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Sarah Laskow's Posts


This map shows how climate change is screwing over your immediate area

phoenix copy

New Scientist has this neat tool that lets you see how average temperatures in specific locations all around the world have changed over the past 120 years or so. Just stick in a city and country, and you can find out how totally screwed you are. For instance, here in Brooklyn, N.Y., we are only moderately screwed.

brooklyn copy

Whereas in Phoenix, it's not looking so hot. Metaphorically. Technically, it's looking pretty hot indeed:

phoenix copy
Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Subway removes yoga-mat ingredient from its bread

Simon Shek

We've always thought that most fast-food bread, wherever it was from, tasted rubbery. And it turns out that’s on the right track: Two years ago food blogger Vani Hari started researching Subway's bread ingredients and discovered that one was a chemical used in yoga mats.

ABC News:

Hari said she was shocked to find azodicarbonamide, a plastic-based additive, on Subways' food labeling.

The World Health Organization has linked this chemical additive to respiratory issues, allergies and asthma, and it is banned in Europe and Australia. Azodicarbonamide is legal in the United States and Canada.

"It helps ... produce the air within the foam of a yoga mat," said Hari. "It does the same thing for bread."

Neat! Unless, uh, you are putting this into your body -- which, given the popularity and widespread takeover of Subway, many, many Americans are.

Hari didn’t feel great about all those people eating plastic.

Read more: Food, Living


A British scientist is building a 280-cubic-foot model of the entire Arctic ocean

arctic icea
NASA Goddard

Roland von Glasow is an atmospheric chemist at the University of East Anglia. He studies how the Arctic sea ice and the atmosphere interact. But it's hard to do research in the Arctic Ocean -- it's dangerous, expensive, and really, really cold.

But von Glasow has figured out a way to get around this problem:

He plans to build an 8-meter-cubed model Arctic Ocean at his university, where he can study how sea ice reacts with the atmosphere from the comfort of his laboratory. ...

"Inside [the chamber], I want to have my little lab ocean, and we are going to enclose it so that we can control the atmosphere above the sea water, and then we are just going to freeze the whole thing," he said.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


This guy found and restored the world’s oldest subway tunnel, and New York City took it back

David Berkowitz

At the Verge, Adrianne Jeffries tells the sad story of Bob Diamond, who rediscovered the world's oldest subway tunnel, in 1980, when he was 20 years old. Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue tunnel had been sealed in 1861 and then the city sort of … lost track of it.

But Diamond figured out where it was and made a career out of giving tours:

He’d lug three plastic orange barricades out to the middle of Atlantic Avenue, pry off the manhole cover with a crowbar, and steady a thin ladder into the narrow shaft, the only entrance to the tunnel. Tourists would line up in the middle of the busy road, descending one by one into a tight passageway. It led to an Alice in Wonderland-sized doorway that opened up on a large staircase, built by Diamond and his colleagues in the ‘80s. The stairs lead down into a massive, spooky hall that is 2,570 feet long, 21 feet wide, and 17 feet tall.

Diamond had great ambitions for tunnel, Jeffries writes, including restoring the passageway, running a trolley through it, and excavating the 177-year-old steam locomotive that's almost definitely buried at one end.

But in 2010, the city shut the tours down, revoking Diamond’s contract for use of the tunnel.

Read more: Cities, Living


San Francisco puts textile recycling bins in apartments, shaming every city that still can’t separate trash

sarah b.

San Francisco is so far ahead of every other American city in the recycling game that now they're just running victory laps, basically. The city is now expanding its initiative to recycle textiles, 39 million pounds of which end up in the city's landfills each year, by adding textile recycling bins to apartment buildings.


One set of the bins, designed by the firm Frog and managed by Goodwill, will eventually go in or around every large apartment building in San Francisco. Since many San Franciscans live in apartments rather than houses, and some people have bikes rather than cars (making it harder to drop off donations), the city expects that simple convenience will help divert much of the waste.

Read more: Cities, Living


This is the first fish ever to get off the endangered species list


The Endangered Species List tends to be a black hole of biodiversity: Once species go on, they don't come off. But there are successes, and yesterday the EPA announced that the Oregon chub is the first species of fish to ever make it off the list and back to something resembling health. AP:

The fish had practically disappeared from Oregon's Willamette Valley as the swampy backwaters and beaver ponds it depends on were drained to control flooding and create farms and cities over the past century and a half. Those that survived the habitat loss became easy prey for bass introduced from the East.

But after 21 years on the endangered species list, chub populations have grown, from just 1,000 fish in 1992 to 180,000 fish now, according to the AP.

Read more: Living


This goat simulator looks like maybe the best video game ever

Apparently there's a latent and untapped desire on the internet to spend time navigating the world as a goat. Coffee Stain Studios posted a video of a "Goat Simulator" game, and within a day, the designer reports, "my video with the damn goat had 100,000 views, which is like more than all our other real game trailers the last year combined."

To be fair, it looks like a lot of fun:

Motherboard has details:

You run around and climb things as, well, a goat. You also get points for destroying objects like barrels, tables, and dinnerware, and head-butting buckets at humans with the force of a sniper rifle.

Read more: Living


The Great Lakes may be drying up

great lakes
NASA's Marshall Space Flight

On Earth, cycles are the norm. Tides, carbon, water, life -- they ebb and flow. Change, by itself, isn't necessarily strange. What is strange is when cycles are broken.

In other words, it's not strange on its own that the level of the Great Lakes is dropping. It is strange that, when the lakes' levels normally change over a 13 year cycle, they've now been going down for 16 years straight. That's 10 more than they should have been dropping for.


Water levels have been declining since 1998, [climate scientist Carl] Watras told Live Science. "Our lakes have never been lower than they are."...

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Compare time and cost of every possible transportation option with a single app


Whatever your favorite travel app -- HopStop, Google Maps, Uber -- RideScout probably has it beat. The app-of-all-trades, Atlantic Cities reports, covers basically any mode of transit you could think of -- "transit, taxi, car-share, cycling, walking, driving," or, as RideScout puts it, "public, private, and social ride options." And it does way more than just tell you your options. It gives you the time each will take. It gives you the cost or calories it will burn. And, Atlantic Cities writes:

In Washington, D.C., where the app launched in November, RideScout informs users how many empty slots are at the nearest Capital Bikeshare station. It just added real-time bus information and a feature that will ping you when it's time to leave for the stop (and, once on board, when it's time to wake up and request a stop).

Joseph Kopser, a RideScout co-founder, has plenty of ways to help you wrap your mind around how cool this is.


Save the bees by refrigerating them

mason bee
Christine Majul

Mason bees aren't your typical honeybees or bumblebees -- they don't sting, they're not particularly social, and females make individual nests in tubes. Also, they're great pollinators.

Problem is, they're delicate little critters, and what with all this climate change, they can get confused about when to emerge from hibernation and get to pollinating. If they come out during the first warm snap, there won't be any flowers for them, and they'll die.

So, beekeepers take their nests and keep them cool until it's really, truly warm out. How? They keep them in the refrigerator. Fast forward to about 4:35 to get more details:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living