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Whales refuse to leave stranded pod members as they die

whales
AnneTanne

Earlier this week, a pod of short-finned pilot whales wandered too far from their home range and started stranding themselves in the shallows and shoals on the Florida Coast. Ten of the stranded whales died, but there were 41 others of their pod still alive and still at risk of stranding themselves. But they wouldn't abandon the members of their pod who had died. The New York Times reports: Rescuers had difficulty on Wednesday trying to persuade the surviving whales to leave their dead podmates and head out to sea. In most cases, highly cohesive species such as pilot whales …

Read more: Living

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This single can contains nine layers of processed holiday dinner

GAME_ChristmasTinn_2757572b
GAME

Chris Godfrey, design student, knows what gamers want: to play the games they got as presents on Christmas and not interact with other humans beings who are not currently also engaged in playing video games. Therefore, he created Christmas Tinner -- one can containing all the processed food a person would need to achieve some approximation of eating a traditional Christmas meal. It’s like the gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except hopefully it will not turn you into a sugarplum.

The Telegraph reports:

The product consists of nine layers of processed festive food, including scrambled egg and bacon, two mince pies, turkey and potatoes, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts or broccoli (for those who don't like sprouts) with stuffing, roast carrots and parsnips, and Christmas pudding.

Objections to this product: Salt content through the roof, eating home-cooked meals with extended family is sort of nice and occurs only a few times each year, what happens when the broccoli accidentally gets mixed into the Christmas pudding, why scrambled eggs??

Read more: Food, Living

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Here is a real life demonstration of why you should not try to bike across quicksand

cornstart copy
Screenshot/HardScience

If you have 1,000 pounds of cornstarch, some water, and a pretty big tub, you can mix up a batch of quicksand-like oobleck, and, if you're careful, walk across it without sinking. But biking? That's harder:

Read more: Living

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The week in GIFs: Ryan Gosling edition

Ryan Gosling: almost as good as Thanksgiving leftovers. (Last time: Mean Girls explains it all.)

Bjorn Lomborg says all poor countries really need is cheap, dirty fuel:

ryan-gosling-eyeroll

Read more: Living

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Here’s the pee-testing, marshmallow-shaped toilet of the future

Can you beLIEVE the toilet’s design hasn’t evolved since the 1800s? Probably, because you aren’t as obsessed with potty humor as I am. (It’s OK. Few are.) But(t) now, at long last, three design students have given the shitter a makeover! Watch the throne:

toilet-of-the-future

This masterpiece, the Wellbeing Toilet, is the handiwork of several Brits who were inspired by World Toilet Day (November 18 -- how quickly you forget!). Their design won a U.K. plumbing company’s contest to create The Toilet of the Future. The other designs were uglier and more complicated; theirs looks like Homestar Runner, or a marshmallow wearing a hat:

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ALEC calls for penalties on “free rider” solar-panel owners

solar panels on roof
Shutterstock

An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilizing to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as "free riders" -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy.

Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama's main channel for climate action.

Details of ALEC's strategy to block clean energy development at every stage -- from the individual rooftop to the White House -- are revealed as the group gathers for its policy summit in Washington this week.

About 800 state legislators and business leaders are due to attend the three-day event, which begins on Wednesday with appearances by the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson and fellow Wisconsinite and Republican budget guru Paul Ryan.

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Which Hollywood-style climate disasters will strike in your lifetime?

In a just-released report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has taken an extensive look at the scary side, the dramatic side … let's face it, the Hollywood side of global warming. The new research falls under the heading of "abrupt climate change": The report examines the doomsday scenarios that have often been conjured in relation to global warming (frequently in exaggerated blockbuster films), and seeks to determine how likely they are to occur in the real world.

So here's a list of some of the most dreaded abrupt changes (where abrupt means occurring within a period of a few decades or even years), and the probability that they'll happen — even if nothing like the Hollywood version — before the year 2100:

Disruption of the ocean's "conveyor belt"

movies day after tomorrow 2
20th Century Fox/Wikimedia Commons

As seen in: The scientifically panned 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

What would happen: The great overturning circulation of the oceans, driven by the temperature and the salt content of waters at high latitudes, transports enormous amounts of heat around the planet. If it is disrupted or comes to a halt, there could be stark changes in global weather patterns.

Chances it will happen this century: Low. For future generations, however, The Day After Tomorrow might be slightly less laughable (if still wildly exaggerated). In the longer term, the NAS rates the probability of a disruption as "high."

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The spying game: Companies monitor activists because they can

surveillance-fence-funny-happyface
Chris Goldberg

Back in the '40s, my grandmother lost her scholarship to college after the school found out she had attended a meeting run by a communist organization. Whoever made the call that my grandmother was a communist rabblerouser no longer deserving educational subsidy was clearly acting on bad intel. It would be hard to think of a more terrible communist than my grandmother: She loved playing the stock market.

As someone who enjoys hanging out with both spooks and radicals, I leave a greater trail of troublemaking by proximity than the people who snooped on my nana could have ever dreamed of. Selfishly, I wonder, thehow does this affect me?  The epic growth of Homeland Security in the last decade has also led to a commensurate growth in people trained by federal intelligence agencies working for private intelligence firms. Wal-Mart's internal security department, for example, is filled with former agents from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies.

Read more: Politics

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Big corporations are getting ready for carbon taxes, even if we’re not

Carbon Tax
Shutterstock

When a promising cap-and-trade bill failed in the Senate in 2010, oil and coal companies everywhere must have breathed a sigh of relief, then probably wiped the sheen from their collective brow with a spare Benjamin and got back to work. It now looks like some of that work involved planning for a time when they would actually lose the battle over their climate sins. In a report [PDF] released by the UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), 29 companies -- including the five biggest oil-producers, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, and Shell (not that we’re keeping track) -- report that they …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Low wages and cheap food: Separated at birth

July_29,_2013_Protestor
Annette Bernhardt

As fast food workers go on a one-day strike for higher wages across the U.S., it’s a good moment to reflect on what we are buying when we pay for cheap food.

The strength of the fast-food business model is that it is accessible to all: It’s so cheap that even the poorest people in America eat at McDonald's. And in some cases it’s not just cheap, it’s the cheapest. If you don’t have time to cook dinner, or the means to buy unprocessed food in bulk, it makes perfect economic sense to dine out at the closest greasy spork. And so there’s an argument to be made that the poor actually need more fast food, or at least Wal-Mart-style cheap food.

But that argument fails to consider the trade-offs these companies are making to deliver those low prices. One of the biggies: Cheap food depends on low wages. This is a circular argument: You need cheap food to feed the underpaid. And you need low pay to keep prices down. As Michael Pollan put it, it is: