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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Scientists build energy-efficient computer out of crabs

Here is an amazing example of humans piggybacking on a natural phenomenon to create an incredibly clever system: crab-based computing.

A crab-based computer starts with swarms of crabs. These swarms include hundreds of thousands of crabs that, individually, run every which way but that, as a group, progress in one direction. Even more incredible -- when two swarms collide, they merge and start moving along the vector of their combined velocity (hellloooo, high school physics!).

So what does this have to do with computing? A team of researchers set up a system where crab behavior would provide the basic logic on which computers work. For instance, a computer might need to take inputs X and Y, and output the result “X or Y” -- a 1 if either X or Y is 1, and a 0 otherwise. Crabs can do that:

Read more: Energy Efficiency

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Millennials love cities because they provide the one thing their boomer parents couldn’t give them

Why is Gen Y migrating to the cities? Because millennials are craving the things they didn’t get in their suburban upbringings, like connectedness and adventure. Basically, they’re throwing off their cul-de-sac childhoods and seeking out authenticity.

Nathan Norris, urban infrastructure planner, lays it all out at the PlaceShakers blog:

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Critical List: Emperor penguin population double previous estimates; a new fracking working group

A team using very high resolution satellite pictures counted twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica than any previous study had.

President Obama formed a new working group in Washington to coordinate federal oversight of fracking.

Those earthquakes in Oklahoma and Arkansas could be caused not just by fracking wastewater disposal but by fracking itself.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Farm-in-a-truck teaches kids about sustainability

Compass Green is a mobile greenhouse built into a truck, which runs on vegetable oil (natch). Handsome hipsters Nick Runkle and Justin Cutter retooled the truck, which was already fitted with Plexiglas display panels, to turn it into a biofuel-powered educational farm on wheels.

Read more: Sustainable Farming

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Texas got a CRAZY amount of hail

That shit cray.

I know this looks like a firefighter standing in a crack in some rocks, but no, my friend: those are four-foot hail drifts in Amarillo, Texas. The reason they look so dirty is that this is basically the only precipitation the drought-stricken state has been getting lately -- Texas was covered in mostly dust, so now it's covered in mostly dusty ice. Which is not really an improvement in terms of things like agriculture, but it sure looks impressive.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Depressing videos show the human toll of fracking

Because your Friday could use a little bleakness, here's the trailer for Water Defense's "Natural Gas Exxposed" video series, showing the toll that fracking takes on communities.

Read more: Natural Gas

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Government spends $40 million mowing lawns of empty homes

The U.S. government owns 200,000 foreclosed homes. And to keep those empty homes looking spiffy for would-be buyers, the government has to keep up appearances -- including the appearance of the lawn. As a result, we taxpayers are forking over $40 million for lawn-mowing at these uninhabited houses.

Read more: Green Living Tips

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Swedish fast food chain makes bank by becoming ‘Klimatsmart!’

Sweden's No. 1 burger chain got rid of its kids'-meal boxes and, contrary to expectations, sales of the meals rose. Apparently parents who are facing the prospect of their children scrabbling for survival on this wrecked cinder of a planet don’t like creating needless trash? At least in Sweden, anyway.

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Scorcese doc ‘Surviving Progress,’ featuring Margaret Atwood, is now in theaters

Here's the trailer for the new documentary Surviving Progress, which hit theaters in New York on Monday and comes to the rest of the country on April 20.

I think it's important to make a distinction between progress and good progress. Things progress in the sense that they change. But when they reach a certain scale, they turn out to be dead ends.