This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

April 21, 2017 by  
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In 1959, the small village of Caowangba in China ’s Guizhou Province had a problem – a drought had dried up all the nearby water sources, and residents were forced to rely on a single well for drinking water. Even that single well was faltering, sometimes leaving the people of the town without enough water to go around. Worse yet, the town’s single rice paddy had dried up, making it hard for residents to access enough food. Something had to be done. But rather than give up and move to a new home, one man named Huang Dafa decided to lead an ambitious project to dig a 10-kilometer canal along the face of several sheer cliffs to bring water to his home. It took 36 years and at least one failed attempt, but now enough water flows to the city to provide food and drinking water to everyone. Many have compared Dafa to the legendary figure Yu Gong , an old man whose determination caused the gods to literally move mountains from his path. At only 23 years old, Dafa made the project his life’s work. To build the canal, villagers had to carve along the sheer cliffs of three karst mountains , dangerous work that involved climbing up the side of the mountains, tying themselves to trees, and rappelling hundreds of meters down the cliff to dig. Related: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants 1,360 Acre Forest Naturally, it took a bit of persuading before anyone else in town was willing to take on this dangerous work. But in the end, the only other option was to do nothing and watch the town continue to struggle. Unfortunately, after a decade of work, the first attempt at a canal was unsuccessful in bringing water to the city. It wasn’t a total waste: the effort did create a tunnel through the mountains that allowed for easy travel through the stone, rather than around, which is still in use today. Dafa realized they needed a better understanding of irrigation to make the project work. So he left to study engineering for several years, and planned his next attempt even more meticulously. In the early 1990s, he persuaded the villagers to try again. The workers often slept in caves along the cliff side, and the remote location made it difficult to reach them in case of emergency – in fact, Dafa was working in the mountains when his daughter and grandson passed away, unable to reach them before they died. Related: Hundreds of beehives hang off a steep cliff in China to save wild honeybees Finally, in 1995, the new channel was finished, and water began to flow to Caowangba. As if the channel weren’t enough, Dafa’s efforts were also responsible for bringing electricity and a new road to the town that same year, allowing the residents to step into the modern era. Now, the community is thriving, and Huang Dafa is celebrated as a local hero at 82 years old. The channel provides running water to three other villages that happen to cross its path as well, providing water to 1,200 people and allowing them to grow 400,000 kilograms of rice every year. Via Oddity Central Images via VGC , China Daily

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This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

California governor marks official end of state’s historic drought

April 10, 2017 by  
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A wet winter that filled reservoirs with rainwater and blanketed the Sierra Nevadas with heavy snow has officially brought an end to California’s historic drought . On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the emergency order in effect since January 2014 for all of the state except for the Central California counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne that are still dealing with dried-up wells. Brown’s executive order continues conservation measures such as the State Water Resources Control Board maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibiting wasteful practices like watering lawns right after rainfall or in a manner that causes runoff. Related: Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185% The severely dry conditions that began in the winter of 2011-2012 killed an estimated 100 million trees , disrupted agricultural production, reduced drinking water supplies in rural communities and diminished groundwater basins. According to the executive order, Californians responded to the drought by conserving water at unprecedented levels — reducing water use in communities by more than 22 percent between June 2015 and January 2017. Also on Friday, state agencies put forth a long-term plan to make water conservation a way of life in California as part of resiliency efforts to prepare for more frequent and severe droughts as a result of human-caused climate change . “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” Via The Washington Post Images via Flickr 1 , 2

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California governor marks official end of state’s historic drought

Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

March 29, 2017 by  
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Thick layers of Dead Sea salt found 1,000 feet below the sea bed holds clues to our planet’s past – and a warning. The salt reveals during warm periods in Earth’s history, the region – the Dead Sea is bordered by Palestine, Jordan, and Israel – suffered from drought with no known precedent. The salt, scrutinized by an international team of researchers led by Yael Kiro of Columbia University , doesn’t just offer a history lesson, but a caution climate change could seriously dry the region again in the future. Crystalline salt from beneath the Dead Sea reveals 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, rainfall in the area was a fifth of modern levels. These dry periods were naturally caused. But human-caused climate change today could potentially dry the region – which is already struggling – more than we realized. Right now the Middle East’s fresh water per capita availability is 10 times less than the world average, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Related: Dramatic Video Captures Rebirth of the River Zin in Israel’s Negev Desert Back in 2010, scientists drilled 1,500 feet into the Dead Sea bed’s deepest part. They obtained a cross-section that provided 200,000 years of climate history in the area. Alternating layers of salt and mud showed dry and wet times. Only recently, however, did scientists analyze the core in great detail. The region suffered from what Columbia University called epic dry periods. Kiro said in a statement, “All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer. What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models.” The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published the research in an early online edition . Six other scientists from institutions in Israel and Spain also contributed to the study. Via The Guardian and Columbia University Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

March 29, 2017 by  
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A judge approved a settlement with the state of Michigan today that will come as welcome news to thousands of residents: at least 18,000 homes in Flint will have their toxic water pipes replaced over the next three years. The state has committed $87 million to identify and replace any service lines containing lead or galvanized steel by 2020. The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action , the Natural Resources Defense Council , the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has praised the agreement. The $87 million used to replace the pipes will come from a variety of sources. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was passed by Congress last year, will provide up to $20 million in funds, with the state matching another $20 million. The state must also hold an extra $10 million in reserve, in case the repairs end up being more expensive than anticipated. The state will also cover the $895,000 the plaintiffs ran up in litigation costs. Related: 1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water In the meantime , residents will have to either pick up bottled water from designated locations in the city, or they’ll have to install water filters on their taps. Though the filters have been shown to render the city’s water safe for human consumption, many residents are nervous and distrustful of anything that comes out of their taps (and with good reason). The lawsuit had asked that bottled water be delivered door to door throughout the city until pipe replacement was complete, but the judge shot down that request. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay and Paul Hudson

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Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

March 29, 2017 by  
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Da Vinci was definitely on to something when he observed birds and copied their forms to create his own wings for flight. Although biomimicry wasn’t ultimately successful in helping Da Vinci achieve flight , it has a solid track record for getting engineers, thinkers, and inventors to approach problems in design and technology by returning to nature and its processes. Here are six examples of how observing and imitating nature lead to designs that can improve issues in the modern world. Wind turbine with hummingbird wings Wind turbines typically incorporate a pinwheel shape, but a breakthrough design from Tyer Wind has cleverly tapped into the gravity-defying hovering abilities of hummingbirds . While it may look like these feather-light birds are furiously flapping their wings in a linear fashion, they actually use a figure eight configuration. The design for this new turbine uses wings instead of traditional rotating blades to turn energy from wind into green electricity through 3-D Aouinian Kinematics . Cactus water collector After observing certain cacti ’s ability to collect and store water particles from fog, students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were inspired to create Dewpoint , a design with real-world applications beyond the desert. By recreating a cactus’s prong-like spines and attaching them to a panel that can absorb, collect, and efficiently save water, the team is beginning to explore water security possibilities for a world that is increasingly facing drought, desertification, and disappearing water sources. Stable and durable bridge Anyone who has ever watched a little leaf on a tree take hit after hit from wind or pelting rain (or perhaps a child with a stick) and still persist knows that surprising hidden strength can be found in many of Mother Nature’s designs. Wanda Lewis has been studying that idea for 25 years, looking specifically at how examining the ways that fragile elements in nature respond to external forces and stress can benefit the structure of a modern, man-made bridge . Lewis developed a mathematical model for bridge design that would take into consideration modern stressors such as traffic and extreme weather conditions. Lewis’s “form-finding” would enable the creation of bridges that are safer, more durable, and long-lasting  by using a previously elusive optimal arch. Related: Biomimicry keeps hope alive despite the new regime Light-sensitive robot caterpillar What may look like a tiny piece of wavy plastic (or perhaps a miniaturized piece of bacon) is actually a robot that can carry loads up to 10 times larger than itself . With caterpillars as inspiration, physics researchers in Poland created this 15 millimeter long critter which is crafted from light-sensitive Liquid Crystalline Elastomers. Mimicking the wave-like motions of a moving caterpillar, this soft robot can also go up a slope or squeeze into a small space. Watch this little robot move in a surprisingly meditative video. Artificial leaf Artificial photosynthesis has been around for over a century, but Caltech’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis has found a way to mimic the natural process and safely, effectively, and affordably produce and store energy using the sun . The group’s artificial leaf consists of two electrodes (one that generates hydrogen gas, the other that generates oxygen gas), as well as a plastic membrane that keeps the collected gases separate. The Caltech crew is working on scaling up the design, but their innovation shows promise for creating a system that uses only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen fuels that can be utilized as needed. Avian-inspired train It’s a bird…it’s a train…it’s kind of both: a bullet train  whose design was partially inspired by features of an owl and a kingfisher . Engineer, general manager of the tech development department for Japan’s bullet trains , and avid bird-watcher Eiji Nakatsu wanted to make his trains both faster and quieter . He first employed his observations about the noise-dampening feather parts of an owl to reduce the sound effects of the trains as they whizzed through neighborhoods and tunnels. Later, he observed that the streamlined shape of the kingfisher’s bill could be used in a new train design to further reduce noise (including a persistent sonic boom effect) and decrease necessary fuel amounts, all while reducing travel time.

