May 15, 2014

An abundance of deer is bad news for a Washington, DC, park—but there is a solution.     Photo: Harvey Barrison/Flickr

Venison for the Homeless

Thanks to booming deer population

Rock Creek Park, a 2,000-acre park that bisects Washington, DC, has seen a recent boom in its deer population. According to the New York Times, an estimated 320 deer live in the park, and this large population is threatening much of the area's vegetation. 

The National Park Service wants to diminish the population from 77 deer per square mile to 20 per square mile and has been soliciting a team of sharpshooters to stealthily kill the deer during the night.

However, all that deer meat does not go to waste. The venison is inspected and given to D.C. Central Kitchen, an organization that distributes the meat to shelters and centers in need across the city. In the past year, the park has donated almost 4,000 pounds of venison to the kitchen. Although many people are shocked because of where the meat comes from, April Hanson, the case manager at a substance abuse program simply says, "As long as [my patients] get to eat."

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The perfect pour—not quite rocket science, but close.     Photo: Jonathan Austin Daniels / Thinkstock

The Perfect Beer Foam

Just in time for American Craft Beer Week

Many beer aficionados consider the perfect pour to be a science. Selecting the proper glass, tilting it at the perfect angle, determining how quickly to allow the brew to flow from the bottle—to us, the process sounds like a fun experiment with the lure of delicious beer at the end.

But this is no faux science, at least not if the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists has anything to say about it. In the journal's upcoming issue, Cornell food scientists report that they've unlocked a chemical clue to pouring the perfect head—just in time for the end of American Craft Beer Week.

The study, "Recent Discoveries in Beer Foam," confirms that a number of chemical factors—including dissolved gases, acidity, ions, ethanol levels, and viscosity—affect a beer's head in addition to the barman's skill. Lead author Karl J. Siebert says the presence of LTP1, a kind of barley lipid transfer protein, proved most crucial to perfect beer foam. Beers with optimal levels of LPT1 will produce the best foam.

"Alright, buddy," you may say. "I left my chemistry kit at home. How can a beer plebe such as myself determine my foam's quality?"

"The sign of a good head—the proper consistency, color, height, duration—is to draw a face with your finger in the foam before taking the first sip," Siebert says. "If the face is still there when the glass is drained and the liquid is gone—that's some seriously good foam."

If you're looking to test Siebert's technique yourself, get out to a bar or liquor store to celebrate American Craft Beer Week. At Outside, we're considering picking up Anchor Brewing Company's California Lager—the business announced today that some proceeds from the beer will now support the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation and that they'll start shipping the beer in cans for greater outdoor versatility.

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    Photo: Chipotle

Chipotle Cups to Feature Famous Literature

New packaging offers stories from Gladwell, Foer, and Morrison

What do Sarah Silverman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jonathan Safran Foer have in common? Their words all appear on Chipotle's new line of packaging, which, starting today, has taken a literary turn.

Foer, author of Eating Animals, a book about factory farming, told Vanity Fair he was eating a Chipotle lunch by himself in the not-too-distant past when an idea came to him. Perhaps his time would be better spent reading something of import while he nommed his burrito. He wrote an email to Steve Ells, Chipotle's CEO:

"I said, 'I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn't have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text.'"

The cups and bags your in which your meal is delivered offer thought-provoking sentiments from well-known authors and poets about everything from making the world a better place to opening your mind. Not your typical fast food message. 

"We've never used our packaging in the traditional sense that fast food uses them—to promote things like Coca-Cola," Chipotle's Mark Crumpacker told Fast Company. "This takes people out of their daily routine a little bit, maybe gets them to think about their world in a different way."

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Women compete in the 5000-meter race at the 2012 London Olympics.     Photo: Nick Webb/Flickr

Gender Equality Predicts Olympic Success

Men and women from equal playing fields win more medals

We already know that populous and wealthier nations tend to have more Olympic success. We also recently learned that home field advantage is real, which the Russians confirmed at this year's Sochi Games when they spent about $1.54 billion per medal. Now, academics at Michigan's Grand Valley State University (GVSU) have confirmed another element of Olympic success that analysts have long suspected: Nations with greater women's empowerment send more women to the Olympics and win more medals while they're there.

The study, led by GVSU professor Aaron Lowen and published in the Journal of Sports Economics, used data from the past five Summer Olympics and compared it to the UN's Gender Inequality Index (GII). They found that the GII can predict Olympic success just like measurements of population and wealth.

The GII incorporates information about reproductive health, political empowerment, and participation in the labor force to generate a number ranging from 0 to 100, with lower numbers signaling equality. Exactly how much does variance in this number hint at success in the games? According to the paper, a 10-point decrease in a country's GII equates to about one extra medal for men and 1.5 extra medals for women.

Of course, this research doesn't necessarily guarantee success for countries with more gender equality; many other factors influence outcomes. In fact, the top three finishers in London's 2012 Games—the United States, China, and Russia—ranked 42nd, 35th, and 51st, respectively, in the 2012 GII rankings. These countries had lots of other factors going for them other than gender equality, and despite not being at the top of the GII heap, they were among the top third of countries with respect to this type of equality.

The Summer Olympics were ideal for this type of study because of the games' robust female participation rates and status as the world's largest elite sports competition. The study also generated some unanticipated findings, including the GII's positive effects on male Olympic success. This could be linked to the greater opportunities for recreation in gender-equal societies; as men and women in flourishing societies have more time to themselves, they can pursue athletic training at elite levels.

