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Lights, Camera, Retraction

The journal that gave in to climate deniers

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In February 2013, the journal Frontiers in Psychology published a peer-reviewed paper which found that people who reject climate science are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. Predictably enough, those people didn’t like it.

The paper, which I helped to peer-review, is called “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation.” In it, cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues survey and analyze the outcry generated on climate skeptic blogs to their earlier work on climate denial.

The earlier study had also linked climate denial with conspiracist thinking. And so by reacting with yet more conspiracy theorizing, the bloggers rather proved the researchers' point.

Yet soon after Recursive Fury was published, threats of litigation* started to roll in, and the journal took the paper down (it survives on the website of the University of Western Australia, where Lewandowsky carried out the study).

A lengthy investigation ensued, which eventually found the paper to be scientifically and ethically sound. Yet on March 21 this year, Frontiers retracted the paper because of the legal threats.

The episode offers some of the clearest evidence yet that threats of libel lawsuits have a chilling effect on scientific research.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Watch commuters live your public transit nightmare as they avoid a rat in a subway car

Everyone in New York has made peace with the idea that there are rats in the subway. But usually there aren't rats IN the SUBWAY, as in running around inside the cars. When that happens, it's pretty horrifying:

Well, half horrifying, half hilarious to watch everyone standing on the seats squealing, with one subway rider executing a deft little jump as the rat comes barreling towards his feet.

Read more: Cities

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As if the ozone hole weren’t enough, now there’s a hole in the troposphere

Click to embiggen.
Markus Rex, Alfred-Wegener-Institute
Click to embiggen.

Everyone knows men shouldn’t wear white dress shirts without undershirts, because then you can see their furry chests and tantalizing man-nipples and sensual sweat stains. But the Earth’s been shopping at the Hanes Outlet again, because ITS white v-neck -- a.k.a. the troposphere, the innermost part of the atmosphere -- has a hole.

This hole in the Earth’s first atmospheric layer is letting dangerous, ozone-killing chemicals sneak out like nefarious body odor. Normally the troposphere catches the sweat, if you will, of pollutants and then wrings them out in rainstorms before they can do much harm. But scientists recently discovered a hole over the Western Pacific when weather balloons went poking around.

It’s nine miles up and spans several thousand square miles, according to Wired:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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EVs are getting fake engine sounds, because they’re so quiet it’s dangerous

Tesla sales center
Tesla

Hybrids can be so quiet you can’t tell if they’re on. Which is bad news for cyclists and pedestrians -- especially walkers who are visually impaired. So the European Parliament just decided that EVs and hybrids have to add fake “vroom vroom” noises so drivers quit sneaking up on people, goshdarnit.

Acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS) mimic traditional engine noise, and auto manufacturers have to add them by 2019. (Sorry, European Prius drivers: You’ll have to start meditating somewhere else.)

Gizmodo notes the gravity of the situation:

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Meat of the Matter

Eating road kill: Yuck or yum?

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Ian Cummings

Ian Cummings was cycling just outside Cambridge, England, when he noticed the freshly hit rabbit on the side of the road. “I sort of looked at it and looked at it, and then cycled on,” he says. But then, Cummings had a change of heart. He turned his bike around, brought the dead animal home, and cooked it into jugged hare — a traditional British recipe. “And it all kind of started from there.”

Since that first day when Cummings, a travel photographer based in the village of Wilbraham, wound up with a Goodyear-tenderized hare on his plate, he has gone on to become somewhat of a road-kill aficionado. From venison with cranberries and chestnuts to pappardelle con lepre, over the years his town’s roads have served him up some pretty delectable fares. But Cummings isn’t the only one out foraging the highways. There are plenty of road-kill enthusiasts on this side of the pond, too -- enough of them that there has been a trend toward states legalizing the practice, like when Montana made headlines by doing so last year. And now, a push to make road kill easier to take home is on the docket in Michigan.

Read more: Food, Living

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That blows

Brits may ban new onshore wind power

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Britain's conservative government is preparing to make an unusual pledge -- a crackdown on clean energy.

Prime Minster David Cameron, leader of the bluntly named Conservative Party (aka the Tories), is overseeing the drafting of a "manifesto" ahead of next year's national election. That manifesto might come dressed up in a stifling windbreaker. The Guardian explains:

The Guardian understands that Cameron has brokered a compromise between warring Tories by agreeing to include measures in the manifesto for next year's general election that will in effect rule out the building of onshore windfarms from 2020. ...

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Fancy new sustainable cement is made of old busted toilets

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What happens when your crapper becomes a piece of crap? If you're lucky, it gets turned into sustainable cement. According to Inhabitat, researchers from England, Spain, and Brazil have repurposed broken bathtubs, toilets, and sinks as a cement mixture that’s much greener than normal concrete. And when red bricks are used, the result is even stronger.

Here’s the nitty gritty:

To create the cement, scientists first grind up old ceramics and mix them with water and an activator solution, which currently uses sodium hydroxide or sodium silicate. This solution is then poured into a mold and exposed to extreme heat, resulting in a solidified mixture.

If the activator solution can be replaced with rice husk ash, it would take yet another material out of the waste stream, provide a way for suppliers generate additional income, and create cement made purely from recycled materials.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This beautiful tiny house looks like an orange and was built for less than $9,000

To be affordable, tiny houses are often all angles, with sharp, modern design. For those of us tired of spare, impersonal homes in drab brown-black, this mango-like dome is a juicy slice of bliss:

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© Steve Areen via Designboom

Steve Areen built the orange dome on a Thai mango farm -- clearly inspired by the fruit -- using blocks of compressed dirt. Treehugger quotes the musician and photographer:

The cost for the basic structure was under $6,000. It took a few more weeks to add the details, such as doors, screens, pond, upstairs structure, stonework and landscaping. All this, including furnishings, was under $3,000 ... Bringing my total cost to about $9,000. Please keep in mind this is in cost-friendly Thailand.

Read more: Living

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Blades of gory: Teaching kids to slice and dice

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Play out this scenario in your head: A writer publishes a cookbook for children, and as part of the book promotion, pens an op-ed in which she advocates handing your kid a gleaming chef’s knife so they can begin working on their high-speed lopping skills.

As you might expect, when this actually happened, a lot of people got worked up. For a moment there, Sarah Elton, the writer in question, was trending on Twitter in Toronto, where her op-ed ran.

But here’s what’s surprising about the whole episode: Rather than condemning Elton as a bad mother, practically everyone agreed with her.

Read more: Food, Living

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Fahrenheit 451 and rising

Climate change: The hottest thing in science fiction

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The world as we knew it is gone.

Even if nobody is talking explicitly about it, it’s clear that something terrible has happened and in its wake, humanity must once again reset its priorities. Can we, in this resource-scarce new world, fashion some kind of idyllic agrarian commune with shared goods, serene faces, and hemp robes? Or are we doomed to be selfish hoarders, creating even greater scarcity which we can then leverage for our own benefit? Also, is that … is that some kind of genetically modified man-wolfephant?

Post-apocalyptic science fiction isn’t new. But you may have noticed an uptick in books set in the wake of some kind of major climate disaster. Some call it “cli-fi” -- sci-fi infused with the increasingly frightening impacts of climate change. The trope has deep roots, says science fiction scholar Istvan Csicery-Ronay, and plenty of room to grow.

Read more: Climate & Energy