India could have its own Hyperloop system within 38 months

February 27, 2017 by  
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Past and present modes of transportation simply do not compare to the impressive abilities of  Hyperloop  technology. This efficient, low-cost vision of the future could be making its way to India in the next few years, according to Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) co-founder Bibop Gresta. He argues a system of high speed tubes that transport people and cargo could help ease the challenges associated with extreme population density and a dearth of infrastructure. Hyperloop technology involves a series of tubes with an interior vacuum-like environment, through which pods can zip from point A to point B at nearly the speed of sound. Forbes India interviewed HTT co-founder Gresta about his vision for the country – one he thinks could become reality in as little as three years. Related: BIG releases video sneak peek of Hyperloop designed to connect Abu Dhabi & Dubai “The Hyperloop is based on efficiency,” Gresta said. “The cost of creating it can sometimes be one-fourth the cost of a high speed rail, and the cost of operations can be one-fifth.” He also argues that construction and operation costs, as well as projected passenger rates of $20-$60, are based on American pricing and that these costs in India would be smaller. He has already met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief ministers of several states which his Hyperloop proposal would affect, and said the response was a positive one. Gresta said the country could have a functional Hyperloop system in place within just 38 months, once the project is approved. “We are ready with the technology and we can bring the money,” he explained. “We just need land and a commitment from the government of India.” A similar Hyperloop project is already underway in the capital of the UAE, where feasibility studies are being done to run the system between Abu Dhabi and the city of Al Ain. + Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Via Forbes India Images via Wikimedia , Getty Images

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India could have its own Hyperloop system within 38 months

Shapeshifting Tent House blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces

February 27, 2017 by  
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Spark Architect’s Tent House is a seasonal shapeshifter. Situated close to Australia ’s famed Sunshine Coast, the house’s location in a rainforest clearing called for a unique design that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. Limited by the natural size of the clearing and surrounded by a forest wall, the tent home was carefully planned to make maximum use of all available space. A large, open area houses a kitchen , a dining area complete with an accommodating table, and a living “room”, all with a welcoming flow that makes the home ideal for entertaining and for family living. A continuous corridor links the common spaces to hang-out nooks and multiple bedrooms, including two situated at either end of the house that feature picturesque views of the surrounding greenery. Although the area generally welcomes warm temperatures year round, the house was crafted for easy transitioning according to weather. The homeowners can manually slide open walls to welcome the fresh air as they wish; the roof also retracts to reveal the translucent tent canopy and expansive sky above. The tent buffers the home from sun exposure while still allowing for plenty of light to filter through. The space between the tent and the box-like structure’s insulated roof  encourages natural air flow. In addition to offering shade, the pitched tent canopy extends the home’s boundaries for play and relaxation. With the walls/doors open, the entire house becomes an open-air sanctuary, a perfect exploration ground for children and adults. Nature surrounds the Tent House in the form of trees, a river, and a garden area, but it is also reflected within the sleek space: a warm wood floor inset brightens up the concrete floor, and underneath the bar area, wood panels peek out to contrast with the industrial metal counter. The ultimate result is a shelter that looks like our childhood camping dreams grew up and made room for family and friends to join in on the indoor/outdoor fun. Via Uncrate All images © Christopher Jones

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Shapeshifting Tent House blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces

Global subway map shows the potential of a hyperloop-connected world

January 19, 2017 by  
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Imagine being transported across the country in a tube, at speeds of over 700 miles per hour, and you have stepped into the minds of Hyperloop One ’s Global Challenge finalists. The LA-based company has selected 35 teams to present plans for local hyperloop train systems, which could one day become connected to a massive, global transportation system . Over the next five years, three regional routes will be planned for construction as the first steps. In 2003, Mark Ovenden designed the World Metro Map, which showed what the globe might look like if major cities were connected through underground railways. Hyperloop One ’s vision could end up looking a lot like this design, except people and cargo would be transported through the high-speed, vacuum-sealed hyperloop system. The company made waves last fall when its partner Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) announced its plans to connect Abu Dhabi with Dubai via capsule transport. Related: BIG releases video sneak peek of Hyperloop designed to connect Abu Dhabi & Dubai “It’s more than just a train, or a pod in a tube,” Josh Giegel, the president of engineering at Hyperloop One, told Inverse . “We’re taking it to a level of connectivity and really being the high-speed backbone of the future transportation network.” The vision of a worldwide hyperloop network is closer to becoming reality, thanks to the company’s Global Challenge . Successful regional systems will pave the way for future projects and possibly, one day, an interconnected network that could completely revolutionize travel and cargo transport. + Hyperloop One Via  Inverse Images via  Flickr , Wikimedia

