Eight prototypes for Trump’s wall near US-Mexico border pass military tests for impenetrability

February 13, 2018 by  
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Filed under the category of depressing news, eight prototypes for Trump’s border wall have been erected at the US-Mexico border in San Diego’s Otay Mesa area for testing. Over the past few months, the 30-foot wall sections have been assessed for breach-ability by the US Customs and Borders Protection agency, using sledgehammers, pickaxes, saws and various power tools. The result? Totally impenetrable, according to military testing. Muro de oro, sueño americano A post shared by Jill Marie Holslin (@jillholslin) on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:32am PDT The prototypes were submitted by the six companies that were chosen out of 250 by the Department of Homeland Security during the bidding process launched in February of 2017. The winning design may or may not serve to help Donald Trump fulfill his campaign promise of strengthening the border between the US and Mexico . Related: Solar-powered ‘ecotopia’ proposed as alternative to Trump’s border wall All of the eight designs are made from concrete , which was specified in the tender process. Other materials include steel reinforcements, as well as metal and an unspecified transparent material. One solid concrete wall is even topped with steel mesh and spikes. No word yet on whether the winning design will be outfitted with solar panels, as Trump has suggested. Tactical teams have spent the past few months attacking the wall to determine if it can stand up against penetration. Now, the teams have determined that the walls all pass muster. No word on which design Trump favors, but the testers said that the design with see-through steel barriers at the top was particularly “good”. It is likely that the final wall will include the best elements of each design. However, the wall installation is still far from reality. The various proposals for the project’s funding, which has an estimated price tag of $1.6 billion, have been stalled in the Senate for months and the state of California has filed a lawsuit to block its construction. Trump’s recently submitted budget proposal includes funding for the wall, but the budget has to pass congress approval before it would go forward. Via Dezeen and the LA Times Images via Wikipedia and EdmondMeinfelder

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Eight prototypes for Trump’s wall near US-Mexico border pass military tests for impenetrability

Scientists identify new kind of ice that requires extremely hot temperatures to form

February 8, 2018 by  
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Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California have discovered a new form of ice known as that is thought to exist within the core of gas giant planets. Published in the journal Nature , this study documents the first observed instance of the so-called superionic ice originally predicted 30 years ago. The ice maintains a solid lattice structure of oxygen atoms with energetic, liquid-like hydrogen ions moving within. While it could only be created on Earth under very specific lab conditions, scientists believe it would be stable under the extreme temperature and pressure conditions found in planets such as Uranus and Neptune . Unlike traditional ice, superionic ice actually requires extremely hot temperatures, combined with intense pressure, to form. Using a technique known as shock compression, scientists created laboratory conditions that match those found on gas giants and successfully prompted water to become superionic. The researchers noted the ice melts at near 5000 Kelvin (K) under pressure levels two million times that of Earth’s atmosphere. “Our work provides experimental evidence for superionic ice and shows that these predictions were not due to artifacts in the simulations, but actually captured the extraordinary behavior of water at those conditions,”  said lead author and physicist Marius Millot. Related: Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets While the real-world creation of superionic ice is groundbreaking, so too are the simulations that informed the experiment. “Driven by the increase in computing resources available, I feel we have reached a turning point,” explained co-author and physicist Sebastien Hamel . “We are now at a stage where a large enough number of these simulations can be run to map out large parts of the phase diagram of materials under extreme conditions in sufficient detail to effectively support experimental efforts.” The experiment has major implications for planetary science, painting a picture of gas giant cores composed of a thin layer of fluid surrounded by a thick mantle of superionic ice. The findings are especially poignant as NASA prepares for a potential probe mission to Uranus and/or Neptune. Via Gizmodo Images via  S. Hamel/M. Millot/J.Wickboldt/LLNL/NIF

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Asif Khan unveils the darkest building on earth for 2018 Winter Olympics

