Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.
A California designer has turned a $2,000 dumpster into a fully functional home, complete with a bathroom, bed, kitchen and sun deck.
Gregory Kloehn converted the dumpster in Brooklyn off of a hunch, and now he uses it whenever he stays in New York.
‘It just hit me,’ he said on HGTV’s show, ‘You Live in What?’ ‘I thought hey, this is the perfect shape for a home.’
Kloehn added wheels to the bottom of the dumpster so it could be more easily transported and carved a custom door on the side for easy entry and exit.
For drinking water, he installed a six-gallon water tank on the roof.
The same water is funneled into the tiny toilet when he needs to use the bathroom. The water is also hooked up to an outdoor shower.
The red-and-black-colored interior is insulated with padding and features a small seating area. But sleeping appears uncomfortable. He appears to only barely fit inside when he lies down.
The small kitchen takes up one corner of the dumpster and features a microwave and mini stove. Both run on electricity.
A small grill is also attached to the outside of the dumpster. On the roof, an umbrella provides some shade for outdoor lounging.
If he wants to get some extra sunlight inside, as well, he can lift the retractable roof to expose two windows and let in the light.
‘I think [passersby] are just surprised that someone would take something like this and spend enough time to make it a home,’ he told HGTV.
Thanks to Mr. Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.
The U.S.’s largest metropolis and the entire east coast could face frequent destruction unless the region takes previously unthinkable actions
By Mark Fischetti
By 2100 devastating flooding of the sort that Superstorm Sandy unleashed on New York City could happen every two years all along the valuable and densely populated U.S. east coast—anywhere from Boston to Miami.
And unless extreme protection measures are implemented, people could again die.
Hyperbole? Hardly. Even though Sandy’s storm surge was exceptionally high, if sea level rises as much as scientists agree is likely, even routine storms could cause similar destruction. Old, conservative estimates put the increase at two feet (0.6 meter) higher than the 2000 level by 2100. That number did not include any increase in ice melting from Greenland or Antarctica—yet in December new data showed that temperatures in Antarctica are rising three times faster than the rate used in the conservative models. Accelerated melting has also been reported in Greenland. Under what scientists call the rapid ice-melt scenario, global sea level would rise four feet (1.2 meters by the 2080s, according to Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory. In New York City by 2100 “it will be five feet, plus or minus one foot,” Jacob says.
Skeptics doubt that number, but the science is solid. The projection comes in part from the realization that the ocean does not rise equally around the planet. The coast from Cape Cod near Boston to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina is a hot spot—figuratively and literally. In 2012 Asbury Sallenger, a coastal hazards expert at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), reported that for the prior 60 years sea level along that section of the Atlantic coast had increased three to four times faster than the global average. Looking ahead to 2100, Sallenger indicated that the region would experience 12 to 24 centimeters—4.7 to 9.4 inches—of sea level rise above and beyond the average global increase.
Sallenger (who died in February) was careful to point out that the surplus was related only to ocean changes—such as expansion of water due to higher temperature as well as adjustments to the Gulf Stream running up along the coast brought about by melting Arctic ice—not changes to the land.
Unfortunately, that land is also subsiding. Since North American glaciers began retreating 20,000 years ago, the crust from New York City to North Carolina has been sinking, as the larger continent continues to adjust to the unloading. The land will continue to subside by one to 1.5 millimeters (0.04 to 0.06 inch) a year, according to S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal marine geologist with the USGS and the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. The boundary zone where rising crust to the north changes to falling crust to the south runs roughly west to east from central New York State through Massachusetts.
Certain municipalities such as Atlantic City, N.J., are sinking even faster because they are rapidly extracting groundwater. Cities around Chesapeake Bay, such as Norfolk, Va., and Virginia Beach, are subsiding faster still because sediment underneath them continues to slump into the impact crater that formed the bay 35 million years ago.
When all these factors are taken into account, experts say, sea level rise of five feet (1.5 meters) by 2100 is reasonable along the entire east coast. That’s not really a surprise: the ocean was 20 to 26 feet (six to eight meters) higher during the most recent interglacial period.
