Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

September 14, 2017 by  
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Even those who despise arachnids can’t help but admire the gorgeous peacock spider . And now there are even more of them to admire. Researchers from Australia have just announced the discovery of four new species and one subspecies, bringing the total number of peacock spider varieties to 65. Dr. Jurgen Otto in Western Australia has been studying peacock spiders for about a decade. Reportedly, four of the species are completely new to science and one is believed to a be a sub-species. “Each new species is a complete surprise — the patterns and colours of each species are so different and so unpredictable, you never know what the next one and its display and courtship dance will look like,” Otto told ABC News . Otto and Hill named 39 of the species and sub-species that have been discovered. Reportedly, the latest species were found in Western Australia , but the peacock spiders are more native to the southern part of the continent. Related: First spider-silk garment to hit the market is this necktie from Bolt Threads To help people easily identify the spiders, Otto has shared incredibly detailed photographs on his YouTube channel . “In most peacock spider species — and the new ones are no exception — the males are strikingly coloured, and the patterns and colours are very distinctive, making it easy to distinguish one from another,” said Otto. “Cristatus has a pattern on its back that resembles the Union Jack and in addition has eight plumes of white setae (hairs) at its back that no other peacock spider has.” “Electricus stands out by its striking pattern of parallel red lines that make it look like a circuit board, and trigonus can be easily recognised by the white crown at the tip of its abdomen that is not present in any known species ,” Otto added. “One could think that the novelty of this would all have worn off by now, but people still get excited when they see them.” These findings were published in the journal Peckhamia . + Peckhamia Via ABC News Images via Dr. Jurgen Otto

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Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

September 14, 2017 by  
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The game-changing power of solar energy is a gift to all of the global community. Nations of the world, having recognized the absolute necessity to do so, are slowly shifting towards a clean energy economy while reaping the benefits. These benefits are being particularly felt in the developing economies of the Global South , where communities are making the transition from no electricity access to resilient, local power through solar energy. SOLARKIOSK, a Berlin-based social enterprise, is supporting this movement and empowering local communities by installing innovative multi-purpose structures called E-HUBBs that are powered by the sun and operated by members of the communities they serve. SOLARKIOSK has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge – read on for a closer look at this world-changing initiative. Although similar in appearance to shipping container homes , the E-HUBB is emphatically much more – it’s “an energy-connectivity gateway.” With the energy generated through its solar panels, a single E-HUBB can provide power for phone and computer charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an LED TV, a refrigerator, a printer, interior and exterior lighting, and more. It also offers a display area and storage space, solar products and sustainable consumer goods. “SOLARKIOSK is continuously working on the design of the E-HUBB, in order to make it more efficient in terms of maintenance, implementation and transportation,” said Marija Makejeva, Business Development Manager at SOLARKIOSK. “Over time, the design has evolved across 3 different E-HUBB models from an aluminum to a steel structure, which is more cost-efficient and easier to source. Solar components and remote metering options have also undergone significant improvement as technology has evolved.” Related: Compact OffGridBox provides drinking water and power where it’s needed most E-HUBBs have proven their versatility by serving the needs of different communities. A last-mile distribution retail E-HUBB brings underserved populations much needed products and services across Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s also a Connected Solar Clinic operated by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, a banking kiosk that offers financial tools to off-grid populations in Nigeria , and a solar school unit for the displaced population at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan . In addition to the tangible impacts of power generation, commercial empowerment, and more, the E-HUBB also has the ability to positively impact and inspire younger generations who will one day inherit these changing communities. “The fascination always surfaces in the eyes of the kids as they gaze upon the site clearly delighted by the atmosphere emitted by SOLARKIOSK,” reads a statement by the company. “Being accepted and loved by the children is a great reassurance for our work directive and personal initiative; a true blessing.” Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Each E-HUBB is uniquely fitted for the local community’s needs and is operated by members of the community, ninety percent of whom are women . “SOLARKIOSK sees great value in empowering women through job creation within the network of E-HUBBs,” said Makejeva. For its success in supporting localized community development, SOLARKIOSK has been nominated for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. “The Fuller Challenge was established to draw attention to a ‘whole systems’ approach to addressing some of the complex problems facing the world,” said Founding Director Elizabeth Thompson. “Fuller’s hypothesis was that integrated solutions that focus on root cause, and are designed to be models for replication elsewhere, lead to long lasting, transformational change.” The prize winner receives $100,000 in funding as well as inclusion in the Challenge’s Catalyst Program, which offers support in expanding the winner’s work. “Our criteria have been distilled from Fuller’s voluminous writings and talks about the fundamental principles of what he called design science,” said Thompson. “The program set a very high bar for what we are looking for, so the projects selected as semi-finalists, finalists, and winners are truly exceptional examples!” If it were to receive this award, SOLARKIOSK would be well-positioned to scale up its operations in the coming years. While the economic empowerment gained in a local community through the support of SOLARKIOSK is exceptional, the mission and impact is more than that. An E-HUBB is a center for the community, a gathering place around which people can share stories, build strong relationships, and find inspiration for a brighter future. + SOLARKIOSK + Buckminster Fuller Challenge

