Uber and NASA To Launch Flying Taxis By 2020

Flying cars may not yet be a reality, but if bridges can sail rivers, can’t be too far behind. Picking up the pace are Uber and NASA, which plan to test their flying vehicles as early as 2020.

Uber is looking to speed development of a new industry of electric, on-demand, urban air taxis, [Chief Product Officer] Holden said, which customers could order up via smartphone in ways that parallel the ground-based taxi alternatives.

Much like a regular Uber, the airborne taxi will hold up to 4 passengers. It will also run at 200 miles an hour — perfect for traffic congested cities. NASA has stepped in to develop a software for air traffic management as well as ensure the taxis are safe.

“We are very much embracing the regulatory bodies and starting very early in discussions about this and getting everyone aligned with the vision,” he said of Uber’s plans to introduce what he called “ride-sharing in the sky”.

Autonomous vehicles may not be everyone’s cup of tea — much less when they’re in the sky. But if NASA is on board with it, it’s likely we will be, too.

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China Testing Trackless Autonomous Train

It’s been a year of firsts for the railway system — from going solar to launching its fastest model. Pushing its limits even further, China is test-driving its Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, which is fully electric and trackless.

ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn’t rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It’s expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there’s no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.

The train can only travel 15 kilometers at a time, but can fully recharge in just 10 minutes. Environmentalists will likely tip their hats off to the new system — it’s entirely emissions free! Smoggy China could surely use more sustainable public transport alternatives. Thankfully, its government has been taking other measures to ensure that its locals don’t further experience pollution-caused health issues.

40 percent of China’s factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars.

A round of applause for China — sounds fresh!

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Smart Solar Greenhouse Grows Healthy Crops

Step aside, fossil fuels — everyone is going solar. With eco-houses and trains now on the market, we might as well redesign as much as we can into solar. This is where electricity-generating greenhouses are stepping in.

Electricity-generating solar greenhouses utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), a novel technology that generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems… WSPVs absorb some of the blue and green wavelengths of light but let the rest through, allowing the plants to grow.

In testing a variety of plant species, researchers at UC Santa Cruz found that 80% remained unaffected by changes. The remaining 20%? They actually grew better under the building’s bright magenta windows.

“If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,” said [professor Michael] Loik. “We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”

The greenhouse uses 5% less water — a success, taking into account that greenhouses occupy 9 million acres of land. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the system costs 40% less than traditional means. Clearly, percentages have demonstrated a win-win situation for these buildings, which will hopefully bring users 100% satisfaction.

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Germany Gifts Households With Free Wind Energy

Rarely does a community experience a surplus of energy — much less clean energy. In fact, rural areas are still depending solely on whatever they can gather from eco-boxes. Germany, on the other hand, may be the first to boast an energy overflow. As it happens, in a single weekend, the country produced enough wind energy to provide households with extra — for free!

[Bloomberg], which tracks daily wind power in Europe, said that over 24 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand was powered by wind on Saturday, the highest per cent ever recorded.

Wind farms amassed an impressive output of 39,409 megawatts altogether. That’s almost equally as shocking as electricity itself. But considering much of Germany’s power grid is wind-generated, everything falls perfectly into place.

Offshore wind accounted for 2.8 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand while onshore wind accounted for 21.8 per cent. Wind represented 61 per cent of electricity demand in Germany.

Good weather may have played a hand in helping Germany strike gold (or air) — but its eco-initiatives surely take the cake.

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Mini Treatment Plant Putting Sewers To Good Use

As the planet is hastily running short of natural resources, communities are looking to waste as an asset. Anything from biochar to human excrement are now staples in energy production. To bring everything together, engineers have created the NEWgenerator, which processes materials found in sewage.

First, the waste is fed into a bioreactor, where anaerobic microorganisms break down the solids and produce biogas.

The methane produced is chemical-free and perfect for cooking and heating. To complete the cycle, USF engineers have also made the most of liquid and solid waste.

