These 5 Foods Will Be Harder to Grow in a Warmer World

‘The reality of climate change has already hit farms, ranches, and orchards around the globe, according to the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While some crops will grow better in a warmer world, the report found that the negative impacts—including widespread crop damage, smaller harvests, and higher food costs—far outweigh any upsides.

The report predicts that yields of major food crops like corn, wheat, and rice are likely to start decreasing by 2030 and will continue to decline by up to 2 percent a decade.

No particular crops are likely to disappear any time soon… [but] five bellwether foods… could be especially challenging to grow in a changing climate:’  avocados, almonds, grapes, milk and tree fruits (such as cherries and apples). (

National Geographic)

R.I.P. Peter Matthiessen

Author and Naturalist Is Dead at 86. “[His] nonfiction explored the remote endangered wilds of the world and whose fiction often placed his protagonists in the heart of them.” (NYTimes.com).

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The Lost World of Stefan Zweig


Wes Anderson’s new film The Grand Budapest Hotel does much to bring Zweig’s particular brand of elegiac to the screen. Once one of the world’s most celebrated living writers, Zweig had lapsed into an undeserved obscurity, and Anderson goes far to resurrect a wondrous sensibility. From Zweig’s almost cloying candy-colored atmospheres — virtually tailor-made for Anderson’s brand of visual whimsy — to the inevitability of global catastrophe, casting a pall over even the happiest moments of domestic comfort, The Grand Budapest Hotel manages to capture nearly all of Zweig’s most striking qualities. Yet the film’s final tragedies — the rise of a (spoiler alert!) Nazi-esque regime in the fictional republic of Żubrówka, the 11th-hour execution of the hotel’s effete concierge, the untimely death due to illness of our young protagonist’s new bride — veer from Zweig’s sensibility in the grandness of their scale, a grandness much more evocative of Hollywood than of Vienna in the 1930s.

What The Grand Budapest Hotel forgets, and what Zweig never does, is that what humans do, and leave undone, is no less catastrophic at the hearth than it is on the battlefield.’ (LA Review of Books)

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Dolphin Talk and Human Credulity

‘It appears to have been just bad luck that one British newspaper, The Independent, chose April 1 as the day to publish James Vincent’s science report about a significant animal-to-human communication breakthrough.

I hope it worries animal researchers at least as much as it worries me that I had to do some reading around and cross-checking to be sure that the report wasn’t an Onion-style April Fool’s Day hoax. But I found that The Daily Mail had already reported on the same finding on March 27, so I’m quite sure both newspapers are serious.’ (The Chronicle of Higher Education).

The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism

0457 Music Critic

Music Critic

‘Should gainfully employed adults whose job is to listen to music thoughtfully really agree so regularly with the taste of 13-year-olds? Poptimism is a studied reaction to the musical past. It is, to paraphrase a summary offered by Kelefa Sanneh some years ago in The New York Times in an article on the perils of “rockism”: disco, not punk; pop, not rock; synthesizers, not guitars; the music video, not the live show. It is to privilege the deliriously artificial over the artificially genuine. It developed as an ideology to counteract rockism, the stance held by the sort of critic who, in Sanneh’s words, whines “about a pop landscape dominated by big-budget spectacles and high-concept photo shoots” and reminisces “about a time when the charts were packed with people who had something to say, and meant it, even if that time never actually existed.” ‘ (NYTimes.com).

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Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians…Again

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of ...

John D. Rockefeller

‘Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier.

And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more.

In the post-McCutcheon world, the 0.1 percent are far more important than most candidates. The press needs to treat them that way and subject their views to scrutiny.’  - Peter Beinart (The Atlantic).

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‘Coffee Flour’: The Java You Can Eat

'Coffee Flour': The Java You Can Eat - Megan Garber - The Atlantic

‘Making coffee is a complex thing. Long before the stuff makes it to your cup/glass/comically large thermos, it must be converted—from fruit to bean. Doing that requires that the fruit (the “cherries”) be harvested from “spindly, bush-like” coffee plants. The cherries must then be processed, their beans extracted from their pulp. The beans must then be dried, roasted, and otherwise converted into the thing most of us know as “coffee.”

This process is not only labor-intensive; it is is also wasteful. It results in, among other things, much of the coffee cherry being discarded.

Out in (yep) Seattle, there’s a startup, CF Global, that is trying to reclaim the coffee cherry. Its big idea is this: to take the remnants of the process that turns the coffee bean into a beverage … and turn them into food.

The result of this? Coffee Flour, a food ingredient that’s made from discarded coffee cherries. You take the pulp that gets separated from the coffee been in that initial extraction process and then dry it and mill it—the results being a flour that can, CF Global says, mimic traditional flour. Coffee Flour, the company claims, can be used in pasta and baked goods. It can work as a dry rub for meats. It can bring coffee flavor to sauces. It can even be used in energy drinks.’ (The Atlantic).

