China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

May 19, 2017 by  
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China has claimed a major energy breakthrough, but its eco credentials are dubious at best. Researchers say they managed to extract gas from flammable ice in the South China Sea. A frozen mix of natural gas and water known as methane hydrates, the ‘breakthrough’ is expected to revolutionize the future of energy . We’re not sure that’s a good idea. Flammable ice could be our planet’s final great source of carbon-based fuel , according to the BBC. Vast deposits can be found under essentially every ocean. But it’s incredibly difficult to extract gas from flammable ice – in part because it catches fire so easily – a lighter held up next to the ice will do the trick. Related: Japan Successfully Taps ‘Flammable Ice’ as an Energy Source for the First Time Japan so far has led the way in working to mine the potential energy source, but China’s latest efforts could mark a milestone on the path to extracting gas from methane hydrates. Chinese media said the country had succeeded in extracting an average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas per day in the South China Sea. Scientist Praveen Linga of the National University of Singapore told the BBC, “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts. So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.” But Linga warns extraction must be done carefully. Methane could escape from the methane hydrates during extraction, which could harm the planet as methane holds greater potential to affect climate change than carbon dioxide, according to the BBC. It’s hard to tell if flammable ice extraction will fall into the pitfalls of the oil and gas industry, with greed taking precedence over our planet. The BBC also described flammable ice as a very energy intensive source of fuel. Linga says there’s still a long way to go, and he said realistic commercial options might be ready in 2025 at the earliest. Via the BBC Images via William Winters, USGS and U.S. Geological Survey on Flickr

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China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

Scientists will attempt to be the first to drill into Earth’s mantle

April 21, 2017 by  
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Scientists want to plumb the Earth for one of its last secrets. An international group of researchers led by  Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology say they plan to be the first to successfully drill into the mantle, that is, the region sandwiched between the planet’s outer crust and its inner core. Although the mantel makes up about 80 percent of the Earth’s mass, much of it remains a geological enigma. “We don’t know the exact [composition] of the mantle yet,” researcher Natsue Abe told CNN . To access the mantel, JAMSTEC will deploy the Chikyu, one of its biggest and most sophisticated drilling vessels, to penetrate 2.5 miles of ocean, then another 3.7 miles of sea floor (a.k.a the crust). The Japanese government is backing the expedition in the hopes that the data gleaned will help scientists better predict earthquakes. Related: Geologists find seventh continent hiding in plain sight “In Japan we have some volcanoes, earthquakes and such kind of natural hazards,” Abe said. “People [want to create] some monitoring or analysis equipment but we don’t know … what kind of factor to use. So we need to know the natural system more clearly or precisely … we have to observe the Earth more precisely.” All three drilling sites currently under consideration are located in the Pacific Ocean. The first is off Hawaii, the second off Costa Rica, and the third is off Mexico. “We already drilled and have taken some samples from the ocean floor but [only] from the top,” Abe said. “[We want] to dig from the ocean floor to the deep pristine mantle.” Via CNN Earth image via Wikimedia  and Flickr

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Scientists will attempt to be the first to drill into Earth’s mantle

Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

April 21, 2017 by  
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Even if the president of the United States rejects science , scientists plan to make their voices heard. Tomorrow they’ll march on Washington, D.C. and over 400 locations around the world in the March for Science . While organizers say the march was inspired by the success of the January 21 Women’s March, they also emphasize their event is nonpartisan. Their march will celebrate science and highlight “the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. People will gather at the Washington Monument starting at 8:00 AM, and will participate in teach-ins and a rally program until the march at 2:00 PM. Speakers include Bill Nye and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped expose Flint , Michigan lead poisoning. Related: Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office Trump isn’t the only reason for the March for Science. Scientists and academics have been concerned for years now over public distrust of science. The event’s mission page says, “People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely…We must take science out of the labs and journals and share it with the world.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Chemical Society , and the American Geophysical Union all support the march. Satellite marches will take place on six different continents. You can register for the march in Washington, D.C. or find a march near you here . If you can’t attend the Earth Day science march, you can march for climate science in the People’s Climate Mobilization on DC on April 29. + March for Science Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and March for Science

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Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

April 21, 2017 by  
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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds . Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago. Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.” Related: U.S. avian flu outbreak drives up the price of eggs as supplies are threatened The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture . As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets. Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens. “Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.” Via SciDev.net and NPR Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr

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This gorgeous glowing building is wrapped in an elegant slatted screen

April 4, 2017 by  
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This multi-use building in Niigata City, Japan , functions like a small town with its own park, restaurant, cobblestone alley and offices. Takeru Shoji Architects wrapped the building in an envelope made of dense wooden louvers which protect the privacy of the occupants while allowing them to glimpse the surrounding urban fabric. The building is named Wow! Sta., and it’s located in Horinouchi, an area where Niigata City center meets the suburbs . It provides a calm, private space just steps away from a busy main road. The architects addressed space, time, scale and ambiance in order to bring some order to the messy, hurried city life. Related: Airbnb launches nature-filled Tokyo office that feels like a beautiful cozy home A restaurant occupies the ground floor, and the building features a park-like outdoor dining area. Office spaces occupy the second floor, which is enclosed by trees rising up from the lush garden below. The third floor houses a multipurpose rental space with a kitchen and bathroom. A path meanders through the building, connecting all three floors and allowing visitors and occupants to enjoy the surrounding foliage. + Takeru Shoji Architects Via Architizer Photos by Takeru Shoji Architects, Koichi Satake

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This gorgeous glowing building is wrapped in an elegant slatted screen

Four dolphins escape from Taiji center after nets were slashed

January 6, 2017 by  
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Four dolphins escaped from a recreational center in Taiji , Japan, the town that’s home to the yearly horrifying dolphin hunts. The pod swam outside their pen at DolphinBase after nets surrounding their seaside enclosure were slashed. Three animals returned to the facility but one is still out in the wild. DolphinBase, a facility that offers tourists the opportunity to swim with dolphins and watch them perform, contained the bottlenose dolphins in a pen divided from the ocean with nets, where they’d been kept and trained for over six months. The dolphins are about three to five years old. Police say they do not yet know who cut the nets, allowing the animals to escape. Related: The first dolphins have been slaughtered in this year’s annual Taiji hunt In a blog post translated by the BBC, DolphinBase said, “We are enraged by this heinous act which can easily lead to the dolphins dying. They think that once out of their pen, dolphins will swim far away but that is not true. Dolphins will not stray far and they will not leave their group.” Three of the dolphins did swim back into the pen; the fourth is “scared” and confused about how to get back inside using the new entrance, according to DolphinBase, although it is close by. When asked by the BBC if the dolphins were bred in captivity or wild, the facility would not respond. Activist organization Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project , which monitors the Taiji cove, said in a statement , “While we are against keeping dolphins in captivity, we do not condone illegal behavior…It is our hope that Taiji will ultimately turn into a tourist destination, where no dolphins are hunted or captured for display.” The controversial Taiji dolphin hunt happens every single year between September and March. Hundreds of dolphins are captured, and then either slaughtered for their meat or sold to aquariums . Via the BBC Images via FollowYour Nose on Flickr and DolphinBase

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Four dolphins escape from Taiji center after nets were slashed

Unique solar-powered home in Scotland functions like a Rubik’s cube

January 6, 2017 by  
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This unusual corner house that architect Richard Murphy designed for himself combines sustainable technology with modernist design. Located at the junction of two Edinburgh estates developed in the 1820’s, the design creatively responds to the area’s planning contradictions with an multi-functional residence with a rich material palette. Ten years after the architect first contacted the owner of this lot in the eastern Edinburgh New Town, he finally received planning permission in 2007, but soon had to halt the development again due to the recession. The laborious process has finally resulted in a spacious, three-bedroom residence Glenn Murcutt called “A Rubik’s cube”, referring to its complexity and mechanical features. The front façade continues the stonework pattern of the street façade, with the entire structure featuring a combination of glass blocks, steel, burnt timber and lead. This introduction of bespoke design solutions and materiality reference Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre in Paris that featured an abundance of custom-made steel elements and moving mechanisms. Related: Architect Miguel Rivera’s Daylit Residence in Austin is a Renovated 1917 Bungalow Photovoltaic cells are installed on the south facing monopitch roof, while two giant mechanized shutters in the living room and the master bedroom allow the glass to generate heat for the house when open, but prevent it radiating heat when closed. Most of the windows have insulated shutters which slide or pivot. An automated internal air circulation system takes warm air from the top of the house to the basement to counteract the stack effect. Rainwater is funneled to grey-water storage tanks in the basement and used to flush toilets and supply the sprinkler system . + Richard Murphy Architects Via World Architecture News

