How termites draw on solar power for climate control

September 22, 2017 by  
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Termite mounds could hold clues to passive climate control , according to new research. Seven scientists scrutinized African termite mounds to see how they keep their homes cool in the sun while maintaining a uniform concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers have looked at south Asian termite mounds in the past, but those are often more shaded; they say uncovering the secrets of African termite mounds could lead to energy-efficient building ideas. Termite mounds are impressive not only because the creatures that construct them are so small, but because they naturally maintain a comfortable temperature – no air conditioner necessary. Researchers led by Samuel Ocko, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, dug further into climate control in termite mounds, specifically those of the Macrotermes michaelseni termite in Namibia . Their mounds can be around 10 feet high, with millions of workers residing inside. Related: BIOMIMETIC ARCHITECTURE: Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite Mounds Ocko and his team measured air velocities and temperatures in the mound over 35 days in Namibia’s autumn and found even though temperatures outside the mound changed by 27 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, inside temperatures only varied by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The termites drew on the sun more than wind to achieve climate control. According to IFLScience, convection from the temperature gradient between outside the mounds and their centers drove smooth airflow. During 24 hours, CO2 levels stayed around five percent. The mounds have holes that can be up to 0.2 inches in diameter, which IFLScience said creates an array of tunnels and allows for gas exchange. They said the mounds also lean towards the equator. CO2 levels vary more in Indian mounds during the day, while temperatures remain even. African mounds have large thermal gradients between the center and the sun-facing side. The researchers said in their paper abstract that even though African and Indian mounds differ, they can harness periodic solar heating for ventilation ; they said the system functions like as an external lung. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research this year. Ocko was joined by scientists at institutions in the United States, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Via IFLScience Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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How termites draw on solar power for climate control

IKEA’s new augmented reality app could totally change the way we shop

September 13, 2017 by  
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Ever purchased a piece of furniture, only to find out later it didn’t fit the style or size of the room? Swedish furniture maker IKEA is tackling this problem with a free augmented reality (AR) application that utilizes Apple’s new ARKit technology . The app will let users experience how sofas, armchairs, coffee tables and other furnishing items will fit into their homes in augmented reality. According to the IKEA press release, all products experienced through the app are 3D and true to scale. This ensures “every choice is just the right size, design and function.” Said Michael Valdsgaard, Leader Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems, “IKEA Place makes it easier to make buying decisions in your own place, to get inspired and try many different products, styles, and colors in real-life settings with a swipe of your finger. Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster.” Users will also have the option of capturing the setting in the app and sharing it as an image or a video with friends. Related: IKEA’s SPACE10 lab is bringing a pop-up vertical farm to London IKEA is the first home furnishing company to build on Apple’s new technology to create an AR app that ensures customers are confident with their purchases. Reportedly, the app has a 98 percent accuracy as it scales products based on room dimensions. “The AR technology is so precise that you will be able to see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on your furnishings,” says the press release. “ARKit gives us the opportunity to help shape the development of AR as an accessible tool for real-life decision making,” added Valdsgaard. “ARKit gives us the opportunity to help shape the development of AR as an accessible tool for real-life decision making,” added Valdsgaard. Beginning late-September, users with an iOs 11 may download and enjoy the app. In total, 2,000 IKEA products will be available to experiment with. The first release will focus on larger furniture products, including all sofas, armchairs, footstools, coffee tables and top-selling “storage solutions” that can be placed on the floor.  Data collected from the application will also play a role in the launch of new product lines. “Now, technology has caught up with our ambition. AR lets us redefine the experience for furniture retail once more, in our restless quest to create a better everyday life for everyone, everywhere,” said Valdsgaard. To use the IKEA app, all one needs to do is: upgrade their device to iOS 11, download the IKEA Place app for free from the Apple store, scan the floor in your home, browse the list of available products in the app, select a chosen furniture item to experience, and move and place the product into the space. It is that simple! + IKEA  Images via IKEA

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IKEA’s new augmented reality app could totally change the way we shop

10 Things in Your Closet You Can Reuse or Recycle

September 12, 2017 by  
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Many of us put off cleaning out our homes, which means by the time we get around doing so, we want the old stuff out as quickly as possible. Closets especially tend to accumulate extra stuff, but the landfill doesn’t have to be the end destination…

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10 Things in Your Closet You Can Reuse or Recycle

