Amber-tinted glass clads Gienckes extraordinary concert hall in Latvia

April 22, 2017 by  
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At the heart of the building lies the Great Hall, a venue that holds up to 1,000 guests for performances by the resident Liepaja Symphony Orchestra or other acts. The space is primed for acoustic perfection and is visually pleasing as well. Sunlight is piped in via sun tubes to give the space a natural glow and the seats’ fabric mimic the variation in hues created by light shining through the amber glass. Related: The world’s first sustainable dance club opens in Rotterdam The hall is also home to the Liepaja Conservatorium, a ballet studio, and an experimental stage. Students and teachers of the arts can also meet and share their imaginative creations in the various instruction and rehearsal rooms available. For the public, a bar and music club attracts those interested in a night on the town and a dose of local culture. It’s no doubt the Great Amber Concert Hall will entertain and inspire for years to come. + Volker Giencke Via Frame Images via Indrikis Sturmanis and Aigars Prusis

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Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools

April 19, 2017 by  
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Food and transportation aren’t the only aspects of a mission to Mars scientists must consider. Limited cargo space means to obtain tools or similar items, astronauts may need to make use of resources available on the red planet – like dirt. Four Northwestern University researchers were recently able to utilize a Martian dust simulant to 3D print building blocks and tools . NASA started looking into space 3D printers back in 2013 to manufacture repair parts or tools. Now Northwestern scientists have used lunar and Martian dust simulants approved by NASA to 3D print tools in a process the university described as simple, scalable, and sustainable. Related: 6 space farming projects that could save the human race The researchers drew on a technique they call a 3D-painting process; engineer Ramille Shah said using 3D paints “really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth.” They’ve created a 3D ink and printing method they’ve used to print 3D graphene and hyperelastic “bone.” They made their 3D paints for this project with simple solvents, biopolymer, and the dusts, which are similar to real Martian and lunar dust in terms of composition and particle size and shape. The structures they printed are more than 90 percent dust by weight. The 3D-printed material is flexible, tough, and elastic, kind of like rubber. It can be shaped, folded, cut, or rolled. In addition to tools the team 3D-printed interlocking bricks Shah said are like LEGOS . According to Northwestern, “…this work highlights the potential to use a single 3D printer on another planet to create structures from all kinds of materials.” The journal Nature Scientific Reports published the research online in late March. Shah and another Northwestern professor, who was not a co-author on this paper, are working together on ways to fire the 3D-painted objects in a furnace to make them harder – more like ceramic. Via Treehugger and Northwestern University Images via Northwestern University and Wikimedia Commons

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NASA announces alien life could be thriving on one of Saturn’s moons

April 13, 2017 by  
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In a live broadcast today, NASA researchers announced the agency has uncovered the existence of key ingredients for life as we know it on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus . Scientists already knew that the moon had liquid water on the surface, due to the presence of geysers spewing water near the moon’s south pole. Now, hydrogen has been detected in those jets of water, which suggests the strong possibility that Enceladus’s oceans could support microbial life. It may seem strange that an ice-covered world like Enceladus is being looked at as a potential source of extraterrestrial life, but beneath the planet’s icy shell spans a worldwide ocean over a rocky core. The ice is thought to act as a protective outer layer for the sea, the same way that our atmosphere protects Earth and makes life possible on our own planet. In fact, NASA is closely observing many of these “ ocean worlds ” for signs of life. While Enceladus’s geysers have been known to scientists since 2005, this is the first time the Cassini probe has been able to detect any traces of possible life within them. It’s believed that the plumes originate in a hydrothermal system within the moon’s core, estimated to be 2 1/2 times more powerful than the one that drives Yellowstone’s geysers and hot springs. Despite the icy outer shell, the gravitational pull of Saturn provides heat for the water in the moon’s interior, another encouraging sign for the development of life. Related: Trump plans to strip NASA’s earth science division, promote mission to Mars This new information about the moon comes from October 2015, when the Cassini craft flew into the plumes themselves, a mere 30 miles above the moon’s surface. The probe was able to capture particles from the plume inside a piece of equipment called an Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer, which can analyze the makeup of material encountered on its journey through space. The probe detected a number of interesting organic molecules, including molecular hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. The level of hydrogen , in particular, was surprising to researchers . This volatile gas isn’t easily captured on small, icy worlds like Enceladus, so there must be some chemical process beneath the surface producing the molecules. It may be that hot water from the ocean is flowing into iron-rich cracks in the sea floor, causing a chemical reaction that is constantly replenishing the ocean’s supply of molecular hydrogen. This is the same process that happens in Earth’s own hydrothermal vents , which helps fuel the strange and diverse ecosystems of the deep oceans. Because we’re familiar with exactly how this process supports Earth life, there’s a strong possibility that life could thrive on Enceladus in the same way. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have the instruments necessary to detect life directly on these watery worlds – only to look for the chemical indications of an environment that could potentially support it. Related: NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system NASA also today announced that they had found evidence of similar water plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa , though less is known about their makeup. Unlike the Saturn Cassini mission, scientists don’t currently have an up-close view of Europa. Instead, they had to rely on data from the Hubble Space Telescope , which has been monitoring the moon to try to learn more about the makeup of its oceans. We may not know for certain until the 2020s, when NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch. Via NASA Images via NASA/JPL

