Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

February 21, 2018 by  
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Let’s face it, the way we charge our phones hasn’t evolved much over the years. You plug your phone in, or place it on a precise place on a wireless charging pad , and then you wait. But the genius researchers over at the University of Washington have developed a way to charge your phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams! Researchers developed a cell that can power a smartphone using energy from laser beams – and it charges just as quickly as a direct connection with a USB cable. A focused near-infrared beam, which can extend up to 40 feet, delivers power, while several “retroreflectors” around the power cell reflect the guard beams back to the charging unit. Related: China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers You might be thinking that this sounds as dangerous as sharks with laser beams on their heads, but the researchers designed a bunch of safety features, like a heatsink to help dissipate the heat and an automatic shut-off if a human moves into the beam’s path. To accomplish this, the aforementioned retroflectors act as a trip wire, terminating the charging beam if something enters the path. “The guard beams are able to act faster than our quickest motions because those beams are reflected back to the emitter at the speed of light,” said Shyam Gollakota, one of the co-authors of the study. Gollakota and co-author Arka Majumdar published their research recently in Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Ubiquitous Technologies . Sometime it could totally change the way we charge our devices – no sharks needed. Via Phys.org Images via Mark Stone for UW

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Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

Sinking island nation of Tuvalu is actually growing

February 9, 2018 by  
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The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has long been considered at great risk to sinking beneath the rising sea levels of climate change. However, scientists at the University of Auckland have learned that it is actually increasing in size, with the island’s total land area having grown 2.9 percent between 1971 and 2014. “We tend to think of Pacific atolls as static landforms that will simply be inundated as sea levels rise , but there is growing evidence these islands are geologically dynamic and are constantly changing,” study co-author Paul Kench told Phys.org . “The study findings may seem counter-intuitive, given that (the) sea level has been rising in the region over the past half century, but the dominant mode of change over that time on Tuvalu has been expansion, not erosion.” Researchers used aerial photography and satellite imagery to study the geographical changes on Tuvalu’s nine atolls and 101 reef islands. They found that eight atolls and nearly three-fourths of the reef islands grew during the period studied, all while sea level at Tuvalu rose twice as quickly as the global average. Wave patterns and sediment deposits brought by storm activity seemed to have counteracted any “sinking” effects due to sea level rise. Related: 14 Pacific island nations considering world’s first ban on fossil fuels While climate change remains an existential threat to island nations like Tuvalu, this study could prompt a rethinking of how sea level rise will actually manifest in light of compounding factors that resulted in Tuvalu’s growth. “On the basis of this research we project a markedly different trajectory for Tuvalu’s islands over the next century than is commonly envisaged,” said Kench . “While we recognize that habitability rests on a number of factors, loss of land is unlikely to be a factor in forcing depopulation of Tuvalu.” The study authors recognize the need to make drastic changes while acknowledging that there is still time to adapt. “Embracing such new adaptation pathways will present considerable national scale challenges to planning, development goals and land tenure systems,” the authors said . “However, as the data on island change shows there is time (decades) to confront these challenges.” Via Phys.org Images via  Tomoaki INABA/Flickr (1)

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This amazing green office is covered with native plants that were rescued on-site

February 9, 2018 by  
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Ho Khue Architects has created a beautiful office space in Da Nang infused with lush native greenery . The Vietnam-based firm constructed the Modern Village Office on an old lot that was covered in native plants. Inspired by the plants’ resilience, the architects transplanted the greenery inside the building to create a soothing office that evokes the spirit of a family village. The architects built the concrete office space on an urban lot that contained some old structures, white pampas grass, and native plants like bamboo shrubs. The architects took the natural state of the lot into consideration and decided to infuse the existing vegetation into the office’s design. The banana trees, yellow bushes and native plants were carefully transplanted on the first floor, where they help create a soothing and welcoming entryway. Some of the plants were also harvested to be used in the ground floor’s water feature. Related: Translucent Ho Chi Minh City office tower infused with greenery helps combat urban pollution More native plants were transplanted on the building’s rooftop, creating a beautiful garden for employees to enjoy. The dense grass and other plants that cover the roof help cool the interior floors underneath. The greenery continues throughout the interior spaces, with long hanging vines and plants in virtually every corner. The 350-square-meter space is bright and airy thanks to the white brick walls and minimal furnishings found inside. The interior is naturally lit by an abundance of windows, and open terraces provide quiet areas for meetings or lounging. Decorative slats on the southwest facade block out the heat and provide natural ventilation. According to the architects, the green office building was designed to give modern workers a healthy environment that provides a relaxing atmosphere: “Working in this modern office evokes feelings reminiscent of childhood and a time when life was simpler. The air flow is fresh from the sea leading to comfortable temperature without being cold. Today’s younger generation may have had little or no time in the countryside. This office has brought the spirit and the heart of the rural areas to the workplace.” + Ho Khue Architects Via Archdaily Photography via Hiroyuki Oki

