Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa

January 26, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered the oldest known fossil of a modern human outside of Africa in Misliya Cave near Mount Carmel, Israel . The discovery reveals that modern humans left Africa at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. “[The fossil] provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed,” said Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam. The fossil , which consists of an upper jawbone with several teeth still attached, is estimated to be between 175,000-200,000 years old, at least 50,000 years before humans had been thought to have first left Africa. Using microCT scans and 3D virtual models, the research team, including scientists from Tel Aviv University , Binghamton University, and the State University of New York , determined that the fossil showed signs of potential hybridization. “While all of the anatomical details in the Misliya fossil are fully consistent with modern humans, some features are also found in Neanderthals and other human groups,” said Quam , who was a study co-author. The fossil and archaeological evidence found in the cave also indicates that these early humans in historic Palestine were capable of hunting large game animals, controlling fire for their own uses, and crafting a variety of prehistoric stone tools. “It also means that modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges.” Related: Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs The region in which the fossil was discovered has long been seen as a major passage for human migration out of Africa as well as a home for various species of hominids, including Neanderthals . Piecing together the story of human migration beyond the African continent is essential to understanding the evolution of our species, the researchers emphasized. The latest discovery adds key information to this story, including details regarding the timing and nature of demographic changes and genetic mixing between populations and even species of early humans. With this new chapter, the story of ourselves becomes that much clearer. Via Phys.org Images via Rolf Quam and  Israel Hershkovitz/Tel Aviv University  

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Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa

Israeli bus company to invest $2.2M in wireless charging electric roads

December 15, 2017 by  
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Wireless charging electric roads just took a big step forward, as Tel Aviv transit service Dan Bus Company announced plans to invest $2.2 million in ElectRoad . ElectRoad’s technology buries electric coils beneath roads to wirelessly charge electric vehicles as they drive. Future EV drivers may never have to worry about stopping at a charging station with ElectRoad’s technology. Several months ago, investment management company Biomedix Incubator Limited announced an intention to acquire ElectRoad, and just signed a cooperation agreement with Dan Bus Company. Should the merger be completed, Dan Bus Company will invest as much as 8 million Israeli New Shekels (NIS) (around $2.2 million) in ElectRoad. Related: Israel to test electric roads that wirelessly charge vehicles as they drive According to Globes , “The agreement with Dan includes an initial NIS 3.1 million investment and options for Biomedix shares amounting to NIS 5 million at a company value of NIS 90 million.” ElectRoad’s technology uses conduction coils to power electric cars via magnetic induction. They point to zero emissions , high efficiency, and low costs as benefits of their technology. They also say the system could allow for energy sharing between vehicles and the grid . The startup plans to gradually penetrate the market by focusing on public transportation , such as bus lanes. Globes said in their article, “The investment by Dan and the agreement between the companies indicates that public transportation companies are indeed interested in the technology.” Dan Bus Company has already rolled out some electric buses that could be charged via cable at departure stations in two to three minutes for a range of 30 kilometers , or almost 19 miles, which they said was enough for the longest urban line. Electric road technology could make such charging unnecessary. + ElectRoad Via Globes/ElectRoad Images © ElectRoad

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Israeli bus company to invest $2.2M in wireless charging electric roads

Cannabis walls add warmth to this eco-friendly home in Israel

December 4, 2017 by  
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Cannabis is good for more than just medicine—industrial hemp has its uses in eco-friendly architecture too. Haifa-based studio Tav Group built Ein Hod, an eco-minded home for artists, using hempcrete, a bio-composite made from hemp hurds, hydrated lime, and water with desirable thermal properties. Located on a hillside in a rural Israeli artist’s village, the beautiful terraced home is optimized for passive solar and ventilation to further minimize energy demands. The use of natural materials and external lime plaster helps blend the 250-square-meter Eid Hod home into the rocky terrain. Concrete is avoided save for the mandatory safety room and foundations. Locally excavated stone make up the lower floor walls, while hempcrete, set between wood framing, makes up the walls of the upper levels. Interior walls are built of rammed earth and earth-based plaster is applied throughout the light-filled interior to create a warm and comfortable non-toxic environment. Timber ties the rooms together and can be seen in the rustic furnishings, stairways, window frames, and exposed ceiling beams. The architects say the Ein Hod home is the first structure in Israel built of hempcrete , a fire-resistant plant-based material with carbon sequestration benefits. The use of lime coating also adds to hempcrete’s anti-microbial and anti-fungal advantages. However, hempcrete is no replacement for concrete; the material isn’t suitable for structural use but is an eco-friendly insulation choice, albeit a pricey one depending on where it’s used. Related: Hemp-based insulation makes a comeback in Belgium In addition to the use of hempcrete and passive solar principles , Ein Hod is also equipped with solar panels and rainwater collection as well as graywater purification systems to minimize water use. + Tav Group Images by Yoav Etiel

