New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer

April 26, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Exeter and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health have concluded that there is a “strong link” between exposure to LED lighting and increased risk of breast and prostate cancer . The “blue light” emitted by LED lights seems to affect circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns, which then impacts hormone levels. “Humans have evolved to need light during the day and darkness at night,” researcher Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel told The Telegraph . “As towns and cities replace older lighting, we’re all exposed to higher levels of ‘blue’ lights, which can disrupt our biological clocks.” Previous research has documented the carcinogenic risk of night-shift work and artificial light . “We know that depending on its intensity and wave length, artificial light, particularly in the blue spectrum, can decrease melatonin production and secretion,” study co-author Martin Aubé explained to EurekAlert . In addition to regulating sleep cycles, melatonin functions as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Blue light, which is also emitted from tablet, phone , computer, and TV screens, is one of the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy forms of light. Related: A glowing glass “lantern” turns this energy-efficient office into a beacon This research comes as many cities are making the switch to LED streetlights, which are more energy-efficient and cheaper than traditional lighting. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives , the study included more than 4,000 people in 11 distinct regions of Spain in its analysis. It also incorporated images taken aboard the International Space Station to gain a fuller sense of blue light’s impact on a global scale. Public Health England has recommended further study of the impact of LED lighting before it is more widely adopted, while the American Medical Association has recommended that municipalities and businesses install the lowest-intensity LED lighting, with shading to provide additional protection. + Environmental Health Perspectives Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos (1)

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New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer

11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

April 26, 2018 by  
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Designers awed and inspired attendees at this year’s Milan Design Week with fresh takes on contemporary design. From unexpected uses for wood and recycled materials to advanced lighting technology , we spotted countless incredible projects throughout the event — read on for 11 of our favorite designs from Milan Design Week 2018. Sila lamp by Zsuzsanna Horvath Helsinki-based Hungarian architect Zsuzsanna Horvath developed the Sila lamp – an elegant lamp that emerges from a two-dimensional plane of laser-cut birch plywood. The lamp’s structure is made with thin, delicate slivers of plywood connected by a flexible OLED panel. With its soft light and delicate shape, this lamp is a perfect addition for quiet and cozy interiors. Bread chair by Mika Tsutai This Bread Chair by Japanese designer Mika Tsutai is definitely an object of good taste… and good humor. Inspired by the unpredictable shape of bread, Tsutai kneaded dough — real dough, made from flour — shaped it into a chair, and baked it. The baked piece was scanned, and a digital model was created. The designer used this model to carve the same shape from wood. The unique shape reflects the random swelling of bread after baking. Macaron seat by Kalo Kalo created the Macaron Seat by using locally-recycled bits of rubber. Each seat is crafted by pressing a mold onto a wooden frame. This seat catches the eye using juxtapositions: smooth wooden legs contrast with a textured seat and a shining brass element along the edges of the dark rubber. Halo lamp by Mandalaki Designed by the Milan-based Mandalaki office, the Halo lamp is a bold combination of art and technology. Unlike most lamps, Halo does not provide neutral white illumination. Instead, it dyes space with vivid, unexpected colors. The vivid colors are produced by analog optical decomposition instead of an RGB LED. Mandalaki developed a dichroic filter to divide the pure luminous flux, or the measure of perceived light, into a vast spectrum of colors. Sundial clock by YOY You don’t need sunlight to use this Sundial wall clock by Tokyo-based design studio YOY. Although at first sight it seems to be a real sundial, it is only an illusion. Part of the “Fictionality” collection, this clock has a regular bar as the minute hand and a “shadow” as the hour hand, which is imprinted on the clock’s face. Surprisingly, the entire clock rotates to show the correct time. Plug It by Studio Oberhauser Instead of discarding thousands of small wood scraps from the industrial production of furniture, Studio Oberhauser created Plug It to exemplify the beauty of recycling. The studio suggests that stacking the comb-shaped wood chips to craft pieces of furniture can be a fun and functional game for everyone. Sea of Plastic by EcoBirdy EcoBirdy’s main goal is to reduce the sea of plastic . To do this, the company crafted children’s furniture entirely from recycled plastic. Plus, each item can be easily recycled again. The Antwerp-based designers have also involved children in this socially- and environmentally-responsible act by designing a storybook and a school program that teaches children about sustainable living. D.01 bench by Davide Montanaro Wood appears to be a stiff and rigid material, but it can be made to bend with just the right touch. Dukta is a unique incision process that can make wood into a flexible, manageable material. Davide Montanaro used this process to design the plywood D.01 bench and ensured the piece had character with its smooth shape and distinct pattern. S-Lab clock by 4R 4R made the S-Lab clock using recycled plastic. The entire production process, from collection to melting and molding was completed in-house. The designers were able to control the color, pattern and texture of the clock. With this project, the team hopes to continue working and exploring with plastic in their designs. Woodencap by Rootpecker Rootpecker has made design history by creating the first wooden cap in the world. The hat is handmade in Germany and features a smooth, flexible wood surface and intricate stitching. The company aims to source only eco-friendly materials for their unique products. Paper and Light by Denis Guidone and Tomoko Fuse Designer Denis Guidone and origami artist Tomoko Fuse created Paper and Light to blend classic and contemporary techniques. This project includes a series of lamps made from folded washi, a traditional Japanese paper. The folded light installments illuminate the area and create playful shadows. + Milan Design Week Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