Conservative filmmaker Pat Dollard: “Time for Americans to start slaughtering Muslims in the streets”

‘A Breitbart contributor, and former agent to director Steven Soderbergh, gave this disgusting response to Ft. Hood… The comment came as news swept Twitter of a shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, where former Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people in 2009. The offending tweeter, Pat Dollard, himself tweeted news of the shooting as it broke, before making the aforementioned hideous statement (which, perhaps surprisingly, he has not deleted at the time of this writing).’ (Salon.com).

De-Extinction Brings Dead Species Back to Life

 

Passenger pigeon.

Passenger pigeon

With technology reminiscent of Jurassic Park, scientists plan to revive long-extinct species like the passenger pigeon. (Utne Reader)

 

 

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How To Donate Your Voice To Someone Who Can’t Speak

‘Here’s a good deed you can do without parting with a single thing. Synthetic voices for people who have lost the ability to speak only come in generic types—think of Stephen Hawking‘s voice—but one fascinating project wants to build custom voices for each person. To do that they need your help: specifically, a recording of your voice.

VocalID is the brainchild of two speech scientists, who are turning their research into a much larger project. Voice is intensely personal and, like a prosthetic leg or arm, it makes sense it should be customized to each person.

Here’s how it works—and don’t worry, this does not mean someone will be walking around with the same voice as you out there:

After recording a couple hours of audio in, say, a quiet room with an iPhone, you send it to VocalID, where a program called ModelTalker chops it up into the basic units of speech that can be recombined as novel words and sentences. In that same step, characteristics of the patient’s voice—based on what limited sounds they can make—are blended in to the donor’s to create a whole new one. You can listen to how it works out on VocalID’s website.

VocalID is still in its beginning stages, and they’re looking for help from everyone including voice donors, financial support, and programmers. A priority is making voice donation even easier, cutting down recording time, especially for kids. But as it stands already, your voice is just about the easiest thing to donate.’ (Gizmodo)

 

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New Big Bang Evidence Suggests Presence of Alternate Universes

‘The same research that revealed the first-ever direct evidence of Big Bang inflation earlier this week also suggests the presence of alternate universes.

So, universes just like our own, except separate? Not exactly. Miriam Kramer explains:

The new research also lends credence to the idea of a multiverse. This theory posits that, when the universe grew exponentially in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others. This could have created “bubbles” of space-time that then developed into other universes. The known universe has its own laws of physics, while other universes could have different laws, according to the multiverse concept.‘ (Gizmodo).

The World’s Largest Telescope Is Finally Getting Underway

It’s been almost five years since Gizmodo first reported on the Thirty Meter Telescope, a mega-telescope with a resolution ten times that of the Hubble. Now, it seems the long-delayed project’s time has come: Hawaii has agreed to lease a parcel of land for the telescope, and officials say construction could begin as soon as April.

The TMT dates back to the 1990s, when the idea was first broached by a group of California scientists. In the years since, their idea has taken on the details of a real plan: An almost 100-foot-wide mirror made up of just less than 500 segments, ensconced on a astronomy park atop a dormant volcano called Mauna Kea, where it will do everything from detect light from the earliest stars to search out evidence of dark matter.’ (Gizmodo).

Exploring literature’s most sinister syllable

‘Sherlock Holmes’s mortal nemesis was Professor Moriarty.

Harry Potter’s nemesis was Voldemort.

Doctor Who had a nemesis named Morbius. So did Spider-Man. Morbius was also the name of the antagonist in The Forbidden Planet.

Frodo Baggins went through the mines of Moria to get to Mordor, where he met Sauron, who, as great a villain as he was, started out as the lieutenant of Morgoth, the original and darkest villain in the world of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

H.G. Wells sent his time traveller into the future to encounter a cave-dwelling evil race called the Morlocks. He also created an evil genius called Dr. Moreau.

King Arthur was betrayed by Mordred.

The really scuzzy city in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is Morpork.

So what’s the deal with “mor”? Is there something to the syllable that suits it for melancholy, darkness, and villainy?’ (The Week).

4 Miles Over Britain Pilot Is Sucked Out; Crew Holds On Tight

English: Winchester Cathedral A plane - no dou...

‘The pilot of a passenger plane was partly sucked out of the cabin window onto the nose cone of the jet today after its windshield blew out at 23,000 feet. But he was saved by crew members who clung to his ankles for 15 minutes until the co-pilot landed the plane safely in southern England.

Several of the aircraft’s 81 passengers said they watched in horror as crew members frantically wrestled to pull Capt. Timothy Lancaster back into the cockpit. The plane went into a dive, but with half of Mr. Lancaster’s body hanging outside the co-pilot flew the aircraft to Southampton Airport, 70 miles southwest of London.’ (New York Times).