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Global subway map shows the potential of a hyperloop-connected world

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

New project could see UK electric trains powered by off-grid solar

January 11, 2017 by  
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In what’s being hailed as a “completely unique” idea that could have “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world,” a new project in the UK could see electric trains powered by trackside solar panels that work independently from the main power grid. The Guardian reports that Imperial College London has teamed up with climate change charity 10:10 to look into using trackside solar panels to power trains. As part of the project, researchers will investigate connecting solar panels directly to power lines that supply trains, in an effort to bypass the larger power grid and more efficiently manage power demand from trains. Along with the aforementioned worldwide commercial applications, Imperial College said in a statement that if the research is successful, it would “also open up thousands of new sites to small and medium-scale renewable developments by removing the need to connect to the grid. Related: Wind power now runs all electric passenger trains in the Netherlands The Guardian notes that state-owned Network Rail is already investing billions of dollars toward electrifying railways in the UK, in an effort to get rid of polluting trains that run on diesel fuel. According to 10:10, this effort, combined with the growing production of renewable power in the country could add up to significantly less carbon emissions by 2050. As many trains in the country run through rural areas where the electricity grid is tough to access, the plan to power trains with solar panels not connected to the grid could have widespread applications. The project’s first goal is to look at the feasibility of converting “third rail systems” that supply electricity through power lines close to the ground, which are used on about one third of the country’s tracks. “I don’t think you get a better fit for PPA than a train line,” said Leo Murray of 10:10. “A rural train line even more so, the project would open up many investment opportunities across the country and further afield.” Via The Guardian Images via Sunil060902 and Siemens UK

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New project could see UK electric trains powered by off-grid solar

Iconic 100-year-old tunnel tree in California succumbs to winter storm

January 11, 2017 by  
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The Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park , California recently succumbed to a winter storm, breaking the hearts of treehuggers everywhere. The majestic sequoia tree , which was tunneled sometime in the 1880’s to allow thousands of people to pass beneath it, crashed down over the weekend. Calaveras Big Trees Association wrote in a January 8 Facebook post , “The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen! This iconic and still living tree – the tunnel tree – enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.” Trees have died in the tunneling process, such as Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree, which was carved in 1881 but fell in 1969. In contrast to the Yosemite landmark which inspired it, the Pioneer Cabin Tree still showed signs of life. Related: More than 100 million California trees dead due to drought Park volunteer Jim Allday said people walked beneath the tree on Sunday morning, but around 2PM local time the tree fell and “shattered” when it hit the ground. Jim’s wife Joan, also a volunteer, told SFGate, “It was barely alive, there was one branch alive at the top. But it was very brittle and starting to lift.” Way back in 1990, interpretive specialist Wendy Harrison wrote in a Calaveras Big Trees State Park guide , “The pioneer cabin tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar. A few branches bearing green foliage tell us that this tree is still managing to survive.” Harrison described how Calveras Big Trees State Park used to be a popular tourist destination until the roads to Yosemite were improved, and the Calaveras park tried to lure tourists back by carving the Pioneer Cabin tree in the late 1800’s. According to SFGate, cars were once allowed to drive beneath the Pioneer Cabin Tree, but more recently the park only allowed people to pass under on foot. Via Gizmodo and SFGate Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jim Allday on Facebook

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Iconic 100-year-old tunnel tree in California succumbs to winter storm

London mayor halts orders for Thomas Heatherwick’s double-decker buses

January 5, 2017 by  
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Orders for the much-anticipated redesigned double-decker buses that hit the streets of London in 2011 will be discontinued under Mayor Sadiq Khan. In a money-saving gambit, Transport for London (TfL) stopped orders for the New Routemasters designed by Thomas Heatherwick , on the grounds that they are too expensive. During his campaign, Khan suggested the modern buses manufactured by Wrightbus be discontinued to free up money to freeze fares for four years. Transport for London just confirmed that suggestion in Khan’s first Business Plan : “New capital investment will be reduced significantly as we discontinue purchases of New Routemaster buses. We will carry on investing in the fleet however, by retrofitting 3,000 vehicles with Euro VI standard emission technology by 2020.” Related: London mayor announces plan for two new bike superhighways The New Routemasters were greeted with excitement when they were unveiled in 2010 ; people praised Heatherwick for bestowing a “London look” on the buses. The vehicles boast three doors and two staircases, and succeeded the iconic old Routemaster buses. As the buses jaunted more frequently through the city, Heatherwick said he was glad the bus became “part of London’s landscape and personality.” Passengers did grumble that the buses were too hot, so TfL added windows that could open. Former mayor Boris Johnson bought the first 600 buses for £354,000 each in 2012, and 200 more in 2014 for £325,000 apiece. The New Routemaster buses are hybrid diesel-electric vehicles, but many people now think electric batteries have overtaken the older technology. A spokesperson for the mayor told The Guardian TfL would invest in “a new generation of buses” designed to benefit London’s air quality. The business plan says “a significant number of new green buses will be unveiled” in 2020 or 2021. Via Dezeen and The Guardian Images via Heatherwick Studio

