Right Now in Stuff to Blow Your Mind

As a kid, I remember conservation being all about the Three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Thus the triangular formation of green arrows that probably graces all manner of products in your home. But at some point (maybe even from the start), recycling surpassed the other two R's in terms of recognition. It became the talented artist in the passé pop group who obviously needs to go solo. But what of reducing and reusing -- arguably the most important of the three R's? They didn't vanish, only to return years later on some "Remember the '90s" clip show. No, they've been rebranded as the trendier sounding "precycling" and "upcycling," words that happen to look a lot like their popular counterpart. I've posted about upcycling before, so you might already know the deal: It's not just buying a table at Goodwill instead of IKEA.

Are meteorites full of star jelly?

Find any suspicious slime in your backyard following this week's Perseid meteor shower? If so, please read this post before you call NASA. It might save everyone a lot of grief.

Sunken Cities Open Their Doors to Exploration

Fiction lovers adore splendid underwater cities. It used to be the ancient, lost Atlantis (or its similarly mythical colonies) that made regular appearances in books and movies. Then it was high-tech underwater bases. Now it's more likely to be real, recognizable coastal cities drowned in a global warming end game.

Sure, thanks to a pesky sinkhole, all you have are your memories of the Epcot Center's Horizons attraction. But hey, maybe you won't have to wait too long for the real thing. Scientists are once again talking about robot harvesters in a way that brings to mind the ride's futuristic farm equipment (check out the video clip). You can practically smell the oranges.

When you think of future bone replacement methods, you probably either imagine cultivated, lab-grown tissue or some manner of steel and plastic implants. You probably don't think of wood -- at least not inside you. Too many weird "George Washington had carved chompers" connotations to think about. Yet Discovery News is reporting a new procedure may make it possible to turn a block of wood into artificial bone. It's not simply a matter of whittling a femur out of red oak, though.

Space Music: Chill Out with Astronauts and Ambient Music

I know what you're thinking: Isn't there away to stay on the cutting edge of NASA's space missions while ALSO pumping hours of ambient electronic music into your brain? Now there is, as popular Internet radio station SomaFM has unveiled a new channel "Mission Control." So plug in your ear buds, grab that DVD of "2001" and prepare to drift off into deep space.

Light Pollution II: Afraid of the Dark?

As frightening and intimidating as the dark can be, it's something we might need on a biological level. Earlier in the week, I blogged about light pollution and its effects on both the environment and our enjoyment of the night sky. Today, I thought I'd quickly run through some of the possible effects on human health.

Orangutans Play Deceptive Music, as do Headline Writers

I love a good ape-related news story, so naturally I'm all about musical orangutans. But I also love an amusing headline. Lets look at some of the language that media outlets are using to sell this particular science story, shall we?

No Dirty Gold: Precious Metal with a Glittering Past

How ironic is it that gold and diamonds -- substances valued for their purity or clarity -- can turn out to be so messy? By now, most folks have heard of "blood diamonds" (if not from newspaper headlines then from the 2006 movie), as well as the Kimberly Process that protects consumers from unwittingly supporting conflict diamonds. "No Dirty Gold," a campaign based in Washington, D.C., is trying to achieve an ethical standard similar to the Kimberly Process. While gold isn't so closely associated with violence and conflict as diamonds are, there's not much that's pretty about mining the precious metal. According to the Economist, most gold is procured through open-pit mining (gone are the days when '49ers panned riverbeds for sizable nuggets). One ounce of gold requires at least 60 tons of rock be removed; plus, there's the addition of cyanide and mercury used to separate the metal.

Light Pollution is Tarnishing Our Skies

Just take a look at the night sky in this photo. Do those stars look anything like what you encounter in the evenings? If you're like me and live in a densely populated area, then the answer's probably "no." Here in Atlanta, we're lucky to catch a twinkle or two in the haze overhead -- and that's probably just an airliner.

The reign of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was supposed to begin last February. The climate observation instrument would have mapped atmospheric carbon dioxide and tracked greenhouse gas emissions. It would have finally answered some big questions about global warming causing gases and our climate. The only problem? Minutes after its launch, the OCO crashed and burned, bringing nine years of research and development to a sudden halt. Now the National Academy of Science's (NAS) National Research Council is asking NASA to start picking up the pieces -- figuratively of course. According to the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog, NAS wants NASA (oh, the difference a letter makes!) to consider working on a new satellite. NAS isn't satisfied with current atmosphere-bound instruments, pointing out that "the existing atmospheric CO2 sampling network of ground stations, aircraft, and satellites is not well designed for estimation of emissions from large local sources distributed around the globe."