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This amazing green office is covered with native plants that were rescued on-site

Incredible new "super wood" is as strong as steel

February 9, 2018 by  
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It’s a twig, it’s a branch, it’s… Super Wood! Researchers at the University of Maryland have created a so-called “super wood” that is stronger than many titanium alloys. The research team used a two-step process to drastically increase the density of the wood , thus reinforcing its strength to 10 times that of traditional wood. “It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter,” research team co-leader  Teng Li told ScienceDaily . “It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and molded at the beginning of the process.” To create the super material, the research team first boiled wood in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. With lignin and hemicellulose partially removed, the wood is then hot-pressed to crush cell walls and forge strong nanofibers. The resulting density provides its super strength. “This kind of wood could be used in cars , airplanes, buildings — any application where steel is used,” research team co-leader Liangbing Hu Hu told ScienceDaily . Related: Milan’s striking wooden UniCredit building is powered by the sun Another of super wood’s special powers is its ability to be sourced sustainably . “Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak in furniture or buildings ,”said Hu. “Given the abundance of wood, as well as other cellulose-rich plants, this paper inspires imagination,” said professor of mechanics and materials at Harvard University Zhigang Suo, who was not involved in the study. The team at University of Maryland has also created a kind of transparent wood, which could be used to replace glass and plastic with more sustainably sourced, stronger alternatives. Via ScienceDaily and New Atlas Images via University of Maryland and Depositphotos

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Scientists identify new kind of ice that requires extremely hot temperatures to form

February 8, 2018 by  
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Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California have discovered a new form of ice known as that is thought to exist within the core of gas giant planets. Published in the journal Nature , this study documents the first observed instance of the so-called superionic ice originally predicted 30 years ago. The ice maintains a solid lattice structure of oxygen atoms with energetic, liquid-like hydrogen ions moving within. While it could only be created on Earth under very specific lab conditions, scientists believe it would be stable under the extreme temperature and pressure conditions found in planets such as Uranus and Neptune . Unlike traditional ice, superionic ice actually requires extremely hot temperatures, combined with intense pressure, to form. Using a technique known as shock compression, scientists created laboratory conditions that match those found on gas giants and successfully prompted water to become superionic. The researchers noted the ice melts at near 5000 Kelvin (K) under pressure levels two million times that of Earth’s atmosphere. “Our work provides experimental evidence for superionic ice and shows that these predictions were not due to artifacts in the simulations, but actually captured the extraordinary behavior of water at those conditions,”  said lead author and physicist Marius Millot. Related: Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets While the real-world creation of superionic ice is groundbreaking, so too are the simulations that informed the experiment. “Driven by the increase in computing resources available, I feel we have reached a turning point,” explained co-author and physicist Sebastien Hamel . “We are now at a stage where a large enough number of these simulations can be run to map out large parts of the phase diagram of materials under extreme conditions in sufficient detail to effectively support experimental efforts.” The experiment has major implications for planetary science, painting a picture of gas giant cores composed of a thin layer of fluid surrounded by a thick mantle of superionic ice. The findings are especially poignant as NASA prepares for a potential probe mission to Uranus and/or Neptune. Via Gizmodo Images via  S. Hamel/M. Millot/J.Wickboldt/LLNL/NIF

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Asif Khan unveils the darkest building on earth for 2018 Winter Olympics