Still, Lowen acknowledged that the GII and this study could only go so far in predicting Olympic success. "We've shown that women's empowerment and elite athletic success go together, but we can't say which causes which," he said, suggesting that we could better understand the causality "if several nations randomly received significant additional resources for women's sports," and then encountered increased or decreased women's empowerment.

We'll see how Lowen's predictions play out in Rio, which if you recall, is shaping up to be an epic fail.

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Looks like 13 percent fewer people are showing up for Splash Zone seats.     Photo: dicau58/Flickr

Seaworld Entering Hot Water

Weaker earnings and a very old wild orca call claims into further question

The president of SeaWorld San Diego called the 2013 documentary Blackfish a "propaganda film," but the numbers speak for themselves: a 13 percent decrease in visitors to the embattled parks and the recent discovery of a wild orca that is more than 50 years older than the age SeaWorld claims orcas live in the wild.

At the beginning of this year, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. predicted that it would experience record profits of $1.46 billion even after the controversy following Blackfish—and it did. But the attendance boom didn't last; in the following months, the number of visitors began to decline by up to 13 percent. The company's first quarter earnings report for 2014, released Wednesday, revealed revenues of $212.3 million. That's an 11 percent decrease from last year's first quarter earnings—and wildlife campaigners suspect Blackfish played no small part in that outcome.

Also among SeaWorld's responses to Blackfish was a dispute of the film's claim that wild killer whales live more than twice as long as those in SeaWorld. SeaWorld insisted that "while research suggests that some wild killer whales can live as long as 60 or 70 years, their average lifespan is nowhere near that." SeaWorld's killer whale facts page asserts that its captive whales—the oldest of which is close to 50 years old—have comparable lifespans to those in the wild.

But a 103-year-old orca whale named Granny J2 is here to dispute those claims. Whale-watching group Ocean Ecoventures spotted her near Vancouver Island this past weekend. She's part of the most-studied population of killer whales in the world. Knowing her advanced age, the group wondered if she would make it back for her pod's annual visit to the waters off the coast of British Columbia. "It's the first question: Is Granny there?" said Captain Simon Pidcock of Ocean Ecoventures in a CBC article. "And sure enough, she was."

So not only has Granny very much outlived SeaWorld's longevity estimates, she even predates the Titanic. With these new developments accompanying a glacier of a bill in California calling for a ban on captive orcas for entertainment purposes, SeaWorld may share a similar sinking fate.

Granny J2 (left) and friends off the coast of British Columbia.   Photo: Captain Simon Pidcock/Ocean Ecoventures

More Outside Coverage of SeaWorld's Fall from Grace:

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Environmental cleanup crews were stuck with a sticky problem early Thursday morning.     Photo: Rufous52/ThinkStock

Oil Burst Paves Slippery Slope

Crude drowns half-mile of Los Angeles neighborhood

A 20-inch pipe burst just after midnight Thursday at the West San Fernando Road crude oil transfer pumping station in Glendale, California. The oil spill-turned-geiser reached heights of 20 feet, gelled in knee-deep pools, and coated surrounding streets in 10,000 gallons of crude before the line was remotely shut off.

Environmental cleanup crews burned the midnight oil vacuuming the mess, turning soap and high-pressure hoses on the most stubborn slicks. 

Meanwhile, two people were sent to the hospital for burst-related injuries, and four employees of a local medical business complained of respiratory issues. Several businesses were variously affected, a section of Glendale was shut down, and a nearby strip club was evacuated.

Local fire department spokesperson Erik Scott couldn't rule out contamination of local waterways. In an interview with the Associated Press, Scott said that while there was no "visible evidence" of oil entering storm drains, oil could have slipped under manhole covers, beneath which water flushes into the 52-mile Los Angeles River. Talk about pouring fuel on troubled waters.

This is not the first time this year that exactly 10,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a U.S. pipeline. Back in March, a Sunoco pipeline leak contaminated Oak Glen Nature Preserve outside Cincinnati, Ohio, with crude oil pooling in a football-field-length marsh—150 meters from the Great Miami River. 

Officials originally reported a 50,000-gallon spill, but upon vacuuming realized their estimate was 400 percent too high. Still, that's enough crude oil to fully fuel about 310 Volkswagen GTIs upon distillation, and nothing to scoff at.

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Who's rising to meet whom here?     Photo: Getty Images/Purestock

Sierra Nevadas on the Rise

Peak activity correlates to seismic activity

GPS stations atop the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges revealed a steady rise—10 millimeters in the past seven years—of the mountains' peaks. A study published in Nature yesterday credits the rise to the current drought and removal of 7.5 cubic miles of groundwater from the San Joaquin Valley between 2003 and 2010.

Studies in earth and planetary sciences from the University of California, Berkeley suggest that such levels of deep-earth stress heighten the risk for microquakes on the San Andreas Fault and could trigger much larger seismic events.

The most recent study's co-author, Berkeley's Roland Burgmann, says that millimeter fluctuations in the mountains could provide "that extra push to get a fault to fail."

According to his study, water weight removed from the area during the past 150 years (equivalent to about 40 cubic miles) caused the Sierra Nevada's underlying crust to "rebound" half a foot. The inverse is true as well. During torrential downpours—usually during the winter—the mountain range's crust soaks up water and pushes down its peaks some three millimeters, the study details.

The Sierra Nevada's movements were previously attributed to tectonic activity until this study was published. Now we must ask, if the drought continues, will peak activity up seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault?

Burgmann thinks so. "Water changes ultimately affect the deeper earth too," he says.

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