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Unique solar-powered home in Scotland functions like a Rubik’s cube

Japan Airlines wants to transform used clothes into jet fuel

December 11, 2016 by  
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Old clothes could be given new life as jet fuel thanks to a new collaboration between Japan Airlines , recycling firm Japan Environmental Planning (Jeplan), and the Green Earth Institute . Jeplan developed a method to turn discarded garments, collected from retailers like Aeon and Muji , into biofuel using a kind of fermentation technology and is in the process of building an experimental fuel plant at one of its factory locations. Although cotton yields only a small amount of fuel, the resourcefulness of the technology and benefits of diverting unwanted clothes from landfills is promising.

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Japan Airlines wants to transform used clothes into jet fuel

Check out the world’s first lights powered by micro-sphere solar cells

December 9, 2016 by  
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Sphelar Power , makers of the world’s first “micro-sphere” solar cell, have declared “flatness is over” when it comes to solar power generation. The Japan-based company is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to back two products : the Sphelar Lantern and the Sphelar Stick. Both are powered by onboard solar cells that integrated right into the product and generate electricity passively when exposed to sunlight. Although the campaign is lagging behind on its fundraising goal, there is still time left to see this project advance to the next phase of production. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_ATpCFKvIY When Inhabitat first covered Sphelar’s spherical solar cell in 2012, the product was still in its infancy but showed enormous promise. At that time, the rounded solar cells challenged solar industry standards with their unique ability to capture sunlight from all angles simultaneously. Traditional flat solar panels must be angled directly toward the sun for maximum efficiency, but Sphelar’s design eliminates that fussiness. Related: Revolutionary Sphelar spherical solar cells capture sunlight from all directions Sphelar’s new products—a stylish modern lantern and a pocket-sized flashlight—incorporate the multi-directional solar cells and LEDs in new, portable lighting products. The Sphelar Lantern promises a 4-6 hour charging time for full battery capacity, which can power the light source for up to four hours. The Sphelar Stick provides up to four hours of light when fully charged, and can be recharged before the battery is fully drained. As of the time of this report, Sphelar has raised just over $7,000 of its $20,000 goal with six days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign . If the goal is met, the company aims to expand its production. Currently, the Lantern and Stick are only available inside Japan, but Sphelar hopes to broaden its reach and share its multi-directional solar technology with the world, one light at a time. + Sphelar Power on Kickstarter Images via Sphelar Power

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Check out the world’s first lights powered by micro-sphere solar cells

Fierce public backlash erupts over Japanese skating rink full of frozen fish

November 28, 2016 by  
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Officials at Space World , a Japanese theme park, issued a plea for forgiveness over the weekend, after public backlash forced them to close a skating rink that featured all sorts of sea creatures frozen into the ice . Some 5,000 fish, crabs, and other sea creatures were frozen into the skating rink as part of an attraction dubbed “Freezing Port,” but the public was quick to respond with disgust. Park officials said in their public apology that they were “shocked” by the public’s reaction, and the rink was closed by Sunday evening after a two-week run. Space World manager Toshimi Takeda talked to CNN about the so-called “world first” skating rink attraction. “We were shocked to hear the reaction as the ice skate rink was very popular since it opened two weeks ago, we had an unprecedented number of visitors,” Takeda said. “(But) we had endless opinions about the project, we were shocked … We are sorry for the project and decided to close the rink on that night.” Related: Japanese paper artist replicates amazing wild animals using intricately bound newspaper The fish and other marine creatures frozen into the skating rink were reportedly already dead before being installed in the rink, according to Takeda, who told CNN they were purchased from a local fish market. Now, theme park workers are tasked with removing the fish from the ice, holding an “appropriate religious service” and then reusing the carcasses as fertilizer. Although “Freezing Port” had been open for two weeks, it took news of the macabre attraction hitting social media on Saturday to ignite the public backlash that eventually closed the morbid skating rink. Users of Facebook and Twitter bashed the theme park for the move, and Space World officials were quick to reach a decision to close the attraction on Sunday. Swiftly following that announcement, theme park officials deleted all mentions and photos of the gruesome ice show from its Facebook page. Via CNN Images via Space World

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Fierce public backlash erupts over Japanese skating rink full of frozen fish

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