512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

December 14, 2017 by  
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A recently identified 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the world’s oldest living vertebrate. Although scientists discovered the 18-foot fish in the North Atlantic months ago, its age was only recently revealed in a study published in the journal Science .  Greenland sharks have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate animal, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the species would boast the oldest living individual vertebrate as well. Nonetheless, the fact that this creature may have been born as early as 1505 is remarkable. “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said marine biologist Julius Nelson, whose research team studied the shark’s longevity. To determine the shark’s age, scientists used a mathematical model that analyzes the lens and cornea of a shark’s eye and links size of the shark to its age. Greenland sharks grow at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, which allowed scientists to estimate a particular shark’s age. The ability to measure the age of this mysterious shark is relatively new. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success,” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.” Related: Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks The Greenland shark thrives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Despite its considerable size, comparable to that of a great white shark, the Greenland shark is a scavenger and has never been observed hunting. Its diet primarily consists of fish, though remains of reindeer, polar bear , moose, and seals have been found in the species’ stomachs. To cope with life in deep water, the living tissues of a Greenland shark contains high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, which makes the meat toxic. However, when the flesh is fermented, it can be consumed, as it is in Iceland as a dish known as Kæstur hákarl. Via International Business Times Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson

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512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

Tesla’s all-electric semi truck has a bold new competitor

December 14, 2017 by  
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Just one month ago, Elon Musk made headlines with the debut of his revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck . The super-sized electric marvel is able to get 500 miles on a charge, reach 60 mph in five seconds without a trailer (or 20 seconds with one), and boasts regenerative braking able to recover 98 percent of kinetic energy to the battery. Impressive? Yes. But there’s another kid in town with designs to beat Musk to the market with an electric rig of his own. Dakota Semler, the 25-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Thor Trucks , has developed with his team an all-electric semi that’s been dubbed the ET-One. The ET-One is the first product from the company and Semler hopes it will be the flagship model in a robust, customizable line that will also eventually include delivery vans and work vehicles. The goal, Semler relayed to Bloomberg, is to “work on a one-off basis, customizing clients’ fleets per their specifications.” Related: Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500-mile driving range Like Musk’s model, the ET-One boasts a sleek, futuristic aesthetic, an all-electric motor that ditches dirty diesel in whole, and the ability to haul up to 80,000 pounds of cargo—something currently only the industry’s highest class of trucks can tow. The Thor version also uses a 22-inch touchscreen on its dashboard which communicates with the vehicle’s electric motor and battery packs, which can carry the truck 300 miles on a charge. Thor is hoping to bring the ET-One to market in 2019 at an estimated starting price of $150,000; the Tesla Semi is expected to sell for $150,000 with a 300-mile range, and $180,000 with 500 miles of range. The prices are more than that of comparable gas semis which range from $100,000 to $125,000, but wholly competitive over the long term when factoring in the cost of fuel over the life of the truck as well as maintenance.  Electric engines require far less regular maintenance than their diesel counterparts. While Thor has a ways to go before it scales—its team is just 17 employees—it is diligently making plans to make the ET-One more widely available for demos in 2018, and hunting down the capital needed to grow (currently, the project is funded by founder Semler who also has Malibu Wine Safaris and multiple real estate companies in his portfolio). With that said, the inevitability of stricter emission rules in the coming years will surely give Thor the boost it needs. Via Bloomberg Images via Thor Trucks

