Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

April 6, 2018 by  
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In his book first published as  Walden; or, Life in the Woods , transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau reflected on living simply in green spaces while cultivating self-sufficiency and carefully observing the natural world. His reflections were informed by his experiences living in a cabin near the edge of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts . Today, Walden Pond remains a cherished local landmark, where people enjoy hiking and swimming. However, since Thoreau’s time, Walden Pond has suffered from climate change,  erosion  and even human pee. In the mid-1800s, Thoreau described the “crystalline purity” of the water in Walden Pond, a characteristic still observable today. However, that may soon change as the effects of climate change take hold. In  a recently published paper on the environmental health of Walden Pond , researchers concluded that major changes in the algal content of the lake began in the 20th century and continue to threaten it today. According to the paper, “The sediment darkening and high percentages of [ algae ] in the recent sediments of Walden Pond … indicate not only that the lake ecosystem is now quite different from that described by Thoreau but also that it may be primed for more severe reductions in water clarity in a warming future.” Related: Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock As global temperatures continue to rise , more people looking for relief from the humid summer weather in Massachusetts may find their way into the pond for a refreshing dip. Researchers concluded that more than half of the phosphorous content in the pond “may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers.” The good news is that Walden Pond has seen its environmental health improve in recent decades. However, vigilance is necessary to preserve Walden for future generations. Via The Guardian Images via Ekabhishek , Terryballard and Cbaile19

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Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

April 6, 2018 by  
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We’ve all heard of the companies promising to launch humans on trips to space , but have you thought about where you will stay once you get there? Startup Orion Span thinks they have the answer – and they’re planning to launch a luxury space hotel into orbit in the next few years. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, start saving your pennies – a 12-night stay will set you back a mere $9.5 million PER PERSON. But don’t worry, the price includes transportation, food and drinks, and a three-month training course. The Aurora Station hotel will be able to accommodate four guests at a time, plus two crew members. The station will float above the Earth in low orbit (about 200 miles above the planet – 50 miles below the ISS) and the company claims it will be ready to start hosting guests by 2022. That’s extremely soon – keep in mind that other companies have set lofty goals for space hotels that didn’t quite get realized . The company plans to start with one station and expand as demand grows. If you want to book your stay right away, 80k will hold you a spot until the hotel is built and launched. Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Speaking of, Orion Span hasn’t provided much in the way of details for its space hotel. For instance, the company says it plans to manufacture the station at a Houston facility that hasn’t been built yet. Nor has it disclosed how it plans to transport people to the station – it seems likely that it will team up with one of the companies who is developing private space travel. Even still, it’s a pretty exciting idea, and not a bad price considering that it costs $81 million for an astronaut to hitch a ride to the ISS on a Russian rocket. Via Engadget Images via Orion Span

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Treasure trove of Triassic fossils found at Bears Ears

February 26, 2018 by  
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What may perhaps be the world’s greatest cache of Triassic-era fossils was discovered by scientists at Utah ‘s Bears Ears National Monument, which recently lost its protected status. Despite vociferous opposition from the Native community and environmentalists, President Trump issued an order in December that shrunk the Monument, which was established by President Obama in late 2016, by 85 percent. This monumental fossil discovery is a reminder of what we stand to lose if protections and support for public land are dismantled. Looting, oil and gas extraction, and loss of essential research funding are just some of the potential consequences that researchers are contending with at Bears Ears and other formerly protected sites. The site itself represents a rare, rich look into our planet’s distant past.“Based on our small, initial excavation, we believe that this 69-yard site may be the densest area of Triassic period fossils in the nation, maybe the world,” paleontologist Rob Gay said . “If this site can be fully excavated, it is likely that we will find many other intact specimens, and quite possibly even new vertebrate species.” Unfortunately, Gay’s team is at risk of losing funding from the Bureau of Land Management, which supported the team’s 2017 dig but no longer has jurisdiction over what was Bears Ears . Related: Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments Despite previous protections, the fossils were not entirely unscathed. “It is extremely rare to find intact fossil skulls of specimens from this period,” Gay said. “It is rarer still to recover fossils that have been looted, which was the case with one specimen that was missing a portion of its skull. We did a little more digging before realizing this site had been looted by someone without a permit for this kind of fossil removal.” Nonetheless, the protection granted through National Monument status is key to protecting sites of scientific, cultural, and scenic importance. “That President Trump acted to revoke protections for these lands is outrageous,” said Scott Miller of the Wilderness Society,  “and that he did so despite the Department of the Interior knowing of this amazing discovery is even more shocking. I hope the courts will act quickly to restore protections for Bears Ears National Monument before any more fossils are looted from the area and lost to science .” Via Washington Post Images via The Wilderness Society

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Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s supervolcano

