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Briefs
Surf’s Up
World Wide Waste
Soda Jerk
Carnal Desire
Cologne for Cats
Numbers Game: Plastic Wrap Up
Sting Operation
Tag Team
From Saints to Beer Guzzlers

News Articles
Oil, water, and birds; a DJ’s (very) cool mix; carp on the menu; offshore energy; more.

Surf’s Up
Spot an estuarine crocodile floating in the open ocean and you might think your mind is playing tricks on you. Although it’s the planet’s biggest reptile—it can measure a gulp-inducing 23 feet and clamp its jaws down on prey with two tons of force—these powerful creatures are rather sorry swimmers. And while they can survive for periods in saltwater, they depend largely on freshwater and land for sustenance. Australian researchers set out to discover how the crocs travel hundreds of miles from shore. Turns out, they surf. Using acoustic transmitters to track their movements from Australia’s Kennedy River into the South Pacific Ocean, the team found that the reptiles let the current do most of the work. “By primarily traveling during periods when surface currents are favorable,” Hamish Campbell, the study’s lead author, writes in the Journal of Animal Ecology, the crocodiles “overcome physiological limitation.” Campbell says the surfing crocs may be following their stomachs, making the unlikely voyages to chow down on migrating fish.—Nathan Ehrlich
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World Wide Waste
Moove over, oil. Manure may soon power computer servers. Engineers at Hewlett-Packard, in Palo Alto, California, found that cow pies from 10,000 dairy cattle could supply a data center with about a megawatt of power—roughly the amount of energy used by a small bank’s computer system. The scheme, combined with other power sources, could allow big electricity suckers like Google or Yahoo! to expand their operations to more rural areas, which might relieve overtaxed energy grids, says Chandrakant Patel, director of HP’s sustainable information technology laboratory. Computer servers housed in data centers generate a lot of waste heat, which would be used to more efficiently turn manure into methane. The gas would then power a generator to drive the servers. Although the idea is still in its nascent stages—some think it’s udder madness—the partnership between farmers and technophiles could prove to be a boon for both businesses.—Susan Cosier
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Courtesy of Sodastream

Soda Jerk
Now you can belch to your heart’s content while lowering your carbon footprint, thanks to SodaStream, the home soda maker. After inserting CO2 canisters in the sleek plastic or stainless steel case, simply screw in a bottle filled with tap water and press the button on top for about 30 seconds. It’s the perfect marriage between conservation and convenience: It cuts down on plastic production, transportation, and waste, which accounts for 12 percent of our country’s municipal trash. The product isn’t cheap—models start at $99.95, and the canisters go for about $30—but for an average-size family it will pay for itself in no time. Best of all, if your soda ever loses its fizz, you can put the bubbles back in yourself. (Available in stores and here. —David Seideman
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Cologne for Cats
Deep in the Guatemalan jungle, jaguars are going wild for a new scent: Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men. Wildlife Conservation Society researchers have found that when they apply the fragrance near camera traps, the cats linger longer; this allows the biologists to get better pictures so they can accurately identify individuals. “Jaguars are highly elusive creatures, and for years WCS researchers struggled to develop more effective methods for estimating how many jaguars were in the forest, hidden among the ancient Maya temples,” says Roan McNab, WCS’s Guatemala program director. The jaguars’ obsession with the scent enables scientists to make more precise population estimates, an important factor in conserving the animals, he adds. Pumas, ocelots, and margays are also attracted to the cologne. Although biologists don’t know why the cats find the fragrance so alluring, they plan to deploy the scent across South America. The data they collect can then be used to protect the species, whose numbers are declining. Now that’s combining scent and sensibility.—Susan Cosier
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Numbers Game: Plastic Wrap Up
1 Percent of plastic municipal solid waste in 1960

12 Percent of plastic municipal solid waste in 2008

3 Billions of plastic water bottles purchased in the U.S. in 1997

4 Percent of U.S. energy consumption used to produce plastic

11 Hours a 100-watt bulb can burn from the energy saved by recycling a one-gallon plastic milk container

31 Billions of plastic water bottles purchased in the U.S. in 2006

450 Years it takes a plastic bottle to decompose

30 Millions of tons of plastic consumed in 2008

2 Millions of tons of plastic recycled in 2008

80 Percent of marine debris made of plastic

260 Number of marine species at risk from plastic debris in the ocean

334,271 Average plastic pieces per square kilometer floating in the Pacific garbage patch

331,000,000 Barrels of petroleum and natural gas used to make U.S. plastic products in 2006
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Sting Operation
People paying their respects this summer at Connecticut cemeteries could be excused for declaring “buzz off” to swarms of bees that delayed funerals. The insects also stopped traffic in New Jersey, and in Oregon 20,000 stingers got comfortable in a theatre marquee. The large-scale movements are part of an annual ritual called casting, in which an older queen and her entourage quit the colony in search of a new home, making room for the next generation, says Thomas Rinderer, a USDA honeybee researcher. Patience, he says, not poison, is the best solution. Bees typically move on within a day, and sin they fill up on honey before taking flight, they’re unlikely to sting. Unless, of course, they’re threatened, Rinderer says. “Swarms disrupting humans? Well, you might look at it from the other side.”—Michele Wilson

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Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Tag Team
You may not like it, but tolerating a loafing relative could actually be advantageous. Consider Spain’s carrion crows: Crow communities rely on lazy family members to help out in a pinch, researchers have found. The birds live in hierarchical, cooperative societies typically consisting of dominant breeders and subordinate nonbreeders. The subordinates help provide food to the nest, though to varying degrees (the females are often the most lackadaisical). When researchers clipped breeders’ wings, temporarily grounding them, helpers stepped up their efforts, with the lollygaggers chipping in the most. Why they do this about-face is uncertain; they may be coerced or prompted by begging nestlings. Whatever the case, crow cooperation underscores a timeless message. “Things are not usually like they seem to be,” says the study’s lead author Vittorio Baglione, a behavioral ecologist at Spain’s University of Valladolid. “The lazy bird [has] its function in society”—and, when need be, can catch the worm like a pro.—Julie Leibach

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From Saints to Beer Guzzlers 
The horrific BP oil spill has generated an outpouring of support for recovery efforts from almost every conceivable corner.

Pixhook/iStock Photo

Bottoms Up!
After the disaster, Tampa Bay Brewing Company co-owner David Doble turned to the bottle—not to drown his sorrows but to brew New Horizon beer, named after the oil rig Deepwater Horizon (it’s an appropriately blackish color with a slight burnt-toast taste). Two dollars from every $6 pint goes to a Florida aquarium that is rehabilitating birds and marine animals.

Support Hose
Upon learning that a shortage of pantyhose was slowing down efforts by nonprofits to stuff stockings that would act as oil-collecting booms, the food chain Hooters launched Project Pantyhose. Its employees, whose uniform requires hose, expect to donate 100,000 pairs of old stockings.

 

Lords of the Ring
For $2, football fans can enter a drawing for a piece of NFL bling. The New Orleans Saints are raffling off a Super Bowl XLIV championship ring, hoping to raise $1 million for spill cleanup. The winner will be announced at the team’s season opener on September 9 (saintsgulfcoastrenewal.org).

Star Power
Donations flowed in when celebs helped out with a two-hour CNN telethon that raised $1.81 million to aid Gulf oil spill relief efforts. Hosted by Larry King and Ryan Seacrest, the star-studded event featured entertainers including Sting, Ted Danson, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kathy Griffin, Justin Bieber, Cameron Diaz, and Robert Redford.—Alisa Opar

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