12 Pieces of Street Art That Seamlessly Mesh With the Nature Around Them (Photo Gallery)

Street art is one of the more creative art forms around today. Because of its visibility, it is often used to make political or social statements, like the street art that emerged in Brazil before and during the World Cup.

But some street artists like to use their work to bring out parts of the natural environment that we might otherwise take for granted. Check out some of the best examples below (click an image to enlarge):

(h/t Bored Panda)

How In the World Is This Tree Able to Produce 40 Different Kinds of Fruit??

Sam Van Aken is an art professor at Syracuse University in New York. He wasn’t always immersed of the world of art though- as a child, he grew up working on his family’s farm before pursuing his art career.

So, in 2008, when Van Aken learned that the orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station was about to be destroyed because of a lack of funding, he knew he had to put his farming past to use.

Many of the trees in the orchard were 150-200 years old, and grew ancient, antique native stone fruits varieties that have been mostly hybridized or modified by modern agricultural practices (commercially-grown fruits are selected for their look and size more than any other factors, including taste).

Syracuse art professor and “Tree of 40 Fruits” creator Sam Van Aken

Aken knew he had to save these rare and ancient fruit varieties, so he bought the orchard and spent the next couple years trying to figure out how to graft parts of multiple trees onto one single tree.

He started by creating a timeline of when all the varieties of fruit (about 250 total) blossomed, so he could know precisely when to graft a new variety onto the main tree.

The grafting process basically involves making an incision in the main tree, and then inserting a shoot from the tree you want to add.

When the tree was young, he grafted directly onto its root structure. Once it reached two years old, Aken began using “chip grafting” to add new varieties of fruit to various branches.

An illustration of the grafting process

Chip grafting involves cutting a small notch into a branch of the main tree. Then, a sliver of the tree to be added (including a bud) is inserted into the notch and taped in place. Over winter, the tree heals the incision, and in doing so incorporates the new fruit variety into that branch.

After five years, Aken completed his first “Tree of 40 Fruit”, as he calls them.

For most of the year, it looks pretty much like a normal tree, but in spring, it explodes with white, red and pink blossoms before bearing its various ancient varieties of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and almonds.

Since then Aken has planted 15 more “Trees of 40 Fruit” in museums, community centers and art galleries around the country. His next plan is to create an orchard of them in a city setting.

Read the original story from Science Alert here.

You can watch a TEDx talk that Van Aken gave about his Tree of 40 Fruit below:

China Seals Off 30,000 People After A Man Dies of Bubonic Plague

The Chinese government has sealed off about 30,000 residents in parts of Yumen, a city in northeast China.

The move comes a week after a 38-year-old man died from the bubonic plague (also known as the black death). The man is said to have contracted the disease after coming in contact with a marmot- a rodent similar to the groundhog.

Residents have been told they cannot leave the area, and police have set up roadblocks to enforce that decree. Yumen has a population of 100,000 people, but only certain portions of the city have been isolated.

One of the police blockades

Besides the 30,000 people sealed off, the government has also put 151 people who had direct contact with the man under quarantine.

There is no word yet on how long the situation will last, but city officials have said they have enough rice, flour and oil to supply the 30,000 residents for a month.

China has sent in hundreds of extra “standby” medical workers to help contain the plague

Although the bubonic plague is rare in China, it is not totally unheard of. Since 2009, there have been an estimated 12 cases in China, with four deaths.

The plague can work extremely fast, sometimes killing a person within 24 hours of the initial infection. However, modern antibiotics have proven effective in treating the disease if it is detected quickly. Beijing officials say the chances of the outbreak spreading are low.

Check out the original story from the Daily Mail here.

Why Keith Olbermann’s Assault On Tony Dungy Is TERRIBLE for the LGBT Cause (Opinion)

Foxnews and conservative media outlets are regularly eviscerated for their biased coverage and/or their views on social issues, with homosexuality being at the forefront.

Some of this criticism is definitely valid, but it is also important to call out those who do the same thing on the other side.

Keith Olbermann is a prime example. MSNBC is basically the liberal version of Foxnews, and Olbermann is the liberal Bill O’Reilly.

On his show last night, he called former Colts coach Tony Dungy the “World’s Worst in Sports” because of comments he made about Michael Sam recently. Here’s Olbermann’s segment:

He starts off trying to make Dungy look like a hypocrite by pointing out that in February, Dungy said the NFL draft was, at the end of the day, based on merit.

It is not hypocritical for him to say that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because he, “didn’t want to deal with all of it,” if he were still a coach.

