Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

January 30, 2018 by  
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Fossils in Africa from the Late Cretaceous time period – around 100 to 66 million years ago – are rare. Scientists have been largely kept in the dark about the course of dinosaur evolution on the continent, but a new dinosaur species, Mansourasaurus shahinae , recently unearthed in the Sahara Desert in Egypt , now offers some clues. Carnegie Museum of Natural History dinosaur paleontologist Matt Lamanna said in a statement , “When I first saw pics of the fossils, my jaw hit the floor. This was the Holy Grail – a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa – that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.” A team led by Hesham Sallam of Mansoura University in Egypt unearthed the fossils. Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked dinosaur with bony plates in its skin, and consumed plants. According to a release from Ohio University, the new species belongs to a group of sauropods , Titanosaurs, which includes the largest land animals we know about. But Mansourasaurus was a moderate-sized titanosaur, weighing about as much as an African bull elephant. Ohio University said its skeleton is “the most complete dinosaur specimen so far discovered from the end of the Cretaceous in Africa” – parts of the skull, lower jaw, ribs, neck and back vertebrae, shoulder and forelimb, hind foot, and dermal plates were preserved. Related: How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues While it’s thrilling to find a new dinosaur species, there are other reasons why paleontologists are so excited about this find. During the Cretaceous Period, the continents joined together as the supercontinent Pangea started to split apart. The lack of a fossil record in Africa from the Late Cretaceous Period has been maddening for researchers who want to know how well-connected Africa was to Europe and Southern Hemisphere landmasses. Sallam and his team scrutinized the bones to determine, per the press release, the dinosaur was “more closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than it is to those found farther south in Africa or in South America” – so some of the creatures could have moved between Africa and Europe. The Field Museum postdoctoral research scientist Eric Gorscak, who was part of the study, said, “Africa’s last dinosaurs weren’t completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past. There were still connections to Europe.” The journal Nature Ecology and Evolution published the work online yesterday. 10 researchers from institutions in Egypt and the United States contributed. + Ohio University + Nature Ecology and Evolution Images via Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Mansoura University; and Hesham Sallam, Mansoura University

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Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs

December 13, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found the first solid evidence that prehistoric ticks consumed dinosaur blood. The discovery of a 99-million year old piece of amber in Myanmar offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Cretaceous animals, large and small. Trapped within the fossilized sap, the tick is seen grasping onto a feather presumed to be from a feathered dinosaur. Though Mezozoic-era blood-sucking insects encased in amber have become part of the public’s imagination thanks to the  Jurassic Park films, the fossil record previously lacked clear evidence that dinosaur blood was on the menu. “Ticks are infamous blood-sucking, parasitic organisms, having a tremendous impact on the health of humans, livestock, pets, and even wildlife,” study lead researcher Enrique Peñalver told EurekaAlert , “but until now clear evidence of their role in deep time has been lacking.” Although the tick in life did indeed drink dinosaur blood, it is not possible to extract DNA from an amber-enclosed insect, a la Jurassic Park , because of the short life of complex DNA molecules. Nonetheless, the fossil adds considerably to our understanding of ecology in the age of the dinosaurs. “The fossil record tells us that feathers like the one we have studied were already present on a wide range of theropod dinosaurs, a group which included ground-running forms without flying ability, as well as bird-like dinosaurs capable of powered flight,” said Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, researcher at University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. Related: Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil “So although we can’t be sure what kind of dinosaur the tick was feeding on,” continued Pérez-de la Fuente, “the mid-Cretaceous age of the Burmese amber confirms that the feather certainly did not belong to a modern bird , as these appeared much later in theropod evolution according to current fossil and molecular evidence.” In addition to the dino-centric discovery, researchers also identified a new species of tick, dubbed Deinocroton draculi or “Dracula’s terrible tick,”encased in a separate piece of amber. Via ScienceAlert Images via University of Oxford

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Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

