Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

March 20, 2017 by  
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Have you ever seen an active volcano up close? Most of us haven’t had the opportunity, but now thanks to Google Street View , you can glimpse the fiery depths of one the world’s largest boiling lava lakes. Two explorers repelled down into the Marum crater on the island on Ambrym in Vanuatu , a country of islands around 1000 miles away from Australia, to collect images of the lava lake for Google (and all of us). Forget the relatively tame imagery of city streets. Google went to new extremes to collect dramatic images of Ambrym, from volcanic beaches to a volcano itself. Explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsley helped out by repelling around 1,312 feet down into the Marum crater to gather 360-degree imagery of the massive lava lake, which is about as big as two football fields, according to Google. Mackley said, “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock .” Related: Sheep enlisted to bring ‘Google Street View’ to remote Faroe Islands After repelling into the crater, Horsley said, “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.” Over 7,000 people live on Ambrym. Chief Moses of Endu, a local village, welcomed Google in to share the incredible beauty of the area. Locals have been rebuilding after Cyclone Pam hit a few years past, and are ready to greet travelers again. According to Google, Chief Moses feels welcoming visitors to the region will help the island recover, help set up a sustainable economy, and preserve the island’s culture . Along with the volcano, Google Street View offers images of his village, a primary school, and a craft workshop on the island. Can’t hop on the next plane to trek to Vanuatu? You can also check out a jungle on Ambrym, more images of the Marum crater, and villagers harvesting coconuts on Google Street View. Via Google Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

Research reveals the Earth may have once had a solid egg-like crust

March 2, 2017 by  
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Extending the symbolism of eggs as a metaphor for life and reproduction, recent research reveals the Earth itself may have once had an egg-like structure. According to a report from the University of Maryland , the plate tectonics that now define the Earth’s geology may have begun later in the planet’s history. Before the plates began moving and colliding to define the surface we know and love today, the Earth’s crust likely consisted of a solid but deformable shell encasing a molten liquid interior. The research, a joint effort between the UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Curtin University and the Geological Survey of Western Australia , was recently published in the journal Nature, and represents the latest in a longstanding debate over the Earth’s geological history. One side of the debate says plate tectonics began right after the Earth started to cool (known as uniformitarianism), while the other proposes the planet went through a long phase with a solid shell enveloping it. This latest study clearly favors the latter view. Models for how the first continental crust formed generally fall into two groups: those that invoke modern-style plate tectonics and those that do not, says Michael Brown, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the study. “Our research supports the latter ‘stagnant lid’ forming the planet’s outer shell early in Earth’?s history. Related: Geologists find seventh continent hiding in plain sight Coming to this conclusion was no easy task. Brown and his team studied rocks collected from the East Pilabara Terrane – a large area of ancient crust located in Western Australia . As old as 3.5 billion years, these rocks are some of the oldest on the planet. The researchers looked at the granite and basalt rocks for signs of plate tectonic activity, such as subduction of one plate beneath the other. As UMD explains it: “Plate tectonics substantially affects the temperature and pressure of rocks within Earth’?s interior. When a slab of rock subducts under the Earth’s surface, the rock starts off relatively cool and takes time to gain heat. By the time it reaches a higher temperature, the rock has also reached a significant depth, which corresponds to high pressure – in the same way a diver experiences higher pressure at greater water depth.” In contrast, a stagnant lid regime would be very hot at relatively shallow depths and low pressures. Geologists refer to this as a “high thermal gradient.” According to Brown, the results showed the Pilabara granites were produced by melting rocks in a high thermal gradient environment and the composition of local basalts shows they came from an earlier generation of source rocks supporting the ‘stagnant lid’ theory of the Earth’s early formation. Images via Robert Whitehead , domdomegg

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Research reveals the Earth may have once had a solid egg-like crust

Shapeshifting Tent House blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces