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London mayor halts orders for Thomas Heatherwick’s double-decker buses

China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

January 2, 2017 by  
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China is planning some serious upgrades to its public transportation system in the next few years. By 2020, the country hopes to have increased its high-speed railway coverage by 18,650 miles. The project will cost an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, or about $503 billion USD. Not only will the population be more mobile, but the rails will significantly cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution. Adding on 18,650 miles to a railway system is a humongous feat and difficult to comprehend. The expansion would be roughly the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles six and a half times. It will also connect 80 percent of the country’s biggest cities and leave room for further rural expansion. Related: Chinese firm aiming for world record with 373 mph maglev train Much of the existing and future high-speed rails are located in coastal and eastern regions of China. Yet, access to the west and poorer regions of the country are being considered for future investments, despite the fact that they will not be as profitable. “We believe these railway lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth,” said Yang Yudong, administrator of the National Railway Administration. As a global observer, one of the most appealing aspects of the project is how much air pollution will be slashed by connecting a bustling population to efficient public transit. China has been battling smog for decades, and taking vehicles off the streets could be the piece of the puzzle needed to make lasting improvements. Via Clean Technica Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

Hackers just attacked a major public transit system and demanded $70,000

November 29, 2016 by  
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On Friday, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation System was attacked by hackers who left a message reading “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted” on the system’s computers throughout the city. Their demand? A payment of $70,000 from the city – or they would release the system’s data on the web. So-called “ransomware” attacks have become more and more common in recent years. Hackers will encrypt a computer’s data, demanding a payment from the user in an untraceable cryptocurrency like Bitcoin with threats to permanently erase the computer’s files if their conditions aren’t met. Antivirus and security professionals recommend taking the exact approach that Muni seems to be embracing: keep frequent backups of your system and refuse to pay. Related: Lava Mae’s big blue bus brings mobile showers to San Francisco’s homeless population As of Sunday, the system appeared to be restored and gates to Muni stations were once again operational. The agency is declining to address further questions about the hack or how its systems were restored, saying simply that the situation is subject to an ongoing investigation, but that “Neither customer privacy nor transaction information were compromised.” The incident did result in one unexpected benefit for passengers: rides on the trains were free throughout the day on Saturday. Via Mashable Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Hackers just attacked a major public transit system and demanded $70,000

Scientists may have finally found a cure for the common cold

November 29, 2016 by  
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Could the common cold soon be a thing of the past? Scientists have created a breakthrough nasal spray that could block the virus as it tries to enter through the nose, where more than 90% of pathogens get in. The vaccine is called SynGEM , and it treats Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), one of three viruses that cause 80% of common colds. According to Mucosis , the Dutch company developing SynGEM, around 200,000 people die from RSV each year. RSV is especially dangerous for the elderly and children . The vaccine works for rats and mice, and researchers are beginning human trials at Imperial College London . Researchers say if the humans currently testing SynGEM develop antibodies, the scientists will be able to know the vaccine is truly working. Related: 44-year-old British man could be first to receive HIV cure Imperial College London professor of experimental medicine Peter Openshaw said in a statement, “We will first test whether the vaccine induces the right sort of immunity in humans, and, if it does, then test whether it will prevent infection in adult volunteers. Previous research has shown that boosting immunity in the nose and lungs may be the best way of increasing defense against RSV, blocking the virus from gaining entry to the body.” Openshaw has been researching colds and the flu for 30 years, and according to The Independent is hopeful the vaccine could be a major breakthrough. The second trial phase, which could occur in 2017, will test the vaccine in even more people. 54 adults would receive SynGEM in the second trial and 54 would receive a placebo. Via The Independent Images via anna gutermuth on Flickr and Claus Rebler on Flickr

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Scientists may have finally found a cure for the common cold

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