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Scientists are using new technology to identify zombie bees

A zombee with a tracker. (Photo by Christopher Quock.)

Some of the scientists investigating the mysterious honeybee die-offs suspect zombie bees, bees that are being mind-controlled by parasitic scuttle fly maggots. Unlike human zombies, bee zombies (or, inevitably, "zombees") do not have telltale tattered clothes or dark eye makeup. So in order to tell whether they're dealing with bees or zombees, researchers are affixing the little guys with miniature radio trackers.

Here's how the zombee nonsense started: Last year, while San Francisco State scientist John Hafernik was looking for dead bugs to feed insects, he discovered some maggot-infested bee carcasses under a streetlight. (Picking up dead bugs that are crawling with live bugs: just a small part of the glamorous life of a scientist.) This was odd, because bees don't generally leave their hives at night. Hafernik got to thinking: Why were these bees behaving so out of character? Could it be that the maggots were not only infesting the poor bees, they were controlling their minds as well?

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An open letter to people who don’t like cheeseburgers, by a cheeseburger

I feel so much better now that i got that off my chest.

Even the most dedicated cheeseburger lover might be rather surprised to discover that it can write a 265-word manifesto. Isn't it wonderful that the land of advertising, especially the kind that McDonald's has the money to finance, allows such miracles?

The letter from a cheeseburger (or possibly from cheese itself? Burgers aren't the clearest writers, but it says it "contain[s] pickles, onions, and ketchup," so we're going to go with it being a cheeseburger named Cheese) was facilitated by long-time McDonald's agency DDB Stockholm. Not only does this author have the incredible wherewithal to hold a pen, type on a keypad, or dictate to an attractive cheese secretary, it also has complicated feelings. Most of these feelings center around its quality of cheesiness. 

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New startup measures your home’s efficiency just by taking a picture

That's one leaky-ass house. (Photo courtesy of Essess.)

Forty percent of energy in the United States is used to heat buildings and homes. Only some of that goes to actually sparing your whiny ass from getting up and putting on a sweater, though. The rest -- billions of dollars worth -- just leaks out your windows and doors. But a new company could help you figure out where you're losing energy and money, just by taking a snapshot of your house.

It's pretty important that we step up our  heating/cooling efficiency -- because man, you weenies waste a LOT of energy while trying to ensure that the ambient temperature is exactly suitable for your delicate flowerlike skin. But so far, we're not great at figuring out where we're going wrong. The most common way to police a building or home's particular level of resource-sucking is a blower door test, used to measure the airtightness of buildings, which, experts agree, is kind lame.

Now, a reasonable, cost-effective solution may have appeared in the form of a start-up called Essess (guys, maybe next time pick a name where reporters don't have to fall all over themselves explaining that it rhymes with "recess," not "S.S."). 

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Gaza’s first electric car is made of recycled materials and cost less than $1,000

This is what using lemons to make lemonade looks like.

It’s always heartwarming when someone who lives somewhere completely fucked manages to do something useful to improve their circumstances, and, in turn, to make the place they live slightly less fucked. Gaza resident and taxi driver Munthar al-Qassas was tired of waiting in the hot sun to buy gas during the region’s ongoing gas shortage. But did the 32-year-old former political science major just throw up his hands and sit around reading Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling? He did not. Instead, he created an electric car -- Gaza’s very first -- from all recycled materials, at a cost of under $1,000. 

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Chinese McDonald’s selling a very chic, weird, possibly political black/white burger combo

I am black, you are white, together, we symbolize ... uh ... something weird that i don't quite get.

Beijing residents were confused by their local McDonald’s recent introduction of a special menu item: a black-bunned beef burger and a white-bunned chicken burger, which you can order together or separately. Were they supposed to symbolize yin and yang? Or was it just to show off how well a giant corporation can manipulate bun colors? There is a rumor – it’s so weird and obscure we can’t bring ourselves to call it anything but a rumor – that the black and white burgers are supposed to symbolize people who are so well-connected with both the government (that's the white side) and organized crime (that’s the black) that they can "eat from both sides,” i.e. have a foot in both camps. Which clarifies approximately nothing.

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These guys made $2 million last year selling chicken diapers (and other stuff)

When Traci Torres sat down in 2004 and wrote an e-book about how to deal with having an at-home chicken coop, she did not plan on starting a huge business, My Pet Chicken, selling bird diapers to people who don't want their pet chickens to poop on the floor. That was because she did not know then, as she surely knows now, what a chicken-obsessed nation we were becoming.

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How sea otters are saving the oceans

"What do you want to do tonight?" "Same thing we do every night: Try to SAVE THE WORLD." (Photo by Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire.)

Sea otters are not only cute, they are important to the health of the ocean. This is how it works: When there are too many sea urchins, there is not enough kelp. When there is not enough kelp, there is more CO2 in the ocean, and that means that fish die and basically all hell breaks loose. But the otters eat the sea urchins, thus keeping the rest of the ocean in balance.

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Another day, another animal stuffed down a man’s pants

Put me in your pants! (Photo courtesy of NASA.)

The slender loris has endured a mighty struggle to survive. This struggle generally involves things like poaching by crazy people who think lorises can cure things like impotence and asthma, but on Monday, that struggle involved a lone loris' attempt to breathe while inside of a man's pants. The man in question was attempting to smuggle the loris out of India by sticking it in his underwear.

Nothing would delight us more than to tell you this incident, at New Delhi International Airport, was unusual. Unfortunately, as long as there have been rare animals, there have been humans stuffing rare animals down their pants.

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Reality TV can now give you hantavirus (Update: Or not)

You know those nice, selfless, saintly people on TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive, the ones that help their absolutely insane and generally repulsive neighbors clean out 46 years of TV Guides/foot soaking machines/animal carcasses? And you’ve always thought, shit, I would never do that, I must be a selfish asshole? Well, you may well be, but it turns out that you are also smart, because one of the people who cleaned out one of these properties in Texas contracted hantavirus in the process.

Read more: Cities

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Global warming-related bottle shortage threatens Oktoberfest

Photo by a4gpa.

If anyone wants real proof -- or at least some very good anecdotal evidence -- that the planet is getting incrementally hotter, they need look no further than the beer bottle shortage in Munich, in southern Germany. As Oktoberfest approaches, brewers are finding they don’t have enough bottles to supply the festival. And why is that?

Because Germany was so hot this summer that the Germans were like fuck, I have to drink a lot of beer. So all the empty bottles are sitting around in drunk people's living rooms.

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