Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing "bat-friendly" streetlights

June 7, 2018 by  
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Street lighting can impact bats’ feeding patterns and internal compasses, as well as the activity of their insect prey, but a town in the Netherlands is taking steps to help the bats out. Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop , a housing development of around 90 sustainable homes near the Nieuwkoopse Plassen nature reserve, has installed what are thought to be the world’s first bat-friendly streetlights. The red LED  lights from Signify , formerly Philips Lighting, brighten the road for humans, but the the bats still perceive the light as darkness. The town and surrounding area are part of the Natura 2000 , a network of nesting and breeding sites for rare and threatened species across the European Union. These sites don’t all exclude human activities; in fact, most of the land is privately owned. The approach to conservation on these sites revolves around “people working with nature rather than against it,” according to the European Commission. Related: Bat bridge provides shelter for our winged friends in the Dutch town of Monster Bat-friendly lighting could fit that bill. Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop , according to Signify, is a key feeding ground “for some rare bat species.” The energy-efficient streetlights emit red with a wavelength that won’t interfere with the flying mammals’ internal compasses. The lighting is based on 2017 research from Wageningen University , the Netherlands Institute of Ecology , and Philips Lighting. Nieuwkoop city council member Guus Elkhuizen said, “Nieuwkoop is the first town in the world to use smart LED street lights that are designed to be friendly to bats. When developing our unique housing program, our goal was to make the project as sustainable as possible, while preserving our local bat species with minimal impact to their habitat and activities. We’ve managed to do this and also keep our carbon footprint and energy consumption to a minimum.” + Signify + Zuidhoek Nieuwkoop Images courtesy of Signify

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Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing "bat-friendly" streetlights

Breakthrough device is ‘100% successful’ in protecting swimmers from sharks

April 11, 2018 by  
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Though it may not feel it in some places, summer is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere and with warmer weather comes a rise in shark attacks. To protect swimmers and surfers from oceanic predators, scientists in Australia have developed a surfboard with LED lights on the underside that may deter shark attacks. In studying the ways in which sharks see and interact with the world around them, the research team at Macquarie University uncovered a surprisingly simple method to hide the silhouettes of surfers from sharks below that has so far proven to be “100% successful” in trials. “Pure basic research can sometimes lead to unexpected applications and potentially contribute to life-saving technology,” study leader Dr. Nathan Hart told the  Macquarie Lighthouse . “Studying the sensory systems of sharks and what triggers them to attack, and how they might mistake a human for a seal was where it all started,” Hart says. “It’s taken us to the forefront of developing shark deterrents.” Initial testing of the light-up surfboards in South Africa have shown promising results and the research team is now working with the Taronga Zoo, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and a commercial partner to develop a market-ready product. “The designs we have tested have been 100 percent successful in preventing Great white sharks from attacking,” Professor Nathan Hart, associate professor of comparative neurophysiology at Macquarie, said in an interview with The Australian . Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth The well-lit surfboard as shark deterrent was informed by observations of the natural world. “This strategy is a common strategy used by midwater fish, which are trying to avoid predators swimming below them,” Hart told ABC . “Some of these fish have light-emitting organs on their underside, which put out light and help them to camouflage themselves from the light coming from above. Technology and engineering take inspiration from nature, so we’re really trying to use that inspiration that has evolved over many millions of years, and apply that to a very modern problem.” The team expects to continue their research for the next two years before finalizing a product that can be used by the public. Via Australian Broadcasting Corporation Images via Depositphotos and  Macquarie Lighthouse

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Breakthrough device is ‘100% successful’ in protecting swimmers from sharks