6 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey

August 28, 2017 by  
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Tropical Storm Harvey is battering the Houston area, affecting over 6.8 million people . With so many people and pets displaced and suffering, you may be wondering how you can help. Whether you live close to the disaster area or on the other side of the world, here are a few great ways you can support people hit by the devastating storm . Donate to a food bank or another charity There are several charities out there you can support financially as they work to help Tropical Storm Harvey victims. Food banks can also use donations in the aftermath of Harvey. You can donate online to the Central Texas Food Bank . Or donate to the San Antonio Food Bank ; according to SBNation, some displaced Houston locals will be relocated to San Antonio. SBNation has a list of more local charities here . Related: INFOGRAPHIC: How social media can save lives in a disaster Donate to the Salvation Army The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services is on the ground to help out both first responders and locals. The organization is offering shelter at Salvation Army locations in the area, and as of earlier this week had served over 3,000 meals, drinks, and snacks via their mobile kitchens. You can help out right now by texting STORM to 51555 or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. You can donate online here or send donations to The Salvation Army, PO Box 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301. Open up your home through Airbnb If you live in Texas and can share your space, Airbnb has a page for urgent accommodations in the wake of Harvey. They waive service fees for those impacted, and allow locals to list their homes so people can find a place to stay for free. You can find shelter or list your space here . Donate blood You can donate blood to help people affected by the crisis as well. South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has been calling for blood donations – you can get in touch with them at 210-731-5590. They also posted a list of locations to donate on their Facebook page, including addresses and donation hours. According to the post, Houston is asking for more than 2,000 units of blood from blood centers, so if you live in South Texas, consider finding a place to donate blood. Donate the use of your boat If you live in the area, you can help by volunteering the use of your boat. Get in touch with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office by calling 713-881-3100. Help rescue furry friends Let’s not forget the animals and pets impacted by the disaster. You can donate to the Houston SPCA , which is providing animal rescue and relief. Donate online here . Call 713-869-7722 if you need help. Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) is another Texas-based organization that’s been helping shelters in the path of Harvey to transport animals to APA! As of the weekend, they’d brought more than 235 animals to their facility. If you live in the Austin area, you can help by fostering animals or donating supplies like cat litter, leashes, or brooms. You can also donate online here . APA!’s address is 1156 West Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78703 and their phone number is 512-961-6519. Images via Harris County Sheriff’s Office Facebook , Salvation Army , Lars Plougmann on Flickr , Connect for Life Facebook , Austin Pets Alive! Facebook , National Guard Photo by Lt. Zachary West , and

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6 ways you can help people affected by Tropical Storm Harvey

Whole Foods prices just dropped by as much as 43%

August 28, 2017 by  
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Until recently, few people could afford to shop at Whole Foods regularly. Now that Amazon has bought out the grocery chain for $13.7 billion , however, big changes are underway. On its first day, the internet giant slashed some of the store’s prices by up to 43 percent. The goal is to upend the way customers shop and ensure more people have access to affordable, healthy food. The first step to addressing the store’s reputation for being overpriced (which has led some to call it Whole Paycheck) was to mark down the prices of food. Bloomberg reports that at the Whole Foods store on East 57th Street in Manhattan , organic fuji apples were marked down to $1.99 a pound from $3.49. Similarly, organic rotisserie chicken fell to $9.99 from $13.99 and organic avocados changed from $2.79 each to $1.99. All of the marked-down items have orange signs reading, “Whole Foods + Amazon .” The sign also lists that there is “More to come.” “Price was the largest barrier to Whole Foods’ customers,” said Mark Baum, a senior vice president at the Food Marketing Institute. “Amazon has demonstrated that it is willing to invest to dominate the categories that it decides to compete in. Food retailers of all sizes need to look really hard at their pricing strategies, and maybe find some funding sources to build a war chest.” 60-year-old Simon Salamon couldn’t be more pleased by the marriage between Amazon and Whole Foods . He said, “It reminded me why I shop at Amazon. Ninety-nine percent of the time they have the best prices and their return policy is great. With the prices lower, I think we’re more likely to shop here every day.” While Walmart has invested billions into lowering prices all around, it’s Costco that might be Whole Foods’ biggest competitor. The chain has a slate of organic items that are priced about 30 percent cheaper than Whole Foods, according to Sanford Bernstein. Prices can remain low, as Costco charges membership fees and sells bulk-sized goods to customers. Related: Whole Foods reveals the bleak future of dessert without bees Now that the deal is done, only time will tell if the organic grocery chain will be successful at changing its reputation and, in the process, serving a wider clientele. Via Bloomberg Images via Whole Foods , Pixabay

