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Rachel Nuwer's Posts


Flying worst class: Air travel is about to get bumpier and barfier

airplane cockpit
Paramount / Everett Collection

It’s a lovely day to be flying across the Atlantic. Cruising at a tidy 40,000 feet, the Heathrow-bound jet pilots kick their feet up at the sight of clear, cloudless skies.

But then -- WHOOOSH! -- the plane hits a renegade, invisible patch of mad turbulence, plummeting 100 feet in seconds. Glasses of Merlot splatter red on $2,000 bespoke suits. Plastic cups of Diet Cokes soak Macbook Airs and Earl Grey scalds shrieking grandmothers trapped in their chairs. Babies fly from their mothers’ arms, while passengers unfortunate enough to be out of their seats go careening into strangers’ laps. Screams fill the cabin. Vomiting ensues.

Welcome to the Plane Ride From Hell, coming more often to an airline near you thanks to -- you guessed it -- climate change. While this imagined scenario might be an ever-so-slight exaggeration, new research published today in Nature Climate Change points to increased turbulence frequency and strength due to our ongoing greenhouse gas bonanza.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


When disaster strikes, Twitter might save us

Storm clouds boil over New York City. (Photo by Adnan Islam.)

In an increasingly disaster-prone world, where terms like “climate refugee” and “environmental evacuee” are becoming commonplace, figuring out how, when, and why people respond to extreme weather is essential for preparing for the next calamity.

Luckily, researchers are on it. They’re designing ways to mine emails, cell signals, check-ins, and tweets for insights into how people will react to the next hurricane, heat wave, or city-swallowing derecho.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Wild plants: The best ingredients you didn’t know you had

Click for a visual foraging tour with Tama Matsuoka Wong. (Photo by Rachel Nuwer.)

Plucking seemingly random weeds out of the dirt and sticking them in your mouth may be disconcerting to most city dwellers, but that’s exactly what a group of New Yorkers traveled to New Jersey to do recently.

Squinting in the sun on a patch of meadow, we watched as our fearless guide, Tama Matsuoka Wong, author of the new cookbook and guide Foraged Flavor, expertly scavenged delectable weed after delectable weed. From dainty yellow wood sorrel to aromatic garlic mustard, we smelled the newly picked shoots, and then gingerly took a nibble. Our taste buds were rewarded by flavors that were bright, fresh, and alive. And by the time we'd made our way past the meadow and into the forest, we were like a pack of hungry rabbits, chewing away at whatever tasty morsel Wong handed us.

Read more: Food



A professional forager shares her secrets [SLIDESHOW]

Tama Matsuoka Wong doesn’t just frolic in her New Jersey forest, she eats it. A group of New Yorkers recently visited this delicious patch of land to learn about how a weed becomes a delicacy and to celebrate Wong's new book Foraged Flavor. Read the whole story here.

Read more: Food


In Baltimore, the gods will not save you — but the trees will

Thanks to The Wire, who can resist conjuring images of ghetto projects and rampant crime when thinking of the fine city of Baltimore? Indeed, Baltimore’s crime à la HBO is out of control. Someone should have told Detective McNulty he could have skipped five seasons' worth of pager taps, drug raids, and binge drinking if he had only been armed with a real crime-stopping weapon: trees.

That’s right, trees. Like the big, green, CO2-sucking kind. It turns out that in addition to housing squirrels, they also reduce lawless activity. This is the conclusion drawn by a team of researchers who teased apart the relationship between tree canopy and crime in and around Baltimore. They used aggregated crime data from Spotcrime and overlaid it with high-res satellite imagery to conduct probably the largest analysis of its kind to date.

Read more: Cities