Mud Wars, Sex in the Park, and Crimes Committed for Truffles

This week's roundup includes sex, violence, and truffles—the last of which is not unlike the drug trade, with a surprisingly shady underside. So, without further ado, here's this week's R-rated landscape reads.

Mud as a weapon of war

The supply line for guerrilla fighters in Southern Vietnam included hundreds of miles of dirt roads nicknamed the Ho Chi Minh Trail—so the U.S. military, with all of its sophisticated technology, decided it would simply weaponize mud. In one mission, warplanes experimented with cloud seeding, hoping to kick off artificially-induced rainstorms that would turn these unpaved trails into a dangerous and impassable swamp. [War is Boring on Medium]

Sex and the public park

Elizabeth Royte looks for used condoms—or, rather, she picks up the ones littering her local park, a popular spot for cruising. Royte is also a journalist who writes about trash, so it's no surprise that she can spin a story about used condoms into a meditation on much more. [Medium]

How we created the age of the wildfire

"Our species power is literally firepower," writes Stephen Pyne in his piece about humanity's long relationship with fire. As wildfires rage in California in January—usually one of the wettest months of the year—it's a fitting time to reflect on how humans have made wildfires so much worse. [Aeon Magazine]

The truffle trade's criminal underworld

Like anything that is expensive and portable, truffles sit at the nexus of criminal activity. Stolen truffle-hunting dogs, fake truffles, seedy websites—that's all de rigeur for those growing, selling, and buying truffles. Is it all worth it? [The Atlantic]

A jellyfish processing plant grows in South Carolina

Given that jellyfish is nowhere to be found in southern cuisine, the growing jellyfish fishery in the South may be surprising. But cannonball jellyfish have become so abundant that Americans have begun shipping them over to Asia where they are a delicacy. In case you're wondering, jellyfish don't taste like much but they do have a unique texture, something "between a potato chip and a stretched-out rubber band." I would say that's about accurate, given my own jellyfish eating experience. [The Post and Courier]

Rainbow mountains

A series of islands and then India collided with Asia millions of years ago, exposing the spectacular colors of ancient sedimentary rock. These rainbow-colored mountains are found elsewhere in China, too, but the NASA Earth Observatory photo, seen above, was taken in Xinjiang Province. [NASA Earth Observatory]

Lead image: Faults revealing layers of rainbow-colored rock in Xinjiang, China via NASA's Earth Observatory