Ford introduces the first-ever hybrid police car

April 28, 2017 by  
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When you think of police cars, visions of large, powerful and gas-hungry vehicles probably come to mind. Well, that vision of the “dirty” police car may change forever with Ford’s first-ever hybrid police car: meet the Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan. Ford currently more police vehicles in the United States than any other car-maker, with 63 percent market share. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is expected help cities’ Police departments decrease emissions and save fuel. The hybrid sedan is rated at an EPA-estimated combined gas mileage of 38 mpg – more than twice that of today’s Police Interceptor. The Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. The hybrid is calibrated for law enforcement’s unique duty cycle and will run in battery-only mode up to 60 mph. Related: Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog Police vehicles spend lots of time idling, so the the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan’s lithium-ion battery helps power the high electrical loads of the police vehicle, reducing engine run time and saving an estimated 0.27 gallons of fuel per hour. Ford estimates that Police Responder Hybrid Sedan customers could see nearly $3,900 a year in potential fuel savings per vehicle relative to the Police Interceptor. The Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan is making its debut in Los Angeles and New York, but Ford hopes to start delivering them nationwide by next summer. + Ford Images @Ford

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Ford introduces the first-ever hybrid police car

Denmark to end subsidies for renewables much sooner than anyone thought possible

April 28, 2017 by  
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The renewable energy industry is performing extremely well in Denmark . The country’s energy minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said it’s performing so well, they’ll be able to stop providing state support for clean energy providers in just a few years. Denmark’s renewable energy industry will be able to stand on its own, and Lilleholt said he could not have predicted this outcome even last year. Denmark’s renewable energy industry needed subsidies for over 40 years. But soon they’ll be able to survive without a boost from the government. According to Lilleholt, the country’s experience shows it’s no longer cheaper to produce coal than renewables. The milestone is even more crucial right as the direction of global energy policies is uncertain while United States President Donald Trump embarks on an ill-advised attempt to revive coal . According to Bloomberg, the president has “made clear he’s an enemy of wind power .” Related: Denmark just broke its own wind power record for the second year in a row Lilleholt said technology will help clean energy become even more efficient and said “already today, it’s impossible to build a new coal power plant without support.” A government-appointed panel gave him the findings on the energy future of Denmark, and said the country is set to meet power needs entirely with renewable energy by 2050. Half the country’s energy requirement could be supplied by renewables as soon as 2030. The panel thinks a large amount of new capacity will be constructed without subsidies. Industry members seem just as surprised as Lilleholt. Outgoing CEO of engineering firm Danfoss Niels B. Christiansen thinks the price of producing renewable energy could fall below market electricity prices between 2020 and 2030, saying, “A year ago, it was debatable whether renewable energy costs could drop so low. But everyone’s now thinking that it will probably happen sooner.” Denmark is home to both the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer and world’s largest offshore wind farm operator, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Dong Energy A/S . Via Bloomberg Images via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

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Scientists create super-strong bricks from mars-like soil

April 28, 2017 by  
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Future Mars dwellers may actually be able to use locally-sourced materials for their buildings. Four University of California, San Diego engineers were able to press Mars-like dirt into bricks in a study funded by NASA . No other materials were necessary to keep the blocks together. And the bricks were incredibly tough – even more than steel-reinforced concrete . A high-pressure hammer helped the engineers pack dirt – with the same chemical composition and grain size and shape as soil on Mars – into strong bricks. Since storage will be limited on any craft carrying astronauts to Mars, they may be able to devote room to other equipment if they know they can construct habitats with the red planet’s resources. Related: Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools On Earth we typically have to employ some type of adhesive to keep construction materials together. But simulated Mars dirt actually has a chemical ingredient that helps bind it. Structural engineer Yu Qiao told The Verge the chemical ingredient “gives the soil strength when it’s compacted.” It may be feasible for humans to hammer out bricks on the red planet as well. NASA life sciences expert Jon Rask, not part of the study, told The Verge, “It’s really easy to swing a hammer on Mars. You can imagine a Mars explorer swinging a hammer to make strong building blocks.” The team worked with lunar soil in the past, when NASA aimed to go back to the moon . Lunar dirt requires a binder, but since the binder would have to be shipped from Earth, the team worked with the lunar dirt until they were able to take the binder content below the 15 percent construction materials on Earth generally require to just three percent. When NASA shifted its focus to Mars, the team did too, and decided to test their lunar dirt findings on Mars dirt. They first tried packing the dirt into blocks with six percent binder, and when that worked well, they decided to test the Martian dirt further and discovered it necessitated no binder whatsoever. The journal Scientific Reports published the engineers’ findings online yesterday. Via The Verge Images via the University of California, San Diego

