Images from NASA reveal the enduring damage in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

May 24, 2018 by  
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NASA has released more than  65,000 high-resolution aerial images of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria , which document the full extent of the ecological damage caused by the deadly hurricane in 2017. With only days remaining before the start of the 2018 hurricane season, the images from NASA reflect the impact from last year’s record-breaking storms — an impact that is still felt today. NASA gathered the images in a survey this past April, building upon similar work from the previous spring. The original mission focused on tracking long-term forest regeneration after humans abandoned land. After Maria, the mission shifted to become the first comprehensive aerial survey of the island following the devastating storm. “The photos are powerful,” NASA earth scientist Doug Morton told Earther . “[They’re] powerful reminders of the extent of damage.” In a typical year, scientists would expect to observe damage from storms on about 1 percent of the total forest canopy. In the wake of 2017, NASA images show that about 50 percent of forest canopy has suffered damage. “Every forest type we observed has clear signs of damage from the hurricane,” Morton noted. However, the forest is expected to recover. “It’s pretty much prime growing conditions,” said Morton, referring to the now-abundant sunlight and nutrient accumulation from fallen trees and leaves on the forest floor. Related: 2018 hurricane season may be worse than last year While some ecosystems in Puerto Rico may be recovering quickly, others, such as the mangrove swamps found in the island’s northeast region, are still struggling. This data is important to the team at NASA as they try to learn more about the varied resilience of diverse ecosystems found in Puerto Rico. The team also plans to use its aerial imagery and LiDAR data to better inform recovery efforts. + NASA Via Earther Images via NASA

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Images from NASA reveal the enduring damage in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

This giant inflatable dome is made of hundreds of tiny pinhole cameras

February 8, 2018 by  
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Artists often try to get viewers to appreciate different perspectives, but Rhode Island-based design collective Pneuhaus is taking the task literally. They’ve created a giant inflatable “Camera Compound” made of 109 tiny pinhole cameras. The innovative camera obscura – which takes the form of a 20-foot geodesic dome – invites guests to wander inside to get a different perspective on the world they live in. Each hexagonal piece of the dome structure contains a tiny pinhole, which, like a camera obscura , projects an inverted image onto the translucent interior. In this case, the pinholes were covered with a single magnifying glass to focus the incoming light in a way that produces a crisper image than most camera obscuras. The installation’s flexible opaque fabric lets visitors create their own images by distorting the images as they wish. Related: Colossal Camera Obscura frames the picture-perfect Dolomites According to the artists behind the creation, (Levi Bedall, August Lehrecke, Matthew Muller, Zachary Weindel), the interactive photography installation is designed to provide people with a sense of changing perceptions, “Compound Camera offers a more analog perspective on how our surroundings can change the way we perceive the world.” The art installation was recently on display for the Pawtucket Arts Festival in Rhode Island, but its just one of their many pneumatic architectural installations. In 2015, they unveiled an inflatable RGBubble pavilion on the Brown University campus and later, they created a crazy Bubble Dome made up of hundreds of TPU balls . + Pneuhaus Via Core 77 Images via Pneuhaus

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This giant inflatable dome is made of hundreds of tiny pinhole cameras

