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Sarah Miller's Posts

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Parrots have different favorite bands, but all of them hate dance music

"Play Freebird!"
James Arnott
"Play Freebird!"

Have you ever wondered what kind of music parrots like? I never had, but now that someone has taken the trouble to find out, I actually wonder why I ever bothered to be curious about anything else.

What happened is, a British person (big surprise) put two parrots in a cage. He put two buttons in there which the parrots could press to turn on music. The music choices were Vangelis and Scissor Sisters. One of the parrots, named Leo, was into Scissor Sisters, and the other one preferred Vangelis. They did this study for a whole month, and the parrots were unwavering in their choices.

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Asparagus may keep you from getting a hangover

asparagus_drink
Brent Buford

Next time you're planning on getting hammered -- and it being the holiday season, we imagine you're planning to get hammered in about 15 minutes -- you might want to eat some asparagus before you hit the bar. Scientists (i.e. the smart people who study stuff and learn things while you get wasted) at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea have discovered that some of the amino acids in asparagus lower the toxicity of alcohol.

What does this mean? Like you can just have a few stalks of asparagus and go out and get obliterated and the next day you will feel fine? Don't count on it. For one thing, the leaves are apparently a little more potent than the shoots, which are what we normally eat, and I have no idea where you get asparagus leaves, and I assume you don't either. Needless to say if you go in search of them it is best to do so during a period of relative sobriety, which we have already established is going to last for about 12 more minutes, figuring in the time it took you to read the last two paragraphs.

Read more: Food

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Christmas trees aren’t just festive, they also eat methane

christmas-tree-lights-lighting
Andy Castro

Everyone knows that trees are good for the environment because they consume carbon dioxide. This is not news. But researchers in Sweden (what is it with all these German and Swedish scientists who are obsessed with Christmas tree research?) have recently discovered that the evergreen trees most often marketed as Christmas trees (spruces, pines, firs) not only cleanse the air of carbon dioxide, but ingest something even more harmful -- methane. Wow, some good news about the environment? And it involves Christmas trees? Maybe there really IS a Santa Claus!

Read more: Climate & Energy

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8-year-olds were right all along: It is possible to overdose on Brussels sprouts

Only five per blood-thinner-taking customer please.
John Sullivan
Only five per blood-thinner-taking customer please.

Doctors are issuing a stern warning this holiday season. It is not about getting hammered. It is not about stuffing your face with six pounds of foie gras. It is about Brussels sprouts. Last Christmas, a British man was hospitalized for eating too many of them, and this year, doctors are hoping to get the word out before it is too late: Brussels sprouts and blood thinner do not mix.

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German scientists have created perfect Christmas trees through cloning

I'll be cloned for Christmas
Jason Matthews
I'll be cloned for Christmas.

Haven't you always wanted your Christmas guests to be absolutely blown away by the perfect symmetry of your Christmas tree? Haven't you wanted them to exclaim things like "beautiful" and "amazing" and "I've never seen a Christmas tree like that?" Well. Your search for the perfect envy-inspiring Christmas tree is over, because some German scientists have figured out how to create one through cloning.

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This school district saved $1.5 million just by turning off lights and stuff

If you turn me off I will buy you a textbook.

The Lake Stevens School District in suburban Seattle has saved itself $1.5 million since 2010. But the students and teachers haven't been required to do anything particularly special or innovative or requiring costly technology to save this rather princely sum. They have merely been very vigilant about turning things off.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Chicken farmers replace antibiotics with oregano oil

Give this chicken some oregano oil and call me in the morning.
normanack
Give this chicken some oregano oil and call me in the morning.

Animals raised to be food get diseases easily. There's a lot of them hanging around in one place, waiting to die, so it's not terribly surprising that they get sick. Precautions have to be taken, which is why these animals have long been given antibiotics. The problem with antibiotics is that feeding animals too many of them breeds disease-resistant germs. But it's possible that a solution exists, and bonus: It sort of seasons chickens from the inside. Oregano oil may be a natural solution to protecting chickens from germs without antibiotics, and also probably making them taste like pizza.

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The Gaits iPhone app turns your steps on New York’s High Line into music

high line
David Berkowitz

I am not terribly interested in iPhones, really, unless someone calls or emails me on it wishing to employ me or just give me money. But this app called The Gaits might make me change my mind. If you use it while walking New York's High Line park, it turns your stroll into an individualized piece of music. (I don't know what happens if you use it while walking somewhere else. Probably Ragnarok.)

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H&M lets you turn in old clothes for new ones

change

It is always encouraging when a very successful company takes a break from raking in piles of money to give back. In February 2013, clothing retailer H&M will begin a global recycling program, allowing shoppers to exchange used clothing for discounts at their stores. They will accept any piece of clothing in any condition. That means you could theoretically bring them an acrylic hat you bought at a gas station with a couple of cigarette burns in it, and they’d have to take it, though it's not yet clear that they'd have to give you very much of a discount in return.

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This device tells your phone how gross the air is to breathe

"This color means: "You can go outside but don't expect it to be Shangri-La out there."
Jacobs School of Engineering, UCSD
This color means: "You can go outside but don't expect it to be Shangri-La out there."

Do you remember in The Big Lebowski when TBL himself says to the Dude, "You told Brandt on the phone, and Brandt told me?" Well, that's kind of the same way that this device, called CitiSense, works. It measures the air pollution, it sends a message to your phone, and then your phone tells you how much air pollution there is in a given area. Unpacking the analogy further: The Dude is CitiSense here, Brandt is the phone, and then, the Big Lebowski is you. So essentially this is a gadget that makes you into the Big Lebowski. Wait, back up, I want a gadget that makes me into the Dude. Screw this thing.

No, actually, it's pretty cool if you like keeping an eye on your air quality. The way it works (we thought you'd never ask): you carry around a dingus equipped with air pollution sensors. Those sensors collect data and send it to your phone, which can then display air quality using a scale of red to green, green being "go ahead outside and play beach volleyball" and red being "move to the Moon with Newt Gingrich NOW."