April 23, 2018 by  
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Is China turning the tide on pollution ? The country stands to benefit not just environmentally, but financially as well. A new MIT study found if China reduces carbon dioxide emissions by four percent a year, the nation could net around $339 billion in health savings by the year 2030. That figure could be around four times what it would cost the country to achieve climate goals – in other words, according to MIT, “the country’s climate policy would more than pay for itself.” Fulfilling its international pledge to cut carbon emissions makes sense for China in many ways. Not only could the nation contribute significantly to the global battle against climate change (as it’s the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases) – but the health impacts for Chinese citizens could be huge. Improving air quality could avoid a considerable amount of deaths from air pollution in every province — and MIT put a dollar figure on the benefit to society: $339 billion. Related: China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early MIT associate professor Noelle Eckley Selin co-authored the study published today in Nature Climate Change . In a statement, she said: “The country could actually come out net positive, just based on the health co-benefits associated with air quality improvements, relative to the cost of a climate policy. This is a motivating factor for countries to engage in global climate policy.” How did the team reach their figure? They developed a modeling approach called the Regional Emissions Air Quality Climate and Health framework, combining an energy -economic model and atmospheric chemistry model. They used the energy-economic model “to simulate how a given climate policy changes a province’s economic activity, energy use, and emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.” They ran simulations under four scenarios: one with no policy and three with policies aiming to cut emissions through 2030 by three, four, and five percent a year. They then plugged in results into the atmospheric chemistry model and estimated particulate matter concentrations for provinces to help calculate the pollution communities are inhaling. Epidemiological literature helped them figure out how many deaths could be avoided. They calculated the economic value of the deaths, which they compared against the total cost of implementing a policy scenario. Their findings? In a no-policy scenario, by 2030 there would be over 2.3 million premature, pollution-related deaths. In the three, four, or five percent emissions reductions scenarios, China could respectively avoid 36,000, 94,000, and 160,000 premature deaths. The savings “gained as a result of health co-benefits equals $138.4 billion, $339.6 billion, and $534.8 billion, respectively,” according to MIT. + MIT Images via Diego Jimenez , Frak Lopez , and Manon Boyer on Unsplash

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MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

Finland’s two-year universal basic income experiment is coming to an end

April 19, 2018 by  
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The Finnish government is planning to conclude its much-touted universal basic income experiment at the end of a two-year study period instead of extending it. Since early 2017, the Finnish government gave 2,000 unemployed Finns between the ages of 25 and 58 an unconditional monthly payment of 560 euros, or $690. “Right now, the government is making changes that are taking the system further away from a basic income,” Kela researcher Miska Simanainen told Svenska Dagbladet . Though there had been plans to include workers in the basic income experiment starting in early 2018, this did not happen. Because workers were not included, researchers are limited in their ability to analyze the impact of universal basic income in promoting career changes or job training. “Two years is too short a time frame to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a vast experiment,” basic income expert Olli Kangas told YLE . “We ought to have been given additional time and more money to achieve reliable results.” While Finland’s experiment is wrapping up with potentially disappointing results, basic income is an increasingly popular social policy among tech sector leaders, such as Elon Musk , Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and futurist Ray Kurzweil. Related: Stockton, California is launching the first basic income experiment in the US Finland’s government seems less enthused about basic income. The Finnish government recently passed a bill that requires unemployed people to work at least 18 hours over three months or risk losing their benefits. “When the basic income experiment ends this year, we should launch a universal credit trial,” Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo told Hufvudstadsbladet . Such a trial could be modeled on the United Kingdom ‘s system, which combines various benefits and tax credits into a single account. More comprehensive results from Finland’s basic income experiment will be available after the trial’s conclusion at the end of 2018. Via Business Insider Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia

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Finland’s two-year universal basic income experiment is coming to an end

