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Space odyssey

We live in magical times: you read in the news that our national space shuttle just floated away from the international space station, and just that sentence seems like it comes from the future, even now. Even after I've heard it 100 times. For a few goosebumps, if you're a space nerd like me, watch this tour of the space station. If you're short on time, the payoff comes at about 8:40, when you can see out the magnificent Millennium Falcon-like window a floating blue sphere.
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A billion heartbeats

I stumbled on this, from a story from a dozen years ago: As animals get bigger, from tiny shrew to huge blue whale, pulse rates slow down and life spans stretch out longer, conspiring so that the number of heartbeats during an average stay on Earth tends to be roughly the same, around a billion. A mouse just uses them up more quickly than an elephant. If that doesn't beat all. I'm going to look around for more references to this incredible idea -- that all animals get about a billion ...
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Mountainfilm in Telluride

For 18 years, I have participated in the ongoing conversation about mountaineering, social action, and the environment known as Mountainfilm in Telluride. It is a remarkable gathering in the remote San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I'm always thrilled by the engaged lives of those who come to present their latest thinking represented in books, photography, and documentary films. Their inspirational creativity, dedication, and progressive ideas draw us all back to Telluride like ...
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How to Pick Your Pet

[caption id="attachment_4348" align="alignnone" width="296" caption="Squirrel monkeys are cute, but not a great choice for a pet. "][/caption] Most of us had tabby cats or Labrador retrievers, but we probably all knew a kid who had a boa constrictor or a turtle for a pet. Maybe you were that kid, the one who got the expensive terrarium and the iguana? Or are you the parent with the aquarium and the exotic fish? There's more to picking a pet, it turns out, than just finding the most ...
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Silent Spring

When Rachel Carson wrote her seminal book-- Silent Spring --she was referring to the lack of birds singing in American forests caused by the effects of chemicals in their environment. Another "silent spring" has occurred but this time to the Mars Spirit rover which was just declared dead by NASA. [caption id="attachment_4328" align="aligncenter" width="265" caption="Mars Spirit rover. photo credit: JPL/NASA"][/caption] Spirit and its companion rover Opportunity were only designed to ...
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Bears in space

Animals can survive in space. At least one, anyway. The water bear, a microorganism any mother could love, [caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Water bear"][/caption] is going up for another round of extreme testing. These guys survived 10 days in the cold vacuum of space in 2007. When they returned home and reproduced, they were triumphantly given ticker tape parades. Fittingly, this little guy is going on t-shirts. And he's getting another test. On ...
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Gorilla Reunion

This is a remarkable video about human and animal compassion. It is well worth viewing. WHB
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Workers of the world, reuse!

Is collaborative consumption communist? By Reilly Capps I worry what the neighbors will think. And so reading a book called "What's Mine is Yours" in public is terrifying, on account of the fact that I don't want people to think I'm a communist.  The point of the book is that, in the future, we will own many more things collectively, sort of like they did in Russia. So I jettisoned the bright shiny dust jacket and covered up the spine with a copy of "Juggs." But don't worry! I'm no ...
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What kind of propellers should we build?

By Reilly Capps How much should a country spend on its military? And how much should it invest trying to power itself? China is answering that question one way. The U.S. is answering it another way. China is, of course, poorer than us. But their priorities are clearly tilted toward trying to power themselves. Even though their economy is smaller, the government invests more on developing clean tech than we do ($65 billion vs. $45 per year, according to one report. Another report ...
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Artificial photosysntesis---the "real deal" game-changer

Biology, mathematics, and chemistry, were like playing for me-- physics, however, was a big stretch. I barely passed exams on vectors, forces, and electric currents in my college physics class. Years later, I toured a physics research lab in Colorado where they were trying to create artificial photosynthesis using a solid gold aspen leaf attached to a couple of wires. I thought the physics guys were crazy attempting to duplicate the process that powers life on Earth when green plants do it ...
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Reefs on the move

Corals cover less than 1 percent of the world's oceans — an area smaller than France or Germany — but the reefs provide habitat for maybe 25 percent of the world's marine biodiversity. Corals develop from a symbiosis between an algae and a coral polyp, an animal that produces the hard structures of the reef. Only tropical rain forests compete with the volume of life in these marine gardens. [caption id="attachment_4251" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Philippine coral reef.   ...
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Connecting the world

By Reilly Capps Part of the reason we don't help the developing world as much as we could is because we don't know anything about the people who live there. Making things better requires a connection. This is what Marc Heinrich and his wife, Charlotte, learned in Laos. [caption id="attachment_4260" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Marc Heinrich plans his next trip"][/caption] They moved their whole family there a couple years ago and found that there was plenty of ...
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Up the Yangtze...without a paddle

In January 2008, the Sundance Institute presented Up the Yantgze in their festival's documentary competition. The films director-- Yung Chang, a Canadian of Chinese origins --used a powerful storytelling metaphor showcasing a single peasant family to tell a vast narrative about the social and environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam being constructed across the Yangtze River in China. Utilizing compact digital cameras and with fluency in Chinese, Chang was able to film undetected. He  ...
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The century of disasters

My buddy Joel, one of the best science writers in the country, on the upcoming Century of Disasters in Slate. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, all fueled by climate change, all made worse by a more crowded planet. Basically, it's a list of all the ways we're going to die. And there's a lot of stuff I hadn't heard of. Joel covers disasters better than anybody, and this piece is a nice companion to the end of the world, which is happening tomorrow. Cheers! - RC
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Jon Stewart on climate change

The great Jon Stewart -- our modern-day H.L. Mencken -- talks to the head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson. "Environmentalism isn't a spectator sport," she says. The Daily Show - Exclusive - Lisa P. Jackson Extended Interview Pt. 1 Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook And here's part two. The Daily Show - Exclusive - Lisa P. Jackson Extended Interview Pt. 2 Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily ...