The Elemental Guide to Water

The answer is murky

This story is part of The Elemental Guide to Water, a five-part special report on the health benefits of water, the science behind seltzer, the truth about fancy H2O, the safety of tap water, and how much water you really need to drink.

Tap water is a modern marvel. Unless you’re an octogenarian, you probably don’t know any other way. With just the turn of a faucet, Americans have access to H2O. But is it safe to drink?

In cities like Flint, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit, Newark, and others, where improperly treated water and aging pipes have been responsible for leaking…


And the procedure costs $60,000 per animal

Illustration: Janet Mac

I was expecting three heads, six toes, something like Frankenstein. But what I saw when I met four cloned mutts crooning for attention in a leafy Pasadena backyard was far more mundane. The dogs playing in the grass were teacup-sized terrier-schnauzer mixes — two pairs of cloned twins, Wolfie Bear and Wolfie Girl had salt-and-pepper markings and floppy ears, while Bubble Facer and Bubble Rubble had cocaine-white coats and elfin ears.

The owner of the dogs is a 49-year-old Thai emigre and entrepreneur named Peter Onruang. He never had kids — not human ones at least — and he never…


China’s decision to stop recycling America’s waste has cratered the market, leaving plastic and other trash to pile up

Credit: Sergei Savostyanov/Getty Images

Where does it all go? The plastic bag for your supermarket run, the banh mi sandwich wrapper you strip away for lunch, the endless packaging shipped via every Amazon order, the water bottle you crush post-workout — what happens when you throw it away? And if you haul it out to your green recycling bin, does it even get recycled?

Common sense screams yes, but in the wake of changing laws and shifting global markets, the reality is far dirtier.

At a time when we’re able to irrigate deserts, create man-made glaciers, communicate constantly across time zones and borders —…


Scientists are debunking the link to hyperactivity

Contrary to decades of popular belief (and anecdotal evidence from generations of parents), a new study has found that there is no such thing as a sugar rush. That’s right. The sugar rush is a myth. Rather than making people feel energized and hyped, the new research suggests eating sweet foods actually causes people to experience the opposite: fatigue and a lack of alertness.

The results — which were published in June in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews — come from a meta-analysis of 31 published studies involving almost 1,300 people. A team of European researchers sought to understand…


The effects of climate change can be tracked in a single animal’s record-breaking journey

Credit: Education Images/Getty Images

Twenty-seven hundred miles — 2,743, to be exact — is how far one arctic fox traveled over sea ice and glaciers last year during a 76-day polar marathon. The fox’s journey began on the island of Spitsbergen, off the coast of Norway in the Svalbard archipelago, and ended on Ellesmere Island in Canada’s remote Nunavut Territory, a full continent away.

The migration was among the longest ever recorded for an arctic fox. The farthest northern point reached by the juvenile female was on the sea ice off Greenland at more than 87 degrees north, not far from the North Pole.


The small country’s agriculture solutions are spreading its tech-sector influence

Drip irrigation in the Sharon Valley, near Netanya, Israel. Credit: Dan Porges/Getty Images

ISRAEL — The train ride from Jaffa to Jerusalem passes through fields of grapes, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and bananas. In many ways, these fields are a miracle.

As the Dead Sea evaporates and the Jordan River dwindles, Israel — a desert country of 8.7 million and smaller than the state of New Hampshire — has been forced to get creative around water efficiency. More than half of Israel’s usable water is man-made from desalinated seawater, and 86% of its wastewater is treated and reused.

Israel has survived as a modern nation — and as a startup hub — in part…


How one man’s plan to irrigate the Ladakh desert is drawing inspiration and critics

All photos courtesy of Adam Popescu

LADAKH, INDIA — In a region with scant water — less than 4 inches of annual rainfall — Sonam Wangchuk, a mechanical engineer by trade, has taken it upon himself to irrigate the mountainous desert of Ladakh, a sprawling Himalayan region that borders China and Pakistan. Ladakh translates to “land of high passes,” and with mountains that average about 20,000 feet, it’s no exaggeration. This combination of isolation and hostile environment has made this region imperiled and in many ways a fool’s errand. Wangchuk believes it’s an opportunity for true climate change.

He’s built a dozen man-made glaciers which he…


A viral video of a rare Himalayan brown bear under attack puts a spotlight on a little-known species on the brink of extinction

Photo courtesy of Karamjeet Singh

DRASS, INDIA — The big male never stood a chance. The villagers didn’t have pitchforks, but they did have stones, and they lobbed them mercilessly, even after the local wildlife department darted the beast as he tried to escape up a rocky escarpment. But it wasn’t meant to be.

His footing was off. Those normally sturdy paws couldn’t keep their grip as the drugs took effect, and what should have been a simple climb became a free solo gone horribly wrong. …


(An unpublished story from my days reporting on the darker side of entertainment for Playboy http://www.playboy.com/articles/seven-adult-film-stars-on-leaving-porn Several magazines and newspapers said this was ‘too dark’ to print—you decide)

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The stereoscopic glow is hypnotic. The bodies writhing on-screen — inches away — the viewer tumescently pumping until relief and release. But is there ever true relief for an addict, or is it a continuous loop chasing a dragon that will never be caught?

From screens to strip clubs and escort sites, streets and sets, the world’s oldest profession will be around as long as we are. Sex on film has…


How a DIY brick-and-mortar became a pop culture juggernaut

Book stores aren’t supposed to exist anymore. Especially independent ones. The sad truth is that Amazon and waning attention spans massacred these outlets, turning customers into e-shoppers and proprietors into paupers. Which is why exceptions have to be exceptional.

Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard is one of those special misfits. It’s a 10,000 square foot playground offering cartooning and writing classes, open mics, events, shows — the store’s even spawned a network television series starring names even non-geeks recognize. Oh yeah, and the place also sells comics. Tons. Everything from the…

Adam Popescu

Debut novel, NIMA, which takes on Mt. Everest, is now available: https://www.amazon.com/Nima-Adam-Popescu/dp/1944700854

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