As a coach, you do a risk-reward evaluation of any potential draft prospect. Unfortunately, the reality of our society is that drafting an openly gay player brings a lot of controversy, even if 95% of it is created by the media (if you don’t the media will try to divide the Rams locker room by asking the players all kinds of questions in search of a controversial headline, you’re delusional).

If Michael Sam was a once in a lifetime talent, that media circus might be well worth it. But he’s an undersized defensive lineman and a poor tackler, whose average quickness and athleticism doesn’t quite make up for his lack of size.

Michael Sam's combine grade
Michael Sam’s combine grade. Click to enlarge

Why do you think Tim Tebow isn’t in the NFL right now? Because his talent wasn’t enough to make up for the media circus that inevitably followed him around everywhere.

As Dungy said though, “…guys who produce and play well will be welcome in the league.” If Sam turns out to be a solid player, I don’t think Dungy would have had any problem picking him up in a few years after he had proven himself at the pro level.

Olbermann then calls out Dungy for supporting a ban on gay marriage in Indiana. Dungy has always admitted to being guided by his Christianity so this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

But him stating his support for a same-sex marriage ban seven years ago really isn’t relevant to the discussion of whether or not he would have drafted Sam today.

Every coach in the league, whether they were Tea Party Conservatives or bleeding-heart liberals, took into account the fact that Sam would bring with him a media circus and potential issues in the locker room.

Joanthon VIlma was one of a number of players who admitted being uncomfortable with the idea of playing with Sam: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?” (from an interview with NFL Network)

Why? Because regardless as to how the coach feels, there are 52 other players in that locker room, many of whom may have a serious issue with Sam’s lifestyle. Whether or not you agree with their views on homosexuality, that’s the reality of the league right now, and it’s foolish to act like we shouldn’t take that into account.

Olbermann then calls out Dungy for volunteering to be Michael Vick’s mentor after he finished his sentence for dog-fighting. Two things here.

Firstly, Dungy wasn’t coaching, so he didn’t have to take into account the distractions that Vick’s history would bring. Are we really going to sit here and attack him for helping Vick reinvent himself and his image?

If Dungy was coaching, I’m sure he would have taken more time to think about the decision of putting Vick on his team. Which brings me to my second point: Vick’s potential rewards were much higher than Sam’s.

Michael Vick led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2010 with an impressive season that earned him a spot in the Pro-Bowl

Vick was a perennial all-star and was regularly among the league’s top quarterbacks when he was arrested on the dog-fighting charges. It made a lot more sense for a team (like the Eagles) to take a risk on him than it does for a team to take a big risk on the unproven Michael Sam (which is why he wasn’t drafted until the 7th round).

It’s also worth noting that while Vick’s dog-fighting is clearly much worse than Sam’s gayness, it is less likely to create issues in the locker room. Again, that’s messed up, but that’s reality.

Olbermann saves the worst for last, insinuating that Dungy is a bigot because he had to deal with similar discrimination as a black player, coach and broadcaster throughout his years working with the NFL.

Standing up for your values is always a noble thing to do. But we also have to realistic. Dungy knew this when he was passed over for head coaching positions in the late 80s and early 90s in favor of less qualified candidates.

But he also understood the reality of the situation. He understood that calling out the racial bigotry of NFL owners when it came to hiring coaches would only hurt his chances of becoming a head coach himself.

It was this combination of self-confidence and realism that allowed him to become the first black coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007. Now, he has the platform to speak out and actually affect real change in terms of racial discrimination in the NFL.

Dungy hoists the Bill Lombardi trophy after the Colts’ 2007 Super Bowl victory

The point is this: attacking somebody for being homophobic when they are clearly just being realistic is not only unfair, it makes that person less open-minded about homosexuality and less willing to discuss it.

People like Olbermann use this fake homophobia because they know it will get people riled up, the same way people like O’Reilly use issues like gun control or censorship of religion in schools on Foxnews.

I’m all for gay marriage and equality, but if we really want people to be more accepting of homosexuality, we have to put them in a position where they feel comfortable talking about it candidly. Pulling out the pitchforks on your politically-charged “news” segment to get more viewers is doing more damage than anything.

So to Keith Olbermann: stop taking advantage of people’s emotions and trying to put yourself on the moral high ground. Then, just maybe, I’ll consider listening to what you have to say.

NASA Is Seeking Help In Potentially Finding Life On Jupiter’s Moon Europa (Video)

NASA is confident that underneath Jupiter’s moon Europa there could be more water than in our oceans here on Earth. So naturally, Europa has attracted a lot of attention, encouraging the curious to ask, “Could there be life on Europa?”.

Currently, NASA is aiming to send a new mission to Europa by 2025. The White House’s 2015 federal budget allocates $15 million towards making this Europa mission a reality.

