GOOD

How A Hollywood Prop Artist Could Help Stop Poaching At Its Source

Conservationists are using special effects to trick thieves into revealing their criminal networks

Sea turtles have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years, but today, six of seven total species are threatened with extinction. Four of those nest on the Pacific beaches of Nicaragua: the olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback, and Pacific green.

Though the nation’s indigenous cultures have eaten sea turtle eggs for centuries, illegal poaching has drastically reduced populations. Prized as a delicacy and aphrodisiac, a single egg can fetch $300 on the black market. But many Nicaraguans—scraping by in Latin America’s weakest economy—are willing to settle for $1-3 per dozen. One nest can hold up to 120 eggs; an unprotected beach offers thousands of eggs for the taking.


Yet a poacher is just one cog in a massive criminal enterprise: Arrest one and he or she will quickly be replaced. Addressing the problem means identifying middlemen who transfer eggs into the global marketplace, as well as their transportation routes and storage facilities. To stop this crime before sea turtles and their eggs disappear forever, wildlife rangers will need to trick thieves into revealing their networks.

Biologist Kim Williams-Guillén, who directs scientific research for conservation group Paso Pacífico, is working with Hollywood prop stylist Lauren Wilde to test a creative solution: a handcrafted decoy called the “InvestEGGator.” A poacher who swipes one will unwittingly help map out a vast criminal system via GPS and a trail leading authorities and conservationists to a potential bust.

Step 1
Model baby sea turtles surround an egg doppelgänger, created using a mold made from an actual olive ridley sea turtle egg. This decoy is approximately the size and shape of a golf ball. It even includes a dimple, which in authentic eggs is a sign that hatching is imminent.

Step 2
Building the decoys from her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Williams-Guillén is trying out two types of trackers with varying levels of accuracy and endurance. The batteries powering GPS technology last a week, while the Bluetooth antenna seen at the right should run smoothly for a year. To transmit its data, it must pass within 100 feet of a device armed with matching software. Paso Pacífico’s plan is to install egg-detecting smartphones in strategic locations like border crossings or airports.

Step 3
At left, this carton holds an InvestEGGator that can be mass-produced by 3D printing with a polyurethane-based filament. In the center sits a handmade decoy, filled with silicone rubber and a GPS device. On the right is the near-final product, dipped into a thin, white resin that, after hardening, has the thickness of a plastic 2-liter bottle. Unlike chicken eggs, sea turtle eggs have squishy shells. Think of a Nerf football. Williams-Guillén has given it the right rigidity, but the texture is all wrong. Hollywood can help.

Step 4
Now that they feel like the real thing, Wilde, who typically spends her days creating special effects for movies and TV shows like Adam Ruins Everything, makes them look the part in her basement studio.

Step 5
Wilde tests out a variety of techniques to mimic the look and feel of authentic eggs, which are uneven in coloration: white with a faint yellow glow. She tries various artificial facades to ensure the decoys can stand up to the unpredictable nature of sandy, wet beaches. Some receive coats of yellow, then white paint mixed with glue, and eventually dabbed with a latex makeup sponge.

Step 6
Others are inserted into hollow, dyed spheres made of silicone and epoxy. Both approaches are likely to work better in different circumstances. Once moistened with K-Y Jelly and covered with sand, they’re officially beach-ready and virtually indistinguishable from the genuine article.

Want to know what happens next? Follow their journey in Nicaragua here.

Features
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture
NASA

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less
Science

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health