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Tomatoes could be giving you BO

Can we just pen a quick love letter to tomatoes? Zesty dried ones. Juicy organic ones (bonus: they’re healthier!). Fresh, naturally ripe heirloom tomatoes from somebody’s backyard or rooftop. YUMMM. So it’s kind of a bummer that they’re making us smell bad.

Get in my mouth.
Nova Skola
Get in my mouth.

According to a new article in Medical Hypotheses (so yes, it's hypothetical, although it's a peer-reviewed hypothesis!), Irish biochemist J.C.M. Stewart believes the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes is to blame. (Lycopene is a type of terpene, the chemical compounds that give essential oils and beer hops their smell. Red peppers, watermelon, and papaya also have lycopene in ‘em.) Turns out that terpenes mainly exit the body by squirting out your armpits.

Writes Stewart in his article’s abstract:

I propose that underarm odor is commonly caused by terpenes excreted via the axillary apocrine glands. I also show that these come from terpene and carotenoid-rich dietary sources including lycopene, tomatoes, orange peel and the glandular trichomes of tomato plants. These observations suggest that the axillary apocrine glands are a prominent excretory route for terpenes. Considering the quantities eaten, tomatoes are likely to be the main source of dietary terpenes, and underarm odor in turn.

Read more: Food, Living

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Watch Will Ferrell and Robert Redford hilariously insult each other to save a river

This is probably the first river-related PSA that’ll actually crack you up. Golden fox Robert Redford (he’s more tawny than silver) just wanted to tell you about Raise the River, a campaign to restore the Colorado River. But of course Will Ferrell had to go and interrupt with his OWN campaign, Move the Ocean. “Do we REALLY need more river? I mean, hell, we’ve got plenty of ocean. Let’s move IT.”

Watch and laugh, my friend:

Read more: Living

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Vetting antibiotics: How the FDA’s new rules look at hog’s-eye level

David Struthers
Joseph L. Murphy/ Iowa Soybean Association

We're about to enter the post-antibiotic era, in which perhaps the most transformative medical technology ever discovered becomes obsolete. We don't have good backups, and so officials are trying to do whatever they can to slow the speed at which bacteria are developing antibiotic resistance.

As part of that program, the FDA has told livestock producers that they can no longer use antibiotics as growth promoters. Official are still hammering out the final details, but we know that antibiotics for livestock will no longer be sold over the counter, and instead will require a prescription from a veterinarian.

What we don't know is whether the new rules will actually work. Will farmers comply? Are the regulations worded in such a way as to make a real dent in antibiotic use?

To explore these questions, I visited a veterinary clinic while I was in Iowa. I drove out to the town of Colfax and met with veterinary doctor Sarah Myers and hog farmer David Struthers.

Read more: Food, Living

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Ask Umbra: Can I drink coffee with a clear conscience?

young-woman-coffee-smile
Jill G

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Would you explain the environmental impact of my drinking coffee? I am a coffee fiend, and I am concerned that forests and the like are being decimated so I may have my several cups of joe per day.

Caffeinatedly Yours,
Regina M.
Mattapoisett, Mass.

A. Dearest Regina,

You’re in good company with your jones for caffeine: With 83 percent of Americans reporting they enjoy a cuppa now and then (which translates to 400 million cups per day!), coffee may as well be our national drug. But as you suspect, your daily joe has its dark side. If you’re not up for quitting the stuff -- sssh, they might revoke my Seattle residency for that -- let’s first take a look at the damage, then consider how we can sip more responsibly.

Read more: Food, Living

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I see London, I can't see France

Paris bans cars, makes transit free to fight air pollution

Paris skyline
Evan Bench

Air pollution is about as romantic as wilted flowers, chapped lips, and corked wine, so the record-setting smog that has settled over the City of Love in the past few days is definitely dampening the mood.

Unseasonably warm weather has triggered unprecedented air pollution levels in Paris. Over the weekend, the city responded by offering free public transportation and bike sharing. (Similar measures were taken throughout nearby Belguim, which also reduced speed limits.) But that wasn't enough to fix the problem, so Paris and 22 surrounding areas are taking more extreme steps, banning nearly half of vehicles from their roads.