Now for the flooding: Sandy’s storm surge topped out at about 11 feet (3.4 meters) above the most recent average sea level at the lower tip of Manhattan. But flood maps just updated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in January indicate that even an eight-foot (2.5-meter) surge would cause widespread, destructive flooding. So if sea level rises by five feet (1.5 meters_, a surge of only three feet is needed to inflict considerable damage.
How frequently could that occur? Municipalities rarely plan for anything greater than the so-called one-in-100-year storm—which means that the chances of such a storm hitting during any given year is one in 100. Sandy was a one-in-500-year storm. If sea level rises by five feet, the chance in any year of a storm bringing a three-foot surge to New York City will increase to as high as one in three or even one in two, according to various projections. The 100-year-height for a storm in the year 2000 would be reached by a two-year storm in 2100.
With hundreds of people still homeless in Sandy’s wake, coastal cities worldwide are watching to see how New York City will fend off rising seas. Scientists and engineers have proposed solutions to pieces of the complex puzzle, and a notable subset of them on the New York City Panel on Climate Change are rushing to present options to Mayor Michael Bloomberg by the end of May. But extensive interviews with those experts leads to several controversial and expensive conclusions: Long-term, the only way to protect east coast cities against storm surges is to build massive flood barriers (pdf). The choices for protecting the long stretches of sandy coastlines between them—New Jersey, Maryland, the Carolinas, Florida—are even more limited.
As for sea level rise, retreat from low-lying shores may be the best option. Despite the gut reaction of “No, we won’t go,” climate forces already in motion may leave few options.
As debate over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the U.S. rages on, a fashion designer introduces clothing that blocks drone-mounted infrared cameras.
As the U.S. government draws up plans to use surveillance drones in domestic airspace, opposition to what many consider an unwarranted and significant invasion of privacy is mounting across the country, from rural Virginia to techopolis Seattle. Although officials debate anti-drone legislation at federal, state and local levels, one man is fighting back with high-tech apparel.
A New York City privacy advocate-turned-urban-guerilla fashion designer is selling garments designed to make their wearers invisible to infrared surveillance cameras, particularly those on drones. And although Adam Harvey admits that his three-item Stealth Wear line of scarves and capes is more of a political statement than a money-making venture, the science behind the fashion is quite sound.
“Fighting drones is not my full-time job, but it could be,” says Harvey, an instructor of physical computing at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and the creator of the CV Dazzle project, which seeks to develop makeup and hairstyles that camouflage people from face-recognition cameras and software.
Harvey’s newest medium, metalized fabric, has been around for more than 20 years. It holds in body heat that would burn bright for infrared cameras—a characteristic that could prove attractive to those who do not want unmanned aerial vehicles spying on them.
Metal is very good at absorbing and scattering infrared light, says Cheng Sun, a Northwestern University assistant professor of mechanical engineering. In that sense there is nothing exotic in how metalized fabric works—it “would strongly attenuate the [infrared] light,” he says. The metal would dissipate heat to surroundings as well, making the wearer harder to pinpoint.
To date, the fabric has primarily been used in tape and gaskets to protect electronics and communications equipment from static electricity and electromagnetic interference, according to Larry Creasy, director of technology for metalized fabric-maker Laird Technologies, based in Saint Louis.
Here’s how metalizing works, at least at Laird: Woven fabric, commonly nylon or polyester, is coated with a special catalyst—a precious metal Creasy declined to specify—that helps copper bind to the fiber. Once dry, the fabric is submerged in a copper sulfate–plating bath and dried. A nickel sulfamate bath follows to help the finished fabric withstand the elements and abrasions. The result is a flexible, breathable fabric that can be cut with ordinary tools but that protects against electromagnetic interference and masks infrared radiation, Creasy says. The process adds weight to the original fabric. An untreated square yard of nylon weighs about 42.5 grams. Treated, the same patch weighs more than 70 grams.
