Tag Archives: Nature

Pine Cone-Junkie Squirrel Shoves Over 50 Pounds Of Pine Cones Into Car’s Engine Bay

“Coner” is what hip, young squirrels call their pine cone-obsessed peers; if you’ve ever spent any time in the tree branches of America’s forests and suburbs, this sort of branch-slang is probably familiar to you. Hardcore coners often do some crazy shit, like this Michigan-area conehead squirrel who crammed some poor…

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This Looks Dicey

According to at least one source, this video was shot near Tilicho Lake in Nepal, in a vast conservation area near the center of the country. Nothing here—not the vehicle, and certainly not the road—seems quite adequate.

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Here’s The Beautiful New England Fireball You Missed

Around midnight on Monday, a dazzling astrological phenomenon literally called a “fireball” ripped across the sky over New England. Cameras at Burlington, Vermont’s little international airport caught the best views of it I’ve seen anywhere.

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This Interactive Map Predicts Peak Fall Foliage Times in Your Area

This Interactive Map Predicts Peak Fall Foliage Times in Your Area

Fall is coming (at least in this hemisphere) and if you enjoy the annual changing of the leaves, this interactive fall foliage map will show you exactly when to mark your calendar, take a day off, and grab your camera to enjoy all of the beautiful colors of the season.

This year, it looks like the peak viewing time for most parts of the United States (sadly Canada isn’t included in the map, but just back up the dates a little if you’re living above the 49th parallel) is early to mid October, between the 10th and the 17th. That said, if you want to know when the time is right for your community, just move the slider on the interactive map below to see when your area is highlighted in red (but not brown.) The legend in the lower right will guide your way.

The map also includes a helpful explanation of why leaves change their colors in the fall, which carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments in plants) lead to which colors, and a few other fun activities for when the leaves turn in your area. Try it out below, or hit the link below to read more.

Fall Foliage Map 2015 & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast | SmokyMountains.com

​Trail Run Project Helps You Find Epic Running Trails

​Trail Run Project Helps You Find Epic Running Trails

Rock climbers and mountain bikers have long had guides to their favorite routes that describe just how tough they are. Now, with Trail Run Project, runners have the same opportunity.

While there are other trail cataloguing sites out there, like TrailLink for rails-to-trails projects and Trails.com, we like Trail Run Project’s thorough descriptions and ratings. Although the site is still new, the 2,000 or so trails in the database are well-documented, with trail statistics and ratings as well as the usual maps and elevation guides, and an automated "Virtual run" option that shows you the terrain.

For example, the stats on the Rachel Carson trail shown above include its average grade of 6%, ranging up to 29% at its worst. And yes, that’s for real—I’ve been there. Hills like that one have earned the trail a grade of "88% runnable" and an "Intermediate/difficult" overall rating—although that’s from only one vote so far.

You can add your favorite trail by uploading GPS data and photos. The creators of Trail Run Project say the data will always be free, but they may someday charge for the iPhone and Android apps.

Trail Run Project via Competitor

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Want to Create a More Productive Workspace? Buy Some Desk Plants

Want to Create a More Productive Workspace? Buy Some Desk Plants

Better productivity could be just a trip to the greenhouse away. Seriously. Office vegetation offers "micro-restoration"—the chance for our brains to recharge throughout the day.

This post originally appeared on Fast Company.

Few things rouse our appreciation for nature as much as spending every day in an office. Employees with windows that overlook vegetation report themselves much more satisfied than those with a view of other buildings and sidewalks. Workers in windowless offices tend to hang pictures "dominated by nature themes," according to one scientific survey. They also have five times greater odds of buying plants to put around their workspace, according to another.

Desk plants may spruce up a place, but whether they have psychological powers in addition to visual charm is another matter. Over the course of two recent studies, a research team led by scholars from Norway tested the effect of desk plants on worker productivity. To simulate a work environment, the researchers issued an attention task that required test participants to read several sentences on a computer screen and remember the final word in each.