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

December 14, 2017 by  
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The Danish island of Falster is now home to the world’s most humane maximum security penal institution, Storstrøm Prison. Designed by Danish architects C.F. Møller , the building has been hailed for its strategic features that create a vibrant community for the inmates, in lieu of the severe living conditions typically found in prisons around the world. Storstrøm, which can hold up to 250 people, is designed to be a mini-community where inmates can spend their time in an environment that is as “normal” as possible. Working with the Danish Prison Service, the architects created a vibrant community where the inmates would be reminded of a life they once left behind, therefore encouraging an eagerness to leave the system and return to society. Related: C.F. Møller is building a garden-filled vertical village in Antwerp The prison layout spans the size of 18 football fields and is centered around social activities. There are ample options for the inmates to spend their time exercising, studying, creating art , or praying in the onsite church. Additionally, inmates buy their own food at the grocery store. “We have concentrated all buildings around a center for joint activities. Here we have a square with, for example, an activity house, a grocery store, a school, a church and a devotional room. We have also made an effort to promote communication between inmates and staff,” architect Mads Mandrup of C.F. Møller told the Danish newspaper Berlingske. The cell conditions are also designed to provide a bearable lifestyle while incarcerated. The cells are 13 square meters and come equipped with a refrigerator, closet, and a 22-inch television. The cell’s floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light , but are angled in a way to protect privacy. Although being hailed as a strategic design to help prisoners adjust to prison life, the various amenities have caused some to criticize the design as being too lofty for lawbreakers. However, officials claim that despite the decent living conditions on the inside, the prison is still a high-security fortress with a six-meter high wall and tension steel wires around the perimeter of the complex. + C.F. Møller Photography by Torben Eskerod via C.F. Møller

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Denmark just opened the "worlds most humane" maximum security prison

Historic French building stuffed with plastic bags looks ready to explode

November 15, 2017 by  
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A shockingly large number of plastic bags appeared to fill a historic stone building to near bursting in Bordeaux last month. The eye-catching installation is the most recent work of Luzinterruptus , a design collective famous for raising environmental awareness with plastic art installations. Created for the FAB Festival de Bourdeaux, the temporary artwork, titled The Plastic We Live With, turned into a light installation at night evocative of illuminated stained glass. Inspired by France’s ban of single-use plastic bags passed last year, The Plastic We Live With draws attention to the staggering amount of plastic waste in the world. “The idea was to graphically visualize, in a way that could be understood by all, the plastic excess that is around us, a recurrent subject in our work and in life, since practically everything we consume is either made with this material or it is wrapped in it or we are eating it in small particles in the meat and the fish we ingest,” Luzinterruptus wrote. Related: PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem The team, aided by 30 volunteers from the Asociacion Bénévoles en Action, collected thousands of plastic bags and recycled plastic for months from the city stores and warehouses. The bags were assembled in the openings of the building’s facade and lit from behind at night. The installation was on view for four days, after which the plastic was taken down and recycled with the building returned to its original condition. + Luzinterruptus Images via Lola Martínez

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Coca-Cola increased its plastic bottle production by a billion in 2016

October 2, 2017 by  
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Coca-Cola increased its global production of single-use, throwaway plastic bottles by one billion in 2016, according to Greenpeace . Although the beverage behemoth does not publicly disclose its production numbers, an analysis by Greenpeace suggests a massive increase in output of plastic, which often ends up in landfills, water ways, or in large islands of trash floating in the ocean. The world’s largest soft drinks company contributes more than its fair share to a global plastic problem. It is estimated that by 2021, the global production of plastic bottles will reach half a trillion per year. Although there is a massive number of plastic bottles in circulation and being produced each year, only a small number of them are recycled. Less than half of the bottles purchased in 2016 were then returned for recycling while only 7 percent of the collected bottles were reused to create new bottles. Where do these non-recycled bottles go? Most often, they are deposited in landfills or the ocean. Between 5 million and 13 million tons of plastic seeps into seawater, where it is then ingested by birds , fish and other aquatic wildlife. According to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there will be more plastic, by weight, in the ocean than fish. Related: Coca Cola’s bright red Berlin HQ is actually pretty green, thanks to energy-saving design Although Coca-Cola’s plastic bottle production increase poses a problem for the planet’s health, the global beverage corporation is taking some steps to clean up its act. In July 2017, Coca-Cola European Partners announced its goal of increasing the amount of recycled plastic in each of its bottles to 50 percent by 2020. However, this goal is viewed by critics as insufficient, particularly considering that bottles could be made out of 100 percent plastic. “Coca-Cola talks the talk on sustainability but the astonishing rate at which it is pumping out single-use plastic bottles is still growing,” said Louise Edge, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace. “We have calculated it produced over 110bn throwaway plastic bottles every year – an astounding 3,400 a second – while refusing to take responsibility for its role in the plastic pollution crisis facing our oceans .” Via The Guardian Images via Greenpeace

