Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction

March 6, 2017 by  
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Life without honeybees would be less than sweet – it’d mean a lot fewer fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. But honeybees aren’t the only bees we need to worry about. The future of many Native North American and Hawaiian bee species is also in peril: a new study found that more than half of the region’s native bee species are declining , and nearly one in four native bee species is imperiled and at risk for extinction. Image © Dominik Scythe via Unsplash A new report by the Center for Biological Diversity entitled “Pollinators in Peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian bees” outlines the importance of these native bee species by valuing their financial importance as well as their ability to help ecosystems thrive. As fruit-pollinators, native bee species are worth more than three billion dollars, yet their work pollinating wild flowers and plants is equally important in maintaining diverse and colorful flora. As if the information regarding known declining populations wasn’t cause enough for alarm, the author warned that this study and other bee studies simply don’t have enough data on thousands of native bee species – many of which are found in areas of “great environmental degradation” – to determine if they are at risk. Image © Jenni Peterson via Unsplash Related| This could be the United States’ first endangered bee species The study cites loss of habitat due to agriculture, heavy use of pesticides , climate change, and urbanization as large drivers of the native bee populations’ decline and endangerment. Lead author Kelsey Kopec said, “It’s a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming.” The report includes case studies of five distinct bee species around the country that are in great peril, including the wild sweet potato bee, which is the only known species in the world in its genus, and the sunflower leafcutting bee, which is the largest and most distinctive leafcutting bee on the continent. While a casual eye might be tempted to group these bee species together, their unique habits and contributions to varied ecosystems highlight their individual importance and fragility. Via Time Lead image © Jenna Lee via Unsplash

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Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction

US House Science Committee tweets climate denial propaganda

December 5, 2016 by  
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Last week, the official Twitter account for the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweeted a link to an inaccurate and hyperbolic article published by Breitbart – the far-right, white-nationalist-supporting news outlet that spawned Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist. The tweet proclaimed: “Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists.” It should go without saying that the linked article was deeply misleading . The piece was based on a misleading Daily Mail story by climate denier David Rose, which used satellite measurements of atmospheric temperatures over land only (completely ignoring the oceans that make up 70% of the planet) to argue that global temperatures had actually dropped over the course of 2016. Of course, if you look at the complete dataset that Rose cherry-picked his information from, you’ll clearly see a long-term warming trend, with 2016 set to become the hottest year in recorded human history. This isn’t the first time the House Science Committee has tweeted dubious material. Just the day before the Breitbart tweet, the account posted a tweet accusing a climate change support group of valuing “politics & emotion over facts.” It’s not the first time the account has tweeted links to anti-climate articles from Breitbart, either. Related: Donald Trump denies saying “climate change is a Chinese hoax”- but his own Twitter account contradicts him It’s deeply troubling that an official US government account would be posting such biased and poorly-sourced articles to begin with, but the fact that it’s the “science” committee makes matters even more frightening. If our legislators can’t be bothered to understand the science underlying important environmental policy , how can we be expected to take effective action against climate change? Unfortunately, with the Trump administration readying to take office, this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. Via Ars Technica Images via William Warby and Joakim Berndes

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Leonardo DiCaprio gave Ivanka Trump a DVD of his climate change documentary

December 5, 2016 by  
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In a gracious attempt to help America’s next first family get a firm grip on the reality of climate change, actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio gifted Ivanka Trump a DVD copy of his recently released environmental documentary , “Before the Flood.” The future first daughter is primed to be a strong inside force in the Trump administration, with the 35-year-old and her husband Jared Kushner acting as key advisers to her father, President-elect Donald Trump. Ivanka has already been vocal about women’s issues, authoring a book on the topic, and there is reason to suspect she may have some influence over the Trump administration’s environmental policies as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9xFFyUOpXo&feature=youtu.be Reportedly, DiCaprio met privately with the president-elect’s eldest daughter to discuss environmental issues, which the actor has become a champion of in recent years through his nonprofit foundation and honorary position as UN Messenger of Peace. Media speculation has already toyed with the notion that Ivanka could become “the most powerful first daughter in history,” and in his capacity as an activist, DiCaprio grasped the opportunity to help educate her about the severity of climate change, something her father has mostly dismissed. During the meeting, according to aids from both sides, DiCaprio handed over a DVD of Before the Flood, the documentary he produced with National Geographic and released in October. Related: Elon Musk and Leonardo DiCaprio discuss climate issues in Before the Flood documentary The film streamed for free for one week in November on YouTube after its limited theatre debut in Los Angeles and New York City, and can now be accessed online through various platforms . The film paints the broad strokes of the effects of climate change and the importance of altering human behaviors in order to ward off the destruction of our planet. With any luck, DiCaprio’s personal gift will shed some light on issues that the president-elect has been denying for years. The real question is: will Ivanka become the Trump family’s voice of reason where climate change is concerned? Via GQ Images via United Nations

