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

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

Mexico City is sinking – and it’s going to cause some real problems

February 20, 2017 by  
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Mexico City , a scant mile and a half above sea level, is sinking. It’s a turn of events that shouldn’t surprise anyone with a rudimentary grasp of history. Established by the Aztecs in 1325, the city formerly known as Tenochtitlán occupies what was once a plexus of interconnected lakes that were first drained by the Spaniards, then paved over with concrete and steel by modern engineers. As a result, Mexico City has to dig deep—literally—to obtain fresh water for its 21 million residents. But the drilling weakens the brittle clay beds that serve as the city’s foundation, according to the New York Times , hastening the collapse even further. For Mexico City, climate change isn’t a game of partisan ping-pong. Per the Times : More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse. In the immense neighborhood of Iztapalapa — where nearly two million people live, many of them unable to count on water from their taps — a teenager was swallowed up where a crack in the brittle ground split open a street. Sidewalks resemble broken china, and 15 elementary schools have crumbled or caved in. Related: Xomali House in Mexico City makes clever use of a tiny 115 square foot lot Rising temperatures and the increased incidence of droughts and floods could send millions of Mexicans fleeing north and “heightening already extreme political tensions over immigration.” At the same time, Mexico City is facing a water crisis that prevents nearly 20 percent of its residents from getting water from their faucets each day. People have had to resort to hiring trucks to deliver drinking water, sometimes at prices 10 times higher than what richer neighborhoods with more reliable plumbing have to pay. “Climate change is expected to have two effects,” Ramón Aguirre Díaz, director of the Water System of Mexico City, told the Times . “We expect heavier, more intense rains, which means more floods, but also more and longer droughts.” If rain stops filling the reservoirs, “there is no way we can provide enough trucks of water to deal with that scenario,” he added. Mexico City could still rally some long-term solutions, but like most places, the city is roiled by political infighting. “There has to be a consensus—of scientists, politicians, engineers and society—when it comes to pollution, water, climate,” said Claudia Sheinbaum, a former environment minister. “We have the resources, but lack the political will.” Via New York Times

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Mexico City is sinking – and it’s going to cause some real problems

JFK Airport is opening a $65 million pet terminal

February 20, 2017 by  
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Traveling with pets just got a little bit easier for anyone passing through New York’s John F. Kennedy airport . The airport just gave us a first look at The ARK – a $65-million terminal for animals complete with a “Pet Oasis.” The facility will educate pet owners on any flight requirements before takeoff, provide food and water for flights, receive incoming pets and help board others on their outgoing flights, and even microchip animals who need it. Soon, the ARK plans to provide even more services. Phase 2, to be launched sometime in Q2 2017, will see the opening of the ARK Import-Export Center, with facilities for horses and an aviary. By summer, the terminal should be fully operational with a pet boarding facility, a grooming service, a veterinary clinic and a blood laboratory all open for business. Related: Man Tries to Smuggle Turtle Disguised as Hamburger Through Airport Security The ARK will be open 24-hours a day, and it will serve as a central resource for all airlines making stops at JFK. John J. Cuticelli, the CEO of ARK Development, said in a press release , “Transporting live cargo by plane can be a complex and arduous process for owners and animals alike. Our goal is to create a more efficient and safe process by reducing the need for additional travel and offering trained animal care staff immediately pre- and post-flight. The ARK provides a healthy and comfortable environment, and sets new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.” + The ARK at JFK

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