February 8, 2018 by  
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British-based architect Asif Khan unveiled a super-black pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that he describes as the “darkest building on earth.” Built for Hyundai Motor, the temporary Pyeongchang Olympic Park pavilion is fully coated in Vantablack VBx2—a material that can absorb 99 percent of the light that hits its surface. As a result, the pavilion looks like a gaping black void even in broad daylight. Standing at 10 meters (33 feet) tall, the 2018 Winter Olympics Hyundai Motor pavilion draws inspiration from the automotive company’s technology and offers a unique interactive experience. Khan attached thousands of tiny white lights to the super-black parabolic facades, evoking images of a starry night sky. The steel-framed building measures 35 meters (115 feet) by 35 meters. In contrast to the super-dark facade, the interior is a brightly lit white room housing a multi-sensory interactive water installation. Haptic sensors allow visitors to interact with the hydrophobic installation that emits 25,000 singular water droplets per minute; the water droplets zoom down channels, collide, split, and eventually pool into a drain. “From a distance the structure has the appearance of a window looking into the depths of outer space,” said Khan. “As you approach it, this impression grows to fill your entire field of view. So on entering the building, it feels as though you are being absorbed into a cloud of blackness.” Related: Video: Anish Kapoor’s “Decension” is a black vortex in the floor of an old movie theater He continues: “The water installation visitors discover inside is brightly lit in white. As your eyes adjust, you feel for a moment that the tiny water drops are at the scale of the stars. A water droplet is a size every visitor is familiar with. In the project I wanted to move from the scale of the cosmos to the scale of water droplets in a few steps. The droplets contain the same hydrogen from the beginning of the universe as the stars.” The 2018 Winter Olympics Hyundai Motor Pavilion will open at the Pyeongchang 2018 Opening Ceremony on February 9, 2018. + Asif Khan Via WAN Images via Luke Hayes

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An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

February 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists have learned that a massive amount of mercury is currently encased within the Arctic permafrost — which could have significant ramifications for ecological and human health beyond the far North. “This discovery is a game-changer,” Paul Schuster, study lead author and hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder  told AGU . “We’ve quantified a pool of mercury that had not been done previously, and the results have profound implications for better understanding the global mercury cycle.” Of particular concern is the permafrost -enclosed mercury’s relationship to a warming climate. Schuster said, “There would be no environmental problem if everything remained frozen, but we know the Earth is getting warmer.” In a study published in  Geophysical Research Letters , a journal of the American Geophysical Union , scientists recorded mercury concentrations within permafrost cores in Alaska and extrapolated how much of it is estimated to have been trapped in northern permafrost since the last Ice Age. The researchers found that permafrost soils of the north contain the largest store of mercury on the planet, nearly twice as much as all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined. The mercury originally became trapped within the permafrost when atmospheric mercury bonded to organic material in the soil, then became frozen, stuck until melting. Related: Scientists puzzle over mysterious disappearance of mercury from Utah’s Great Salt Lake The release of large quantities of the element, which can negatively impact the reproductive and neurological health of animals , becomes more likely as the permafrost thaws. One concern is that it could contaminate waterways, where it could be absorbed by microorganisms and converted into methylmercury, a dangerously toxic form. While such a massive surge of mercury could affect ecosystems far south of the Arctic, its effects would be felt acutely by local communities. “Rural communities in Alaska and other northern areas have a subsistence lifestyle, making them vulnerable to methylmercury contaminating their food supply,” Edda Mutter, science director for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, told AGU . “Food sources are important to the spiritual and cultural health of the natives, so this study has major health and economic implications for this region of the world.” To better understand the risks, the research team plans to produce another study that models the potential impact of the mercury’s release on the global mercury cycle and ecological health. Via AGU Images via  Schuster et al./GRL/AGU and Depositphotos

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An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

