Friday, December 19, 2014

Easy to miss - camouflage experts

Miss me? Busy busy busy is not an excuse for bloggers, but it does happen.

In the midst of too much work and scientific writing, here are some critters you can easily miss, mainly due to their cryptic coloration. That is the way they want it, as they make their living pretending not to be there.

even hippos can slip by the right conditions

Especially if an animal is slow, blending in allows prey, like an insect, to escape, and it allows predators, like an owl or a crocodile, to ambush potential food. Here are some real prizewinners -- it's just a list but enjoy the great photos and wonderful features of these animals that share our world:

Other animals blend in by being part of a large, uniform herd, making it hard for a predator to pick just one.

one of these things is not like the others.

but in their own groups, zebras can blend in with the best of them!

Still others, particularly caterpillars, pretend to be who they aren't, discouraging predators, rather than hiding from them. There are many ways to stay hidden (and thus alive!) in the natural world - these are just a few!

An Oleander hawk moth caterpillar.  Or an alien. You decide!
photos: Project Noah

Saturday, November 29, 2014

10 scientific findings to ruin your holiday fun

before the science of food chemistry gave us quiche
image: CoppertailBrewing
I love science.  Without it, we'd still be in caves eating berries and choking from the smoke from the raw monkey meat roasting over the open flames.

However, science has that way of ruining some of life's guilty pleasures and cool-sounding ideas by reminding us of inconvenient truths of all sorts.

This article highlights 10 buzzkills that are particularly relevant during holiday periods, as we focus on family, friends, and food.

The article summarizes findings from a number of studies you may not be happy to read, but getting sick from your cat or your snack are even worse, so here they are.  There are conflicting opinions on some of them (e.g. raw cookie dough), but you should at least be aware of health risks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What are you eating? Fast food calories

Across the globe, people have celebrated the annual harvest, especially where and when producing food required months of hard labor and having sufficient food around was not a given. Which was basically everywhere, up until recently.

The idea of giving thanks to the gods and the land for allowing the food to grow and sustain us has been around since humans started producing food, rather than just gathering it.  There are still harvest festivals, at different times of year, in many countries.  In addition to the food, dancing and costumes  still make them real parties.

Seu, Curacao harvest festival
photo: Monique Gomes Casseres
Dozynki, Polish harvest festival
photo: Karolina Szczepanska

Here in the U.S., people are busily shopping and planning their big annual feast for Thanksgiving, a traditional celebration of both the autumn harvest and, in this case, the thanks that English settlers gave to Native Americans for saving their bacon when the cold weather hit eastern North America in the 1620s. Food has clearly remained a prominent national past time.

a fancy Thanksgiving dinner

You may have heard Americans have a thing for eating.

Speedy food, aimed at travelers or folks with no kitchens, has been around in urban societies for over 2,000 years, but the infamous plethora of modern high-fat, high-calorie fast food (read: junk food in big quantities) is a really recent phenomenon, dating only to the 1920s.

As common as commercial fast food is here, consumers have a terrible sense of the calories lurking in foods when they eat out.  This Washington Post article explains that the US Food and Drug Administration just approved "sweeping new rules" that will require many places where Americans eat out — chain restaurants, movie theaters, pizza joints, vending machines and more  --- to provide calorie counts of the foods they serve.

Yikes -- how many are in that burger? Or that chef salad?  Here's a peak:

Cheese fries with ranch dressing?  Who's had this?  Are they worth it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Swapping more than spit - the true intimacy of French kissing

We as humans have a strong need to share our worlds with our sweethearts - oh to be understood and feel that sense of belonging and togetherness with our loved ones.

It turns out that a few good kisses really do the trick.

A new study from the scientific journal Microbiome (no, not Us magazine) found that when you intimately kiss your partner (10 seconds, tongue has to participate), you exchange some 80 million bacteria with each other, along with all that passion.

Most of the exchange happens among the bacteria in our saliva, while the composition of bacteria on the tongue of apparently doesn't change much.  Still.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

House-hunting for hermits

I've just moved into a new apartment, after what was a relatively painless process, basically because we had little time to look. It's still a mess, but at least we're here.

