That’s where you come in.

CPS Energy, the Texas utility that uses sheep to cut the grass on its solar farm so technicians can access the panels, is letting people vote on the name for its latest ecofriendly herding dog. Which makes sense: Since CPS is owned by the city of San Antonio, the pooch kind of belongs to the whole town.

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As Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears eat less surf, more turf

polar bear
iStockphoto

The Polar Press, the leading polar bear paper, recently ran this uplifting headline: “Ice-starved polar bears find finless food far from flows.”

In related news, the Daily Caribou News Gazette, the paper of record for arctic ungulates, had this tragic headline: “Ice-starved polar bears find finless food far from flows. RUN!”

Also on arctic news stands this week, the Seal and Sea Lion Standard, the largest weekly news magazine amongst pinnipeds and similar semi-terrestrial sea mammals, led with: “Top 10 recipes for cooking caribou.” It was the most popular cover since last year’s fashion issue, headlined, “Gortex: Inuit. Sealskins: Outuit.”

Wise-cracking aside, it turns out receding ice may not spell doom for polar bears. Scientists have long thought that the bears spent the summer months living predominantly on fat reserves from the winter seal season, when they hunt on the sea ice. Linda Gormezano, an ecologist with the American Museum of Natural History, has presented new evidence showing polar bears are adapting successfully to longer summers on land by eating caribou, geese, and goose eggs.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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This Texas solar farm uses sheep for its landscaping needs

curious-sheep
Eric Gevaert

Using livestock in the solar power industry is a time-honored practice dating back to at least last Monday. But as handy as it is to have a donkey saddled with solar panels, when the energy requirements grow beyond charging tour laptop, larger and larger solar-animals are required. Eventually, strapping panels to grazing mammals becomes impractical.

That doesn’t mean that big solar plants don’t have a place for some four-hooved hench-creatures, however.

Enter the sheep. (Enter the Sheep, by the way, was to be the title of Bruce Lee’s next film). A small solar farm owned by CPS Energy, the municipal power company in San Antonio, Texas, has enlisted the help of the wooly workers to keep its grounds safe and tidy.

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Kidney stones: One more thing to look forward to in our climate-changed future

KidneyStone

With the world’s weather warming, you can expect a commensurate rise in the typical summertime body bothers, but what’s the big deal? That’s just the price you pay for modern convenience. Who can’t handle a case of stink-foot, a spot of swamp-butt, pit-stained T-shirts, and stabbing pains in the abdomen and lower back accompanied by excruciating and bloody urination.

Wait a minute, what was that last one?

New research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that even slight warming causes a marked increase in kidney stones. The study focused on 60,000 patients in five U.S. cities, analyzing the frequency of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones within 20 days of temperatures rising above a pretty mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In Philadelphia, when average temperatures rose to 86 degrees, kidney stone cases went up a startling 47 percent.

While excessive heat was a big factor, rapid changes in temperature were also a big predictor. Atlanta and Los Angeles, for instance, have the same average temperature of 63 degrees, but Atlanta, which is far more prone to temperature extremes than seemingly climate controlled Los Angeles, had twice the reported rate of kidney stones. Sobering, as most climate models predict not only warmer temperatures, but more radically fluctuating weather patterns.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Chinese company creamed for GMO corn thievery

thief
iStock

The FBI has captured members of a super-secret Chinese spy ring whose arsenal included false identities, corporate fronts, Cold War anti-surveillance techniques, Subway napkins and, perhaps most cruelly, Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn boxes. What were they after? Diplomatic communiques? Launch commands? Plans for the Death Star? No.

They were after corn.

And to think they used his own popcorn boxes to smuggle corn out of the country. Poor Orville’s bowtie must be spinning in his grave (assuming he was buried with a novelty spinning bowtie and a robust power supply).

Edvard Pettersson at Bloomberg has cob-bled together the whole seedy tale:

Three years ago, a security guard working for seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred came across something unusual on a road in Iowa: Just off the pavement, a man was on his knees, digging in a field.

Challenged by the guard, Mo Hailong claimed to be an employee of the University of Iowa who was traveling to a nearby conference. He jumped back in his car and sped away.

U.S. authorities would later accuse Mo, and five other Chinese nationals, of stealing corn seeds and attempting to smuggle them back to China.

A seventh defendant, Mo Yun, was arrested and charged Wednesday with stealing trade secrets for her husband's seed company -- the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company.

