On the moon, there's little gravity, little air, little water, and a whole lot of radiation and extreme temperature fluctuations. These are not ideal conditions for gardening. But NASA is going to try. It's designed a tiny habitat -- about as large as a coffee canister, according to NPR — that researchers think will allow plants to, if not thrive, at least exist on the moon:
The plant habitat that [plant scientist Bob] Bowman and his colleagues have designed contains seeds, as well as a nutrient-rich paper and enough air and water for the seeds to germinate and grow. The canister also has features that regulate light and temperature, and cameras that the researchers will use to track the plants' progress over five to 10 days.
The idea, of course, is that one day people will be living off-Earth for long enough periods that living off freeze-dried food will be unsustainable (and possibly cause space madness).
Every year, the MTA gets all misty around the holidays and runs a few vintage train cars. This year, the first four Sundays in December, you can ride the "Nostalgia Special" from Lower Manhattan to Queens on the M line.
There is also, this coming Sunday, a vintage subway dance party on the platform of the 2nd Avenue station from 11:45 to 6 p.m. It's organized by enthusiasts of '30s-era dances, like Lindy Hop and Balboa, which, according to Vanity Fair, are cool again. There will be music on the trains and dancing on the platform. The organizers say:
I just love the faces on people boarding what they think are “normal” subway cars, and see the old trains with wicker seats, fans, advertisements and a car full of people in period dress and bands playing great old tunes. (If you don't have anything vintage, just be creative! The photographers come out in force for this! Give them something exciting to look at!)
There will be two to three bands playing on this platform at the same time. Before the train leaves for its round trip to Queens, at least one band will board the train and play for the entire trip. Another band will then take up a spot on the platform. So there will be music on the trains and platform all afternoon!
Ever since the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, world leaders have agreed on 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) as the maximum acceptable global warming above pre-industrial levels to avert the worst impacts of climate change (today we’re at about 0.8 degrees C). But a new study, led by climatologist James Hansen of Columbia University, argues that pollution plans aimed at that target would still result in “disastrous consequences,” from rampant sea-level rise to widespread extinction.
A major goal of climate scientists since Copenhagen has been to convert the 2 degree limit into something useful for policymakers, namely, a specific total amount of carbon we can “afford” to dump into the atmosphere, mostly from burning fossil fuels in power plants (this is known as a carbon budget). This fall, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pegged the number at 1 trillion metric tons of carbon, or about twice what we’ve emitted since the late 19th century; if greenhouse gas emissions continue as they have for the last few decades, we’re on track to burn through the remaining budget by the mid-2040s, meaning immediately thereafter we’d have to cease emissions forever to meet the warming target.
The study, which was co-authored by Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs and published today in the journal PLOS ONE, uses updated climate models to argue that the IPCC’s carbon budget would in fact produce warming up to twice the international limit, and that even the 2-degree limit would likely yield catastrophic impacts well into the next century. In other words, the study says, two of the IPCC’s fundamental figures are wrong.
So Detroit is now allowed to file for bankruptcy. It's the largest city ever to do so in this country, though certainly not the only one. More so than some of our other insolvent municipalities -- like Vacaville, Calif., or Central Falls, R.I. -- it is also a place on which people have pinned a lot of dreams and nightmares.
I grew up just outside Detroit, with its high-quality pierogi and its endless hours spent in the car, feeling the traffic like a salmon trying to work its way upstream. The landmark that most defined my childhood was the Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The school tours I took must have involved the rest of the museum at some point, but all I remember is a jumble of naked ladies, Madonna and Childs, and fruit. The court, lined with frescoes based on Diego Rivera’s tours of the River Rouge Ford Plant, felt familiar to me. My dad, like all the dads I knew, worked in a tool and die shop, and I loved visiting that, too. The machinery really did look that impressive, the people who worked there really did look that tired and grimy, and there really were sparks everywhere, fanning out like cartoon rainbows.
The agricultural scenes on the eastern wall were familiar, too. My grandparents were farmworkers who moved to Detroit during World War II, and the time my grandfather spent on the assembly line was just a means to an end that he never could have reached if he had stayed where he was born. He wanted to own land and grow as many vegetables on it as the earth could stand, because to do so was true wealth, at least according to the culture he was raised in.
Diego Rivera finished the frescoes in 1933 -- the same year that Detroit’s Mayor Frank Murphy, who had set up soup kitchens and potato gardens all over the city for unemployed auto workers, shepherded Chapter 9 through Congress. Chapter 9 is the law that made it possible for a city to file for bankruptcy -- the law Detroit is now invoking.
We’re starting to think that just MAYbe, all the chemicals ‘n’ shit in our soap, makeup, birth control, and antidepressants are bad for the environment. (Wild, right?!) Because it seems like basically everything you pee out or rinse down the drain ends up right back in your drinking water -- that, or messing up fish. This time, medicated dandruff shampoos are to blame.
Dandruff shampoos keep dead skin outta your hair with fungicide, which is less fun and more -icidal than you’d hope. Wastewater treatment plants aren’t good at filtering it out, so it ends up killing algae and messing up the growth of fish and big plants. Scientific Americanhas the scoop:
Now a study has detected fungicides from anti-dandruff shampoos in the water. And even at concentrations as low as 0.5 micrograms per liter of H2O such fungicides can hurt many organisms, from tiny algae to big plants and fish. The study is in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Another member of Obama's environmental team is headed for the door. The administrator of the EPA and the secretaries of energy and interior departed soon after the president's second term began, and White House climate adviser Heather Zichal left last month.
Now Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, plans to step down in February.
Sutley, appointed at the outset of Obama's presidency, has kept a lower political profile than some other top officials. But she played a crucial role in several major administration policies, the White House said. ...
Obama, in a statement, thanked Sutley for her five years with the White House, calling her a vital part of such policies as the second-term climate agenda he rolled out in June.
"As one of my top advisers, Nancy has played a central role in overseeing many of our biggest environmental accomplishments, including establishing historic new fuel-economy standards that will save consumers money, new national monuments that permanently protect sites unique to our country's rich history and natural heritage, our first comprehensive National Ocean Policy, and our Climate Action Plan that will help leave our children a safer, healthier planet," he said.
You know how the larynx (a.k.a. voice box) is where sounds come from? (Apparently scientists don’t count the butt as a noisemaking organ. TOOT!) Koalas were recently discovered to be the second mammal EVER to use another organ to make sounds: their pharynx. Slate has dubbed these wrinkly skin-folds “a newfound sex organ,” which seems a little misleading, since koalas aren’t running around rubbing their pharynxes together. But don’t worry -- koalas are DEFinitely using their pharynx to get laid.
See, male koalas bellow seductively (like Barry White, as Mother Nature Network points out) to convince lady-koalas to bone them. The deeper the bellow, the better chance a male koala has at beating out his competition. (He can also just fight another male, but that allows no parallels to singing-competition reality shows.)
Bow down! Queen Bey and her boo are forsaking animal products -- but only for three weeks; let’s not get crazy now. (Jay-Z’s line at Barneys includes leather boxers, after all, as First We Feast pointed out.)