Other species need to find housing as much as we do. Think caves, burrows, nests, and even their own shell. BBC has a wonderful video showing impressive organization by a hoard of hermit crabs, each looking for a new apartment. This crazy GIF is just a teaser:

These hermit crabs aren't wrestling (or mating!), they're real estate hunting!  The shell is too large for this group, so they must wait for an apartment hunter of the proper size.  Does one ever come?  Find out here

You may already know that, as a hermit crab grows over the course of his/her life, s/he uses a series of ever-larger shells, each discarded by another shell-producing animal. Hermit crabs' lower legs and body are soft, so they must protect them inside a shell, which they salvage from along shore.

But what happens when our crab starts to grow too large for the shell? And how to find a shell the right size when you need it?

Hermit crab making a snowball
photo: Bioexpedition

When a new shell washes up on the beach, the hermit crabs organize: they suss each other out for size, line up in height order, and wait for a crab that fits the new shell. Once it shows up, they all trade properties, each giving up the old shell and donning the new larger one, as David Attenborough explains.  I, for one, am inspired by this wonderful example of communal behavior in which bureaucracy falls aside and everyone gains.

Check out the video -- it's from BBC's Life Story (legally hard to embed, but worth the click), to see for yourself!

And for the especially hermit-crab curious out there, this video (from Kindergarten4TheArts, more accessible than BBC) shows a slower-motion version of single crab trading places.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pollinators: aRT iN mOTION

Have a look at the breathtaking video below of gorgeous animals, blessed with crazy specialized tongues, wings, fuzzy faces and bodies, and other features, feeding on nectar and helping flowering plants reproduce.

They are pollinators, and in their daily behavior, they are amazing:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Breakfast for champions

can't eat just one (unfortunately)
photo: DailyMail-UK
Happy Monday Morning!

Did you eat breakfast?

Was it nutritious?  Or was is doughnuts?

A healthy breakfast has been associated with greater strength, endurance, and concentration and may help keep you from feeding your morning hunger pangs with processed sweet or fatty snacks throughout the morning.

Nevertheless, while avoiding the junk food should keep your body and its fat cells functioning properly, the connection between eating breakfast and weight loss is still uncertain.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Air and water: more important than money

All species need to breathe, drink, eat, sleep, grow, and reproduce. Even humans!

Yes, we benefit from organization, the convenience of trade, and the motivation that comes with opportunity, but clean air and water are pretty much non-negotiable.

How much would you pay for clean water if you really needed it?

Friday, October 17, 2014

What makes us happy?

First post after a long, work-induced delay -- I'd rather be blogging!

photo: Stockbyte
On that note, this article from Time online magazine on what actually tends to make people happy caught my eye, in part because who doesn't want to be happy, right?

But also in part because of how it links with the important behaviors and strategies that both people and animals employ to improve their biological fitness. I will highlight some more amazing critters soon!

So what keeps people happy? It may not be what you think. Let's ask the researchers!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Praise for the 5K

When done right, it's short, fast, and furious, a combination of speed, strength, and endurance.

More commonly, it's short, slow, and steady, possible leading into a walk, and sometimes decorated with brightly colored t-shirt with many corporate logos.

In an era in which running marathons is increasingly popular, I wanted to echo pro runner Lauren Fleshman's fun and funny ode to the 5km race.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


In a recent post, we learned how the evolution of a wavy spiny body with a prehensile tail, a bent neck, and a long thin snout have combined to help make seahorses into bad-ass predators. More so if you are a small shrimp-like crustacean than, say, a scuba diver.

in their native habitat, seahorses are actually quite gentle
(though they are stealthy and successful hunters)
image: FreakingNews

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sloth to-do list, i.e. happy weekend!

