Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

January 10, 2018 by  
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When you think of causes of fire in Australia , you might think of lightning or arsonists – but you probably don’t think of birds . But at least three birds of prey species spread wildfires in Australia, according to a new paper incorporating indigenous knowledge. Penn State University geographer and lead author Mark Bonta told National Geographic , “We’re not discovering anything. Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples…They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.” ‘Firehawk raptors’ – the Black Kite ( Milvus migrans ), Brown Falcon ( Falco berigora ), and Whistling Kite ( Haliastur sphenurus ) – spread fire by carrying burning sticks in their beaks or talons. They can transport fiery sticks up to around one kilometer, or 0.6 miles, away, staring fires where the flames haven’t yet burned. And while indigenous people have known about this behavior for a long time, this new study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology late last year documenting the knowledge and around six years of ethno-ornithological research could help overcome what the paper abstract described as “official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading.” Related: Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years “Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract): https://t.co/JJVomc5zDy #ethnobiology #ethnoornithology #birds #fire pic.twitter.com/Bv4oSA6BpC — Bob Gosford (@bgosford) January 1, 2018 Why would these birds of prey set fires? According to National Geographic, the blazes could help them find food as small animals and insects attempt to escape the fire. Co-author Bob Gosford told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016, “Black kites and brown falcons come to these fronts because it is just literally a killing frenzy. It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire.” And it’s important to dispel skepticism so officials could better plan land management and restoration. The researchers hope their paper will help with fire ecology and fire management that takes into account these fire-spreading birds. Via ScienceAlert and National Geographic Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

January 10, 2018 by  
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In South Australia , California-based SolarReserve is building what will be the world’s largest thermal solar plant. The $650 million, 150 megawatt solar plant has received state development approval and construction on the project will begin in 2018. “It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” South Australia’s acting energy minister Chris Picton told the Sydney Morning Herald . When fully operational, the plant will provide electricity for 90,000 homes and generate 500-gigawatts of energy each year. The South Australia solar thermal plant will feature a single tower that stands at the center of a vast field of solar mirrors, also known as heliostats. These mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto the tower, which incorporates molten salt batteries to store the energy. This power can then be released as steam, which powers an electricity-generating turbine. When completed, the plant will mitigate the equivalent of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Related: The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia The plant will be located roughly 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Port Augusta in South Australia, a region which has generated international headlines for its energy developments. In collaboration with Tesla , South Australia now hosts the world’s largest single-unit battery , which is capable of providing power to 30,000 homes. “The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” said Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council executive general manager, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “South Australia is providing the rest of the country a glimpse of a renewable energy future. Our electricity system is rapidly moving towards one which will be smarter and cleaner, with a range of technologies providing high-tech, reliable, lower-cost power.” Via Sydney Morning Herald Images via Department of Energy

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South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory is officially producing solar roof tiles

January 10, 2018 by  
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Tesla had planned to move Solar Roof tile production from their Fremont, California factory to the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo , New York and it looks like they may have met that goal. The company confirmed in an email they began manufacturing the tiles in December. Tesla is producing its photovoltaic glass tiles in Buffalo. We don’t yet know how many they have made, according to The Buffalo News , but the Solar Roofs are slated to be installed on customer roofs in upcoming months. Over a dozen Tesla employees, including Elon Musk , had the product installed on their houses during a pilot program last year. Related: Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year Tesla has said Solar Roofs could cost around 10 to 15 percent less than a regular roof equipped with traditional solar panels . Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Hugh Bromley isn’t so sure. He told Bloomberg he estimates a Tesla roof on a 2,000-square-foot house could cost around $57,000. Meanwhile terracotta tiles with a five-kilowatt solar panel system could cost around $41,000, according to Bromley, and an asphalt roof with solar panels would be around $22,000. Tesla began taking orders for their Solar Roofs in May, but didn’t disclose how many they’d received. The Buffalo News said the local region is counting on the Buffalo Gigafactory to bring in around 2,900 new jobs . Tesla said they’d create 1,460 jobs, and other suppliers and service providers could create 1,440 jobs in the region. Tesla says there are around 500 employees at the factory, but didn’t specify how many are working for them and how many for other companies like Panasonic , with whom Tesla is collaborating on solar products in Buffalo. According to The Buffalo News, Panasonic began manufacturing solar panels last summer at the site, and had said their workforce would top 300 there by the end of 2017, with plans to add 60 people during the spring. Via Bloomberg , The Buffalo News , and Reuters Images via Tesla

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Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory is officially producing solar roof tiles

Now you can rent a vintage teardrop camper for a weekend in the woods

January 10, 2018 by  
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If you’re not ready to buy a teardrop trailer of your own, now you can spend the weekend cozied up inside one thanks to Camp Weathered . Based out of Marin County, California, the teardrop camper rental service offers a fleet of vintage teardrop campers for those looking for a private and cozy escape in the California wilderness. Camp Weathered’s “Forest Cottage” campers offer all of the basics for a comfy camping trip, including a sleeping space big enough for two adults and one small child. The campers also come with a small galley kitchenette with a sink, a two-burner camping stove, and plenty of dishes and cookware. The rental service even provides a picnic basket stocked with everything needed for a romantic candlelit dinner. Related: How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer There are two ways to rent the campers: you can either tow one yourself to your desired location, or the service will tow one for you and then pick it up. The lightweight trailers can be towed by almost any vehicle – even a motorcycle. Camp Weathered was started by two students, Alex McNeil and Jesse Bodony, who decided to launch the rental service after seeing how popular their own camper was among their friends and family. According to McNeil, the service is geared to those who want to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life: “So many of us feel kind of assaulted or barraged just by our connectivity, and the nonstop pace of reality that we deal with,” he said. “I really do believe that being in nature, especially for folks who aren’t often is one of the most restorative and valuable experiences you can have.” + Camp Weathered Images via Camp Weathered

