Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a reporter based in New York City who covers environment, energy, and sustainability issues, among other things.

Food

Coming soon: Non-vegan, non-kosher bananas

Food scientists have come up with an evil plan to make bananas off-limits to strict vegans, people keeping kosher, and anyone with an iodine allergy: They want to coat the fruit with shellfish. Specifically, they’d douse them with a spray derived from shrimp and crab shells. And while I have had some perfectly yummy curries featuring fruit and seafood, I will go on record saying that this is a weird idea. Of course there is a justification for this craziness. The ultimate goal isn’t to piss off vegans — it’s to make bananas that last longer. According to Take Part, …

Cities

Beautiful street art turns footsteps into trees

As income levels in China increase, more people are driving cars, and China Environmental Protection Foundation hired DDB China to come up with a way to hammer into people’s heads that walking can be a better choice than driving. The result was beautiful — a public art campaign that had pedestrians “painting” leaves onto a tree with their feet as they crossed the street. The company set up an “outdoor advertisement on the street” — a 41-foot-by-21-foot painting of a tree spread out across a pedestrian crossing. It was flanked on either side by sponge pads filled with washable, quick-dry …

Climate & Energy

If you’re sneezing right now, it is climate change’s fault

More climate change = more hay fever, according to the Guardian: Hay fever sufferers face longer pollen seasons and highly allergenic new strains from invasive plants, a new report on the health effects of climate change on the UK warned on Tuesday. Global warming will cause earlier flowering, possibly extending the hay fever season by six weeks, and enable new species to grow in the UK. Pollen is also getting more potent, packing more allergen into each grain.

Business & Technology

This is what air pollution sounds like

One of the terrifying qualities of modern pollution is that you can’t always see it. In old pictures of industrial cities, the pollution was disgustingly apparent. But today, pollution is often invisible, even though it’s no less dangerous. Aaron Reuben and Gabriel Isaacman have come up with a way for people to feel pollution more viscerally: They’ve made it audible. At the Atlantic, they explain how they worked that magic: We created sounds from air samples (atmospheric particulate matter collected on filters) by first using gas chromatography to separate the thousands of compounds in the air (try it with markers …

Cities

This awesome athlete used a bikeshare bike to compete in the Nation’s Triathlon

Over the weekend, Jefferson Smith, a 42-year-old triathlete, competed in the Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. He did not come in first or second or third in the race, perhaps because his ride for the 25-mile cycling portion was not exactly a top-of-the-line racing bike. But he gets the blue ribbon for First in Awesome in our book, because the bike he raced on came from D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare. This was not the most competitive strategy; compared to super-aerodynamic, super-light carbon frame machines, the Capital Bikeshare bikes are clunkers. They have only three speeds and are designed not for speed …

Cities

Detroit is building the world’s longest hopscotch course (4.2 miles!)

Two Detroit organizations, Wedge Detroit and Imagine Detroit Together, are planning the World’s Longest Hopscotch Course — 4.2 miles of chalky, colorful joy. As part of the Detroit Design Festival, they’re going to break out the paint, chalk, and knee pads on September 19, draw until September 22, and then recruit 30 volunteers to add a mile each day after that. That basically sounds like the most fun ever, doesn’t it? The organizers know it, too.

The Amazon rainforest’s clouds may come from mushrooms

I have not ever visited the Amazon, but in my imagination, it is populated by some serious, colorful, amazing fungi, all of which will either kill you or get you extremely high. But a new paper in Science found that the rainforest’s mushroom could have another vital purpose: producing a motherlode of potassium that helps clouds form. And clouds, of course, produce the defining characteristic of the rainforest: rain. Discover magazine explains: Potassium salts appear to be good at getting carbon compounds to stick together. The larger a carbon cluster was, the larger the ratio of carbon compounds to potassium …

The creepiest earthworm you have ever seen is 19 inches long

Forestry worker Li Zhiwei found this gigantic earthworm in his backyard and is keeping it as a pet. If you think that screenshot is vaguely disturbing, wait ’til you see this guy move:

Suicidal caterpillar is really dumb or really wants to get eaten

Is there a caterpillar equivalent of the Darwin Awards? Because this guy is a shoo-in. The Redditors who found this video have speculated that the caterpillar is infected with a mind-control parasite that needs to get inside the toad to thrive. Sounds crazy, yes, but there’s a parasite that’s been doing something similar to carpenter ants for millions of years. And a whole bevy of parasites control their hosts’ minds in other creepy ways.

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