The sloth to-do list seems really short and easy.

the sloth to-do list, from Liz Climo

There is, of course, more to it, as a lot of preparation and evolution have gone into the sloth being able to keep his or her to-do list so short. In honor of the sloth and the weekend, take a minute to consider some of the key steps:

claws for clinging and for defending
photo: Kevin Schafer/Corbis

1. Grow a lot of hair. A Lot of hair.

2. Move slowly to avoid attracting attention. Move so slowly that algae grows in your fur. Camouflage is your friend.

3. Sleep a lot, high in a tree, hanging by your crazy-claws.

4. Eat leaves and other low-energy food. Plus bugs that live in the algae of your fur (a.k.a. fast food). Become a self-sustaining ecosystem.

live it up - up in the trees
photo: Tauchgurke, Wikimedia Commons

5. Poo on the ground, thereby mystifying everyone, predators and researchers alike.

6. Eat, sleep, socialize, and reproduce while hanging in trees.

a (crazy) little orphan sloth, enjoying his new digs in Costa Rica

Monday, September 8, 2014

Seahorses are the only fish species that can hold your hand!

fins: for swimming, not for grabbing
image: Gunaxin
Picture a fin on a fish. Not the best grabbing apparatus around, but, then again, fish don't really need to grab things, as they live in a 3-dimensional space with a swim bladder to maintain their vertical position.

stonefish waiting for the next victim
Some, like stonefish or scorpion fish, live on the bottom and nab prey as it swims by.

Seahorses, which I really enjoyed learning about while researching how and why they evolved their curvy S-shaped body and long thin horse-like head, function similarly, except they hang onto objects both on the ground and in the water column.

look ma, no hands!
photo: FusedJaw
The trick is in their tails: they are prehensile, meaning they can grab and hold onto things, such as seagrass, seaweed, or coral.

Like the monkeys that eat fruit while hanging from a tree branch, seahorses can hold on to vegetation with their tails and grab passing mini-shrimp called copepods with their mouths at the ends of those weird long snouts.

But there is more that is very cool, and unique, about seahorses, these weird and wonderful fish.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shape of the seahorse

yellow thorny seahorse
Standing up straight is relative
when you are a seahorse
photo: Peter Ryngaert, Project Seahorse
Guylian Seahorses of the World 2005
You may have been told to stand tall and sit up straight, but seahorses do the opposite: they maintain a weird curvy body shape to find food and avoid becoming some other fish's dinner.

Seahorses are master hunters, catching prey on over 90% of attacks. Who knew?

Seahorses are ambush predators, meaning they sit still and pretend to be vegetation until a suitable prey – in their case, tiny copepods and other shrimp-like crustaceans – swims by, and then they attack with a lightning-fast strike.

To be so effective, a sit-around-and-wait predator must be sneaky and stealthy, and seahorses excel at hiding in plain sight.

Although they are slow swimmers, according to marine biologist Brad Gemmell, at the University of Texas at Austin, seahorses "...tend to anchor themselves to surfaces like seagrass with their prehensile tails." (Prehensile tails, like those of some monkeys and possums, can grasp items, like branches or coral.)

So they are slow swimmers, and they prefer to attach themselves to a rock or grass. Their prey, the copepods, are super-sensitive to motion in the ocean and can swim away at a speed equivalent to a 6-foot human swimming 2,000 miles per hour.  How do the seahorses catch them?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A kangaroo and a koala walk into a bar...

even joeys disobey
photo: FunnyJokePictures
...and the kangaroo says "I'm worried about my little Joey's future, he's a complete pouch potato".

Both kangaroos and koalas (and wallabies, quolls, Tasmanian devils, and wombats, to name just a few) are marsupials — mammals with a pouch, called a marsupium, in which their infants, called joeys, develop.

Instead of developing in the womb fed with nutrients through the placenta, like we and most mammals are, marsupial joeys are born very early, very blind and very bald, and find their way to a nipple in their mom's pouch.

They stay attached to it suckling milk for weeks, without moving, while they grow. Once developed, they can survive outside the pouch for short periods, but they return regularly to their mom's pouch for warmth and protection for up to a year.

With that in mind, enjoy some True Facts about Marsupials:

Video courtesy of ZeFrank

I love combining funny and educational, and the True Fact series do just that.

While this video highlights the more famous marsupials of Australia, there are many others, both in Australia and in South America. In fact, these and the other Aussie marsupials actually descended from an ancestor in the Americas.

We came from Where??
photo: CFZAustralia
Yes, it's true, Joe, just ask your DNA.

The Americas still have 99 of 334 species of marsupials, mostly small nocturnal species, all but one in South America. Although just one, the Virginia opossum, still occurs naturally in the U.S., North America used to have numerous marsupial species. Most of the now-extinct American species likely lost out to placental mammals that charged south once the Central American land bridge formed between North and South America.

