An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on global warming starring Al Gore, opened this week in New York and California. I saw it last night and, though Ive attended several academic conferences related to global warming and its effects this year, this film presents the scientific consensus on the real and significant effects of climate change in the most straightforward and compelling way Ive seen yet.
Of course, there are still some people who dont think theres a problem—for instance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank funded in part by the oil industry. Its commissioned a couple 60-second advertising spots that are now airing in 14 U.S. cities and on its Web site. The tagline of the ads: Carbon dioxide: They call it a pollutant. We call it Life. Huh?
Anyway, if youre the type who values science over spin, you might want to calculate your own contribution to the problem at climatecrisis.org (click on Take Action, then Your Impact). There are quite a few of these carbon calculators available on the Web, although this one ups accuracy by adding in your airline miles—which may make some of us holier-than-thou, public-transportation-loving urbanites feel a little less smug.
The hope is that we start thinking about our own CO2 emissions the way we think about our calorie intake (not that we Americans have such a great track record in that area either). You know, like realizing that huge hunk of chocolate cake is a full 600 calories and deciding to split it with your date. Its the same thing for your drive from Boston to Burlington. Ride with someone else, and your impact is half as much.
OK, OK, so carpooling alone wont solve global warming. But getting people to consider their own emissions on a daily basis would be a decent start to building up the political will to take on the problem for real. Need more motivation? Check out these simulated Google maps of the warmer, flooded future.—Kalee Thompson
Like many of the working stiffs in New York City, I spend most of my day bathing in recirculated air in my large Manhattan office building, breathing in a thousand other peoples' germs. And let me tell you: When the first New Yorker is diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu, my apartment is going to become the PopSci Brooklyn satellite office, and anyone who wants to get in is going to have to wear a hazmat suit. I'll probably have to leave the house sometimes to pick up FRESЖA ingredients and beef jerky, and when I do, I will most likely sport a Fashion Flu Mask. (Even in a pandemic, that's how I roll.) These tarted-up respiratory protectors ($10 each) are modified N95-approved masks, the only ones the CDC recognizes as doing any good to protect against pandemic flu. Their designs are a little girlie, but I've e-mailed the company requesting a carbon-fiber-look variant. Hopefully it'll be ready by the time the flu kicks off. —Joe Brown
Can tinfoil hats actually prevent the government from reading your thoughts?
By Amanda MacMillanPosted 05.26.2006 at 2:00 am 8 Comments
Conspiracy theorists, beware: That aluminum foil beanie-headwear believed, since at least the 1950s, to stop brain-control rays-may make it easier for The Man to read your mind, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad students. Inspired by fringe beliefs that invasive radio signals can probe citizens' thoughts and that wearing foil on your head may fend them off, an experiment by four Ph.D. candidates found that certain key frequencies-owned by the Feds, naturally-are actually enhanced by such "protection."
It all started a few days ago with MacSaber, an application that turns
motion-sensor-equipped Mac laptops into motion-sensor-equipped Mac laptops
that make light-saber noises when swung madly through the air. It is fairly
entertaining for the swinger, and fairly horrifying for anyone observing the
reckless abandon with which such a beautiful and valuable machine is swung,
as I found out recently when PopSci.com webmistress Megan Miller subjected
me to a stealthy sneak attack with her shiny new MacBook.
Of course, the phenomenon has already hit YouTube, and here I give you first
a parody of our favorite unknowingly-filmed Star Wars Kid. This one is all
well and good, but this, friends, is the coup de grace. I
hereby proclaim that the ultimate apex of nerdery has been officially
reached, at the point where Star Wars, MacBooks, webcams, the Internet,
plush pleather computer chairs and people who look like the Comic Book Guy
Today just so happens to be the 29th anniversary of Star Wars's theatrical
release, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate. —John Mahoney
Ah, summer. Time for sun, surf and fruity cocktails with umbrellas in them. But if youre anything like me, umbrellas and fruit do not an effective drink make. Liquor with a splash of flavor is the quickest way to leave the 50-plus-hour workweek behind, and any information that helps me get to my happy place faster is always welcome. So I was thrilled to learn, just a few days before the start of summer, of a recent finding regarding artificial sweeteners. Australian researchers have discovered that mixing alcohol with low-calorie sweeteners causes the stomach to empty as much as 5.8 minutes faster than it would if you were drinking full-sugar mixers. This means that my signature drink, Captain and Coke, will have me walking the plank a bit quicker when I put the Captain on a Diet.
