Right Now in Stuff You Should Know

Many people associate Edison with the invention of electricity, but Nikola Tesla heavily shaped the electrical system we still use today. Get the dirt on the electricity wars between Edison and Tesla in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

On today's list of top biofuels, we have jatropha. I bet dollars to donuts that most of you haven't heard of this one, and I hadn't either until I started to dig in and do some research. Here's the skinny on jatropha curcas: It's a shrub that can grow most anywhere It's highly drought resistant Doesn't compete with food crops Its seeds are about 35 percent oil Originated in Central America, now grown in Asia Oil can be burned in a standard diesel engine Generates topsoil and stalls erosion One bush can live up to 50 years It also produces four times as much oil per hectare as soybean and a whopping ten times as much as corn. So what's the problem? Well, it's poisonous to both man and cattle and as if now, it needs to be harvested by hand, making it very labor intensive.

Another Edition of Box Brown and "Stuff Comics"

Hello, folks. Talented comic-man Box Brown was kind enough to do another "Stuff Comics"strip for us. If you didn't catch the first one - "Stuff I Already Know" you can check it out here. You can also go to http://boxbrown.com/ and help support the man himself - he has some very cool comics, cartoons and illustrations posted. Today's edition is called "Stuff You Think You Know." Enjoy!

You remember Matthew Lesko, that guy on TV in the purple suit with question marks all over it who used to yell from the steps of the Capitol building about his amazing programs to make free money off the federal government? Get $100,000 to write a book! Yadda, etc. I never bought his book because, you know, I'm not a sucker, and I've just learned I made the right choice. The cat is out of the bag and Matthew Lesko isn't holding all of the power for once in my life. Forget going to the trouble of writing a book or filling out all those tedious grant applications. The real money's in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Associated Press reports this morning about a report (which is their way) issued by the Wartime Contracting Commission over the lack of federal oversight on the tens, nay hundreds, of billions of dollars being thrown at the problem. Turns out, there's no oversight at all.

Podcast Goodness: Biohydrocarbons and Brownfields

Hello, kind folks of the SYSK Nation. We hope you've all had a lovely week in whatever corner of the world you're reading this. Dr. Clark and I have been on a bit of a "green" kick lately with the show, and since green is the new black, we don't feel the least bit bad for it.

You know how sometimes extrausual concepts that don't really fit with your worldview often have a way of popping back up again and again until you finally stop and pay attention? (Laughing rats and the fact that I have a speech impediment are two recent examples for me.) Lately, the notion of transhumanism has been making random cameos and so I've chosen to investigate further. A couple years ago, I stumbled onto the site of a group called BLTC Research, and couldn't really make heads or tails of the mission statement on the home page, since it clearly wasn't intended for the uber novice. I got to the part that implicates genes as selfish and, by nature, ensure "pain and malaise are endemic to the living world."

Today's entry in the top 5 biofuels spectacular is good old sugar cane. If you're into producing sugar cane, then there's a 45 percent chance you're Brazilian. They produce about that much of the world's ethanol from the cane. And they've been doing so since the 1970s, so they're pretty darn good at it too. The cool thing about sugar cane is that it requires very little energy input to distill down to bioethanol. The reason why is that producers use bagasse, the fiber that remains after extraction of juice from the sugarcane, as the heat mechanism in the distillation process. In other words, they use part of the plant as part of the "fuel" it needs to complete the process. Pretty cool, eh?

Hydrocarbons are simple compounds that help fuel the modern world, but they're not really a sustainable resource. Explore new energy solutions, starting with biohydrocarbons, in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Tanks for the Memories, China: Today's the 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Chuck and I found out recently from a SYSK listener in China that our blog is banned there. It's a weird honor, even if it is just because some Chinese bot picked up a series of words we strung together that happened to be flagged. I suspect it was Chuck's post on coasteering.

Today's entry into the top 5 biofuels sweepstakes is rapeseed. This mustard green is also known as oilseed and canola. Though it is indeed and leafy green, it's largely grown for it's seeds, which are about 40 percent oil. China and Europe produce most it, to the tune of about 47 million tons per year in total. Rapeseed has been used for making soap, oils and plastics manufacturing, but it really shines as a biofuel. In fact, Europe is the leader in making biodiesel from rapeseed oil. Why? Mainly because they heavily subsidize the stuff in Europe, much like the United States does with corn. The EU wants to have 10 percent of its vehicles running on biodiesel by the year 2020 and rapeseed looks to be a major player.