In the first study, published in 2011, some of the test participants performed the reading task while sitting at a basic wooden desk with nothing around it. The others did the same task at a desk surrounded by office flowers and foliage. Results of the experiment were quite clear: workers at the desk with plants improved their scores on the task the second time around; workers at the empty desk did not.

The second study, published this summer, reached similar conclusions in slightly different settings. Once again, test participants at a desk with flowers and plants showed more improvement on the attention task than those sitting at an empty desk. (Inanimate objects also improved task performance, though this might have been a statistical artifact of the dull setting.) Workers at a desk with plants and a window view had an additional cognitive boost.

Want to Create a More Productive Workspace? Buy Some Desk Plants

Ruth K. Raanaas of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, a collaborator on both studies, says office plants may be a simple, cost-effective way to keep workers satisfied and focused. "Most people spend a large proportion of their life at work," Raanaas says, "so even small effects may have great practical significance when aggregated over employees and time of employment."

The new work adds to a long line of evidence tracing how the brain benefits from nature. Brief walks in the park help a person focus on a task, glimpses of trees reduce a driver’s road rage, views of vegetation raise a hospital patient’s spirits. These effects occur in smaller doses even when patches of nature are diluted by the built environment or broadcast on a plasma screen. Mere "pockets of green" in otherwise drab settings can enhance self-control and inhibit aggression.

By now you’re probably wondering just how nature works this psychological magic. There are many ideas, but most of the research points back to a premise conceived by University of Michigan psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan called "attention restoration theory."

The gist of "attention restoration theory" is that our brains expend a lot of energy on tasks that require direct attention. This mental fatigue can only be restored when we give our direct attention a break. Sleep can do the job, but when we’re awake, we can also refresh direct attention by shifting our minds to an indirect, or effortless form of engagement. Nature offers just this type of absorbing, restorative distraction.

Want to Create a More Productive Workspace? Buy Some Desk Plants

Rachel Kaplan says that the "micro-restorative" impact of desk plants in the recent studies was especially impressive if you consider the brevity of each participant’s interaction with nature. After all, test participants only had two short breaks between the reading tasks. "It’s a very short, minimal intervention," she says. "I think that is striking."

Kaplan hopes this type of research convinces designers and employers to see desk plants as essential office supplies rather than perks or amenities reserved for senior workers. Many tiny bursts of attention restoration, accumulated during screen breaks or chats with co-workers, could add up to a great deal more focus. Desk plants might even be more refreshing than a window view, all told, because workers own them and likely feel the urge to tend them throughout the day.

"I do think the concept of micro-restoration is very useful in the office context," Kaplan says. "So if you have little moments of looking up and seeing something that brings that resource back a little bit, some of those should make a huge difference."

Want To Be More Productive? Buy Some Desk Plants | Fast Company

Eric Jaffe writes about cities, history, and behavioral science. His latest book is A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II (Scribner, 2014). He lives in New York. Follow him on Twitter.

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What You Can Do to Survive a Lightning Strike

You may think that the best way to avoid a lightning strike is to make sure you take refuge under something taller than you are so lightning will strike it instead of you. This video from MinuteEarth explains that’s not the case, but there are some things you can do if you’re caught in an electrical storm.

Granted, the video starts off with the best hypothetical material to wear if you happen to be headed into an electrical storm, but since most people don’t own suits of armor or Faraday suits, your best bet is to avoid open areas when the lightning and thunder start, and to take shelter indoors or in your car. If you have to be outside for the duration of the storm, their tip at the end—to squat down with your feet close together—is a good one for several reasons, namely that you minimize the distance along your body electricity has to travel to get from the air to the ground. Hit the link below (or just watch the video above) to see a visual description of why it all works.

How to Survive a Lightning Strike | MinuteEarth (YouTube) via How-To Geek

Putting Glowsticks Inside Waterfalls Is Mesmerizingly Beautiful

When you first see it, it looks like a perfect rainbow conforming to the contours of the river, trapped inside a waterfall. But then your brain realizes that that’s not possible. How are there colors in the water? How is there a rainbow at night? It’s the trick of long exposure photography. And I can’t stop looking at it. More »