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:
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:
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:
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.
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"
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."
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 …
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 …
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. …
Twobills in the Senate would require the country to get at least 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025, but neither has a chance in hell of making it to Obama's desk. Thanks, Republicans! So the president is doing what he can without approval from Congress: requiring the federal government to get more of its power from renewable sources.
Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish provocateur who loves to pick fights with the climate movement, argues in the New York Times this week that what people in developing nations -- or as he called them, “the poor” -- really want is cheap, dirty, fossil fuels to help them reach prosperity. Poor folks, he says, could get rich off of coal if the West would just get out the way. It's part of an ongoing conversation that has stymied international climate talks, about how wealthy countries have gotten rich on fossil fuels, and now want poor countries to help clean up the mess.
Lomborg uses South Africa as his test:
The last time the World Bank agreed to help finance construction of a coal-fired power plant, in South Africa in 2010, the United States abstained from a vote approving the deal. The Obama administration expressed concerns that the project would “produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.” But as South Africa’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, explained at the time in The Washington Post, “To sustain the growth rates we need to create jobs, we have no choice but to build new generating capacity — relying on what, for now, remains our most abundant and affordable energy source: coal.”
We’ll put aside the fact that the last time, or rather the first time the Dutch came up with a prosperity scheme for Africa it involved a vicious slave trade that put the continent on a path to poverty it’s yet to fully recover from. Africans, not Lomborg, are the people to determine what Africans need. And while Gordhan, speaking for finance, may have said his country needed coal in 2010, the following year during the COP 17 climate negotiations in Durban, faith leaders came together declaring that [PDF] “South Africa must stand with Africa -- not big polluters."