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Current events: Antarctic climate change is messing with the motion of the ocean

CryoSat_sea_ice_Weddell_Sea_D7000_DSC0781_(6245410446)

If we learned anything from The Day After Tomorrow, it's that disruptions in ocean currents lead to flash-frozen people on Madison Avenue and wolves prowling beached tanker ships in New York City. OK, so the climatological apocalypse portrayed in the 2004 classic may not actually be how it’s all going to go down. But a new study on Antarctica's Weddell Sea shows that global warming is messing with the motions of the ocean. Researchers have been scratching their heads at the disappearance of the coldest, saltiest seawater over last couple of decades. Historically, this "Antarctic Bottom Water" originates in the Weddell and Ross …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Addictive game lets you play subway god, weep at your inefficient creation

Have you ever scoffed at a subway delay? Rolled your eyes at yet another crowded Q train? Looked at a veiny metro map and said, "Give me five minutes and a Sharpie and I'll show you a more efficient system?"

Well, my friend, it's time to put your fingers where your mouth is (unless, oh god, you've recently been holding onto a train pole). The free, in-browser game Mini Metro lets you design your own subway system. Players simply drag and extend lines between an ever-increasing number of stations while tiny symbols wait to catch a ride. A polished version of the game will eventually be released on tablets, PCs, and Macs, but for now, the online version is fun enough.

It's a potent timewaster, too: A cursory look by this reporter turned into a full hour of frantic clicking and cursing at traveling triangles who just want to get home to see their kids. OK, full confession: I'm playing right now.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Here’s what to do with all that extra CO2 you’ve got hanging around

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Shutterstock

What do fertilizer, superglue, and Plexiglas all have in common, aside from being things that you can hide in your roommate’s bed when she refuses to do the dishes? (Don’t even play like it’s never crossed your mind!) Apparently, they can all be manufactured using sequestered carbon dioxide.

With the help of scientists, a handful of entrepreneurs are delving into the market of carbon dioxide recycling. It’s one with seemingly unlimited potential, because lord only knows the planet’s supply of CO2 isn’t shrinking anytime soon.

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America could soon face more days of extreme rainfall

Click to embiggen.
NOAA
Click to embiggen.

Squelch, squelch, squelch — that could be the sound of future America, if predictions about how climate change will ramp up "extreme rainfall" prove accurate.

Say the world's nations do little to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases pouring into the atmosphere. By the years 2041 to 2070, the warmer climate could bring torrential downpours to vast parts of the United States, as shown in this model from NOAA. Dark-blue splashes depict areas that might see as many as two or more days a year of extreme rain, defined as "rainfall totals in excess of the historic 98th percentile." (This is against a 1971 to 2000 baseline.) Cities that should maybe consider wooing the umbrella-manufacturing industry include Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Boise, Idaho; Richmond, Va.; and much of the Northeast.

The climate folks at NOAA add:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Jared Leto calls on Kerry to reject this so-called Keystone XL once and for all

jaredleto_face
Shutterstock

Our hearts are all aflutter, like so many flannel-clad, pouty-faced Angela Chases. Jared Leto has come out against Keystone XL.

Leto, fresh off an Oscar win, has signed an open letter calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to recommend against building the pipeline. Twelve other young environmentalists signed the letter, including Svante Myrick, the 26-year-old mayor of Ithaca, N.Y.; Adam Gardner, the lead singer of Guster; and Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. The Sierra Club identifies this group as “leaders of the millennial generation.” Speaking for my kind, more accurate representatives might have included 2 Chainz, Marissa Cooper, and Maru the Cat, but I’m not confident that those candidates would have been able to put together an equally compelling piece of writing.

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America’s cities are still too afraid to make driving unappealing

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Dylan Passmore

The morning I wrote this I took public transportation to work. I hopped on the bus around the corner from my house, then the train for a few stops farther. I took mass transit because it was convenient, because my card was already preloaded with the cash that diverts from my paycheck, and because the ride gave me 20 minutes to start the day browsing Twitter.