February 8, 2018 by  
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British-based architect Asif Khan unveiled a super-black pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that he describes as the “darkest building on earth.” Built for Hyundai Motor, the temporary Pyeongchang Olympic Park pavilion is fully coated in Vantablack VBx2—a material that can absorb 99 percent of the light that hits its surface. As a result, the pavilion looks like a gaping black void even in broad daylight. Standing at 10 meters (33 feet) tall, the 2018 Winter Olympics Hyundai Motor pavilion draws inspiration from the automotive company’s technology and offers a unique interactive experience. Khan attached thousands of tiny white lights to the super-black parabolic facades, evoking images of a starry night sky. The steel-framed building measures 35 meters (115 feet) by 35 meters. In contrast to the super-dark facade, the interior is a brightly lit white room housing a multi-sensory interactive water installation. Haptic sensors allow visitors to interact with the hydrophobic installation that emits 25,000 singular water droplets per minute; the water droplets zoom down channels, collide, split, and eventually pool into a drain. “From a distance the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space,” said Khan. “As you approach it, this impression grows to fill your entire field of view. So on entering the building, it feels as though you are being absorbed into a cloud of blackness.” Related: Video: Anish Kapoor’s “Decension” is a black vortex in the floor of an old movie theater He continues: “The water installation visitors discover inside is brightly lit in white. As your eyes adjust, you feel for a moment that the tiny water drops are at the scale of the stars. A water droplet is a size every visitor is familiar with. In the project I wanted to move from the scale of the cosmos to the scale of water droplets in a few steps. The droplets contain the same hydrogen from the beginning of the universe as the stars.” The 2018 Winter Olympics Hyundai Motor Pavilion will open at the Pyeongchang 2018 Opening Ceremony on February 9, 2018. + Asif Khan Via WAN Images via Luke Hayes

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Cable railing expand the view in your favorite spaces

January 31, 2018 by  
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When you picture your dream home, what comes to mind? Lots of open, connected spaces, tons of natural light, a gorgeous view from your deck? If so, then you should think about incorporating cable railing into your exterior and interior spaces. Not only is cable railing an excellent sustainable product option – it’s made with eco-friendly stainless steel – but it also has a minimalist vibe that makes any space feel welcoming and more expansive. Seeing Between the Lines Traditional railings can make a room feel closed and separate from adjacent spaces, creating a visual barrier. That’s not the case with cable railings. For outdoor applications, cable railing is perfect for framing an eye-catching panoramic view or stunning landscape. It’s a popular choice for decks, terraces and backyard settings because it optimizes the view – especially important for homeowners, since their families and guests are frequently seated on the patio or deck. Cable railings use slender horizontal (or vertical) stainless steel cables in place of bulky spindles and pickets for infill to create nearly unimpeded views and a very open, clean-lined aesthetic that preserves the intrinsic beauty of a space. In fact, the cables “trick the eye” and virtually disappear as your field of vision focuses beyond the cable rail toward the view. Natural Connections Because of its sleek, streamlined appearance, cable railing enables spaces to seamlessly flow into one another for a sense of continuity that is difficult to achieve with other types of railing infill. For outdoor applications , cable railing is perfect for framing an eye-catching panoramic view or stunning landscape. It’s a popular choice for decks, terraces and backyard settings because it optimizes the view – especially important for homeowners, since their families and guests are frequently seated on the patio or deck. When used indoors , rather than visually breaking up spaces, cable railing helps to subtly connect them and make them appear larger. And, in the case of stair railings, it beautifully showcases the different levels within a home without calling too much attention to itself. The ultimate effect is a look that is at once understated and modern with just the right touch of elegance. Durable, Low-Maintenance Beauty In addition to being an aesthetically-appealing design option, cable railing has lots of other things going for it. In the case of exterior applications, it’s rugged enough to stand up to corrosive coastal environments and other harsh conditions. Its minimal footprint allows full airflow across a deck or balcony area, minimizing wind exposure and the stress it can inflict on an outdoor railing system, and maintenance requirements are minimal. Only a periodic treatment with a stainless steel cleaner and protectant is recommended along with occasional cable tightening. Unmatched Versatility Compatible with most architectural styles – from rustic to transitional to contemporary, to name just a few – cable railing is easy to install and can be used with existing wood, metal or composite railings to achieve the desired look. In addition to these options, Oakland, California-based cable railing provider Feeney, Inc., offers its CableRail stainless cable rail infill in both standard and low profile options for maximum design flexibility. The brand also offers convenient kits that make it easy to install its CableRail products – even for newly minted weekend warriors and DIYers. Sustainable Style Thanks to its durable steel construction, cable railing can last a lifetime – making it a sustainable option, too. It’s reusable and can be recycled at the end of its useful life, reducing the use of non-renewable resources and helping to limit the waste stream. Companies like Feeney take sustainability one step further, producing their cable railing products out of post- and pre-consumer waste. Feeney also powers its California production facility using a 5,000-square-foot solar array. When it’s time to build or remodel, check out cable railing for its longevity, versatility, sustainability, and ability to open up the view – both indoors and out. No matter what size or style your home is, cable railing has the power to transform your spaces from bland to breathtaking. + Feeney, Inc.