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6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces death spiral

March 14, 2017 by  
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A new study reveals that the Amazon rainforest may face a “death spiral” of deforestation and drought over the next century. The data comes from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and while the entire forest is unlikely to disappear from the face of the Earth, large parts of the region are currently considered to be at risk. The study explores what might happen as climate change causes the region to experience more frequent and more intense dry seasons. While it may seem obvious that reduced rainfall causes trees to die off and forests to shrink, it’s also been shown that forest loss intensified regional droughts as well. When these two factors occur together, it can cause a self-reinforcing feedback loop that could wipe out large portions of forest. Related: A student-designed drone is hunting illegal loggers in the Amazon Rainforest It’s unclear exactly how much of the Amazon is at risk – computer models show this type of forest dieback could threaten up to 38 percent of the Amazon basin. However, researchers stress that eventually most of the Amazon forest could potentially be at risk. The future isn’t completely without hope, however: the study also found that the more diverse an area’s vegetation is, the less susceptible it is to the effects of the feedback loop. So increasing biodiversity could be a vital tool in protecting the Amazon – and other vulnerable regions – from the worst effects of climate change . The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications . Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

March 3, 2017 by  
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A year ago 95 percent of California was in a drought . Today, just 9 percent of the state is still experiencing drought conditions thanks to one of the wettest winters on record. Those are the findings of the United States Drought Monitor, a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The percentage of the state currently in drought is the lowest since 2011, when the drought began. Scientists say the Sierra Nevada snowpack measured on March 1 was an astounding 185 percent of average, measuring 45.5 inches. The Sierra Nevada hasn’t had this much snowpack since 1993 when the snowpack was at 205 percent of normal, measuring 51.25 inches. The historical average snowpack is 24.6 inches, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Related: California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought A series of “atmospheric river” storms flowing east from Hawaii and the tropical Pacific have slammed the state, bringing heavy rain and dumping massive amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There have been about 30 atmospheric river events since Oct. 1 – well above the yearly average of 12, and the six annually during the last five years of the drought. However, even with record levels of rain filling up reservoirs and snow accumulating in the Sierra Nevada, Gov. Jerry Brown is not about to declare the drought over. The snowpack will be measured again on April 1 when it is considered at its peak and Brown said he will wait until those results are announced before making a call on the drought and associated water conservation measures . + United States Drought Monitor Via Los Angeles Times Images via Pexels and Wikimedia

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Only 9% of California is still in drought as Sierra Nevada snowpack hits 185%