December 13, 2017 by  
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99 percent less water and 4,000 lettuce heads every 10 days: Los Angeles-based Local Roots achieves all that in their shipping container farms . And today they announced they’ve also reached cost parity with traditional farming . They plan to deploy over 100 farms in 2018. Inhabitat checked out their mobile TerraFarm in New York City and met with CEO Eric Ellestad and COO Matt Vail to hear more. We visited Local Roots’ TerraFarm in Manhattan a windy, chilly December day, but inside, green butterhead, red butterhead, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce was thriving. Vail and Ellestad started the company around four years ago on a mission to boost global health and seek sustainability in farming. A few statistics that fuel their mission? For one, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates agriculture is responsible for over 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions . And then, 52 percent of the food we do grow in America doesn’t even make it to the consumer, according to Ellestad. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Their indoor farms address those issues. They can deploy TerraFarms right at or near distribution centers. They design, build, deploy, and efficiently operate the vertical farms , and sell the food – which they think is even better than organic produce. “In outdoor farming, whether it’s organic or traditional, there’s a lot of variability. Even across a field, there’s not going to be uniform nutrient application or soil quality. In our environment we’re able to consistently create growing conditions that optimize for flavor and nutrient density,” Ellestad told Inhabitat. “We can select varietals that are naturally more nutritious, even ones that don’t make sense to grow outdoors or are really susceptible to weather or have a short shelf life or break down in transit. We can bring those to market at scale with price parity and do that for some of the largest buyers.” They also see an accelerated growth rate in their TerraFarms. Ellestad said crops will grow two or three times as fast as they would in a field since they can create perfect growing conditions for a plant. They can reuse or recycle all of the water – their biggest use of water is actually for cleaning the farms. And since they can control the environment, they can grow local food year-round. “Instead of being constrained to a growing season, you’re growing fall, winter, summer, spring; in Saudi Arabia in the summer, in New York in December,” he told Inhabitat. “We’re over 600 times more productive per square foot compared with an outdoor farm. So suddenly you can bring commercial-scale food production into urban areas and start to bring them closer to the point of consumption.” Solar panels lined the roof of the mobile TerraFarm in Manhattan. They could generate three kilowatts, enough to operate the farm in sunny California, according to Vail. The indoor farms can go off-grid with solar or wind and batteries. Local Roots tends to evaluate the local grid before deploying a farm to see if it’s clean or if they might want to add a source of renewable energy . Now as they’ve cracked the code for cost parity with traditional farming, Local Roots will be expanding in a big way in 2018. They’ll deploy their first projects outside of the Los Angeles area, and plan to hire around 150 people. Ellestad said they’re also launching their retail brand in a new way. They hope to be on the East Coast by the end of 2018. But they’re already looking ahead to bringing nutrition to people around the world. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’re here with a mission to improve global health, so that means more than just LA and New York. It means developing countries around the world. It means the two billion people who today don’t have access to the micronutrients they need to be healthy.” Local Roots is working with the World Food Program (WFP) to deploy and field test a few TerraFarms in 2018 in a developing nation to be determined. These farms will be off-grid, likely equipped with solar power, so they will be self-sustaining; locals will just need to bring in water. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’ll educate and train the community to operate the farms, and they’ll then have ownership so they can feed their community perpetually in a really sustainable way with food that’s healthy, delicious, and local.” Find out more about Local Roots on their website . + Local Roots Images via Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat and courtesy of Local Roots

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SunPower shingles solar cells to boost solar panel efficiency by 15%

December 13, 2017 by  
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SunPower has achieved a 15 percent efficiency increase in its panels in part by incorporating a novel design: shingling solar cells. For only $9 in additional costs from adding solar cells, the San Jose -based manufacturer’s P Series solar panels can be structured like shingles, maximizing direct sunlight exposure and raising efficiency. Many of the new designs incorporated into the P Series solar panel were created by Cogenra, a solar panel producer based in Fremont, California, which was acquired by SunPower in 2015. Because of this increase in efficiency through a relatively simple design tweak, SunPower’s stock jumped 12 percent as investors recognized the profit potential for these new panels. Although SunPower has had trouble achieving profitability in recent years, its new designs are promising. Unlike previous designs from the company, the P Series solar panels utilize cheaper, lower efficiency solar cells and make up for the efficiency loss through their shingling design. By shingling the solar cells, the space between cells is reduced, allowing more cells to be included on each panel. As a result, nearly 100 percent of the panel is covered with solar cells. Related: New rooftop solar hydropanels harvest drinking water and energy at the same time The P Series also incorporates a design that relocates ribbons and solder bands to the back of the panel, once again making room for additional solar cells facing the sun. This innovation and others have enabled the P Series to achieve a much more affordable production price. Investors had previously expressed concerns over the high capital investment required to build new SunPower factories and the high cost of its earlier model panels. To prepare for a broader stake in the market, SunPower, in collaboration with Dongfang Electric and silicon giant Zhonghuan Semiconductor, will build what is expected to be the largest solar manufacturing facility on the planet. This joint project has been dubbed DZS Solar. Via Electrek Images via SunPower (1)