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SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

Germany unveils plans for the world’s largest EV charging station

September 14, 2017 by  
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As more people purchase electric vehicles (EVs) – and countries move to ban sales of gas-guzzling cars – the world will need more charging stations . German company Sortimo plans to build what’s been described as the world’s biggest EV fast-charging station – with 144 charging ports. It is slated for construction near the A8 highway in Germany . 4,000 cars a day could be charged at Innovationspark Zusmarshausen, Germany’s upcoming charging station, according to the company. 24 of the 144 charging ports could be supra-superchargers with charging capacities of 350 kilowatts (kW), which beats out the Tesla Supercharger with its capacity of around 150 kW. According to Sortimo, Innovationspark Zusmarshausen could offer savings of 29.5 million liters, or around 7.8 million gallons, of fuel , and could save nearly 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Related: This electric car charging tower can power up a dozen EVs at the same time Innovationspark Zusmarshausen goes beyond the typical vision of a gas station. According to FAZ, the station could also feature offices, shopping, and eateries; Sortimo said people could order food before they arrive so they could eat while their car charges. Commuters might be able to park and charge their vehicles simultaneously in DC parking, perhaps even while working in the offices onsite. Images of the planned station suggest it could be topped with green roofs , and Sortimo mentions in their press release that Innovationspark Zusmarshausen “is very close to nature and architecturally aware of the environment,” so they envision people resting in a park at the charging station as well. As you may have guessed, renewable energy is part of the plan for the massive charging station. Sortimo said solar power can be stored at the station and used during peak times “in a network of surrounding companies and private households.” The charging stations are also integrated into Innovationspark Zusmarshausen’s thermal station management, according to Sortimo, so waste heat can help supply the buildings. FAZ said engineering firm Steinbacher Consult is also behind the design, technology, and operation. A translated version of the German press release suggests the charging station, which is receiving support from the Ministry of Transport, will be constructed in 2018. Via Sortimo , FAZ , and CleanTechnica Images via Sortimo

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Germany unveils plans for the world’s largest EV charging station

Australias first carbon-positive and zero-waste home is built of non-toxic materials