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Cable railing expand the view in your favorite spaces

The Earth’s poles may be about to flip – and the consequences could be ‘dire’

January 31, 2018 by  
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Over the past 200 years, the Earth’s magnetic field has been getting weaker . Researchers believe that this could be a sign that the poles are about to flip – and the consequences could be “dire,” according to some scientists. If a flip happens, it could knock out power grids, alter the climate, and expose us to solar winds that could puncture the ozone layer. The poles have switched regularly throughout Earth’s history. The last time they flipped was 780,000 years ago. Since the poles normally switch every 200,000 – 300,000 years – according to NASA – we are well overdue for a change. Over the last two centuries, the magnetic field generated by the Earth’s molten core has weakened 15 percent, lending further evidence to the fact that the poles are getting restless. Related: The Earth’s magnetic field is weakening ten times faster than expected If the poles flip, it could confuse animals that rely on magnetic fields for migration, and it could lead to more radiation from the sun reaching life on the planet, according to studies . This would lead to an increase in the incidence of cancer – or at least require us to protect ourselves better from the sun. In a worst-case scenario, the flipping poles could wipe out power grids by damaging satellites that control grid infrastructure and could impact the climate by changing cloud cover. According to researcher Daniel Baker , we don’t know for sure when the poles could flip. The poles have been known to shift and move, ultimately snapping back into place. And while it certainly wouldn’t be a doomsday scenario for the planet, it would be wise to prepare for the event, so that the impact isn’t challenging for humanity. Via Undark Images via NOAA,   NASA and Deposit Photos

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The Earth’s poles may be about to flip – and the consequences could be ‘dire’

How Whole Foods uses saltwater to cut costs and boost resilience

January 31, 2018 by  
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The grocer is installing thermal batteries in California and Hawaii to hedge its bet against power outages.

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Charred timber home perched above Silicon Valley takes cues from nature

January 15, 2018 by  
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High above Silicon Valley sits a striking home with a two-story volume clad in blackened cedar. Schwartz and Architecture designed the residence, named Shou Sugi Ban House after the traditional Japanese method used to burn the wood to wrap it in a layer of carbon highly resistant to water, fire, and mold. The charred timber volume is an extension to an existing one-story home, the interior of which was also substantially remodeled by the architects. Located on the crest of a hill in Los Gatos, California, Shou Sugi Ban House is a 4,350-square-foot renovation and expansion project that takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape, including the texture and look of boulders, bark, and leaves. “Enlarging an existing home that has an already strong and complete architectural character can be challenging,” wrote the architects. “Here, we anchor the existing one-story home with a new two-story independent volume, using it both as punctuation mark and counterpoint to the existing composition. We clad the addition in traditional Japanese Shou Sugi Ban burnt cedar siding both to anchor home with site and to create the visual weight necessary to anchor the existing exuberantly-roofed horizontal building.” Related: Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite In contrast to the extension’s dark facade, the airy interior features whitewashed walls with natural textures applied throughout. A family room occupies the lower level while a bedroom is placed upstairs. Views of the outdoors are framed through large full-height glazing making it feel as if the interior is open to the outdoors. A particularly beautiful feature of the new extension is the minimalist floating staircase made of painted-steel and cantilevered walnut treads that the architects liken to leaves growing on a branch. + Schwartz and Architecture Images via Matthew Millman

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All-black solar panel from California achieves groundbreaking 19.4% efficiency