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Coca-Cola increased its plastic bottle production by a billion in 2016

Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

September 20, 2017 by  
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The Maraú Peninsula is a 25 mile long bar of pristine Brazilian sand, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the tranquil Camamu Bay on the other, where one glorious beach gives way to another. With such stunning landscapes, it’s no wonder hip Brazilians are flocking to these shores. But the native mangrove forests here are one the world’s most endangered ecosystems, and great care must be taken to preserve them. GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo’s Votu Hotel takes an unusual approach to that challenge: biomimicry––sustainable innovation inspired by nature’s proven wisdom. According to Indian legend, the peninsula’s namesake, Maraú, was a peaceful fisherman who lived in with his beautiful wife, Saquaíra. One day, while Maraú was out fishing, his neighbor, Camamu, came ashore, and he and Saquaíra fell deeply in love. Camamu took her away in his canoe, and when Maraú returned to discover her abduction, he desperately begged the gods for a faster one. They granted his lovesick plea, and away he went after her at top speed, surfing the waves and sculpting the peninsula´s curved beaches and bays as he went. Today, the region is a dreamy wonderland of rich, golden sands, rugged white cliffs, nodding coconut palms, cool waterfalls, teeming coral reefs, tranquil mangrove forests and restingas ––special forests that grows on shifting coastal dunes. Unfortunately, humans are having a massive impact on the landscape. Less than 5% of the original forest cover remains, yet 40% of its plants and 60% of its vertebrates––including a long-hair maned sloth, giant armadillo, giant otter, and unique local populations of cougar, jaguar, and ocelot––are found nowhere else in the world. New species are discovered frequently: over a thousand new flowering plants, a black-faced lion tamarin recently believed extinct, and a brightly blonde-haired capuchin monkey in recent years. Meanwhile, the mangroves and estuaries provide critical nurseries for the fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that feed these populations. Inhabitating such a precious and endangered habitat requires the region’s hotels to care for it just as they care for the visitors who come here. The Votu Hotel, designed by GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo , embraces the challenge using biomimicry, an innovative approach to design that is in accordance with nature. GCP even has a biologist on staff––Alessandro Araujo, a Certified Biomimicry Specialist educated by Biomimicry 3.8 ––and it’s her job to enhance natural processes already at work here by tapping nature’s proven solutions ––those favored for hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The GCP team sought to maintain and support the region’s native species while minimizing air conditioning and electricity consumption, and good water management, ventilation, and thermal comfort were also critically important. These requirements were made challenging by the vulnerability of these shores to heavy rain, floods, coastal erosion, high temperatures, salt spray, and high humidity. To solve these problems, Araujo looked at species that solve these same kinds of challenges. Prairie dogs, for instance, are social rodents that live in large colonies or towns where outside temperatures can reach 100°F in the summer and -35°F in the winter. They rely on long underground burrows to insulate them from such extremes. GCP borrowed this concept for Votu, using concrete walls and a roof garden to buffer heat. The burrows also leverage a natural process called the Bernoulli principle, in which air flow is slowed by the prairie dogs’ earthen mounds, increasing pressure and forcing air to flow quickly through the tunnels. Votu’s team mimicked this clever strategy by optimizing the position of each bungalow using computer modeling, and placing a semi-permeable guardrail in front of the prevailing winds, slowing them and drawing air into ventilation ducts below the roof. The bungalow shell itself was inspired by another biological champion, the saguaro cactus, which relies on long spines and accordion-like folds to mitigate extremes of heat and exposure. The deep folds offer partial shade, cooling air on the shaded side and creating a gradient that facilitates circulation and minimizes heat absorption. The Votu bungalows mimic this strategy with vertical, wooden, self-shading slats. Local species were consulted as well. The little houses rest on stilts, just as the native mangroves and restinga forest trees do, preserving the natural topography and allowing the unimpeded flow of rainwater and tides. Meanwhile, the kitchen takes inspiration from the toco toucan, a local bird that experiences large temperature swings, from hot days to cool nights. The large, vascularized toucan beak is an extremely efficient thermal radiator, offering the greatest thermal exchange known among animals. Heat from the kitchen is dissipated the same way: as it rises, it is drawn into a copper coil that passes through the rooftop soil. Air cools in the shade of a roof garden, and eventually returns to the kitchen: a natural air conditioner requiring no additional energy. Biomimicry is known for its reliance on a simple set of Life’s Principles, and GCP is dedicated to following them. One Araujo particularly loves is “Be resource efficient,” which the team did by relying on multifunctional design, low energy processes, recycling, and fitting form to function. The bottom of Votu’s concrete structure doubles as the bathroom wall, for instance, while the upper part forms the roof. In front of the hotel, a thicket of bamboo intercepts any run-off from the bungalows or tidal wash from the beach, acting as a living filter against salinity, bacteria, or pollutants. In back of the bungalows, graywater goes into the banana circle, while blackwater passes through a biodigester and biofilter, ending in a compost pile that fertilizes a fruit-bearing orchard for the guests to enjoy. GCP’s approach to conservation and tourism may seem unusual, but biomimicry has been growing in popularity among architects for a long time. And after all, these ideas are proven winners, nature’s survivors. Why reinvent the wheel? And maybe, just maybe, such bio-inspiration will let nature’s wild places continue to survive and thrive as we enjoy them. + GCP Arquitetura & Urbanismo