September 14, 2017 by  
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Australia’s first carbon positive and zero waste home to achieve a “10 Star” energy rating has popped up in Cape Paterson, Victoria. Designed in collaboration with Clare Cousin Architects , this impressive dwelling is one of the latest projects produced by The Sociable Weaver , an innovative design and build company that creates affordable, beautiful, and sustainable architect-designed homes for the masses. The coastal home, called the ’10 Star Home’ after its energy rating, is naturally heated and cooled thanks to passive solar strategies and maintains comfortable indoor temperatures year-round, even in mid-winter. Built in the green coastal development The Cape, the 10 Star Home is permanently open to the public as a display home to educate architects, builders, and students on sustainable architecture . The Sociable Weaver and Clare Cousin Architects considered all aspects of the home, from the building materials to the bedsheets, to achieve their stringent requirements for sustainability, affordability, and social responsibility. The architects even worked with suppliers to reduce packaging delivered to the construction site, and recycled and reused material wherever possible, such as composting plasterboard off-cuts in the garden. A five-kilowatt rooftop solar panel powers the home, which experiences minimal energy loss thanks to superior under-slab insulation, industrial concrete floors that improve thermal mass, and double-glazed windows. The hardwood used is FSC-certified . Non-toxic materials line the interiors, from natural sealants and paints for the floors, walls, and ceilings, to organic and sustainable furnishings like the organic cotton bedding. The display home is fully furnished and decorated with hand-selected products that are stylish and beautiful, yet meet high environmental standards. Related: A Tiny Timber Box in a Tiny Urban Flat Makes Room for a Couple’s First Child In addition to environmentally conscious building practices, the 10 Star Home is designed to inspire a more sustainable lifestyle. The architects followed Building Biology principles to create an edible garden where occupants are encouraged to compost and grow their own food. To keep the home healthy and non-toxic, the 10 Star Home is also equipped with a “green switch” that turns off all power to the home, except for the fridge, so that occupants can reduce the impact of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) at night. “Through Life Cycle Analysis by eTool, modelling shows that over the lifetime of the home, the 10 Star Home will not only negate its carbon footprint but will positively exceed it,” said The Sociable Weaver, according to Dezeen . “This equates to 203 kilograms of carbon emissions saved per year per occupant, equivalent to planting 9.55 million trees or removing 48 million balloons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” + The Sociable Weaver + Clare Cousin Architects Via Dezeen Images via The Sociable Weaver

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Australias first carbon-positive and zero-waste home is built of non-toxic materials

How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

August 23, 2017 by  
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There’s more to oranges than juice! Back in the 1990’s, two ecologists suggested orange juice manufacturer Del Oro donate some of their land near a national park in Costa Rica ; in exchange, they’d be able to deposit agricultural waste for free on degraded land inside the park. Del Oro agreed and dumped 1,000 truckloads of orange pulp and peels on the land. Today, that area is a thriving forest . A Princeton University -led team of researchers journeyed to the forest to discover just how much that food trash transformed the forest – and how other businesses might do the same. Del Oro donated land to Área de Conservación Guanacaste at the suggestion of husband and wife ecologist team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, who’d worked as advisors at the park. The company unloaded around 12,000 metric tons of orange waste for biodegradation until rival company TicoFruit sued, saying Del Oro had defiled the park. TicoFruit won and the land went largely overlooked for over a decade. Related: 16-year-old South African girl invents drought-fighting super material from orange peels Years later, environmental researchers decided to evaluate the site. They discovered a lush forest that had a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass – what Princeton described as the trees’ wood – in the seven acres they studied. They also found a difference between areas where orange peels hadn’t been dumped and where they had – according to Princeton, the latter showed richer soil, greater tree-species richness, and more closure in the forest canopy. The researchers think regenerating forests with agricultural waste could help us sequester carbon . Princeton graduate student Timothy Treuer said in a statement, “This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration. It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park – it’s a win for everyone.” Princeton University ecologist David Wilcove thinks more businesses could help the environment in similar ways. He said while companies do generate environmental problems, “…an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the leftovers from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.” University of Pennsylvania , Beloit College , and University of Minnesota scientists joined the Princeton researchers to write a study published by the journal Restoration Ecology this week. Via Princeton Environmental Institute Images via Pixabay and Princeton University

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How orange peels helped barren land in Costa Rica spring back to life

NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

August 23, 2017 by  
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A new study from NASA’s Jet Propulsion unit has determined that the threat of a supervolcanic eruption to life on Earth may be more pressing than any interstellar collisions. An eruption of a supervolcano, like that found in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, could trigger a collapse of the global agricultural and economic systems and result in the deaths of potentially millions of people. Although NASA scientists can’t predict when such an event would occur, they have already begun preparing a preventative measure: drilling into the magma chamber of a supervolcano to cool it down. Although the potential consequences of a supervolcano eruption would be devastating, earthlings should rest easy knowing that the chance of such an eruption taking place this year is roughly 1-in-730,000. Even then, there is a chance that it could be nothing more than a little lava flow. Nonetheless, NASA scientists are preparing to deal with the problem before it happens. Related: World’s most active volcano harbors a tiny off-grid home—and you can stay overnight Magma eruptions occur only when it is thoroughly melted by intense heat; cooling magma down by 35 percent would prevent a supervolcano from erupting. To do this, the scientists envision using a drill to puncture above the chamber, where hydrothermal fluids are pushed to the surface. Adding water in this highly pressurized environment would be sufficient to cool the magma. To avoid fracturing the surrounding rock and potentially setting off an eruption, NASA scientists suggest drilling into the supervolcano from below. It is estimated that such a plan would cost around $3.5 billion, although governments would be encouraged to think of this as an investment : Excess heat could be captured and transformed into clean energy . Via IFLScience Lead image via Pixabay , others via Laineema/Flickr  and Peter Hartree/Flickr

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NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth

True North Detroit is an affordable live-work community made from prefab Quonset huts

August 23, 2017 by  
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A number of grassroots initiatives and organizations are revitalizing Detroit as a testing ground for urban innovation. Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 recognized the potential of the city’s underutilized community spaces and recently completed True North Detroit , a half-acre live-work community made from lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts. This small complex of nine vaulted buildings offers affordable housing for Detroit’s growing creative population. Located in the Core City neighborhood, about two and a half miles northwest of downtown, the community breathes new life into an area that consists mostly of vacant lots. Related: America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free “The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.” Related: These tiny houses help minimum wage workers become homeowners in Detroit The architects modified the original shape of the Quonset huts to create more elongated, higher spaces ideal for a variety of activities. The center island houses the kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities. This space is built from durable polycarbonate , while the rest of the structure has a more transparent envelope that allows natural light into the interior. Affordable materials and building methods were used in the construction of the apartments, which range from 475 to 1,600 square feet. + Edwin Chan + True North Detroit Via Archpaper

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True North Detroit is an affordable live-work community made from prefab Quonset huts

Researchers find sunscreen becomes toxic when exposed to chlorine

June 30, 2017 by  
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Most of us are quick to reach for our sunscreen before heading outdoors in the summer , but that might not be a great idea – especially for swimmers. New research reveals that sunscreen becomes toxic when exposed to chlorine, sometimes resulting in kidney and liver dysfunctions, as well as nervous system disorders. The study, conducted by Lomonosov Moscow State University, was published in the journal Chemosphere . The researchers were reportedly stunned to discover that chlorine — a chemical commonly used in the US and UK to disinfect water by killing bacteria — breaks down suncream into other potentially-hazardous chemicals. Specifically, the ingredient Avobenzone is what breaks down into hazardous components when mixed with chlorinated water. As Phys.org reports , Avobenzone was approved by the FDA in 1988 due to its ability to absorb ultraviolet light by converting the energy of the light into thermal energy . Every year, it is regularly applied by millions of people worldwide — a fact which makes this finding so concerning. Related: Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens Dr. Albert Lebedev, the study’s author, said, “On the basis of the experiments one could make a conclusion that a generally safe compound transforms in the water and forms more dangerous products. In spite of the fact that there are no precise toxicological profiles for the most established products, it’s known that acetyl benzenes and phenols, especially chlorinated ones, are quite toxic .” Scientists are now looking into a suitable alternative for avobenzone that won’t break down when exposed to chlorination or bromination of fresh and sea water. “Studying the products of transformation of any popular cosmetics is very important as very often they turn out to be much more toxic and dangerous than their predecessors,” said Lebedeve. “In principle, basing on such researches, one could obtain results, which could restrict or even put under a ban the usage of one or another product, and preserve health of millions of people.” Via Express.co.uk , Phys Images via Pixabay , SheKnows

