"Like a fly in amber:" two meteorites with ingredients for life

January 12, 2018 by  
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Two meteorites crashed to our planet in 1998 after billions of years in the asteroid belt. And they had something in common besides reaching Earth the same year: they were the first meteorites we’ve found to have both complex organic compounds like amino acids and hydrocarbons, and liquid water . They may have come from the asteroid Hebe and the dwarf planet Ceres. Around 20 years after the two meteorites – Zag and Monahans – plummeted to Earth, landing in Texas and Morocco, laboratory equipment is powerful enough to scrutinize blue salt crystals on the meteorites, according to The Open University . The 4.5-billion-year-old meteorites contained what the university described as the building blocks for life: liquid water and complex organic compounds together. Scientist David Kilcoyne at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) compared the discovery to a fly in amber for the encapsulation of rich chemistry, according to the laboratory . Related: New NASA discovery hints at water elsewhere in the solar system The salt crystals have been preserved at NASA’s Johnson Space Center , with experiments performed in what Queenie Chan of the center and The Open University described in a statement as the cleanest laboratories on Earth. Avoiding contamination was crucial so scientists could determine what compounds originated from space . The crystals were around two millimeters in size and contained organic solids and water traces a mere fraction of the width of human hair. The salt crystals could have come from Ceres, based on space observations and their organic chemistry – seeded by water- or ice-spewing volcanic activity, per the laboratory. Yokohama National University associate professor Yoko Kebukawa said, “Combined with other evidence, the results support the idea that the organic matter originated from a water-rich, or previously water-rich parent body – an ocean world in the early solar system , possibly Ceres.” Chan said, “Everything leads to the conclusion that the origin of life is really possible elsewhere.” The journal Science Advances published the research this week. 13 scientists from institutions in the United States and Japan contributed. Via Berkeley Lab and The Open University Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and Queenie Chan/The Open University, U.K.

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"Like a fly in amber:" two meteorites with ingredients for life

Light-filled Indianapolis home is a base for Airstream adventurers

January 12, 2018 by  
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Architecture studio Haus completed a modern energy-efficient home with its very own Airstream port. Commissioned by clients with a love of traveling, the Copperwood House in Zionsville, Indianapolis boasts passive and active green-building strategies to achieve an HERS Performance Rating of 43, that the architects say is 60% better than a standard new energy code-compliant home. The geothermal -heated home is equipped with low-energy appliances; all lighting, security, and the HVAC can be remotely controlled via smartphone. Set on a 19-acre lot with natural habitat and wetlands , the Copperwood House was carefully sited to minimize landscape disturbance and interference with an abandoned on-site pipeline. The site constraints, views, and passive solar principles informed the home’s unusual Z-shaped layout. The low-lying home is clad in thermally treated timber ash that doubles as a rainscreen system and will develop a weathered patina over time. The timber facade is complemented by white cement panels and topped with a slanted metal roof with a deep overhang. Related: Geothermal-powered Lake Austin Home is tuned in to nature Natural light pours into the modern interior through full-height glazing, clerestory windows, and skylights, some of which are operable to take advantage of the stack effect. Full-height glazing creates the appearance of living outdoors, while natural materials like cork floors and clear Southern Pine stairs tie the interiors to the landscape. The master suite and two bedrooms are located in the east wing. An open-plan dining room, kitchen, and living room are placed at the heart of the home that’s wrapped in glazing. The client’s Airstream was integrated into the design and sheltered beneath the soaring metal roof. The Airstream is connected to power, sewer, and water, and is used as a guest room and office when docked at home. + Haus Images via Haus and The Home Aesthetic

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Light-filled Indianapolis home is a base for Airstream adventurers

Green-roofed office is the first large-scale CLT structure in southeast Europe

January 12, 2018 by  
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Instead of concrete or metal, this striking eco-friendly office building in Romania features a sturdy timber skeleton in what’s claimed as the first large-scale CLT structure in southeast Europe. Romanian firm Tecto Arhitectura designed the building as the new office for HSR factory in Reci, Covasna. Designed for long-term sustainability, the office building draws on geothermal energy, uses energy-efficient technologies, and is topped by an extensive green roof. Shaped like a cross in aerial view, the HSR timber office stretches horizontally from northeast to southwest and is intersected by a two-story volume with a northwest-southeast orientation. A stairway and a double-height atrium are located at the heart of the office that accommodates around 60 people. Built to minimize thermal loss, the office is built mainly of industrially prefabricated cross-laminated timber panels and gluelam elements. Given Romania’s freezing winters, the architects inserted passive house-standard mineral wool insulation into the walls, slabs, and flat roofs and optimized solar gain in winter. Natural cross ventilation and daylighting is optimized and pass through operable triple-glazed windows and doors. Related: Nation’s first large-scale mass timber residence hall breaks ground in Arkansas Colorful aluminum cladding wraps around the building’s airtight envelope and thick CLT walls. The facade colors are echoed in the interior, as is a celebration of timber that is featured throughout. Natural lighting is optimized and complimented by LEDs. A biomass cogeneration plant provides heating and electricity for the radiant heating and cooling system, as do geothermal heat pumps and a heat recovery ventilation system. An extensive green roof covers the building. + Tecto Arhitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Tecto Arhitectura , by Cosmin Dragomir

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Green-roofed office is the first large-scale CLT structure in southeast Europe

Salesforce dives headfirst into water recycling with new HQ

January 11, 2018 by  
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Meet the largest commercial “blackwater” system in the United States.