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Now you can rent a vintage teardrop camper for a weekend in the woods

Bitcoin mining powers Canadian man’s innovative aquaponics system

January 10, 2018 by  
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This indoor garden is heated by something totally unexpected: bitcoin mining. When software company owner Bruce Hardy saw how much heat his computers were generating, he decided to put that extra energy to good use. Now, instead of using air conditioning to cool his computers, he takes the heat they generate to power and heat a thriving aquaponics system and greenhouse. The system works by using the heat generated by 30 computers as they work to mine bitcoin. That heat keeps hundreds of Arctic Char warm on the first floor of the Manitoba building, where nitrate-rich water is used to feed plants growing on the second floor. “It’s all connected, much like Earth,” Hardy told CBC Manitoba . Related: Hanoi’s koi cafe has a thriving ecosystem complete with an aquaponic garden Hardy’s company operates with the goal of creating sustainable food systems. The revenue that he has generated mining bitcoin has helped him grow his business, which he hopes will allow him to spread the concept around the globe. Investors in China and Australia are taking notice. He said, “If we can take our energy and use it here in Manitoba, we value-add that energy, and we can do all sorts of great things”. Via CBC Manitoba Lead image via Deposit Photos

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Bitcoin mining powers Canadian man’s innovative aquaponics system

Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens

February 20, 2017 by  
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For a long time we’ve been told to slather on sunblock to protect our skin from harsh ultraviolet radiation, but as an unintended consequence, filters in those sunscreens are washing off into the oceans and likely harming coral reefs . Now one Hawaii lawmaker is taking action. Fearing damage to the state’s fragile coral ecosystem, Senator Will Espero introduced a bill that would ban sunscreen with octinoxate and oxybenzone. Researchers detected concentrations of oxybenzone 30 times higher than levels thought to be safe for coral in Hawaii waters. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said last September, “Recent studies have shown that oxybenzone causes deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies. It also increase the rate at which coral bleaching occurs. This puts coral reef health at risk, and reduces resiliency to climate change .” Related: 40% of the top sunscreens don’t meet official guidelines for sun protection Haereticus Environmental Laboratory executive director Craig Downs, whose research influenced Espero’s bill, told KITV4, “Oxybenzone – it kills [coral]. It turns them into zombies if it doesn’t kill them outright.” The bill would ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate unless a user has a medical prescription. Unsurprisingly, sunscreen companies like L’Oréal have fought back, claiming there’s not enough evidence to validate such a ban. But Espero told Scientific American the science is on his side, and many people – from fishers to sailors to ocean sports enthusiasts – are behind the measure. According to TreeHugger, 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off into oceans every single year, possibly exacerbating the worldwide coral bleaching issue. If you’re worried about sunburn but also want to consider your impact on the environment , check out the Environmental Working Group ‘s safe sunscreen guide . The organization lists several brands whose products meet their criteria. Via TreeHugger Images via Michael Dorausch on Flickr and Pixabay

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Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens

11,000-year-old deep sea animal fascinates scientists

August 4, 2016 by  
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It’s no secret that some animals on Earth live longer than many humans do. A parrot in captivity can live over 80 years, the giant tortoise can reach 100 years old or more, and the oldest known bowhead whale lived for at least 211 years. But one tiny ancient creature beats them all, surviving an estimated 11,000 years  in its frigid habitat under the sea. Scientists estimate an individual deep sea sponge belonging to the species Monorhaphis chuni  has lived at least 11,000 years, according to a study in the journal Aging Research Reviews. That variety of glass sea sponge is also, perhaps incidentally, the largest biosilica species on Earth with needle-like spicules measuring up to 10 feet (three meters) in length. Related: MIT researchers say Earth’s first animal was most likely a humble sea sponge Between its insane age and record-breaking length, the sponge is at the center of attention in many scientific circles, as researchers yearn to understand how its biological functions work. First and foremost, researchers hope to gain an understanding of how it is even possible for a living creature to survive for such a long time, given that no other animal on Earth has a lifespan that comes even close to that of the sponge. Via National Geographic Images via Wikipedia ( 1 , 2 ) and Werner E. G. Müller, University Medical Center Mainz

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11,000-year-old deep sea animal fascinates scientists

3M unveils inspiring new innovation and design hub in Minnesota

August 4, 2016 by  
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The new studio, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, will provide a variety of spaces for research and collaboration, including a fast prototyping l aboratory, material library, and numerous brand labs. An interactive area called the “Design Hive” will allow team members to work together and come up with design concepts with colleagues and business partners. The Center’s studio-like atmosphere aims to facilitate the creation of cross-disciplinary projects ranging from home and office products to automotive materials and technologies . Related: Wood Innovation Design Center rises as world’s largest timber office building “The new studio reflects our culture of spontaneous collaboration, creativity and translation of insightful solutions that positively impact the world,” said Eric Quint, vice president and chief design officer at 3M. We look forward to seeing the results. + 3M

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3M unveils inspiring new innovation and design hub in Minnesota

Using social networks to spur greener behavior

April 3, 2012 by  
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The rise of social networks and the mobile Internet may be the best things to happen to sustainable business in a long time, says GreenBiz Senior Writer Marc Gunther. Here's how some companies use them to motivate greener behavior.

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Using social networks to spur greener behavior

Altruistic Chimpanzees Documented For First Time In Captivity

August 9, 2011 by  
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photo: dullhunk / CC BY For a long time altruistic behavior in chimpanzees in the wild has been documented–unrelated chimps helping one another without apparent expectation of reward–but documentation in a more controlled environment had been lacking, until now. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (coming to us via

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Altruistic Chimpanzees Documented For First Time In Captivity

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