OK, people. Who's ready to talk biofuel? This guy, that's who. First, how about a biofuel lesson that everyone can easily understand?When fuel is burned, it releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 is a good thing in some ways, it's use ...

The EPA defines a brownfield as land that is abandoned because redevelopment is complicated by possible environmental contamination. Tune in as Chuck and Josh examine the process of redeveloping a brownfield in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Homelessness Sucks, or Why You Should Never Leave Your Leftover Take-out Food Unattended

Homelessness sucks. There are certain things that every human should have and a home is one of them. The value of a place to call one's own where a person can watch TV or drink a beer in peace and rest can't be overestimated, although it's easy to take for granted. In its absence, though, nothing's more important. Gratitude and yearning grows for simple and meager things like doing laundry or mowing the grass or not eating Burger King for one night, things that are mundane or chores under normal circumstances.

Let me just begin this post by saying that I detest math. I'm not good at it and lucky for me, I don't need to be. Having said that, this story from Sweden puts a smile on my face. A 16 year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden named Mohamed Altoumaimi has solved out a math problem that has vexed the best mathematics minds for 300 years. It took him about four months. What he did was come up with a formula that explains and simplifies the "Bernoulli numbers."

If you've ever tried to get rid of person in the background of a digital image using Photoshop, you know what it means to produce a wonky picture. Despite extensive viewing of the You Suck at Photoshop tutorials (congrats on the Webby Award), most of the procedures I undertake involving the clone stamp ends with me just biting my lip until one of my canine teeth punctures clean through it, followed by an expletive, and finishing with angry use of the crop tool. Done. There. Fine. Whatever. This appears to be an impending thing of the past, however, thanks to Princeton University's Computer Sciences department. A group of computer scientists have cracked the code for seamlessly removing objects and features in digital photos and replacing them with what was in the background when the picture was taken.

Podcast Goodness: Propaganda and HEY, I'M ON FIRE!

Hello, good people of the SYSK Nation. What a fun week here at HQ. Dr. Clark and I covered a couple of cool topics -- propaganda and spontaneous human combustion.

Read This Post on Laughing Rats or Mail Me a Dollar, One of the Two

Here at HowStuffWorks.com we're putting together a bunch of articles on happiness, which makes me all yellow smiley face. It looks like I'm jaundiced here I'm so happy. I'm writing a some of the articles in the happiness suite and there's this weird thing that keeps popping up, laughing rats. Not just in congruous articles either -- laughing rats were coming at me from all angles! Run for your life, yellow boy! Run!

Hello, all. As you well know, it is in the 21st episode of the 13th season of "The Simpsons," that the screamapillar is introduced. You will remember that the screamapillar is a highly obnoxious endangered species of insect that's characterized by its endless screams for attention. According to a pamphlet created by the EPA, entitled "Screamapillar Care Tips," the insect screams in its sleep, it is sexually attracted to fire, it will die unless it receives constant reassurance and it is the favorite food of everything. Sexual attraction to fire is, of course, hilarious. Any suicidal lack of survival instinct is pretty funny. Which is why I think this article in Cosmos I came across is so utterly wonderful. I've ingested the meat of it and will regurgitate it for you here now. Open wide!

Cool Fan Art Alert!

Hey, folks. We have a very talented fan here at Stuff You Should Know and I wanted to share a little snippet of his work. His name is Box Brown, he's a cartoonist and was kind enough to do a "commissioned" work for us after I saw his awesome Web site and begged him to. His work is what I guess you could call "alternative comics" or something like that, but by any name it's very cool, left-of-center stuff. In other words, right up our alley here at SYSK. Dig this cool comic strip he made just for us. Hopefully there will be more to come -- thanks, Box! Check out his site while you're at it -- http://boxbrown.com.

Is spontaneous human combustion real?

Scientists have proven that spontaneous combustion, or burning without an external ignition source, can occur in some objects. But what about human beings? Tune in and learn more about spontaneous human combustion in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.