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SunPower shingles solar cells to boost solar panel efficiency by 15%

90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

May 10, 2017 by  
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Twenty-five years ago, a mysterious egg was discovered. For a good portion of that time, the unknown specimen that failed to hatch has been studied by paleontologists of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Finally, the dinosaur embryo has been identified and given a scientific name, and researchers say the discovery is more profound than they once thought. The study, published on May 9 in the journal Nature Communications , was co-led by researcher Darla Zelenitsky, an assistant professor of paleontology. She told Live Science in an email, “This is the first embryo known for a giant oviraptorosaur, dinosaurs that are exceedingly rare.” Additionally, it is the second known giant oviraptorosaur (B. sinensis) on record. 15 inches in length (38 centimeters), the embryo would have developed into a gigantic bird-like dinosaur with a toothless beak and a crest on top of its head. Another name for the dinosaur is Gigantoraptor, as it was a beast that stood as tall as 16 ft (5 meters). Reportedly, the two-legged dinosaurs look like modern-day cassowaries – large, flightless birds that live in Australia. Researchers believe B. sinensis measured up to 26 feet long from its snout to the end of its tail and weighed up to 6,600 lbs (3,000 kg) by the age of 11. This means it would have been 9 lbs by the time it hatched. The fossilized embryo was discovered by a Chinese farmer in Henan Province in 1992. One year later, it was exported to the U.S. by The Stone Co., a Colorado firm that sells fossils and rocks. After word spread that the embryo had been discovered, National Geographic featured it on a magazine cover in 1996. Related: World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Australia’s “Jurassic Park” Enthralled by the discovery, people began calling the dinosaur embryo “Baby Louie.” The embryo representing a new species was eventually repatriated to China (2013) and put on display at the Henan Geological Museum. There, researchers flocked to study the intriguing discovery. After years of speculation and research, the 90-million-year-old embryo has finally been identified. + Nature Communications Via Live Science

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90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

Arckit building blocks let you design and build the city of your dreams

May 10, 2017 by  
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Move over LEGO , a new set of building blocks wants to unleash our inner urban planner. Arckit , the makers of award winning architectural building blocks, have scaled up to create a modeling kit for cities. The firm just launched its first ever Kickstarter campaign today to bring its new city building kits to life. Founded by architect Damien Murtagh, Arckit took the architecture world by storm with the debut of their architecture building kits in 2014 . The reusable building blocks share similarities to LEGO with their interchangeable components, however, are better tailored for constructing scale models. Arckit’s new city modeling kits replicate the flexibility of their predecessors and give anyone, enthusiasts and professional urban planners alike, the chance to rapidly experiment with simple and complex urban layouts in a virtually unlimited fashion. Arckit introduced twelve new modeling kits in their Kickstarter campaign in the categories of ArcKit Cityscape and Arckit Masterplan. The kits are developed for all ages, however, the Cityscape XL, Cityscape XXL, Masterplan, and Masterplan Pro are geared for professional-level models. Each kit includes unique components inspired by iconic world architecture and the components are available in white or color. Related: Arckit’s architectural building blocks make LEGOs look like child’s play “From developing suburban neighbourhoods to downtown skyscrapers , city parks to piazzas, now designers of all ages can experience what it’s like to be a real architect or city planner,” writes the firm. “Arckit allows you to create your very own miniature model worlds complete with subtle colours and graphics – then stand back to marvel at a true 3D perspective of your masterpiece.” The ArcKit Kickstarter campaign is targeting a €30,000 goal. + Arckit + Kickstarter campaign

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Arckit building blocks let you design and build the city of your dreams