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6 space farming projects that could save the human race

April 11, 2017 by  
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What will humans eat on Mars ? It’s a daunting question: the red planet’s frigid average temperature is around negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit and its thin atmosphere is comprised of 95.32 percent carbon dioxide . But not to worry, future astronauts. NASA’s on it, as are several other institutions worldwide. Inhabitat rounded up six exciting space farming projects revealing the progress scientists have made on the issue of sustainable space cuisine. Scientists grow potatoes in Mars-like conditions, justifying The Martian’s Mark Watney Scientists from the International Potato Center , NASA’s Ames Research Center , and Peru’s University of Technology and Engineering recently showed the 2015 movie The Martian may have not just been science fiction after all. Inside a CubeSat , a small satellite in which the scientists could simulate Mars conditions, they were able to sprout potatoes , the crop of choice for astronaut Mark Watney in the film. Their research shows maybe we could grow those tubers on Mars after all, but also could offer insight into how to cultivate crops here on Earth in climate change -impacted regions. Related: Six scientists just completed a year-long simulated Mars mission Scientists find four crops grown in Mars-like soil are edible Wageningen University scientists in the Netherlands have also been growing crops in Mars-like soil. They successfully cultivated ten crops – like tomatoes, rye, and peas – in dirt provided by NASA that came largely from a Hawaii volcano, but feared the resulting food might be filled with heavy metals . Further tests showed they didn’t have to worry quite so much: at least four of the crops do not contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, or arsenic and are edible. The Wageningen team hopes to continue their research and raise more money for their project. Astronauts harvest lettuce on the International Space Station International Space Station (ISS) astronauts are in on the space farming effort too. In 2014, Orbital Technologies Corporation’s Veggie system was deployed to the ISS , and recently in late 2016, NASA checked in with space gardener astronaut Shane Kimbrough who has harvested multiple batches of lettuce on the space station. The experiment not only gives astronauts the chance to nibble on some rare fresh greens harvested every ten days or so, but will also further NASA’s knowledge of how different life forms perform in zero gravity environments. Self-contained greenhouse could grow plants with Earth air on Mars The Mars Plant Experiment (MPX) was a small, self-contained greenhouse with enough Earth air to last 15 days and around 200 seeds of the flowering plant Arabidopsis used often in research. The little greenhouse would have hitched a ride to Mars aboard a rover for the 2020 mission. One of 58 proposed experiments, MPX didn’t make the list of seven selected payload proposals NASA announced a little over two months after Inhabitat’s article, but it’s still an intriguing idea for how humans might go about growing plants on Mars. NASA Advanced Food Technology team designs over 100 vegan recipes for future Mars crew Forget freeze-dried ice cream. NASA’s Advanced Food Technology project took a healthier approach by looking into an entirely vegan diet for future space voyagers. They developed more than 100 vegan recipes for a six to eight person Mars crew, featuring fresh fruits and vegetables possibly grown in hydroponic systems. Veganism wasn’t so much a ideological choice for the NASA team as a practical one: it would be difficult to store easily perishable dairy and meat products during the lengthy trip to Mars. Experts suggest kitchen garden for astronauts venturing to Mars All the way back in 2011, NASA was pointing to kitchen-style gardens as a solution for astronauts, realizing pre-packaged food alone probably wouldn’t cut it for deep space missions. Speaking at an American Chemical Society gathering, scientist Maya Cooper of NASA’s Space Food System Laboratory said chefs and horticultural experts could help devise a plan for producing the over 7,000 pounds of food required for the five year journey to Mars. Experts identified 10 likely candidates for a spaceship kitchen garden: cabbage, spinach, herbs, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, radishes and lettuce – of course we’re now growing that last plant already on ISS. In just over five years, scientists have come a long way in developing space farming , and we’re excited to see what innovations crop up in the upcoming years as humanity prepares to go to Mars. Images via Pixabay , Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Food for mars and moon Facebook , NASA , NASA/JPL/Cornell University , Wikimedia Commons , and NASA

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Architecture graduate celebrates her first year living in a tiny home she built herself