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Researchers find sunscreen becomes toxic when exposed to chlorine

MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

June 13, 2017 by  
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Steel and glass manufacturing generates large amounts of waste heat that’s not easy to capture – devices that do the job are either prohibitively expensive or don’t work in the requisite high temperatures. But a team of three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a device that solves both issues at once. The high-temperature liquid thermoelectric device, which converts industrial waste heat into energy , could be a game-changer. Converting waste heat to electricity is often accomplished through solid-state thermoelectric devices, but at certain high temperatures they just don’t work, or are so expensive they can’t be used in much other than spaceships. In contrast, the MIT liquid thermoelectric device could pave the way for affordable conversion of waste heat into electricity. It includes a molten compound of tin and sulfur much cheaper than the solid-state bismuth telluride found in many commercial thermoelectric devices. That material is around 150 times more expensive than tin sulfide per cubic meter, according to MIT, and it only operates at temperatures of around 500 degrees Celsius. Related: Tiny thermophotovoltaic device harvests energy from infrared wavelengths The new MIT device, built by graduate student Youyang Zhao, operates at temperatures of 950 to 1,074 degrees Celsius. And as he changed the temperatures in which the device operated, he saw no significant performance drop. The researchers, however, don’t think most glass or steel plants would adopt the device simply to save the planet. But assistant professor of metallurgy Antoine Allanore, of whose research group Zhao is a part, said they might be interested if heat management could enable them to operate at even higher temperatures – allowing them to increase productivity or lengthen the lifespan of their equipment. According to MIT, thanks to the molten compounds in the new device, managing heat at high temperatures is now a possibility. The two scientists were joined by recent PhD graduate Charles Rinzler for a paper published by ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology . Via MIT News Images via Youyang Zhao and Denis Paiste/Materials Processing Center

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MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

One of the world’s most remote islands is also the most polluted

May 16, 2017 by  
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There’s a lonely island in the Pacific Ocean that has no human inhabitants, yet it’s completely covered in trash. Henderson Island is so remote, humans only visit it for research every five to 10 years. But the island is also home to the highest density of plastic debris found anywhere on Earth, according to the University of Tasmania . Scientists found the island’s beaches are polluted with around 671 pieces of trash per 10 square feet. No humans live on Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands that are British territories in the southern Pacific Ocean. Henderson Island is 3,106 miles away from the closest major population center. But it’s located near the middle of the South Pacific Gyre ocean current, and waste from South America rolls up on its shores. Jennifer Lavers of the university and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds , with colleague Alexander Bond, recently found an estimated 37.7 pieces of plastic on the remote island. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Lavers said, “What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans .” The research was published online yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America . The amount of trash shocked Lavers, who told The Guardian she’s seen plastic pollution around the world but still expected Henderson’s remote location to provide it some protection. Instead, she found a staggering amount of garbage and hundreds of crabs dwelling in our trash. She told The Guardian, “This plastic is old, it’s brittle, it’s sharp, it’s toxic. It was really quite tragic seeing these gorgeous crabs scuttling about, living in our waste.” She estimates 3,570 new pieces of trash wash up on Henderson Island every single day on just one of the island’s beaches. Around 17 metric tons of plastic has likely been deposited on the island, based on sampling at five different sites. She said 55 percent of the seabirds in the world are at risk – two of the species at risk live on Henderson. Via the University of Tasmania and The Guardian Images via Jennifer Lavers/University of Tasmania and Wikimedia Commons

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One of the world’s most remote islands is also the most polluted

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