A beautiful "canopy of light" resurrects the Guangzhou East Railway Station in China

June 23, 2017 by  
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One of the biggest railway terminals in China recently received an extensive renovation that shelters the main entrance with a beautiful “canopy of light.” The Architectural design and Research Institute of SCUT renovated the landmark Guangzhou East Railway Station by installing artificial landscape elements, repairing the public spaces , and introducing a series of amenities that meet the requirements of a modern railway station. The station was constructed in the mid 1990s, and it suffered from poorly organized of circulation and ventilation routes. Guangzhou won the bid to host the 2010 Asian Games, which provided it with the opportunity to upgrade the station and convert it into the valuable public space it’s supposed to be. Related: Renovated Paris Rail Station Will House 1000 Start-Ups! The architects cut several openings into the floor to allow natural light to filter inside. They moved the main entrance from the ground floor to the upper level and created a curved glass canopy that protects pedestrians from excessive sunlight and rain. All the metal elements are modular , and they were prefabricated in local factories and installed on site. A recent renovation round, executed six years after the Asian Games, introduced smaller elements like a loop-shaped kiosk, translucent curtains beneath the roof and other public amenities. + Architectural design and Research Institute of SCUT Photos by Liky Lam

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A beautiful "canopy of light" resurrects the Guangzhou East Railway Station in China

Doctors warn cities that LED street lights can cause serious health issues

June 23, 2017 by  
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Many cities have shifted to LED lights in a bid to be more energy and cost efficient, but LED lights have another price, and it comes at our health. This week, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued an official statement, in which they warn that cities need to consider resident’s health when installing the bright lighting because it can cause damage to our sight and disrupt our circadian rhythms. Think of it as living with a bunch of giant computer screens blaring around your neighborhood, and you get the idea. The AMA unanimously adopted an official policy  giving cities guidelines for installing lighting that takes human health into account. These guidelines include keeping lighting at a temperature of 3000 Kelvin – within the warmer spectrum of light that humans are accustomed to. The guidelines also call for dimmer lighting that isn’t so harsh on our vision. Related: A Simple Change in Lighting Could Be the Secret to Beating the Monday Blues It’s easy to forget about how much of an impact lighting has on our health because it is so ubiquitous. But bright LED lighting, particularly bright lighting in the cooler temperature spectrum, can actually damage our retinas and contribute to glare that can cause temporary, or even permanent vision loss. Blue-spectrum lights and lights above the 3000k recommendation can also impact our sleep by disrupting human circadian rhythms . Essentially, your body thinks it is morning even though you are trying to get some sleep, which can lead to all kinds of problems, from fatigue to even an increased risk for breast cancer. These bright lights can impact wildlife as well, disrupting bird migration, feeding and sleep behaviors. And let’s not forget that the dark sky is vanishing at an alarming rate. The AMA calls for efficient lighting that minimizes the blue spectrum and that is shielded to protect against glare. It also calls for dimming during non-peak periods, like the early morning. Via CNN images via Flickr and  Pixabay

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Doctors warn cities that LED street lights can cause serious health issues

NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

June 20, 2017 by  
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Our knowledge of the galaxy just expanded significantly, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The exoplanet -finding machine allowed the agency to add 219 new planet candidates to their growing list. 10 of those planets are around the size of Earth and are around the range away from a star where water might pool on their surface. This new list of 219 candidate exoplanets is the most comprehensive and detailed from the first four years of Kepler data, according to NASA . It will also be the last catalog from Kepler’s view of a piece of sky in the Cygnus constellation. And it includes a planet National Geographic said could be the most like Earth we’ve found yet: KOI 7711.01. Related: 7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind KOI 7711.01 is only about 30 percent bigger than Earth. It orbits a star 1,700 light-years away that’s quite like our sun, and receives the correct amount of solar warmth necessary for liquid water. Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute told National Geographic, “It gets approximately the same amount of heat that we get from our own star.” But there are still a lot of questions surrounding KOI 7711.01. Thompson said, “It’s hard to say whether it’s really an Earth twin – we need to know more about its atmosphere , whether there’s water on the planet.” After the release this week of the catalog, Kepler has identified 4,034 planet candidates total, according to NASA. 2,335 of those have been verified as exoplanets. The space telescope has also identified around 50 potentially habitable candidates around the size of Earth, with over 30 having been verified. Thompson said they’re now able to shift the focus away from simply finding new individual systems, and onto learning more about the worlds we think may be like Earth. This research has also allowed scientists to better classify planets. According to NASA, Kepler data has allowed scientists to discover a division between the sizes of rocky planets around the size of Earth and gaseous planets that are smaller than Neptune. They didn’t find many planets between those two groups. Scientist Benjamin Fulton of the University of Hawaii in Manoa said in a statement, “We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals. Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree.” Via National Geographic and NASA Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

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NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

Incredibly rare two-headed porpoise found in the North Sea

June 15, 2017 by  
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An unsuspecting fisherman recently stumbled across an incredibly rare two-headed dolphin. Only nine examples of conjoined twins have ever been found among cetaceans , according to Erwin Kompanje, curator of mammals for the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in the Netherlands . So he jumped at the chance to study a rare specimen of conjoined harbor porpoises caught the end of May by Dutch fisherman. But when he reached out to the fisherman, what happened next was a scientist’s nightmare. It’s not unheard of for trawlers to accidentally catch a porpoise. There are hundreds of thousands of the cetaceans near the coast of the Netherlands. But no one has ever caught conjoined twin harbor porpoises. The fisherman snapped photos, which made their way to Kompanje. He couldn’t wait to study the creature in the laboratory. Related: Fish with “human-like teeth” spotted in Michigan lakes Kompanje could tell the twins were male, and had likely recently been born – and he thinks they were born alive. They probably didn’t live for long; either they had two brains which might have told them to swim in different directions, or a single heart may have failed to pump enough blood to keep them alive. Conjoined twins are an extremely rare find. And these looked to be in good condition. Others that have been discovered were undeveloped fetuses – such as one found near Japan in 1970 in a dolphin’s womb – or have started to decompose, such as a dolphin with two beaks found in 2001. Kompanje reached out to the fisherman to try and obtain the specimen for study. But this story doesn’t have a happy ending for science. The fisherman thought it was illegal to catch the conjoined twins, so after the photographs, they tossed the creature back into the sea. Kompanje told The Washington Post, “For a cetologist, this is a real horror.” Based on the photographs he was still able to publish a paper in DEINSEA, the online journal of the natural history museum, joined by one scientist of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and one from Wageningen Marine Research . Sadly, we may never know more about the rare twins. Via The Washington Post Images via Kompanje, E.J.O.; Camphuysen, C.J.; and Leopold, M.F.

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Incredibly rare two-headed porpoise found in the North Sea

Climate change could make cities 8C hotter by 2100, new studies show

May 31, 2017 by  
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Climate change is raising temperatures , but the impact could be worse in the world’s cities . Researchers say the urban heat island effect – or the fact that cities are hotter thanks to human activity – combined with climate change could increase temperatures in urban areas by around 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or eight degrees Celsius, by the end of the 21st century. Three researchers led by Francisco Estrada of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Institute of Environmental Studies projected city temperatures could rise by around five degrees Celsius due to climate change, as well as an additional two or three degrees Celsius as asphalt and concrete crowd out parks and lakes in metropolises, inducing the urban heat island effect. Such increased temperatures could impact human health and burden natural resources . Related: New NOAA tool shows how climate change will affect your neighborhood As major cities prepare for the impacts of climate change, many of them likely haven’t been considering the urban heat island effect. The researchers said many impact estimates don’t include the effect. So they drew on average planetary warming projections combined with the effect, and used data from 1,692 of Earth’s biggest cities between 1950 and 2015, to determine the economic costs of climate change. They also built their research on worse case scenarios: if carbon emissions continue to rise instead of declining. The results aren’t pretty: cities hit the hardest could lose 10.9 percent of GDP by 2100. Only around one percent of the planet’s surface is covered with cities, but the urban centers produce around 80 percent of gross world product. Around 78 percent of the energy consumed worldwide happens in cities. They also generate over 60 percent of global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels . Cities have a chance to act on the research now – mitigating the urban heat island effect by taking actions like planting trees ; green roofs could help too. The journal Nature Climate Change published the research online this week. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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3D-printed ovaries let infertile mice give birth

