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Sarah Laskow's Posts


These photos of Earth are so gorgeous they belong in a museum

For 40 years, Landsat earth observation satellites have been chilling up above the planet, capturing images of the surface for scientific purposes. But it happens that many of these photos look like incredible paintings. The Earth basically has the same attitude towards abstract art as most museum-goers: “I could totally do that.”

This month NASA and the U.S. Geological Service ran a contest to find out which people thought made the best "Earth as Art." Here are a few of our favorites, plus the ones NASA and USGS picked as the winners:

Fjords in northwestern Iceland:

Antarctic glaciers like spilled, textured paint:

The Richat Structure, in Mauritania, is an eroded volcanic dome but looks like an alien landing site:

Rocky Mountain trench:

The yellow in this photo, the fourth place winner, is sand:

Read more: Climate & Energy


The best pictures of trucks inside trucks inside trucks

Here’s a kind of awesome way to get trucks off the road: put them inside trucks inside other trucks, like some kind of truck turducken. Turtrucken. It’s three, or four, or nine trucks for the carbon footprint of one!

This picture came originally via Reddit, so there's little context, other than that it was taken in England and there's a relevant Simpsons reference:

But England would not win a recursive truck contest. It's China, apparently, that has mastered the art of turtrucken:

Four's better than three, obviously:

Read more: Transportation


New York City is making cyclists go to remedial biker’s ed classes

New York City is treating wayward cyclists the same way a driver who's racked up one too many DUIs might be: It's sending them to class to review the basic rules of the road. The New York Times reports:

This spring, the Midtown Community Court began sentencing cyclists who had been issued tickets for certain offenses in and around Midtown Manhattan to a class to learn about bicycles and traffic.

Think remedial driver’s education -- for bike riders.

In theory, it's a reasonable idea: Bikers aren't required to get a license the way that drivers are, and if they've been behaving irresponsibly, well, maybe they don't know the laws. But a judge also admitted to the Times that it might be the laws' fault, too: "There are a lot of laws and not always clarity about abiding the law," she said.

Read more: Biking, Cities


Half of Americans drink at least one glass of soda every day

Gallup has discovered a great divide in American society: There are those of us who drink soda and those of us who do not, and the country's split almost exactly down the middle. Soda drinkers make up 48 percent of the country's population. These are the people who drink at least one glass of soda every day -- half of them drink more than two.

Then there are the rest of us -- 52 percent of Americans only drink soda every once in awhile:

Read more: Corn, Food


Wolverines refrigerate their food

Photo by Andrew Gainer.

Wolverines are loners, and they don't like to share. They try not to hang out anywhere near other wolverines or other mammals, a social preference that some of us can relate to. And like other grumpy, anti-social creatures, wolverines do not like to share their food.

You'd think that they'd be safe by living in the coldest reaches of the planet, in the middle of snowy wastelands. But they cannot escape the pesky insects and microbes that find a way to live anywhere and that would be happy to feast on the food that wolverines have scared up. To defeat them, the wolverines keep their food in what's basically a DIY refrigerator. National Geographic News reports:


This beer coaster can grow into a tree

It's a little too easy to create a ton of waste while you're getting wasted. Unless you're near a store that provides growlers or you invest in a keg, drinking a lot of beer creates a lot of empty beer cans. And if you happen to be drinking at one of those bars that hands out paper coasters a little too liberally, you're piling up even more useless waste.

The beer company Molson Canadian's on a green kick, though, and they've created coasters that aren't entirely useless. Each coaster has seeds wedged in it, and if you plant it and water it, it'll grow into a big tall Black Spruce tree. 

Read more: Living


Watch the winner of the first cross-country bike race cross the finish line — in 1982

In August of 1982, four men rode out of Los Angeles on the Great American Bicycle Race, the first transcontinental bike race ever -- what ABC's Wide World of Sports called "the latest bizarre product of this country's rapidly burgeoning ultra-endurance cult."

The route began at the Santa Monica Pier, where a small crowd of "devoted bike freaks" saw the riders off, ABC said. It began like this:

The route was 2,978 miles and ended at the Empire State Building in New York City. Nine days, 20 hours and two minutes later, Lon Haldeman reached the finish line:

Read more: Biking


The sun’s atmosphere looks like an amazing painting

Sure, the surface of the sun is hot and all, but the sun’s atmosphere is hotter -- by a factor of 1,000. And as it turns out, it’s not just hot like “will burn you up faster than a Tony Robbins seminar” hot. It’s also hot like gorrrrrrrrgeous.

Scientists know that the sun's atmosphere (the corona) is hot as hell, but they don’'t know exactly how it behaves. So a smarter-than-smart NASA scientist decided to make a colored image of its heating and cooling patterns. The result is fabulous:

Read more: Climate & Energy


How to eat ice cream and end an unjust criminal system at the exact same time

Driving around upstate New York, you see a lot of abandoned dairy farms and a lot of struggling towns with prisons nearby. They're connected: As milk prices dropped and the state's dairy industry started suffering, politicians brought prisons upstate as a job-creation programs.

Milk Not Jails aims to break that connection by creating economic opportunities in the dairy industry instead of the prison industrial complex, Treehugger reports. The grassroots groups partners with smaller dairy farms whose owners support criminal justice reform, and helps them sell their products in New York City. That’s a perfect target market for a combined dairy/prison reform project: It’s where many inmates come from, and where many fancy cheeses go.

Read more: Food


This weird artificial jellyfish is made from the cells of a rat

Watch the video below, and consider this: "Genetically, this thing is a rat," Harvard biophysicist Kit Parker told Nature News.

But, we hear you saying, that is not a rat! It’s a jellyfish! Sorta -- but it's made from silicone and the muscle cells of a rat's heart. When the resulting "medusoid" (“jellyfishy”) creature is put into an electric field, the muscles cells contract, the silicone pulls the structure back into its original shape, and the artificial jellyfish swims.

Read more: Animals