Friday, November 30, 2012

Bird flu kills 4,000 wild ducks in Russia


Around 4,000 wild ducks have been found dead in Russia's southern Krasnodar region, officials said on Friday, blaming H5 bird flu for the mass deaths.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Animals Are Literally Being Dissolved Alive Because of Acid in the Ocean


Animals Are Literally Being Dissolved Alive Because of Acid in the Ocean The next time you're having a bit of a bad day, consider this: in a part of the Southern Ocean, sea snails are literally dissolving day by day, thanks to the increasingly high amounts of man-made acidification. Being a little late to that meeting beats being dissolved alive, eh?

Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and some of his colleagues capture some sea snails from the Southern Ocean back in 2008, and after studying them carefully, they can now say that similar snails are losing their shells to acid at this very moment. As Tarling put it, "This is actually happening now."

This acidification is the result of CO2 air pollution working its way into the water where it forms carbonic acid, which eats away at the calcium shells of sea snails and other mollusks. This is the first solid evidence that mollusks are being adversely affected by acidification, which has been happening faster than any time in the past 300 million years. Solutions to the problem include frantically dumping large quantities of limestone in the ocean, or laying off a little on CO2 emissions. The latter is probably the most practically, but if we don't get to it soon, it might be limestone time before you know it. [New Scientist]


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This All Wood Stool Is Still As Comfy As a Cushion


This All Wood Stool Is Still As Comfy As a CushionThe next time you find yourself lost in the woods and need a comfy place to sit while you wait for rescue, remember designer Mary Dickerson's clever Ash Cushion stool.

Built by vertically grouping long pieces of plyable ash wood that have been carefully notched so they compress under pressure, the wooden stool doesn't have a shred of stuffing but still looks comfier than half the stuff in Ikea's catalog. But at least you can buy those. If you want an Ash Cushion to call your own you'll need to break out your wood-working tools and build one yourself. [MoCo Loco via Notcot]


Monday, November 19, 2012

Herbed Windows


Herbow is a rain shelter and a window herb garden. A very unique and unconventional combination, but one that works! Given the way counties like Japan have been upping their efforts in going green by growing creepers and other such plants on their building's external walls, to lower internal temperatures and conserving electricity, these kind of gardens suit the urban landscape perfectly.

Herbow is a window planter 'tray' that enables people to grow small crops outside their windows while shielding their interior space from the rain. By swinging Herbow upwards, it becomes a window shelter that blocks the harsh sunlight and the rain. At the same time, the plants are watered and grow naturally. An eave has been designed to extend over the shelter to stop water falling through the gap between Herbow and the window frame. Holes on two sides of Herbow allow for drainage of excess water.

Herbow is a 2012 red dot award: design concept winner.

Designers: Hsu Hao-Po, Chang Yu-Hui & Chang Chung-Wei

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(Herbed Windows was originally posted on Yanko Design)

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Light and air: Sunlight-driven CO2 fixation


(—The increased use of renewable energy sources, particularly sunlight, is highly desirable, as is industrial production that is as CO2-neutral as possible. Both of these wishes could be fulfilled if CO2 could be used as the raw material in a system driven by solar energy. Japanese researchers have now introduced an approach to this type of process in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Their method is based on a principle similar to natural photosynthesis.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grow Veggies In Your Apartment With Windowfarms


windowfarms hydroponic farming

Imaging having fresh lettuce and herbs available any day, any season. That usually seems like a pipe dream in the tiny fourth-floor walk up apartments of New York, but Brooklyn-based start up Windowfarms says you can have it all — by growing plants vertically in your windows.

We previously introduced you to the windowfarms idea back in May of 2011, when they were just training people to make window gardens using plastic bottles.

The Brooklyn-based company has expanded their operations and even created a commercial product — a set of four vertically hanging pots and the water system to grow plants will set you back $119.95.

Their first batch of planters is sold out, but you can get on their waiting list for the second batch. We saw the planters in action as an installation in the new American Museum of Natural History exhibit Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture. There, we talked to Britta Riley and got the scoop on the planters.

The garden display holds 280 plants a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The exhibit opens November 17, 2012 and runs until August 11, 2013.