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The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

‘Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.’ (The Atlantic).

Why the Big Bang Discovery Is Even More Important Than You Think

‘As you’ve probably heard, yesterday a team of scientists identified evidence of cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang, a finding which helps explain how the entire Universe originated. Amazing as that sounds, it’s way more important than you even imagine.

To truly grasp the significance, let’s start with what exactly it is that the Harvard team found. Forget analogies about ripples in ponds or whatever other over-simplified guff you’re read. Here’s what actually happened.’ (Gizmodo).

How Biotech Could Make Life in Prison a Living Hell

‘At the University of Oxford, a team of scholars led by the philosopher Rebecca Roache has begun thinking about the ways futuristic technologies might transform punishment. In January, I spoke with Roache and her colleagues Anders Sandberg and Hannah Maslen about emotional enhancement, ‘supercrimes’, and the ethics of eternal damnation. What follows is a condensed and edited transcript of our conversation…’ (Gizmodo).

New-Car Smell: Formaldehyde, Which Makes You Sick

‘In the course of his research on the New Orleans trailer park culture that developed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oxford anthropologist Nick Shapiro stumbled on something unexpected. At 250 square feet, the FEMA-issued mobile homes were scarcely fit to live in, but there was one thing about them that, for their occupants, represented the height of luxury: a scent evocative of the interior of a new car. This smell was also making them sick.’ (New Republic).

Woods Around Chernobyl Are Unable to Decay

‘Like a landscape of the undead, the woods outside Chernobyl are having trouble decomposing. The catastrophic meltdown and ensuing radiation blast of April 1986 has had long-term effects on the very soil and ground cover of the forested region, essentially leaving the dead trees and leaf litter unable to decompose. The result is a forest full of “petrified-looking pine trees” that no longer seem capable of rotting.

Indeed, Smithsonian reports, “decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil.” …’ (Gizmodo).

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All the aircrafts that have mysteriously vanished since 1948

‘As this Bloomberg map shows, Malaysian flight 370 is not the first flight to mysteriously disappear. 83 flights have vanished since 1948—80 of them never to be found again (the dots in yellow). This map only includes flights capable of carrying more than 14 passengers.

Some more curious stats:

  • Five planes were missing in the famous Bermuda Triangle.
  • The DC-3 is the airplane with the higher count of disappearances: 19.
  • The average number of people missing: 13.
  • The average number of vanished flight per year: 1.2.’ (Gizmodo).
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Beers Implicated in Emergency Room Visits

‘Nationwide, roughly a third of all visits to emergency rooms for injuries are alcohol related. Now a new study suggests that certain beverages may be more likely to be involved than others.

The study, carried out over the course of a year at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, found that five beer brands were consumed most often by people who ended up in the emergency room…’ (NYTimes.com). Before you click through to the article, can you guess?

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10 Recipes for Guaranteed Unhappiness

English: "Stone of unhappiness acident&qu...

‘How come we keep getting lost on our way to happiness and yet many of us are masters in the “art” of unhappiness?

To cut a long story short, here they are:

  • Be, act and feel a victim!
  • Be angry, you have reasons!
  • Control everything, all the time!
  • Do everything perfectly all the time!
  • Please everyone!
  • Be convinced that life is a jungle where only lions thrive!
  • Be busy!
  • Always be dissatisfied!
  • Trust no one!
  • Always expect the worst!’ (Medium).
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Why The Blair Witch Project Is Still the Scariest Movie Ever

Blair Witch was at mt.Charleston - IMG_7195

‘Why Blair Witch remains one of the most frightening films ever made is precisely because of what all those so-called “reality” techniques don’t show. The found-footage and the first-person camera and even the low budget actually enabled a lack of information that allowed our imagination to fill in the blanks. It was the standard ghost story we’d all grown up with, but we were able to annotate it with whatever version of that story that had terrified us when we were seven. We wanted to believe. And we did. Some of us a little too much.’ (Gizmodo).

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The Left Must Derail Hillary Clinton in the Primaries

Hillary Rodham Clinton, January 2007

John R. MacArthur: ‘As a presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in 2016 appears ever more likely, it’s a good moment to ask what alternative exists to lying down and letting such a campaign drown the body politic.

Time is short. The queen of cynics, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, already has pronounced her gorgon’s judgment on the inevitability of Hillary versus Jeb. “The looming prospect of another Clinton–Bush race makes us feel fatigued,” yawns the perpetually bored Dowd, who, on the contrary, relishes a future of easy columns mocking America’s two leading political dynasties.

