May 23, 2014

Look! Unselfish selfies!     Photo: NASA's Earth Day Global Selfie 2014

#GlobalSelfie Trend Visualized

36,422 photos span 3.2 gigapixels

NASA released a stunning, down-to-earth portrait of the globe yesterday from its #GlobalSelfie Earth Day project. The 360-degree mosaic of 36,422 selfies spanning 3.2 gigapixels of data answers the question NASA asked people all around the world on Earth Day: "Where are you on Earth right now?"

The hashtag "GlobalSelfie" trended across more than 100 countries. Click the plus icon in the top right corner of the globe to zoom in on a few of the selfie submissions NASA received via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Flickr.

NASA and GigaPan present a snapshot of the selfie world:

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Have fun outside—doctor's orders.     Photo: Nagesh Jayaraman/Flickr

Doctors Prescribing Time Outside

Fill prescriptions for nature

Washington, DC-based pediatrician Robert Zarr is lending new meaning to "giving someone her walking papers."

In 2011, the National Park Service conceptualized Healthy Parks Healthy People, an initiative to increase park visitation and good health. Zarr, a nature lover who had been reading about the theory of nature deficit disorder, took the NPS's idea and ran with it.

In July 2013, Zarr became the foremost advocate of the program when he launched Park Rx, an NPS-helmed medical program through which doctors "prescribe" patients nature at Unity Health Care. That means prescribing time outside—and not just in any outdoor place, but in places patients are most likely to follow through on those prescriptions.

The American Heart Association recently estimated that 12 percent of Americans don't take prescribed medications, and the American Academy of Family Physicians found that one in three patients don't even take the step of filling their prescriptions. To get his young patients moving, Zarr worked with a host of organizations, including the NPS, to map and rate 380 DC parks based on things like available activities, cleanliness, and accessibility to transit. 

When Zarr and his colleagues prescribe nature, they match patients to the parks nearest them that offer certain activities. Zarr then prints out a prescription page with the park's information and a map. 

Making follow-through as easy as possible has worked, Zarr told Fast Company. Unity Health Care doctors have issued 550 prescriptions and saw an average increase of 22 minutes of activity per week in 400 patients.

Zarr believes the digital age will help keep patients accountable and give them incentive to manage their health. He's in the process of developing a Park Rx mobile app that could regularly remind patients to get outside and keep their doctors abreast of their activities. 

Prescribing nature might seem a bit wonky, but Zarr isn't the first to try progressive outdoor treatments. This past March, the City of Boston and Boston Medical Center began prescribing cycling to get lower-income patients moving on more affordable transportation. A few months earlier, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children launched Outdoors Rx, a program through which doctors tell patients to join hiking trips and even plan their own outings. Successful patients earn rewards toward fun outdoor gear and trips.

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The rescue as it happened.     Photo: Ricky Forbes/YouTube

America Goes Wild for Brave Mama Bear

Rescued cub from the highway

A brave mama bear took America by storm, making the rounds on the Today show and ABC, among others, after video emerged of the bear rescuing her cub from the perils of a human highway.

In the footage, we see the cub trapped against a concrete barrier, helpless against the roaring onrush of an alien civilization. Like a black furry angel, the mother swoops over the barrier and lifts the cub to safety. "That is the coolest thing I've ever seen," says the videographer. 

The footage was taken by Ricky Forbes, a member of the Tornado Hunters storm chasing team, who was driving through British Columbia's Kootenay National Park. "While watching the cub, we saw the mama bear stick [its] head over the barrier to save [its] young from its dangerous predicament," said Forbes. "A very amazing sight to see."

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Keep your Levi jeans in mint condition by keeping them dirty. Just don't expect to make any friends.     Photo: Blake Burkhart/flickr

Don't Wash Your Levi Jeans

CEO hasn't washed his in a year

Rugged durability has been a trademark of Levi Strauss since its founder began selling the company's earliest products to California gold rushers in 1853. Now, current CEO Chip Bergh has a message that might make consumers who wear Levi products for style think twice: Stop washing your jeans.

That's right, Bergh wants us to keep our Levis out of the wash—and he's leading by example.

"In rough terms, 50 percent of the water usage is consumed by the time the consumer gets their jeans," Bergh said in an interview with Fortune that focused on Levi's sustainability efforts. "The other 50 percent is after the consumer buys them in the store and starts washing them all the time."

The sharply-dressed Bergh pinched his own pants: "These jeans are maybe a year old and have yet to see a washing machine. I know that sounds totally disgusting, but believe me, it can be done! You can spot clean it, you can air dry it, and it's fine. I have yet to get a skin disease or anything else. It works."

Bergh's austere washing strategy is a natural extension of the company's prominent push toward sustainable production practices. Earlier this year, the company announced a new water-recycling process that has already saved 12 million liters of water, and it has worked to standardize its techniques so other manufacturers can follow suit. This all fits with Bergh's explanation that sustainability harkens back to Levi Strauss' initial philosophy to "do the right thing."

Thanks to other new methods, including a way of making jeans that uses ozone and no water rather than water and bleach, environmentally-friendly products now constitute 20 percent of Levi's sales, according to Bergh. 

Refusing to wash Levi jeans also matches the company's reputation for high-end, long-lasting products. Bergh contrasted Levi with "fast fashion" juggernauts like H&M, explaining that if you treat the pants right, "they will last a long, long time—probably longer than most people's waistlines." Anyway, Bergh said, "real denim aficionados will tell you not to wash your blue jeans."

You're preaching a noble cause, Chip, but we've got a question: Can you tag along next time we get shot down in a bar because of our stinky jeans?

Check out everything the CEO had to say:

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Nerds for Nature placed this sign on Mount Diablo's Summit Trail. Anyone who passes by can take a photo of a specific spot, then post it to social media with the hashtag #morganfire04.     Photo: Nerds for Nature/Flickr

Tweet to Help a Mountain Recover

Crowdsourcing post-fire photos

And you thought Twitter was just for shooting the breeze. In another win for citizen science, a group called Nerds for Nature is asking hikers to shoot images of California's Mount Diablo State Park and post them on social media. The end result will be a crowdsourced time-lapse showing how the area is recovering from last summer's wildfire.

Last September, Morgan Fire burned more than 3,000 acres in Mount Diablo State Park, leaving behind extensive damage on a good portion of the mountain. Almost a year later, things are starting to grow back, Nerds for Nature co-founder Dan Rademacher told KQED Science. Now it's time to keep an eye on exactly what the recovery process looks like.

Nerds for Nature set up four signs in different areas of Mount Diablo's Summit Trail, all equipped with brackets to hold a smartphone. Hikers who come across the signs place their phones in the bracket to take a photo of the mountainside. Then they can post it to Flickr, Twitter, or Instagram with a #morganfire hashtag corresponding to the specific area the image came from. 

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem more preoccupied with posting images of the novel signs than the land itself at this point, but a spreadsheet of contributions shows that users have shot about 300 usable images, and that number is still growing. The aim is to make use of the trail's popularity, which attracts hikers every day, and watch as flora and fauna return to the area.

The new project should continue for at least another year. The hope is that eventually the photos could aid scientific studies on wildfire recovery in the park. Quite a contribution for 140 characters or less.

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