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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Tile your home with recycled money

Pennies are so useless as legal tender that there's genuine debate about whether we should even keep them around. It wastes energy and resources to produce them, they're disproportionately costly to make (1.7 cents per one-cent coin!), and there's not a vending machine on Earth that will take them. A lot of people reportedly just throw them away. But they're still minting the little suckers, for now, so you might as well make them justify their expensive existence. Which means you could dump them in the Coinstar machine ... or you could use them to make an awesome, cost-effective copper flooring that is, excuse me, really money.

Read more: Green Home, Living

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2,500-mph train could get you from New York to London in an hour

Nature abhors a vacuum, but transit nerds and people eager to see a science fiction future LOVE IT. That's because a vacuum is the secret ingredient for this (theoretical, but plausible) superfast train, which could speed under the ocean to get you from New York to London in one hour, or New York to Beijing in two.

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Americans spend twice as much of our budgets on processed food as we did 30 years ago

As a proportion of our income, Americans spend a lot less money on groceries than we used to. But we're buying crappier food -- a greater proportion of our grocery spending goes to processed foods and sweets. NPR whipped up a handy chart to show how much this has changed in the past 30 years:


The other big change is that we're spending less on meat. Pork chops, chicken legs, steak, ground beef, bacon -- it's all cheaper (and NPR has another handy graph to illustrate that point). We're spending about the same on vegetables, though some of those have also gotten cheaper: lettuce, bananas, and hard, disgusting tomatoes that really should not share a name with the red globes of perfection that you can buy from local farmers. (Peppers, on the other hand, have gotten 34 percent more expensive. WHY DO PEPPERS COST SO MUCH?)

To ground all these statistics in reality, I took a look at the last grocery receipt I could turn up. I think of myself as a person who eats less meat, more vegetables, and less processed food than the average American.

Read more: Food

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Giant LEGO wildlife is cooler than anything you made as a kid

The theme of the new installation at the Reiman Gardens, a massive public garden at Iowa State University, is "Nature Connects." That usually means something about the complex interdependency of the ecological network and blah blah hippie stuff, but in this case it means nature literally snaps together out of LEGO bricks. And also blah blah hippie stuff as well.

Read more: Animals, Living

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12-year-old whose awesome speech floored 1992 Rio Summit returns to Rio+20 as a mom

Twenty years ago, at the original Rio Earth Summit, Severn Suzuki, a 12-year-old from Canada, became "the girl who silenced the world for six minutes" by giving a sobering, kick-ass speech to the assembled delegates. You're going to want to watch it:

This is like the climax to the best YA novel of all time (discounting ones with magic and vampires). Really, there's nothing like an incredibly poised middle-schooler speaking up for her beliefs and making powerful adults feel silly. As Suzuki said then:

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us to not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others and to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy. Then, why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Brace yourself: Burger King is introducing a bacon sundae

I was under the impression that the "put bacon on everything" trend had run its course, but if so, nobody sent Burger King the memo. The chain is reportedly introducing a "bacon sundae" as part of its summer menu. That's ... exactly what you think it is.

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Faux-vintage ad shows you where you can shove that celery

I was kind of gutted when I took a second look at this ad and realized it couldn't possibly be for real (as far as I can tell, it's from a comic called Devil Chef), but it's still kind of hilariously disgustingly awesome.

Read more: Food

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Pollution makes carnivorous plants go vegetarian

Acid rain apparently has one benefit: It gives carnivorous plants so much nitrogen that they no longer need to eat meat. A new study has determined that sundews in Swedish bogs are cutting back on their insect consumption, which is good news if you're an insect or a human concerned about a Little Shop of Horrors scenario. Unfortunately, it's actually bad news for the sundews.

Read more: Pollution

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Solar-powered lasers could save us from asteroids

Image courtesy of NASA.

There are a few key facts to know about Earth being potentially hit by an asteroid, which could happen in about 25 years (so yes, if you're reading this, you will probably be alive to see it):

  • It's best to try not being a dinosaur.
  • Bruce Willis will save you.
  • Robert Duvall won't.
  • And our best hope may be solar-powered lasers.
Read more: Solar Power

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Catch of the day: Weird blue lobster!

Photo by Angelo Mercado.

A fisherman in Nova Scotia named Bobby Stoddard has been catching lobsters for decades. And in early May, he had a catch unlike any he had seen before: a bright blue lobster.

Blue lobsters are not cold. Well, they might be cold, since they live in the water in Nova Scotia, but that’s not why they look like that. Instead, they are in possession of a genetic variation that makes them a much more exciting color than normal greenish-brown lobsters. (They still turn orangey red when cooked, though.) One in 2 million or so lobsters is blue.

Read more: Animals