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Grist List: Look what we found.


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This Texas solar farm uses sheep for its landscaping needs

curious-sheep
Eric Gevaert

Using livestock in the solar power industry is a time-honored practice dating back to at least last Monday. But as handy as it is to have a donkey saddled with solar panels, when the energy requirements grow beyond charging tour laptop, larger and larger solar-animals are required. Eventually, strapping panels to grazing mammals becomes impractical.

That doesn’t mean that big solar plants don’t have a place for some four-hooved hench-creatures, however.

Enter the sheep. (Enter the Sheep, by the way, was to be the title of Bruce Lee’s next film). A small solar farm owned by CPS Energy, the municipal power company in San Antonio, Texas, has enlisted the help of the wooly workers to keep its grounds safe and tidy.

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With Dov Charney gone, these are the only clothes made by dangerous animals

lion_jeans
Zoo Jeans

When supporters of the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Japan, needed to raise money for renovations, they passed on the usual fundraising routes and instead took a leap into the world of high fashion. Rather than recruiting the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, they decided to go in-house with their design process. Specifically: the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) department. Tires and rubber balls were wrapped in sheets of denim before being tossed them to the predators. The resulting Zoo Jeans are "the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals," the volunteer group claims. Zoo Jeans It sure looks like these animals don't mind adding their creative flair and masticatory …

Read more: Living

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Oh, heck yes: Check out these farm tools for women

female-farmer.jpg
Shutterstock

When it comes to products designed for women, the field is full of bubblegum-colored toolkits and dainty pens. "Shrink it and pink it" tends to be the default philosophy of the men wearing ties (presumably uttered as they do Mel Gibson impressions around the boardroom table).

So what happens when the product designers have no Y chromosomes and don gender-neutral polar fleeces instead of suits?

You get Green Heron Tools and a batch of farming and gardening tools that are actually useful for women. Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger founded the business after farming for 20 years and noticing the tools didn't quite work for their bodies. Deborah Huso interviewed the pair over at Modern Farmer:

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Kidney stones: One more thing to look forward to in our climate-changed future

KidneyStone

With the world’s weather warming, you can expect a commensurate rise in the typical summertime body bothers, but what’s the big deal? That’s just the price you pay for modern convenience. Who can’t handle a case of stink-foot, a spot of swamp-butt, pit-stained T-shirts, and stabbing pains in the abdomen and lower back accompanied by excruciating and bloody urination.

Wait a minute, what was that last one?

New research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that even slight warming causes a marked increase in kidney stones. The study focused on 60,000 patients in five U.S. cities, analyzing the frequency of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones within 20 days of temperatures rising above a pretty mild 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In Philadelphia, when average temperatures rose to 86 degrees, kidney stone cases went up a startling 47 percent.

While excessive heat was a big factor, rapid changes in temperature were also a big predictor. Atlanta and Los Angeles, for instance, have the same average temperature of 63 degrees, but Atlanta, which is far more prone to temperature extremes than seemingly climate controlled Los Angeles, had twice the reported rate of kidney stones. Sobering, as most climate models predict not only warmer temperatures, but more radically fluctuating weather patterns.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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We officially nominate M. Sanjayan and Neil deGrasse Tyson for the 2015 season of True Detective

truedetective_sanjayan_tyson
Eve Andrews / HBO / Fox/National Geographic

This year’s Primetime Emmy nominations proved that climate change is Having A Moment right now. (Ha! That is clearly a joke. Every moment belongs to climate change, because it is the inescapable fate of the planet.)

The Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos each garnered Emmy nods for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series. Cosmos was nominated in 11 additional categories.

As you may recall, Tyson took climate deniers to task in an episode of Cosmos, during which he travelled to the major battleground of the climate wars (a.k.a. the Arctic circle). And M. Sanjayan, host of Years of Living Dangerously and executive vice president of Conservation International, traveled the world to show the real-life, on-the-ground consequences of global warming.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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“Bicycle face” for the modern woman

This week, Vox published a great piece on a (completely imaginary) 19th century phenomenon called "bicycle face." In a nutshell: Doctors in the late 1800s invented a velocipedically induced physical condition to dissuade women from riding bikes:

"Over-exertion, the upright position on the wheel, and the unconscious effort to maintain one's balance tend to produce a wearied and exhausted 'bicycle face,'" noted the Literary Digest in 1895. It went on to describe the condition: "usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness." Elsewhere, others said the condition was "characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes."