99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

December 9, 2016 by  
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When a small, sparrow-sized dinosaur died about 99 million years ago, part of its tail was immaculately preserved in amber. Researchers who recently discovered the tail from a Hukawng Valley amber mine in Myanmar say it’s a notable find not only because it is the first dinosaur tail ever identified, but also because it is covered in feathers. Co-first author Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences found the amber piece in a Myanmar market in 2015, according to NPR . The Dexu Institute of Palaeontology agreed to purchase the specimen, and Xing and colleagues got to work scrutinizing it. Related: First dinosaur brain tissue discovered in 130-million-year-old fossil The dinosaur was likely a carnivorous coelurosaurus, part of a group that includes the mighty Tyrannosaurus , although the discovered dinosaur probably wasn’t very mighty itself. Scientists can tell it was tiny from the tail bone, which is a mere two millimeters across. Part of the mystery of dinosaurs with feathers is that many probably didn’t use that plumage to fly. The structure of the little dinosaur’s feathers instead resembles ornamental feathers seen on some modern birds . Scientists can see the way the feathers’ barbs bend means they’re far more flexible than feathers used for flight, and could have been employed to send signals or regulate the dinosaur’s temperature. The top of the feathers could have been dark brown, the scientists think, with the underside having no color at all. That or carotenoids – pigments responsible for orange, red, and yellow hues – may have brightened the underside feathers in life but broke down swiftly when the dinosaur died. Thrilled with the discovery, the scientists hope they might be able to find even more specimens in the future. With a conflict between the Kachin Independence Army – who currently possess the Hukawng Valley – and the Myanmar government hopefully coming to a close, scientists may be able to get more access to the amber mines, according to Xing. He speculated they might even find a whole dinosaur one day. 14 scientists from international institutions participated in a new study published by the journal Current Biology . Via National Geographic and The Economist Images via Lida Xing, et al.

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99-million-year-old dinosaur tail found immaculately preserved in amber

Autonomous concept car features an urban garden on wheels

December 9, 2016 by  
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From a Swiss think tank widely known for its outrageous car concepts comes the automotive dream to end all others: an autonomous vehicle featuring a mobile office and a living garden . The Rinspeed Oasis is set to be unveiled at the upcoming CES event held in Las Vegas in early January 2017. The fully autonomous concept vehicle takes a wildly different approach to commuting, with a built-in personal assistant, a lock-box for packages, and a host of other smart features that change the way we think about transportation. Rinspeed has promoted the “mobile office” notion in previous concept designs, and the Swiss think tank even transformed a Tesla Model S into a self-driving office on wheels. With the debut of the Oasis concept next month, Rinspeed is upping the stakes quite a bit in terms of innovation and thinking outside the literal box of a car frame. That’s the whole point of the Oasis concept, according to the company’s press release, which acknowledges some critics might be scratching their heads at the notion of growing plants inside a car. Related: Rinspeed turns Tesla Model S into an autonomous mobile office “Urban gardening on wheels as a new trend? A little bit out there? Maybe. But as always, the creation of Swiss mobility innovator Frank M. Rinderknecht is an oasis for inspiration in the otherwise rather expansive automotive wasteland,” the company said. The Oasis also features an onboard “personal assistant” that puts artificial intelligence to work for the car owner by linking personal data (via digital calendar and social media accounts, for instance) with the vehicle’s navigation system and traffic information. As a result, the vehicle can not only let you know whether you’ll make it to your destination on time, but can also give you a heads up if you’re about to miss an appointment. Let’s be clear about one thing: there are no plans for mass production currently in place. At CES, Rinspeed will do what they do for another year in row, which is reveal outlandish concepts to push the envelope of automotive design and hope that carmakers will follow. Via New Atlas Images via Rinspeed

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Why big oil needs to integrate — or disintegrate

August 9, 2016 by  
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The “supermajors” will have to make some drastic financial changes if they don’t want go the way of the dinosaur.

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Miniature Star Wars Terrariums Bring Far Away Galaxies Into Your Home!

July 3, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of Miniature Star Wars Terrariums Bring Far Away Galaxies Into Your Home! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Dagobah , dagobah system , Dinosaur , Easter Island , Endor , etsy , ewok , Ewoks , george lucas , Minnesota , moa+i , princess leah , r2d2 , sasquatch , star wars , Tatooine , the wonder room , tony larson , yoda

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