Harvey’s fabric is coated with copper, nickel and silver, a combination that gives his scarves, head-and-shoulders cloak and thigh-length “burqa” a silvery and “luxurious” feel. The material blocks cell signals, as well, adding an element of risk to tweeting, texting and other mobile activities, as the wearer must break cover to communicate.
Stealth Wear is sold only via a U.K. Web site. The burqa goes for about $2,300, the “hoodie” is $481 and the scarf is $565—luxury items, but so, too, is privacy today, Harvey says.
The high cost and limited availability are significant drawbacks—Harvey says he’s only sold one Stealth Wear item online, a scarf. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts 10,000 commercial drones will ply domestic airspace by 2017—almost twice the that of the U.S. Air Force’s current fleet of unmanned aircraft. The number of drones flying in the U.S. today is hard to pin down because not every company and agency that gets FAA approval to fly a drone actually puts one in the air. In fact, 1,428 private-sector and government requests have been approved since 2007, according to the FAA. A Los Angeles Times report states that 327 of those permits are still active. Meanwhile, President Obama signed a law in February 2012 that gives the FAA until September 2015 to draw up rules that dictate how law enforcement, the military and other entities may use drones in U.S. airspace.
As of October 2012, 81 law agencies, universities, an Indian tribal agency and other entities had applied to the FAA to fly drones, according to documents released by the FAA to the Electronic Freedom Frontier following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Government entities as diverse as the U.S. Department of State and Otter Tail County, Minn., are among them.
Although Harvey’s anti-drone fashions are not currently flying off the shelves, he could soon find himself leading a seller’s market if recent events are any metric:
•The Charlottesville, Va., city council has passed a watered-down ordinance that asks the federal and commonwealth governments not to use drone-derived information in court. Proponents had sought to make the city drone-free (pdf).
•Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Montana, Arizona (pdf) and Idaho legislators are trying to at least regulate or even prohibit, drones in their skies.
•Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn returned the city’s two surveillance drones after a hostile public reception.
•A bipartisan pair of U.S. Representatives has introduced legislation to limit information-gathering by government-operated drones as well as prohibit weapons on law-enforcement and privately owned unmanned aerial vehicles.
Drone advocates defend the use of the technology as a surveillance tool. “We clearly need to do a better job of educating people about the domestic use of drones,” says Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Gielow says U.S. voters must decide the acceptability of data collection from all sources, adding, “Ultimately, an unmanned aircraft is no different than gathering data from the GPS on your phone or from satellites.”
GPS does not use infrared cameras, however, and satellites are not at the center the current privacy debate brewing in Washington—factors that could make Harvey’s designs all the more fashionable.
NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.
Known as the “double tap,” the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.
A 2007 report by the Homeland Security Institute called double taps a “favorite tactic of Hamas” and the FBI considers it a tactic employed by terrorists.
UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Christof Heyns said that if there are “secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping (the injured) after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.”
The U.S. refuses to discuss the merits of its overtly covert drone program, but the reports featured on @dronestream clearly document that U.S. hellfire missiles have intentionally targeted funerals and civilian rescuers.
And that’s only a 10-month window in Pakistan. It has happened in Afghanistan as well, and the first instance of “explicit intelligence posthumously proving” that an innocent civilian had been killed happened in Yemen.
In September the NYU and Stanford law schools released a report detailing how double taps by U.S. drones affect the Pakistani population, and noted that “high-level” militants killed only accounted for 2 percent of U.S. drone strike casualties.
Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.
For the first time, researchers have used a specialized camera to measure pupillary changes in people watching erotic videos, the changes in pupil dilation revealing where the participant is located on the heterosexual-homosexual spectrum. The researchers at Cornell University who developed the technique say it provides an accurate method of gauging the precise sexual orientation of a subject. The work is detailed in the journal PLoS ONE.
Previously, researchers trying to assess sexual orientation simply asked people about their sexuality or used intrusive physiological measures, such as assessing their genital arousal.