Fair enough -- keeping one's balance sure is hard! Especially for those of us with uteri, because of our confused and equilibrium-challenged lady-brains.

This got me thinking about different conditions that threaten the modern urban woman trying to get from Point A to Point B. Henceforth, a brief catalogue:

Read more: Cities, Living

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Get off my ice

John Oliver’s Antarctic tourism PSA: “Stick your d*ck in a freezer” instead

antarctica tourism

John Oliver understands why 40,000 people visit Antarctica a year. Free snow cones! And, as if that weren’t enough, free penguins! That sounds like my kind of vacation.

Which is exactly the problem: Tourists bring invasive species along with them, which has some researchers concerned for the future of the frozen continent's unique ecosystems, some of our last remaining pockets of pristine. So, on Last Week Tonight, Oliver offered up his idea for the Antarctica’s new tourist campaign: “Stop coming here.”

Sorry, Oliver, too late. When I was lucky enough to go to Antarctica in 2005, I was blown away by the vastness of the place -- a feeling that set me on track to give a damn about our planetary woes today. It's a bit of a conundrum: I'm glad for that perspective but, like almost anything that anyone does, I know it wasn't free of broader consequence. In any case, we can at least be more thoughtful about how we go about visiting the world's last wild places -- like maybe skip the Neil Armstrong impression on that ancient moss bed.

Read more: Living

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Chinese company creamed for GMO corn thievery

thief
iStock

The FBI has captured members of a super-secret Chinese spy ring whose arsenal included false identities, corporate fronts, Cold War anti-surveillance techniques, Subway napkins and, perhaps most cruelly, Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn boxes. What were they after? Diplomatic communiques? Launch commands? Plans for the Death Star? No.

They were after corn.

And to think they used his own popcorn boxes to smuggle corn out of the country. Poor Orville’s bowtie must be spinning in his grave (assuming he was buried with a novelty spinning bowtie and a robust power supply).

Edvard Pettersson at Bloomberg has cob-bled together the whole seedy tale:

Three years ago, a security guard working for seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred came across something unusual on a road in Iowa: Just off the pavement, a man was on his knees, digging in a field.

Challenged by the guard, Mo Hailong claimed to be an employee of the University of Iowa who was traveling to a nearby conference. He jumped back in his car and sped away.

U.S. authorities would later accuse Mo, and five other Chinese nationals, of stealing corn seeds and attempting to smuggle them back to China.

A seventh defendant, Mo Yun, was arrested and charged Wednesday with stealing trade secrets for her husband's seed company -- the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company.

The details of the case, laid out by prosecutors, underscore the difficulty of safeguarding U.S. intellectual property, and the determination of some foreign rivals to acquire technology by illicit means.

The Chinese company is accused of stealing trade secrets worth an estimated $30-40 million, so you can understand why the feds were all ears. The arrests include that of company president Mo Hailong, better known as the Jason Bourne of Corn. If there’s a kernel of truth to the allegations, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

Read more: Food

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This is what one week of your trash might look like

Garbage stinks for the planet. Food waste is a prime carbon emitter. Plastic junk ends up in our oceans. Still, even well-intentioned greenies probably drop their trash in the dumpster (after sorting the compost and recyclables, of course) and don't think much about their rubbish again.

Photographer Gregg Segal wants to change that. For his ongoing project, "7 Days of Garbage," Segal shows images of people nestled up to the trash they amassed over a week. Spend a little time with the photographs and it's hard not to notice the uneaten grub and glut of plastic:

Gregg Segal
Gregg Segal
Gregg Segal 2
Gregg Segal

Here's a little more about the project from Slate:

Read more: Living

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frond memories

Forget potato salad — fund this science project and help cure the climate

azolla fern crop
David Midgley

Azolla, otherwise known as duckweed, is a tiny aquatic fern with a secret superpower: It can turn nitrogen from the air into plant food.

Actually, azolla can't do this on its own. It relies on symbiotic bacteria tenants who do the real work of 'fixing' the atmospheric nitrogen into a more plant-accessible form. As a result of this tasty talent, azolla can also double its biomass every few days, sequestering large amounts of carbon all the while.

So no wonder a group of researchers at Duke University want you to pitch in to help them sequence the fern's genome, as well as the genomes of all the little microbes who give the plant its edge. Understanding the mechanics behind azolla's magic power may help farmers move away from artificial fertilizers and the pollution associated with them -- Asian rice farmers were planting the stuff alongside their crops 1,500 years ago.