Scientists reveal the carbon footprint of your sandwich

January 29, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Manchester have the distinguished honor of having conducted the first-ever study of the carbon footprint of sandwiches. The research team analyzed the emissions impact of 40 different kinds of sandwiches, taking into account the entire life-cycle of everyone’s favorite quick lunch. Production of ingredients, food waste , packaging, and refrigeration were all in the mix to determine the true cost. According to their analysis, the “all-day” pre-made, store-bought breakfast sandwich, loaded with emissions-intensive pork, eggs, and cheese , is the least environmentally friendly sandwich option. Scientists found that sandwiches containing pork, cheese, or prawns/shrimp had generally higher carbon footprints. However, the study also showed that a home-made ham and cheese sandwich had the lowest carbon footprint of sandwiches studied. Making your own sandwich rather ordering out was shown to have reduced that sandwich’s carbon emissions by half. The refrigeration required for store-bought sandwiches accounts for about a quarter of their emissions cost. Packaging is up to 8.5% of emissions, while transporting refrigerated ingredients and materials accounts for 4%. Related: White Castle goes vegan… for the buns on all its tiny sandwiches This University of Manchester study is of particular interest to the British people , who consume more than 11.5 billion sandwiches each year. “Given that sandwiches are a staple of the British diet as well as their significant market share in the food sector, it is important to understand the contribution from this sector to the emissions of greenhouse gases,” study co-author Adisa Azapagic told the Guardian . “For example, consuming 11.5bn sandwiches annually in the UK generates, on average, 9.5m tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the annual use of 8.6m cars.” The worst offending all-day breakfast sandwich alone generates the emissions equivalent of a car driving twelve miles. Researchers recommend that ingredients with high-carbon footprints, such as meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, be limited or removed when making a sandwich. A less meat-and-cheese intensive sandwich also would be a healthier choice for personal health. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Tired of the red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund

January 29, 2018 by  
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Local communities wrestling with the impacts of climate change on food security have also struggled to get funds to deal with those impacts. The United Nations created the Green Climate Fund in 2010 – but it can be very difficult for countries and communities to be accredited and access money, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation . So some indigenous leaders in Mexico and Central America are taking matters into their own hands. Indigenous leader of the Bribri community Leví Sucre said his family used to grow beans at their home in Costa Rica. But he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “That’s impossible now. When growing beans, there’s a period where they can’t receive water (and need dry conditions). Now, unexpected cold fronts and rains are spoiling them.” But he said getting money from international climate funds is “an almost impossible task.” Related: Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities Sucre and other leaders are putting together a Mesoamerican Territorial Fund through regional organization Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests , with the goal of offering easy, fast financing to indigenous communities for climate change mitigation and adaption projects. The leaders hope the fund might get international support. While the Central American Bank for Economic Integration would be the ones holding the money, according to Reuters, indigenous people would manage the fund without much input from outsiders. Communities would propose their own projects for financing. Sucre hopes by the middle of this year they could apply for international funds. The fund would largely go to projects working to protect food security, drawing on traditional knowledge. Sucre said, “We’re not dismissing the use of technology because we know that it must be complementary. But we want to incentivize the use of technologies that don’t erase our culture.” Money could help communities change how they farm as weather grows more unstable. A 2008 United Nations report cited by Reuters said: “indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources.” Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation Images via Depositphotos ( 1 ,  2 , 3 )

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Tired of the red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund

Scientists puzzle over subterranean heat melting Greenland’s glaciers

January 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have acquired evidence that heat emanating from deep below the Earth’s surface is contributing to the meltdown of Greenland’s glaciers. Though they have long suspected that a subterranean heat source was a factor in the melting glaciers, scientists were previously unable to determine the precise mechanism by which this occurred. Data gathered from Greenland’s Young Sound fjord region, a geologically active area featuring many hot springs in which temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, indicates that radiant heat loss is melting glaciers from the bottom up. This discovery will allow researchers to more accurately assess the stability of Greenland’s ice sheet and better predict sea level rise . The heat rising from below Greenland’s surface has loosened the lowest levels of glaciers, easing their slide into the sea. “There is no doubt that the heat from the Earth’s interior affects the movement of the ice, and we expect that a similar heat seepage takes place below a major part of the ice cap in the northeastern corner of Greenland,” wrote Søren Rysgaard, lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports . The heat source is known as a geothermal heat flux, an ancient phenomenon found throughout the planet. In Greenland, the heat percolates from below the surface up through fjords, warming deep sea temperatures that then transfer this heat to the surrounding glaciers . Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Because geothermal heat fluxes are difficult to assess, “our results are very unique because we determined the relatively small heat flux from a decade-long warming of an almost stagnant water mass,” co-author Jørgen Bendtsen told Newsweek . Earth’s heat circulating up through the fjords of Greenland is one of several factors contributing to the melting glaciers. Rising air and sea temperature, precipitation , and the unique qualities of the ice sheet also affect the speed of glacier melting. Via Newsweek Images via Wieter Boone ,  Mikael Sejr , and  Søren Rysgaard

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