Net-zero prefab home stacks together and expands like childrens blocks

October 10, 2017 by  
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Wish you could expand the size of your home without breaking the bank? A group of architecture students from the University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver created RISE, an affordable and sustainable housing solution that lets you do just that. Conceived for urban infill lots, the adaptable and scalable solar-powered home stacks together like children’s blocks and can expand up to three stories with up to five units of multifamily living. RISE—which stands for Residential, Inviting, Stackable, Efficient—was designed specifically for Richmond, California, a coastal city struggling with a shortage of affordable, sustainable housing. Flexibility is key to the RISE design, which boasts customizable floor plans with moveable walls and windows to meet the needs of diverse occupants. The moveable walls, installed on a track system, can roll to the sides to transform three-quarters of the interior into an open-plan area or can be used to delineate multiple rooms. Transforming furniture and modular cabinetry support this versatile floor plan. Modular, prefabricated construction makes the home scalable and stackable, and gives homeowners the ability to transform their home from a single-story family unit into a multigenerational dwelling. The house can be constructed efficiently without specialized labor. Sustainability is also an important factor to RISE, which is designed to achieve net-zero energy consumption and is powered by solar energy. Daylighting and access to natural ventilation is optimized throughout the home, while wool insulation helps lock in stable and comfortable indoor temperatures. A green wall of moss covers the north facade. RISE was completed as University of California, Berkeley and University of Denver’s entry to the Solar Decathlon 2017 competition, after which the home will be donated to the Denver Habitat for Humanity, which will install it on a permanent lot and sell it to a family in need. Related: Transformable solar building changes shape to teach people how to live sustainably “At $200,000, a single RISE unit is less expensive than 72% of homes in the city,” wrote the students . “Whereas this fact is significant, what really increases the affordability of RISE is that five units can fit onto a single lot that traditionally would host just one home. The RISE home’s stacked design and large open roof-deck spaces allows greater density and a lower price point per unit while preserving the open feel of a neighborhood home, which residents both need and desire to build community. Though designed specifically for Richmond, this approach would translate well to other urban centers that currently face a shortage of affordable housing.” + Solar Decathlon Images via Mike Chino

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Net-zero prefab home stacks together and expands like childrens blocks

Cozy egg-shaped treehouses offer stunning views of the Italian Alps

October 10, 2017 by  
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A pair of adorable egg-shaped treehouses is hidden away in one of Italy’s oldest forests. Architetto Beltrame Claudio designed these dreamy retreats, called Pigna, that overlook stunning views of the Italian Alps. Inspired by the shape and texture of pinecones, these shingled dwellings are carefully designed to blend into the landscape while serving as a cozy and elegant getaway. Pigna was originally conceived for an architecture competition in 2014 but was only recently completed this year in Malborghetto Valbruna, Italy. The 70-square-meter project comprises two treehouses and both are elevated ten meters off the ground with three stories each. The egg-shaped buildings were constructed from cross-laminated timber with wood fiber insulation. Larch shingles clad the curved exterior punctuated by two covered balconies framing views of the outdoors. Related: Egg-Shaped HemLoft Treehouse is Nestled in the Forests of Whistler “The project started from the desire to create a structure that is not only a refuge for man, but also a natural element of its environment, a mimesis of its surrounding,” wrote the architects. “From the tree, for the tree.” The treehouses are anchored to nearby trees. Both the first and second floors can be reached via outdoor stairs or a walkway. The first floor serves as panoramic covered terrace, whereas the second houses the main living areas with a small kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The bedroom with a double bed placed beneath a circular skylight is located on the third floor. Wooden stairs connect all three floors. + Architetto Beltrame Claudio Via ArchDaily Images via Architetto Beltrame Claudio , interior shots by Laura Tessaro

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Cozy egg-shaped treehouses offer stunning views of the Italian Alps

