Scientists pledge to sequence the DNA of all 1.5 million known species on Earth

April 25, 2018 by  
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You may have heard of the Human Genome Project, but an international group of researchers has recently announced plans to go one step further. The Earth BioGenome Project is a massive effort to sequence the DNA of every single one of the 1.5 million species on Earth – and it will officially be the largest genome sequencing project ever undertaken. Ultimately, scientists hope that it will help us understand and protect the plants, animals, and fungi that call our planet home. Researchers announced their ambitious plans this week at the World Economic Forum , writing that “increasing our understanding of Earth’s biodiversity and responsibly stewarding its resources are among the most crucial scientific and social challenges of the new millennium. These challenges require fundamental new knowledge of the organization, evolution, functions, and interactions among millions of the planet’s organisms.” Related: Atacama ‘alien’ skeleton’s identity revealed by genetic testing So far, we’ve sequenced just 0.2 percent (about 2,500) of the eukaryotic species on Earth, so we have a long way to go to before reaching the 1.5 million known species – and that doesn’t even take into account the estimated 10 to 15 million undiscovered ones. The entire project is estimated to take about 10 years and $4.7 billion to complete. While that may sound like a ton of money, sequencing a genome is just a fraction of the cost that it used to be. In fact, today sequencing a new species costs just $30,000, compared to the $2.7 billion it cost to sequence the first human genome. Once completed, the data will be made available as part of the public domain. Via Gizmodo Image via Nikola Jovanovic and Deposit Photos

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Scientists pledge to sequence the DNA of all 1.5 million known species on Earth

Nearly all new US energy capacity came from solar and wind in early 2018

April 25, 2018 by  
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In the first two months of 2018, the United States installed 1,568 megawatts of wind and 565 MW of solar — which accounted for a whopping 98 percent of all new power generation capacity. Meanwhile, only 40 MW of natural gas capacity was installed in the same time period. These findings are detailed in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest “ Energy Infrastructure Update ,” which arrives even as the Trump administration attempts to align federal policy with the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Despite administration resistance to renewable energy, several states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election are benefiting from the installation of major clean energy projects within their borders. This includes the 170 MW Beaver Creek Wind Project and the 168 MW Prairie Wind Project in Iowa , as well as the 81 MW Stuttgart Solar Project in Arkansas . As the cost of solar and wind energy continues to drop, the fundamental economics of the situation encourage further investments in clean energy. Related: Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017 The recent FERC report projects that renewable energy will continue to dominate new power generation capacity installed over the next several years. FERC estimates that 147,000, or 69 percent, of the 212,000 MW power generation capacity expected to be installed between now and March 2021 will be from renewable energy sources. It also predicts that coal plants, despite a more industry-friendly administration, will continue to close without replacement, shrinking the number of active coal plants over time. Net coal power generation is expected to fall by 15,000 MW over the next several years. Via Think Progress Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Nearly all new US energy capacity came from solar and wind in early 2018

Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

April 25, 2018 by  
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Even the Arctic can’t escape plastic pollution . Scientists gathered ice samples from five distinct regions in the Arctic Ocean , and some of those samples contained over 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of ice – a record-breaking amount. All told, they uncovered 17 different kinds of plastic , including paints and packaging. A team of 9 scientists at Alfred Wegener Institute recorded record levels of microplastics, or plastic fragments between a few micrometers to under five millimeters big, in sea ice collected in the Arctic. They gathered these samples aboard the research icebreaker Polarstern in 2014 and 2015. They utilized a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer to scrutinize the ice samples layer by layer to light up microparticles; particles reflect varying wavelengths depending on their ingredients so the scientists could determine their substances. Related: New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected Their methods helped them discover minuscule particles. Scientist Gunnar Gerdts, who runs the laboratory where the researchers carried out measurements, said in a statement , “In this way, we also discovered plastic particles that are tiny 11 microns in size. This is roughly a sixth of the diameter of human hair and was also the key reason why, with more than 12,000 particles per liter of sea ice, we were able to detect two to three times higher plastic concentrations than was the case in a previous study.” 67 percent of the particles in the ice samples fell in the 50 micrometers and below category: the smallest one. Biologist Ilka Peeken said, “We found out in our study that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were smaller than one-twentieth of a millimeter and thus easily eaten by Arctic microorganisms such as crayfish, but also copepods.” This is concerning, she said, because “so far no one can say to what extent these tiny plastic particles harm the sea dwellers or end up even endangering humans.” The journal Nature Communications published the research this week. + Alfred Wegener Institute + Nature Communications Images via Tristan Vankaan , Mar Fernandez , and Stefan Hendricks

