Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

February 21, 2018 by  
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Let’s face it, the way we charge our phones hasn’t evolved much over the years. You plug your phone in, or place it on a precise place on a wireless charging pad , and then you wait. But the genius researchers over at the University of Washington have developed a way to charge your phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams! Researchers developed a cell that can power a smartphone using energy from laser beams – and it charges just as quickly as a direct connection with a USB cable. A focused near-infrared beam, which can extend up to 40 feet, delivers power, while several “retroreflectors” around the power cell reflect the guard beams back to the charging unit. Related: China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers You might be thinking that this sounds as dangerous as sharks with laser beams on their heads, but the researchers designed a bunch of safety features, like a heatsink to help dissipate the heat and an automatic shut-off if a human moves into the beam’s path. To accomplish this, the aforementioned retroflectors act as a trip wire, terminating the charging beam if something enters the path. “The guard beams are able to act faster than our quickest motions because those beams are reflected back to the emitter at the speed of light,” said Shyam Gollakota, one of the co-authors of the study. Gollakota and co-author Arka Majumdar published their research recently in Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Ubiquitous Technologies . Sometime it could totally change the way we charge our devices – no sharks needed. Via Phys.org Images via Mark Stone for UW

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Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

Yurt-inspired visitor’s center in China blends into its exceptional surroundings

February 9, 2018 by  
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This gorgeous visitor center in China was inspired by Mongolian yurts . Architecture firm HDD combined locally sourced stone and wooden beams to create a multi-functional space where local children can play and read. The Mulan Weichang Visitors Center also offers overnight accommodations and a great spot for astronomy enthusiasts to observe the night sky, all nestled within the stunning Mongolian grasslands. The building is located in the northeast of Hebei province, an area connected to inner Mongolia grasslands where ancient Chinese emperors used to hold autumn hunting festivals. Blending into its grassy surroundings, the building resembles the traditional Mongolian yurt. This layout creates a series of round, semi-public spaces that fit perfectly with the modern lifestyle. Related: A Firsthand Look at the Magnolia 2300 Yurt – the First Energy Star Home in British Columbia The middle of the library is a sunken living space, and the kitchen and dining area located off to the side. Large windows fill the interior with natural light and offer views of the landscape. This openness toward the exterior dominates every corner of the interior, including the bathroom, where a freestanding bathtub sits in front of another large window. Related: Trakke Transforms Ancient Yurt into a Packable Round House That Pops Up Anywhere for the Everyday Adventurer The architects used local materials including old stone and used wooden beams in order for the building to blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings. The main structure of the building is steel framing, combined with triple layered low-e glass panels, while the exterior wooden frames double as an efficient shading system. + HDD Architecture Via Contemporist Photos by Shengliang Su

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Yurt-inspired visitor’s center in China blends into its exceptional surroundings

Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

February 9, 2018 by  
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has once again aired thoughts that depart from mainstream climate science , according to The Guardian . In a recent interview with Nevada TV station News 3 , Pruitt suggested global warming could be beneficial for people. He said, “Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.” Pruitt said in an interview with News 3’s Gerard Ramahlo, “No one disputes the climate changes , is changing, that’s, we see that, that’s constant. We obviously contribute to it; we live in the climate, right?…Now measuring that with precision, Gerard, I think is more challenging than is let on at times but I think the bigger question is…is it an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends. I mean, so, so, I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing.” Related: Pruitt met with Dow Chemical CEO before denying pesticide ban The EPA administrator echoed an idea that’s been raised in the past of a debate on climate change, to go over “what we do know and what we don’t know, so the American people can be informed and make decisions on their own.” A snapshot of the EPA website on January 19, 2017, the day before Donald Trump was sworn into office, was very clear that the impacts of climate change would threaten human health . They said people could be exposed to disease , be threatened by extreme weather events, or face food insecurity due to climate change impacts. Via The Guardian and News 3 Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Pruitt thinks global warming could be favorable for humans

