Blog Posts by Mike Krumboltz, Yahoo News

  • Cow-milking robots make farmers, animals happier

    Take a hike, farmers. The cows, it turns out, are perfectly capable of deciding when they need to be milked.

    A new trend in farm-based robotics has dramatically changed the way cows are cared for and milked at farms in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York, according to a report from the New York Times.

    Robotic milking systems, like the one in the Times story, have been popular in Europe for years, but are only just gaining traction in the U.S.

    The benefits are many. The robots work around the clock, improving efficiency. Because the cows are able to be milked more often, they're in less pain. And the farmers get to sleep just a tiny bit more or concentrate on the millions of other things that have to be done.

    To a city slicker unfamiliar with this sort of thing, the machine looks a bit like a car wash, or something from "The Jetsons." The cow steps in. A laser scans a bar code on the cow. The cow gets milked. And voilà — next customer, step right up.

    The Times article profiles the

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  • Five things you (probably) don't know about Earth Day

    The sun rises over Emmarencia Dam in central Johannesburg, South Africa, April 22, 2014. As Earth Day is marked across the globe local residents enjoy the natural surroundings is the middle of one of the continents biggest cities. As winter approaches the leaves on the trees are turning and showing their autumn colors. (EPA/KIM LUDBROOK)

    Earth Day turns 44 on Tuesday, and it's more popular than ever. One might suspect the holiday was created by eco-warriors in tie-dyed shirts and leather-fringe vests. Not so. Read on for a collection of facts you (probably) didn't know about Earth Day.

    1. Earth Day was started by politicians

    The holiday and celebration of all things Mother Earth was founded by a Wisconsin politician named Gaylord Nelson. Over the course of his political career, Nelson served as governor of Wisconsin and a three-term Democratic senator. Nelson passed away in 2005, but he left behind a legacy of sensible environmentalism and bipartisanship.

    It was a visit to California during which he witnessed an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara that inspired him to do something about the growing problem of air and water pollution. Nelson did his best to make the movement a nonpartisan one by asking Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Calif., to serve as his co-chair, according to EarthDay.org.

    2. One in four deaths

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  • Rio overpass demolished as part of Olympic redevelopment

    Hosting the Olympics is an honor. It's also a lot of work: Host cities build stadiums, construct hotels and, in some cases, even blow up highways to get ready to handle the massive influx of athletes and spectators.

    Case in point: Rio.

    Explosives are detonated to demolish part of the Perimetral overpass, as part of Rio's Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) urbanisation project, in Rio de Janeiro April 20, 2014. The project is for the city's redevelopment ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: SPORT SOCIETY OLYMPICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY POLITICS)

    Photographs captured demolition of part of the Perimetral overpass on April 20. The destruction of the stretch of road is just one part of the city's plans to redevelop in preparation for the 2016 Olympics.

    People gather to observe the Perimetral overpass, after its partial demolition as part of Rio's Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) urbanisation project, in Rio de Janeiro April 20, 2014. The project is for the city's redevelopment ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: POLITICS SPORT SOCIETY OLYMPICS BUSINESS)

    Nobody can say Rio isn't taking its job seriously.  The demolition drew plenty of onlookers who marveled at the overpass's collapse.

    People gather to observe the Perimetral overpass, after its partial demolition as part of Rio's Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) urbanisation project, in Rio de Janeiro April 20, 2014. The project is for the city's redevelopment ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. (REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

    This is the most recent part of the highway to be destroyed. Another was demolished on Nov. 24, 2013; that included "29 spans and 232 beams that together weigh 5,104 tons," according to odebrecht.com, website of the Brazilian construction and engineering multinational corporation.

    The Rio Olympics aren't scheduled to open until Aug. 5, 2016. However, prep work isn't something to be left until the last minute.

    Anybody

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  • The phone call that may have saved a building from falling onto New York City

    601 Lexington Avenue (Wikimedia Commons)

    Walk around Manhattan and you'll see dozens, if not hundreds, of feats of engineering sure to leave even the most cynical urbanite gobsmacked.

    One of the most amazing buildings in the Big Apple is located at 601 Lexington Avenue. The structure's spectacular design is outdone only by the story of how a student discovered it wasn't as safe as the experts believed.

    The story has been known for years, but a recent post in DamnedInteresting.com inspired a new surge of interest.

    The 59-story tower, at one time the world's seventh tallest building, was built on humongous stilts in order to accommodate a nearby church. To work around the church, the architect and engineer placed the stilts in the center of the building's sides, not at the corners.

    It was a bold move and made possible via a chevron structure, a series of eight rows of giant steel V's that acted as the building's skeleton and overall decreased the weight of the building. To compensate for the building's lightweight stance, 

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  • Lance Armstrong explains how to change a flat tire

    Bizarrely straightforward video from Outside magazine features disgraced cyclist demonstrating in a bike shop

    Not all online videos featuring unexpected celebrities are the same.

    This video from Outside magazine starring Lance Armstrong doesn't go for laughs. Instead, it's strangely practical. So much so that you might wonder if you've missed the joke.

    The disgraced cyclist, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in 2012 and admitted to doping in 2013, appears in a tongue-in-cheek instructional clip in which he educates viewers on how to change a flat tire on a bike.