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Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

California’s desert battery could be three times the size of Tesla’s

April 12, 2018 by  
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Tesla’s 100-megawatt (MW) South Australia battery will no longer be the world’s largest if a new solar project goes through. According to  USA Today ,  Recurrent Energy has requested permission from the federal government for the Crimson Solar Project, a 350-MW solar plant with as much as 350 MW of battery storage in the California desert east of Palm Springs. Recurrent Energy, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar , aims to build a battery storage project and associated solar plant on 2,500 acres of public land near California’s Mule Mountains, south of Interstate 10. Solar power has rapidly expanded in  California , creating a need for more battery storage. Recurrent Energy’s plans for such a massive battery are encouraging for the clean power industry; GTM Research energy storage analyst Daniel Finn-Foley told USA Today, “If they actually installed 350 MW, that would be a bombshell.” Related: Tesla’s massive Australia battery rakes in estimated $1 million AUD in a few days But it’s not a done deal at this point. The federal permitting process could take years, and Recurrent lacks a buyer for the solar plant’s electricity . Large utilities like Southern California Edison or Pacific Gas & Electric could be possible customers. Recurrent Energy’s director of permitting Scott Dawson told USA Today, “If someone wants it, we’ll build it.” There are environmental concerns at the location, although Dawson said the company has redesigned the Crimson Solar Project to avoid the most sensitive habitats. The plant would disrupt 30 sand dune habitat acres where the Mojave fringe-toed lizard resides; a prior plan disrupted 580 acres. A previous plan also saw the plant disrupting 95 acres of biodiversity-rich microphyll woodlands, but that number is now at 1.2 acres. The solar project would not encroach on critical habitat for the desert tortoise. + Recurrent Energy Via USA Today Images via Recurrent Energy

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California’s desert battery could be three times the size of Tesla’s

This custom-built tiny house is big on interior design

April 9, 2018 by  
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Washington-based company Handcrafted Movement is making quite the name for itself with custom-made tiny homes. The company’s latest micro dwelling — called the Coastal Craftsman — is so gorgeously designed that you’ll forget it’s only a mere 238-square-foot space. The energy-efficient tiny home has a stunning interior design that is not only open and airy; it is also handcrafted with various reclaimed materials. The home, which is built onto a transportable trailer , is clad in a cream-colored board and batten siding with Pacific Cedar accents, complimented with a dark metal rooftop. A lovely glass-panel door leads into the living space, which has distressed oak flooring that contrasts nicely with the white walls. Throughout the home, the interior design gives off a relaxed beach vibe, enhanced with an abundance of natural light. Related: These solar-powered tiny homes are designed just for millennials The furnishings were all strategically custom-built  to provide personal touches to the home without adding clutter. A chaise lounge-style sofa bed is at the heart of the living area, providing a comfy place to read or watch television. There’s an electric fireplace to keep warm in the winter months, and a vintage desk and chair sit in a small nook under a window. The tiny kitchen has plenty of shelving and cupboards. The space is compact, but efficient and includes a dining table made out of Oregon-sourced, salvaged walnut wood . In the corner of the kitchen, stairs lead up to the sleeping loft, which has enough space for a king-size bed. Matt Impola, the founder of Handcrafted Movement, framed the walls himself and even inserted custom-made roof trusses to add dimension to the tiny home design . The craftsmanship of the project is incredibly impressive. “I built much of the tiny home components—the exterior shutters, kitchen cabinets, bathroom doors, stairs, electric fireplace, television cabinet, coffee counter, dining table, etc. — from scratch, and had two production assistants help me assemble and finish all them,” Impola said. “I’ve seen too many tiny homes with minuscule couches that will not realistically be comfortable for very long, so it’s important for me to be able to fit full-size furniture in every tiny home I build.” In addition to its amazing design, the home was also built with various energy-efficient features such as rock-based Roxul insulation, 10 large energy-star windows, LED lighting, an instant water heater, and a propane oven and cooker. Thanks to these features, the home’s monthly energy costs are incredibly low — an estimated $12 to $25 per month. + Handcrafted Movement Via Dwell Photos via Handcrafted Movement

