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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Nature trail rigged with terrifying booby trap

On a nature hike, as a rule, the dangers you want to guard against are dehydration, getting lost, and bears. But of all of nature's creatures, the most terrifying might be a duo of teenage boys without much to do. In Utah, two such young men were arrested on suspicion of setting up trap that consisted of "a 20-pound spiked boulder … rigged to swing at head-level with just a trip of a thin wire -- a military-like booby trap set on a popular canyon trail," according to the Associated Press.

Read more: Living

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TP execs: Americans don’t create enough waste in the bathroom

It takes tens of thousands of trees to create the amount of toilet paper that's used every single day. But in the minds of corporate executives, Americans, at least, aren't using enough paper during their bathroom routine. In particular, we're not using enough Cottonelle Fresh Care -- "the leading flushable wipe."

These executives, being corporate executives, know that if they could just convince us that we need dry and wet paper to clean our bums, they could sell sooooo much more product. Right now, ashamed of the wipes, people are hiding them under the sink. But people who keep the wipes out in the open use twice as many, and as the Cottonelle execs told The New York Times:

"We know from our user data that the growth is 100 percent incremental,” said Mr. Simon of Cottonelle. “If you used six squares of dry toilet paper before, you’d still use six squares, and one or two flushable wipes.”

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Mad cow disease in California; first arrest in BP oil spill investigation

The USDA found a case of mad cow disease in California.

Federal prosecutors charged a former BP engineer with deleting text messages in order to keep information about the true size of the Deepwater Horizon spill from investigators.

The three cities with the most air pollution in the country are all in California, but L.A. only comes in third. A couple of inland metro areas come in first and second.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Scientists use glow-in-the-dark fish to track hormone-disrupting chemicals

Photo by University of Exeter.

Imagine if your body could tell you where and when a certain chemical is impacting your health. Scientists at the University of Exeter have done just that -- with green-glowing zebrafish, that is.

Researchers genetically engineered young zebrafish to produce a fluorescent glow in the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-A. By exposing fish to endocrine disruptors and observing when individual body parts light up, researchers can learn exactly how and at what concentrations these chemicals impact various organs and tissues. They can then make certain inferences on how endocrine disruptors impact human health.

For instance, observing the glowing fish confirmed previous findings, such as a link between bisphenol A and heart problems.

"We do see in this fish that the heart glows particularly in response to bisphenol A," Charles Tyler, the study's leader, said. "So we can target the heart and try to look at the mechanics of what is happening."

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Adorable alert: Live BABY PANDA cam!

Photo by joelrivlin.

What's black and white and so cute you'll want to squeal like a Bieber-obsessed tween? A baby panda. And now you can see one any time you want.

Read more: Animals

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New research shows Big Tobacco targets black kids

Photo by Fried Dough.

Big Tobacco agreed way back in 1998 to stop marketing [PDF] cigarettes to kids. Turns out cigarette companies are still up to their old tricks -- they’re just being slightly more stealth about it.

Researchers from California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program recently examined the advertising of menthol and Newport-brand cigarettes in the state. They found a much greater prevalence of cigarette advertising in areas near high schools with significant populations of African American students.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

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Oil shale: An environmental disaster waiting to happen?

It used to be that oil came from a hole drilled in the ground. But as oil has become more scarce, the ways of getting at it have become more numerous -- so much so that it's getting hard to keep track. Oil sands, shale oil, oil shale: These are all different sources of oil. And if you can't keep them straight, well, rest assured the oil industry will.

The Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi argues that it's oil shale that might be the extraction point to watch in the coming years:

“Oil shale” is basically rock that contains kerogen. You melt it (loosely speaking) to produce oil. It was a hot prospect in the late 1970s, but when the price of oil crashed, so did development.

Developing oil shale requires huge investments and hasn't made economic sense yet. But at a hearing last week, a former Bush administration official was hitting the Obama administration for limiting oil shale development options.

Read more: Oil

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Watch two guys remove a honeybee swarm with their bare hands

Town and Country Pest Control is a father-son business in upstate New York that takes a holy-shit approach to its work. For instance, in the video below, they remove a bee colony with their bare hands and a box:

But as any bee-savvy keeper will tell you, this isn't as crazy as it looks. Swarms of honey bees like this one are likely searching for a new place to establish a hive. Since they've broken off from an established colony and aren't sure when they'll have a new home, they'll have fattened up on a bunch of honey, which makes stinging difficult. In general, though, honey bees just aren't that dangerous [PDF], beekeepers associations say:

A honey bee sting is rare indeed -- even when bees are swarming. If a honey bee stings, it is usually to defend the hive that contains its young and its food supply -- the honey bee dies as its stinger is ripped from its body.

There's even a long tradition of "bee bearding" -- attracting bees to you and letting them hang out on your body in the shape of a beard.

Read more: Animals

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James Cameron wants to mine asteroids for precious metals. Seriously.

James Cameron is really starting to take his movies too seriously. Last month, the director descended the Mariana Trench in a submarine all beginning-of-Titanic style. Now Cameron and a bunch of other super-rich dudes say they are bankrolling a project to mine space asteroids for precious metals and rare minerals. (Remember Avatar? A bunch of greedy Americans invade a pristine alien planet to extract natural resources. Chaos -- and alien/human love -- ensue.)

Cameron joins Google execs Eric Schimdt and Larry Page, Peter Diamandis (of X Prize fame), Eric Anderson, and other multi-millionaires in launching Planetary Resources, a new company focused on space exploration and innovation. The long-term plan is for the company to mine asteroids for precious metals. Apparently asteroids are veritable treasure troves -- a 98-foot asteroid can hold anywhere from $25 billion to $50 billion worth of platinum.

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These toxic household cleaners can cause asthma or burn your lungs

Ah, America. The country where you're allowed to buy products containing hazardous chemicals that other countries have banned. The Environmental Working Group, the people who brought you the Dirty Dozen list of foods to buy organic, are taking an extensive look at the chemicals in more than 2,000 cleaning products. The group's researchers are months away from being done, but they have already found a slew of products that contain chemicals that are banned abroad, emit toxic fumes that can burns your lungs or eyes, or can cause asthma.

Read more: Green Home