Australian and New Guinean marsupials didn't face that threat until recently, when people brought rabbits and sheep that changed the continent's vegetation and dogs, foxes, cats, rats, weasels, and other non-native predators that ate native mammals.

a numbat, one of many wonderful marsupials on the brink
photo: Perth Zoo

For all those millennia, marsupials didn't need strategies to deal with such efficient hunters, especially people themselves, so now, populations of some species (bilbies, bandicoots, numbats, potaroos, koalas, to name a few) are in serious trouble and will need substantial help from people to persist.

There is still a crazy variety of marsupials -- which is your favorite?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ramen are common but take stock of their dark side

image: QuickMeme
Who hasn't eaten instant ramen noodles?

They're faster, cheaper, and saltier than KFC or a Big Mac. They're super easy and so popular that they are a staple food across many countries.

That beloved staple of college students, new graduates, and people everywhere with limited time or cooking skills, is, not surprisingly, also ubiquitous all over eastern and southern Asia.

And, as you might guess from the packaging and instant nature of them, they're not on any government recommended food pyramids. But you'd probably already guessed that, right?

But are they really that bad for us?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What our friends think we eat

From Runners World, but probably applies to athletes of various stripes: What our friends think we eat, what we "should" eat, and what we actually eat. The three aren't the same. Which pyramid is yours?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How do bats both resist and transmit Ebola?

Ebola virus is the latest killer pathogen to make international news, and scientists are striving not only to keep people alive and prevent new cases, but also to better understand how the disease spreads and where it came from.

Ebola had not been seen in West Africa before the current outbreak. The strain now causing such tragedy in Guinea (where it started – here's a map), Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia is originally from Central Africa.

Scientists know the disease spreads through bodily fluids -- blood, tissue, saliva, urine, semen, feces -- and they have strong evidence that it doesn't spread through the air (mercifully).

So how did it cross all the way into West Africa?  There are 2 theories:  Bats and Bushmeat.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Animals Eat (one interpretation!)

Last year, I started writing about the different eating strategies in the animal world. Got off to a great start with herbivory -- eating plants -- and then managed to get sidetracked with human diets and not continue with carnivory (eating meat), granivory (eating seeds), frugivory (eating fruits), etc in the rest of the animal kingdom.

I still plan to catch up on these, but in the meantime, try to keep a straight face watching this rendition of How Animals Eat Their Food:

Any votes on the accuracy and precision of these reenactments?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Appendix aesthetics

OK, how strange is it that 3 adult friends of mine have had to have their appendix removed this year?   [in the last 4 months?]

Two of these were ruptures that required emergency surgery and one just required relatively immediate, but planned, surgery.

All are as confused as I am by the sudden shock and of course grateful that they were in urban areas (Bangkok, Thailand and Baltimore, USA) with big modern hospitals that took them in, checked them out, and did the necessary surgery to save their respective lives.

Each is fine now, though they probably would not have been 300 years ago if that same thing had happened.

Is this a common occurrence? Apparently, more so than I'd thought.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Keep your cool when the gorillas get curious

We just learned that staying cool helps koalas and other tropical furry critters survive, but keeping one's cool is important not only in hot weather but also in hot situations!

This video is a good example:

What would you do if baby gorillas got curious with your hair?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hug trees, stay cool

And you thought they were just being really cute and cuddly. In fact, koalas are not being affectionate when they hug trees and branches; they are probably trying to stay cool.

strategic positioning.    image: Stephen R. Griffiths, LA Times

It gets really hot in the Australian summer (as it's doing here in mid-Atlantic USA these days). The fan and aircon feel good for those lucky enough to have them. But what about animals in the tropical savanna or forest? No such luck, so how do they keep cool?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ticks suck! Stay calm, avoid, and remove

mom & baby tick on a finger
How sweet - mom & baby tick...
photo: Connecticut Agricultural Research Station
All you Northern Hemisphere outdoor lovers this summer should be pleased that the killer qualities of mosquitos tend to be in the world's tropical zones (though not exclusively!). However, in these colder climates, staying healthy means watching out for ticks, the North's equivalent of disease-carrying nuisance. Yoo hoo. I promise this is the last yucky insect post, but it's important.

