August 13, 2008 at 11:39 am (movies/video/clips, neat things) ()

Via the Dark Roasted Blend, check out these time-lapse videos of various mushroom types growing up and around.

This first video looks like a clip from some sci-fi horror flick. And in that respect, the soundtrack is absolutely perfect.

This one’s more like Mario Party on acid.

And finally, something that looks like a magical underwater musical instrument.


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Lightning In Slow Motion

August 12, 2008 at 12:53 pm (amazing things, movies/video/clips) ()

Take a look at this short, gorgeous clip of lightning, slowed down to a speed at which the movements of its dendritic tendrils can be observed by the naked eye.

Edited to add: Those first few seconds look incredibly similar to the lights I see when I get migraines. Just like that, with my eye as the sky. I’ve been trying for years to accurately explain them to people; I’m really glad to have such a perfect example to point to from now on.

From MAKE.

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Ice-Free North Pole—This Summer?

June 27, 2008 at 7:25 pm (frightening things) (, , , )

Via Treehugger, reporting on this CNN article.

Over the past few years, scientists have been predicting that a total melting of the geographic north pole will occur around 2050. But with each day, it seems, predictions get dramatically more dire.

Yeah yeah, you’re thinking. I know.

But get this.

Based on information gathered by The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, CO, the center’s senior research scientist says: “We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is ‘does the North Pole melt out this summer?’ and it may well.”

Granted, it’s expected that should the ice melt away completely from that spot, it will re-form shortly after. But still. The bet is 50/50. For THIS summer.


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On Stewardship And A Just Use Of Power

April 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm (environment, injustice, proclamations) (, , , , )

This is what it comes down to.

For those of us who find ourselves in positions of power, there is exactly one right course. There is only one acceptable use of power. We must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must help those in need. We must never, never, use our might to harm those weaker than ourselves. This is our unshakable obligation. This is the one just use for strength.

And that is exactly where we have failed as a species. That is why the damage we have done to the biosphere is so wrong. Forget that we have plundered and destroyed the pristine and the beautiful, forget even that we are endangering our own children: the havoc we wreak on the planet is wrong because we chose to use our power in the wrong way. We could have done better, but we didn’t — we chose not to.

We are the stewards of the Earth. This is not because an omniscient creator-god made us so, gave us dominion over the animals, but because it is humandkind, alone among creatures, with the incredible power to change, pollute, pillage, and destroy the world. No one can deny that we posses this power. We are, so far, incredibly powerful. Alone among species, we control our fate, and the fate of all of creation. We can and we do overpower non-human animals. We can and we do destroy ecosystems, contaminate water and air supplies, turn forests into deserts.

This makes us the stewards of the Earth. We must be the stewards of the planet, for the only alternative is to be its oppressors. We can be caretakers or we can be despots.

There is, of course, exactly one right choice. What is the right choice when an adult encounters an infant? What is the right choice when a child plays with a kitten? When one comes upon a person who is badly hurt?

We must be guardians. If we fail in this regard, we have failed as human beings, exactly as parent who kills a child has failed as a father or mother.

Edited to add on: And so power, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Power can be an incredible force for justice, when used that way.

That’s not to say that unjust power imbalances — like say, between genders or races — are ever okay, or can ever be a force of good. But those that are unavoidable, such as the gap between parents and children, or between people and fish, can be very good. I don’t believe we will ever have egalitarianism amongst species, but I don’t believe we have to in order to have liberty and justice for all.

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Images of Space Debris, Oh My!

April 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm (frightening things) (, , )

Treehugger notes that the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has published a disturbing article about space junk. Summary: there’s a lot more of it than most of us would imagine, and here’s a scary picture to prove it.

Treehugger also takes the next step and breaks down the contents of our pollution of space for us after taking a look at the European Space Agency website

According to ESA’s resident space debris expert, Walter Flury, the 10,000 pieces of space litter catalogued at the end of 2003 break into the following categories:

  • 41% — miscellaneous fragments

  • 22% — old spacecraft

  • 13% — mission related objects

  • 7% — operational spacecraft

  • 7% — rocket bodies

Doing the math, that is 93% pure junk and only 7% useful satellites circling the earth. More disturbing, 50,000 uncatalogued objects larger than 1 cm (the largest size which modern shielding can likely deflect) are estimated to be spinning through space at hypervelocities.

And as Treehugger makes sure to remind us, yes: humans may be at serious risk because of this clutter. No, really.

Good luck with tonight’s sleep, all fellow wonder-worriers, and kiss your “iconic view of Earth” goodbye.

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The imminent need for trained “polar lawyers”.

January 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm (frightening things, politics) (, , )

Next fall, the University of Akureyri (in northern Iceland) is providing a graduate program that focuses on “polar law.” This will be the first such program and, because of the legal issues that will undoubtedly only become more confused as the world’s ice caps and polar resources continue to disappear, it will surely not be the last.

Emphasis is placed upon relevant areas of public international law, such as environmental law, the law of the sea, questions of sovereignty and boundary disputes on land and sea, natural resources law, the rights of indigenous peoples in the north, self-government and good governance, and land and resources claims in the polar regions.


Via Boing Boing.

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One Foot At A Time

January 14, 2008 at 11:38 am (amazing things, environment) (, )

We blogged about FreeRice awhile back — the site where answering vocab questions allows you to donate rice* to people who need it, via ad revenue.

Inspired by FreeRice, here’s a new, equally awesome project (via). At, you answer trivia questions to buy rainforest for conservation, one square foot at a time. According to the site, you save one square foot for everything four question you answer correctly. You can choose from a few categories of questions, look at the site’s traffic stats to see how much land has been saved so far, and even submit a question of your own. It’s like Trivial Pursuit, but solitary, and helping to preserve the rainforest.

Go play.

* Now up from 10 grains per correct answer to 20! You’re web-surfing counts more than ever.

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Test Your Geographical Knowledge

January 6, 2008 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I’m embarrassingly bad with geography. Luckily, I’ve come across this fun game that looks like it may help me out in that respect. Give it a shot.

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Edward Burtynsky and Manufactured Landscapes

December 7, 2007 at 12:25 am (amazing things, art, environment, frightening things, injustice, movies/video/clips) (, , , , , , )

Today in one of my classes we watched about 30 minutes of the film Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary about Edward Burtynsky and his photography, which exposes and explores globalized industry’s effects on the world’s environment. Both the movie and the images that inspired it are visually striking and emotionally haunting. This is definitely something I must see in its entirety. Disruptively upsetting, but mesmerizing and, in an almost perverse sense, beautiful.

(Not sure I’m completely on board with the “no right or wrong way to look at this” sentiment, but, okay.)

Another thing the film does well (at least in the small portion I’ve seen, and corroborated by a classmate’s post-viewing comments), intentionally or not, is to highlight the role played by economic superpowers (hint: US) and the necessitation of severely oppressive class exploitation for the current mode of industrial resource extraction and production to work (maybe that’s a “duh,” but the inescapable visual depiction really enforces and confirms that understanding).

Can’t go wrong with this one, I don’t think.

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The Bush Administration estimates the value of one Mexican at under 37 cents.

November 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm (injustice, politics, racism) (, , , )

So huge amounts of Mexico are under water, as you probably know. This post at Feminste led me to this post by brownfemipower which very succinctly summarizes all the fucked up shit that is going down, like for example that the US is only giving $300,000 in aid for refugees. Three hundred thousand dollars? When we’re sending upwards of $50 million for a crackdown on the drug trade?

$300,000 for more than 800,000 refugees means less than $0.37 per drenched, homeless human being. That is some crazy, evil stuff.

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