Europa has recently become one of NASA’s main focuses because,  out of all the other planetary bodies in our solar system, it has arguably the greatest chance of harboring life.

From Space.com…

“Every 10 years, the U.S. National Research Council, a nonprofit organization that advises the government, issues a report that recommends a planetary exploration strategy for NASA and the National Science Foundation. The current report (which covers 2013 to 2022) ranks an exploration of Europa among the highest priority missions. According to the report, the future mission should focus on taking a closer look at the ocean that scientists suspect lies below the surface; characterizing its icy crust and looking for any subsurface liquid water; determining the surface composition and chemistry; examining surface features and identifying landing areas for future missions; and understanding the purpose of its magnetosphere — the magnetic field surrounding the celestial body. NASA officials said the instrument proposals should focus on at least one of these exploration goals. The announcement calls for instruments designed for a spacecraft that will orbit Europa or complete several flybys, since astronomers do not yet have enough data to pinpoint safe landing sites on the icy moon.”

The video below describes Europa in more detail.

NASA hopes that by providing monetary incentives to private parties, they will encourage competition and innovation, leading to affordable development processes for the instruments necessary for new missions like the upcoming one to Europa.

Two of the main challenges for teams developing instruments are overcoming Jupiter’s high levels of radiation and making sure that no organic material from Earth (like microorganisms, for example) is introduced to Europa’s potentially habitable surface.

The competition ends in April 2015. NASA will select the top 20 proposals, rewarding $25 million to each of the selected teams to further advance their designs for their instruments. NASA will also select eight winners whose instruments will be developed and actually used in NASA’s mission to Europa.

This competition is included in NASA’s budget to get to Europa, according to Space.com…

“NASA is in the process of designing a mission that will cost less than $1 billion and will still meet as many of the exploration goals as possible.”

Check out NASA’s full guidelines for Europa mission science instrument ideas here.

You can also learn more about how Europa works in this infographic from Space.com (click to enlarge):

Why This Man Climbed A 130 Foot Tree With Only A Vine to Steal Honey from Angry Bees (Video)

To the Bayaka people, who inhabit the jungles of the Central African Republic, honey is an extremely valuable commodity. Besides being a rare and delicious delicacy, it provides essential energy and nutrition.

So, when a beehive is found in the jungle, some men are willing to take extreme measures to secure the precious honeycombs for their family.

Tete is an hour into a 40 meter (131ft) climb to a beehive way up in the canopy of a massive tree when we join him:

Not only does Tete climb without a harness (he uses only a vine wrapped around the tree), but once he gets to the crown of the tree, he still has to battle the angry bees as he carefully makes his way to the hive.

“When climbing trees, you have to empty your heart of fear… If you have fear you will fall.”

he says.

Once Tete arrives at the hive, he has to break into the interior. He passes the honeycomb down to his eager family via a basket pulley system. Even bee stings don’t stop his wife and kids from thoroughly enjoying the feast.

(h/t BBC’s Human Planet)

Intercepted Phone Calls Show Russia Directing Separatists to Seize MH17′s Black Boxes

The Ukrainian government has released recordings of alleged phone calls between pro-Russian separatists discussing the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17′s black boxes.

Ukrainian security officials released the tapes on Sunday, claiming that they proved Russia had directed the separatists to find and hide the black boxes.

The call is between Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the Vostok (East) battalion of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and one of his men (“Oleksiy”) at the crash site. You can listen to the conversations below:

In the first of the recordings, Khodakovsky urges Oleksiy to find MH17′s black boxes, saying,

“Do it really quick, urgently. Moscow is asking where the boxes are… [they] must be under our control”.

In a second call less than an hour later, Khodakovsky talks to another man at the crash site (“Andriy”), telling him,

“I have a request for you. It is not my request. Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow.”

He also tells Andriy to,

“Try to take everything that you find so that it doesn’t get into somebody else’s hands.”

Around the time that the recordings were released, Reuters released footage of what appears to be the black boxes being removed from the crash site by the separatists:

Earlier this morning, the news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatists in Ukraine had handed over the black boxes to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee.

Andrei Purgin is the self-proclaimed deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist government in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Purgin told Interfax:

“Of course, we most likely will give them [the black boxes] to the Interstate Aviation Committee, to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there.”

So it seems that the black boxes are on their way to Moscow, if they’re not there already. This will definitely raise a lot more suspicion about Russia’s involvement in the MH17 tragedy.

But, for the sake of objectivity, it is definitely worth noting that these tapes have not been independently verified yet, and are being released by the Ukrainian government, who has every reason in the world to want Russia to be responsible for the tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I believe the tapes are fabricated- it’s just a reminder to tread carefully when trying to make sense of such a complex issue.


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