Wednesday, July 8, 2009

From Mental Floss, July/August

I took out a subscription to Mental Floss magazine this year and so far I have been enjoying it. It has the kind of stuff I like - little short bits of information that may or may not be useful to you, but is always interesting. Here are a couple from the newest edition.

Modern Art That Saves The Planet

Who says modern art is pointless? In Minneapolis, the 30-foot tall abstract sculptures towering over the city's interstate don't just look pretty, they fight air pollution, too. The wavy structures are made from a special kind of photocatalytic concrete that actually sucks in carbon monoxide and other air pollutants. Even better, when sunlight hits the sculptures, the ultraviolet rays oxidize the offending chemicals and turn them into oxygen, water, and other compounds that don't make us wheeze. The process - which is similar to what goes on in your cars catalytic converter - keeps the sculptures pearly white and should help clean up the Twin Cities' air.

Pass Gas, Pleasantly

By now, you've probably heard that cow flatulence doesn't just smell bad; it's also bad for the environment. Cows release methane and ammonia - dangerous greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. ...A recent study by Irish scientists shows that when cows are fed a diet containing 2 percent fish oil, their gas emissions drop by 21 percent. The fish oil works to kill the methane-producing bacteria in their guts.

Twitter Your Tomatoes

If your brown thumb is killing off every potted plant in sight, get your garden on Twitter. The micro-blogging site has teamed up with a company called Botanicalls to save dying houseplants across America. Here's how it works: Botanicalls makes a leaf-shape sensor that gauges the amount of water in a plant's soil. When the plant is thirsty, it notifies its owner via Twitter. But it doesn't stop there. It also sends electronic thank-you notes when the water comes.

Zoning Out, Guilt Free!

Feeling bad about surfing the Web while you're at work? Tell your conscience to put a sock in it. According to a new study, all that browsing actually makes you more productive. Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that workers who spent up to 20 percent of their workday leisurely perusing the Internet were 9 percent more productive than their counterparts who never strayed from their assignments. The researchers theorized that the Internet gives people a way to quickly "zone out" and then return to work with renewed focus.

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