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This custom-built tiny house is big on interior design

MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

April 6, 2018 by  
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Have you ever wished you could simply think a command and your computer would respond? That’s the future envisioned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers who created AlterEgo, a wearable system that allows you to converse with a computer without using your voice or movement. According to a video on the project from MIT Media Lab, the ultimate goal of AlterEgo is “to combine humans and computers.” A computing system and wearable device comprise AlterEgo, a futuristic project led by graduate student Arnav Kapur of the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT . Electrodes, a machine learning system, and bone-conduction headphones help get the job done: the electrodes “pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations — saying words ‘in your head’ — but are undetectable to the human eye,” according to a MIT News statement. A machine learning system, trained to correspond certain signals with words, receives the signals. The bone-conduction headphones “transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear.” Related: Elon Musk’s latest company aims to make us cyborgs within the next four years The video on AlterEgo shows Kapur experimenting with the device, asking for the time or adding up prices in a grocery store without ever saying a word out loud. While the commands he gives are simple, typically involving a single word or number, the video feels like a scene right out of science fiction. MIT professor Pattie Maes, who is Kapur’s thesis advisor, said in MIT’s statement, “We basically can’t live without our cell phones , our digital devices. But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.” Part of the goal for a project like AlterEgo is to allow users to stay in the moment. In a usability study with the prototype wearable interface, the system’s average transcription accuracy was around 92 percent, according to MIT News. Kapur, along with Maes and undergraduate student Shreyas Kapur, wrote a paper on AlterEgo and presented it at the Association for Computing Machinery ‘s ACM Intelligent User Interface conference , which took place last month in Tokyo, Japan. + MIT News Image via Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

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MIT’s mind-reading AlterEgo headset can hear what you’re thinking

Water purification breakthrough can even clean water from the Dead Sea

April 3, 2018 by  
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Despite all our advances, access to clean water is still a major problem – not just for developing nations, but here in the US, where water shortages during natural disasters can cost lives. Scientists have created a cost-effective technology that addresses this problem using hydrogels. Using ambient solar energy, these gel-polymer hybrid materials can produce clean water from any source – including salt water from the Dead Sea. A team led by Guihua Yu at the University of Texas Austin created a hydrogel that is both hydrophilic and semiconducting. “We have essentially rewritten the entire approach to conventional solar water evaporation,” Yu said. The system works by creating water vapor under sunlight and then pumping the vapor into a condenser to deliver the freshwater. It also filters out contaminants that are harmful when consumed. Related: New MIT water purification method eliminates even trace chemical waste and pesticides The hydrogel -based solar vapor generator can desalinate water much more affordably than current options using much less power. “Water desalination through distillation is a common method for mass production of freshwater. However, current distillation technologies, such as multi-stage flash and multi-effect distillation, require significant infrastructures and are quite energy-intensive,” said Fei Zhao, a researcher involved in the project. Tests produced 25 liters of water per square meter – plenty for disaster-stricken areas or household use. Via Phys.org Images via UT at Austin

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Water purification breakthrough can even clean water from the Dead Sea

China’s new rain-making system could increase rainfall by billions of cubic feet

April 2, 2018 by  
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China needs water — and their answer to the issue is a massive weather modification system being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported the country is testing technology that could increase rainfall in the Tibetan Plateau by as much as 10 billion cubic meters, or around 353 billion cubic feet, every year. Will a huge rain-making system help China with water issues ? SCMP said they plan to build tens of thousands of chambers across the Tibetan mountains to generate rain over an area of around 620,000 square miles, or “three times the size of Spain.” The chambers will burn solid fuel to create silver iodide, which SCMP described as a “ cloud-seeding agent with a crystalline structure much like ice.” They said the chambers will be located on steep ridges facing the south Asia monsoon . Wind striking the mountain will produce an upward draft, carrying particles into clouds to bring about rain. Related: World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert Real-time data from 30 weather satellites , each one watching monsoon weather above the Indian Ocean, will guide daily operation of the chambers. The ground-based network will also draw on cloud-seeding methods with drones , planes, and artillery to maximize the impact of the system, according to SCMP. A researcher on the project told SCMP, “[So far,] more than 500 burners have been deployed on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang, and other areas for experimental use. The data we have collected show very promising results.” The publication said although the idea isn’t a new one, China is the first country to try “such a large-scale application,” and  space scientists designed and built the chambers with “cutting edge military rocket engine technology.” Via South China Morning Post Images via Depositphotos and Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

