Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • The Dark Side of 5 Fake Foods

    By Melissa Breyer, Mother Nature Network American cheese, also known as pasteurized prepared cheese product.American cheese, also known as pasteurized prepared cheese product.

    All is fine and dandy with Willy Wonka's Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum or the instant pizza from "Back to the Future." But over here in the real world, many food-science inventions have been created in the lab as imitation counterparts to real food items, and we're scarfing them down. Margarine for butter, saccharine for sugar, nondairy topping for whipped cream, to name a few - but are they actually improvements on the real thing?

    Slate.com just ran a profile on the newest faux food on the block, Beyond Meat, the fake meat so good "it will freak you out." Says Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat's founder, "the long-term goal is to offer a product that can satisfy the world's growing, and largely unsustainable, demand for meat, especially in ballooning markets like India and China

    Unlike most imitation food products, Beyond Meat doesn't include a shamefully long laundry list of artificial ingredients, just a few questionable ones (like

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  • Cat Helps Boy with Anxiety Disorder Express His Emotions

    By Laura Moss, Mother Nature Network
    Lorcan Dillon snuggling Jessi-cat.Lorcan Dillon snuggling Jessi-cat.
    Young Lorcan Dillon has never told his parents that he loves them, but with the help of his best friend, Jessi-Cat, this 7-year-old has been making strides toward expressing his emotions.

    Lorcan has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for him to speak in social situations or tell even his family how he feels. The boy, who lives in Davyhulme in the U.K., struggles with communication on a daily basis and rarely speaks to his teachers or classmates.

    However, Lorcan's behavior began to change when his mother got him a cream Birman named Jessi-Cat two years ago. The two quickly became inseparable.

    "The reason I got Jessi-Cat is because pets and cats in particular are very good with children with special needs," Lorcan's mom, Jayne Dillon, said in an interview with Cats Protection, a British feline welfare agency.

    According to his mother, Lorcan has made progress in overcoming his disability. In the past

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  • 5 Things to Know About London’s Opening Ceremony

    By Melissa Breyer, Mother Nature Network
    London 2012 logoLondon 2012 logo
    What would the Olympics be without a spectacular opening ceremony? The modern Olympic games haven't always started with such pomp and circumstance -- in fact it wasn't until the 1908 London Games that the athletes marched into the stadium behind their nations' flags. Yet with each successive Olympics, the opening ceremony has become increasingly elaborate. Whether or not London can top Beijing's jaw-dropping ceremony of 2008 remains to be seen, but here are some hints at what to expect for Friday night's big to-do.

    1. Taking place on July 27 at Stratford's Olympic Stadium in East London, the production will cost nearly $43 million and will have 62,000 live spectators, as well as an estimated worldwide audience of 1 billion viewers.

    2. The ceremony will begin at 9 p.m. with chiming from the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe. Weighing in at 27 tons, it was cast at London's Whitechapel Foundry, the same place where iconic

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  • 10 Cool Movies to Watch in the Sweltering Heat

    By Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network

    Emperor penguin with chick.Emperor penguin with chick.

    You know the drill: It's mid-January, the wind is howling outside and the thermometer has been hovering around freezing for over a week. There's no end in sight. At home, you're in the most frigid of funks and work is no better, as your cubicle mate has just returned from a two-week jaunt in Thailand and won't shut up about it. And so, in a brief but effective attempt at escapism, you blend yourself a tropical drink, break out the SAD lamp and hunker down in front of the flat screen to watch "The Blue Lagoon," "The Beach," or "From Here to Eternity." Heck, even "Captain Ron" will do, as long as the setting is balmy, breezy, Bahamian and involves sand. Lots and lots of sand.

    During the most sweltering stretches of summer, the same trick can be applied, but in the reverse: When it's 95 degrees outside and dew points are at their most relentless, nothing helps to put you in a glacial state of mind better than watching a film set in a

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  • Internet Cat Video Film Festival to Be Held in Minneapolis

    By Laura Moss, Mother Nature Network

    Maru, a Scottish Fold cat in JapanMaru, a Scottish Fold cat in Japan

    Nominations are now open for the first Internet Cat Video Film Festival.

    The free event, which will be held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on Aug. 30, is part of Open Field, the gallery's summer project that transforms the center's lawn into a site for cultural events.

    "I could not be more excited to literally bring this solo cat video viewing behavior out in the open," festival organizer and self-proclaimed borderline cat lady Katie Czarniecki Hill said in a blog post.