These robots assembled an IKEA chair in 20 minutes without having a meltdown

April 19, 2018 by  
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Who hasn’t found themselves ready to throw a half-assembled IKEA chair across the room in a fit of frustration? If you are one of the many humans that still struggle to piece it all together, don’t despair: the robots are coming. In a study recently published in Science Robotics , scientists created two robots that are capable of performing the complex movements and possess the planning skills necessary to construct an IKEA chair. The robots are able to assemble a chair in a little over twenty minutes, with 11 minutes and 21 seconds dedicated to planning and 8 minutes and 55 seconds devoted to actual construction. While computers seem to have surpassed humans in certain cognitive tasks, such as playing chess and Go, until the development of this particular robot, even the most advanced robots struggled to emulate the manual dexterity possessed by humans to complete a complicated task like chair assembly. Additionally, the task requires integration of sight and precise calculation of force necessary to complete a particular step in the process. The team that designed the IKEA assembly robot from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore  utilized 3D cameras and force sensors , combined with full-range robotic arms, to equip their machine with the parts necessary to get the job done. Related: Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them To start, the robots recorded images to properly identify each component of the chair. Next, the robots followed a complex algorithm to plan the movements needed to complete the task without bumping into anything. Finally, the robot arms assembled the parts, guided by sensors to determine the force necessary to secure each component. Although the robots were not fully autonomous, the researchers predict that with ever-advancing artificial intelligence , assembly robots may someday be able to piece together your furniture simply by flipping through the manual. Via Science Magazine Images via Science Magainze

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These robots assembled an IKEA chair in 20 minutes without having a meltdown

Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017

April 19, 2018 by  
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Last year, the world invested more in solar power than all fossil-fuel sources combined. Investors and governments installed an all-time record of 157 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity, according to a new report from the United Nations (UN). In 2017, the world installed 98 W of solar capacity, nearly half of which was in China. The net new capacity from fossil fuels was only 70W in 2017. “We are at a turning point … from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim told Reuters . “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.” Although renewable energy is clearly the way of the future, fossil fuels remain the dominant source of energy on the planet. Only 12.1 percent of the world’s electricity came from renewable energy sources, an improvement on 5.2 percent in 2007. This boom in renewable energy has been backed by strong investment in recent years. In 2017, global investment in renewable energy rose by two percent. China invested $122.6 billion, 45 percent of global investment and the most of any country, into the industry in the same year. Related: World’s largest solar energy project will be 100 times bigger than any other on the planet Governments and investors have noticed a change in the fundamentals behind renewable energy. “Much lower costs … are the driver of solar investment worldwide,” said report lead author Angus McCrone told Reuters . For example, the cost of energy production through large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) decreased by 15 percent last year to $86 per megawatt hour. Even with an administration hostile to renewable energy in the White House, the drive towards renewable energy continues. “Trump can no more brake this than those who opposed the Industrial Revolution could stop the Industrial Revolution,” said Solheim. President Trump recently signed a government spending bill that retained many of the existing tax credits for renewable energy in the United States . Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017

This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water

April 17, 2018 by  
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Through the magic of moss , anything is possible. Scientists at the University of Stockholm have discovered that  Warnstofia fluitans , or floating hook moss, is capable of extracting arsenic from water. The miracle moss is quick, too – it can make water safe to drink in just an hour. Scientists hope to use the breakthrough to develop wetland areas that can filter out arsenic from mining waste to make water clean for people, agriculture and animals downstream. “Our experiments show that the moss has a very high capacity to remove arsenic,” said research assistant and study co-author Arifin Sandhi . “It takes no more than an hour to remove 80 per cent of the arsenic from a container of water. By then, the water has reached such a low level of arsenic that it is no longer harmful to people.” Native to northern Sweden, floating hook moss offers a green, locally-based solution to a problem plaguing its native habitat. “We hope that the plant-based wetland system that we are developing will solve the arsenic problem in Sweden’s northern mining areas,” said study leader Maria Greger , commenting on the environmental legacy of the Swedish mining industry. Although the use of arsenic compounds in wood products was banned in 2004, the deadly element still infiltrates drinking water through mining, which exposes the water table to natural arsenic found deep within Sweden’s bedrock layer. Related: Gooey cactus guts remove arsenic and bacteria from polluted water Arsenic also poses a threat to agriculture , in which crops absorb arsenic-tainted water through their roots. “How much arsenic we consume ultimately depends on how much of these foods we eat, as well as how and where they were grown,” explained Greger. “Our aim is that the plant-based wetland system we are developing will filter out the arsenic before the water becomes drinking water and irrigation water.” The researchers envision the moss being applied to specific areas through its deliberate cultivation in streams and other bodies of water that pose a high risk of arsenic. Lessons learned in Sweden may then serve other parts of the world that also suffer from arsenic-tainted water. Via Treehugger Images via  Arifin Sandhi and Maria Greger

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Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925