Windowfarms are vertical gardens designed to grow food year-round in your home. Windows provide the light and the warmth inside keeps the plants happy all year long.

Hydroponic systems do not use soil. The plants are grown in water with organic material holding it together. Here a stevia plant is grown in rock wool.

In the Windowfarms system, nutrient rich water is continuously pumped up from a reserve. The water travels to the top plant then goes down from one container to the next. The water nourishes the the plant roots until it reaches the reservoir and repeats the journey.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Microsoft Dodges $210,000 Fine By Wasting Millions Of Watts Of Electricity


Facebook's Massive Prineville, Ore., Data Center Server farms like these contain all of the data users store in "the cloud," putting huge strains on local, usually small-town power grids. Tom Raftery via Wikimedia
After overestimating its energy needs, the software giant allegedly strong-armed a small-town utility into reducing a six-figure penalty by threatening to needlessly burn millions of watts.

The New York Times is taking data centers and those who build them to task today in two different pieces, one of which paints Microsoft as an energy-hungry bully to a small Washington state community. The Times reports that Microsoft wasted millions of watts of energy in December of last year by unnecessarily running huge heating units and threatened to waste millions more if a $210,000 penalty for overestimating its energy use was not rescinded by the local utility. Naturally Microsoft got its way, but the showdown underscores the massive strains these server farms place on local energy grids.


Your Clothes Could Soon Scrub Pollution Directly From The Air


Field of Jeans CatClo works particularly well on denim. DED Associates
A new laundry additive turns ordinary garments into wearable air-scrubbers that pull nitrogen oxides from the atmosphere.

Your washing machine and dryer are both energy intensive machines, but soon your rinse cycle could start giving something back. A liquid laundry additive called "CatClo" (for "catalytic clothing") developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion in the UK could imbue clothing with titanium dioxice nanoparticles that scrub nitrogen oxides from the air and oxidize them in the fabric. On the next wash, these nitrogen oxides are simply washed away.

Via a press release from the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council:

The nitrogen oxides treated in this way are completely odourless and colourless and pose no pollution hazard as they are removed harmlessly when the item of clothing is next washed, if they haven't already been dissipated harmlessly in sweat. The additive itself is also completely harmless and the nanoparticles are unnoticeable from the wearer's point of view.

The researchers say one person wearing clothes treated with CatClo--and it's worth noting clothes only need to be washed in the additive once, not with every wash--can remove 5 grams of nitrogen oxides from the air per day, which they equate to roughly the output of the average family vehicle. Not a bad haul for simply getting dressed in the morning.

Radiohead-scored, high-production-value promotional video below.

(Fe) Catalytic Clothing from Protein® TV on Vimeo.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Humans Caused The Collapse Of The Great Barrier Reef


Great Barrier Reef

The expansion of European settlement in Australia triggered a massive coral collapse at the Great Barrier Reef more than 50 years ago, according to a new study.

The study, published Nov. 6 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that runoff from farms clouded the pristine waters off the Queensland coast and killed the natural branching coral species, leaving a stunted, weedy type of coral in its place.

The findings suggest that decades before climate change and reef tourism, humans were disrupting the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef.

"There was a very significant shift in the coral community composition that was associated with the colonization of Queensland," said study co-author John Pandolfi, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland Australia.

Europeans began to colonize Queensland, Australia, in the 1860s, cutting down forests to make way for sheep grazing and sugar plantations. By the 1930s, large amounts of fertilizer and pesticide-laden runoff poured from rivers into the nearby ocean.

Several recent studies have shown that snorkelers and climate change kill coral, and one study found that half of the majestic Great Barrier Reef has vanished over the last 30 years.

But Pandolfi's team wondered whether humans had been altering reef ecology for much longer.

To find out, the team drilled sediment cores, 6.5 to 16.5 feet (2 to 5 meters) long, from the seafloor at Pelorus Island, an island fringed by coral reefs off the Queensland coast. When coral dies, new coral sprout on the skeletons of old organisms and! ocean s ediments gradually bury them in place, Pandolfi told LiveScience.