Robots construct an art gallery in Shanghai from recycled gray bricks

March 3, 2017 by  
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Archi-Union Architects have completed an unusual art exhibition space in Shanghai with the help of robots. Created for the Chi She artist group, the building in the city’s Xuhui district was built with recycled gray-green bricks salvaged from a former building. Designed with both traditional and contemporary elements, the Chi She exhibition space features an unusual protrusion made possible with advanced digital fabrication technology. The 200-square-meter Chi She exhibition space was built to replace a former historic building, the materials of which were salvaged and reused in the new construction. While the zigzagging roof has been raised and reconstructed from timber, the most eye-catching difference between the old and new buildings is the part of the wall above the entrance door that bulges out. The architects used a robotic masonry fabrication technique developed by Fab-Union to create the curved wall, which would have been difficult to precisely achieve with traditional means. Related: WeWork’s new coworking space in Shanghai features salvaged materials from the city’s past “The precise positioning of the integrated equipment of robotic masonry fabrication technique and the construction elaborately to the mortar and bricks by the craftsmen makes this ancient material, brick, be able to meet the requirements in the new era, and realizes the presentation of the design model consummately,” wrote the architects. “The dilapidation of these old bricks coordinated with the stretch display of the curving walls are narrating a connection between people and bricks, machines and construction, design and culture, which will be spread permanently in the shadow of external walls under the setting sun.” + Archi-Union Architects Via ArchDaily Images © Su Shengliang

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Robots construct an art gallery in Shanghai from recycled gray bricks

The brickwork inside this beautiful Tehran community center will blow your mind

March 3, 2017 by  
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Kalout Architecture Studio ‘s Imam Reza Cultural and Religious Complex in Tehran, Iran is a vibrant urban space that locals of all ages and social groups enjoy. To make the building’s ethos absolutely clear, the architects built the roof in the form of interlocking fingers, symbolizing “unity and social cohesion”. The beautiful 7000-square-meter center, which is located in the cultural zone of the capital, houses a mosque , an art gallery, a bookstore coffee shop, an amphitheater and an IT center. The building’s various functional zones are organized around the central glass-paneled dome in stone-clad wings. Related: Mosque for All: BIG Wins Competition To Design Inside-Out Albanian Cultural Center The dome arches over a traditional shabestan – an underground space typically found in Iranian houses, mosques, and schools. According to the architects, the unique design was influenced by both tradition and functionality, “The main form of the shabestan, with the grandeur of a religious space, provides the opportunity for a unique experience to fulfill the immemorial ambition to connect with the creator and feel the symbolic form of the dome. Following this main form, the side wings of the building with the supplementary functions rise from and rest on the ground to create an innovative form visually.” The dome is composed of handmade glass carved with the various words for god. On the exterior walkway, bricks are laid in an intricate pattern that runs the length of the walls. According to the architects, the two materials were used to represent the “ascending movement from earth to light”. Additional traditional features found in the complex include a sunken courtyard with a small reflecting pool, and a cedar statue that symbolizes “constancy, life and freedom”. + Kalout Architecture Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Parham Taghiof

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The brickwork inside this beautiful Tehran community center will blow your mind

The brickwork inside this beautiful Tehran community center will blow your mind

March 3, 2017 by  
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Kalout Architecture Studio ‘s Imam Reza Cultural and Religious Complex in Tehran, Iran is a vibrant urban space that locals of all ages and social groups enjoy. To make the building’s ethos absolutely clear, the architects built the roof in the form of interlocking fingers, symbolizing “unity and social cohesion”. The beautiful 7000-square-meter center, which is located in the cultural zone of the capital, houses a mosque , an art gallery, a bookstore coffee shop, an amphitheater and an IT center. The building’s various functional zones are organized around the central glass-paneled dome in stone-clad wings. Related: Mosque for All: BIG Wins Competition To Design Inside-Out Albanian Cultural Center The dome arches over a traditional shabestan – an underground space typically found in Iranian houses, mosques, and schools. According to the architects, the unique design was influenced by both tradition and functionality, “The main form of the shabestan, with the grandeur of a religious space, provides the opportunity for a unique experience to fulfill the immemorial ambition to connect with the creator and feel the symbolic form of the dome. Following this main form, the side wings of the building with the supplementary functions rise from and rest on the ground to create an innovative form visually.” The dome is composed of handmade glass carved with the various words for god. On the exterior walkway, bricks are laid in an intricate pattern that runs the length of the walls. According to the architects, the two materials were used to represent the “ascending movement from earth to light”. Additional traditional features found in the complex include a sunken courtyard with a small reflecting pool, and a cedar statue that symbolizes “constancy, life and freedom”. + Kalout Architecture Studio Via Dezeen Photography by Parham Taghiof

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The brickwork inside this beautiful Tehran community center will blow your mind

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