5 Intriguing Things: Thursday, 2/20

The largest snake, voicemails from the future, the Israeli drug market, chronocyclegraphs, and an electrified city block.

1. Paleontologists discovered a snake that was more than 42 feet long, the largest in the fossil record

"The scientists estimate the snake lived 58 to 60 million years ago and was around 13 metres long. The giant, found in northeastern Colombia, dwarfs modern pythons and anacondas which usually don't exceed 6-6.5 metres and are thought to be the largest living snakes.

Since snakes are poikilotherms that, unlike humans, need heat from their environment to power their metabolism, the researchers suggest that at the time the region would have had to be 30 to 34 degrees Celsius for the snake to have survived. Most large snakes alive today live in the South American and southeast Asian tropics, where the high temperatures allow them to grow to impressive sizes."


2. A crowdsourced alternate-reality project about our future climate

"There’s a lot we don’t know about our possible futures, but one thing we do: it’s got a software glitch in it, in the voicemail system, which is sending their voicemails back to our time. As these futurismo objects we call chronofacts. Huh. Weird.

So we Coasters are trying to get these voicemails found and decoded, and trying to get people to listen to them and make sense of them. As many as we can, before this Chronofall ends (late April 2014)."


3. The Israeli drug market is in disarray.

Before Israel pulled out of Lebanon, in 2000, most of its smuggled drugs came across the northern border. The security restrictions that followed pushed the drug trade south and west, where it has been run for the past decade predominantly by Bedouin tribes from the Sinai Peninsula. In Gaza, 20 percent of the Hamas-ruled budget had gone into maintaining the smuggling conduits, Israeli military assessments show. Hash proliferated in Israel during those years; according to Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority, about 100 tons of marijuana and 10 tons of hashish were smuggled into the country annually, most of it from Egypt. (Trade in cocaine and heroin from Jordan also existed and continues to exist but to a far lesser extent.)

But the widespread drug trade took a hit in 2010, when Israel began construction on the 15-foot-high barbed-wire fence along the Egyptian border. Since its completion in December, the number of drugs coming into the country has dropped drastically—and prices have soared. A 'plate' of 100 grams of hash that sold two years ago for 2,000 NIS (about $570) costs up to 5,000 NIS (about $1,400) today. Small amounts of marijuana still filter in, either through Jordan or by way of motorboats crossing the Red Sea. But most dealers have lost their suppliers and have nothing to sell their customers. 'You can’t get it through the old channels. You have to find them. There are no more dealers who come to your home,' said Yair, a regular marijuana buyer who asked not to be identified by his last name. 'If you have a high level of connection, you pay 100 shekels [a gram]. If you don’t, you pay 160. And even then you may end up with junk.'"

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Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

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