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Gaza girls subvert Israeli blockade with building bricks made from rubble

December 5, 2016 by  
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Two engineering graduates from the Islamic University of Gaza have defied all stereotypes with their design of an affordable new building block made from the rubble of war, and they’re about to scale operations for mass production. Subverting a crippling Israeli blockade that makes importing construction materials a demeaning, expensive, and time-consuming process, Majd Mashharawi and Rawan Abddllaht overcame a litany of obstacles to develop their green bricks. Their goal is to help Gaza residents rebuild their homes after three wars in 10 years have left thousands of buildings in ruins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDZCOGR5DOw Majd told Inhabitat that she and Rawan became interested in material science during their university years, but they weren’t content to work with materials that had already been developed. Instead, she said they set out to create their own building blocks using local materials to make inexpensive but durable building bricks. She says demand in Gaza has risen to 40,000 bricks per day. In March 2015, UNRWA reported that “…9,061 Palestine refugee houses have been considered totally destroyed and 5,066 have suffered severe, 4,085 major and 120,333 minor damages. Also, to date, the Agency has only received funding to reconstruct 200 of the 9,061 houses totally destroyed.” The blockade has made timely reconstruction inordinately difficult. Israel claims the blockade is necessary to suppress Hamas, the militant Islamic group that has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007. By documenting every crumb of cement that goes in and out of Gaza, complete with GPS coordinates of planned construction sites, the Israel Defense Forces can prevent Hamas from building new tunnels through which to smuggle arms. But the UN has said the siege amounts to collective punishment in violation of international humanitarian law . Related: Gaza man’s desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day Majd and Rawan are also concerned about the byproduct of coal combustion, which they said results in 10 tons of coal ash in Gaza dumped each week, contaminating limited groundwater supplies . For months, often doubted by their community, they researched how to substitute rock and sand with coal ash and concrete rubble to make lightweight bricks. Time and again their bricks failed compression tests. “Every time we failed I reminded myself that in order to achieve success we have to overcome these obstacles and delete the word failure from the dictionary,” said Majd. After more than six months, Majd said they finally discovered the right formula. “When we first got the minimum required strength of standard building blocks, I was about to have a heart shock from happiness to know that I just became one step closer to my dream and goal in this life, which is leaving a fingerprint and making the world a better place to live in, starting from developing my home country Gaza.” Now GreenCake has launched a crowdfunding campaign so they can increase production of their lightweight bricks, which are said to cost half as much as standard bricks. These talented young women are not only building a business from the ashes of environmental destruction and war, but also lives. + GreenCake on Indiegogo + GreenCake on Facebook

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Scientists grow test tube human brains with potential to think and feel

