June 10, 2014

Rudy must have had a trying winter in Duluth, Minnesota.     Photo: NateNateRollerskate/Thinkstock

365 Nights Outside

Duluth Boy Scout raises $6,000

Minnesota winters are brutal, even if you have a warm house and a cozy bed to while away the cold nights. Which is why it's remarkable—or maybe just crazy—that a 17-year-old Boy Scout from the Duluth area voluntarily slept outside for 365 nights straight.

Perched most often seven feet up in a tree near his parents' house, Rudy Hummel survived 76 subzero nights and multiple snowstorms to raise about $6,000 for Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity and the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. When not at home, Hummel would pitch a tent or crash on a hotel's deck. According to CBS Minnesota, he slept outside in 30 different places.

Hummel's mother reportedly checked on her son only once—on a night when temps reached 27 degrees below zero. "We had an agreement. If he started to shiver, he would come in," his mother told the Duluth News Tribune. "He never did."

Think you could withstand winter in Duluth? Vote for Hummel's home under the stars in the final round of Outside's Best Towns bracket.

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A marine launches a Puma AE by throwing it in the air. The first drone approved for commercial use by BP is also popular with the military.     Photo: U.S. Marine Corps/Flickr

First Commercial Drone Flies

Belongs to energy company BP

A sleek white Puma AE flying above Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, today became the first commercial drone approved to fly over land. This move by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could be a sign of greater drone integration in the near future. The landmark drone, however, does surveying work for oil company BP, which means that smaller operations could still have a ways to go.

And, yes, the hand-launched Puma AE does operate above the largest oil field in North America (located right near the Beaufort Sea, where scientists are studying how polar bears respond to global warming). The hope is that it will, at least, leave less of a footprint in the remote area than humans might.

Under a five-year contract with drone maker AeroVironment, BP will use small drones to keep an eye on roads, pipelines, and equipment using 3-D modeling technology. According to the FAA, that will save time, increase safety, and help "protect the sensitive North Slope environment."

What does it all mean for other drone hopefuls? Jury's out. Because BP's operation is in the Alaskan wilderness, there's not much in the way of privacy to worry about—a big stress point in the drone saga. But illegal drones continue to fly, and the FAA announced early in June that it will consider allowing drones for filming movies and TV shows. We might not be able to have a drone-delivered brew anytime soon, but things are moving forward. At this point, with the FAA aiming for comprehensive regulations by 2015 and a mass of commercial and amateur drones already in the United States, it's only a matter of time.

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Why can't we be friends—oh, wait, now we can be.     Photo: Roger H. Goun/Flickr

Puppy Love Potion Discovered

Makes the world a friendlier place, one hormone spritz at a time

Who would you spritz if you had a vial of kindness or a flask of love? Researchers in Japan sprayed their dogs.

During a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers sprayed either oxytocin (the "love hormone") or a placebo saline spray into the noses of 16 dogs of varying breeds. Scientists then had the pooches join their owners in a different room.

Owners were asked to ignore their furry friends, but the dogs that had received oxytocin "were more likely to sniff, lick, and paw at their people than were those given the saline." The cuddle-chemical dogs showed affection to not only their owners but also the other pups, proving the power of oxytocin to promote friendship between animals, even if they're different species. 

Oxytocin is the key chemical in the formation of bonds between many mammalian species, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Naturally produced in the pituitary gland, just one whiff of oxytocin is known to foster trust, cooperation, and heightened generosity in parent-offspring and same-species relationships.

Oxytocin spray could be key in forming and maintaining social bonds and close relationships within and between species. "We believe that oxytocin is a hormonal mechanism that facilitates the maintenance of close social bonds not only in dogs or cats, but also in any mammal species, since the oxytocin system is very ancient and has similar functions in a wide number of taxa," Miho Nagasawa, co-author of the study, told Discovery News.

In other words, grumpy cats and humans, you're next.

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Colorado high school teachers love this guy.     Photo: Ryan Mannie/Flickr

Colorado Pot Revenue Growing Like Weeds

Stoners take hits, marijuana sales do the opposite

The tax data is in: High praise for Colorado's progressive stance on marijuana is only growing stronger. Marijuana sales have risen month over month throughout 2014, with revenue reaching $19 million in March and more than $22 million in April.

"Not only is the state making money off a once-taboo drug, but it seems to be doing so with few problems," writes Vox reporter German Lopez. 

The spike in sales is in part attributable to Colorado's first legal celebration of 4/20, and especially to pot mecca Denver. The weekend of the "holiday" coincided with a 73 percent increase in searches for Colorado hotels. As Lopez points out, these sales stand to increase steadily as pot becomes even more accessible. Many Colorado jurisdictions are still in the process of making pot shops legal, and more than 100 such shops are waiting to open. 

As part of the deal to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, voters decreed that $40 million of tax revenue would go to the Colorado Department of Education. Approximately $1.9 million of that has been raised to date.

Moreover, in contrast to the violence of 2013's 4/20 celebration, though crime hasn't been nipped in the bud, violent and property crime rates in Denver mellowed throughout April. 

More Marijuana Coverage from Outside

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