How termites draw on solar power for climate control

September 22, 2017 by  
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Termite mounds could hold clues to passive climate control , according to new research. Seven scientists scrutinized African termite mounds to see how they keep their homes cool in the sun while maintaining a uniform concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers have looked at south Asian termite mounds in the past, but those are often more shaded; they say uncovering the secrets of African termite mounds could lead to energy-efficient building ideas. Termite mounds are impressive not only because the creatures that construct them are so small, but because they naturally maintain a comfortable temperature – no air conditioner necessary. Researchers led by Samuel Ocko, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, dug further into climate control in termite mounds, specifically those of the Macrotermes michaelseni termite in Namibia . Their mounds can be around 10 feet high, with millions of workers residing inside. Related: BIOMIMETIC ARCHITECTURE: Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite Mounds Ocko and his team measured air velocities and temperatures in the mound over 35 days in Namibia’s autumn and found even though temperatures outside the mound changed by 27 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, inside temperatures only varied by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The termites drew on the sun more than wind to achieve climate control. According to IFLScience, convection from the temperature gradient between outside the mounds and their centers drove smooth airflow. During 24 hours, CO2 levels stayed around five percent. The mounds have holes that can be up to 0.2 inches in diameter, which IFLScience said creates an array of tunnels and allows for gas exchange. They said the mounds also lean towards the equator. CO2 levels vary more in Indian mounds during the day, while temperatures remain even. African mounds have large thermal gradients between the center and the sun-facing side. The researchers said in their paper abstract that even though African and Indian mounds differ, they can harness periodic solar heating for ventilation ; they said the system functions like as an external lung. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research this year. Ocko was joined by scientists at institutions in the United States, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Via IFLScience Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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How termites draw on solar power for climate control

Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

September 22, 2017 by  
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Astronomers recently observed a type of object in space unlike anything we’ve come across before. 288P is a binary asteroid – or two asteroids orbiting one other – that has features similar to a comet , like a long tail and bright coma, or cloud of dust and gas surrounding a comet’s nucleus. It is the first binary asteroid we’ve ever found that can also be classified as a comet. Scientists learned of 288P’s existence in 2011, but they weren’t able to really scrutinize the binary asteroid – it was too far away – until recently when it came a little closer to Earth. Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope , a group of scientists led by Jessica Agarwal at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany were able to get a better look at the strange system. Related: Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is “darker than asphalt” 288P is a main-belt comet as it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter . Each of the two pieces that make up 288P are about 0.6 miles in diameter, and the research institute said they are unusually far apart: they’re orbiting one another at a distance of around 62 miles. The astronomers also observed ongoing activity in 288P. Agarwal said, “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating – similar to how the tail of a comet is created.” 288P has probably been a binary system for just around 5,000 years. And according to Hubble’s website, we’re not likely to find any more objects like 288P for a long time, since finding the binary main-belt comet “included a lot of luck.” The journal Nature published the research online earlier this week. Agarwal was joined by four other researchers from institutions in the United States. Via Hubble Space Telescope and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research Images via ESA/Hubble, L. Calçada and ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

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Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

September 22, 2017 by  
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Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has announced plans to sign the Paris Accord, leaving President Trump alone with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as the two remaining national heads refusing to support the international agreement. In December of 2015, the leaders of nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce global greenhouse emissions and prevent climate change from worsening – including former president Barack Obama. But Trump refused has reneged on that commitment, formerly claiming climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. According to a report by Managua-based television station 100% Noticias, Ortega said on September 18, “We will soon adhere, we will sign the Paris Agreement. We have already had meetings addressing the issue and we have already programmed the accession.” The Central American nation originally opposed signing the Paris Accord because the goals in the text “did not go far enough.” To elaborate, it had been confirmed by scientists that emissions levels from some of the top polluters — including the US, EU, China, and India — were not low enough to prevent sea levels from rising or to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. As a result, Nicaragua abstained. President Trump has said he will withdraw the US from the historic accord. Despite receiving an environmental encyclical from the Pope himself and being informed by a variety of scientists about the dangers of climate change , he said the action for the US by an executive order which Obama signed while in office puts American workers in the steel, coal and other manufacturing industries at an “economic disadvantage.” Related: Hundreds of Dead Sea Turtles Wash Up on Nicaragua’s West Coast Nicaragua has been a haven for renewable energy . More than half of the country’s energy is sourced from geothermic, wind, solar and wave energy. Nicaragua plans to increase that to 90 percent by 2020. The World Bank referred to the country as “a renewable energy paradise” four years ago. Because the agreement will not go into effect until 2020, Nicaragua has until then to draft a required national action plan and to formalize it into law. No date has yet been set for the signing. Via The Independent Images via Pixabay

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Nicaragua joins Paris Accord, leaving the US and Syria as lone dissenters