During Digestive Disease Week 2006 (a party I want to be invited to next year!), researchers also announced that reducing the calories in your drink raises blood alcohol significantly. So, as always, dont drink and drive…especially if youve been drinking diet soda. But its nice to know theres a way to make those $8 cocktails stretch a little further. Readers, if you have any lo-cal drink recipes youd like to share, were all ears. —Matt Cokeley
You've seen The Jerk, right? If not, we suggest you load that bad boy into your Netflix queue, pronto. In this 1979 classic, Steve Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, an idiot-turned-inventor-turned-idiot who develops the "Opti-grab," a nose bridge that keeps eyeglasses from slipping off your face. The gizmo sells like hotcakes until it starts making people cross-eyed and ugly. So, um, fast-forward to 2006. Recently, two would-be Navins came up with their own version of the Opti-grap: Pierced Glasses. Simply jam a magnetic barbell through the skin on the bridge of your nose, attach magnets to your eyeglass lenses and, presto, you have frameless eyewear—and a recipe for really bad headaches. This, like the live cockroach brooches I reported on earlier, is sure to be a hit with punks and Goth kids. Maybe I should change my title to PopSci accessories editor—might score more swag that way. —Nicole Dyer
Looking for a foolproof way to horrify your mother and drive away your significant other? Consider giving them each one of Utah-based fashion designer Jared Gold's newest works: a live insect brooch. Gold recently released a line of accessories consisting of live Madagascar cockroaches embedded with colorful crystals and outfitted with leashes that can be attached to a person's clothing. Each bejeweled roach sells for $80 and comes with an instruction manual on how to clean and feed it (they like bananas, apparently). One caveat—well, OK, there's lots of caveats but this one is really important: Entomologist Shripat Kamble of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln tells the journal Science that "hissing cockroaches secrete certain irritants a lot of people are allergic to." Still enticed? Yeah, that's what we thought. —Nicole Dyer
Poor Barbaro. After sustaining horrific injuries in the Preakness—his right hind cannon bone, sesamoid and pastern were all fractured, and the fetlock joint was dislocated—hes laid up at U. Penns state-of-the-art New Bolton Hospital for the foreseeable future. Right now most reports indicate that his condition is pretty stable, but so many things can go wrong during equine rehabilitation. (How do I know? Well, Im a horse geek and former vet tech. Plus its in all the papers.) No one wants to see a talented, beautiful—not to mention outrageously expensive—animal perish, but sadly, the odds are not in Barbaros favor. Horses cant lie down for extended periods of time—they can suffer internal injuries from being in the prone position for too long—and they also arent made to stand around. Uneven pressure on those long, delicate legs can cause laminitis, a deadly ailment in which the cannon bone pulls away from the hoof wall. Theyre also susceptible to salmonella and other weird infections when their systems are stressed. And when every fiber of your being is urging you to go outside and run around, being cooped up is pretty darned stressful. Which may explain why Ive chewed the caps on all the pens in my cubicle. Anyway, horse lovers and Barbaro investors everywhere are keeping fingers crossed that the cutting-edge veterinary technology at New Bolton will lead to the Derby champs full recovery. Were pulling for you, buddy. Heres to a happy future full of grassy pastures and willing mares. —Megan Miller
I came across an interesting article from the New York Times today, giving a run-down of whats new in the "scientist film" genre. According to the author, we're still waiting for that special film to do for scientists what The Godfather did for la cosa nostra (um, didnt he see Medicine Man!?). Anyway, while we all wait for the next Brando to sweep the Oscars in a lab coat, the genre is nonetheless active; a few examples given include The Mist in the Palm Trees, billed as the first quantum film and Challenger, a recently announced production starring David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) as Richard Feynman, a gifted physicist who investigated the Challenger disaster.
On the very slim chance that you didnt love Connery as a rogue rainforest researcher finding and losing a cure for cancer, what are some other science films that tickle your fancy, blog readers? —John Mahoney