A human harp, terrifying sinkholes and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Staff Picks 08_31_2013 header

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Trolling Congress

Global warming is real, and is caused or exacerbated by the inconceivable amount of crap we’ve pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Don’t take my word for it, take NASA’s. “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years,” writes the U.S. space agency on its website. Despite the overwhelming evidence in support the phenomena of global warming, a shocking number of people in Congress – the people with power to curb some of the destruction – deny that we humans have anything to do with the spike in the Earth’s temperature.

Which is why the latest campaign from environmental group 350.org is so freakin’ brilliant. Dubbed “The Climate Name Change,” the campaign seeks to name hurricanes after “climate change deniers,” like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Republican Minnesota Representative Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann. The video the group produced to exemplify its idea is pro-level trolling. Even if you don’t “believe in” global warming, you have to admit that the new naming scheme is hilarious. So sign the petition – support it for the lulz.

amir iliafarAmir Iliaifar: One way to ruin a party

What you see here is not a summer sci-fi blockbuster filmed on hand-held camera. No, it’s Mechnikovo beach, near Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

It appears these sunray-seeking Ruskies were busy enjoying their day out when a 500-ton Zubr-class military hovercraft landed on the beach, unloaded a cadre of Russian troops, and promptly asked people to scram- crapping in everyone’s proverbial cereal.

I mean, how would you feel if a massive hovercraft capable of carrying 400 armed troops, missile launchers, and God only knows what else, stormed the beach while you were in your speedo and asked you to split? And you know they would be the revealing kind because hey – it’s Europe!

Apparently, Russian authorities were more than a little surprised that the hovercraft incident pissed off so many people. According to the Russian authorities, Mechnikovo beach is government property and the Zubr landing was merely a tactical exercise. And, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, people shouldn’t have been on the beach to begin with.

But you wanna know what I think, comrade? Somehow Miley Cyrus snuck aboard and couldn’t stop twerking and sticking out her tongue, forcing an emergency landing and everyone to GTFO. Yeah, that must have been it.

Les ShuLes Shu: When the Earth opens up and swallows you whole

You know what has been freaking me out lately? Sinkholes. What we assume to be solid ground suddenly collapses in and bringing down whatever was sitting on top of it. We’re not talking about a couple of feet either, but thousands. Sinkholes happen when cavities beneath the surface are created from things like broken water mains, erosion, or even a collapsed mine (those aren’t natural and aren’t classified as a sinkhole, but whatever, semantics).

Because a sinkhole can occur out of nowhere, we don’t often get to see one actually happening, just the scary aftermath. But the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana was aware of one developing in Bayou Corne, a town that’s being swallowed by the ground due to collapsing mines caused by the operations of a chemical opearation. The Office shot a clip of trees being pulled right into the ground. For photos, check out this gallery from The Atlantic.

caleb-denisonCaleb Denison: Somebody get Don Draper in here, stat!

Today’s tech ads are terrible. If it isn’t one company taking pot shots at its rival, it’s a barrage of banality disguised as something warm and fuzzy. Why is it that ad agencies can make deodorant ads so freakin’ hilarious, but we can’t get anything better than “your phone sucks” out of Samsung? (To be fair, Samsung does have some pretty funny ads prepped for its Smart TV’s, but they’re still nauseatingly formulaic from a marketing standpoint. Anyway…)

Apparently, the jesters over at College Humor feel my pain. This parody on every tech ad ever produced in this century kind of nails it on the head.

jennifer-bergenJen Bergen: The Human Harp turns bridges into instruments

Google Glass, the latest in wearable tech, has everyone talking. But another kind of wearable tech is here, and it comes in the form of the Human Harp. Created by sound artist Di Mainstone, the Human Harp allows users to strap on a harness and create music with their movement. Mainstone first got the idea after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and fantasizing about what kind of sound installation she could make on it.

The Human Harp, a “kind of parasitic instrument,” as Mainstone calls it, magnetically attaches to the braids of the bridge, allowing users to play music with the bridge itself. “Essentially the bridge is a giant instrument with these kind of steel cables under stress and tension in the same way as a violin…” Mainstone explains in the video below. According to The Creator’s Project, the body holster “has custom made modules with digital sensors that detect and measure the vibrations of the suspension cables, harvesting the sounds so people can remix them through movement.” 

The whole thing is pretty cool, and Mainstone plans to take the installation to bridges all over the world. Check out the video below to see the Human Harp in action


Apple Maps boosts Flyover locations, indoor mall maps, and more

In a boost for Apple Maps, the tech company has recently added more than 50 new locations for Flyover, the feature that offers spectacular 3D photo views of particular cities and famous landmarks around the world.

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.

Sony is showing something off at MWC -- will it be the Xperia XZ4?

Sony may have released the Xperia XZ3 in the past few months, but already it's preparing to release a follow-up, the Xperia XZ4. We're learning plenty about the phone now some details have started to leak out, and it's getting exciting.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.

Google has found a clever way to make your search history more useful

Google has found a clever way to make more use of your search history by showing links to pages you've visited before. Ideal for repeat searches for the same page, the links show up on cards at the top of mobile search results.
Smart Home

Booth babes, banned sex toys, and other mishaps at CES 2019

From female sex toys bans, to fake Tesla/robot collision stories, there was some weird stuff going on at CES 2019 this year. Here are some of the biggest mishaps and flubs at the world's biggest tech show.

Shutdown makes dozens of .gov websites insecure due to expired TLS certificates

The US government shutdown is causing trouble in internet security. As the shutdown enters day 22, dozens of government websites have been rendered insecure or inaccessible due to expired transport layer security (TLS) certificates.

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.

Cathay Pacific messes up first-class ticket prices — again

A couple of weeks ago, an error on Cathay Pacific's website resulted in first-class seats selling for a tenth of the price. On Sunday, January 13, the airline made the error again. The good news is that it'll honor the bookings.

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.