Leechpunk Technology Never Quite Took Off

Have you checked your mechanical assembly of imprisoned leeches to see what tomorrow's weather forecast is? You haven't? Well, that's because the Tempest Prognosticator or "leech barometer" didn't really catch on in nineteenth century England.

Insect Self Defense #32: Bleed All Over the Place

Face it, no matter how many YouTube videos you watch on the subject, trying to disarm a gun-toting attacker is probably going to get you shot. Thus, I suggest an alternative course of action -- a biomimetic self defense strategy patterned after the armored ground crickets (Acanthoplus discoidalis) of Southern Africa.

Wild Turtle Meat: No Longer on the Menu in Florida

While most of your electronics and clothing probably carry the label "Made in China," there's one export that the United States seems to specialize in: turtle meat. The Chinese appetite for turtles -- as well as a popular belief in the animals' medicinal power -- has led to a booming trade between the two countries, leaving conservationists concerned.

Welcome to the Semantic Apocalypse

I find that much of what I read regarding neuroscience stirs the unsettling notion that the human experience itself is little more than an absurd dream, a strange byproduct of evolution. Canadian author R. Scott Bakker ruminates on these topics, weaving imagined worlds with philosophic discourse and neurological research. In his book "Neuropath," he refers to something he calls "the semantic apocalypse." This catastrophe occurs when science shines enough light on the human condition for reason to fail.

NASA on First Name Basis with Whale Sharks

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell one whale shark from another -- it takes a ridiculously complicated computer algorithm designed by NASA. Just look at that photo. The array of white spots on a whale shark's body is essentially a star scape -- and just who makes it their business to map and decipher the heavens?

Ninety is the New 30 -- If You're a Giant Galapagos Turtle

Some men spend quite a lot of time sowing their wild oats before they settle down and start a family. After all, there are places to go, illicit love affairs to pursue and countless anime and manga-themed figures to collect, paint and display in your stylish otaku bachelor pad. Then there's 90-year-old Lonesome George, the only known living Geochelone abigdoni tortoise in the world.

So I'm at work on a Monday reading stories about swimming pools -- I know, an unnecessarily harsh task to subject myself to, right? But I can't seem to escape from articles about urban oases (not to mention a view of one from my desk window). The pools in my reading material differ from the aqua geometrical wedge across the street, though. First up is Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal Dumpster pool -- not as disgusting as it sounds, I promise. Lots of sites have been posting pictures of the neatly arrayed Dumpsters filled with cool-looking deep water and bobbing city dwellers enjoying secret pool parties. The space has been hosting private events since it opened Fourth of July weekend. According to the New York Times, the reworked containers were constructed by the company Macro-Sea, although the idea itself first seems to have appeared in Athens, Ga., a creation of Pylon's Curtis Crowe.

This probably has something to do with my living in Georgia, but I'm more inclined to skimp on heat than on AC when trying to conserve power and lower my bills a bit. Naturally, I'll keep the heat at a level to avoid freezing my pipes, and even crank it up sometimes in the morning or for company. But AC? Sorry -- half my windows are painted shut after all. Forgoing AC in many parts of the country may seem like insanity to a lot of folks -- a recipe for mildewed books, sweat-stained clothes and heat-sick pets. But in light of economic constrictions, some people are doing just that: shutting off their central air or window units for the entire summer. According to the New York Times, which featured a piece on some of these hardy penny-pinchers, window air conditioner shipments from manufacturers to distributors were down 39 percent over last year. Shipments of central air units were down 10 percent this year over the past several. While this might have more to do with the slowed construction industry, it could also be tied to such ambitious abstentions.

Harvesting moon dust with nuclear weapons?

There's a lot of renewed pride and awe going around regarding the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, but what if we'd explored an alternate method of collecting lunar samples and bringing them back home? What if we'd just lobbed an atomic bomb at the old ball of cheese and simply scooped up the debris with a net?