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Signs of the apocalypse: Kangaroo-on-dog belly rubs, cats nursing hedgehogs

We know, we know, it's totally irrational to think that the world is going to end on Dec. 21. But then you see something like a kangaroo giving a dog a belly rub, and you have to wonder just a little bit if the world is coming to an end.

What's with all these species getting along like this is Noah's Ark or something? Why is this cat nursing a bunch of hedgehogs? [Warning: there's some sort of graphic kitty nipple action in the below video.]

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Giving cars their own version of the internet could reduce crashes by 80 percent

We are vehicles and we are all one through the Internet ommmmm
We are vehicles and we are all one through the internet ommmmm

People are, theoretically, all connected to each other through the internet and, again theoretically, it helps us to relate better and more efficiently. So the people who think about vehicles, and more specifically about vehicle crashes, started thinking and presumably emailing each other questions: What if cars and buses were connected to each other? Might this perhaps cut down on the number of accidents?

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Here’s a mama duck and her babies crossing a highway, enjoy your heart attack

Hey, here's a joke! Why did the ducklings cross the road? To stop my fucking heart.

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How did Newark Mayor Cory Booker do on his food stamp challenge?

"I just want to say being on Food Stamps sucks."
Bbsrock
"I just want to say being on food stamps sucks."

Several weeks back, Newark Mayor Cory "I let people charge their cells in my house" Booker got in a fight with a guy about food stamps on Twitter. And Booker, who is a pretty rad, money-where-your-mouth-is politician, said to the dude, OK, you think people on food stamps are just evil people sponging off the government? Let's both go on food stamps for a little while and see how fun it is, shall we?

Read more: Food, Politics

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The Arctic’s beautiful frost flowers are home to millions of microbes

frost flowersIGERT

University of Washington graduate student Jeff Bowman and professor Jody Demind traveled to the central Arctic ocean to study these beautiful structures, called frost flowers. What they found is that they’re not just decorative -- they also support an ecosystem of strange, hardy, cold-loving micro-critters.

frost flowers2IGERT

Here is how frost flowers are created:

The cold, moist air above the open cracks becomes saturated and frost begins to form wherever an imperfection can be found on the ice surface. From these nucleation points the flower-like frost structures grow vertically, quickly rising to centimeters in height. The hollow tendrils of these “frost flowers” begin to wick moisture from the ice surface, incorporating salt, marine bacteria, and other substances as they grow. The fog dissipates and the Arctic sun lights the surface of the frost flowers, initiating a cascade of chemical reactions. These reactions can produce formaldehyde, deplete ozone, and actually alter the chemical composition of the lower atmosphere.

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Kindle died? Reuse it as a spatula, toboggan, or chastity belt

epaulettes
At Grist, we are very much into creative reuse, so we cannot help but be excited about 101 Uses of a Dead Kindle, a book of illustrations that the U.K. Booksellers Association has, somewhat cheekily, named one of the top five Christmas books of the year. (Because who would want to celebrate obsolete e-readers more than people who sell real paper books?)

Adrian Searle and Judith Hastie have some really creative ideas for what you should be doing with your dead block of electronics, rather than sending it back to Amazon for a replacement. You might use it as a chopping board or a spatula, for instance.

spatula.jpg-large

You might use it in association with small animals -- to scoop their poop, clean them up if they've turned into roadkill, hit them over the head if they are meerkats, or send them tobogganing down a hillside.

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London has been invaded by a giant duck

thames_duck

This 50-foot seagoing rubber duck that floated down the Thames and under Tower Bridge yesterday is some kind of marketing scheme, but we're choosing to believe it's just the hot new form of transport. Or maybe a tribute to Sesame Street?

Read more: Cities

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How to make your own IKEA monkey

monkey_instructions
Adult Swim Canada

Of course we were all charmed by the story of the monkey running around a Toronto IKEA in a stylish jacket, but here at Grist we try to promote a spirit of DIY. Why enjoy someone else's fancy monkey when you can assemble your own?

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Want an ethical vacation? Try sunny Latvia

Ok, Latvia does look like a nice place to visit.
Dainis Matisons
OK, Latvia does look like a nice place to visit.

Even once you've exhausted your staycation possibilities and your travel bug is so bad that you just have to get on a plane and go somewhere far, far away, you might still want to go somewhere that you can feel good about visiting -- a place that treats its people right and keeps the environment healthy. After all, as Ethical Traveler puts it, "Travel is one of the world’s largest industries. Where we go -- where we spend our travel dollars -- has real economic and political significance."

So Ethical Traveler, a project of journalist Jeff Greenwald and of the Earth Island Institute, has provided us with a simple list of places to go where you can feel certain that your hosts are "promoting human rights, preserving their environment, and upholding civil society -- all while creating a sustainable, community-based tourism industry." Turns out: Latvia.

To be fair, there are also some more touristy destinations on the no-particular-order list:

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These crazy psychedelic photos can help scientists save the rainforest

Click to embiggen.
Carnegie Airborne Observatory
Click to embiggen.

The Carnegie Airborne Observatory's Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System (AToMS) is just an array of smallish sensors packed into a plane, but when researchers fly it over the Amazon rainforest, it turns the landscape below into a dazzling psychedelic wonderland that wouldn't have been out of place on a dorm wall in 1968. But the CAO scientists aren't just looking for something to stare at while they pack their bongs. Data from AToMS' spectrometer images could help them to save threatened rainforests.

psychedelic_rainforest_1
Carnegie Airborne Observatory
Read more: Climate & Energy