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Cannabis walls add warmth to this eco-friendly home in Israel

SpaceX’s upcoming launch of reused rocket marks historic first for NASA

November 30, 2017 by  
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SpaceX will launch a recycled Falcon 9 rocket into space for an upcoming NASA resupply mission to the International Space Station. While the private space travel company founded by Elon Musk has already launched previously used rockets into space and back, this marks the first instance in which the company will reuse a rocket for NASA. “NASA participated in a broad range of SpaceX data assessments and inspections regarding use of a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage booster,” said NASA in a statement made to The Verge , confirming the groundbreaking launch. This institutional support from the agency marks a major accomplishment for SpaceX, which has emphasized the promise of its reusable rockets. A typical SpaceX mission involving a Falcon 9 rocket includes an initial launch into space, where it completes a particular objective such as cargo delivery or placing satellites into orbit, followed by a return into Earth’s atmosphere and a landing onto one of SpaceX’s launching pads. It is possible that these Falcon 9 rockets could be used for three or more launches, though further testing is required. Related: SpaceX is sending two private citizens to the moon next year At the moment, only a few of SpaceX’s customers, such as Luxembourg-based communications company SES and satellite operator Bulgaria Sat , have opted for resuable rockets. However, the numbers are poised to grow, particularly after SpaceX’s upcoming launch with NASA .  Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has decided to launch a new satellite with SpaceX’s reused rockets, despite past challenges involving the destruction of a Spacecom satellite when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket it was to be launched on exploded. While NASA has voiced optimism about expanding its use of resuable rockets, it has also made clear that it will tread carefully in using this new technology. Meanwhile, the US military has offered some positive words for reused rockets, with General John W. “Jay” Raymond, head of US Air Force Space Command, claiming to Bloomberg that it would be “absolutely foolish” to not explore the option as a cost-saving measure. Via The Verge Images via SpaceX/Flickr   (1)

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SpaceX’s upcoming launch of reused rocket marks historic first for NASA

What innovation looks like when water is a strategic resource

September 27, 2017 by  
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Learning from Israel’s leadership.

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What innovation looks like when water is a strategic resource

Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

March 29, 2017 by  
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Thick layers of Dead Sea salt found 1,000 feet below the sea bed holds clues to our planet’s past – and a warning. The salt reveals during warm periods in Earth’s history, the region – the Dead Sea is bordered by Palestine, Jordan, and Israel – suffered from drought with no known precedent. The salt, scrutinized by an international team of researchers led by Yael Kiro of Columbia University , doesn’t just offer a history lesson, but a caution climate change could seriously dry the region again in the future. Crystalline salt from beneath the Dead Sea reveals 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, rainfall in the area was a fifth of modern levels. These dry periods were naturally caused. But human-caused climate change today could potentially dry the region – which is already struggling – more than we realized. Right now the Middle East’s fresh water per capita availability is 10 times less than the world average, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Related: Dramatic Video Captures Rebirth of the River Zin in Israel’s Negev Desert Back in 2010, scientists drilled 1,500 feet into the Dead Sea bed’s deepest part. They obtained a cross-section that provided 200,000 years of climate history in the area. Alternating layers of salt and mud showed dry and wet times. Only recently, however, did scientists analyze the core in great detail. The region suffered from what Columbia University called epic dry periods. Kiro said in a statement, “All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer. What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models.” The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published the research in an early online edition . Six other scientists from institutions in Israel and Spain also contributed to the study. Via The Guardian and Columbia University Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

