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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Holy crap birds are amazing

Now that we know birds are basically just tiny dinosaurs, it makes them simultaneously more cool and more terrifying. On the one hand: tiny dinosaur that lives in your house and asks you for a cracker! On the other hand: tiny dinosaur that tries to get all up in your boardwalk fries! And here we have a giant band of tiny dinosaurs doing an incredibly elaborate, exquisite undulating choreography on the air. Little lizards, you are pretty incredible.

Read more: Animals

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Most efficient solar panel ever

Physics tells us that the most efficient solar cell should be able to convert 33.5 percent of solar energy into electricity, but to date the closest that the layabouts we call "scientists" were able to manage was 24 percent efficiency. Now a new solar cell has smashed that record, reaching 28.4 percent efficiency. They pull this off using a clever and counterintuitive trick: These panels actually absorb less sunlight than conventional solar cells. Using gallium arsenide, a byproduct of aluminum smelting, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory created a panel that re-emits as fluorescent light some of the photons that hit …

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Infographic: The top toxic health hazards

We figured this depressing Scientific American article about the top 10 pollution-related health hazards deserved the Onion-style infographic treatment. Here are the actual numbers for how many people are being sickened or killed by toxic pollution worldwide: Mercury pollution from gold mining (3.5 million people) Lead pollution from industrial parks (nearly 3 million) Pesticides from agriculture (more than 2.2. million) Lead smelting (just under 2 million) Chromium pollution from leather tanning (more than 1.8 million) Mercury residue from other mining (more than 1.5 million) Lead pollution from mining (more than 1.2 million) Lead pollution from improper battery recycling (nearly one …

Read more: Pollution

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Keystone ‘victory’ is nothing of the sort, say testy wonks

Enviros’ opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has succeeded in delaying or possibly even deep-sixing a project that would have carried oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas (and over a drinking water aquifer and the epicenter of a bunch of earthquakes). But not everyone is celebrating. Professional wet blanket Michael Levi wants you to know that this is probably a pyrrhic victory, more likely to result in delays to the kind of action the U.S. needs to take to avert the worst of climate change's effects. And he has a point, sort of. If Keystone …

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FDA fights fish fraud

Not only is eating fish not the most sustainable of food choices, it's likely a rip-off. If you're eating a pricey fish like cod or salmon, there's more than a one in five chance that it's something much cheaper. The FDA, though, is developing a new regulatory program to fight fish fraud. The agency is building a library of fish DNA that it can use to test samples of raw, frozen, steamed, or deep-fried fish and determine the sample's species. This genetic identification process is known as DNA bar coding, and it's gotten so cheap that the FDA can do …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Critical List: Keystone XL delayed; heating your home with firewood

The Obama administration delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline! (You probably already heard that, but we're still excited!) The White House says the decision's not political but "based on the process that we've been going through" (that up until enviros started protesting was moving swiftly towards approval). Oh, and the decision will now come after the next presidential election. So. Not political at all. Maybe all these failed carbon capture projects should be telling policymakers something. Something like … this is not going to work. Does heating your home with wood make you a "modern-day Paul Bunyan"? We're more …

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How Coke reversed a bottle ban in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is very beautiful, except when it's covered with disposable Dasani bottles left by littering tourists, which is a major problem for the park. So the National Park Service decided to ban disposable bottles. But then a bigwig at Coca Cola, which has donated $13 million to the park service over the years, called the head of the National Park Service and expressed his concern about the bottle ban, reports the New York Times. Mr. Martin, a 35-year veteran of the park service who had risen to the No. 2 post in 2003, was disheartened by the outcome. …

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How delaying Keystone XL could kill the pipeline completely

The Obama administration just announced that the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline will be delayed as it studies a potential new route for the project, one that does not take it across a critical groundwater aquifer that supplies water to more than 1 million people. This delay, projected to be 12 to 18 months, might very well kill the project, says Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, the company building Keystone XL. "How long will those customers wait for Canadian crude oil to get to the marketplace before they sort of throw up their hands and say this is just never going …

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Watch Rick Perry forget that the Department of Energy even exists

Energy. The word you're looking for is energy. Not a big priority, maybe?

Read more: Election 2012, Politics

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Pasadena gets to keep its giant fork

This piece of guerilla art was originally put up as a joke -- Pasadena, Calif. resident Bob Stane made a lot of corny jokes about putting a fork in the road at this fork in the road, so his friend made him an 18-foot-tall one for his 75th birthday. It wasn't technically legal (the fork's creator, Ken Marshall, said his police officer son told him "Dad, you're going to jail for this"), and eventually the California Transportation Authority had it taken down. But by then the fork had become so popular that the city of Pasadena negotiated with CalTrans to …

Read more: Cities