Japanese mutant chickens are laying eggs with cancer-fighting drugs

October 9, 2017 by  
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Most people eat chicken eggs for their high protein content and healthy fats – but in the future eggs could ward off diseases, such as cancer and hepatitis. That’s because researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have genetically engineered chickens to lay eggs that contain drugs capable of boosting the immune system. The controversial technique was developed to make pharmaceutical drugs more affordable and, as a result, more accessible. The researchers used gene editing technology to make chickens produce “interferon beta.” This protein is a “powerful tool” for treating skin cancer and hepatitis, reports Phys.org . The team produced cells that were used to fertilize eggs and breed hens that inherited the genes. A few rounds of cross-breeding yielded chickens capable of laying eggs containing the disease-fighting drugs. As soon as next year, a joint research company will sell the drug to pharmaceutical companies so they can perform research on it at a reduced cost. “This is a result that we hope leads to the development of cheap drugs,” said Professor Hironobu Hojo, from Osaka . “In the future, it will be necessary to closely examine the characteristics of the agents contained in the eggs and determine their safety as pharmaceutical products.” If the scientists are able to safely produce interferon beta, the price of the price of the drug (currently up to $888 for a few micrograms) is expected to fall significantly. According to The Japan News , the eventual goal is to lower the cost of the drug to 10 percent of its current price. Related: Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them At present, three females are presently laying eggs every one or two days. It will be a while before the eggs are on the market, as Japan has strict regulation concerning the “introduction of new and foreign pharmaceutical products,” reports Phys.org . Sometimes, screening processes take years to complete. Considering the long-term effects of consuming genetically-modified foods are relatively unknown, extensive testing will be needed. Via Phys , The Japan News Images via Pixabay , Cosmo Bio Co.

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Japanese mutant chickens are laying eggs with cancer-fighting drugs

Researchers detect 100-million-year-old virus in pregnant women’s blood

October 9, 2017 by  
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Here’s a startling thought: the human genome contains ancient viruses . Researchers recently detected a 100-million-year-old virus called a human endogenous retrovirus (HERV)—that would have infected our ancestors when dinosaurs roamed the Earth—in the blood of pregnant women. They are still puzzling over how retroviruses might affect us in the long term. Eight percent of the human genome is made up of ancient viruses and scientists are still trying to puzzle out their function. Three scientists, led by Gkikas Magiorkinis of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens , wrote an article available online the end of September for Trends in Microbiology , delving into the mystery behind HERVs. They said, “Are they merely fossils that, like mosquitoes in amber, were stuck and preserved in large host genomes while their functions decayed?” They noted the 100-million-year-old retrovirus, first detected by another research group, “became a human gene that is expressed in embryos and cancers , and can be detected in the blood of pregnant women.” Related: University of Queensland scientists uncover an ‘explosion’ of new life forms Retroviruses insert a DNA copy of their RNA into a genome, according to IFLScience – this has devastating consequences with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV , for example. The 100-million-year-old HERV looks to be inactive during most stages, with low expression in many normal tissues, but it is expressed in the placenta, some stem cells, and cancer tissues like those of ovarian cancer, according to the scientists. The expression pattern “suggests potential roles for manipulation of stem cells and early life events, which could have very important impacts on adult diseases.” IFLScience points out the find has raised more questions than it solves – the three researchers suggest a hypothesis at the end of their paper, but no definitive conclusions. They say scientists should explore the roles of endogenous retroviruses to pin down potential anticancer treatments. Via IFLScience Images via freestocks.org on Unsplash and Pixabay

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Researchers detect 100-million-year-old virus in pregnant women’s blood

Muscle-packed pigs in Cambodia raise alarms

October 9, 2017 by  
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Videos and images of Cambodian pigs with extremely muscular physiques have gone viral in recent weeks, raising concerns and questions over the origin and well-being of these augmented animals. Although PETA claims that these animals have been genetically modified , there is no clear evidence to confirm this theory. It is possible that the animals were simply bred to display these characteristics. “We could do this through breeding,” said Jin-Soo Kim, a researcher at Seoul National University, “but then it would take decades.” Regardless of the specific reason for the pigs’ appearance, one can certainly add this to the already long list of unsettling happenings in the meat industry. In 2015, Kim and his peers at  Seoul National University led an experiment in which pigs were genetically modified to posses “double muscles” by altering the myostatin gene, a relatively minor tweak to the genetic code. By changing the amount of lean meat on an animal, these modifications could increase profits for animal producers. The pigs in Cambodia could have come from the same lineage. However, there is no evidence yet to confirm that this is the case. Related: Chinese scientists genetically engineer muscular superdogs While the US Food and Drug Administration has declared that GMO salmon is as safe to eat as natural salmon, no other GMO animal product has yet been approved for human consumption in the United States. However, pigs have been genetically modified in the past, for meat production or otherwise. The EnviroPig is a trademarked, genetically modified organism created in Canada that has been altered to produce waste that contains less phosphorus, which decreases the environmental costs of hog raising. Scientists in Japan have spliced spinach genes into pigs to create a less fatty animal. While the pigs in Cambodia may appear disturbing, there may be benefits to humans and the environment from genetic modification. However, further study is needed and animal welfare standards must be improved around the world. Via Newsweek Images via Facebook/Duroc Cambodia and  Xi-jun Yin