May 18, 2017 by  
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Three-dimensionally printed organs are pretty old hat by now. But while the technology has been applied to everything from artificial ears to replacement brain tissue , working ovaries have been outside the realm of possibility—until now, that is. Scientists from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering have developed “bioprosthetic” ovary structures that allowed infertile mice to not only ovulate but also birth and nurse healthy offspring, according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications . Composed of rapid-prototyped gelatin scaffolds, and primed with immature eggs, the bioprosthetic ovaries successfully boosted the hormone production necessary for restoring fertility in the mice, researchers said. “This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function,” Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg, said in a statement. “Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine.” Related: Organovo’s Bioprinter Technology Could Lead to 3D Printed Human Organs Woodruff and company plan to test the structures in pigs, with an eye toward human trials in the future. The technology could have significant implications for women with fertility issues, particularly cancer patients who often lose their ovarian function after intensive chemotherapy. “What happens with some of our cancer patients is that their ovaries don’t function at a high enough level and they need to use hormone replacement therapies in order to trigger puberty,” said Monica Laronda, co-author of the study and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Woodruff lab. “The purpose of this scaffold is to recapitulate how an ovary would function. We’re thinking big picture, meaning every stage of the girl’s life, so puberty through adulthood to a natural menopause.” + Northwestern University Photo by Duncan Hull

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New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

May 8, 2017 by  
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50 million tons of electronics are expected to be trashed this year, according to a United Nations Environment Program report . A Stanford University team was concerned over the escalating epidemic of e-waste , so they created a semiconductor – a component in most of our electronics – that can actually be broken down with a weak acid such as vinegar. Nine Stanford researchers, joined by one scientist from Hewlett Packard Labs and two engineers from the University of California, Santa Barbara , set out to rethink electronics. Engineer Zhenan Bao, who heads up the Bao Research Group at Stanford, said they found inspiration from human skin . Skin stretches, can heal itself, and is ultimately biodegradable . The researchers wanted to take these characteristics and apply them to electronics. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: The dangerous untold story of e-waste They created a flexible polymer able to decompose. Postdoctoral fellow Ting Lei said it’s the first ever “semiconductive polymer that can decompose.” But that’s just one part of a semiconductor. The team also designed a degradable electronic circuit and a biodegradable substrate material. They used iron – a nontoxic, environmentally friendly product – instead of the gold usually used for electronic components. They made a paper-like substrate with cellulose ; the transparent substrate allows the semiconductor to adhere to rough or smooth surfaces, like onto an avocado as seen in the picture above or on human skin. The semiconductor could even be implanted inside a body. According to Stanford, “When the electronic device is no longer needed, the whole thing can biodegrade into nontoxic components.” The team envisions a number of uses for their semiconductors, like in wearable electronics . They could be made into patches allowing people to track their blood pressure, for example, or could be dropped via plane into a forest to survey the landscape, and eventually they would biodegrade instead of littering the environment . The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the research online the beginning of May. Via Stanford University and New Atlas Images via Stanford University/Bao lab

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New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

