Grist List

Business & Technology

This is what air pollution sounds like

One of the terrifying qualities of modern pollution is that you can’t always see it. In old pictures of industrial cities, the pollution was disgustingly apparent. But today, pollution is often invisible, even though it’s no less dangerous. Aaron Reuben and Gabriel Isaacman have come up with a way for people to feel pollution more viscerally: They’ve made it audible. At the Atlantic, they explain how they worked that magic: We created sounds from air samples (atmospheric particulate matter collected on filters) by first using gas chromatography to separate the thousands of compounds in the air (try it with markers …

Cities

This awesome athlete used a bikeshare bike to compete in the Nation’s Triathlon

Over the weekend, Jefferson Smith, a 42-year-old triathlete, competed in the Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. He did not come in first or second or third in the race, perhaps because his ride for the 25-mile cycling portion was not exactly a top-of-the-line racing bike. But he gets the blue ribbon for First in Awesome in our book, because the bike he raced on came from D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare. This was not the most competitive strategy; compared to super-aerodynamic, super-light carbon frame machines, the Capital Bikeshare bikes are clunkers. They have only three speeds and are designed not for speed …

Global warming-related bottle shortage threatens Oktoberfest

If anyone wants real proof — or at least some very good anecdotal evidence — that the planet is getting incrementally hotter, they need look no further than the beer bottle shortage in Munich, in southern Germany. As Oktoberfest approaches, brewers are finding they don’t have enough bottles to supply the festival. And why is that? Because Germany was so hot this summer that the Germans were like fuck, I have to drink a lot of beer. So all the empty bottles are sitting around in drunk people’s living rooms.

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.

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