April 11, 2018 by  
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Oceanic heatwaves have increased by 54 percent since 1925, posing a major threat to aquatic ecosystems . In a study published in the journal Nature Communications , researchers outlined the cause and effects of underwater heatwaves and their future impact on the world’s oceans. According to researchers, “These trends can largely be explained by increases in mean ocean temperatures, suggesting that we can expect further increases in marine heatwave days under continued global warming.” As higher levels of greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, greater amounts of solar radiation are trapped on Earth — 95 percent of which is absorbed by the ocean . Much like the relationship between extreme weather and rising temperatures on land, as the mean average oceanic temperature rises, so too does the likelihood of extreme oceanic heating events. Because water is able to hold more heat than land, these extreme temperature events last longer than those caused by higher air temperatures. A recent example occurred in 2015, when ocean temperatures from Mexico to Alaska increased up to 10 degrees above average. Fifty documented whale deaths were recorded in this period, and many other marine animals suffered from the unusually hot water. Related: Researchers discover a completely new ocean zone swimming with new species To conduct the study, the research team gathered and analyzed data on sea surface temperatures from the past century, with recent decades producing the most accurate data. Given that the most useful data is from such a short time period, the team could not explicitly draw a causal link between anthropogenic climate change and oceanic heatwaves. They explained that the fluctuations may be due to natural temperature swings. Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that the notable increase in average oceanic temperature is absolutely affected by climate change . The scientists are most concerned that — in combination with other pressures such as acidification, overfishing , and pollution — fragile ecosystems could reach a tipping point by oceanic heatwaves and ultimately collapse. Via ZME Science Images via Depositphotos and Oliver et al.

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Ocean heatwaves have risen by more than 50% since 1925

Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year

April 10, 2018 by  
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“ Plastic: it’s what’s for dinner.” Plastics are polluting the world’s waterways – and they’re also found in abundance in the average person’s gut. Researchers in the United Kingdom have determined that the average British resident consumes, on average, 70,000 bits of microplastic every year. In a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution , scientists positioned sticky petri dishes next to dinner plates in several British homes. After only twenty minutes, an average of 14 microplastic bits gathered in each petri dish. The researchers then used this data to estimate that each dinner plate accumulates roughly 100 pieces of microplastic, originating from clothing, tires, carpets, and any number of plastic products encountered in daily life. The dinner plate study that produced these results was initially designed to test the level of plastic contamination in seafood. “These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibers in seafood to be higher than those in household dust,” study author Ted Henry said in a statement . “We do not know where these fibers come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment.” Free-floating plastic found in households also attracts other toxic pollutants. Meanwhile, global plastic production continues. Unless something is done, global plastic waste is expected to reach 12 billion metric tons by 2050. Related: First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam Dinner plates are not the only medium through which microplastic bits enter the human body. The average glass of tap water in the United States contains 4.8 fibers of plastic, while the same amount of tap water in Europe contains 1.9 fibers on average. Bottled water actually fares worse in plastic content, with each bottle containing twice as many particles as the equivalent amount of tap water. Via Global Citizen Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year

Footprints from world’s largest dinosaur discovered in Scotland

April 3, 2018 by  
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Dozens of footprints from ancient sauropods , a kind of creature that scientists believe may have been the largest dinosaur ever, have been discovered in Scotland. These 170-million-year-old footprints are also the oldest ever discovered in Scotland. The sauropod footprints were located in a lagoon on the Isle of Skye, near a group of footprints from theropods, more ancient cousins of  Tyrannosaurus Rex.  “It shows both long-necked and meat-eaters were on the same site at the same time living together, side-by-side,” Dr. Steve Brusatte of Edinburgh University told the Telegraph . “It captures a moment in time 170 million years ago when they were just hanging out in a lagoon, living on the beach, back when Scotland was much warmer and dinosaurs were beginning their march to global dominance.” Scientists believe that the sauropods who left the footprints were least 49 feet long and weighed more than 10 tons. The theropods are thought to have stood at least six feet tall. In total, researchers documented approximately 50 footprints near Brothers’ Point on the Isle of Skye’s Trotternish peninsula. This wet and wild location made it difficult for scientists to study the footprints on-site, though  drones helped, particularly in creating a map of the dig site. Related: Turns out blood-sucking ticks really did plague the dinosaurs Despite its challenging environment, Scotland ‘s Isle of Skye has proven to be a bountiful trove of dinosaur fossils. “This tracksite is the second discovery of sauropod footprints on Skye,” study lead author Paige dePolo told Science Daily . “It was found in rocks that were slightly older than those previously found at Duntulm on the island and demonstrates the presence of sauropods in this part of the world through a longer timescale than previously known. This site is a useful building block for us to continue fleshing out a picture of what dinosaurs were like on Skye in the Middle Jurassic.” Via The Telegraph and Science Daily Images via  Paige dePolo/University of Edinburgh and University of Edinburgh

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Footprints from world’s largest dinosaur discovered in Scotland

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