Ticks carry several dangerous pathogens, including Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, but they need to bite you and fill up on your blood (nice) before transmitting the pathogen to you. This is something you can and want to avoid.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bites and stings

We learned how deadly mosquitos can be to people in the last post, but really the danger they pose is the pathogens they carry, not so much the pain or harm caused by their sting. Yes, I know they itch, but that's usually about it.

While the sting of an uninfected mosquito or tick mainly just itches, other animals can do us serious damage on their own, without the help of killer microbes like Plasmodium (the malaria pathogen carried by mosquitos throughout the tropics) or Borrelia (the Lyme disease pathogen carried by blacklegged or deer ticks in the northern hemisphere).

There are animals that bite and animals that sting - it just depends on where on their body they keep their weapon(s). While neither wakes up in the morning scheming to kill, maim, or even inconvenience us, they definitely can.

Read on for 2 fab videos that show us how they do it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fear the killer beast (it's not what you think!)

Even the mosquitos are big in Alaska
photo: JenBacca blog
What's the world's most dangerous animal?

It doesn't have teeth. It fits on your fingertip. It's the unofficial state bird of several U.S. states (Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, to name three).

Yes, it's the mosquito. And yes, this photo gives it away. Fine. It makes a point.

Mosquitos kill more people than any other animal, even including humans, according to The Gates Foundation's Mosquito Week held in April to help promote its work to wipe out malaria and other mosquito-transmitted illnesses. Technically, it's the multiple diseases that the mosquito carries that do the killing - she's the highly efficient delivery girl (yes, it's the females that bite).

Given that both mosquitos and we humans are effective disease transmitters, wiping out malaria is no easy feat. Now that people are so globally mobile, we have become the FedEx of pathogens, carrying them with us in a matter of hours to places they've never been before (for free!).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Use that body (weight)!

circuit training on the roof - Bangkok in the background
Yea, summer! It's warm out, even in the northern hemisphere, and you just don't want to be inside, even in the gym. At least I don't!

With longer days, you can more easily get outside and go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride, a swim, or a game.

It's also a great time to learn and try out some new body-weight exercises. There are a ton of suggested routines freely available on line.

Here are just a few sets to try:

50 anywhere exercises by Laura Schwecherl at Greatist

10 quickies taken from CrossFit for those family vacations you might be taking

15 exercises especially for men (build those shoulders & pecs!)

by the pool - that drink tastes better after your workout!
All of these and others require very little space and are typically fast and furious - focusing on intensity and strength, rather than endurance. Some take just 7-8 minutes and assume you'll do several sets (but you don't have to - we won't tell).

Find a space in your backyard, by the pool, in the park, on the running or bike trail, or, if need be, on the roof of your building.

After 20-30 minutes of high-intensity intervals, then head to the pool! Or just go swimming and do your intervals there.

Here are some examples:

body weight strength training

variations on a theme...

another option...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Weightlifter vs ballerina: how to measure fitness?

Does Fitness = Strength?  Speed?  Agility? Some combination of traits?  Whatever it takes to survive?

In nature, animals can increase their evolutionary fitness, represented by passing on along genes to the next generation, by being strong or fast, large or small, camouflaged or colorful, crafty or a true team player, a great dancer or a great dresser.

polar bears
large, strong, and camouflaged
blue morpho butterfly
dressing for success
wolf pack
team players

Physical fitness has that same variety. Who is more physically fit: a sprinter or a marathoner?  A speed skater or a figure skater? A gymnast or a basketball player?  A weightlifter or a ballerina?

No need to answer, but please watch this video (or at least the second half of it) and tell me that this pair doesn't display the most amazing combination of strength, balance, flexibility and pure grace you've ever seen:

It's Swan Lake, but this scene is half ballet, half Cirque de Soleil acrobatics, and fully awesome!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Night stalkers -- how cats see in the dark

In the case of eyes, size matters, but so does shape.

the perils of blogging
I'm speaking in particular about the eyes of nocturnal animals.

Cats (tigers, leopards, lions, ocelots...), dogs (foxes, wolves, coyotes...), and raccoons and their cousins are mainly nocturnal, i.e. active at night, or crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk.