By dating different layers of that sediment, the team reconstructed the story of the reef.

The fast-growing Acropora coral dominated the reef for a millennium. This massive, three-dimensional coral can grow to 16 feet (5 m) high and span 65 feet (20 m) across, forming a labyrinth of nooks and crannies for marine life to hide in, Pandolfi said. [Image Gallery: Great Barrier Reef Through Time]

"They're like the big buildings in the city, they house a lot of the biodiversity" he said.

But somewhere between 1920 and 1955, the Acropora stopped growing altogether and a slow-growing, spindly coral called Pavona took its place.

That spelled trouble for the panoply of animal species that shelter in the reef, and for the nearby coastline, because the native Acropora species provide wave resistance to shelter harbors.

The team believes that over time, polluted runoff clouded the normally pristine Pacific water and poisoned the native species. The same polluted water fueled an algal bloom that choked out the native coral species when they tried to grow back, he said.

"They just weren't able to come back after the 1950s."

While the findings suggest humans have been damaging reefs far longer than previously thought, the problem has a straightforward, local solution: Reduce polluted runoff into the ocean, Pandolfi said.

"Any kind of measures that are going to improve the water quality should help those reefs to recover."

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pennsylvania Report Left Out Poisons In Drinking Water Near Fracking Site


fracking well

Pennsylvania officials didn't report toxic metals found in drinking water from a private well near a natural gas drilling site, according to legal documents and reported by Jon Hurdle of The New York Times reports.

The omissions raise questions about the Pennsylvania government's connection to the oil and gas industry, which has a vested interest in the natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale beneath Pennsylvania and three other states.

Seven plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against companies serving the gas industry that claims natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within a mile of their homes in southwestern Pennsylvania contaminated their drinking water and caused serious illnesses.

Toxicology tests on the plaintiffs found the presence of toluene, benzene and arsenic in their bodies, according to the complaint.

Toluene and benzene, commonly used in fracking, are called BTEX compounds and are listed as contaminants in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Benzene and arsenic are known human carcinogens.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection told the Times that oil and gas division officials only wanted to see the results they deemed relevant to determining whether drinking water was being contaminated, and that the remaining metals were below federal standards or had no standards attached to them.

Kendra Smith, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, countered that some of the 14 metals not reported in her client's tests have already been identified by industry studies as contaminants in water produced from oil and gas operations.

Smith told the Times that it could only be a "deliberate procedure” by the oil and gas division and the Bureau of Laboratories “to withhold critical water testing results.”

SEE ALSO: The 10 Scariest Chemicals Used In Hydraulic Fracking >

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stanford researchers create 'world's first' all-carbon solar cell, do it on the cheap


Stanford researchers create 'world's first' all-carbon solar cell, do it on the cheap

Harnessing the awesome power of the Sun isn't just dependent on the efficiency of solar cells, but also on making them affordable. Current techniques aren't exactly cheap, but researchers from Stanford University think they've made a bit of a breakthrough by producing a relatively inexpensive photovoltaic cell using nothing but carbon. We're sure other scientists might disagree with the 'world's first' claim, but those at Stanford think it's a matter of language, and that these other pretenders are "referring to just the active layer in the middle, not the electrodes." The team selected a trio of carbon types to use in their cell: a mixture of nanotubes and buckyballs make up the light-absorbing layer, while graphene is being utilized for the electrodes.

The carbon amalgam can be applied from solution using simple methods, meaning the flexible cells could be used to coat surfaces, although you won't be seeing it smeared over anything too soon. The prototype only touts a "laboratory efficiency of less than 1 percent," so it can't compete with traditional solar cells just yet. Also, it only absorbs a slither of the light spectrum, but the researchers are looking to other forms of the wonder element which could increase that range. They are hoping that improving the structure of the cells will help to boost their efficiency, too. They might never generate the most energy, but the all-carbon cells can remain stable under extreme conditions, meaning they could find their calling in harsh environments where brawn is a little more important than status, or looks.

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Stanford researchers create 'world's first' all-carbon solar cell, do it on the cheap originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 01 Nov 2012 19:12:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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