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

Game of Throne fans are buying and dumping Huskies at a phenomenal rate

August 9, 2017 by  
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After viewing episodes of the highly-anticipated HBO show Game of Thrones , fans have been seeking out and adopting Husky pups in droves, according to a report by the San Francisco Gate . Unfortunately, most are ill-equipped to care for the high-spirited dogs, which are being abandoned at a phenomenal rate. Reportedly, a tell-tale sign of Huskies being adopted by fans of the show is that they are oftentimes named after characters. Additionally, a British animal charity reported a 700 percent increase in abandoned Huskies by 2014, while two Bay area husky rescue facilities — Northern California Sled Dog Rescue and Bay Area Siberian Husky Club — reported similar spikes in the dogs’ abandonment. President of NorSled Angelique Miller said, “These people, they watch these shows and think how cool these dogs are. People can’t even tell the difference between a husky and a wolf because they’re always asking us at adoption fairs if these dogs are wolves — and it’s clearly a husky. They’re just following the trend of what they think is cute.” Related: Winter is Coming: 6 Game of Thrones-Inspired Vegetarian Recipes to Brighten Cold Days It is thought that fans are abandoning the dogs more than any other breed because Huskies’ coats require weekly maintenance, they can’t be left alone with small animals, and they require regular exercise . As Salon reports, this isn’t the first time popular culture has had a negative impact on animals. After “Finding Nemo” was released, for example, sales of clown fish skyrocketed . At the same time, reports sprang up of children flushing the fish down the toilet so they could be freed to the ocean (a plan promoted in the movie). And, after “Harry Potter” became a success, owls — like the Huskies — were adopted in a frenzy and then abandoned at an astonishing pace. The only way to reverse this tragic trend is for consumers to be informed about various animals’ needs. In regard to the Husky-purchasing trend,  Game of Thrones  fans need to know they are very dissimilar from the wolves featured on the show – and they require a lot of care. Via Salon , San Francisco Gate Images via Pixabay, Flickr

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Game of Throne fans are buying and dumping Huskies at a phenomenal rate