Hong Kong faces ‘growing mountain of waste’ in wake of China’s trash ban

February 7, 2018 by  
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On January 1st, China banned imports of 24 kinds of trash – and the move is wrecking havoc on Hong Kong . Reuters describes a “growing mountain of waste” piling up in a city that recycles little of its garbage. Doug Woodring, founder of the Hong Kong-based Ocean Recovery Alliance, told Reuters, “Hong Kong is a rich city with third-world quality recycling. It has been too easy to send unprocessed waste to China.” Every year, Hong Kong sends 5.6 million metric tons – two thirds of its garbage – into landfills . They used to export more than 90 percent of recyclables over to China – up until the start of the year. Reuters reports that mountains of cardboard and newspapers are piling up on Hong Kong’s docks as plastic trash heads to landfills. Related: China bans ‘foreign waste,’ causing recycling chaos in America The government says it doesn’t have the space to create a productive recycling industry. Critics say the city hasn’t done enough to upgrade its waste management system. Woodring, for example, told Reuters the government has depended too much on expanding landfills, saying in regards to recycling, “Hong Kong has the capability to build processing plants. There is plenty of land. The land has just been misused and misallocated.” Deputy director for environmental protection Vicki Kwok told Reuters the government is planning to increase the size of three active landfills. The government also plans to begin charging people for the things they toss out – but it could be two years at least before they implement the move. They also hope to open a facility in 2018 to turn food waste into usable resources or energy – however it will only be able to recycle 200-300 metric tons daily. That’s just a fraction of the 3,600 metric tons of food waste Hong Kong generates in a single day. The government has announced measures to fight the waste dilemma like funding local recyclers, according to Kwok, but green groups say the local recycling industry isn’t able to process all the junk once shipped off to China. Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Hong Kong faces ‘growing mountain of waste’ in wake of China’s trash ban

Hong Kong votes to end its massive ivory trade by 2021

February 2, 2018 by  
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In an historic vote, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong voted 49-4 to ban the trade of ivory by 2021. The conclusion of a campaign waged by organizations such as Avaaz and WildAid Hong Kong , the ban could save tens of thousands of African elephants from poaching each year. The vote comes two years after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pledged to end the ivory trade and over a year since the government submitted its plan to end the world’s largest ivory trade. To force action in the Legislative Council, US-based global actvist group Avaaz gathered one million signatures in support of ending the Hong Kong ivory trade. “It was a huge boost to be able to deliver a million voices into the debate before we voted for the ivory ban,” Hong Kong legislator Hon Elizabeth Quat told Avaaz . “The world stood with us, and it made a difference.” After Avaaz activists applied additional pressure, including a social media campaign featuring Hong Kong superstar Li Bing Bing, a traditional media campaign, and in-person protests, the ban was called up for a vote and passed overwhelmingly. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth While the vote is a positive step forward, it leaves much to be desired. “Every positive step to us concerning elephants is good news,” Philip Muruthi, vice president of species protection for the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, told National Geographic. “But the urgency of the issue as it pertains to elephants hasn’t been taken seriously here.” In the past decade, the African elephant population has dropped from 490,000 to 350,000, primarily due to poaching . Mainland China banned its legal ivory trade last year, but there are concerns that a black market may take hold. “With the later implementation of the Hong Kong ban, those with ivory in mainland China might perceive a potential back door for unloading their stock,” Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring organization, told National Geographic . “It will be critical to closely monitor and document ivory stockpiles and secure borders to ensure this door remains firmly shut.” Under the new Hong Kong law, smugglers could face up to 10 years in prison and a $1.3 million fine for illegal ivory trading. Via Avaaz and National Geographic Images via Avaaz (email)

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Hong Kong votes to end its massive ivory trade by 2021

