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


Privacy-focused DuckDuckGo added to Chrome as a default search option

DuckDuckGo is now listed as a default search option on Google’s popular Chrome browser. The privacy-focused search engine was added this week as part of the browser's latest update.

These voice-changing apps will have you punking friends and family like a pro

Have you ever wanted to call your friends as Darth Vader or Alvin from the Chipmunks? If you want to play a prank on your friends, we have the best voice-changer apps for iOS and Android, whether you want to record audio or make a call.
Movies & TV

Did I really watch that? Here's how to delete your Netflix viewing history

Everybody has some skeletons in their streaming closet, but you don't have to live with them if you don't want to. Learning how to delete your Netflix viewing history is easy, and we're here to help.

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Movies & TV

No TV? No problem. Here's how to watch the Final Four online

Whether you want to watch the Big Dance on your phone or on your smart TV, we have the lowdown on the ways to watch all the March Madness you can handle. Grab your foam finger and some nachos.

Netgear’s new Nighthawk Pro Gaming router keeps you connected at a nice price

Netgear's latest router expands its Nighthawk range with a $200 entry. It's still fast and helps reduce lag in gaming, but it does it at the lowest price of a Nighthawk Pro Gaming router yet.

Hey Google, why did you kill off Allo, your best messaging app in years?

Allo, Google's messaging app, has shut down. I convinced my closest friends and family to switch to the app two-and-a-half years ago when it debuted, and we've been using it since. With its death, I'm feeling pain and sadness.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are tools you can use both online and offline. This step-by-step guide will instruct you on how to use them.
Social Media

Your Google+ public content will remain viewable on the web, if you want it to

Google's failed social network — Google+ — will soon be wiped from the internet, but there's a team of volunteers working right now to save its public content for the Internet Archive.

There’s more space on MySpace after ‘accidental’ wipe of 50 million songs

MySpace is no longer a safe refuge for music and media produced in the 2000s. It said that almost any artistic content uploaded to the site between 2003 and 2015 may have been lost as part of a server migration last year.

Dodge the cryptojackers with the best torrent clients available today

Looking for the best torrent clients to help you share all of that wonderful legal content you own? Here's a list of our favorite torrent clients, all packed with great features while dodging malware and adverts.

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.