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Salesforce dives headfirst into water recycling with new HQ

Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first

January 3, 2018 by  
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Iceland has been making headlines lately – first by electing a 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister , and now by becoming the world’s first country to legalize equal pay for men and women. Al Jazeera reports the tiny Nordic nation first introduced legislation last March to help close an existing wage gap, but the law did not come into effect until the first day of 2018. “The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera. “It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally”. She adds that existing legislation designed to close the wage gap had failed to do the job, although the World Economic Forum (WEF) has consistently rated Iceland as one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to gender equality. Related: Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister This new law will require companies that have at least 25 employees to obtain certification proving that men and women receive the same pay for their jobs. Failure to comply will result in fines. “Women have been talking about this for decades, Aradottir Pind told Al Jazeera, “and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more”. In a WEF post , Magnea Marinósdóttir and Rósa Erlingsdóttir with the Equality Unit of Iceland’s Ministry of Welfare says their fight for gender parity did not happen by accident: “What is the secret to Iceland’s success? What are the lessons learned? In short, it is that gender equality does not come about of its own accord. It requires the collective action and solidarity of women human rights defenders, political will, and tools such as legislation, gender budgeting and quotas.” The United States failed to make it into the top 10 of WEF’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Index , which includes Nicaragua in 6th place and the Philippines, led by “The Punisher” President Rodrigo Duterte, in 10th. Via Al Jazeera Images via DepositPhotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men in world first

This low-cost forest house on stilts is a minimalist dream in Vietnam

January 3, 2018 by  
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This charming forest house on stilts allows two people to experience the beauty and simplicity of living in a remote mountain setting. Architect Chu V?n ?ông designed the structure as a low-cost dwelling that is easy to build and that places focus on the surrounding environment, rather than on interior luxuries. The house is nestled in the lush wooded landscape of Northern Vietnam . As a simple, temporary residence, the Forest House offers a minimalist space that draws the eye toward the surrounding greenery. Large glass surfaces blur the line between the interior and the exterior and allow natural light to bathe the living area. Related: Incredible daylit house in Vietnam is filled with living trees The building can accommodate two people. Its interior is stripped down to the essentials and includes a wood-burning stove , a bed that doubles as a bay window bench, and a wooden table top that can be used for dining and work. The designer hopes that the project, which was built on a small budget, will inspire other temporary housing projects in the area. + Chu V?n ?ông Via Plataforma Arquitectura Photos by Handyman

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This low-cost forest house on stilts is a minimalist dream in Vietnam

Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

January 2, 2018 by  
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A report from United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking three ocean monuments and opening them up to commercial fishing . The monuments, two in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean , are undersea treasures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s administrator between 2009 and 2013, Jane Lubchenco, who told The Guardian , “These ‘blue parks’ harbor unique species, a wealth of biodiversity , and special habitats.” President Donald Trump may not just take aim at land-based national monuments , but at the following three marine monuments. The over 490,500-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands monument, created by George W. Bush and expanded by Barack Obama, includes largely untouched coral reefs and is “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet,” per the Fish & Wildlife Service . The 10,156 square mile Rose Atoll monument “protects diverse marine ecosystems and the millions of wildlife dependent upon the Central Pacific.” And the 4,913 square mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument is the United States’ only protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, featuring underwater mountains and canyons, deep-sea coral, and endangered whales and sea turtles. Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” In his report Zinke said, “While early monument designations focused more on geological formations, archaeological ruins, and areas of historical interest, a more recent and broad interpretation of what constitutes an ‘object of historic or scientific interest’ has been extended to include landscape areas, biodiversity, and viewsheds.” Fishing organizations aren’t always pleased about the monuments. In March, a New England coalition sued the federal government over fears fishers would be out of a job due to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument. The challenge is based on the idea Obama exceeded his authority in designating the monument. Conservation groups worry activities like seabed mining or oil drilling could be next if monuments are opened for fishing. Pew Charitable Trusts Director of U.S. Oceans, Northeast Peter Baker told The Guardian, “It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect two percent of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations.” Lubchenco said, “Creation of highly protected blue parks like these monuments is beginning to re-establish the all-important balance of places to be used and places to be treasured. We need both.” Via The Guardian Images via USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr and NOAA photo by Hatsue Bailey

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Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