Trump wants to dramatically slash clean energy research by 72 percent

February 1, 2018 by  
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It comes as no surprise that Trump is all about pushing fossil fuels – or “beautiful clean coal,” as he calls it – but it still feels like a punch to the gut when you hear about his latest move. The President wants to slash funding from the Energy Department’s clean energy programs by a whopping 72 percent while cutting at least 230 jobs. After imposing a 30% tariff on solar panels made outside the US, it leaves little doubt about what Trump’s priorities are. The Washington Post got their hands on a budget draft coming out of the White House, which details Trump’s vision for the Energy Department (hint: it doesn’t include much clean energy). While it’s important to note that this is just a jumping-off point, and negotiations will likely ultimately raise funding and jobs from the proposal, it is a stark reminder that Trump’s White House is all about partisan politics and not what’s best for the planet ( or even the economy ). Related: Trump’s 30% solar tariffs could kill thousands of jobs and harm industry growth The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) currently has a budget of $2.04 billion. The White House is asking for $575.5 million, with a staff cut from 680 to 450 in 2019. “It shows that we’ve made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped,” said an anonymous EERE employee to the Washington Post . “The administration is ceding jobs to China and our other global trade competitors. The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s research, development, and commercialization programs play a critical role in helping ensure America leads both in inventing and deploying innovative clean energy solutions that power our nation and increase our competitive edge in the global market,” said Bluegreen Alliance in a statement. Via The Washington Post Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 ) and Flickr

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Trump wants to dramatically slash clean energy research by 72 percent

Dubai announces plans for world’s biggest waste-to-energy facility

February 1, 2018 by  
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Dubai plans to deal with their garbage in a bold new way: with the largest waste-to-energy plant in the world. Gulf News and New Atlas reported the government announced plans for a facility that will handle as much as two million tons of solid waste yearly. That’s around 60 percent of the trash Dubai produces in a year. With a 185 megawatt (MW) capacity, the plant will generate power for around 120,000 homes. Dubai’s launching an ambitious effort to turn junk into energy . The waste-to-energy plant will treat around 5,000 metric tons every single day, and will generate as much power as 2,000 skyscrapers as big as the Burj Khalifa could consume – roughly two percent of Dubai’s annual electricity consumption, according to the Government of Dubai Media Office . Related: World’s largest waste-to-energy plant in China will be topped with green roofs and photovoltaics Dubai will raise the waste-to-energy plant on five acres of land, and will partner with Switzerland-based waste-to-energy technology company Hitachi Zosen Inova and Belgian construction company BESIX on the project. HV 132kV cables will connect the plant to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)’s grid. DEWA CEO Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer told Gulf News, “This will be a new source of [power] supply for Dubai. This will improve security of supply.” Construction will commence in a few months, according to Dubai Municipality director general Hussain Nasser Lootah, and the plant should be operating before World Expo 2020 . There is another waste-to-energy plant in progress vying for the title of world’s largest planned for Shenzhen , China; Inhabitat covered its green design here . Both could be finished in 2020. New Atlas reported the Shenzhen plant is still on track to claim the prize, but if the Dubai project reaches its goals, it could snag the title, with an output around 20 MW greater than the Shenzhen plant. Via New Atlas and Government of Dubai Media Office via Gulf News Images via BESIX

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Soldiers reportedly kill forest defenders in Cambodia after they challenged illegal loggers

January 31, 2018 by  
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Government forces reportedly attacked a forest protection ranger, conservation worker, and military police officer in a part of northeastern Cambodia that grapples with illegal logging, the Associated Press reported . The soldiers killed the forest defenders in what seemed to be retaliation after the three-person team seized equipment from illegal loggers , according to officials. Senior environmental official Keo Sopheak said, “The three were killed not by robbers or a guerrilla group but they were shot by government armed forces who backed the illegal timber cutting.” The three-person team had been patrolling the Keo Seima wildlife sanctuary , according to the Associated Press, which described them as the latest victims in a trend of environmental defenders murdered by people seeking to exploit natural resources for financial gain. They’d confiscated motorcycles and chainsaws from Vietnamese people illegally logging, Sopheak said. Per the Associated Press, security forces in Cambodia sometimes work with illegal loggers who then smuggle the timber into Vietnam nearby. Related: 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes 6 activists who risk life and limb to protect the environment On their page about the Keo Seima wildlife sanctuary, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia said the Seima Protection Forest (SPF) “boasts more than 60 species that are Globally Threatened, Near-threatened, or Data Deficient by IUCN criteria. The area is home to 25 different species of carnivore, including Tiger and seven other species of wild cat. The SPF is of international importance for the conservation of primates , Asian elephants, wild cattle, and several species of birds.” Sopheak said the civilian killed was a WCS Cambodian employee. Illicit wood trade is a multimillion dollar affair across southeast Asia , per the Associated Press, with China as a major market. The Keo Seima sanctuary reportedly contains valuable timber alongside threatened wildlife species. Via The Associated Press on The Guardian Images via Flickr ,  Depositphotos and Pixabay