April 5, 2017 by  
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Most architecture graduates daydream about creating larger-than-life buildings – but 27-year-old Stephanie Henschen is celebrating her first year living in a tiny home she designed and built herself. The University of South Florida grad student spent 10 months building the home for her thesis project. Not only did she get an A for her work, but she’s become a fully-fledged member of the tiny home revolution. Henschen began the project with little experience in construction. After buying a building plan at a tiny home workshop, she began to build the design in her grandmother’s backyard in St. Petersburg, Florida with some help from her family. Once finished, she hauled it to the USF campus to present as her thesis project, and she received a glowing review. Initially, she had plans to sell the home to pay off her debt, but she became so attached to the project that she decided to live in it. She eventually moved the home to a RV resort where she has lived comfortably for the last year. Related: How this photographer escaped the grid with her tiny Teardrop Trailer Although the project wasn’t necessarily driven by the need to minimalize her life, Henschen says that sustainability and minimalism came easily as soon as she began designing the compact space. The timber home measures 210 square feet and it’s loaded on a trailer for easy transportation. On the interior, multi-colored wooden panels give the space a nice cabin feel, which is enhanced with personal touches such as white curtains. The bedroom sits up on an elevated loft-like space reached by ladder, and a honeycomb-shaped window floods the interior with natural light. Although she’s become quite attached to her first tiny home, she has recently put it on sale for $30,000. She hopes to use the money to build two more tiny homes – one to live in and one to sell. + Searching for Hamlet Photo courtesy of Stephanie Henschen

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Architecture graduate celebrates her first year living in a tiny home she built herself

Blue Origin unveils interior images of capsule to transport tourists to outer space

March 30, 2017 by  
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The day when tourists venture to space could arrive sooner than we think. Blue Origin – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ‘ spaceflight company – just unveiled images of the interior of their New Shepard capsule that could transport travelers to outer space as soon as 2018. Blue Origin’s emphasis on tourism means the capsule is filled with large windows to allow stunning views of Earth. New Shepard could transport the first space tourists to just above the Kármán line, commonly considered the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space. There they’ll float around weightless for a few minutes. Naturally windows are an all-important component of space tourism, and Blue Origin says on their website their capsule will have the biggest windows in the history of spaceflight . In an email, Bezos said, “Every seat’s a window seat, the largest windows ever in space.” Related: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is the first to land a rocket intact upon return from space Inside reclining black seats featuring the Blue Origin feather logo hint at luxury aboard the New Shepard, which can seat six. The company draws on the romanticism surrounding astronauts as they describe the experience on their website, from communicating with Mission Control to earning astronaut wings. The reusable New Shepard rocket has successfully launched and landed five times to this point, but a person has not yet traveled in the capsule. The interior is quite a departure from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule interior – which has smaller windows – but The Verge pointed out while SpaceX’s primary target is transporting astronauts to the International Space Station , Blue Origin focuses on tourism. But Elon Musk did say recently two private citizens could travel around the moon in a Crew Dragon – also in 2018 – so it appears a new space race is on. After New Shepard’s booster and capsule separate, the capsule free falls for a few minutes before landing with the help of parachutes. The booster also returns to Earth courtesy of an autonomously controlled rocket-powered landing so both can be reused. A New Shepard capsule mockup will be on display at the 33rd Space Symposium from April 3 to 6 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. + Blue Origin Via The Verge Images via Blue Origin

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"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

March 23, 2017 by  
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A venerated sea turtle who was fed hundreds of coins by supplicants seeking good fortune is dead . The 25-year-old animal was living in a pond in a town near the Gulf of Thailand in late February when rescuers found her close to drowning from the weight of her cache—about 11 pounds worth. After naming her Omsin, which is Thai for “piggy bank,” a team of veterinary surgeons operated on the turtle for seven hours. By the time they were finished, they had filled a bucket with 915 coins, in currencies both foreign and domestic. Omsin was expected to survive, if not thrive. By all accounts, her rehabilitation at Bangkok’s Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Center went smoothly. She received laser therapy on her belly incision. A large kiddie pool, coupled with physical therapy for a wonky flipper, helped her ease back into water. Following a liquid diet, Omsin returned to eating solid food. “She is getting stronger,” Nantarika Chansue, a veterinary scientist who tracked Omsin’s progress on Facebook, wrote on March 9. Just as her doctors began planning her release to the wild, Omsin’s condition suddenly deteriorated. They found her intestines in a tangle in the space where the coins once filled. An infection had developed, causing her abdomen to swell up with gas and fluid. Related: Sea turtle is rescued after being dragged onto a beach and beaten for selfies Despite rushing the turtle into intensive care on Sunday night, then emergency surgery on Monday, Omsin lapsed into a comma. On Tuesday, she died, a victim of ignorance and superstition. “At 10:10 a.m., she went with peace,” Nantarika said during a news conference. Visibly weeping, she called Omsin her “friend, teacher and patient.” Nantarika was comforted by just one thought. “She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed,” she said. Via the Washington Post Photos by Unsplash