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Muscle-packed pigs in Cambodia raise alarms

Scientists say ice may fizz and bubble like champagne when floating in outer space

October 5, 2017 by  
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A group of scientists now believe that ice fizzes and bubbles like champagne when floating in outer space . This discovery was made when researchers at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan first created a mixture of three substances commonly found on comets and interstellar clouds from which stars form: water, ammonia, and methanol. Next, the team exposed this mixture to ultraviolet radiation to imitate the harsh environment beyond the atmosphere. As the ice temperature increased to -213 degrees Celsius, it started to crack, but at only five degrees beyond, bubbles began to form and pop within the ice. This bubbling ceased when the ice warmed to -123 degrees Celsius, and returned to its fully solid form. When the experiment was repeated under different circumstances, the ice’s behavior changed substantially. There were fewer bubbles in ice with less amounts of ammonia and methanol; without UV radiation, there were no bubbles at all. When exposed to radiation, the scientists noticed an increase in hydrogen gas. This suggests that the ice bubbles are formed by hydrogen, which had split off from the methane and ammonia molecules under radiation. In addition to its unusual bubbling, space ice also assumes the viscous quality of refrigerated honey at temperatures between ?185° C and ?161° C. Related: New NASA discovery hints at water elsewhere in the solar system Previous experiments, such as those conducted by Cornelia Meinert of the University Nice Sophia Antipolis in France and her colleagues, have shown that irradiated ice contains a large amount of organic molecules, including ribose, an essential ingredient in DNA . Previously, skeptics of life within space argued that the complex molecules essential for life may have been contamination. “Now [these new results are] helping us argue that at this very low temperature, the small precursor molecules can actually react with each other,” said Meinert, who was not involved in the new experiment. “This is supporting the idea that all these organic molecules can form in the ice, and might also be present in comets.” Via Science News Images via Hubble ESA/Flickr and Science News

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Scientists say ice may fizz and bubble like champagne when floating in outer space

New nanomaterial pulls hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells

October 4, 2017 by  
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Hydrogen can be obtained from seawater to power fuel cells , but the process is typically costly because of the electricity required. Researchers created a nanomaterial that can do the job more efficiently. According to the University of Central Florida (UCF), the advance “could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel .” UCF assistant professor Yang Yang has been working on solar hydrogen splitting for almost a decade. In the process, a photocatalyst sets off a chemical reaction with energy from light . But the photocatalysts don’t work as well in seawater – they don’t stand up well to salt and seawater’s biomass. Yang’s research team came up with a new catalyst that’s not only good for splitting purified water in a laboratory, but can better endure seawater and even harvest light from a broader spectrum. Related: Scientists develop new way to generate electricity via seawater Yang said, “We can absorb much more solar energy from the light than the conventional material. Eventually, if it is commercialized, it would be good for Florida’s economy. We have a lot of seawater around Florida and a lot of really good sunshine.” He said in many cases it’s better to use the sun’s energy to create a chemical fuel than to generate electricity with solar panels . Hydrogen gas can be transported and stored easily. UCF said it’s relatively cheap and easy to make the catalyst, which is comprised of a hybrid material. The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research the end of September. Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington and Tsinghua University in China collaborated on the study. Yang and his team plan to continue researching how to scale up the catalyst fabrication, and to work on splitting hydrogen from wastewater with the catalyst. Via the University of Central Florida Images via the University of Central Florida

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The Puerto Rico nursery still up and running thanks to solar power

