Grist List

This surreally beautiful fruit is the world’s shiniest living thing

Pollia condensata looks like it’s wearing holographic nail polish, but it’s a real living fruit that grows that way — in fact, it’s the shiniest living thing in the world. The principle behind P. condensata‘s gorgeous finish is basically the same as behind an iridescent beetle’s wings. The cells in the fruit’s husk contain layers of fibers that run parallel to one another, with each layer turned slightly relative to the one beneath it (like this). Each layer reflects some of the light that hits it, and the spiral structure makes the reflected light waves line up so that they …

Climate & Energy

New solar cell draws power from spinach

“Scientists figure out a way to get energy out of new non-coal thing” is getting to be a pretty common story, and so far none of it has revolutionized our power grid. But this one serves a dual purpose: It can make solar panels cheaper and more efficient, plus vegetable-pushing parents can point to it and say “don’t you want to grow big and strong, just like the solar cell that powers your GameCube?” Because the secret ingredient in this new tech is spinach.

Business & Technology

Injured bald eagle gets new 3-D printed beak

A team of scientists, engineers, and a dentist designed a nylon polymer beak that would perfectly replace the eagle's lost upper mandible.

Watch a turtle roller-skate into a store to steal lettuce

This roller-skating turtle could kick the pants off some overrated hare, but instead he’s turned to a life of crime. It’s so sad when our young chelonians go astray.

Kids compete to name kid-killing asteroid

Whether or not you spend much time worrying about 1999 RQ36, the asteroid that might hit Earth in a couple hundred years, surely everyone agrees: If a giant formation of rock and space detritus is going to smash us all to kingdom come, it would be nice to at least be properly introduced first. To this end, as well as for the purposes of teaching children about space and the ways it can kill you, Bill Nye’s Planetary Society, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, and the University of Arizona have teamed up to hold an asteroid naming competition. For kids. Kids who want to not …

The Pope and his weird hat have a new electric car

Pope Benedict is considered the Green Pope. This does not mean that his weird hat is green, though that would be really cool. It means that he cares about the environment, so even though he is the Pope and also kind of scary-looking, he does cool, Norcal-y stuff like harness solar power for electricity and sponsor reforestation projects. Most recently, he added an electric car to his fleet of vehicles, specifically a white Renault Kangoo.

Firefighters rescue adorable bobcat kitten from wildfire

Firefighters working to contain a California wildfire found this baby bobcat walking alone in circles by the side of the road. There was no trace of a mother bobcat, plus she kept going to sleep on their shoes, so the crew took the baby back to their command post, where public information officers cooed over her until animal rescue workers arrived. The firefighters named the kit “Chips,” because she was found near the Chips fire (which in turn is probably named that because it’s near Butt Lake, and “Butt Fire” doesn’t sound very good). The kitten was dehydrated and half-blinded by smoke when she …

Mesmerizing real-time map of the world’s planes makes air travel look like a fungal infection

Eugh, what’s that swarming all over the surface of the planet? It looks like an insect horde, or maybe some kind of crawling fungus, but no, it’s just us in our flying machines. It’s simultaneously kind of gross and super-fascinating. PlaneFinder tracks every flight in the air at any given moment, in as close to real time as possible.

World’s oldest message in a bottle has been found in Scotland

In 1914, a Scottish scientist named Captain C. Hunter Brown dropped 1,890 bottles in the North Sea as part of a science experiment. So far 315 of these bottles have been found, the most recent one last week by a Scottish fisherman named Andrew Leaper. At 98 years old, it’s the world’s oldest message in a bottle. (At least, the oldest one that’s been recovered.)

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