News, Renewable Energy, Science

Are these joint-shaped turbines the future of wind power?

These wind turbines harness oscillations made by vortices instead of rotary movement. Image: Vortex Bladeless

A Spanish startup called Vortex Bladeless has been receiving a lot hype recently once it unveiled a prototype for a bladeless wind turbine. Like conventional pin-wheel turbines, their turbine also works by harnessing the kinetic energy of the wind. However, instead of moving blades which in turn rotate a shaft connected to a generator, the “asparagus” turbine uses a magnets to transform oscillating movements into electricity. It’s a radical idea, one that might forever change the scenery most of you have already become used to – huge parks of windmills, which personally I’m rather fond of. So far, the engineers behind the project have been rather secretive and the only things we know about the Vortex Mini (the first commercial turbine of this kind set to come out next year) is what has been disclosed by the company. They’re boasting an impressive performance – to the point that it might be feasible to forego pin-wheel turbines altogether in favor of the Vortex – but until we seen some independent assessments I believe skepticism is warranted.

Animals, Health & Medicine, News

Sea Turtle gets a new 3D-printed titanium jaw after being hit by a boat’s propeller

turtle titanium 3d printed jaw

A turtle named Akut-3 was fitted with a new, custom made 3-D printed jaw by doctors at the Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation centre at Pamukkale University in Denizli, Turkey. The reptile was found badly injured at sea and brought to the center for rehabilitation. At first, the doctors healed the turtle’s wounds and hand fed her, but they knew they had to turn to something more drastic if the animal was to ever fend for herself in the wild again. They turned to a company in Turkey known for custom made prostheses, gave them a detailed CT scan of the turtle’s skull, then received a new beak made out of medical-grade titanium. The prosthesis perfectly fit Akut-3, who is aptly named like a cyborg.

Climate, News, World Problems

Huge Ice Shelf in Antarctica Set to Collapse

Larsen B is about as big as Rhode Island. Image via Wikipedia.

A NASA study has found that a huge ice shelf is set to collapse in a few years. The ice shelf, which has existed for over 12,000 years, is estimated to be over 200 meters thick.

Environment, News

If the world built nuclear power plants at the rate Sweden had, there would be no need for fossil in 25 years

nuclear-power-plant

With all its cons and pros, at this time, nuclear power remains our best shot at decarbonizing the planet and ridding the world of its dependence of fossil fuel. During the 60s and 70s, many of the world’s governments, including France, the US or the USSR embarked on ambitious projects to electrify their nations using nuclear power. Accidents like those at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011) served to halt this rapid pace of deployment and even shift policy back to massive fossil fuel deployment. Anti-nuclear power public sentiment did little to help, of course. Considering that the combined power of solar, wind and hydropower can’t yet rid us of pesky oil and gas, wouldn’t it be better if we embraced nuclear nevertheless, with all its shortcoming (many of which have been addressed by modern technology)? Two researchers wondered if the world was to hypothetically shift in high nuclear gear, how long would it take to completely shelve fossil. Their analysis showed if we built nuclear power plants at the rate Sweden had between 1960-1990, this target would be reached within 25 years.

Animals, News, Psychology

Rats rescue their friends from drowning out of empathy (and kindness)

"Don't worry, buddy! I'll fix this." Image: SATO, N. ET AL., ANIMAL COGNITION (2015)

We use the word “humane” to describe kind behavior and sympathy towards others, but the term might falsely lend some to believe that this is an exclusive human quality. Far from it. Rats too are kind, sympathetic and as “humane” as any human. For instance, when their peers are in danger of drowning, rats will come to their aid to save them. Even when a tasty treat, like chocolate, is offered instead the rat will most often than not choose to help his dying friend. To hell with chocolate!

Animals, News

Over 200 Zoos and Aquariums make pact to save vulnerable animals

The Asian Elephant is critically endangered. Image via Wiki Commons.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which includes 229 organizations worldwide, has launched an ambitious plan to save some of the most vulnerable species from extinction. The project (SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction) will build on already existing efforts, deepening the conservation work done at the accredited zoos and aquariums. To mark this decision, today, 15 May, all the zoos and aquariums

Environmental Issues, News

Bee numbers dropping at incredible rates

lossmap2015-680x464

Something is killing off the bees; it’s likely us, and we’ll all have to pay the price. In fact, in many areas of the world, we already are.

Animals, Biology, News

Meet the first fully warm-blooded fish: the opah

Researchers Nick Wegner holding a opah. Image: National Geographic

Though it’s a deep ocean fish, the slender opah is actually fully warm blooded – the first of its kind discovered so far. This remarkable insight was made by accident after researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissected the fish and noticed its blue and red blood vessels were located inside the gills, rather than in the fish’s swimming muscles. Tuna or sharks, which both have the same vessels but not arranged in the same way, cool their blood once it reaches the gills for oxygen reloading. The opah’s vessels are interwoven inside the gill like a net, which means the the veins that carry warm blood away from the hot muscles are interwoven with the arteries that carry cold blood in from the gills. This makes all the difference. Running so close to each other, the warm blood from the heart heats the cold blood from the gills. This way the Opah is 5 degrees Celsius warmer than its surroundings waters!

News, Renewable Energy

Want to put solar panels on your roof? Consider these 6 points before you make a purchase

Figure 1: Ranking of 50 Largest Cities Based On Where Solar Offers Best Financial Value. Source: Going Solar in America (report)

Using solar energy to meet your power demands does not only make you more environmentally friendly, it may actually save you money. It’s a win-win situation, but only if you’re in for long-run. Of course, it all depends on where you live since how much energy your panels can harvest, and consequently save you money, depends on constantly changing factors such as time of day, season and weather, but also geographic traits such as climate and latitude. With this in mind, before you decide to grab solar panels to add to your home, look at these six pros and cons of solar energy.

Environment, Technology

Urban Algae Canopy Produces Huge Quantity of Oxygen

algae

It generates as much oxygen as 400,000 square feet of natural woodland, it looks nice, and it can produce lots of biomass – the Urban Algae Canopy is a concept we should probably pay more attention to. It combines biology, modern architecture and electronics, creating a structure that not only generates energy, but also adapts and responds to the environment it