Chinese fishery installs immense floating solar farm for extra income

February 6, 2017 by  
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A fishery in eastern China now doubles as a solar power station. An immense array of photovoltaic panels has been installed across 300 hectares to generate not only clean electricity , but additional money for the fishery. Lines of solar panels stretch over the waters of a fishery in Cixi City, which is in the Zhejiang Province in eastern China . People’s Daily Online reports with a 200 megawatt (MW) capacity, it is the biggest solar power station constructed on a fish farm in the country. The panels will be connected to the state grid and will provide the fishery with an annual income of 240 million RMB, which is around $34 million. Fish should still be able to thrive in the waters underneath the panels; People’s Daily Online says the panels will provide shade, but PV Magazine also noted they were intentionally spaced out to allow sunlight to filter through, which is necessary for the fish to grow. Related: $11 million floating solar testbed in Singapore will be the largest in the world The huge station can generate enough power for 100,000 households, and could maybe even replace 7.4 tons of coal, according to People’s Daily Online. The solar panels should generate an impressive 220 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. PV Magazine reports there’s a similar 120 MW installation in China in the Jiangxi Province, but clearly the Cixi City project is much larger. The new solar system certainly wasn’t cheap; it cost 1.8 billion RMB, or $260 million. But Electrek reports the floating solar farm will pay for itself in about seven or eight years. The fishery turned renewable energy plant could offer a model for other fisheries or coastal areas around the world; PV Magazine reports construction just finished in late 2016, so it’s time to see how the fish farm functions with solar panels atop their pond. Via Electrek , People’s Daily Online , and PV Magazine Images via Max Pixel and screenshot

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

February 1, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for new nightmare fuel beyond, oh we don’t know, the dissolution of democracy as we know it, meet Saccorhytus , a tiny H.R. Giger-esque monstrosity that scientists say could be our earliest-known ancestor. Going back some 540 million years, it’s also believed to be the most primitive example we have to date of a deuterostome — a member of a broad category of animals that includes everything from sea urchins to vertebrates like us. The species, which comprised an elliptical body no more than a millimeter long, a large mouth, and apparently no anus, is new to science. We were only made aware of this lurking horror in our evolutionary past because a group of academics unearthed about 45 microfossils in central China’s Shaanxi Province. While the original finds, which look like they’re frozen in mid-scream, are pretty horrifying in and of themselves, the artist’s reconstruction is the gift that keeps on giving. “We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves,” Simon Conway Morris, a professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge and a member of the team, said in a statement. “To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail is jaw-dropping. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here.” Related: Four-legged prehistoric snake offers clues about the reptile’s evolution Saccorhytus , the researchers speculate in the journal Nature , lived in what would have been a shallow sea during the early Cambrian period. It was so small that it probably lived between individual grains of sediment on the sea bed, where it hoovered up food with its capacious maw. Cone-shaped spouts on its body may have allowed it to disgorge any water it swallowed, much like gills on the fish we see today. If the creature had an anus, the scientists were unable to find it. Conceivably, Saccorhytus’s mouth went both ways. “If that was the case, then any waste material would simply have been taken out back through the mouth, which from our perspective sounds rather unappealing,” Conway Morris said. As long as it doesn’t show up to any family reunions, we’ll be OK. + University of Cambridge

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

January 17, 2017 by  
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A female zebra shark ( Stegostoma fasciatum ) in Australia has learned to live, and reproduce, without a male counterpart. The shark, which lives in an aquarium , is one of only three animals documented that once reproduced sexually – she had a male partner for around 13 years – and then switched to reproducing asexually. Now scientists are now wondering if this phenomenon is more common than we thought. Leonie the zebra shark had a male partner from 1999 to 2012 at a Townsville, Australia aquarium, and they had over two dozen babies. When her partner was moved to a different tank, Leonie spent around four years by herself, until she gave birth to three surprise baby sharks in 2016. She’d lacked contact with any males for those four years. Scientists initially thought perhaps she’d saved sperm from the former male partner, but genetic testing revealed the three babies only had DNA from their mother. Related: Researchers record fish “singing” choruses at the break of dawn in Australia Sharks can reproduce asexually when an adjacent cell called a polar body fertilizes an egg, and it could be that is what happened with Leonie. The mechanism isn’t optimal, as it can lead to inbreeding, but could be employed by sharks when there aren’t any males around. Lead author on a study published by Scientific Reports , Christine Dudgeon of The University of Queensland , told New Scientist, “It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability. It might be a holding-on mechanism. Mum’s genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with.” Some species such as other sharks, snakes, rays, turkeys, and Komodo dragons are capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually, but asexual reproduction usually happens in females that have never reproduced sexually. The only other female animals recorded switching from sexual to asexual reproduction are a boa constrictor and an eagle ray; both lived in captivity. But it could be this anomaly actually occurs more frequently than we realized. Dudgeon said perhaps we just haven’t been looking. Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

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