February 27, 2017 by  
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Spark Architect’s Tent House is a seasonal shapeshifter. Situated close to Australia ’s famed Sunshine Coast, the house’s location in a rainforest clearing called for a unique design that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. Limited by the natural size of the clearing and surrounded by a forest wall, the tent home was carefully planned to make maximum use of all available space. A large, open area houses a kitchen , a dining area complete with an accommodating table, and a living “room”, all with a welcoming flow that makes the home ideal for entertaining and for family living. A continuous corridor links the common spaces to hang-out nooks and multiple bedrooms, including two situated at either end of the house that feature picturesque views of the surrounding greenery. Although the area generally welcomes warm temperatures year round, the house was crafted for easy transitioning according to weather. The homeowners can manually slide open walls to welcome the fresh air as they wish; the roof also retracts to reveal the translucent tent canopy and expansive sky above. The tent buffers the home from sun exposure while still allowing for plenty of light to filter through. The space between the tent and the box-like structure’s insulated roof  encourages natural air flow. In addition to offering shade, the pitched tent canopy extends the home’s boundaries for play and relaxation. With the walls/doors open, the entire house becomes an open-air sanctuary, a perfect exploration ground for children and adults. Nature surrounds the Tent House in the form of trees, a river, and a garden area, but it is also reflected within the sleek space: a warm wood floor inset brightens up the concrete floor, and underneath the bar area, wood panels peek out to contrast with the industrial metal counter. The ultimate result is a shelter that looks like our childhood camping dreams grew up and made room for family and friends to join in on the indoor/outdoor fun. Via Uncrate All images © Christopher Jones

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Shapeshifting Tent House blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces

Dramatic lookout tower in Tasmania is built from repurposed shipping containers

February 11, 2017 by  
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The Devil’s Corner Cellar Door was designed as a contemporary interpretation of the traditional rural vernacular. The project comprises five timber-clad shipping containers carefully placed to form inviting spaces with thoughtfully curated views. Three distinct openings frame unique views—SKY, HORIZON, and TOWER—with the hope that they will help visitors gain a better appreciation for the landscape. Related: Gravity-defying staircase floats above Belgium’s famous “fairytale forest” “By creating a dynamic scenic lookout and providing associated facilities, visitors are drawn to a new upgraded cellar door for the Devil’s Corner wine label,” write the architects. On the opposite side of the building is the Cellar Door, made up of timber-clad volumes set around an open courtyard. The semi-protected courtyard hosts the food market and overlooks views of The Hazards’ granite peaks. + Cumulus Studio Via Dezeen Images via Cumulus Studio

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Dramatic lookout tower in Tasmania is built from repurposed shipping containers

Austin Maynard Architects restores a beach shack in their crusade against McMansions

February 6, 2017 by  
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Austin Maynard Architects is taking a stand against McMansions. Tired of seeing Australia’s handsome old shacks demolished to make way for less culturally interesting housing, the Australian architecture firm completed a beautiful renovation and addition to an old beach shack in the town of Lorne. The restored project, called the Dorman House, is a lovely celebration of the Australian beach shack vernacular with stunning ocean views and a modern and eco-friendly design. The Dorman House comprises two parts: the restoration of an old post-war beach shack that remains mostly unchanged, and the addition of a contemporary new extension. The clients, Kate and Grant, had asked Austin Maynard Architects to preserve the original shack and add an extension that would allow for clear and elevated ocean views without dominating or damaging the existing structure. Although the simplest solution would have been to bulldoze the existing shack and start anew, the architects and clients sought the more sustainable solution. “Modest, humble shacks are being replaced with incongruous and unnecessary McMansions ,” wrote the architects. “Increasingly we see a duplication of the suburban home where once stood the shack. Through this process we not only lose important parts of our built heritage, we also lose a significant part of our social and emotional diversity. We lose parts of ourselves. At Austin Maynard Architects we do our best to avoid the simple temptation of demolishing and replacing. Where extensions are required/desired, we aim to retain and respect the existing shack and its scale.” Related: Gorgeous solar-powered THAT House is an eco-friendly rebel “with just enough space” The new extension is an elevated timber box that sits atop the original shack and comprises an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room accessed via a spiral staircase. The interior is lined with Silvertop Ash and opens up to gorgeous ocean views and breezes through full-height windows. Most of the glass faces north and all windows are double glazed with thermally separated frames, while solar shades are in place to minimize solar heat gain in summer. The exterior cladding will develop a gray patina over time. The structure directly below the timber box is clad in polycarbonate and is used as a light-filled bedroom. Recycled timber decking was used in the construction and locally sourced materials were also used wherever possible. + Austin Maynard Architects Images via Austin Maynard Architects