January 12, 2018 by  
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California -based Solaria has designed a sleek, all-black solar panel with more than just a pretty face. The company manufactures products with less space between the monocrystalline silicon solar cells for better efficiency than conventional solar panels, which tend to hit 15 to 17 percent, according to the company. In contrast, their black PowerXT solar panel boasts an efficiency of up to 19.4 percent. How is Solaria able to achieve better efficiency? Per a datasheet , they run a patented cell cutting and module assembly process and eliminate busbars and ribbon interconnections. On their website the company claims cells “are cut and overlaid without soldering which creates a highly reliable power unit assembly. The PowerXT module is electrically designed to reduce the power losses due to shadowing across the module by utilizing parallel connections between sets of sub-strings within each quadrant of the module.” Black backsheet and frames complete the look of the all-black panel Solaria describes as “one of the highest power modules in the residential solar market.” Related: Black butterfly wings provide inspiration for superior solar cells The Solaria PowerXT: Residential series panels offer a maximum power of 320 to 350 watt peak capacity. The company said the system would cost less because more efficient panels generate more energy per square meter, lowering installation costs and number of panels installed. Solaria’s datasheet didn’t offer a price for the module. But in a December press release on the PowerXT 350Wp, Auburn Solar owner Peggy Matson offered a hint, saying, “Solaria is great looking, highly efficient, and priced right so we can offer very competitive deals to our customers – often beating our competitors by thousands of dollars.” Solaria’s solar panels come with a 25-year warranty. This week, the company announced they’ve raised $23 million in funding to expand production. They also offer building integrated photovoltaics PowerView products – architectural glass that generates clean power on windows, facades, skylights, or other structures. + Solaria Via Electrek and Solaria ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Solaria

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All-black solar panel from California achieves groundbreaking 19.4% efficiency