“We wanted to find an alternative measure that would be an automatic indication of sexual orientation, but without being as invasive as previous measures. Pupillary responses are exactly that,” says lead researcher Gerulf Rieger. “With this new technology we are able to explore sexual orientation of people who would never participate in a study on genital arousal, such as people from traditional cultures. This will give us a much better understanding how sexuality is expressed across the planet.”
Experimenting with the technique, the researchers found heterosexual men showed strong pupillary responses to sexual videos of women, and little to men. Heterosexual women, however, showed pupillary responses to both sexes. This result confirms previous research suggesting that women have a very different type of sexuality than men.
Interestingly, the new study sheds new light on the long-standing debate on male bisexuality. Previous notions were that most bisexual men do not base their sexual identity on their physiological sexual arousal but on romantic and identity issues. Contrary to this claim, bisexual men in the new study showed substantial pupil dilations to sexual videos of both men and women.
“We can now finally argue that a flexible sexual desire is not simply restricted to women – some men have it, too, and it is reflected in their pupils,” said co-researcher Ritch C. Savin-Williams. “In fact, not even a division into ‘straight,’ ‘bi,’ and ‘gay’ tells the full story. Men who identity as ‘mostly straight’ really exist both in their identity and their pupil response; they are more aroused to males than straight men, but much less so than both bisexual and gay men.”
Thanks to Dr. A.R. for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.
City officials pulled the plug on a vibrator giveaway by the Trojan condom company last week in NYC.
“I’m 57 years old. I should be able to get a vibrator!” declared Linda Postell, who was among hundreds of women and men waiting in the heat on Pearl Street. “I have a problem with the smoking ban, and the soda ban — and now this!”
Trojan sent tingles of excitement across the city when it announced the giveaway of some 10,000 vibrating sex toys from hot-dog-style pushcarts.
Trojan began by handing out about 400 free vibrators without incident on Sixth Avenue in Rockefeller Center between 11 a.m. and noon last week.
The giveaways were scheduled to start at 4 p.m. in the Flatiron District and near the South Street Seaport.
The promotion was prematurely interrupted by City Hall, which sent a dark-suited representative to put the squeeze on Trojan’s “Pleasure Carts.”
The spoilsport, who declined to identify himself, told Trojan’s reps at the Flatiron location that they had to shut down because of the size of the crowd that had gathered.
The event barely got started. The downtown event shut down about 40 minutes later, and Trojan managed to dole out just a couple of hundred battery-operated tinglers.
The decision to nix the giveaway clearly caused the mayor’s voter satisfaction ratings to plummet among the empty-handed thrill seekers.
“There’s a lot more important things the city should be worried about than a free-vibrator giveaway,” complained Park Slope bar owner Melody Henry, 42. “Bloomberg doesn’t want anyone to have fun. You can’t have a giant soda. You can’t have a vibrator.”
The Mayor’s Office insisted the vibrator switch-off was a permit issue, and not due to any prudishness.
“This activity promoting Trojan products, which impeded pedestrian and street traffic, did not have a permit,” City Hall said in a written statement. “The production company affiliated with the event is currently in discussions with the Mayor’s Office to hold a promotional event with proper permits at a later date.”
Researchers report they have developed in mice what they believe might one day become a breakthrough for humans: a retinal prosthesis that could restore near-normal sight to those who have lost their vision.
That would be a welcome development for the roughly 25 million people worldwide who are blind because of retinal disease, most notably macular degeneration.
The notion of using prosthetics to combat blindness is not new, with prior efforts involving retinal electrode implantation and/or gene therapy restoring a limited ability to pick out spots and rough edges of light.
The current effort takes matters to a new level. The scientists fashioned a prosthetic system packed with computer chips that replicate the “neural impulse codes” the eye uses to transmit light signals to the brain.
“This is a unique approach that hasn’t really been explored before, and we’re really very excited about it,” said study author Sheila Nirenberg, a professor and computational neuroscientist in the department of physiology and biophysics at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. “I’ve actually been working on this for 10 years. And suddenly, after a lot of work, I knew immediately that I could make a prosthetic that would work, by making one that could take in images and process them into a code that the brain can understand.”