FEMA contractor failed to deliver millions of emergency meals to Puerto Rico

February 8, 2018 by  
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Millions of meals never made their way to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria , according to Reuters . United States Democratic lawmakers recently said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a contract of almost $156 million to a one-person company – which delivered 50,000 of an anticipated 30 million meals. The Atlanta-based FEMA contractor Tribute Contracting reneged on their commitment to deliver millions of meals to Puerto Rico after the island faced its “worst natural disaster in 90 years,” Reuters reported. House Oversight Committee Democrats referred to documents revealing the company delivered just thousands of meals. They were terminated for cause 20 days after they won the October 2017 contract from FEMA. This, the Democrats say, led to a “massive food shortage for weeks.” Related: $30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive Documents show Tribute had issues handling government contracts under $100,000 in the past and were barred from government work until 2019, according to Reuters. Elijah Cummings, representative for Maryland and top Democrat on the committee, and Stacey Plaskett, delegate for the United States Virgin Islands, wrote, “It is unclear why FEMA or any agency would have proceeded with a contract worth $156 million in light of this company’s poor contracting history and these explicit warnings.” Plaskett and Cummings sent a letter to chairman Trey Gowdy, Republican representative for South Carolina, asking him to subpoena FEMA for documents they say it has withheld for over three months regarding the failure to provide millions of emergency meals. They said in the letter their staff spoke with Tribute Contracting owner Tiffany Brown, who “explained that FEMA awarded the contract ‘because I was able to submit a proposal to supply 30 million meals at the cheapest cost.’ She stated that she ‘worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try and provide these emergency meals.’ She also explained FEMA knew she could not independently finance the production and delivery of this many meals in such a short time frame.” Gowdy spokesperson Amanda Gonzalez told Reuters although a subpoena was premature, they will continue to review hurricane recovery efforts. FEMA didn’t comment on Tribute but told Reuters when the contract was terminated, the distribution of food on the island “was not affected.” + House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Democrats + Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Letter Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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FEMA contractor failed to deliver millions of emergency meals to Puerto Rico

Off-grid Ecocapsule microhomes finally make their international debut

February 8, 2018 by  
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We’ve been following the the solar- and wind-powered Ecocapsule microhome since it first burst onto the design scene. Now, nearly 10 years after the visionary concept was born, its Bratislava-based designers are finally making their international debut with an exclusive release of 50 off-grid dwellings that can be installed pretty much anywhere. Although this round of smart, self-sufficient tiny dwellings will only be available to customers living in the United States, Japan, Australia and EU, the second mass-produced series could be available as soon as the end of 2018. Despite its futuristic design, the Ecocapsule encapsulates a great deal of what makes a building truly sustainable . Albeit made of fiberglass and steel, neither of which are renewable like bamboo or hemp, it deserves major kudos for its ability to generate its own energy with included solar panels and a wind turbine, and collect and filter its own water–all in a compact module with a negligible footprint. It is 15.32-feet-long, 7.22-feet-wide, and 14.76-feet-tall (wind turbine included). Ecocapsule’s Matej Gyárfáš said the wind turbine produces 750W of clean energy, while the embedded solar panels produce 880W at peak. The energy is stored in a battery with a capacity of 9kWh, though the whole microhome can be plugged into an external outlet if additional electricity is necessary. With its two water tanks at full capacity, the unit weighs 3,638 pounds. Made to sleep up to two people, the Ecocapsule can be transported in a shipping container , by passenger car with a trailer hitch, or by helicopter, which is how the first completed unit was carried to the roof of Bratislava’s UNIQ building (see attached picture in the gallery) on January 31, 2018. It has a clean, open interior design with plenty of natural light, and its spheroid shape promotes water collection while also ensuring optimal energy retention. Related: Solar-powered Ecocapsule lets you live off the grid anywhere in the world Gyárfáš said the design was originally intended as a “frontier dwelling, a housing unit for people who need to stay in nature for a longer time – e.g. scientists, photographers, rangers or extreme tourists.” But the design’s easy mobility, containerization and long-term energy independence expanded its potential, he said. He says it can be quickly shipped in “ rapid response situations where infrastructure is damaged” and even function as a “small power plant and water filtration unit.” The Ecocapsule can be installed on rooftops or vacant urban spaces, out in the middle of nature, or even in vineyards. According to the company, it is “a multipurpose unit, which can be used as a house, caravan, houseboat , hotel, or a research station.” Each of the first 50 pieces cost $89,000, according to Gyárfáš. Prices for the next iteration will be lower, but that number has not been revealed. All images via Ecocapsule

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Off-grid Ecocapsule microhomes finally make their international debut