    Cat video fans can nominate up to three of their favorite feline Internet videos until July 30 by pasting the video URL into this form.

    Viral favorites that have amassed millions of views, including Stalking Cat, OMG Cat and Surprised Kitty are expected to make an appearance, and the Internet is speculating about other top contenders at the hour-long event.

    "Maru is arguably the greatest paw-teur of our generation, but I also think Keyboard Cat

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  • What to Do when Your Pet Goes Missing

    By Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network

    Lost dogLost dog

    From his first day of obedience class, Champ stood out from the crowd. The fawn-colored pit bull already had mastered basic commands and seemed content showing his four-legged peers how to properly heel, sit and tune out distractions. During walks around the neighborhood, kids were drawn to the well-behaved 9-month-old puppy. Working as a team, Champ and his owner Deandre Weaver tried to set an example for other dog owners.

    But nobody's perfect.

    "I did what I shouldn't have done. I tied him to a pole in front of the store," saysWeaver, a dog trainer and owner of K-9 Train to Go in Atlanta. "I kept looking out. At the last moment, I went out and he was gone in just a split second."

    Weaver canvassed the neighborhood, frantically retracing routes away from the store. Somehow, a dog everyone knew and loved had vanished without a trace. Weaver, who worked as an anti-dogfighting advocate with the Humane Society of the United States,

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  • 13 Surprisingly Useful Ways to Use Ice Cubes

    By Melissa Breyer, Mother Nature Network

    In 1844, an American doctor by the name of John Gorrie built an air-cooling system to help treat his yellow fever patients - but his eureka moment didn't stop there. Most historians credit Gorrie, who went on to become "the father of refrigeration," with the invention of the first ice cube tray. By the 1930s, most electric refrigerators were equipped with a freezer compartment dedicated specifically for cube-making trays.

    As 2012 shapes up to be possibly the hottest year on record, we can thank Gorrie for providing us with relief in the form of ice water, iced tea, ice pops and other treats reliant on frozen water. But beyond providing the luxury of a cool drink or snack, frozen cubes have a host of practical applications. Here are some of the tried and true ways to put your ice to good use:

    1. Quench houseplants
    Houseplants help clean the air, so having plenty of them around is a good thing. For hard-to-reach plants or for

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  • 9 Wildest Moments in Olympics History

    As we've come to know them, the Olympic Games are generally marked by all-out effort, serious officiating, precise timekeeping and strict regulations. This hasn't always been the case. From the start of their 19th-century renaissance until the mid-20th century, the Games seemed to have had a touch of slapdash zaniness, where disorganization resulted in everything from disappearing athletes to marathon runners drinking champagne on the course. Norwegian curling team pants aside, contemporary Olympics are a far less wacky affair. Here are some of the wildest moments from Games past.

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  • 5 Low-Tech Innovations Making a Difference in the Developing World

    By Shea Gunther, Mother Nature Network

    Adjustable glassesAdjustable glassesTechnology is a wonderful thing. It's hard to comprehend the level of complexity that enables our everyday life - it's a dizzying world that is getting faster week by week. There's merit in pushing the advancement of technology, but it's important to remember to take a step back and look for new ways to reapply technology to age-old problems. There's nowhere that's more vital than in the developing world.

    When resources like energy, materials or education are scarce, the simplest technology is the better choice. Simple usually means reliable - and reliable can mean the difference between having a machine that functions and having a useless paperweight. When the technology cleans water or keeps food fresh, it can mean the difference between life and death. Here are five simple innovations that are making a big difference in people's lives in the developing world.

    Rocket Stove
    The rocket stove is a wonderfully efficient design that

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  • Why is My Adult Dog Suddenly Going to the Bathroom in the House?

    By Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network

    They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Lately, I'm happy when my 8-year-old pooch Lulu remembers an old one: the ability to hold her potty breaks until we go outside. If I've learned anything from writing this column, I know that correcting behavior issues can take time. Whether it's aggression, anxiety or even house-training, take measures to address an adult dog's behavior changes before the problem becomes unmanageable. If your adult dog has been having accidents in the house lately, try these steps:

    Schedule a veterinary exam: No, this is not a paid advertisement for the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dogs can't exactly tell you, "My tummy hurts," or "You were gone too long and I couldn't hold it." A thorough veterinary exam can identify conditions that cause dogs to behave differently, including blockages, intestinal issues or even tumors.

    "A good bit of the time it has to do with some sort of physical

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