Either way, they need to be able to find and catch prey and generally get around, without tripping over logs or branches, even when there is little to no light.

And they need to be able to see during the day without being blinded. How do they do it?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Duck! Wind blowing

If you've ever watched little chicks or ducklings walking or swimming around with their mom and wondered how those cute little furballs would fare if the weather turned nasty?

Look no further:

No sound, but picture gusts of wind that send ducklings spinning down the street.

You can compare this wind speed to those that (literally) blow away reporters at this Endless Forms Most Beautiful post.

But wait, you say, ducks can fly (really well), so they should be able to deal with wind, as they do in mid-air.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vaccinations: some biological fitness for kids...and their friends

Remember getting vaccines (shots, jabs, etc) as a kid?  Ugh, I hated it.

However, I'm glad to be here to think back on it, due to the fact that I didn't get Diptheria, polio, measles, smallpox and a host of other diseases for which modern society has vaccinations.

As you know from reading this blog, avoiding injury and illness helps you survive, and, eventually, reproduce. Biological fitness stems from these two things, which allow your genes to flow to the next generation.

vaccinations don't cause autism and do prevent the spread of serious diseases
image: Public Health Watch

So if you have kids, you should vaccinate them. It will help them survive, thus increasing your and their biological fitness, not to mention that of your friends, neighbors, and relatives and their kids. At a minimum, learn more about the evidence for and against the use of vaccinations.

If you are a parent-to-be, you might want to read about this now, rather than when you are overwhelmed and exhausted with your new larger family.

Think fitness for kids!
  • Vaccines prevent potentially fatal diseases,
  • They have a high degree of safety, and
  • Their safety is constantly evaluated and reevaluated in a system that, at least in the U.S., operates independently from the pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines.

Don't take just my word for it

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gonna hitch a ride...on a duck

image: Deviant Art
What if you lived on a small island, and you were out of food or just felt like finding some companionship?

And there were other islands nearby, but you couldn't swim?

And let's say there were gigantic sea gulls that flew among the islands regularly, so you could just grab onto them and hitch a ride to the next island?

And maybe a few monkeys or dogs did the same thing? Stay with me here -- this is, in fact, how a number of little creatures get around.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why am I always hungry? Food quality vs quantity

Could it be that your past eating habits are making you hungry now?

Have your fat cells turned on you, hoarding your calories so that you feel hungry, despite having eaten enough to meet your actual energy demands?

photo: AllFunnyImages

It may that eating a low-quality diet changes the behavior of fat cells and thus has a greater influence on hunger and weight gain than the sheer number of calories we take in and burn off.

That is the hypothesis behind a new study on overeating and weight gain published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is barefoot better? Shoes in the news

“How one runs probably is more important than what is on one’s feet, but what is on one’s feet may affect how one runs.”

three great runners show nearly identical form, which includes short, fast strides
that allow them to strike the ground with the whole or mid-foot, rather than the heel,
and to lean forward from the ankles with their hips above their ankles.
photo (from video footage): The Balanced Runner

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bike to Work Week is on!

some commutes are harder than others
photo: FunnyJunk
This week, May 12-16, is Bike to Work Week in cities across the U.S., culminating in Bike to Work Day on May 16.

I wrote about bike commuting awhile back while living in Bangkok, likely one of the worst places to commute by bike due to terrible traffic and crazy motorcyclists that create new "lanes" on either side of moving cars!

Now that I'm living in a bike-able city, I've already started, thanks to the DC Capital Bikeshare, a bike commuting program in which $75 gets you free bike rides all over Washington, DC. You pick up a bright red bike at your departure point and drop it off at the storage rack nearest your destination.

Boston, Denver, Chicago, and New York, among other big cities, also have bikeshare programs, though northern European cities are still the kings of bike commuting, as the biking tradition in Beijing, Hanoi and other Asian cities has given way to increased motorcycle and now car traffic and pollution.

some biking benefits, from C.I.C.L.E

It really is nice to get a workout in before you get to work! Plus all that saving on gas, insurance, parking, and carbon emissions, and other benefits. If you're able to bike to work some days or every day, this is the week to try it out! You will probably enjoy the ride, and your quads and glutes will thank you.