DIY Nuke Detector

if your only source of news is the Daily Show or the occasional CNN bottom-of-screen headline crawl, you're probably aware that

  • terrorists want to kill you, your grandpa and quite possibly your little dog, too,
  • preferably with portable nuclear weapons, smuggled into the US via
  • our extremely vulnerable and barely-monitored shipping ports.

But not to worry: the DHS is on it. In July they announced a plan to equip our major ports with radiation scanners -- but it won't be ready until 2011, and it'll cost around $1.2 billion. According to Wired, the answer to our dirty nuke problems might be a little more home-grown:

"In San Francisco Bay, a group of do-it-yourself volunteer researchers is not waiting for the mushroom cloud. They say they are close to perfecting a portable device that could do much the same thing right now, for total out-of-pocket costs of about $12,000. The group, led by physicist and Sandia Lab weapons subcontractor Stanley Glaros, says it has already built a boat-mounted scanner with off-the-shelf parts that might reliably spot radiation spikes in container ships at sea from a kilometer away.

Encouraged, and armed with this background radiation survey to reduce false alarms, the team is now testing a homemade detector based on a 4-inch by 4-inch by 16-inch sodium iodide crystal ... the same technology used in many monitors currently deployed at ports around the country.
'The crystal is like Frodo's sword,' explained a Glaros collaborator. 'It starts to glow when the bad stuff's around, kind of a blue fluorescence.'"

See? Fight evil with crystals that glow blue. No need to get all billion-dollar-y.

What Koalas and Humans Have in Common

There's something strange about koala fingerprints. Read more bizarre koala facts here.

Don't Have Space For a Christmas Tree? Decorate a Pineapple Instead

Christmas trees aren't for everyone. Some people can't fit a fir inside their cramped abodes, while others are turned off by the expense, or by the idea of bugs hitchhiking their way inside. Fake trees are always an option, but a new trend sweeping Instagram—pineapples as mini-Christmas "trees"—might convince you to forego the forest vibe for a more tropical aesthetic.

As Thrillist reports, the pineapple-as-Christmas-tree idea appears to have originated on Pinterest before it, uh, ripened into a social media sensation. Transforming a pineapple into a Halloween “pumpkin” requires carving and tea lights, but to make the fruit festive for Christmas all one needs are lights, ornaments, swaths of garland, and any other tiny tchotchkes that remind you of the holidays. The final result is a tabletop decoration that's equal parts Blue Hawaii and Miracle on 34th Street.

In need of some decorating inspiration? Check out a variety of “Christmas tree” pineapples below.

[h/t Thrillist]


More from mental floss studios