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MVRDV unveils solar-powered Milestone building that looks like a crystal rock

January 31, 2018 by  
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MVRDV just unveiled designs for a new mixed-use building in Esslingen, Germany that looks as if it were unearthed from a crystal mine. Dubbed The Milestone, the 6,500-square-meter tower “will literally be a milestone,” say the architects, due to the structure’s crystalline facade that and eye-catching design that symbolizes the city’s future ambition. The building also incorporates sustainable building elements, such as photovoltaic panels and fritted glass to reduce solar gain, and is expected to become partly self-sufficient in the future. Located in Stuttgart in the south of Germany , Esslingen boasts a robust historic core as well as a number of recent regeneration projects in the area of “Neue Weststadt” around the main railway station. The Milestone was commissioned to draw attention to the town and its ambitious projects in the center of the newly developed district that will accommodate a university, housing, and retail. “MVRDV’s ambition is to generate a building that shows the city of Esslingen and at the same time, opens up to its surrounding and its users,” write the architects. “To the people who pass by on the train, and to those that look at the city from the hills ‘Here We Are.’ It shows its pride, its history and its future.” Related: China’s new futuristic library is unlike any we’ve seen before The Milestone’s part-mirrored, part-transparent facade will feature an interactive surface that communicates the area’s topography and history. Each square “pixel” panel on the facade is embedded with technology and integrated QR codes to show stories of the city and users will be able to learn more through an accompanying smartphone app. The large gap in the pixelated facade, called the “Essingler Room,” is for public use and made up of stairs, terraces and platforms that provide views of vineyards and surrounding hills. Public amenities will include a restaurant cafe and meeting areas, while the upper levels are occupied by modern office spaces. Construction is slated to begin in 2020. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys

January 25, 2018 by  
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In a major breakthrough, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai have successfully cloned long-tailed macaque monkeys . This is the first instance in which scientists have cloned primates and may open the door to cloning humans in the future. “Humans are primates. So (for) the cloning of primate species, including humans, the technical barrier is now broken,” cloning program supervisor Muming Poo told reporters . However, Poo insisted that the cloning of primates was intended to serve research purposes, particularly for medicine and human health. The famous primate clones , two identical long-tailed macaques that were born two weeks apart, have been named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua. At less than two months old, the young monkeys are growing normally and are expected to be soon joined by additional macaque clones born within months. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were created through a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), in which the nucleus of a cell, with its contained genetic information, is transferred into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. This technique has been used to successfully clone over 20 species of animals, including dogs, cows, and pigs. Perhaps the most famously cloned species is the sheep, which became the first mammal species to be cloned from an adult somatic cell in 1996 when Dolly the sheep was born in Scotland . Related: China to break ground on world’s largest animal cloning factory next year Previous attempts to use SCNT to clone primates had failed. Even the recent success was the result of repeated failure; 127 eggs were used to produce the two live macaque births. “It remains a very inefficient and hazardous procedure,” Robin Lovell-Badge, a cloning expert at the Francis Crick Institute in London and unaffiliated with the primate cloning in China , told Reuters . “The work in this paper is not a stepping-stone to establishing methods for obtaining live born human clones. This clearly remains a very foolish thing to attempt.” Via Reuters Images via Chinese Academy of Sciences/Reuters and Depositphotos

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