Baked into this decision, however, were a number of other nearly subliminal calculations about the alternatives not taken. I did not drive the car (yes, my household has a car) because downtown Washington, D.C., is a hot mess at rush hour, and because parking near the office costs the equivalent of a fancy hamburger a day. I did not bike because it was snowing. (Again.) And I did not walk because the distance was too far.

My commuting choices -- just like everyone's -- are the sum of the advantages of one transportation mode weighed against the downsides of all other options. Or, more succinctly: My feelings about the bus are mediated by what I'm thinking about my car.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Now you can write graffiti on the Great Wall of China

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Lale Cizmeci

For rebels with sharpies, the Great Wall of China sounds like the ultimate thing to tag (other than carving your name into the moon). But so many people have scratched their names into the monument that the ancient stones are getting damaged. And the last thing you wanna hear is that one of the seven wonders of the world fell down because someone just HAD to write “Joey + Dawson 4ever.”

So authorities are designating a special area where graffiti artists can leave their signature flourishes. They’re even talking about a hi-tech digital section for the art, which doesn’t really sound like it's in the scrappy DIY spirit of street art, but which might suffice to corral tourists' destructive tendencies:

Read more: Living

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Kid sister, who thinks she’s so great, wins C-SPAN student documentary prize

Kid sister is on the right.
Michaela Capps, Sarah Highducheck, and Emma Larson.

Winners for the C-SPAN’s annual student documentary competition were just announced and, of the 2,355 films submitted, the $5,000 grand prize went to a group who hits pretty close to home. I’m not saying that because they picked fracking, a topic we often cover, as the most important issue Congress should consider. I'm saying it because one of the three high school freshmen in the winning group -- Michaela Capps, Sarah Highducheck, and Emma Larson -- is my sister.

Check out their video:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Airpnp is sending the sharing economy into the toilet, literally

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the matthew knot

Thanks to the sharing economy, you can use a stranger’s hammer, car, or even apartment -- but what about life’s most basic needs? With Airpnp you can find (and if necessary, pay for) the nearest toilet. If the line for portapotties is too long, why not at least see which nearby neighbors and businesses will take your No. 1 for a couple $1s?

The Next Web has the deets:

Airpnp is now available for users to lease out their bathrooms through a mobile optimized web app, and native apps are in the works. The service itself will be put to test during Mardi Gras 2014 in New Orleans, which happens on March 4. There are currently a handful of toilets listed on the site spanning a range of prices -- some bathrooms are free, while urinating at a hotel bathroom where “Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Frank Sinatra, and Walt Disney have all peed” requires a payment of $10.

I think I’d actually pay to AVOID a toilet some of those guys had used, but that’s just me. (The throne that has witnessed Ryan Gosling’s turds, on the other hand ...)

Read more: Cities, Living

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Death-defying elephant recovers from fourth poaching attempt

Rangers help pull Mshale back up after being treated.
BBC
Rangers help pull Mshale back up after being treated.

Mshale the bull elephant is the biggest badass ever. The roughly 40-year-old African elephant has now survived the fourth attempt on his life by poachers in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. That’s an impressive feat, considering that almost 1,500 elephants have died there since 2011, and the poachers have gotten increasingly desperate for Mshale's $16,000 tusks.

Poachers hit Mshale with a poison arrow in November 2012, but fortunately he made his way to a haven for orphaned elephants where a vet with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust treated him. Recognizing the facility as a source of fresh water, mud baths, and company, Mshale kept coming back to the spot.

Conservation workers kept an eye out for him, too. While on aerial patrol, a pilot from the Trust noticed Mshale limping down below in March 2013, with a gaping wound on his bum. After vets removed two poison arrows, Mshale thanked them with a gaze and headed off, according to the Trust:

He stood gazing at his human helpers for a few minutes and then with a knowing look he limped back off into the bush.

Read more: Living