Nirenberg and her co-author Chethan Pandarinath (a former Cornell graduate student now conducting postdoctoral research at Stanford University School of Medicine) report their work in the Aug. 14 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their efforts were funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Cornell University’s Institute for Computational Biomedicine.
The study authors explained that retinal diseases destroy the light-catching photoreceptor cells on the retina’s surface. Without those, the eye cannot convert light into neural signals that can be sent to the brain.
However, most of these patients retain the use of their retina’s “output cells” — called ganglion cells — whose job it is to actually send these impulses to the brain. The goal, therefore, would be to jumpstart these ganglion cells by using a light-catching device that could produce critical neural signaling.
But past efforts to implant electrodes directly into the eye have only achieved a small degree of ganglion stimulation, and alternate strategies using gene therapy to insert light-sensitive proteins directly into the retina have also fallen short, the researchers said.
Nirenberg theorized that stimulation alone wasn’t enough if the neural signals weren’t exact replicas of those the brain receives from a healthy retina.
“So, what we did is figure out this code, the right set of mathematical equations,” Nirenberg explained. And by incorporating the code right into their prosthetic device’s chip, she and Pandarinath generated the kind of electrical and light impulses that the brain understood.
The team also used gene therapy to hypersensitize the ganglion output cells and get them to deliver the visual message up the chain of command.
Behavioral tests were then conducted among blind mice given a code-outfitted retinal prosthetic and among those given a prosthetic that lacked the code in question.
The result: The code group fared dramatically better on visual tracking than the non-code group, with the former able to distinguish images nearly as well as mice with healthy retinas.
“Now we hope to move on to human trials as soon as possible,” said Nirenberg. “Of course, we have to conduct standard safety studies before we get there. And I would say that we’re looking at five to seven years before this is something that might be ready to go, in the best possible case. But we do hope to start clinical trials in the next one to two years.”
Results achieved in animal studies don’t necessarily translate to humans.
Dr. Alfred Sommer, a professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and dean emeritus of Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, urged caution about the findings.
“This could be revolutionary,” he said. “But I doubt it. It’s a very, very complicated business. And people have been working on it intensively and incrementally for the last 30 years.”
“The fact that they have done something that sounds a little bit better than the last set of results is great,” Sommer added. “It’s terrific. But this approach is really in its infancy. And I guarantee that it will be a long time before they get to the point where they can really restore vision to people using prosthetics.”
Other advances may offer benefits in the meantime, he said. “We now have new therapies that we didn’t have even five years ago,” Sommer said. “So we may be reaching a state where the amount of people losing their sight will decline even as these new techniques for providing artificial vision improve. It may not be as sci-fi. But I think it’s infinitely more important at this stage.”
Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.
At the foot of a Union Square subway platform staircase, an artist focused on his delicate work, maneuvering a fold of black origami paper along half-open scissor blades.
“Scissor doesn’t move, only paper moves,” he said to the rider posing for him. “Nice young man,” he bantered. “How old are you? Like your hair.”
The paper’s border flutters to the dirty, gum-tacked floor. He peeled open the fold to reveal an intricate, slightly caricatured portrait of the rider’s face, down to the hairs and wrinkles. He taped it to a white-tiled wall beside him, joining it with others, oblivious to the gusts from the passing trains that threatened to blow his frail creations onto the tracks.
On a foam board below were dozens more subway characters: man with dreadlocks, woman with hoop earrings, bald man with spectacles. He offered to repeat the feat without looking at the rider’s face. “In America, just me,” he said of his skill. “In China, just me. This unique.”
In the congested world of subway performers, where dance troupes, conga circles and violin players blur, Ming Liang Lu, 57, is an alluring presence. A self-described “master paper portrait cutter,” he has the ability to trim facial portraits out of frail paper within minutes, compelling some riders to willingly miss their trains.