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Austin Maynard Architects restores a beach shack in their crusade against McMansions

Reconnect with nature in this gorgeous retreat built for slow living

January 24, 2017 by  
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A safe haven from the frantic pace of modern life has popped up in the Australian town of Balnarring. Melbourne-based Branch Studio Architects designed this lovely modern studio and retreat with a deliberately low-tech aesthetic that emphasizes connection with the outdoors. The simple yet chic home is extremely flexible and can adapt to a seemingly limitless number of uses. The client prioritized flexibility early on in the design process, requiring “a space that could be nothing one minute and everything the next, required to regularly and effortlessly switch between an empty nondescript shell of limitless possibilities to a fully functioning private residence.” Thus the Balnarring Retreat features a large open-plan space where furniture, such as the Murphy bed and desk, are built into the walls and can be folded down when needed. Storage is also hidden away in the walls to minimize clutter. The custom furnishings are made to be folded and unfolded by hand to promote mindfulness. Related: Rustic Off-Grid Pump House is a Solar-Powered Weekend Getaway in Australia The Balnarring Retreat also houses a kitchen, a study, and a bathroom. The north wall is fully glazed to let in natural light and frame views of the pond. The space immediately in front of the glazed north wall is a sunken ‘day bed’ that can be filled in with plywood boxes when extra floorspace is needed. + Branch Studio Architects Images by Peter Clarke

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Reconnect with nature in this gorgeous retreat built for slow living

Australian minister says coal power can help reduce CO2 emissions

January 17, 2017 by  
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Don’t throw out your climate science books just yet, folks. Australian resources minister Matt Canavan recently said burning a certain kind of coal could help the country slash its overall carbon emissions . He commissioned a study conducted by the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science that reportedly claimed the country could reduce emissions by 27 percent if they replaced current coal power stations with “ultra-supercritical” coal technology . But experts slammed the findings, saying such technology wouldn’t reduce emissions nearly as much as was claimed. Australia’s goal is to reduce emissions by 28 percent beneath 2005 levels by 2030, so a reduction of 27 percent with the help of new coal technology seemed almost too good to be true. But that’s the figure The Australian reported this week, although now it appears those statistics were inaccurate or misreported. The coal technology would actually only reduce emissions by around 12 percent, according to The Guardian, which also reported electricity sector emissions would need to be cut down to near zero to meet the 2030 target. Related: Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels Canavan said in a statement that the coal “has an important role to play as Australia, and the rest of the world, reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” He also attacked “people who oppose the coal industry for ideological reasons,” and some of those people quickly fired back. Australia Institute economist Rod Campbell said if Australia were to replace old coal stations with ones boasting the new technology, electricity prices would go up, even higher than if renewable energy replaced coal. Member of Parliament Mark Butler said, “The latest intervention by Minister Canavan trumpeting coal isn’t about securing a reliable and affordable energy future; at its core it is just the latest ideological attack on renewables by a government desperate to draw attention away from the fact it has no plan on energy and climate.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Senator Matthew Canavan Facebook

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Australian minister says coal power can help reduce CO2 emissions

Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

January 17, 2017 by  
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A female zebra shark ( Stegostoma fasciatum ) in Australia has learned to live, and reproduce, without a male counterpart. The shark, which lives in an aquarium , is one of only three animals documented that once reproduced sexually – she had a male partner for around 13 years – and then switched to reproducing asexually. Now scientists are now wondering if this phenomenon is more common than we thought. Leonie the zebra shark had a male partner from 1999 to 2012 at a Townsville, Australia aquarium, and they had over two dozen babies. When her partner was moved to a different tank, Leonie spent around four years by herself, until she gave birth to three surprise baby sharks in 2016. She’d lacked contact with any males for those four years. Scientists initially thought perhaps she’d saved sperm from the former male partner, but genetic testing revealed the three babies only had DNA from their mother. Related: Researchers record fish “singing” choruses at the break of dawn in Australia Sharks can reproduce asexually when an adjacent cell called a polar body fertilizes an egg, and it could be that is what happened with Leonie. The mechanism isn’t optimal, as it can lead to inbreeding, but could be employed by sharks when there aren’t any males around. Lead author on a study published by Scientific Reports , Christine Dudgeon of The University of Queensland , told New Scientist, “It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability. It might be a holding-on mechanism. Mum’s genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with.” Some species such as other sharks, snakes, rays, turkeys, and Komodo dragons are capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually, but asexual reproduction usually happens in females that have never reproduced sexually. The only other female animals recorded switching from sexual to asexual reproduction are a boa constrictor and an eagle ray; both lived in captivity. But it could be this anomaly actually occurs more frequently than we realized. Dudgeon said perhaps we just haven’t been looking. Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

January 17, 2017 by  
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Great architecture goes beyond building four walls—it’s about empowering individuals and building communities. That philosophy is embodied in the 2017 AIA award-winning project, Six Affordable Veteran Housing. Designed by Brooks + Scarpa , this beautiful LEED Platinum-certified project offers support services, rehab, and affordable housing to disabled veterans in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, an area with one of the highest population densities in the U.S. Unlike traditional shelter models, Six Affordable Veteran Housing was designed primarily around the concept of community by prioritizing large public areas over private spaces. The 42,500-square-foot complex is the first Skid Row Housing Trust project built outside of downtown Los Angeles and takes inspiration from the military term “I’ve got your six,” a phrase that refers to having someone’s back. “The organization of the space is intended to transform the way people live-away from a reclusive, isolating layout towards a community-oriented, interactive space,” say the architects. The SIX comprises 57 units of high-quality sustainable and affordable housing in a neighborhood that’s highly walkable, particularly to service-industry employers, but is typically out of the price range for disabled veterans. The units are stacked into four levels and each has balconies wrapped with a recycled wood screen overlooking the central courtyard. Every unit features ten-foot-high ceilings and large, strategically placed windows that let in ample natural light and cross ventilation. Related: Seattle teens build mobile tiny homes for local homeless community The project’s energy efficient design also sets the facility apart from most conventionally developed projects. The LEED Platinum -certified SIX was constructed using passive design strategies to optimize building performance, such as orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds and adding windows that maximize day lighting. Concrete floors and walls double as thermal heat sinks, while double-glazed low-E windows minimize heat loss and gain. A large green roof and edible garden top the building and can be seen from below. + Brooks + Scarpa Images by Tara Wujcik

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Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

Wedge-shaped ‘Acute House’ shows no space is too awkward for a home

November 28, 2016 by  
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The architects wanted to retain the character of the existing Victorian weatherboard cottage and reused as much of the original materials as possible, including warped weatherboards, fence palings, door knobs, vents and street numbers. They carefully removed, labeled and stored these artifacts before re-installing them. Related: Renovated Victorian House in Toronto combines the best of rural and urban living The three-story Acute House occupies the entire 516-square-foot triangular plot, leaving no space for a garden. In order to compensate for this shortage of open space , the architects installed a balcony and full-height sliding doors that open up the main living area. Lawn-green carpets, hanging plants and a centrally positioned aquarium help create a sense of being outside. Due to heritage constraints and site shape, it wasn’t possible to install solar panels on the roof of the house. Instead, in order to make the building more energy-efficient, the team added a gas-boosted solar hot water system , water-efficient toilet and taps, and energy-efficient appliances . + Oof! Architecture Via New Atlas Photos by Nic Granleese

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Wedge-shaped ‘Acute House’ shows no space is too awkward for a home

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