Indian ‘fruit of the gods’ could lower cost of solar cells by 40%

May 4, 2017 by  
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Could India’s ‘fruit of the gods’ help lower the price of solar cells ? Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee discovered jamun, a black plum, contains a pigment able to absorb sunlight. They think utilizing the fruit in mass production of solar panels could slash costs. Jamun, Syzygium cumini , is indigenous to south Asia and is sold on the street for cheap prices. Jamun trees can grow to be nearly 100 feet tall and live for 100 years, and the black plums from those trees are lauded for medicinal and nutritional value. But now they may play a role in generating clean energy as well, thanks to their pigment anthocyanin. Related: India doubles down on solar power with huge park capacity increase IIT-Roorkee assistant professor Soumitra Satapathi told Quartz India, “We were looking at why the jamuns are black. We extracted the pigment using ethanol and found that anthocyanin was a great absorber of sunlight.” Satapathi and two other researchers from the institute used that anthocyanin as a sensitizer in dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). They think utilizing naturally occurring dyes, like the jamun pigment, could lower solar panel costs by 40 percent. Anthocyanin is also found in blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and cranberries. DSSCs aren’t as efficient as traditional silicon-based solar cells yet, but could offer a low cost alternative – beneficial especially for India as the country aims to gain 40 percent of energy from renewables by 2030. But the IIT scientists aren’t quite there yet; their DSSCs only have an efficiency of 0.5 percent, contrasted with traditional solar cells’ efficiency of over 15 percent. Nevertheless, the scientists pointed out jamun is widely available, and could offer a biodegradable , non-toxic alternative to synthetic dyes that have been used in DSSCs. The IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics published the research online recently. Via EcoWatch and Quartz India Images via Dinesh Valke on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Humans may have lived in America 115,000 years earlier than we thought

April 27, 2017 by  
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For years, scientists have believed that humanity was a relatively recent visitor to the North American continent, migrating from Siberia only 15,000 years ago. Now, more accurate dating of mastodon fossils from California shows that an early human ancestor likely existed on the continent 130,000 years ago , far further back than even the most extreme estimates made by previous researchers. The fossils consist of elephant-like teeth and bones, which were discovered in Southern California during the construction of an expressway in 1992. The fossils bear clear signs of deliberate breakage using stone hammers and other early human tools – but until recently, dating technology was not sophisticated enough to accurately pinpoint the era from which they originated. Related: Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification Using new methods to measure traces of natural uranium in the bones, researchers with the US Geological Survey and the Center for American Paleolithic Research found these bones were far older than the era when humans are generally accepted to have lived in America. While these people were clearly somehow related to modern-day humans, and were advanced enough to create and use stone tools, researchers say that they wouldn’t have been Homo sapiens as we know them. Our species didn’t leave Africa until 80,000 to 100,000 years ago. Instead, some likely candidates are Homo erectus, the Neanderthals, or perhaps a little-known hominid species called the Denisovans , whose DNA can still be found in Australian aboriginal populations today. It’s likely this ancient human population died out before Homo sapiens eventually crossed the Pacific. It’s believed they did not interbreed with modern humans and likely are not direct ancestors of any Native American groups. The new findings have been published in the journal Nature . Via Phys.org Images via San Diego Natural History Museum

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Humans may have lived in America 115,000 years earlier than we thought

Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

April 21, 2017 by  
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Even if the president of the United States rejects science , scientists plan to make their voices heard. Tomorrow they’ll march on Washington, D.C. and over 400 locations around the world in the March for Science . While organizers say the march was inspired by the success of the January 21 Women’s March, they also emphasize their event is nonpartisan. Their march will celebrate science and highlight “the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. People will gather at the Washington Monument starting at 8:00 AM, and will participate in teach-ins and a rally program until the march at 2:00 PM. Speakers include Bill Nye and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped expose Flint , Michigan lead poisoning. Related: Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office Trump isn’t the only reason for the March for Science. Scientists and academics have been concerned for years now over public distrust of science. The event’s mission page says, “People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely…We must take science out of the labs and journals and share it with the world.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Chemical Society , and the American Geophysical Union all support the march. Satellite marches will take place on six different continents. You can register for the march in Washington, D.C. or find a march near you here . If you can’t attend the Earth Day science march, you can march for climate science in the People’s Climate Mobilization on DC on April 29. + March for Science Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and March for Science

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