Mr. Lu practices several ancient Chinese art forms, and says he hails from a noted Shanghai teaching lineage. On weekends, he teaches calligraphy, painting and cutting at the New York Chinese Cultural Center. He said that in Shanghai, his birth city, he was renown for stone sculpture and stamp seal carving. He credits the facial portraits to his formative training in a three-dimensional form.
Paper-cutting dates to the Han dynasty but it is traditionally associated with designs like animals and flowers. But Mr. Lu has adapted the technique for facial portraits. “You’re not going to see anybody doing the faces,” said Alex Gombach, one of Mr. Lu’s oldest students. “That’s really his own thing.”
“When you see those subway faces in their totality, it’s a New York portrait,” Mr. Gombach continued. “You’ve got a young black woman, an Orthodox Jew, a white guy. It’s a New York story.”
On a recent Thursday night, Mr. Lu, Chinese-language newspapers scattered at his feet, trimmed the visage of a rider while Jason Kraut, 39, filmed it on his smartphone. An L train blasted off into the tunnel, threatening to dislodge his works, but Mr. Lu swiveled the folded paper through his scissors, paying no attention to the ruckus.
Mr. Kraut, who often passes Mr. Lu on the L platform on his commute to Park Slope, Brooklyn, analyzed the cutting as if he were in a museum. “This makes me think of Chet Baker blowing those changes,” he said, referring to the jazz trumpeter. “I have no idea what’s going on. Same with this.” He decided: “I need to have one.”
Mr. Lu is pleased if a rider wants a portrait — he accepted $20 for a small, live portrait — but he is also content just cutting an interesting face.
“Not about money,” he said. “About face.”
Another session drew a crowd of backpack-wearing riders, complete with shushes and quiet faces of awe. Mr. Lu recognized one of the audience members, Kristen Mucci, and gave her a hug.
“How’s your husband?” he asked her before returning to his work. Two years ago, Ms. Mucci hired Mr. Lu for her birthday.
“He was a big hit,” she said. “We had it at a bar in Williamsburg. Something different. Half the payoff is watching him create such frail, delicate things. It looks like he’s just touching a piece of paper, but they all come out different. It’s not canned.”
Mr. Lu is not as dainty as his creations. He has cropped black hair, and a scent of cigarettes follows him. His English is rudimentary, but effective enough to plant disarming compliments to charm riders into modeling for him.
He resumed his routine the following night, turning from his Sing Tao Daily upon noticing a possibly trim-worthy face. “I love your face,” he said as he started trimming the likeness of the bearded man’s face. The rider abandoned Mr. Lu when his train arrived. Mr. Lu completed the portrait accurately without visual aid. He taped it to his wall and returned to his newspaper.
Later, Raymond Colletti, intrigued by the three-dimensional portraits popping up from the subway wall, approached.
Mr. Lu turned from his newspaper. “How you, my friend?” he said. “How old? Very nice young man.”
Mr. Colletti had little say in the matter. Mr. Lu started cutting as a rackety train dashed past.
ocused on his delicate work, maneuvering a fold of black origami paper along half-open scissor blades.
Alexis Handwerker had been sitting on a bench beneath a towering elm in Stuyvesant Square Park in Manhattan — now she was pinned to the ground, bleeding, disoriented and smothered by leaves. One arm was rammed back unnaturally, broken. Panicked parkgoers struggled to free her from a huge tree limb that had plummeted 30 feet.
“I don’t want to die,” she screamed. “I don’t want to die.”
Ms. Handwerker, a 29-year-old social worker, survived the July 2007 accident with grievous injuries, and sued. Her lawyers pieced together evidence that untrained parks workers had missed signs that the elm was rotting — even though the 80-foot tree, one of the biggest in New York City, had sent limbs crashing down before. The city settled in February, paying $4 million.
Ms. Handwerker’s suit is just one of at least 10 stemming from deaths or injuries caused by falling limbs and branches in New York City that were quietly resolved over the last 10 years, or are now winding their way through the courts. The city has paid millions of dollars in damage claims, with far more expected. It all comes at a time of steep cutbacks in the amount of money the city dedicates to tree care and safety.
Thanks to Dr. Nakamura for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.