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"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

Historic Dutch nursery transformed into stunning solar-powered home

March 21, 2017 by  
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A stunning solar-powered home has emerged from the bones of a former school for infants in Leiden, the Netherlands. Design firm ATELIER SPACE completed the beautiful adaptive reuse project , taking care to preserve historic elements while imbuing fresh contemporary touches to the renovation. Energy efficiency was a major focus in the redesign, which includes energy-saving features such as improved insulation, underfloor heating, and home automation. Built in 1925, the historic brick nursery was constructed with great open spaces and tall ceilings filled with natural light from skylights and large windows. These features lend themselves easily to reuse as a residence and the architects made no major changes to the overall structure of the building. A single classroom, for instance, were repurposed into three bedrooms. The architects also preserved the tiled floors in the corridor, original doors, and wooden rafters to maintain a connection to the building’s past. While the tiled corridor was kept intact, the architects replaced the other floors with insulated concrete with underfloor heating . The roof and glass windows were also bolstered with improved insulation to minimize heat loss. A water and air-based heat pump heats and cools the building. Solar panels provide electricity. JUNG KNX home automation allows the homeowners to control aspects of the house, such as lighting and the shutters, remotely from their phones. Related: Cigarette factory reborn as a light-filled city hall in Brussels The spacious 694-square-meter home includes five bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a media room, workout room, and an open-plan living room, kitchen, and dining area housed in a converted gymnasium. The school’s old playground was transformed into a sunny courtyard with plastered brick banks and planters around a “conversation pit.” The second floor contains a small guesthouse. + ATELIER SPACE Via ArchDaily Images via Brigitte Kroone

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Architects transform an old hay barn into a stunning minimalist home

February 28, 2017 by  
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OFIS Architects have converted an old hay barn in Slovenia into a gorgeous living space. The barn was originally used to house cattle on the first floor and store hay on the upper level, but had been left empty for years. To convert the space into a comfortable loft space without sacrificing the building’s local vernacular, the architects were determined to use as much as the existing structure as possible. The Slovenian countryside is full of decrepit barns that serve as symbols of the country’s rural lifestyle. To pay respects to the local vernacular, the architects made impressive strides to use what they could of the barn’s original materials . Related: Architects transform 18th century barn with seamless contemporary extension Surprisingly, the renovation team was able to maintain almost all of the external wooden cladding and concrete roof slates. A few strategic renovations were made to include windows and an opening for the front porch to let in natural light to the home, and a ramp that previously led animals into the barn was also fixed to serve the same purpose for the new, human inhabitant. https://youtu.be/cBDAeyO7WC0 Inside, the home has an open floor plan with minimal furnishings and exposed wooden beams. The interior floors, walls and furniture are covered in locally-sourced spruce panels, resulting in a homey cabin feel. The open living and dining area make up the main volume, and a raised bedroom was installed in the back. The kitchen, sauna, fireplace and bathroom are all strategically placed out of sight behind a wall of sliding vertical planks to further open the living space. + OFIS Architects Via Ambienti TV Photography by Tomaž Gregori?

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Famous swimming pigs in Bahamas found dead after consuming ‘wrong food’

February 28, 2017 by  
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A pod of swimming pigs has delighted tourists in the Bahamas for decades, but several of them were recently found dead. Wayde Nixon, who owns some of the pigs, said they appear to have eaten food they aren’t accustomed to. The tragedy has drawn criticism of irresponsible tourists who often feed the animals human food, including alcohol like rum or beer. About 20 swimming pigs once frolicked in the Exuma Cays, according to the Bahamas’ tourism website . Swimming alongside the animals and photographing them may be harmless, but Nixon said people have also tried to ride on top of the pigs or give them alcohol. He told The Nassau Guardian, “We had them pigs there almost 30 years, and never has this happened before, but now we are going to have to regulate it. Right now it’s blowing out of proportion with people, anybody bringing food there, anybody doing what they [want to] do.” Related: Yoda the Piglet Escapes Slaughterhouse, Finds Love and Safety He blamed their deaths on someone giving them bad food, but Bahamas Humane Society president Kim Aranha said it could have been an accident, and the animals could have consumed something poisonous. She told The Independent, “It could be malicious but I don’t really see why anyone would go out of their way to hurt those lovely animals. I know there are a lot of silly sailors that go and feed them alcohol to try and get them drunk but that’s not to mistake them with the tour operators based out of Nassau who have treated them with excellent care.” Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray said the government will work to prevent tourists from feeding the pigs, such as through a boundary line so visitors could still see the pigs but wouldn’t be able to feed them. He said his department is working with the Ministry of Tourism to implement a safeguard for the remaining 15 or so pigs. Via The Nassau Guardian and The Independent Images via Pixabay and cdorobek on Flickr

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