February 22, 2018 by  
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Since the start of February, Yellowstone National Park and its supervolcano have been hit with a wave of at least 20 earthquakes and a number of smaller tremors. Although the largest earthquake only registered a 2.9 on the Richter scale and all have struck about five miles below the Earth’s surface, this so-called earthquake swarm is noteworthy, though likely not reason for alarm. “While it may seem worrisome, the current seismicity is relatively weak and actually represents an opportunity to learn more about Yellowstone,” wrote researchers Michael Poland and Jamie Farrell for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory . “It is during periods of change when scientists can develop, test, and refine their models of how the Yellowstone volcanic system works.” Though the name may conjure images of aggressive insects , earthquake swarms are actually a fairly common, benign occurrence at Yellowstone. The largest earthquake storm came in 1985, when more than 3,000 earthquakes struck Yellowstone over several months. The area typically experiences 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are not felt. Swarms are caused by stress changes at fault lines due to either tectonic forces or local pressure increases resulting from changes in water, magma , or subterranean gas. The highly seismic Yellowstone is affected by both swarm-causing factors. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot While the earthquake swarms and Yellowstone’s supervolcano are both currently harmless, there is always a small chance that, someday, the big one will arrive. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 1 in 730,000 chance that the supervolcano will experience a major eruption; this is roughly equivalent to the probability of an asteroid collision with Earth. As for what might trigger such an event, tiny tremors serve as reminders. Seismologist Jamie Farrell told National Geographic, “The most likely hazard in Yellowstone is from large earthquakes”. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

February 22, 2018 by  
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Clean water . Affordable housing. Renewable energy . These are just a few of the pressing needs that can be met by design . All around the world, people have come up with innovative solutions to life’s problems using affordable, readily available materials and technologies. Read on for a look at seven simple designs that meet these challenges and more. Recycled laptop batteries power houses You might think the Tesla Powerwall has home renewable energy storage under control, but a few creative people have decided to do it themselves, drawing on recycled laptop batteries to make their own home storage devices that cost less than the Tesla option – solving an issue and reducing waste at the same time. They’ve shared their designs online so others can also benefit. Related: 6 urban farms feeding the world Plastic bottle air conditioner uses no electricity Climate control is an issue people worldwide face, but those living in rural areas don’t always have access to the air conditioners we may have. In Bangladesh, inventor Ashis Paul repurposed plastic soda bottles to design the Eco Cooler : a cooling system that requires no power. His company has already installed them in around 25,000 homes. 3D printing homes out of clay and mud Humans will probably always need affordable, sustainable housing . The World’s Advanced Saving Project is working to meet these needs with their BigDelta, a massive printer that 3D prints houses for almost zero cost out of mud and clay. The organization draws inspiration from the mud dauber wasp, which builds its homes from mud. Ceramic Cool Brick cools homes with simply water 3D printing innovators Emerging Objects created a home-cooling solution called the Cool Brick. The ceramic device only needs water to cool down a house in a dry, hot climate – and works based on evaporative cooling systems utilized all the way back around 2,500 BC. Ceramic filters help bring clean water to Cambodia When you can switch on a tap and water gushes out, it’s easy to take clean water for granted. But people around the world lack access to clean drinking water , and UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program teamed up to bring it to people in Cambodia . Their ceramic water filters , manufactured and distributed by Cambodians, resulted in a 50 percent fall in diarrheal illness after they were implemented. The ceramic water purifiers cost around $7.50 to $9.50 per system, according to a report from both organizations , and replacement filters cost around $2.50 to $4. Zero-energy air conditioner made of terracotta tubes Evaporative cooling was also put to work in India in an artistic, energy efficient cooling solution designed by Ant Studio for a DEKI Electronics factory. Conical terracotta tubes comprise the installation , and when water is run over them – once or twice a day – evaporation helps lower the temperature. DIY solar generator for the people of Puerto Rico Remember those creatives who design their own Powerwall-like devices? Business owner Jehu Garcia is one, and he also put his technological know-how to work to try and combat Puerto Rico’s electricity crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria . He posted a YouTube video detailing his design for a solar generator costing around $550, including the cost of a solar panel and light bulbs. He teamed up with a contact in Puerto Rico, asking people to build the generators and send them or parts. Images via Pixnio , Jehu Garcia , Grey Bangladesh , World’s Advanced Saving Project , Emerging Objects , UNICEF and Water and Sanitation Program , Ant Studio , and Jehu Garcia on Instagram

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7 simple designs that solve modern problems – and don’t cost a fortune

Mesmerizing white humpback whale spotted off the coast of Australia

October 4, 2017 by  
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Jump, Migaloo! In recent months, we’ve seen photographs of white giraffes and even a white moose . Now, footage has emerged of a rare white humpback whale, and nature enthusiasts can’t contain their excitement. The whale, named Migaloo (after the Aboriginal word meaning “white man”), was recently spotted off the coast of Sydney, Australia , – and he is just as majestic as you may expect. Migaloo was first spotted in 1990 and is believed to be around 30 years old. As National Geographic reports, it is unknown whether or not he has leucism (a condition which results in white or patchy skin, but the eyes remain dark) or is a true albino , meaning he doesn’t produce any pigment at all. According to Brian Clark Howard in National Geographic, three white males — including Migaloo — have been spotted off Australia in recent years. He wrote, “One has been dubbed Migaloo Junior’ or the ‘son of Migaloo’ – although no one knows whether this smaller whale is actually related to Migaloo. A third white humpback with black spots on its tail has also been spotted.” Related: Hundreds of people come together to save beached whale in Brazil Due to commercial whaling , humpback whales were once close to extinction . A mere 100 remained in the oceans. Since legal protections were put in place, however, their numbers have recovered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says there are approximately 20,000 humpback whales that migrate to Australia each year. Fortunately, Migaloo remains one of them. Via National Geographic Images via  Earth Touch News Network,   Australian Geographic