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China’s new rain-making system could increase rainfall by billions of cubic feet

Meridian Line launches ethically sourced, organic cotton jeans for the outdoors

April 2, 2018 by  
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Adventure calling? Gear up with Meridian Line, a range of eco-friendly denim designed for conquering the great outdoors. Available for pre-ordering through Kickstarter , the men’s and women’s jeans infuse ethically sourced organic cotton with two percent spandex to allow “freedom of movement without looking like you just stepped out of yoga class,” according to the Kansas City, Missouri–based firm. Meridian Line is the brainchild of artist Jeremy Collins, who launched the company with a series of graphic T-shirts and accessories in 2014. Two years later, Collins enlisted Benji Thrasher, formerly the lead designer at Prana , to kick Meridian Line’s offerings up a notch; the jeans emerged from the drawing board shortly after. But active performance isn’t the denim’s only twist. Each pair of pants also boasts artwork by Collins on the inner pockets, yoke, and turn-ups. The print is based on one of Collins’s signature pieces: a greenery-ringed compass inset with a salmon and an eagle at play (or perhaps prey?) in a yin-yang configuration. Meridian Line’s denim is “built for outdoor activities, travel, and a casual, dareful, or professional lifestyle,” Collins and Thrasher said. “Our jeans are made to go wherever you do: urban, mountain, or board meeting.” Prices for both men’s and women’s styles start at an accessible $79, or 20 percent less than what the jeans will cost when they hit retail outlets later this year. If you’re looking for the whole top-to-toe look, a pledge of $105 will snag you a pair of jeans, an exclusive tee, and a trucker hat. + Meridian Line at Kickstarter + Meridian Line

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Meridian Line launches ethically sourced, organic cotton jeans for the outdoors

Every project on DonorsChoose.org was just funded by a $29 million cryptocurrency donation

March 29, 2018 by  
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DonorsChoose.org helps teachers crowdsource funding for education needs, with over 35,000 open campaigns asking for everything from robotics kits to field trips. At least, there were 35,000 campaigns open last week. But as of earlier this week, there were zero campaigns thanks to an incredible $29 million donation from cryptocurrency startup Ripple that fulfilled every single one. According to DonorsChoose.org, this donation will provide funding for 70k books, 35k computers, 2,300 musical instruments and much more. Ripple contributed $29 million in cryptocurrency to 35,647 open campaigns, funding wishlists from over 28,000 teachers at 16,500 schools. In a joint statement with Ripple’s VP of Marketing Monica Long, DonorsChoose founder Charles Best said “The teachers behind these projects work with more than a million students who are now going to get materials and experiences that they need to learn. I do not believe there has ever been a day when this many classroom dreams came true.” Related: Former Patagonia CEO announces largest land donation in history While it might seem like Ripple and DonorsChoose are very different organizations, both focus on changing the way we fund the world. When Ripple approached Best to see what DonorsChoose needed most, Best made a one-in-a-million request to fund every project on the site. To his surprise, Ripple agreed. If you want to see what all the money is doing for teachers and students, check out the hashtag #bestschoolday on Twitter , where people are sharing what this announcement means for them. If this act of generosity inspires you as much as it does us, you can help out by going to DonorsChoose.org and funding one of the 6,000 projects that have popped up since Ripple donated. @HelmsDLSchool @Ripple #BestSchoolDay My Donors Choose project got funded!!! pic.twitter.com/esFiTJGzhr — Maria Hernandez (@marher2384) March 28, 2018 I logged into my Donor's Choose account and saw that my project was fully funded!!! @Ripple is allowing my students to experience a week-long trip to Atlanta and Alabama to visit HBCUs. I can't believe it. Thank you!! #BestSchoolDay #HBCU — Joe Somerville (@joesomerville) March 28, 2018 Thank you @Ripple for Funding our @DonorsChoose project! You have made the day of so many! #bestschoolday #oneRCE #b212rce3 pic.twitter.com/V0RdynVp2X — RCE 3rd Grade (@RCE3rdGrade) March 28, 2018 + DonorsChoose.org Via Fast Company Images via DonorsChoose.org and Unsplash

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Every project on DonorsChoose.org was just funded by a $29 million cryptocurrency donation

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