Grist List

Climate Change

‘Himalayan Viagra’ is going extinct

A parasitic caterpillar fungus that grows in the Himalayas has many names, according to Scientific American — yarsagumba, yarchagumba, yartsa gunba, yatsa gunbu. But we are only going to remember one name: Himalayan Viagra. This fungus, which leeches off of Tibetan ghost moth larvae, is said to get the fellas going when boiled and consumed in tea or soup. Oh, it also cures cancer and fights fatigue. Miracle drug! (Scientific American — always with the science! — notes, “These medical claims have not been borne out scientifically.”) As a result of its awesome properties of making everything sexy and cancer-free …

Animals

1915 document shows that penguins are extremely sexually depraved

England’s Natural History Museum at Tring recently rediscovered a 1915 report about penguin behavior that had been buried for almost 100 years — because it was considered too X-rated to be suitable for publication. Which, okay, yes, people from 1915 were prudish, but also, penguins are getting up to some freaky shit.

Cities

Giant Truth or Dare game turns New York into a middle-school party

A lot of people (celebrities, misanthropes, the funny-looking) cherish New Yorkers’ studious lack of eye contact. But designer and copywriter Chelsea Davison wanted to make the city a friendlier place for a day. So she printed up 300 cards offering a “truth” question and a “dare” action, posted them around Washington Square Park, and waited for passersby to be transported back to junior high — with hopefully all the playfulness of a spirited Truth or Dare game, and less of the painful self-consciousness. Perhaps surprisingly, it worked.

Food

Senegal’s salt lakes look like Pepto-Bismol

This is Lake Retba in Senegal, NOT the contents of your stomach when you drink too much Strawberry Quik and then have to chase it down with Pepto-Bismol and tiny boats. The lake itself is actually not in danger, but given that I just yelled “WHAT IN BLAZES?” and nearly dropped a cup of coffee on my dog, I’m still going to label this an environmental hazard.

Living

This graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch looks awesome

I’m Not a Plastic Bag is a graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the agglomeration of plastic flakes that is swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. The book follows the journey of several pieces of trash destined to become part of the patch. The images are beautiful, and the story’s reminiscent of The Brave Little Toaster, updated for a world in which trash doesn’t get to live a second life. The book is by Rachel Hope Allison, who describes herself as “a white girl with curly hair” who is nevertheless “not Jewish, nor am I Chelsea Clinton.” We …

Food

$28 cabbage, $65 chicken, and other insane food prices in Northern Canada

In the farthest-north part of Canada, food is so outrageously expensive that the basic necessities of life are beyond normal people's reach.

Cities

Bereaved husband sues NYPD for failing to investigate pedestrian death

Last summer, 28-year-old Clara Heyworth died while crossing the street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn — she was hit by a car piloted by an intoxicated driver who only had a learner’s permit. The NYPD never conducted an investigation, and the driver received only a violation for driving without a license. Today, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, is suing the New York Police Department and the driver in civil court. Heyworth’s case received basically no police attention. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, with its staff of just 19 people (who we assume are extremely overworked), called off the investigation after an hour …

Oil

A report from inside the Shell ‘oil spill’ party prank

It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant — an “oil derrick” on a cake started “spilling” liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy: The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle. The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong …

Climate Change

Climate change causes monster patch of microscopic plants in the Arctic

There aren’t supposed to be microscopic plants called phytoplankton blooming in the Arctic right now — usually that doesn’t happen until after the ice melts in the summer, i.e. months from now. But a research team has just discovered a huge, 60-mile-long, three-foot-thick slick of phytoplankton where no phytoplankton should be. It was “like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” said one scientist.

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