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

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Flickr just expanded Pro tools — but free users may have to delete some photos

If you have more than 1,000 photos on a free Flickr account, you might want to decide which to delete . Flickr announced some changes following an acquisition by SmugMug, including a new way to calculate the free account storage limit.
Emerging Tech

Whether you fly for fun or filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

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.

If you lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Bing, Windows search evolve into new, cross-platform Microsoft Search

Microsoft is upgrading its various search tools to provide more contextual help for those seeking it. Bing, Office, and Windows search will all be upgraded over the coming months to provide much more nuanced results.

The vast majority of YouTube users hit the site for how-to videos

Ever searched for a how-to video on YouTube? Of course you have. The streaming site is bursting with useful guides on how to do stuff, and a recent study has revealed that more users than ever are using it as a learning resource.

Don't take your provider's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.

Be at your most productive with these Slack tips and tricks

Slack is an common means of communication in the workplace, but how do you use some of the app's lesser-known features to get the most out of your experience? Here's what you need to know to stay organized, efficient, and entertained.

Get rid of your Audible account by following these quick steps

Want to learn how to cancel your Audible membership? It's easier than you might think. Just follow along with these steps and you'll be rid of the audiobook listening service for good. Or until you sign up again.

Data stolen from HealthCare.gov includes partial SSNs and immigration status

Around 75,000 users have had their user data stolen from government site healthcare.gov, including information on their immigration status, whether they were pregnant, and partial social security numbers.

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than it's ever been, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.