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Scientists create super-strong bricks from mars-like soil

Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

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

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Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

April 21, 2017 by  
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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds . Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago. Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.” Related: U.S. avian flu outbreak drives up the price of eggs as supplies are threatened The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture . As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets. Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens. “Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.” Via SciDev.net and NPR Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr

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Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic

Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

April 20, 2017 by  
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The Lower Colorado River is one of the United States’ most vital waterways. Besides providing drinking water to 30 million Americans in cities such as San Diego, Las Vegas, and Tucson, the river also irrigates about 90 percent of the country’s winter-vegetable supply. But it’s in danger of being tapped out, according to American Rivers , an environmental group named it the most “most endangered” river in the nation. The reason is a simple case of demand outpacing supply. Coupled with the trend of intensifying droughts, the Lower Colorado is being depleted faster than it can replenish itself. “The Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers. “It is critical that the Trump administration and Congress support and fund innovative water management solutions.” Related: The EPA just spilled 1 million gallons of mustard-colored mine waste into a Colorado river Proposed federal cuts , plus Trump’s determination to roll back environmental regulations set by his predecessor, offer no recourse. “Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said. “We must take care of the rivers that take care of us” Other rivers under similar duress include California’s Bear River, Washington’s South Fork Skykomish River, and Alabama’s Mobile Bay Basin. Via U.S.A. Today Photos by Denny Armstrong and Sharon Mollerus

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Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

How Mealworms Could Eat Away Plastic Waste

April 12, 2017 by  
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The plastic consumption culture in the United States is getting out of control. Everywhere we turn, we’re surrounded by plastic. Plastic is such a versatile material that it’s used in the production of nearly everything these days. Even if you try…

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How Mealworms Could Eat Away Plastic Waste

Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

April 11, 2017 by  
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Biology may hold the clues to better batteries . An international team of scientists designed a porous material inspired by the vascular structure of leaves that could make energy transfers more efficient. Similar to the way leaf veins efficiently transport nutrients, this material could help rechargeable batteries perform better and last longer. A team of researchers led by Xianfeng Zheng of China’s Wuhan University of Technology and Australia’s University of Queensland scrutinized the way leaf veins optimize the flow of nutrients, with minimum energy consumption, “by branching out to smaller scales” according to the University of Cambridge , and then applied that to their groundbreaking porous material. The nature-inspired material could help relieve stresses in battery electrodes that currently limit their lifespan. The material could also enhance the charge and discharge process. Related: American fern inspires groundbreaking new solar storage solution The team calls their product Murray material after Murray’s Law. Cambridge said according to the rule the whole network of pores in biological systems is connected in a manner “to facilitate the transfer of liquids and minimize resistance throughout the network.” Scientist Bao-Lian Su of Cambridge, Wuhan University of Technology, and University of Namur in Belgium said they applied that biological law to chemistry , saying, “The introduction of the concept of Murray’s Law to industrial processes could revolutionize the design of reactors with highly enhanced efficiency, minimum energy, time, and raw material consumption for a sustainable future.” The scientists applied Murray material to gas sensing and photocatalysis as well. Su is a co-author on a paper published online by Nature Communications late last week. There are seven other co-authors on the paper from institutions in China, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Another co-author, Tawfique Hasan of Cambridge University, said it could be possible to manufacture the porous material on a large scale. Via the University of Cambridge Images via Christoph Rupprecht on Flickr and Pixabay