This secret tiny house in the Belgian countryside could be yours for the weekend

April 11, 2018 by  
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We’ve seen lots of tiny house rentals that offer the chance to get away from it all – but this new service adds a touch of mystery to the experience. Slow Cabins rents tiny houses set in idyllic locations across Belgium, with one catch–their locations are only revealed after the reservation is made. By keeping the location of the rental a mystery, the company removes all of the stress when it comes to planning relaxing, off-grid getaways. Slow Cabins is the brainchild of entrepreneur Xavier Leclair. The service offers solar-powered wooden cabins with built-in rainwater collection and filtration systems, as well as dry toilets. The cabins come in two sizes: one size for couples and a family size that sleeps up to five people. Regardless of model, the cabins are designed to provide a healthy atmosphere built with a small deck to enjoy the natural surroundings. Related: Escape the city in this new Harvard startup’s affordable tiny home rentals near NYC The interiors have been left as “raw” as possible. Wooden floors and walls keep the cabins rustic, and blonde wooden furniture provides a minimalist, Scandinavian feel. The furnishings are simple, with a wood-burning stove to keep guests warm during the chilly nights. Renters looking for a relaxing getaway have no absolutely no say in the location, but are guaranteed a complete, off-grid , back-to-nature vacation in a truly picturesque setting. The cabins have no WiFi or TV; instead, they feature large insulated windows that let the renters enjoy views of the idyllic fields and forest landscape. + Slow Cabins Via The Spaces Photography by Jonas Verhulst / Slow Cabin

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This secret tiny house in the Belgian countryside could be yours for the weekend

Scientists aim to use lasers to turn light into matter

March 20, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Imperial College London are attempting to use powerful lasers turn light into matter, potentially proving the 84-year-old theory known as the Breit-Wheeler process . According to this theory, it is technically possible to turn light into matter by smashing two photons to create a positron and an electron. While previous efforts to achieve this feat have required added high-energy particles, the Imperial scientists believe they have discovered a method that does not need additional energy to function. “This would be a pure demonstration of Einstein’s famous equation that relates energy and mass: E=mc2, which tells us how much energy is produced when matter is turned to energy,” explained Imperial Professor Steven Rose . “What we are doing is the same but backwards: turning photon energy into mass, i.e. m=E/c2.” The Imperial team’s system centers around two lasers , which create two different kinds of photons to be smashed. One photon has the energy equivalent to ten thousand times that produced by visible light, while the other has that of one billion times that of visible light. Both lasers are aimed at two small targets in the target chamber, where the charged particles are deflected and documented. The team will be observing the particles bouncing from the collision to see if they were successful in creating matter from light . Related: New quantum tunneling application captures electricity from Earth’s heat If the scientists successfully convert light into matter , they will have proven an old theory once thought impossible to confirm while offering a glimpse into the earliest moments of our universe. “When Gregory Breit and John Wheeler first proposed the mechanism in 1934, they used the then new theory of the interaction between light and matter known as quantum electrodynamics (QED),” explained study co-leader Dr. Stuart Mangles. “Whereas every other fundamental prediction of QED has since been demonstrated experimentally, the ‘two-photon Breit-Wheeler process’ has never been seen. If we can demonstrate it now, we would be recreating a process that was important in the first 100 seconds of the universe and that is also seen in gamma ray bursts, which are the biggest explosions in the universe and one of physics ‘ greatest unsolved mysteries.” Via Phys.org Images via Imperial College London

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Scientists aim to use lasers to turn light into matter

Greenery fills this sustainable glass-and-timber tower planned for Oslo

January 25, 2018 by  
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Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS and C.F Møller Arkitekter have won a design competition for a stunning new cultural hub set to rise in Oslo. The project, called Nordic Light, comprises a master plan for the area and a modular glass-enclosed timber tower that will further develop the Oslo Central Station area into Norway’s largest mixed-use hub. The renderings show Nordic Light with greenery growing inside and out of the building on multiple levels as part of the architects’ sustainable vision for the tower, which will aim for BREEAM Excellent certification. Created for Fjordporten Oslo S, Nordic Light is designed to revitalize the area around the main train station with new publicly accessible cultural, retail, and dining facilities. The project will consist of four main elements: the area around the 19th-century station, a cultural and conference base, a pergola that links Queen Eufemia’s Street with the station, and the modular tower housing hotels and offices. The timber structure will be wrapped in a transparent glass facade allowing views of large trees and plants that will grow inside the building at multiple levels. The building will be designed to BREEAM Excellent with a focus on life cycle costing and life cycle assessment to inform sustainable building decisions. Related: Northern Europe’s largest aquarium unveiled for former Oslo airport site “‘Nordic light’ takes its strength from a controlled and careful form expression,” said the jury. “The project’s proposed integration with the station areas and the overall draft of the blueprint will help to further develop Oslo S as the country’s largest collective hub, and will offer the travellers great new spatial and qualitative experiences. The project showcases good solutions for the design and connection of the adjacent spaces to the project. The architect’s approach provides a good potential for the rehabilitation and enhancement of the protected Østbanen structure, and will give it a central role as part of the station’s future visual identity.” + Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS + C.F Møller Arkitekter Images by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter AS and C.F Møller Arkitekter

