Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

A senior editor at Mother Jones, Kiera covers health, food, and the environment. She is the author of the new book Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever (University of California Press).


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Making Fake Stuff Look More Real

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 7:00 PM EDT

pleather%20couch%20150.jpgBad news for snobs and aesthetes the world over: Scientists are working hard to make synthetic material look "more natural."

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory in England have set up an experiment to determine what tips our brains off that a substance is the real deal, and not an impostor:

The physical characteristics of a surface, such as its colour, texture and surface roughness, are being linked to what is happening in a person's brain when they see or touch the surface. Once this is understood it should be possible to accurately predict what we will perceive as natural, and manufacturers will be able to design synthetic products to meet this expectation. The results could have a great impact on materials such as wood, animal skin and furs, marble and stone, plants and even prosthetics.

Offended though your rarefied tastes may be, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Ostensibly, these fakester materials of the future will be a far cry from Naugahyde. Ultimately, if we get to the point where we can (sustainably and non-toxically) make faux ivory so convincing it's indistinguishable from the actual elephant product, well, I know a few elephants who probably wouldn't have too many aesthetic complaints. I've never known an old-growth forest to call fake mahogany tacky, either.

Photo by Flickr user Somaamos

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Yearning for Polygamist Fashion

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

dress150.jpgRejoice, ye Laura Ingalls Wilder wannabes.

People have called the Yearning for Zion ranch members a lot of names since their compound was raided in April, but "fashionable" has never been one of them. Until now.

The New York Times reports that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have begun peddling their prairie-chic children's couture online.

Modesty, it turns out, is totally affordable. The Jr. Teens girls' underwear, which, with long sleeves and pants, is the ultimate anti-thong, costs between $25 and $32, depending on size. The Teen Princess Dress will set you and your flesh-concealing daughter back $60 to $73.

The bummer is that so far, the only sells clothes in kids' sizes. Which leads us to the real question: Where does Chloe Sevigny's character on Big Love get her weird duds?

Photo courtesy of

Students Think Environment/Global Warming Is the Most Important Issue

| Tue May 20, 2008 1:03 PM EDT

The results of our student activism survey are already flooding in, and respondents—both current and former students—believe today's most important issues are global warming and the environment (second place: human rights). Don't miss your chance to chime in.

We're still looking for the lowdown on student activism, past and present. Been arrested and regret it? Would your school win the prize for silliest student protest? Was student activism way better when you were in school? Is your cause unique?

Help us put together our best student activism roundup yet. It's our 15th annual! Check out last year's. Answer a few quick questions and you could win some cool prizes.

Click here to begin!

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