Private cars and motorcycles with even registration numbers will be barred from the streets on Monday. Unless the air quality improves quickly and dramatically, odd registration numbers will be banned from the roads on Tuesday. Electric vehicles and hybrids will be exempted, as will any cars carrying at least three people. About 700 police officers will be stationed at checkpoints, handing out $31 (€22) fines to violators.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Keystone XL and the energy rush that could change America forever

Tank Farm
Shovelling Son

The following is excerpted from Tony Horwitz's BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever, published by Byliner. BOOM is available at Byliner.com, or at AmazonApple, and Kobo.

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Meandering south from Cold Lake on small roads, I entered a new landscape. The boreal forest of northern Alberta gave way to rolling prairie, grain silos, and rural crossroads. The oil sands were now behind me -- or rather, flowing beneath me. Every road had pipeline crossing signs or ditches for new lines alongside or piles of pipe sections waiting to be laid. All pipes led to the place I was headed: Hardisty, home to Canada’s largest oil depot and the site where the Keystone XL was slated to begin.

51FAGvDveJLAt first glance, Hardisty, population 650, looked much like other sleepy settlements I’d passed. But in the distance loomed a field of circular white storage tanks, like metal mushrooms sprouting from the prairie.

“Most people see that from the highway and think it’s the town,” said Shari Irving, the innkeeper at the Solitaire Lodge, where I pulled in for the night. The Solitaire was more barracks than motel, housing a dozen dorm-like rooms along a narrow corridor. “No one comes to Hardisty for a holiday,” explained Irving, who ran the lodge with her husband, a native of New Zealand. “Oil is bloody good for business,” he interjected. “Why shouldn’t we profit instead of those piss pots and communists in Nigeria and Venezuela?”

Hardisty, however, had yet to prosper from the oil-sands boom. The storage depot lay beyond the town limits, so no tax from the terminal flowed into local coffers. Most workers lodged and shopped in a more distant town that had better facilities. Also, as I saw the next morning, the oil depot didn’t employ many people, at least not directly.

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Shell game

Scientist would study climate change’s effects on turtles, if not for climate change

baby painted turtle
Billtacular

Climate change, like all things in life, consists of some stuff we are relatively certain about, like the fact that the last decade was the hottest on record, and other stuff that we are still discovering, like the influence of the melted Arctic on weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

As a scientist, it’s my job to try and expand our collective understanding of how the world works. To accomplish this lofty goal, I conducted a study of 46 female painted turtles.

I chose such a mundane animal because of one specific aspect of its biology: temperature-dependent sex determination, or TSD. When TSD eggs develop in cool temperatures, they become the “cooler” sex -- that is, male -- while higher temperatures lead to the “warmer” female sex.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Will frackers cause California’s next big earthquake?

gg-bridge.jpg

The Ring of Fire, an earthquake-prone area around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, might not be the best spot for earth-rumbling fracking practices. But fracking is exploding in the ringside state of California, raising fears that the industry could trigger the next "big one."

More than half of the 1,553 active wastewater injection wells used by frackers in California are within 10 miles of a seismic fault that has ruptured within the past two centuries, according to a jarring new report. The fracking industry's habit of injecting its wastewater underground has been linked to earthquakes. (And Ohio officials are investigating whether fracking itself was enough to trigger temblors early this week.)

From the report:

shaky-ground-table
shakyground.org

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Blacking out America would be a cinch, because there’s not enough distributed solar

power lines
Shutterstock

Crippling America's old-fashioned electrical grid for a long period of time would be disturbingly easy. Saboteurs need only wait for a heat wave, and then knock out a factory plus a small number of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations that are scattered throughout the country.

That's according to the findings of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission analysis. "Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer," wrote FERC officials in a memo for a former chair of the agency.

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America could be vegan by 2050, says lady totally out of touch with America

love-bacon-girl-jack-lyons
Jack Lyons

First: I don’t hate vegans. I like vegans. I sleep with vegans. But the idea that America could go from 3 percent to 100 percent vegan in the next 36 years is the biggest pile of tempeh I’ve smelled in a while.

According to Ecorazzi, Kathy Stevens of Catskill Animal Sanctuary thinks the U.S. could be totally vegan by 2050. Here’s her reasoning:

  1. Meat consumption is on the decline, while interest in vegan food is on the rise.
  2. Supermarkets are adding new vegan products.
  3. Restaurants are becoming more responsive to vegans.
  4. The rich and powerful are throwing their money behind vegan startups.

Sure, 2014 might be, as some are decreeing, “the year of the vegan.” Jay-Z and Beyonce tried it. People are googling “vegan” more. Two years ago, U.S. beef consumption hit a 50-year low.

Read more: Food, Living