The mystery of Namibia’s desert fairy circles may have been solved

January 19, 2017 by  
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The truth is out there… in Namibia .  Inhabitat previously reported on the mysterious “fairy circles” that have appeared without explanation in the Namib Desert for millennia. Over the past several decades, scientists have sought to uncover what exactly is causing this mysterious phenomenon. Although recent theories have centered on local termites, scientists had been unable to determine how exactly these creatures created the fairy circles over such a wide range range. The most recent explanation points to aggressive desert plants that fill ecological gaps left by colonizing termites. The fairy circles appear as patches of barren land between seven and 50 feet in diameter that are defined as circular by a ring of prominent grass growth around the edge. Until recently, this was thought to be a uniquely African phenomenon. However, similar examples have been found in the Pilbara region in Western Australia . According to myths of the local Himba people, the fairy circles were created by Mukuru, their original ancestor, or are footprints of the gods. Some local tour guides also promote the legend that the circles are created by a dragon , whose poisonous breath kills the central vegetation. Related: How one researcher is hoping to tap into the life-saving secrets of fog and dew Ecologists at Princeton University used computer models to test the termite hypothesis, which posits that sand termites eat the roots of low-laying vegetation and allow for more moisture below the surface and barrenness above. In the computer simulations, the mounds only formed where termite colonies of similar size confronted each other and settled on a border. “The termites start with their own mound and go out and forage,” said Princeton researcher Corina Tarnita. “If they find a smaller colony, they simply kill it and expand their own territory. But if they run into a colony that is about the same size, they cannot do that, and end up with a boundary where there’s permanent conflict, but not a full-blown war.” Tarnita’s updated computer model took into account the natural competition that exists between desert plants. While rooted desert plants can initially provide shade and moisture for other plants, they eventually spread, pulling more water for themselves and away from more distant plants. “You find a much smaller scale pattern that’s driven by the plants self-organising in response to water,” Tarnita said. Although the researchers do not claim to have a definitive explanation of the fairy circles, their computer models seem to provide the most likely explanation. “We get a much more complete description of the patterns.” The fairy circles may appear to be supernatural, but their existence is a result of identifiable natural forces. “One of the most striking things about nature is that despite the complexity of all of its interactions and the many processes that act simultaneously, sometimes, and more often than we expected, you find these amazing regularities.” Via the Guardian Images via  Vernon Swanepoel/Flickr   (1)

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The mystery of Namibia’s desert fairy circles may have been solved

U.S. approves $350,000 hunt of endangered black rhino in Namibia

March 27, 2015 by  
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Federal authorities have granted permission to an American hunter to kill an endangered  black rhino in Namibia, and then bring the so-called trophy back to the United States. This is the most recent development in a saga that began nearly two years ago, when the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt the endangered creature. The winning bidder paid $350,000 for the chance to bag a Black Rhino, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  (USFWS) initially denied his request to bring the dead animal back to the U.S. However, upon determining that the proceeds from the auction and subsequent hunt will go towards conservation efforts, the agency has  given the go-ahead . Read the rest of U.S. approves $350,000 hunt of endangered black rhino in Namibia Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: black rhino , dallas safari club , East africa , endangered , extinct , fish and wildlife service usfws , hunt , hunting , namibia , permits , poach , rhino , texas

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U.S. approves $350,000 hunt of endangered black rhino in Namibia

The world’s first functional ‘human-powered’ cardboard treadmill is a confusing feat

March 27, 2015 by  
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Click here to view the embedded video. We’ve seen cardboard bikes , surfboards and a huge amount of cardboard furniture , but in what must be a world-first, Lue Nuwame—better known as Homemade Game Guru—has created a cardboard treadmill . And it works! Sort of. Built for a fraction of the cost of a regular motorized treadmill, the cardboard version is fully able to withstand the weight of adult human foot fall, and its tread does—somewhat—spin with the runner. Read the rest of The world’s first functional ‘human-powered’ cardboard treadmill is a confusing feat Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: cardboard furniture , cardboard treadmill , DIY , extreme cardboarding , fitness , green health , Health , homemade game guru , lue nuwame , maker , Paper , recyclable , Recycled Materials

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The world’s first functional ‘human-powered’ cardboard treadmill is a confusing feat

Sand-Brick Sossusvlei Lodge in the Namib Desert Protects the Land, People and Wildlife

December 9, 2011 by  
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Read the rest of Sand-Brick Sossusvlei Lodge in the Namib Desert Protects the Land, People and Wildlife Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “natural materials” , And Beyond , eco building , eco design , eco-tourism , Green Building , green design , locally sourced materials , Namib Desert , namibia , small carbon footprint , Sossusvlei , Sossusvlei Desert Lodge , sustainable design

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Sand-Brick Sossusvlei Lodge in the Namib Desert Protects the Land, People and Wildlife

US Unveils First Emission and Fuel Standards for Trucks, Buses

October 25, 2010 by  
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The Obama administration today took the wraps off its proposed national standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency for heavy duty trucks and buses — the first measures for such vehicles in the U.S.

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US Unveils First Emission and Fuel Standards for Trucks, Buses

What Saving Lions Can Teach Us About Green Business

October 25, 2010 by  
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The experience of one scientist in Namibia in resettling lions in a populated area sheds light on how to manage change — and resistance to change — in order to sell green projects at your company.

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What Saving Lions Can Teach Us About Green Business

Gifts From the Sea: Whale Turbines, Mussel Glue, Lobster Vision

October 25, 2010 by  
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The oceans have inspired numerous biomimetic innovations. One simply couldn’t dream up all the fantastic shapes, behaviors and strategies that have resulted from these demanding and alien conditions

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Gifts From the Sea: Whale Turbines, Mussel Glue, Lobster Vision

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