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Whole Foods prices just dropped by as much as 43%

World’s first solar-powered hot air balloon visits UK school

July 18, 2017 by  
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Schoolchildren living in the coolest city in the UK just got a glimpse of one of the coolest energy sources in action with the arrival of the world’s first solar -powered hot air balloon. The balloon actually took its maiden voyage back in 2015 , but on Monday youngsters from the Hannah More Primary School got to learn about how renewable energy can power global transport — even a hot air balloon. The balloon is made of lightweight polyurethane coated nylon. The air inside the balloon is heated by the sun instead of a propane burner, causing it to rise. The black side of the balloon faces the sun, collecting heat, while the silver side prevents the heat from escaping. The balloon is technically a hybrid because it is fitted with propane burners as a back up in case the sun hides behind the clouds when the balloon is up in the air. Related: The world’s most efficient 5-seater car is powered entirely by the sun The balloon is owned by Bristol Energy and developed by Cameron Balloons . “It’s this kind of very simple science that gets people, young and old, excited about green energy,” said Simon Proctor, Bristol Energy’s Origination Manager. “We have incredibly powerful natural resources that can heat our homes, power our cars, and fly hot air balloons too! It’s now crucial that we support renewable energy, so we can create a sustainable energy future for the next generation.” Via Bristol Post Images via YouTube ,  Bristol Energy  and  Balloon Fiesta 2015

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World’s first solar-powered hot air balloon visits UK school

Energy-efficient Bluebonnet Studios offers sustainable housing to Austins most vulnerable citizens

July 14, 2017 by  
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The Bluebonnet Studios social housing development in Austin supports a healthy lifestyle through the design. The property, designed by Forge Craft Architecture + Design , provides housing for the homeless, low-income veterans and local musicians. It features forward-thinking sustainable elements such as recycled and locally-sourced materials, a well insulated envelope, optimal orientation, low-flow fixtures and occupancy sensors. The architects worked with a difficult site and a very tight budget, which required a close collaboration between the design, construction, and ownership teams, as well as help of sustainability experts like Pliny Fisk and Jason McLennan . An important aspect of the design was access to natural light , which the team provided by creating a light well that runs through the center of the building. This emphasis on daylight also allows for most of the building to be functional without artificial light in the event of a power outage – including all circulation. Heating and cooling are provided by centralized LG VRF units tied to individual apartment thermostats. Each thermostat is coupled to both window sensors and door-triggered occupancy sensors . All the interior finishes and products were regionally sourced, recycled and healthy. On top of the building, a green space allows for outdoor activities. Related: Top 6 Green Supportive and Low-Income Housing Projects Of the 107 single-occupancy units, 22 are reserved for the area’s homeless and low-income veterans, while five are dedicated to local musicians. Each resident received a small package of tools, including a recycling bin, recycling magnet, green cleaning recipes, and recommendations for conservative thermostat settings to help residents keep their homes green. Additionally, a green housekeeping program provides a dispensing station with Green Seal certified cleaning chemicals for maintenance staff and janitorial contractors. + Forge Craft Architecture + Design Photos by Paul Bardagjy

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Energy-efficient Bluebonnet Studios offers sustainable housing to Austins most vulnerable citizens

Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

July 14, 2017 by  
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Temperatures are skyrocketing in India, as a result of climate change . Sadly, this has resulted in a 150 percent increase in the number of heat waves , killing thousands of people in recent years. To help those who are suffering find some relief, the non-profit Mahila Housing Trust is working with Indian women based in 100 slums across five cities to apply reflective paint to units, decreasing indoor temperatures by several degrees. Additional goals of the non-profit include upgrading and redeveloping slums, helping women secure property rights, and assisting women in dealing with climate change pressures by utilizing techniques such as rainwater collection and harvesting. The organization is presently experimenting with reflective paint, as well as insulated ceiling and modular roofs in units located in the Ramesh Dutt Colony. This low-cost approach to making homes more comfortable could literally save lives, since more than 2,400 deaths were recorded in 2015 due to heatwaves , according to government data. One individual benefiting from the reflective paint is Meenaben, who says she used to dread summers in India . Before applying the reflective paint, her two-room home in the Ahmedabad slum would get so hot, she could not sit indoors for several hours during the day. Now, she is able to sit in her abode and work, sewing quilts and bedcovers. “We used to really suffer from the heat. We could not sit inside, we could not work, people were falling sick,” said Meenaben. “This year it has been so much better. The paint brought the temperature down by several degrees, and I have been able to sit in my home, do my work.” Related: School principal uses $22,000 of paint to transform former slum into a rainbow wonderland Bharati Bhonsale, a program manager at Mahila Housing Trust, noted the devastation some families experience from unexpected weather patterns which result from climate change . “They work so hard to improve their lives, their homes. But even one setback from something like flash floods or a heat wave can have a big impact and cause them to slip back into poverty ,” Bhonsale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “A flash flood can destroy their belongings, heat stress affects their work and their health. So it is important they are equipped to manage the effects of climate change.” Fortunately, most poverty-stricken citizens are happy and willing to implement technologies that may better their lives and the environment . Some measures the women have been trained to incorporate include using fuel-efficient stoves to reduce reliance on firewood, composting, cleaning stormwater drains, planting shrubs to help prevent flash floods, and harvesting rainwater. The women have also learned how to keep narrow lanes free of trash and to dump unused collected rainwater in an effort to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Bhonsale said, “They may not understand the science of global warming , but they have first-hand experience of its effects, and with some education and simple solutions, they are better able to tackle it.” + Mahila Housing Trust Via Scroll Images via Mahila Housing Trust , Pixabay

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Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower

July 14, 2017 by  
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An old fight control tower in Stockholm ‘s Arlanda Airport has been transformed into a unique luxury apartment that offers panoramic views of planes taking off and landing – and you can spend the night there. Swedish artist and designer Cilla Ramnek and the Arlanda airport teamed up with vacation rental company HomeAway and Swedavia to give the old tower a complete makeover. Now, the unique living space is perfect for aviation geeks and those who dream of sleeping hundreds of feet in the air. The 262-foot-high tower is located directly next to the runway, which makes it a perfect sport from which to observe plane take off and land. Cilla Ramnek designed the interior in a retro sixties style and furnished it with products already available for purchase inside Arlanda. Related: Architect turns old cement factory into incredible fairytale home – and the interior will blow you away Right now, HomeAway is giving away the opportunity to spend the night in the high-flying tower. Five winners of the competition, which will run until the end of July, will have the opportunity to stay in the apartment for a night, and enjoy a meal at the Pontus in the Air restaurant. The winners can bring guests and, after the stay in the tower, choose other HomeAway rentals for three more nights. + HomeAway + Swedavia + Cilla Ramnek Via CNN Travel

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Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower

13-year-old Ohio girl taps traffic to generate renewable energy

July 10, 2017 by  
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We may be one step closer to tackling our energy crisis if this 8th grader has anything to say about it. 13-year-old Laalitya Acharya from Ohio came up with TraffEnerate, an invention that uses vehicular traffic to generate clean power . She’s a finalist in the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge , and stands to win $25,000. Acharya started researching cheap, easily renewable resources of energy, and came across a device she calls a piezo. She explains when stress is applied to a piezo, it generates electricity . She wanted to make it easy to utilize piezos, so she designed TraffEnerate to obtain power when cars drive over the devices. Her prototype incorporates 11 piezo sensors and a 3D-printed block so stress will be applied to all 11 piezos even if a car just barely passes over the corner of the prototype. Related: 13-year-old Maanasa Mendu invents groundbreaking clean energy device that costs just $5 Acharya also designed a reciprocating motion machine to test the prototype. Her robot consistently applied stress to the invention, seen in an oscilloscope reading. She hopes to implement TraffEnerate in the busiest intersections of her hometown of Mason, Ohio . Acharya said on the challenge website, “I wanted to change the world, that simple. On my family’s yearly trip to India, I saw children who have no power in their homes, huddling near dangerous fires. I wanted to change their position in life, to make it better by creating clean energy and electricity.” The 2017 Young Scientist Challenge is put on by Discovery Education and 3M . There are 10 finalists for this year’s challenge, with innovative projects such as a way to detect lead in water, treating Alzheimer’s with plant components, and cleaning up oil spills with pomegranate husks and orange peels. A winner will be chosen in October. + Young Scientist Lab Via Young Scientist Challenge and Rajesh Acharya Images via screenshot

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13-year-old Ohio girl taps traffic to generate renewable energy

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