The details of the case, laid out by prosecutors, underscore the difficulty of safeguarding U.S. intellectual property, and the determination of some foreign rivals to acquire technology by illicit means.

The Chinese company is accused of stealing trade secrets worth an estimated $30-40 million, so you can understand why the feds were all ears. The arrests include that of company president Mo Hailong, better known as the Jason Bourne of Corn. If there’s a kernel of truth to the allegations, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

Read more: Food

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Enough of the climate-denying clowns, say BBC bigwigs

clown
Shutterstock

There’s a fine line between impartial and stupid, and the BBC has been working the wrong side of the line. A report by the independent BBC Trust has concluded that the public broadcaster has been giving too much air time to climate deniers. Broadcasts, the report stated, should more accurately represent the best available science -- or, as The Telegraph elegantly put it, “BBC staff told to stop inviting cranks on to science programmes.”

Here’s more from Telegraph science correspondent Sarah Knapton, but I must warn you, more frightening British spellings appear below:

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’

“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.

“Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Furries? Feet? Forget it: This flower’s weird sexual hangup has us humans beat

Axinaea-sp-Melastomataceae
Andreas Kay

It’s the age-old story: Boy lures bird close by offering bird his delicious genitals. Bird eats genitals. Boy, using his highly evolved bellows organ, explosively projects his gametes all over bird. Bird flies away, perhaps a little ashamed. Boy hopes bird lands on girl, covers her in his genetic material.

Or at least, that’s how Axinaea, a small South and Central American rainforest shrub, does it. And that’s the birds-and-the-bees story my kids are getting.

Phys.org has the rest of the tawdry tale:

Read more: Living

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Zero-energy house of the future could be lurking in your neighborhood

NIST-house
Reuters

Wondering what houses will look like in the future? Wonder no longer! Gaze upon the net-zero energy test house built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)! Gaze, I say!

Have you gazed yet?

And you’re back?

OK, so houses in the future will look exactly like every other boring house in the dull neighborhoods replacing amber waves of grain from coast to coast. And as far as it goes, that’s a good thing. People love boring. Community associations love boring. Boring is sexy. If it looked like an H.R. Giger fever dream people wouldn’t build them.

This particular house was built to do everything the typical American family of four does and end up using zero net energy, and after a year, it turns out it didn’t quite work out: Despite massive snowfalls and a rough winter, the home actually produced 441 more kilowatts of energy than it used, enough to drive an electric car over 1,400 miles -- which, considering the house was built in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, the most boring place in America, might be far enough to get you someplace interesting.

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Tired of just ruining your garden, kudzu destroys the climate, too

kudzu.jpg
Jonathan Hinkle

Kudzu, the climbing, coiling, choking invasive plant is the Khloe Kardashian of the invasive plant world: Everybody’s heard of it, but we all wish we hadn’t. The Asian plant was introduced to the southeastern U.S. in the 1870s and was long considered the most dangerous ornamental bush in the nation’s history, though it’s since been bumped down to second.

Kudzu is a tenacious blight from Texas in the Southwest to Florida, all the way to Connecticut in the Northeast. In some parts of Alabama, if you lie still, you’ll be covered head-to-toe in kudzu in under 11 minutes. [Editor’s note: That is totally untrue.] The fast-growing weed chokes out native species, but a new study shows it could be choking more than just plants.

According to a paper published in New Phytologist (which I’m sure you’ve got sitting by the toilet to read later) by plant ecologist Nishanth Tharayil and graduate student Mioko Tamura, kudzu and other invasives can release carbon that had been sequestered in the soil. In other words, these invasives aren’t just destroying habitats locally, they’re contributing to climate change globally. Here’s more from Clemson University’s media release:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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‘Rollin’ Coal’ culture warriors want to douse your Prius with their smoke-belching trucks

bigtruck
Shutterstock

H.L. Mencken is often quoted as saying, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” He got close, but he never uttered those actual words. Probably because he’d never seen these guys:

A hot new trend known as “Rollin' Coal” is sweeping the stupider corners of the country. If you are unfamiliar with the craze (in the truest, craziest sense of the word), forgive me for bursting your blissful bubble. Coal rollers modify their diesel pickups to get shittier mileage and belch as much pollution as possible, then blast a wall of black to show off to their friends and piss off environmentalists and anyone who likes breathing. “Prius Repellant” decals are a popular accoutrement for rollin aficionados who thought Calvin peeing on things was too subtle.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living