Grist List

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.)

This new bike grows when your kid grows

In response to the pesky but unavoidable fact that children tend to grow over time, Spanish bike company Orbea has designed a child’s bicycle that grows with them.

Cities

Detroit is building the world’s longest hopscotch course (4.2 miles!)

Two Detroit organizations, Wedge Detroit and Imagine Detroit Together, are planning the World’s Longest Hopscotch Course — 4.2 miles of chalky, colorful joy. As part of the Detroit Design Festival, they’re going to break out the paint, chalk, and knee pads on September 19, draw until September 22, and then recruit 30 volunteers to add a mile each day after that. That basically sounds like the most fun ever, doesn’t it? The organizers know it, too.

Middle schoolers convince L.A. school district to ban styrofoam

Anyone who thinks that kids don’t care about anything but eating uncooked ramen and playing video games clearly underestimated the kids of Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Angeles. Their interests include uncooked ramen, playing video games, building a tower of styrofoam, and getting so grossed out by it that they launch a letter-writing campaign and eventually convince the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to become the first school district in the nation to ban styrofoam.

The Amazon rainforest’s clouds may come from mushrooms

I have not ever visited the Amazon, but in my imagination, it is populated by some serious, colorful, amazing fungi, all of which will either kill you or get you extremely high. But a new paper in Science found that the rainforest’s mushroom could have another vital purpose: producing a motherlode of potassium that helps clouds form. And clouds, of course, produce the defining characteristic of the rainforest: rain. Discover magazine explains: Potassium salts appear to be good at getting carbon compounds to stick together. The larger a carbon cluster was, the larger the ratio of carbon compounds to potassium …

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