6 ways to make your life more "Hygge" – the Danish secret to happiness

December 26, 2017 by  
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Unless you are from Denmark or Norway, the concept of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) was likely foreign to you until the past few years when this idea of “cozying around” began gaining serious traction. In this big, loud, harsh world, many of us desire a return to good company, simple pleasures, and mindfulness in the moment, and hygge embodies these ideas and more. We’re sharing six ways to help you create this restorative state of mind beloved for centuries in Denmark (by way of Norway ). Image © @quizzically_yours 1. Host a low-key and intimate get-together Small hang-outs with friends are an ideal hygge-promoting gathering. Hygge get-togethers aren’t pretentious: think board game night , card night, or a bagel brunch in the comfort of your own home. The focus of these gatherings is on togetherness, not on spending five hours baking fussy hors d’oeuvres or desserts, so they are perfect for throwing together at a moment’s notice and are super potluck-friendly . An event that gets people absorbed in each other’s company and a low-tech activity that encourages them to detach from their phones is definitely high on the hygge scale. Linked to the concept of hygge is an appreciation of the outdoors, and Danes are known for prizing their open-air time from a young age: babies in Denmark and all over Scandinavia even take their naps outside . Take your gathering outdoors (weather permitting) to bring together the best of both worlds: huddling around an outdoor fire pit definitely fits the bill as does taking a dip in a hot tub. Image © Maria via Unsplash 2. Or make your own solo hygge experience Although hygge is often associated with cozy, candlelit get-togethers with dear friends, you can create your own hygge vibe when you are by yourself. Fredagsmys , a word from Denmark’s Nordic neighbor Sweden , is an actual term used for curling up indoors on a Friday night. So watch a movie, sit on the sofa, or make yourself some hot chocolate or tea and relax with a book (perhaps in front of a fire). Hygge is focused on the idea of enjoying and being aware of simple moments and experiences, so everything doesn’t have to be “just so”: partaking in a free flowing  yoga  practice or a nourishing  soup making  session applies. Image © Alisa Anton via Unsplash 3. Create hygge-friendly spaces in your home While it may be tempting to get caught up in the hygge-buying fever and feel the desire to suddenly possess a plethora of knit throws, cushy pillows, an array of scented candles, and more items, there’s no financial obligation required for creating a warm, comfortable, friendly space. Putting your favorite vintage and reclaimed  knickknacks on display creates a sociable, lived-in vibe. Ditto for items picked up during memorable vacations and roadtrips. If you have a home with large open spaces, consider arranging the furniture that you already own in configurations that encourage intimate tête à têtes. Even a small side table or an ottoman can be a place to gather around, set down your mug, or put your feet up. Interior designer Dani Arps for TaskRabbit suggests, “Texture and natural materials always add warmth; think chunky or nubby blankets stored in a mesh basket that sits next to a reclaimed coffee table.” Related: DIY Meditation Temple Built from Salvaged Materials Photo © Aaron Burden via Unsplash 4. Make space for quiet/meditation Mindfulness and gratitude are definitely components of a hygge mentality, and they dovetail nicely with many people’s goals of having a regular meditation practice. If sitting cross-legged and reciting a mantra isn’t your cup of tea, then consider making your cup of tea the meditation itself. Give yourself permission to really savor and enjoy your morning beverage  without feeling the need to check social media. Or take an invigorating walk with your dog by your side, soak in the tub , journal or even make a phone call to a friend or family member who you can’t connect with in person-these all align with the idea of creating a soothing and reflective practice. Since mindfulness is the goal, avoid multitasking while you are doing whatever activity you choose. Image via Inhabitots 5. Make comforting and nourishing food and drink If you were to scan Instagram, many of the images hashtagged with hygge would start to resemble each other: hands around a warm mug of something, a table laid out with humble but hearty fare, like this mushroom quinoa risotto , a bowl of oatmeal, or fruit and nut-studded granola. Another central tenet in Danish culture is spending time with family , so pulling out a favorite recipe that has been shared over generations for a family gathering is a great way to honor tradition (not to mention the fact that commonly beloved food seems to have a way of smoothing over many family riffs). A super hygge-friendly activity: create an intimate  multigenerational family cooking class with a matriarch or patriarch of the family teaching the younger set how to make a traditional family dish. A few other ideas to get you started include apple cider served in apple cups , a homemade vegan nutella-like spread , one pot sun-dried tomato and basil pasta , and a decadent vegan chocolate cake made with veggies . Image © Antonia Bukowska via Unsplash 6. Put hygge concepts to work year-round Although the idea of cozying around a fire or snuggled up on the couch with our favorites makes winter the season most associated with hygge, the concept of hygge can be employed throughout the year. After all, hygge is a mindset for making “ essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful ”. To that end, going for a midsummer midnight swim, having a backyard BBQ with a few friends, taking a hike in the spring rain, or organizing a pumpkin picking and carving session could all embody this mind/body/soul-nourishing concept. Lead image ©  Worthy of Elegance via Unsplash