March 29, 2017 by  
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A judge approved a settlement with the state of Michigan today that will come as welcome news to thousands of residents: at least 18,000 homes in Flint will have their toxic water pipes replaced over the next three years. The state has committed $87 million to identify and replace any service lines containing lead or galvanized steel by 2020. The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action , the Natural Resources Defense Council , the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has praised the agreement. The $87 million used to replace the pipes will come from a variety of sources. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was passed by Congress last year, will provide up to $20 million in funds, with the state matching another $20 million. The state must also hold an extra $10 million in reserve, in case the repairs end up being more expensive than anticipated. The state will also cover the $895,000 the plaintiffs ran up in litigation costs. Related: 1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water In the meantime , residents will have to either pick up bottled water from designated locations in the city, or they’ll have to install water filters on their taps. Though the filters have been shown to render the city’s water safe for human consumption, many residents are nervous and distrustful of anything that comes out of their taps (and with good reason). The lawsuit had asked that bottled water be delivered door to door throughout the city until pipe replacement was complete, but the judge shot down that request. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay and Paul Hudson

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Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

Israel building world’s tallest solar tower to power 130,000 households

January 5, 2017 by  
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Three years after Israel first announced plans for an enormous solar power station, the project is progressing nicely. The 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station is under construction in the sunny Negev desert, and currently ranks as Israel’s largest renewable energy project to date. When it begins operating sometime in 2018, the power station will feature an 820-foot-tall solar tower, which will be the tallest in the world. This solar project , as well as others in development, will give Israel a huge push forward toward its goal of supplying 10 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2020. Once completed, the project will power 130,000 households. The Ashalim solar project was initially projected for completion by the end of 2017, but a recent update shifts the timeline into 2018. The solar power station features a field of over 50,000 mirrors spanning 740 acres, which reflect the sun’s energy back to a centrally located tower. Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems like this one are fast becoming the trend in large-scale solar power projects, because of their high energy output. Once operational, the solar tower will generate around 310 megawatts of power, which equates to about 1.6 percent of the country’s energy needs, according to Israel’s Electricity Authority. Related: Israel Announces Plans for 121 MW Solar Power Station in the Negev Desert The Ashalim solar tower is backed by BrightSource Energy , General Electric (GE) and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund, and it is just one of three plots that make up the power station. A second solar-thermal plot will store solar energy after sunset, and a third will house photovoltaic solar technology to produce even more energy. Despite it’s staggering height of 820 feet and designation as the world’s tallest CSP tower, the Ashalim solar power plant doesn’t come close to taking the title of “world’s largest,” which currently belongs to Dubai’s 1,000-MW CSP project . However, Israel’s largest renewable energy project does set the bar quite high by contributing toward the nation’s energy goal, which quadruples current clean energy production. Via Times of Israel Images via Brightsource Energy

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Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

January 5, 2017 by  
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Modern slavery is all around us—even if we don’t always see it. Human trafficking for the sex industry is one of the most insidious crimes, but one group in Tel Aviv is fighting against it to save lives and the environment. A.I.R.—which stands for “Act, Inspire, Restore”—is an international social enterprise that combines social purpose with an eco-friendly upcycling business to spread awareness about the black market activity and to give former prostitutes the skills and supportive community they need for a second chance at life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyT7BS9V5Vs Founded by Swiss couple Tabea and Matthias Oppliger, A.I.R. turns reclaimed materials like pallets into custom wood furniture and other upcycled products. The social impact business is a branch of glowbalact , a Switzerland-based NGO aimed at ending modern-day slavery, particularly sex trafficking, in Switzerland and abroad. Tabea, a trained massage therapist, first got involved by offering free massages in Zurich brothels for three years to learn about the women working there, earn their trust, and give them a therapeutic experience. Her and her husband’s knowledge of the industry and desire to spread awareness eventually brought them to Tel Aviv, where an unexpected encounter with a woman who Tabea previously massaged in Zurich cemented their decision to start a social enterprise in Israel. Despite Israel’s mostly young and well-educated populace, the country is home to 12,000 women, men, and children who identify as sex workers. Over three-quarters of women surveyed by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice shared their desire to leave the sex industry but say they can’t due to lack of employable skills, financial debt, or coercion by pimps or former employees. The Oppligers founded A.I.R. two years ago and successfully launched their first workspace seven months ago in the city’s gritty but up-and-coming Florentine neighborhood. There, the couple is joined with a staff of social workers and business managers, and they currently work together with eight former sex workers who have signed on for a one-year training program to help them reintegrate into society. Related: Thailand’s $7.8 billion seafood industry is built on human trafficking and slave labor Created with the mission to restore people and materials, A.I.R. works primarily with turning discarded shipping pallets into stylish furniture, a process that Tabea says is very therapeutic. The Swiss-Israeli social enterprise creates custom furniture designs to generate a stable economic base and pays the women an hourly rate. Thus far, A.I.R. has installed their upcycled works in a variety of locations across the city including the rooftop patio of Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, and recently won a contract to outfit the interior of a new coffee shop. The foam cushions are covered with recycled billboard canvas, which is sturdy, waterproof, and often colorful. Since the upcycled pallet furniture is heavy and is only sold in Israel, A.I.R. was asked by supporters to produce a second upcycled product that could be easily shipped abroad. Thus, the team has recently started collecting discarded kites donated by kite surfers. The reclaimed materials are repurposed into waterproof bags and bibs under the label Kite Pride. “We’re trying to make art not waste,” said Tabea to Inhabitat. “We love the idea of upcycling and recycling. It has to be unique and this very colorful stuff is very therapeutic for the girls. One of the girls said ‘I’m just happy looking at the colors.’ Our constant battle is between being socially minded and the pressure of trying to get a business up and running. It’s very challenging. We offer social impact holidays to Germans and Americans and other young business people so that they can come for two and three weeks here and help out at A.I.R. Our goal is to be a jumping board for the career these girls have always wanted. We just give them stability and a protected environment and teach them a few things.” A.I.R.’s Kite Pride products will soon be available for purchase on their website and their upcycled pallet furniture is available for purchase and commission in Israel. The sale of these products helps spread awareness and will produce more jobs around the country. To learn more about human trafficking, you can watch a new sex trafficking movie “She Has A Name,” proceeds of which help support glowbalact. + glowbalact + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Lucy Wang , image of Oppligers © Amit Shemesh