    His instructions are straightforward and pretty useful for amateur cyclists. And that's what makes the video, which went up earlier this week, so odd. It's just so... normal.

    There's one humorous allusion to rougher times, but for the most part, it's just Lance changing a tire, offering tips and getting his hands dirty, just as if he's a regular bike store employee and not one of the most infamous athletes of all time.

    How did Outside convince Armstrong to make the video?

    “We asked, he said yes — much to our

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  • Opera star entertains Paris Metro commuters

    Christophe Menager gives a comedic performance in a subway station under the City of Light

    Surprises during commutes are rarely pleasant. More often than not, they involve traffic jams, delayed trains or horrible weather that makes getting home a type of Greek odyssey.

    So, we imagine it must have been a nice treat for the Paris commuters who were lucky enough to come across opera star Christophe Menager giving a performance in a bustling Metro station.

    We don't know what Menager is singing about, but we do know that he's giving it his all. According to the person who recorded the two minutes of video, Menager "sometimes goes to the Metro to sing for the people that can't afford to go or wouldn't otherwise be interested in going to opera."

    Of course, the opera, especially as performed in subway stations, isn't for everybody. Some commuters stop to listen and interact, while others hurry past, eager to get to wherever it is they're going. Maybe the opera?

    Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

     

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  • FBI produces short film to warn students about spying on U.S.

    'Game of Pawns' dramatizes story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who is serving four years in prison

    Move over, Warner Bros. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is getting into the movie business.

    OK, not exactly. But the feds did produce a short film , titled "Game of Pawns," detailing the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, a recent American college graduate who was sentenced to four years in federal prison after he pled guilty to conspiring to give classified information to authorities in the People's Republic of China.

    After college, Shriver traveled to Shanghai in the mid-2000s. In need of money, he responded to a classified ad to write essays on American-Chinese relations.

    Things escalated. He was given more assignments (and money) and was eventually asked by Chinese officials to infiltrate the U.S. on their behalf by pursuing a career in the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Warning bells must have been going off, but Shriver continued down the road, scoring an interview at CIA headquarters. However, his nerves quickly got the better of him. After choking during a routine polygraph

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  • Man uses drone to take spectacular selfie atop hill in San Francisco

    We know, we know. You're sick of selfies. We're sick of selfies. Everybody's sick of selfies. We hear you loud and clear.

    But humor us, because this isn't your average, everyday, phone-held-out-at-arm's-length smiling portrait of some goober in front of the Eiffel Tower.

    Far from it. Amit Gupta used a drone to take a 15-second video selfie of two friends, himself, and their dogs from atop Bernal Hill in San Francisco.

    The footage starts with the camera-equipped drone floating a dozen or so feet away from the three men. Then, whoosh! The drone takes off, flying higher and farther from the city until the men and their mutts are mere dots on the horizon.

    All in all, it's a stunning bit of videography and evidence that the selfie isn't dead yet.

    Of course, this isn't the first time somebody has shot a selfie with a drone. The Verge offers a nice roundup of some other drone selfies (dronies?), each of them worth a look.

    Below, an explainer on how the uber-popular "Superman With a GoPro"

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  • Tourists forced to jump from runaway horse carriage in Savannah, Ga.

    So much for getting a little R and R down south.

    A group of New Yorkers traveled to what many would consider the far less hectic Savannah, Ga., for vacation only to find themselves careening through the streets in a runaway horse-drawn carriage.

    The scene, which was captured on video, shows the horse running rampant, bumping into cars, and generally causing mayhem. The driver was thrown from her perch and broke both her ankles in the fall, according to a report from Fox News.

    The five passengers, which included three children, all escaped from the incident with relatively minor injuries, WSAV reports, despite having to jump from the carriage while it was still in motion.

    Witnesses described the surreal scene to WSAV. Nicole Miller, who was eating a cafe with her husband, saw the horse gallop by. "All of a sudden the horse and carriage trucking by us. It takes a turn and we hear a crash."

    Another witness, Aaron Senne, told WSAV, "I heard the horse coming down and said it sounds like its

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  • Not-so-sweet Caroline: Woman billed more than $4,000 for Neil Diamond download

    Neil Diamond (Wikimedia Commons)

    Neil Diamond can sing. He can play. He can entertain. And he can also inspire a British woman vacationing in South Africa to download his greatest hits on her phone, leading to an incredible $4,350 bill, the Telegraph reports.

    Of course, the woman, Katie Bryan, wasn't aware what the download would cost her. The math instructor told the Telegraph she discovered the data charge when she returned to the U.K. and received her cellphone bill.

    Bryan, 43, told the Telegraph, "People were playing music through their iPads or on phones through an iPod dock. Someone had put on the Traveling Wilburys but I just fancied hearing some Neil Diamond. I don't know why. He's more my boyfriend's musical taste and I'm more of a James Blunt fan."

    And so Bryan downloaded Diamond's greatest hits for what she thought was £8.99 ($15). Alas, she didn't count on the data charges. The Telegraph reports that Bryan was charged "£8 per megabyte once her 10MB monthly foreign allowance had been used up." All told,

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