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Samantha Larson's Posts

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Milk & cookies

Tired of milking your cow? There’s a robot for that

cow farts
Shutterstock

Bursting at the teat, a cow at the Borden family dairy farm ambles over into a big metal cubicle. Like a car in a drive-thru wash, the cow stands still while a rotating brush sweeps under and wipes down her udders. Then the lasers take over, locating the cow’s glands to insert them into plastic tubes, which begin to suck out milk.

This isn’t a scene from a distant, twisted future: Turns out, these milk bots are the next big thing in dairy.

The New York Times reports:

Scores of machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy -- and manure-averse -- generation.

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Science of filmmaking

These biologists created a gorgeous film about African glaciers

Nate&Neil
Day's Edge Productions

Chasing Ice launched a new sub-genre of horror films: Watch big beautiful glaciers melt. OK, that might not sound as date-night friendly as a slasher flick, but, hey, if a kid talking to a wagging finger named Tony can be scary, watching the Arctic melt away is downright terrifying. Filmmakers Neil Losin and Nathan Dappen recently joined the field with Snows of the Nile, a visually stunning documentary about the disappearing glaciers in Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains (you can watch the trailer here). Losin and Dappen brought a twist to their ice-gazing short by focusing on glaciers where you might not expect them: the tropics. The emerging …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Busted ant farm or bikeshare? Watch Citi Bikers swarm NYC streets

If you live in NYC, you've probably seen your fair share of Citi Bikes whiz past. But do you ever wonder where all those riders are actually going? Now that Citi Bike has released a heap of data on who's been using its system, data visualization buffs have come up with all sorts of ways to answer that question -- like a map that correlates weekend data with where to find NYC's best nightlife, or this project, which sketches out 5.5 million bikeshare trips over eight months, showing the most popular routes.

But if you really want to trance out, watch this video from Jeff Ferzoco, which traces rides through time as the city morphs from lonely ambling 2 a.m. partiers to the full-fledged ant hive of 8 a.m. commuters to clusterfucks caused by traffic delays -- till everyone goes back home, and does it all again.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Burn Baby Burn

The four fossil fuel stockpiles that could toast the world

global warming
Shutterstock

By now it's old news that the U.S. is in the midst of an oil and gas boom. In fact, with 30.5 billion barrels of untapped crude, our proven oil reserves are higher than they have been since the 1970s. But if that oil doesn't stay in the ground, along with most U.S. gas and coal reserves, then the planet and all of its inhabitants are in trouble.

new report from the Sierra Club takes a look at what will happen to the climate if we burn through four of our biggest fossil fuel reserves -- and it ain't pretty. The four stockpiles are Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming and Montana; Green River shale in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah; oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska; and frackable oil and gas across the U.S. Together these deposits could release 140.5 billion tons of CO2, the report says, enough to get the world a quarter of the way toward a global 2-degree Celsius rise, aka climatological catastrophe.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Meat of the Matter

Eating road kill: Yuck or yum?

roadkillrabbit
Ian Cummings

Ian Cummings was cycling just outside Cambridge, England, when he noticed the freshly hit rabbit on the side of the road. “I sort of looked at it and looked at it, and then cycled on,” he says. But then, Cummings had a change of heart. He turned his bike around, brought the dead animal home, and cooked it into jugged hare — a traditional British recipe. “And it all kind of started from there.”

Since that first day when Cummings, a travel photographer based in the village of Wilbraham, wound up with a Goodyear-tenderized hare on his plate, he has gone on to become somewhat of a road-kill aficionado. From venison with cranberries and chestnuts to pappardelle con lepre, over the years his town’s roads have served him up some pretty delectable fares. But Cummings isn’t the only one out foraging the highways. There are plenty of road-kill enthusiasts on this side of the pond, too -- enough of them that there has been a trend toward states legalizing the practice, like when Montana made headlines by doing so last year. And now, a push to make road kill easier to take home is on the docket in Michigan.

Read more: Food, Living

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Animal House

The untold story of deforestation: Slothageddon

three-toed-sloth-flickr
Brian Gratwicke

When a stretch of forest in Suriname was slatted to be cleared in October 2012, Monique Pool, a known sloth caretaker, was asked if she could take in the 14 displaced sloths. Of course she said yes (or she would have faced the wrath of a jealous internet). A machine operator slowly pushed over trees as Pool and a team of volunteers rushed about picking up the sloths that fell out of the canopy. As 14 quickly turned to 200, the sloth lover’s dream come true became the ultimate nightmare: slothageddon (Pool’s word, not mine). From BBC News: Sloths were hanging everywhere -- from the trees in her …

Read more: Living

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Snow Daze

Biking the Iditarod? Climate change makes for faster times

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Glenn

It takes a special kind of person to want to bike 1,000 miles through the dead of winter in Alaska (being hard as nails, or Iceman, helps). But if you're going to do it, at least now you'll get a little boost from global warming. Bicyclists on this year’s Iditarod Invitational -- the foot and bike race on the same frigid route as the infamous dog sled event in Alaska (people do the weirdest things in the name of fun) -- smashed records. And not because of doping: Less snow just made the course a little easier. Thanks, climate change!

Some thought it would be pretty much impossible for anyone to break Mike Curiak’s 2000 record of biking the course in 15 days (and not because contestants would suddenly wise up to the fact that biking 1,000 miles through snow is, well, miserable). But this year Jeff Oatley, Aidan Harding, and Phil Hofstetter finished the race in 10, 11, and 12 days, respectively.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Pass on Gas

Obama’s new gaseous release: A strategy to cut back on methane

Obama
White House

The White House released its strategy to cut methane emissions this morning -- President Obama’s latest sashay around Congress to pursue climate action (as part of the plan he announced in June).

Methane isn’t the most ubiquitous of greenhouse gases (that’d be good ‘ol CO2), but it is a potent one: The same amount of methane as CO2 has 20 times the impact in terms of future global warming over a 100-year period. While methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, we’re still not in good shape: 50 percent more methane is leaking from oil and gas sites than previously thought and, without action, methane emissions are expected to increase through 2030 -- mostly thanks to fracking. So far the oil and gas industry has balked at the idea of regulating its methane leaks, saying that it might slow production down (we’ve all heard it before, but, man, frack you!).

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Dream of Californication

Meet the new California, where Paris Hilton isn’t cool but walking, biking, and transit are

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Oleg

California was full of regrettable trends in the early aughts: Paris Hilton, Juicy Couture tracksuits, chockers, screamo, and, apparently, everyone driving 89 percent of the time. But a recent California Household Travel Survey shows some Golden State residents have thankfully traded in their Ugg boots for transit passes.

Californians now walk to their destination twice as much as they used to; the proportion of their trips made by foot is up from 8.4 percent in 2000 to 16.6 percent.

The study, which is based on the behavior of 109,000 people from more than 42,000 households over the course of 2012, also shows that more Californians are biking and using public transit to get around. In total, the amount of carless trips went from 11 percent in 2000 to 23 percent.

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Keeling over?

World famous climate project forced to scrounge for funding

It’s a tough world out there for a line chart. But, with big screen appearances in An Inconvenient Truth and PowerPoint presentations in classrooms across America, the Keeling Curve has earned its place as one of climate change's most iconic stars.

The Keeling Curve: up and up and up and -- shit.
Wikipedia Commons
Up and up and up and -- shit.

In 1958, Charles David Keeling started collecting data on how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere, taking measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. After he died in 2005, the project -- part of the Scripps CO2 Program -- was taken over by his son, Ralph Keeling. They've recorded relentlessly upward trajectories of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Read more: Climate & Energy