Why a Train Full of New York City Poop Was Stranded in Alabama for Two Months

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iStock

Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

Update: Parrish residents can officially breathe easy. The last of the sludge has now been removed from the town, and Big Sky has ended its operation there, according to a Facebook post from Mayor Heather Hall. The containers that remain have been emptied of their smelly cargo and will be removed sometime before Friday, April 20.

[h/t Bloomberg]

It 'Rained' Spiders in Brazil Last Week—and You Can Watch It If You Dare

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iStock.com/aury1979

If recent events are anything to go by, you should be less concerned about swallowing spiders in your sleep and more concerned about bird-eating spiders raining down on your head. As The Guardian reports, recent footage from the Brazilian countryside shows thousands of spiders seemingly suspended in mid-air. (Arachnophobes might want to give the video below a miss.)

In reality, they aren’t falling at all. The spiders, which likely belong to a South American species called Parawixia bistriata, are merely crawling on an ultra-fine and nearly invisible web that attaches to two objects, like trees or bushes, to form a canopy.

So why do they do it? To catch prey, naturally. They’re likely to snag a variety of insects and maybe even small birds in their communal web, which can stretch up to 13 feet wide. (And yes, they eat the birds, too.)

Brazilian biology professor Adalberto dos Santos tells The Guardian that P. bistriata are some of the rare “social” spiders that do this. They leave their webs up overnight, hide out in the nearby vegetation, and then return at dawn to feast.

While this natural phenomenon is certainly unsettling, it isn’t exactly rare. Residents of the southeast municipality of Espírito Santo do Dourado, where the video was shot, said these “spider rains” are common when the weather is hot and humid.

Here’s another video from Santo Antônio da Platina in southern Brazil in 2013.

Other species of spider have been known to jump into the wind and "surf" on strands of silk as a means of getting around. They do this to escape threats or get to food or mates in other locations, and cases of "spider flight" have been recorded all over the world. Some especially adventurous spiders have even been known to cross oceans by “ballooning” their way from one land mass to the next.

[h/t The Guardian]

Former NASA Engineer Builds Farting Glitter Bomb to Teach Porch Pirates a Lesson

Mark Rober, YouTube
Mark Rober, YouTube

If you’re looking to exact revenge on the porch pirate who stole your Amazon package, look no further than YouTuber Mark Rober’s clever tactic. As The Verge reports, the former NASA engineer disguised a seemingly ordinary package as a “glitter bomb” and planted it on his porch. Then he sat back and waited for someone to take the bait. You can see the hilarious results in the video below.

It all started when Rober’s security cameras captured someone stealing a package from his porch, but the police told him an official investigation wouldn't be worth their time. So he decided to opt for some vigilante justice instead.

He had technical know-how on his side, having previously constructed things like a hot tub filled with liquid sand and a dart board that moves to ensure you'll always get a bullseye.

This time around, he decided to celebrate the thief’s “choice of profession” with a “cloud of glitter.” While Rober admits he could have just used a simple spring-loading mechanism for the task, also wanted to capture the thief's reaction on camera.

He spent six months working on the design and outfitted the box with motion sensors, a GPS tracker, and four cell phones with wide-angle cameras. All of this would ensure that the thief was caught on camera, no matter which angle they opened the box from.

The technology inside the box is probably worth more than your average Amazon order, so he also installed some fart spray for good measure. It continues to release five sprays of the foul-smelling stuff every 30 seconds, practically guaranteeing that any thief would throw away the package before they realized what it contained. (Spoiler alert: That's exactly what happened.) Then, using the GPS trackers, Rober could recover it and reuse the device.

Even if he didn't get his package back, it's designed to automatically upload the footage to the cloud, where Rober could watch it.

The whole package is designed to look like an Apple HomePod. And, because Rober was having fun with the little details, he slapped a fake delivery label on the box. The sender? Kevin McCallister of Home Alone fame, who inspired the project, Rober says.

He had the chance to test it out on a few unsuspecting thieves, and you can watch their hilarious reactions in the video below.

[h/t The Verge]

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