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Greenery fills this sustainable glass-and-timber tower planned for Oslo

Shimmering bamboo-shaped skyscraper to rise in Taipei

January 25, 2018 by  
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Move over Taipei 101—a new green-glass skyscraper will soon transform the city skyline. Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners (ACPV) unveiled designs for the Taipei Sky Tower, a 280-meter-tall building that, like Taiwan’s tallest tower , draws design inspiration from bamboo shoots. The luxury mixed-use development will house two Hyatt-branded luxury hotels—Park Hyatt Taipei and Andaz Taipei. Commissioned by Riant Capital Limited, ACPV’s Taipei Sky Tower design was selected from a shortlist of seven international firms. Billed as “Taiwan’s first large-scale lifestyle-driven development,” the sleek 54-story tower will be set in Xinyi, the city’s financial district flush with new modern construction projects, including the carbon-absorbing Agora Garden . In addition to Taipei Sky Tower’s two hotels, the mixed-use building will also feature a luxury retail podium. Related: Vincent Callebaut’s twisting carbon-absorbing skyscraper nears completion in Taipei Taipei Sky Tower will feature curved edges, a segmented facade, and an angled roofline to mimic a bamboo shoot with notched sections. The design also draws inspiration from the pleats of Greek columns. “ACPV aims to create an ultra-modern 280 -meter tall skyscraper by blending some of the oldest elements from the East and West in modern harmony,” reads a press release. ACPV will lead the design for Park Hyatt Taipei, while the design for Andaz will be given over to Neri&Hu . The project is slated for completion in 2020. + Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners Via Dezeen Images via Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners

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Shimmering bamboo-shaped skyscraper to rise in Taipei

Specially structured bird of paradise feathers function like a "black hole"

January 15, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered that bird of paradise feathers are physically structured in such a way as to absorb nearly all light that reaches them, much like a black hole. Viewers of the acclaimed nature documentary series Planet Earth may recall the bird of paradise from its featured segment, in which male members of the species display their pitch-black feathers, punctuated with spots of vibrant color, while they dance in hopes of attracting a mate. These feathers are not simply a darker shade of black. In fact, their physical structure enables a level of near-total light absorption that is rare in the animal kingdom. Optical measurements of the bird of paradise feathers indicate that they are capable of absorbing 99.95% of light that reaches it, a similar level of light absorption to man-made ultra-black materials such as the lining of telescopes. “ Evolution sometimes ends up with the same solutions as humans,” said senior author and Yale professor Rick Prum, according to Phys.org . The super-black feathers, coupled with patches of bright color, function as an evolved optical illusion. “An apple looks red to us whether it is sitting in the bright sunlight or in the shade because all vertebrate eyes and brains have special wiring to adjust their perception of the world according to ambient light,” said co-lead author Dakota “Cody” McCoy. “Birds of paradise, with their super-black plumage, increase the brilliance of adjacent colors to our eyes, just as we perceive the red even though the apple is in the shade.” Related: Birds that escape from captivity teach wild birds how to speak (and swear) in English The difference between regular feathers and super-black feathers is found in the structure of the main stem and barbs in the feather. Where regular feather has single barbs attached to the main stem, super-black feathers have many spines that serve to create a dense thicket of feathers. “When you have no flat surfaces, the light gets completely absorbed by the feather,” said McCoy, according to Gizmodo . While these feathers are unusually effective at absorbing light , the light-absorption effect is most strong when seen from directly ahead. Still, the biologically developed super-blackness may offer lessons to engineering humans. “Sexual selection has produced some of the most remarkable traits in nature,” Prum said, according to Phys.org . “Hopefully, engineers can use what the bird of paradise teaches us to improve our own human technologies as well.” Via Gizmodo and Phys.org Images via Ed Shoales/Birds-of-Paradise Project and Yale University

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Specially structured bird of paradise feathers function like a "black hole"

Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

January 15, 2018 by  
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Denmark is cleaning up the United State’s mess – literally. Half a century ago, the US abandoned several military bases in Greenland, leaving behind toxic pollution . Now, the Danish government announced that it will foot the bill to clean it up, to the tune of $30 million dollars. After World War II , the US didn’t need it’s Greenland military bases anymore, so it abandoned them without cleaning up after themselves. Since then, Greenland has petitioned Denmark, which controlled the island as a colony during WWII, to clean up the pollution or request that the US do so. It appears that Denmark has opted for the former, and they signed a document last week committing to the cleanup process. Related: Greenland’s ice is melting faster than previously thought Although the extent of the remaining pollution remains unclear, it includes things like 100,000 oil drums at one airfield. Other bases contain radioactive and toxic materials, but those bases aren’t covered under this agreement. The current funding likely won’t cover the entire cleanup efforts, but Denmark has stated that it will make more money available if necessary. For now, specialists will take a look at the sites and determine just how much cleanup is necessary. Via Arctic Now Images via Wikimedia ( 1 , 2 )

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Denmark is cleaning up US pollution in Greenland

New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency

January 3, 2018 by  
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Researchers at an American national laboratory have now employed quantum dots for double-pane solar windows that offer shading, insulation, and, of course, generate energy – with greater efficiency. The Los Alamos National Laboratory team drew on a new window architecture utilizing two layers of low-priced quantum dots, tuned to take in distinct parts of the solar spectrum. The double-pane windows were equipped with manganese-doped quantum dots, absorbing blue and ultraviolet, on the surface of the front glass pane, and copper indium selenide quantum dots, absorbing the rest of the spectrum, on the back pane’s surface. Once light is absorbed, dots re-emit it at a longer wavelength. Total internal reflection guides the light to the edges, where it can be gathered and turned into power by solar cells in the window frame. Related: National laboratory scales up quantum-dot solar windows that can power entire buildings Solar-spectrum splitting – in which higher- and lower-energy solar photons can be processed separately – is key to the research, according to Los Alamos. And the dots in the front layer are essentially reabsorption free, which the laboratory said the team accomplished by incorporating into quantum dots manganese ions “that serve as highly emissive impurities. Light absorbed by the quantum dots activates these impurities. Following activation, the manganese ions emit light at energies below the quantum-dot absorption onset. This trick allows for almost complete elimination of losses due to self-absorption by the quantum dots.” The journal Nature Photonics published the research online on New Year’s Day. Per the article’s abstract, the researchers’ prototype “exhibits a high optical quantum efficiency of 6.4 percent for sunlight illumination and solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiency of 3.1 percent. The efficiency gains due to the tandem architecture over single-layer devices quickly increases with increasing LSC [luminescent solar concentrator] size and can reach more than 100 percent in structures with window sizes of more than 2,500 centimeters squared.” Double-pane quantum dot solar window research could lower the cost of solar power , according to lead researcher Victor Klimov, who said in a statement , “Because of the strong performance we can achieve with low-cost, solution processable materials, these quantum-dot-based double-pane windows and even more complex luminescent solar concentrators offer a new way to bring down the cost of solar electricity.” Via Los Alamos National Laboratory Images via Los Alamos National Laboratory Twitter and Depositphotos

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New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency

Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you thought Microsoft’s awesome treehouse offices were the ultimate step in the tech giant’s efforts to make its employees a top priority, think again. The tech giant just announced that it will be razing its 500-acre Redmond campus in order to construct a sustainable Microsoft mini city, complete with 18 new buildings, a two-acre open plaza , retail space, jogging and walking trails, two soccer fields, a cricket field, and its own light rail station. According to the company, the expansive campus, which will be divided into “team neighborhoods”, will be focused on providing a “more open and less formal” working environment. Inside, the spaces will be filled with social hubs and light-filled offices, but the new layout will be primarily focused on providing plenty of outdoor and recreational space for the employees. Once complete, the campus will have 18 new buildings, offering workspace for the 47,000 employees that currently work on site, as well as extra room for an additional 8,000 people. The Redmond campus is already a Zero Waste Certified campus, but will be renovated with increased waste-reduction initiatives . Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air As part of the green transportation focus, all of the cars will be parked in an underground parking lot, so that above ground, the employees can travel by foot, bike or, eventually, by a light rail system scheduled for completion in 2023. As part of the green transportation focus, a new foot and bike bridge will be built over the WA-520 in order to connect both sides of its campus. This will connect with a planned Redmond Technology Transit Station where the Link Light Rail is expected to arrive in 2023. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project will run approximately $150m, and expects the rebuild to create 2,500 construction and development jobs.”We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact,” explained Smith in the announcement. + Microsoft blog Via ZD Net Images via Microsoft

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Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

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