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"You had to live it to believe it" – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass

October 2, 2017 by  
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When a bowhead whale washed ashore at Wrangel Island in Russia , the polar bears were ready. Between 150 and 230 bears gathered to eat the carcass, and tourists captured the experience on camera. As there are around 26,000 of the animals on Earth, almost one percent of the world’s polar bears, according to Gizmodo, assembled for the feast. The polar bears dined on the whale carcass on Wrangel Island. While polar bears feeding on whales may not be that strange, Gizmodo points out what was unique was that so many people were present to witness the event. A tourist ship passed by as the bears were feasting. Related: Snow-free images of Arctic polar bears show the harsh reality of climate change Heritage Expeditions founder Rodney Russ said his group counted more than 150 polar bears, while Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve said conservative estimates put the number of polar bears at more than 230. Bears of all ages and sexes were present. According to a Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve news release, scientists were aboard the tourist ship, and an international scientific group monitoring bear populations in Chukotka – where Wrangel Island is located – and Alaska were told of the event. Russ wrote in a blog post, “You had to live it to believe it, even now there are people pinching themselves to make sure it really happened…there are no words to describe it.” Polar bears aren’t endangered , but are listed as vulnerable , a step below endangered, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Endangered Species . The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said some populations are stable, some appear to be on the rise, and others are decreasing. The loss of sea ice could seriously impact the animals. WWF said global polar bear numbers could fall 30 percent by 2050. Via Gizmodo , Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve , and Heritage Expeditions Images via A. Gruzdev

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"You had to live it to believe it" – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass

Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years

September 26, 2017 by  
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The wolf , an animal that has served as a symbol of Rome since ancient times, has returned to the historic Italian city for the first time in a century. The alpha predators were recently sighted in a nature preserve at Castel di Guido, only a short distance from Leonardo DiVinci international airport and the perimeter highway encircling the capital of Italy. Scientists estimate that there are at least four wolves, two cubs and two adults, that reside in the area. According to Roman mythology, Romulus, Rome’s founder, and his brother Remus were suckled by a female wolf in a cave after being abandoned on the Tiber River. This episode is represented throughout Roman iconography, including the seal for Rome’s soccer club, AS Roma. The return of this iconic species to Rome is welcomed by the locals. “We’re very pleased that they are back,” said Alessia De Lorenzis, a professor whose work involves tracking and documenting the wolf pack. Related: American Coywolf is a fascinating hybrid species with supercharged adaptation Wolves were originally hunted in Europe and North America, nearly to extinction, in part due to their predation of livestock animals. The modern wolves of Rome seem to pose little threat to livestock as an analysis of their feces has demonstrated that they rely almost entirely on a diet of wild boar, a plentiful animal in the region. In Italy, the killing of wolves was promoted until the 1970s, a time when the Italian wolf population had fallen to about 100 animals. Wolves received protected status in 1971 and the population has since recovered to about 1,500-2,000 individuals, with a particularly robust population in the mountainous region on the border of France . Via The Telegraph Images via  the Italian League for Bird Protection

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This house for sale in New York has two waterfalls and a luscious forest

September 22, 2017 by  
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If you’re on the market for a beautiful home that allows you to get up close with nature, then you might want to check out this piece of property  on the market in upstate New York. Delphi Falls, located near Cazenovia, NY, features more than 60 acres of land that include two waterfalls, a creek and luscious woodlands. It’s basically your own slice of paradise in New York. The rustic wooden home was built in 1945 and is 3,500 square feet with four bedrooms and three baths. The master bedroom suite on the first floor holds a jacuzzi and fireplace, to keep warm during those lake effect winters upstate New York is known for, and two additional bedrooms share another full bath. Because one master bedroom just isn’t enough for a property of this magnitude, there’s another one on the second floor. The living room also has a fireplace as well as a wall of glass and outdoor decking both facing the onsite waterfalls. The open layout kitchen also faces the waterfalls so you can get in touch with the great outdoors while preparing your meals. The spectacular waterfalls are 65-feet and 52-feet high. A 2,500-square-foot barn and cottage in the woods are included in the 66.27 acres along with a mile of creek. To take advantage of all that water running through the property, a hydro power system that can generate 35 to 75 KW has been installed. Related: Singapore’s jaw-dropping new airport has the world’s largest indoor waterfall So what’s the asking price for this slice of heaven? Oh, just a mere $925k for the entire property. It’s a nice chunk of change, but as the listing states, it’s “like owning your own state park.” To view the entire listing as well as photos of the exterior, interior, aerial shots and historical images, visit waterfallsforsale.com . Via Apartment Therapy Images by Michael DeRosa Exchange, LLC

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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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