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6 ways to make your life more "Hygge" – the Danish secret to happiness

How hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands

September 12, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Irma recently hit islands in the Caribbean with the force of a Category 5 storm. And now, NASA satellite images reveal how the devastating storm turned formerly green islands into a dull brown. NASA captured Hurricane Irma’s destruction from space via satellite imagery . They compared images from late August, before the storm, with images snapped in the last couple of days in September. The pictures show how islands once bursting with greenery are now brown. There are a few reasons this might have happened, according to NASA. Hurricane winds could have ripped away vegetation, allowing satellites to capture more bare ground. Or, salt spray from the storm could have dried out leaves while they were still on trees, giving them a brown appearance. Related: NASA researcher says Harvey flooding pushed Houston down two centimeters Over 30 people died in the Caribbean due to Irma, according to Weather.com . ABC News reported 11 people perished from the storm in the United States. Virgin Gorda, pictured above, is one of the islands that now looks mostly brown, although NASA Earth Observatory said the south and west of the island is slightly greener, perhaps because hills in the center shielded those areas from Irma’s winds. In the images of Virgin Gorda, the ocean after Irma looks bright blue in comparison with the ocean color before the storm; NASA said that could be because “rougher surfaces scatter more light, and appear brighter and lighter.” The island of Barbuda, shown above, endured an especially devastating hit from Hurricane Irma; 95 percent of the its structures have been damaged, according to Time . Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne said the destruction was heart-wrenching. Antigua fared a little better – the vegetation on that island seems to be relatively intact in satellite images. NASA Earth Observatory said Irma’s center passed to the north, and Antigua didn’t face as much damage. Via NASA Earth Observatory and The Verge Images via Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

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How hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands

India could have its own Hyperloop system within 38 months

February 27, 2017 by  
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Past and present modes of transportation simply do not compare to the impressive abilities of  Hyperloop  technology. This efficient, low-cost vision of the future could be making its way to India in the next few years, according to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) co-founder Bibop Gresta. He argues a system of high speed tubes that transport people and cargo could help ease the challenges associated with extreme population density and a dearth of infrastructure. Hyperloop technology involves a series of tubes with an interior vacuum-like environment, through which pods can zip from point A to point B at nearly the speed of sound. Forbes India interviewed HTT co-founder Gresta about his vision for the country – one he thinks could become reality in as little as three years. Related: BIG releases video sneak peek of Hyperloop designed to connect Abu Dhabi & Dubai “The Hyperloop is based on efficiency,” Gresta said. “The cost of creating it can sometimes be one-fourth the cost of a high speed rail, and the cost of operations can be one-fifth.” He also argues that construction and operation costs, as well as projected passenger rates of $20-$60, are based on American pricing and that these costs in India would be smaller. He has already met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief ministers of several states which his Hyperloop proposal would affect, and said the response was a positive one. Gresta said the country could have a functional Hyperloop system in place within just 38 months, once the project is approved. “We are ready with the technology and we can bring the money,” he explained. “We just need land and a commitment from the government of India.” A similar Hyperloop project is already underway in the capital of the UAE, where feasibility studies are being done to run the system between Abu Dhabi and the city of Al Ain. + Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Via Forbes India Images via Wikimedia , Getty Images

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New research shows the universe may be one giant hologram