What about the rest of us? Is it inevitable that we swallow the nomination of

Jeb Bush

the neo-liberal Clinton, whose support of Bush’s Iraq madness (not to mention Obama’s Afghan and Libyan stupidity) and her husband’s recklessly pro-“free trade,” pro-banker, pro-deregulation politics ought to send reasonable liberals fleeing? Is it predestined that principled conservatives accept the anointment of the thoroughly fraudulent Jeb, whose support of his brother’s interventionist folly, along with his own outrageous meddling as governor of Florida to “rescue” brain-dead Terri Schiavo, should give pause to even the greediest oil baron seeking patronage from a Republican administration?’ (Harper’s Magazine).

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Rescuing the Atomic Dog

Nuclear weapon test Bravo (yield 15 Mt) on Bik...

‘Can dogs survive nuclear fallout? Indeed they can.

In 1958, American scientists were stunned to find a canine survivor of the disastrous Castle Bravo test—the largest ever U.S. nuclear detonation. It also took a little politicking with American Airlines to rescue the pooch.

For science.

…If it wasn’t for [Ernest Williams, a trustee at the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas], the atomic dog would have been left stranded on a contaminated Pacific atoll.’ (Medium).

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New International Pact Aims to Protect the Sargasso Sea—Why It’s Worth Saving

‘Five countries signed an agreement this week committing to the protection of the Sargasso Sea, which occupies a vast stretch of the North Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda.

The Sargasso has long attracted the attention of conservationists and scientists because it hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, including leatherback sea turtles, humpback whales, and bluefin tuna. The animals eat and take shelter in a seaweed called sargassum, which floats in massive quantities in the area—some say it looks like a golden, floating rain forest—and gives the sea its name.

Fishing and shipping traffic threatens to unravel this biologically rich ecosystem, on top of broader threats like climate change and ocean acidification.

The new nonbinding agreement on the Sargasso, called the Hamilton Declaration, is a first for the high seas.’ (National Geographic).

TV Networks Can Live On — By Taking Themselves Off the Air

CES: CBS Keynote: Leslie Moonves

‘Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, the country’s most powerful TV broadcaster, is threatening to take his network off the air. And that’s not such a bad idea.

On Tuesday, Moonves told CBS-owned CNet that his TV network could move to an internet direct-subscription model if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Aereo, the service that lets you grab TV airwaves with a personal antenna for viewing on your PC, tablet, or phone…

[T]he case for an all-subscription model makes a surprising amount of sense  – especially when you consider that paying a la carte for what you watch is TV’s inevitable future. By going all-subscription now, the big networks would have a chance to define that future rather than becoming its victims.’ (Wired.com).

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Bombogenesis, the Most Extreme Weather This Winter

‘Move over, thundersleet and frost quake and all you other weird winter weather names. The undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the climate-changed world is: bombogenesis!

This delicious buzzword, which is a portmanteau of “bomb cyclogenesis” and refers to the sudden intensification of storms after a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure, has been tumbling off lips this polar vortex winter. In the latest Science Graphic of the Week, you can see why.’ (Wired Science).

Paul Ryan’s worthless attempt to save face: Why he’s still an overrated fraud

‘Beltway writers have recently tried to outdo themselves with breathless profiles of a “new” Paul Ryan, deeply concerned about the poor. I’ve warned repeatedly that Ryan’s views on poverty are just warmed-over Reaganism, and now we have proof. McKay Coppins’ piece “Paul Ryan Finds God” should have revealed that his God is no longer Ayn Rand but Charles Murray, the man who put a patina of (flawed) social science on Reagan’s lyrical lie, “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”

But let me explain all of what it means to cite Charles Murray in 2014. Murray is so toxic that Ryan’s shout-out must be unpacked. First, Rep. Barbara Lee is absolutely right: Ryan’s comments about “inner city” men who are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work” are, in fact, “a thinly veiled racial attack,” in the congresswoman’s words. “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’” ‘ (Salon.com).

Rare mutant redwood to be chopped down to make way for railroad

A branch from an 'albino' Sequoia sempervirens...

“An extremely rare albino chimero coast redwood tree is growing in the small Sonoma County town of Cotati. Federal regulators say the tree must be chopped down because the genetically mutated redwood is too close to a proposed set of new railroad tracks. Preservationists are hoping to raise public awareness and save the tree. The tree is believed to be one of fewer than 10 albino chimero redwood trees in the world.” — Mark Frauenfelder (Boing Boing)

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Nuclear crisis at Fukushima continues to unfold

‘Miles O’Brien, science correspondent for PBS NewsHour, has produced a series of three must-see investigative reports revisiting the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan. His stories explore how the radiation leaks triggered by the earthquake and tsunami are continuing to affect life there, and beyond.’ — Xeni Jardin (Boing Boing). Xeni, who is Miles O’Brien’s significant other, ends her post by letting us know that Miles recently suspended his reporting career after he lost his left arm in an accident while on assignment in the Philippines, but that he is healing well.

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