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Grist List: Look what we found.


Four teenage girls in Africa have invented a generator powered by pee

People pee a lot, and four African teenage girls have actually figured out a way to make pee useful. That's right -- even your pee. Doesn't that make you want to rush out and drink a whole lot of beer right now and see how much electricity you can make? Oh, except we are pretty sure these girls were not drinking beer when they made this gadget, which was was presented this week in Lagos, Nigeria, at the fourth annual Maker Faire Africa, because it's kind of complicated. And they are too young.


One day, your ears could power your hearing aids

Here's a new type of renewable power to add to the list -- ear power. Human ears are basically a fleshy battery: There's a membrane in there that allows ions to cross it. The two sides of the membrane have different balances of potassium and sodium ions, and as those ions try to sort themselves out -- boom, electricity.

This is pretty old news, actually. But now scientists are close to harnessing this power, CNET reports:

What they have demonstrated in experiments on guinea pigs (actual, literal guinea pigs) is that the tiny, low-power devices they attached to electrodes implanted in the animals' ears were able to wirelessly transmit data about the chemical conditions of the ear to an external receiver, and that the guinea pigs still responded normally to hearing tests.


This recycled-plastic bike rack would be great if it actually worked

The beverage company Honest Tea and the Whole Foods in Bethesda, Md., did a nice thing. They installed a bike rack outside of the grocery store. The rack's made out of 15,000 juice pouches made by Honest Tea, which donated it to the store.

Now, if only it worked.

The Wash Cycle reports:

The plastic bars are so thick I can't put my U-Lock around them and my frame, and the side diagonal posts are also too thick. In addition, you can't even put your wheel over the top because they've put the sponsor sign on top preventing me from getting that part close to my frame between my front wheel and down tube.

Read more: Uncategorized


This weird cologne is supposed to smell like sushi

Demeter Fragrance Library makes smelly stuff -- perfumes, air fresheners, and a variety of soaps, oils, lotions, and whatnot. It says its scents are "inspired by everyday objects and experiences." Which sounds great in theory, but in reality it has led to sushi-scented cologne.

Demeter Fragrance Library

Now, one of life's great pleasures is catching a whiff of bubbling stew, freshly baked bread, or too-hot-to-eat pie. But I wouldn't even count sushi among the foods I like the smell of, let along want to smell like. To be fair, Digital Spy says that "the product doesn't quite smell like the Japanese dish" -- it's more of a grassy, rice-y, seaweed-y, gingery, lemon smell, apparently.

Read more: Uncategorized


Katrina-damaged neighborhood is rebuilt into the largest solar project in Louisiana

There's been a lot of talk since Sandy passed through about rebuilding better, smarter, and cleaner. Well, here's a real-life example of how that can actually work. In New Orleans, the St. Thomas Housing Project did not fare so well during Hurricane Katrina. But now it's been reborn as the mixed-income River Garden Apartments, and has become the largest solar neighborhood in the southeastern United States.

Spread over eight blocks and about one square mile of land, the buildings all have solar panels installed on their roofs. All told, there’s 420 kW of solar power distributed across the neighborhood, making this the largest solar project of any kind in Louisiana.

Read more: Climate & Energy


The MTA makes subway cars fly

One of the hardest-hit areas of New York City is the Rockaways, a thin peninsula of land that faces out into the Atlantic Ocean. Usually, public transit users can take the subway over a long bridge that cuts straight from the main bit of Brooklyn, but post-Sandy, that's just not happening. But the MTA is working on a solution and it involves flying subway cars.

Read more: Uncategorized


If this walrus can do aerobics, what’s your excuse?

Michelle Obama is now guaranteed four more years for her campaign to get American kids moving, but she's going to have to change it up and keep it fresh. So we humbly suggest a new mascot: this amazing exercising walrus.

Read more: Living


We’ve figured it out: Climate deniers are really just scared of getting headaches

Marlee Smith

Scientists have discovered that to people with something they call HMA -- high math anxiety -- the idea of working things out with numbers may be literally physically painful. So now we think we might understand why there are so many climate deniers. There's a lot of math involved in climate science. Like, for example, you have to be able to add 11 to the average current temperature to see what it will be in 2100. And then there are logarithms and stuff. Wow. We don't really even hate these fuckers anymore.

I mean, imagine being Mitt Romney, and making fun of Obama for saying the oceans were going to rise, and then just even thinking about how the word "rise" implied crazy math stuff, probably worse than adding 11 to another number, and then suddenly, developing a splitting headache. (Although Romney does seem to enjoy the equation "This Poor Company + Me = Screw the people who work there.")

Read more: Uncategorized


This might just be the cutest endangered animal ever

Ethan Hein

If you've never seen an axolotl, behold: It's a Mexican salamander with a face like an anime character. (There are a few varieties, and they're not all QUITE this cute, but they basically all either look like friendly cartoon dragons or evil cartoon dragons.)

Read more: Uncategorized


The coolest ways to charge your phone when you don’t have power

One thing we learned from superstorm Sandy: People really, really rely on their cell phones. When the power goes out and you can't recharge, it's like being cut off from the world -- which includes being cut off from critical help and information. Now that we've seen how eco-disaster can knock out power for weeks in the country's most populous city, our idea of "emergency supplies" might expand beyond canned goods and water to include one of these cell-charging innovations.

Fire-powered chargers


These are spendy, but they have one advantage over other cell-charging solutions: You can cook soup in them. The BioLite CampStove uses heat from whatever you burn (twigs if actually camping, maybe newspaper if you're just trying to get by in Lower Manhattan) to run a thermoelectric generator, which powers both your phone and a fan that feeds the fire and makes it more efficient. Some NYU students set up a charging station with four of these things last week. Was it better than huddling in an ATM kiosk? Well, it had more soup.

Hand-cranked chargers


Etón's hand-cranked USB jack isn't the most efficient way to get cell power -- it takes a minute of cranking to generate 30 seconds of phone use. If you want to chat, tweet, or check Tumblr, you're going to end up with Popeye forearms. But it costs $50, making it a fairly reasonable addition to your emergency kit, and that 30 seconds of power will get you an emergency call, a few texts, or a map to the nearest shelter.