NASA scientists identify unknown microbes aboard International Space Station

January 2, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Harvey couldn’t stand in the way of a groundbreaking experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) this summer. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and the Genes in Space-3 team have identified unknown microbes in space . Their work could help future astronauts monitor crew health and diagnose ailments in real time – without needing to send a sample back to Earth. Astronaut Kate Rubins sequenced DNA for the first time in microgravity in 2016 , which NASA described as a game changer. But scientists knew what the samples contained, as they’d been prepared on Earth. This past summer, the Genes in Space-3 team conducted an experiment with samples collected in space to see if they could sequence unknown organisms. Whitson was in the process of performing the investigation when Hurricane Harvey hit – and the Earth-based principal investigator Sarah Wallace was in Houston. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama came to the rescue, enabling the two women to communicate by patching Wallace’s cell phone into the space to ground loops. With a hurricane whirling outside, the experiment continued. Related: The International Space Station is a germophobe’s nightmare “Right away, we saw one microorganism pop up, and then a second one, and they were things that we find all the time on the space station,” Wallace said in a statement. The samples were sent to Earth, so biochemical and sequencing tests could confirm the ISS findings, which they did: the results were the same on our planet as in orbit. “As a microbiologist, my goal is really so that when we go and we move beyond ISS and we’re headed towards Mars or the moon or wherever we are headed to, we have a process that the crew can have that great understanding of the environment based on molecular technology,” said Wallace in a NASA Johnson video . She was the lead author on a study published in Scientific Reports in December. A team of 21 scientists from NASA and institutions in the United States and United Kingdom collaborated on the article. Via NASA Images via NASA Johnson on YouTube , NASA , and Rachel Barry

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NASA scientists identify unknown microbes aboard International Space Station

Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

December 29, 2017 by  
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Winter is here, and it appears even marine creatures are feeling the impact. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy responded to calls of two thresher sharks stranded on Massachusetts beaches, and said the sharks likely succumbed to cold shock. The north half of the United States is battling bitter cold with a mass of Arctic air, according to The New York Times , with meteorologists saying single-digit temperatures could be here to stay for at least another week. And even sharks are battling the frigid weather . The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared on their social media they were called to two thresher shark strandings near Cape Cod in Massachusetts, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries . The conservancy said the sharks were both male, and probably stranded because of cold shock. Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries marine scientist Greg Skomal told The New York Times, “If you’ve got cold air, that’ll freeze their gills up very quickly. Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die.” Skomal said the thresher sharks may have been working their way south with the cooling of northerly waters, but could have gotten trapped by Cape Cod and stranded on the beach, where they may have died more rapidly because of the cold. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which promotes Atlantic white shark conservation through scientific research and education, gathered morphometric data and organ and tissue samples for analyzing once they thaw. They called on people to report anything strange they might see on Cape beaches, with a picture and location. If you’d like to help out the conservancy, they put together a shark stranding response kit wishlist on GOODdler; you can donate here . Via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Facebook and The New York Times Images via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Twitter

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Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

New giant octopus species discovered near Alaska

December 29, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t expect humans to have missed a whole species of giant octopus – but researchers recently revealed that’s exactly what we did. Per Earther , the giant Pacific octopus (GPO), which is the biggest octopus we know about on the planet, averaging 110 pounds and 16 feet across , is in reality two species. Alaska Pacific University (APU) undergraduate student Nathan Hollenbeck led the effort to discover what the team is calling the frilled giant Pacific octopus . Scientists had wondered if GPO was an umbrella name, referring to more than one species, for decades, according to Earther. In 2012, APU and United States Geological Survey scientists discovered a genetically distinct group of the giant octopus, but only gathered small samples of arm tissue before sending the creatures back to the ocean , so weren’t sure if the groups were also visually distinct. Hollenbeck hoped to unravel the enigma for his senior thesis. Related: Octopuses are taking over the oceans, and no one knows why He found some answers in shrimp trawling bycatch, where octopuses sometimes show up. It didn’t take him long to realize he could identify two types simply by looking at the cephalopods . One was a regular GPO; the other had a frill running along its body, raised skin eyelashes, and two white spots on its head instead of the one of regular GPOs. “Presumably, people have been catching these octopuses for years and no one ever noticed,” David Scheel, Hollenbeck’s advisor and APU professor, told Earther. Hollenbeck snipped off small arm pieces – and to see if in the future researchers could avoid that invasive technique, collected DNA with a cotton swab. He was the first to try the less invasive method on an octopus. And both samples confirmed the frilled one is a species distinct from the GPO. GPOs can be found from Alaska to California to Japan, but the researchers gathered reliable reports of the frilled giant octopus only from Juneau to the Bering Sea, according to Earther. But the new species could be common in the deeper water habitats they appear to prefer. Frilled giants comprised one third of the octopus bycatch Hollenbeck scrutinized. The American Malacological Bulletin published the research earlier this year here and here ; scientists from the United States Geological Survey and Alaska Resource Education contributed to the second paper. + Frilled giant Pacific octopus Via Earther Images courtesy of D. Scheel and via and Depositphotos

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