February 1, 2017 by  
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It turns out we may all be living in an infinitely large Holo-deck. That’s basically the conclusion a group of researchers reached after analyzing what is thought to be the first-ever observed evidence that the universe could in fact be a gigantic holographic projection . Phys.org reports that a team of theoretical physicists and astrophysicists from the U.K., Canada and Italy made the discovery while researching irregularities in the “cosmic microwave background,” or the “afterglow” of the Big Bang. In the course of that research, which involved using the theory of cosmic inflation, they found substantial evidence to support a holographic explanation of the universe, which actually holds as much weight as the traditional explanations for these irregularities. As Phys.org notes, the idea of a holographic universe first emerged in the 1990s, and involves the theory in which all the information that makes up our 3D reality (including time) is contained in a two-dimensional surface, on its boundaries. Scientists from Canada’s Perimeter Institute and University of Waterloo , the U.K’s University of Southampton and Italy’s University of Salento jointly made this most-recent discovery using advanced telescopes and sensing equipment that can detect data hidden in the microwaves left over from the Big Bang. As Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton, Kostas Skenderis explains: “Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field. The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card. However, this time, the entire universe is encoded.” It’s essentially like watching a 3D movie in a theater, when the images appear to have depth, along with width and height, but they are ultimately still coming from a two-dimensional screen. Related: “Largest-ever” new map of universe shows 1.2 million galaxies “Holography is a huge leap forward in the way we think about the structure and creation of the universe.,” adds Skenderis. “Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains almost everything large scale in the universe very well, but starts to unravel when examining its origins and mechanisms at quantum level. Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory. Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step towards this.” Via Phys.org Images via NASA and University of Southampton

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New research shows the universe may be one giant hologram

President Obama proclaims state of emergency due to Hurricane Matthew

October 7, 2016 by  
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President Obama announced a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival in Florida . His declaration includes federal aid and authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security ” to coordinate all disaster relief efforts .” Meanwhile, Hurricane Matthew hurtles towards Florida with maximum sustained winds of around 120 miles per hour . Scientists from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) call Matthew ” extremely dangerous ” even as the hurricane diminished to a Category 3 storm during the night. NHC said there could be “potentially disastrous impacts.” Florida has not been hit with many storms that have winds as forceful as Matthew’s. About 1.5 million people have left the Atlantic coast, fleeing inland as the hurricane approaches. Around 300,000 homes in Florida have already lost power. Related: How to Prepare Your Home and Family for a Hurricane or Superstorm White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said according to scientists , Hurricane Matthew could be “largest and most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in a decade” and that it is a storm “people should take seriously.” He said if anyone doubts the severity of the storm, “they need only look at the images that are coming back from Haiti.” According to U.S. National Weather Service , Matthew could be the most forceful storm to hit particularly northeast Florida in 118 years. Florida governor Rick Scott urged residents in potentially affected areas to evacuate at once. In a news conference, he said, “You need to leave now. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate…Your safety, not comfort, is the most important thing.” President Obama’s state of emergency applies to Florida, and according to CNBC in phone calls with state governors he also offered federal resources if necessary to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. The hurricane center is likely to move “near or over” Florida’s east coast tonight, according to NHC, and could move over South Carolina and Georgia coasts on Saturday. “Maximum sustained winds” could still be 120 miles per hour. Via The New York Times and CNBC Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot

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President Obama proclaims state of emergency due to Hurricane Matthew

Green-roofed Colorado home is buried into the earth to save energy

October 7, 2016 by  
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The 2,850-square-foot House in the Mountains comprises two rectilinear steel-framed forms that intersect to form the corner of a swimming pool and an implied courtyard that extends to the existing main house. The primary sloped structure rises from to the south at a 20-degree angle and houses the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen spaces and meets the second east-west wing that contains three bedrooms and the garage. The guesthouse’s placement on the site and grassy roofs renders the building practically invisible from the road. Related: GLUCK+’s Tower House is an Ultra-Modern ‘Treehouse’ for a Family of Architects Continuous clerestory glass wraps around the building for panoramic views and to let in copious amounts of natural light. A thick wall of solar panels on the south elevation of the bedroom wing harvests solar energy that powers the heating for the home and the swimming pool. A white oak rain screen clads the exterior of the bedroom wing, while a sunken courtyard to the west features a fireplace built into the Corten steel retaining walls. Corten steel is also used for the roof fascia and the slanted retaining wall to provide a rich rusty red contrast to the vegetated roof. + Gluck+ Images via Gluck+ , by Steve Mundinger

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Green-roofed Colorado home is buried into the earth to save energy

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