Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer

iStock
iStock

In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animals that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]

Why a Rare Coca-Cola Bottle Could Sell for Over $100,000 at Auction

Joe Lodge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Joe Lodge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to understand why some collectors are fixated on Coca-Cola memorabilia. For over a century, the company has produced numerous banners, posters, signs, cans, and other products, some of which now fetch a premium on the secondary market.

One glass bottle in particular is currently commanding a price that might raise eyebrows: If estimates for an upcoming auction are met, it could sell for well over $100,000.

The bottle, offered by Morphy Auctions, features the curvaceous shape familiar to Coca-Cola fans, with a tapered neck and bottom. It’s said to be one of the prototypes the company toyed with back in 1915, when they were in search of a distinctive shape for their glass containers. (Aluminum cans weren’t introduced until 1960.) The bottle, which differed from the straight tube-shaped product issued by bottlers, was an attempt to make Coca-Cola stand out among copycats and was designed so it could be recognized even if it was broken.

Why is this bottle so revered? In addition to being a “missing link” of sorts in the evolution of the curved bottle, which was finalized and released in 1917, it was also supposed to have been destroyed, as all the other test bottles were. Discovered in the personal effects of a former Coca-Cola employee, it appears to be the only surviving intact prototype, making it highly desirable among collectors.

A prototype of an earlier design sold for $240,000 in 2011. Bidding on this bottle is currently at $90,000 and will almost certainly increase when the auction goes live on April 14.

Should you happen to come across one of the contoured bottles that were mass-produced following this design development, don’t assume you’ve struck it rich. The consumer bottles were produced in the millions and usually sell for between $6 and $30, with the straight-sided bottles that preceded them selling for between $25 and $400. The better money is in the “Hutchinson” bottles that pre-dated the curved design and featured a metal stopper that sealed the bottle. The Hutchinsons, which were produced between the 1890s and early 1900s, can command up to $4000.

Read more about the prototype bottle on the Morphy Auctions website.

[h/t Food & Wine]

The Refillable Water Filter That Will Cut Down on Your Brita Waste

Phox Water
Phox Water

If you’re not lucky enough to live in a city with great-tasting, safe-to-drink tap water, you probably go through your share of plastic water filters. But while filtration systems like Brita or PUR pitchers make your water tastier and healthier, those disposable filters aren't great for the environment. A new eco-friendly water filter aims to change that.

The Phox water filter features a reusable cartridge that you can refill with packets of filtration mixture once a month. The five-stage filter design—which you fill with the company’s coconut shell-based purification powder—softens hard water, improves taste, and removes chlorine, copper, lead, and mercury. The 1-liter pitcher takes roughly eight minutes to filter.

A woman pours a filtration packet into the Phox water filter cartridge
Phox Water

The purification packets come in two different mixture options. The Clean Pack removes contaminants, odors, and heavy minerals, but doesn’t add any flavors. It makes the pH of your water neutral or slightly acidic, perfect for water you're going to use for coffee or tea. The Electrolyte Option, meanwhile, removes all the same contaminants, but also adds in sodium, calcium, and magnesium. This makes the water alkaline, with a pH somewhere between 8.0 and 9.5. (There’s little scientific evidence to show that alkaline water provides any health benefits, but some athletes swear by drinking alkaline water to improve performance. Others just enjoy the taste all those minerals lend the water.)

A cardboard box and three Phox refill packs
Phox Water

The Glasgow-based Phox Water estimates that 100 million plastic water-filtration cartridges end up in landfills every year. To make a more environmentally responsible product, Phox’s pitcher and refillable cartridge are made out of recycled plastic, and its refill packets are shipped in cardboard and paper. Each filtration pack lasts approximately 45 days (or 44 gallons).

Buy it on Kickstarter for $59 and up, with shipping scheduled for August 2019. Refill packets will cost about $9 each for a 45-day supply.

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