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Groundbreaking new material for longer-lasting batteries inspired by leaf veins

Pope opens free laundromat for Rome’s poor

April 11, 2017 by  
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Homeless people in Rome will now have a place to wash their clothes and blankets, thanks to Pope Francis . The pope recently opened a free laundromat, the Lavanderia di Papa Francesco, or Pope Francis Laundry, with the goal of restoring “dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters.” The Pope Francis Laundry, in a former hospital near the Vatican in Rome’s city center, is stocked with six donated washing machines and dryers from the Whirlpool Corporation . Poor and homeless people have access to detergent, fabric softener, and irons provided there as well. The Community of Sant’Egidio , a Christian organization fighting poverty , will operate the free laundromat. Showers, medical facilities, and a barbershop are also planned for the site. Related: Pope Francis urges Americans to fight climate change in his first address to the country According to the Vatican, the free laundromat is for “the poorest people, particularly the homeless, who will be able to wash, dry, and iron their clothes and blankets.” This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has stepped out to help the poor. Outcasts or those on the edges of society have been a large focus of his papacy so far. He opened a shower and barber facility near St. Peter’s Basilica two years ago. That same year to mark his 78th birthday he passed out hundreds of sleeping bags to Rome’s homeless. Last September at the canonization celebration for Mother Teresa, he invited 1,500 homeless people to travel to Rome and occupy seats of honor, and eat a free pizza lunch. He’s also housed refugee families in the Vatican. Last week three Syrian families moved in, replacing some families who have recently moved out to live on their own. Last year on Maundy Thursday, following Christian tradition, Pope Francis washed people’s feet, and the people whose feet he chose to wash were those of refugees and Muslims. This year for Maundy Thursday this week he will wash the feet of inmates at a prison south of Rome. Via The Guardian Images via Office Of Papal Charities/EPA , Community of Sant’Egidio Facebook , and Wikimedia Commons

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Pope opens free laundromat for Rome’s poor

2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico

March 29, 2017 by  
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There’s so much we don’t know about ancient civilizations , but the discovery of a 30,031-square-foot palace complex in Mexico may yield some hints. Two American Museum of Natural History anthropologists recently reported the impressive palace built at a time before the Aztecs. They say the El Palenque palace complex is the oldest known in the Oaxaca Valley. The colossal palace compound, announced by Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America article recently published online , backs up a picture slowly emerging of ancient civilizations in Mexico. Before the Aztecs, organized states developed in Mesoamerica – but Spencer and Redmond said determining the oldest states is a major anthropology research problem. Royal palaces in particular help signify a state. Related: Archaeologists just discovered an ancient unknown city in Greece According to Phys.org, most researchers in this field think the ancient civilization in Oaxaca was one of the earliest states to exist in Mesoamerica, and Redmond and Spencer believe their discovery supports that theory. The anthropologists dated the palace complex between 300 and 100 BC, making it somewhere around 2,100 to 2,300 years old. They think it could be one of the Oaxaca Valley’s oldest multi-functional palaces. The two say the complex is well preserved, and is similar to Mesoamerican palaces historically documented. The ruler and his family had living quarters there, but the complex also included a dining area, business offices, place for sacrifices, and a staircase. Its massive size indicates the ruler could employ a lot of manpower. The palace also offers a few insights into ancient architecture : the researchers said construction techniques used by the builders hint the complex was designed beforehand and then built in one organized, large-scale undertaking. There’s a cistern for gathering rainwater in the residential area, and a drain carved into stone to deliver fresh water and get rid of waste. Via Phys.org Images via Elsa M. Redmond and Charles Spencer

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2,000-year-old pre-Aztec ancient palace complex found in Mexico

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