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Furries? Feet? Forget it: This flower’s weird sexual hangup has us humans beat

Axinaea-sp-Melastomataceae
Andreas Kay

It’s the age-old story: Boy lures bird close by offering bird his delicious genitals. Bird eats genitals. Boy, using his highly evolved bellows organ, explosively projects his gametes all over bird. Bird flies away, perhaps a little ashamed. Boy hopes bird lands on girl, covers her in his genetic material.

Or at least, that’s how Axinaea, a small South and Central American rainforest shrub, does it. And that’s the birds-and-the-bees story my kids are getting.

Phys.org has the rest of the tawdry tale:

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Marginalia

The 15 things I underlined in Dan Barber’s smart new book

danbarber

Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food is full of great stories, larger-than-life characters, and descriptions that made me hungry. But if you strip away all that, what remains is a collection of delightful facts and ideas. These are the things that made me scribble stars in the margin:

1. Child “rearing begins, not at birth, or even conception, but one hundred years before the child is born.” That’s how long it takes to build the environment and community that child will live in.

2. "If you don't count corn sweeteners, we eat more wheat than every other cereal combined."

3. In the 1800s, the East Coast was America's breadbasket. "Gristmills dotted the countryside -- one for every seven hundred Americans in 1840."

Read more: Food, Living

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Zero-energy house of the future could be lurking in your neighborhood

NIST-house
Reuters

Wondering what houses will look like in the future? Wonder no longer! Gaze upon the net-zero energy test house built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)! Gaze, I say!

Have you gazed yet?

And you’re back?

OK, so houses in the future will look exactly like every other boring house in the dull neighborhoods replacing amber waves of grain from coast to coast. And as far as it goes, that’s a good thing. People love boring. Community associations love boring. Boring is sexy. If it looked like an H.R. Giger fever dream people wouldn’t build them.

This particular house was built to do everything the typical American family of four does and end up using zero net energy, and after a year, it turns out it didn’t quite work out: Despite massive snowfalls and a rough winter, the home actually produced 441 more kilowatts of energy than it used, enough to drive an electric car over 1,400 miles -- which, considering the house was built in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, the most boring place in America, might be far enough to get you someplace interesting.

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Move the Goal

Yes, Brazil’s loss was a shocker — but please don’t call it a disaster

sad Brazilian tumblr
sadbrazilians.tumblr.com

Shocker. Upset. Fail. These are perfectly appropriate words to describe Germany's 7-1 takedown of Brazil in the World Cup today.

But let's tread lightly on the "disaster" talk, please.

Look, I get it. Brazil is a soccer-mad country of close to 200 million people and the host country of this year's Cup. Brazil has won five World Cup titles, more than any nation. Brazil birthed Pelé. The loss is a colossal disappointment, evidence that even soccer superpowers on their home turf are vulnerable.

But a calamity, this is not.

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Gingers are here to stay

No, of course climate change won’t make redheads go extinct

red hair
Shutterstock

The British media landscape is lighting up with dreadful news for our most fair-skinned friends. If the Independent, Telegraph, Daily Mail, MirrorWeather Network, Huffington Post, and other outlets are to believed, climate change threatens to send red-haired folks into extinction. Extinction!

Fortunately for redheads everywhere, and for everybody who loves them, the news is less credible than a hair product manufacturer's claim that its dyes won't fade.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Dead Heat

Hot summers make for a bloody Chicago

summerchicago
Seth Anderson

The Fourth of July weekend is widely recognized as a nice little oasis in the middle of the summer for Americans to reflect on their love of country through explosions, grilled meats, and beer (not necessarily in that order.) By contrast, this year's holiday in Chicago was commemorated by 82 shootings, including more than a dozen murders. Yesterday, the murder count for the city hit the 200 mark.

In a city so infamously beset by violence that it's earned the nickname Chiraq, the general trend has been that murders become more frequent in warmer weather. In 2012, there were 500 murders in Chicago, and many attributed the jaw-dropping figure -- the highest in the country -- to an unseasonably warm spring and unbearably hot summer. It wasn't hyperbole: I was there, and I didn't fully comprehend the meaning of "stifling heat" until July 2012.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics

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Wild Mannered

Should wilderness get the axe?

Redwoods
Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

This year, the Wilderness Act turns 50. As is the custom, please join me in celebrating by watching some dewy timelapses set to heart-swelling ambient tunes (above). Let us now bow our heads to Gaia and call on our spirit animal (mine's a tuatara). At Grist, we tend to check redwoods and capital-C Conservation at the door and focus on climate action and culture with a modern, urban spin. But over on The New York Times opinion pages, writer Chris Solomon put pixels and ink behind something I (and plenty of others) have been thinking about for a long time: Carbon emissions …

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This fake LEGO ad shows the Arctic drowning in an oil spill

I don't know who thought it was a good idea to get their kids a Shell-themed LEGO set, but apparently someone did, or Greenpeace would not have had to make this depressing video protesting the advertising partnership between the world's largest toy company and a global fossil fuel conglomerate. (I mean, child-me would definitely have coveted those polar bear and husky minifigs, but a flaming oil rig?)

In fact, LEGO and Shell go way back, to the 1960s when the popular build-it-yourself toy company started selling Shell-branded toys to future engineers. But now, with Shell making persistent yet tentative moves in the warming Arctic, Greenpeace is calling out the companies' 2012 contract, which they claim is worth $116 million to Shell's PR department. The run of logo-bedecked toys are sold at gas stations in 26 countries, and have supposedly been accompanied by a 7.5 percent increase in Shell sales.

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parks and reparations

How our fear of “wilding” colored the Central Park Five case

wildingCP5
PBS - The Central Park Five

The New York City men known as the “Central Park Five” will reportedly receive $40 million for their wrongful convictions and imprisonment after police falsely accused them of attacking and raping a white woman 25 years ago. It’s hard to imagine what financial amount, if any, could adequately repair what was taken from these five lives: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. They were just boys when they were arrested, the youngest 14; all of them of African American or Latino American heritage. They spent the rest of their teenage years in jail, one of them in the notorious Riker’s Island penitentiary.

They were exonerated in 2002 when Matias Reyes confessed to sexually assaulting the victim, Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old investment banker who was jogging in Central Park. Her almost lifeless body was found in the early morning of April 20, 1989. Police picked up the other five boys for the crime because they were part of a larger group of kids who were in Central Park that night causing other mischief -- what the media referred to then as “wilding.”

The story leading up to their absolution is an instructive tale of how prejudice functions specifically in spaces where the general public is supposed to exist harmoniously with nature. The greenspace of Central Park wasn’t and hasn’t been a shield against racism and rape culture. In this instance, the park was used as an instrument for dehumanizing black and Latino youth, felon-izing their behavior in the process.

Read more: Cities, Living

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‘Rollin’ Coal’ culture warriors want to douse your Prius with their smoke-belching trucks

bigtruck
Shutterstock

H.L. Mencken is often quoted as saying, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” He got close, but he never uttered those actual words. Probably because he’d never seen these guys:

A hot new trend known as “Rollin' Coal” is sweeping the stupider corners of the country. If you are unfamiliar with the craze (in the truest, craziest sense of the word), forgive me for bursting your blissful bubble. Coal rollers modify their diesel pickups to get shittier mileage and belch as much pollution as possible, then blast a wall of black to show off to their friends and piss off environmentalists and anyone who likes breathing. “Prius Repellant” decals are a popular accoutrement for rollin aficionados who thought Calvin peeing on things was too subtle.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living