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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Seaweed toothpaste can kill bad plaque bacteria

Researchers in England were studying seaweed enzymes to see if they could clean bacteria off the hulls of ships, when they were suddenly struck by inspiration. We imagine it went something like this:

Bob: Dick, your breath stinks!
Dick: Sorry.
Bob: It smells like the hull of a ship that's been out to sea too long!
Dick: Bob!
Bob: …
Dick: Oh my god!
Bob: We're going to be rich!

In short, the seaweed enzymes also are good at neutralizing the bad, tooth-decaying parts of dental plaque. And although we're sure that there's a healthy market for seaweed-based hull cleaners, we're pretty sure that market for toothpaste with natural ingredients is much larger.

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Antarctic moss eats 8,000-year-old penguin poop

Earlier this year, a slightly horrifying factoid made its way around the internet: Penguins poop so much that piles of their poop can be seen from space. But take heart, people who don’t like thinking about mountains of bird guano: It turns out that today's penguin dung heap could be tomorrow's source of nutrition for beautiful, fuzzy moss.

A team of Australian researchers were looking into the source of nutrients for these Antarctic plants, the BBC explains, and had narrowed it down to "nitrogen that's gone through algae, krill and fish." That food chain leads to seabirds -- penguins -- but the researchers were puzzled:

Since no penguins live on the elevated lakeside site in East Antarctica, the researchers had to work out where the mysterious seabird poo came from.

They realized that their moss beds were growing on the site of an ancient penguin colony.

"Between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago, on the site where the moss is now growing, there used to be [Adelie] penguins," said Prof Robinson.

Read more: Animals, Biofuel

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Radiohead, Jude Law, and Greenpeace make a sad, sad polar bear video

Here are so many things that we like, all in one place. Greenpeace. Jude Law. Polar bears. RADIOHEAD.

Together, these forces for good made a video about a sad, sad polar bear who can no longer live in the Arctic.

Here it is:

Okay, now we are going to cry. Or at least sit around for the rest of the day and contemplate the meaninglessness of existence.

Read more: Animals, Climate Change, Oil

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Tablet apps teach apes to write emails

Sometimes, when sitting with an iPad and raptly poking Uzu with your finger, you probably feel a little like an ape, admit it. That’s because a) you are basically just a smart ape and b) of course smart apes like touch screen tablets (heck, even lizards like them). And just like humans, the apes are using the technology to slowly peck out messages that express their thoughts and desires.

Here’s Teco, a 2-year-old bonobo:

Sitting with his Motorola Xoom tablet, he’s rapt, his dark eyes fixed on the images, fingers pecking away at the touch screen. He can’t speak, but with the aid of the tablet app I created for him, he’s building a vocabulary that will likely total several thousand words. What’s more, he’ll be able to string those words together into simple sentences and ask questions, tell jokes, and carry on conversations.

The bonobos communicate in short “sentences” made of lexigrams, a set of graphical symbols that the apes have been trained to understand and combine into phrases. Apps designed for the apes offer 600 or so lexigrams on a touch-screen keyboard, and allow researchers to easily design and implement new lexigrams as needed.

Read more: Animals

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Scientists create world’s healthiest airline meal

Oh, those scientists -- they’re always trying to ruin hackish comedians’ most reliable material. You plan a whole routine about how airline food is shitty, and they go and make it good. In the United Kingdom, a team of scientists have made an airline meal that meets all 222 possible E.U.-endorsed health claims. (Making prepackaged, super-nutritional meals -- so hot in Europe right now.) That means it's made of foods that boost digestive systems, promote heart health, support normal blood cholesterol, and generally make up healthwise for the fact that you’re hurtling through radiation rays at 30,000 feet.

What's in this mile-high supermeal? According to Take Part, healthy passengers should be eating:

A fresh and smoked salmon terrine, a mixed salad with extra virgin olive oil dressing, a high-fiber multigrain roll and a chicken lentil casserole. Dehydrated from your long flight? They’ve got you covered with water or a tasty-sounding cranberry, raspberry and elderflower drink. Sadly, there’s no chocolate cake for desert [sic]. No pie, either. Instead, you’ll be served a live yogurt blancmange (think custard).

Read more: Food

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Spray-on batteries could turn your coffee cup into an energy collecting device

Engineers at Rice University have figured out how to make spray-on, rechargeable batteries that could transform any surface, anywhere, into a device for collecting and storing energy.

Basically, the team broke down the elements of individual battery components and turned them into paints. Once they’d done that, they could turn any paintable surface into a working battery -- including coffee mugs.

The final paints were layered on to glass, stainless steel, glazed ceramic tiles and flexible polymer sheets — the resulting “batteries” worked just as well as the regular version. The team even picked out a choice ceramic mug, spray-painted the word “rice” in capital letters using a stencil, and demonstrated its efficiency as a battery.

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No place is safe from fracking, not even graveyards

No place blessed with an abundance of natural gas is safe from the possibility of fracking -- not even cemeteries.

In Texas, the president of the cemetery association has already been selling the gas underneath his graveyard, the Centre Daily Times reports:

[John] Stephenson leased mineral rights under two of his cemeteries within the past three years, he said. Each is about a century old and populated with 75,000 graves. Revenue from the leases -- he wouldn't say how much -- has allowed him to pave roads, repair fences and make other improvements during economic hard times.

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Finally, a pizza you can eat three times a day

Dreams do come true: Eating pizza for every meal could be perfectly healthy.

Only catch: You'd have to be eating the "first nutritionally balanced pizza." A pizza that has seaweed in the crust. Which is to say, not exactly the pizza you'd want to eat if you were going to eat pizza every day.

Created by a Scottish nutritionist, the pizza contains a third of all the vitamins and minerals an adult is supposed to need and a third of daily recommended calories, protein, and carbs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it looks like it doesn't have all that much cheese on it.

Read more: Food

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Spray-on solar windows use teeny tiny solar cells to capture energy

If the Internet has taught us anything, it is that everything is better when it is smaller. Kittens are better than cats. Cake pops are better than cakes. LEGO models of anything are pretty great, even if the full-sized version is pretty iffy (say, a meth lab).

Thus: Solar panels? Good. Teeny tiny solar cells? BETTER. Solar cells so tiny they can be sprayed onto windows? SO COOL.

Read more: Renewable Energy

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These light-up armbands make awesome turn signals for cyclists

As a responsible cyclist who does not want to die, I wear a helmet. The other night, I donned one of those reflective orange vests. (Do not laugh, please.) And I try, really I do, to hold out my arms and signal when and where I plan on turning. I do not like doing it, though, because I feel I am going to lose my balance and because I don't think that drivers notice half the time anyway. Especially not at night.

Lifehacker has turned up a wonderful DIY solution to this problem: bright, wearable turn signals.

Read more: Biking