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Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

Israel to test electric roads that wirelessly charge vehicles as they drive

January 4, 2017 by  
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Forget the charging port—the roads of the near future could power your electric car while you drive, eliminating the need to ever stop to recharge or refuel again. Israeli startup Electroad is working to pave the way towards a greener world with technology that retrofits existing roads with buried coils to inductively charge electric vehicles. The team has already performed successful tests of the technology, and will be demoing the electric roads on a larger scale with a public bus route in Tel Aviv . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkpcavw_vFI Founded with the goal of reducing global emissions, Electroad promises a more cost-effective, efficient, and cleaner way to travel. The startup uses technology that relies on electromagnetic induction —the basic principle behind wirelessly powering smartphones and rechargeable toothbrushes—to power electric cars with renewable energy while driving. Although other companies like Qualcomm and KAIST also work with wireless vehicle charging, Electroad’s CEO Oren Ezer says that while the concept is the same, the technology is different. “Our technology is flexible,” said Ezer. “Only copper and rubber is needed, and deployment is quick and easy. You can retrofit one kilometer of road in just half a day, from night to morning.” The installation process begins with an asphalt scraper that digs an 8-centimeter-deep trench. A second vehicle installs the wireless energy charging strips and fills the trench back up with asphalt. Smart inverters with real-time communication are installed on the sides of the road. A coil unit attached beneath the electric vehicle receives power transferred over a small 24-centimeter air gap. Radiation is minimized and locally shielded for driver and passenger safety. Related: KAIST Launches First Road-Charged OLEV Electric Buses in South Korea Electroad plans to focus on public transportation first before opening the platform up to private transit. The startup successfully tested their technology with an electric bus five months ago in Tel Aviv and opened 20 meters of retrofitted electric road outside their lab. Soon the company will test out the technology on a public electric bus with a set route in Tel Aviv. Since the bus will drive on electric roads, it won’t need to be recharged though it will have a small battery to allow the bus to drive up to five kilometers without an electric current. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ-DzXirW08 “We remove the energy source,” said Ezer. “The electricity will come from renewable energy transferred to the road. This is a really sustainable solution. A battery for an electric bus can cost $300,000 and weigh 5 tons. If you remove the battery then the bus is much lighter and requires less energy. This technology is cost saving. If you compare it to diesel buses, it’s half the price. If you just start with public transportation it will save money and then you can open it up to taxis and trams. Payback is very fast.” Ezer has a dream to turn all of Israel’s transportation electric with inductive charging. Electroad received a research and innovation grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 and recently completed a program at Capital Nature , an accelerator that focuses on emerging renewable energy in Israel. The startup plans to test their technology on a public bus route in Tel Aviv next year. + Electroad + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Electroad , last image © Lucy Wang

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