6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food

January 12, 2018 by  
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If it seems like “ hydroponics ” is everywhere, that’s because it is. Hydroponic farming is one efficient way to grow fruits and vegetables in small spaces without the use of soil. Instead of dirt, plants grow down into water to which farmers have added the necessary nutrients for plant growth. These are then absorbed, along with water, through a plant’s roots. Light is provided either by the sun or specially designed grow lights, with many sustainable systems powered from renewable energy sources. Aquaponic farming, also known as “ aquaponics ,” incorporates fish into the soil-less system, using the closed-loop nutrient cycle from fish digestion to their advantage. Some systems even feed nutrients to plants through the air! From water-less deserts to the sun-less underground, soil-less farming is offering new possibilities to feed an increasingly urban, growing global population in a more Earth-friendly way. 1. Stores With consumers increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, many stores have realized that going green is good for business. Big-box store Target began a series of trials in spring 2017 in which vertical, hydroponic gardens were installed in various Target locations to provide customers with the freshest possible produce. In collaboration with MIT Media Lab and Ideo, Target designed a system that is capable of growing leafy greens and herbs with minimal water usage. The company hopes to someday branch out into other crops, such as potatoes, zucchini and beets. MIT may even offer Target use of rare heirloom tomato seeds for its project. Meanwhile, IKEA has teamed up with Denmark-based SPACE10 to design high-tech hydroponics systems in-stores and in homes. 2. Deserts In preparation for a future dominated by climate change, in which oil becomes a lesser part of the world’s energy diet, Saudi Arabia has taken several major steps to build a more sustainable system in its challenging desert region. One such move is the rethinking of many traditional farming practices, especially focused on reducing water usage. A farm in the town of Jeddah uses neither water nor soil, rooting plants in mid-air while providing their nutrients through a mist. Designed by AeroFarms , the system is the first aeroponic farm in the Middle East and hopes to someday acquire all its water needs through capturing humidity in the air. Related: The future of food: how dry farming could save the world If a desert farm chooses to go hydroponic, there are ways to grow without draining freshwater supplies. In arid South Australia, SunDrops Farms grows 15% of the country’s tomato crop through a solar-powered hydroponic system. To eliminate the use of precious freshwater, SunDrops sources its water from the nearby saltwater gulf, which is then desalinated through the reflected heat of the sun. In a very different kind of desert, soil-less farming helps growers from the Arctic to Antarctica make the most of a short growing season. 3. Cities As the global population becomes more urban, cities are investing in more local food production systems that offer economic development opportunities and reduce a city’s carbon footprint. In a warehouse on the Near East Side of Indianapolis, Farm 360 are growing vegetables on a hydroponic system that is exclusively powered by renewable energy and uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods. The harvest is sold in local grocery stores while the farm supports dozens of living-wage jobs to residents of the neighborhood. In even the most isolated urban areas, soil-less farming finds a home. With its ability to receive vital supplies and support a functioning economy severely restricted by the Israeli blockade, Gaza has stepped out onto the rooftops to grow its own food. Beginning in 2010, a United Nations-funded urban agriculture program equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system. This initial spark has encouraged others to create their own and to teach others of this valuable skill. 4. The Underground Farming without soil can often take place beneath the soil. In Paris, Cycloponics  runs La Caverne, a unique urban farm that grows mushrooms and vegetables in an underground, formerly abandoned parking garage . The farm’s hydroponics system uses special grow lights to ensure the vegetables have what they need to survive. The mushrooms grow in a special medium and, through their respiration, provide valuable CO2 for the plants to thrive. La Caverne may have found inspiration from Growing Underground , London’s first underground farm . On 2.5 acres of unused World War II-era tunnels, Growing Underground produces pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, cilantro, Red Amaranth, celery, parsley, and arugula. Related: 7 agricultural innovations that could save the world Honorable mention: shipping container farms. Although these may be mobilized on the surface, they may as well be underground due to the closed roof of most shipping containers. The solar-powered hydroponicsLA-based Local Roots  can grow the same amount of vegetables, at cost parity, with 99 percent less water than traditional farming. 5. On the Water Some soil-less growing operations take it a step further, leaving the ground behind entirely and opting for a farm floating on water. Barcelona-based design group  Forward Thinking Architecture  has proposed a progressive solution to the decreasing availability of arable land by creating floating, solar-powered farms . Using modules that measure 200 meters by 350 meters, Forward Thinking’s design allows for expansion and custom configuration of farms. Each module has three levels: a desalinization and aquaculture level at the bottom, then a hydroponic farming level, topped off by a level of solar panels and rainwater collection. The company estimates that each module would produce 8,152 tons of vegetables a year and 1,703 tons of fish annually. Related: NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants Greenwave takes an alternative approach to soil-less, floating farming by combining the cultivation of shellfish and seaweed , both profitable crops that also help to clean the aquatic environment and absorb greenhouse gases. The farm requires little external input, pulls carbon dioxide from the air and water, and consumes excess nitrogen that could otherwise result in algal blooms and dead zones. 6. Your Home Yes, you too could get in on the soil-less action. Whether you prefer to DIY or you’d rather something more straightforward , there are options for every style . Lead image via Depositphotos , others via MIT OpenAg , Sundrop Farms , Esther Boston ,  Cycloponics , GreenWave , and Urban Leaf

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Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

January 5, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration announced on Thursday that it will open nearly all United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This order marks a significant break from bipartisan precedent, which placed at least some restrictions on where the fossil fuel industry could drill offshore. As part of this move, California ‘s waters will be open to drilling for the first time in decades – along with more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the East Coast. The move by the Trump Administration reverses an order implemented by the Obama Administration which blocked oil and gas drilling in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the American offshore territory between state coastal waters and the deep ocean . Such a reversal would mark a serious blow to former President Obama’s environmental legacy and could put coastal states at risk of an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The expansion of oil and gas drilling has already met with bipartisan opposition. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott pushed back against the move, concerned on the effects that drilling might have on tourism. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” said Scott in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida ’s natural resources are protected.” Related: Scientists protest senator’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration Industry leaders have predictably applauded the move. “I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, according to the New York Times . “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.” If all profits from such drilling were directly distributed to taxpayers, perhaps Pyle’s position would resonate. Instead, offshore oil drilling under the current system involves socialized risk, with citizens paying the price when something goes wrong, and privatized gain, with industry profiting off of the public’s natural resources . Finalizing Trump’s plan could take up to a year and a half, during which time the order will be challenged in the courts and Congress . Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the fossil fuel industry takes advantage of these new opportunities in light of oil’s recent slump which has only recently ended and the major infrastructure investment required. All the while, the prospect of a future Democratic president reversing Trump’s order looms. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and The White House/Flickr

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Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

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