October 4, 2017 by  
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Solar power is helping flower grower Hector Santiago get back on his feet in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the United States territory’s electricity grid . Six years ago, he sank $300,000 into 244 solar panels , and said everyone told him he was crazy because of the cost. Today, he has power and is rebuilding his nursery. Santiago’s Cali Nurseries , which sells decorative plants and poinsettias to firms like Cosco and Walmart, suffered tremendous losses during the storm. Hurricane Maria damaged plants and greenhouses , ripping off roofs and flattening trees. Santiago told The Washington Post his losses amounted to an estimated $1.5 million. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy But he’s been able to begin rebuilding his Barranquitas farm with the help of electricity thanks his investment in solar energy. The storm damaged 25 percent of the photovoltaic panels, but there’s still enough energy to start rebuilding his operation. The power allowed him to keep pumping water from wells, as the business’ 19 employees cleaned up and repotted plants. Santiago was unable to get back to his farm for five days following the hurricane, and when he finally returned he found his employees hard at work, as they had been since the first day. He told The Washington Post, “I just started crying, I choked up, when I saw them working like nothing had happened. They give me the strength to not give up and to do whatever I have to do to continue with my business.” The devastation in Puerto Rico has resulted in an increased interest in renewable energy . Solar installation firm owner Henry Pichardo, who works out of Bayamon, said Hurricane Maria could boost his business by 20 percent per year. He said he’s been flooded with inquiries after the storm. He told Reuters, “People are going to become more conscious of how they are living, and invest more in solar.” Via Reuters and The Washington Post Images via Hector Alejandro Santiago Rodriguez on Facebook and Cali Nurseries on Facebook

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The Puerto Rico nursery still up and running thanks to solar power

Cow farts may be contributing more to global warming than we realized

October 4, 2017 by  
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When you hear the words ‘ cow farts,’ you probably giggle a little. But bovine flatulence and belches are pumping methane into the atmosphere, and contributing even more greenhouse gas emissions than scientists previously thought. According to new NASA -funded research, estimates of livestock emissions could have been off by around 10 percent. When we think of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change , carbon dioxide is typically the first one that comes to mind. But methane – even though it can break down quicker – is around 85 times more powerful in trapping heat. And guess who’s pouring methane into the air? Cows. Three scientists, from the United States Department of Agriculture , Joint Global Change Research Institute , and the United States Department of Energy , reevaluated data employed to calculate 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emissions factors. They created revised emissions factors and discovered livestock methane emissions were 11 percent higher in 2011 than other estimates arrived at using the 2006 guidelines. Related: How oregano could save the world by reducing bovine belching The journal Carbon Balance and Management published the research the end of September. Lead author Julie Wolf said in a statement , “In many regions of the world, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food. This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions.” The way we deal with cow poop also influences how many emissions enter the air. Using manure as fertilizer on fields yields less methane than storing the poop in pits. Changes like that one have caused global methane emissions to increase by almost 37 percent. Between 2003 and 2011, livestock yielded around one fifth of methane emissions – but they were also responsible for between half and three quarters of the methane emissions increase researchers noted during that time period. Even if you’re not a farmer, and can’t control farming practices, Popular Science said it wouldn’t hurt to eat less red meat . Via Forbes and Popular Science Images via Ryan Song on Unsplash and Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

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Elon Musk wants to build a rocket that can fly you from New York to Shanghai in 30 minutes

September 29, 2017 by  
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Imagine being able to travel from New York to Shanghai in just 30 minutes. If Elon Musk succeeds with his newest plan, a trip of this kind will soon be possible. During Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. , the entrepreneur revealed his ambition to build the “BFR” – a rocket that could transport anyone anywhere on the planet within 60 minutes. Musk, who has long dreamed of founding a human colony on Mars , is willing to use his own personal assets to fund the futuristic technology. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); LIVE: Elon Musk reveals his latest plans for colonizing Mars. Posted by Bloomberg Technology on Thursday, September 28, 2017 “If we are going to places like Mars , why not Earth?” said Musk at the 68th International Astronautical Congress, which took place in Adelaide, Australia. Towards the end of Musk’s presentation, an animation played on the screen behind the tech entrepreneur, showing dozens of people getting on a high-speed ferry in New York, boarding the BRF on a platform in the water, then jetting to Shanghai in about 30 minutes. Musk wrote on Instagram: ”Fly to most places on Earth in under 30 mins and anywhere in under 60. Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft . Forgot to mention that.” Reportedly, the BFR will contain 40 cabins capable of “ferrying” approximately 100 people at a time. The 46-year-old has admitted in the past that “the major fundamental flaw” in his plans is the financing aspect. With a net worth of approximately $21 billion, the entrepreneur isn’t averse to using his own personal assets to develop the technology. However, money for the BFR will also be raised via contracts with commercial satellite operators, who can use the BFR to carry satellites to orbit, as well as crew and cargo to the International Space Station . Related: Elon Musk sets tentative date for Tesla Semi truck unveiling Musk is also ambitious to send an unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to the red planet in 2018. Though the initial plan has changed, the new goal has the craft landing on Mars in 2022, followed by crewed missions in 2024. Via Bloomberg Images via TEDx , Pixabay

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