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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Americans walk less than any other industrialized nation

Tom Vanderbilt owns the "how we get around" beat, and we're excited for his new series on walking, the first installment of which was published Tuesday. The juicy bits:

  • Americans walk less than citizens of "any other industrialized nation." (OK, technically just Switzerland, Australia, Japan, and Britain, according to the reports cited in the story. But most likely everywhere else, too.)
  • Walking will save your life: "Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s … walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem," Vanderbilt writes.
  • Pedestrians don't count to traffic engineers: In modeling software, people are "a mere 'statistical distribution'" or "implicit 'vehicular delay.'"
  • The very word pedestrian is an insult to people who aren't driving -- the Greek word it derives from means "prosaic, plain, commonplace, uninspired."
Read more: Transportation

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80 percent of humans are delusionally optimistic, says science

Maybe the reason we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change -- or, indeed, any of the other existential crises we're facing at present -- is that 80 percent of humanity has what's known as an "optimism bias." (If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're among the "lucky" 20 percent whose perceptions of reality are demonstrably realistic.)

People who have an optimism bias do irrational things in the laboratory, like systematically ignoring concrete information about risk, reports Scientific American Mind.

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Detroit residents are turning the city into suburbs

Detroit is undergoing a remarkable process of un-building, its residents literally transforming its denser neighborhoods into sparse suburbs. It's the inevitable consequence of the shrinking of a once-great city.

By estimates of the city and various experts, about 40 square miles of the city's 139 square miles are vacant today -- empty fields from which all structures have been removed.

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Critical List: Mexico City’s pollution-busting vertical gardens; tiny kitchens

Mexico City is building huge vertical gardens to help scrub the city's air of pollution.

In New York City, compost at the giganto Fresh Kills landfill went up in flames, leading to a five-alarm fire.

Oil prices are high enough that energy companies are drilling in the Gulf of Mexico's shallow waters, an area once considered tapped out.

A new study says that, on carbon emissions, natural gas does beat coal as a source of electricity -- even when methane leaks are accounted for. But as a fuel for vehicles, natural gas produces only questionable carbon benefits.

Read more: Uncategorized

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XKCD has some amazing facts about oceans for you

Randall Munroe, writer of the web comic XKCD, has put out another one of his dizzyingly meticulous infographics, and this one is about the depths of various bodies of water. No, wait, don't leave, it's actually really cool!

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Dr. Seuss is the reason the bees are dying

Yeah, you heard me: Dr. Seuss killed the bees. No, wait, stay with me here: See, pesticide kills bees, and, says Mother Jones, a lot of the credit for our widespread use of pesticides may go to Mr. Lorax himself.

Read more: Living

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10 foods with more ammonia than pink slime

One of the most nausea-inducing qualities of "pink slime" (a.k.a. disinfected leftover beef trimmings, a.k.a. the contents of your fast food hamburger patty) is the fact that it's doused with ammonia. But as it turns out, that's not as uncommon as you might like to think. According to the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, a burger patty made with pink slime contains 0.02 grams of ammonia per 100 grams of meat -- but bleu cheese contains almost seven times as much. 

Read more: Uncategorized

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Watch a robot make a 3D-printed chair out of old refrigerators

Designer Dirk van der Kooij makes cool, modern-looking plastic furniture out of defunct refrigerators and other plastic waste. The plastic is ground up, then squeezed out like soft serve into a computerized pattern.

Read more: Green Home

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Chart: The mind-boggling rise in Asian coal consumption

You may have heard that all that coal we're not using in the U.S. is going to China. (Thanks, Warren Buffett!) At Wonkblog, Brad Plumer has posted a chart about this that will boggle your mind:

Read more: Uncategorized