October 11, 2016 by  
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A group of Cambridge scientists are attempting to grow human brains outside of the body in a lab. But they don’t look anything like what you might imagine. The “cerebral organoids” are made with stem cells derived from human skin and raised in giant incubators. Without any kind of blood supply, they receive nutrients by soaking in a special fluid. And these brains are tiny, small enough to fit in a petri dish – about four millimeters across and crammed with about two million neurons. For the sake of comparison, a fully developed mouse brain contains four million neurons. The average adult human brain, up to 1,000 trillion. Just like a normal brain, these bundles of cells contain a mixture of gray matter and white matter. They even form specific regions like the cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum, and many more. In the end, they are equivalent to what might be seen in a nine-week-old fetus. However, while the neurons in these tiny organoids do communicate and fire with electrical activity, they aren’t capable of thoughts or feelings in the way we would understand it. Dr. Madeline Lancaster compares their neural activity to the way heart cells can be made to beat in a petri dish. While they are alive, the lack of a body or any sensory input means they aren’t receiving any of the information that could lead to consciousness. If lab-grown brains were hooked up to an EEG, no brain waves would be observed. Related: Austrian Scientists Grow Mini Human Brains in a Lab However, consciousness is not the goal of this research. Instead, Lancaster is interested in uncovering some key differences between humans and other primates. Our DNA is only 1.2 percent different from chimpanzees, yet somehow we have completely different intellectual capabilities. Her team is replacing individual genes involved in brain development with genes from chimpanzees , and observing how the replacements influence the growth of the specimens. In other labs, organoids like these are being used to learn more about human development – for example, what makes the brain of someone with schizophrenia or autism different from a normal brain . The inability to identify these disorders in other animals has made researching them in the lab impossible. (And while there are a lot of reasons not to support animal testing , dissecting the brains of living humans is obviously unethical as well.) Instead, researchers can use this technology and a stem cells from patients to learn more about how their neurons function. This has already led to some interesting insights into the development of autism, and will likely reveal even more hidden knowledge in time. Via Digital Journal Images via Cambridge University

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VELLO launches the world’s first folding electric bike that can charge itself

October 11, 2016 by  
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll3s9RpXF4o The VELLO BIKE+ features a variety of innovations designed to revolutionize the experience of cycling in the city. According to VELLO, the bike is the ” smallest and lightest electric folding bike on the market .” It weighs around 26 pounds and is 21 by 28 by 9 inches big. It folds down in seconds to fit under a desk or in a car trunk, and users can map their route or remotely lock the VELLO BIKE+ via an app. Related: Foldable bike scooter combo runs entirely on electricity Because the bike charges itself, riders never need to plug it in! It harvests energy when riders brake or pedal using an integrated kinetic energy recovery system. The amount of energy generated depends on factors like road slope and pedaling speed. A 250W motor gives riders an electric boost, but according to VELLO the bike is still easy to pedal when power assistance is switched off. VELLO says users can ride for around 20 miles at 15 miles per hour on a full charge without any effort. Co-founder Valentin Vodev said in a statement, “For us converting ideas into products is a metamorphosis from the common to the unexplored – a discovery through which we can define new functions and forms.” With just under a month to go, VELLO has raised over $170,000 out of a $89,540 goal on Kickstarter. You can back the project here – the early bird price is 1,599 Euros, or about $1,799. + VELLO

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LUX3 is a color-changing wooden lamp that boosts your mood and health

March 24, 2016 by  
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LUX3 is a wooden designer lamp, in the form of a light emitting cube, that transmits well-being via colored light or through the use of water enriched by color energy. An easily understood app allows you to interact with LUX3 and gives you all the information you need to use it. Uniting craftsmanship with the latest technical innovations, each LUX3 is completely handmade in Italy and lets you choose your light color to compliment your mood or to work in harmony with your circadian rhythms . + LUX3 on Kickstarter The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link. Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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LUX3 is a color-changing wooden lamp that boosts your mood and health

A gigantic tree lives inside this gorgeous glass house in the mountains of Kazakhstan

March 24, 2016 by  
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How to avoid being duped by fake “faux fur” made from real dead animals

March 24, 2016 by  
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Faux-fur has been making its way on to anything and everything lately. Chances are you might even own a jacket or two trimmed with it. Nothing wrong with that, right? Perhaps, but gone are the days where faux-fur was considered a cheaper, less desirable alternative than cruel animal skin . With demand for “faux-fur” higher than ever, and standards for garment production lower than ever, “faux faux-fur” is having a major moment. Yes, we’re talking about real fur – often made in China from dogs, cats and racoon dogs who’ve been skinned alive – that’s labeled as “faux-fur.” As crazy as that sounds, this is actually a shockingly common issue this days, so we’ve put together a list of tips to help you navigate this appalling situation. Read the rest of How to avoid being duped by fake “faux fur” made from real dead animals

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Scientists just discovered the building blocks of life on a comet

August 5, 2015 by  
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Incoming data since last year’s landing on comet 67P has revealed the presence of organic compounds, which has the scientific community buzzing about the larger implications. Comets really could be carrying the “building blocks” of life. The European Space Agency landed the Philae probe back in November, 2014, and the information streaming back to Earth is proving to be quite interesting. Read the rest of Scientists just discovered the building blocks of life on a comet

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