Giant sequoia skyscrapers designed to keep rotted trees standing

May 5, 2017 by  
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Modernization has harmed giant sequoias: not only have they been cut down in groves, but climate change has diminished their lifespan. Four designers in South Korea want to help preserve the trees’ legacy with a skyscraper called Tribute: The Monument of Giant , that could be tucked inside hollowed-out trunks, helping to keep trees with rotted heartwood from crashing down. The skyscraper would allow a visitor to feel small inside the vastness of a giant sequoia, while also offering education about the natural wonders. Ko Jinhyeuk, Cheong Changwon, Cho Kyuhyung, and Choi Sunwoong believe in the past, human desires and development clashed with the natural world. They said nature’s response is the natural disasters that wreak havoc throughout the world. They pointed to deforestation as both a cause of such disasters and “one of the worst crimes on nature .” Earning an honorable mention in the 2017 eVolo Skyscraper Competition , they offered up an answer. Their skyscraper is enveloped inside a dying tree in a bid to help keep it standing. Related: Incredible farming skyscraper could fight poverty and feed the world Although giant sequoias can be over 300 feet tall, with diameters between 20 and 26 feet, their roots often aren’t deep, so when their heartwood – what the designers described as a structural backbone – starts to rot, the weight of the trees can cause them to topple over. A skyscraper nestled inside could prevent this ending. “This project attempts to show a new architectural approach to human coexistence with nature,” the architects said in their design statement. They said their skyscraper, inside the empty void of a giant sequoia, wouldn’t hinder the breathtaking beauty of the tree. The building would then become “active as an artificial organ to replace the trunks rotten away.” Platforms inside the tree would offer opportunities for laboratories, exhibitions, education, and photo opportunities on observation decks. A lattice-like cage would comprise an outer casing that appears to blend in with the tree. Via eVolo and Dezeen Images via eVolo

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Giant sequoia skyscrapers designed to keep rotted trees standing

Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins can edit and recode their own genes

May 5, 2017 by  
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Octopuses have earned a reputation as clever aquatic escape artists . But in addition to being underwater Houdinis , these creatures (and other coleiod cephalopods like cuttlefish and squid) were recently discovered to have another mind-blowing trick: they can rewire their own genetic material to adapt more quickly to their environment. Researchers found that  octopuses and their relatives can edit and recode the RNA component of genes, which allows them to reprogram cells (often in their nervous systems) and adapt to external stimuli in the environment, such as a change in water temperature. Changes at the RNA level manifest in the formation of different versions of proteins from the same gene . The result is that these cephalopods can make transient changes that don’t have an effect long-term on their overall  evolution and that could even be turned on or off by the cephalopod herself. Researchers believe the reason for the cephalopod’s overall slow rate of evolution is due to the extreme possibility of change and editing in their RNA. As per the study’s lead author Joshua Rosenthal : “If a squid and octopus want to edit a base, they must preserve the underlying RNA structure. This means that the RNA structure can’t evolve. If it collects mutations as a result of DNA mutations, it would no longer be recognized by the editing enzymes. We normally think of mutations as the currency of evolution. But in this case their accumulation is suppressed.” The slow rate of change in cephalopod DNA also may indicate that these sea creatures have been around longer than previously believed. Beyond the fact that this recoding provides yet another example for why these sea creatures  are fascinating, researchers continue to be interested in and slightly mystified by the reasons behind this action, although some believe their extreme use of RNA editing is linked to their intelligence and their behavioral complexities. Further fueling this idea were the findings by researchers that less intelligent and less cephalopod species such as the nautilus had far lower levels of RNA editing. Related: Octopuses are taking over the ocean and no one knows why However, the intelligence/RNA editing connection is not as clear as the water cephalopods love to swim around in. “It’s a really interesting phenomenon, but it’s unclear why they need so much RNA editing,” says Jianzhi Zhang from the University of Michigan . “It’s not absolutely clear if it has to do with behavior; humans have very complex brains and behaviors and in us, RNA editing is very rare.” Indeed, RNA editing is found in mere dozen of sites out of the 20,000 genes in the human body, while the cephalopods studied ranged from 80,000-130,000 editing sites. The study’s authors, however, also consider the possibility that “protein recoding may not be the primary function of editing in cephalopods” and that perhaps another purpose, such as immunity, might be the goal. The study was published in Cell . Via Science ,  Scientific American , The Atlantic Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

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Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins can edit and recode their own genes

The prefab house of the future is made from recycled, reusable, and sustainable materials

May 5, 2017 by  
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This prefab home by Arup Associates is made from recycled, reusable and sustainably sourced materials . The Circular Economy Building was designed as a prototype for this year’s London Design Festival and built in only two weeks. The project revisits the archetypal house and reinvents it with refined prefab construction techniques and sustainable materials. The prefab clearly show its Circular Economy elements by revealing them visually– visitors can observe the layers of the envelope – including the demountable SIPS panels and the structural steel frame , which creates enables extension and future adaptation. The design aims to demonstrate that flexible, sustainable architecture can be highly compatible with a comfortable modern lifestyle. Related: Arup’s timber prefab Sky Believe in Better Building wins the 2014 Wood in Architecture Award The architects worked closely with Arup’s engineers to marry pleasant spatial solutions with sustainable building techniques. This informed the choice of finishes and fittings throughout the interior. Even the carpets, supplied by Desso on a take-back scheme, can be replaced when worn out and sustainably refurbished and reused . Related: London’s new Design Museum opens this week inside a renovated post-war modernist building The building’s superior acoustic performance is ensured by using an acoustic wall system built entirely from recycled plastic bottles . A high-tech automation system uses sensors to monitor the interior environment and adjust the skylights , blinds and lights. The building’s flat-pack construction utilizes custom-made panels standardized through several computational iterations. + Arup Associates Via v2com Photos by Simon Kennedy

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The prefab house of the future is made from recycled, reusable, and sustainable materials

Nissan is working on a new 340-mile-range electric car

May 5, 2017 by  
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Nissan basically put the electric car on the map when it introduced the Nissan Leaf, but in the last few years the Leaf has been overshadowed by the arrival of newer electric cars, like the Tesla Model S and most recently, the Chevy Bolt. The good news is that Nissan is close to releasing an all-new Nissan Leaf, which will be followed by another electric car with a driving range of around 340 miles. According to Japan’s Nikkei Automotive , the next Leaf will get a 43-percent better driving range, which will put it around 150 miles per charge. If that figure holds, the new Leaf will be able to drive further on one charge than the updated VW e-Golf, the BMW i3 and the Focus Electric. Unfortunately that driving range won’t match the Chevy Bolt or the upcoming Tesla Model 3, but Nissan has something else in the works. Related: The new Nissan Leaf will be able to drive autonomously on the highway The automaker is reportedly working on a different electric car, which will be able to travel over 340 miles on a single charge. The new electric car will arrive by 2020 and will borrow styling cues from the IDS concept picture here. The new EV’s cargo capacity and exterior dimensions will also be close to the Leaf. + Nissan Via Nikkei Automotive Images @Nissan

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Nissan is working on a new 340-mile-range electric car

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