The water that passes through is… disinfected with chlorine, and while the end result is probably still not drinkable, it’s clean enough to use to flush the toilets in the block or irrigate crops.

The remainder of the waste can be used as fertilizer. So far, the system is testing waters in India and South Africa. Each device is usable for up to 100 people a day, with future versions projected to reach thousands. Considering that millions are without access to basic amenities, the NEWgenerator is a game-changer for marginalized communities.

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Massive Carnivorous Dinosaur Discovered In Africa

The latter half of 2017 has been all about milestones for our Jurassic ancestors. Casual hikers discovered a Stegomastodon fossil, while the world’s largest dinosaur finally earned its nickname. If you thought things couldn’t get more exciting, you might want to take a trip down to southern Africa. Scientists have just unearthed evidence of an enormous meat-eating dinosaur — and it’s almost the size of T-Rex.

Several three-toed footprints left by the two-legged “megatheropod”… were found near the site of a prehistoric watering hole or river bank in the kingdom of Lesotho.

Experts calculated that the creature would have been around nine metres (30ft) long and stood almost three metres (9.8ft) tall at the hip.

Theropods from the Jurassic period were relatively small — roughly the length of a crocodile — making Kayentapus ambrokholohali quite the celebrity. Thrilled paleontologists also located other footprints, making this discovery one of the greatest of the century.

“This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare. There is only one other known site similar in age and sized tracks, which is in Poland.”

While it’s good to know such fascinating animals existed, I’m not too upset they’re extinct.

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Walgreens Selling Overdose Reversing Nasal Spray

While researchers have been working tirelessly to treat conditions such as blindness and HIV, drug use as a health issue is sitting on the back burner. To bring attention back to the opioid epidemic, pharmaceutical giant Walgreens is selling medication that reverses the effects of heroin overdoses.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, [is a] medicine that can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioid drugs or heroin within seconds.

The treatment is selling over-the-counter at more than 8,000 branches in nearly every state. The remaining five states that don’t offer the drug are battling regulation issues. Dr. Dan Lustig of addiction treatment facility Haymarket Center has since commended Walgreens’ efforts.

“This actually signifies, I think, a significant step in the battle that we have with this epidemic.”

“First and foremost, it gives families a fighting chance to save loved ones,”

Many remain skeptical, citing Narcan as an encouraging factor to continue drug use. Though the ethical implications of the drug are problematic, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

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Cemented Plastic Makes Concrete Stronger

The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.

The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.

Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.

“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”

Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.

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China Halts Factory Operations To Fight Pollution

China may be home to one of the world’s great wonders, but it’s also housing something far more dangerous — air pollution. It may be cracking down on carbon emissions with air-purifying bicycles and solar farms, but it seems efforts are lacking. A blessing in disguise, damaging factory activity has forced the country to shut down industrial regions to reevaluate environmental laws.

“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” says [Archie Liu of MKT & Associates]. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”

With 40% of Chinese factories at a standstill, economic impact will be harsh — but totally worth it. Chinese tax bureaus will be taking over environmental groups, meaning greater consequences for law-breakers.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates.

Criminal enforcement may sound overbearing, but in a deteriorating planet, may be just what we need.

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Food Waste To Be Used In Construction Projects

Nowadays, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been truer. We’re turning garbage into anything from furniture to vodka, and it seems we can push the limits even further. Engineering group Arup is proving just that, proposing the use of food waste in building materials.

The report aims “at demonstrating that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible.” This could be done by diverting, in part, organic waste that is traditionally managed through landfill, incineration and composting to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products.

According to Arup, bananas can produce textiles, while mushrooms can grow actual towers. It seems, with food waste, it’s best to let one’s imagination run wild — and for good reasons.

Using food waste for building materials would help create a circular economy where organic waste, instead of being disposed, is the main resource… This would help ameliorate rising levels of waste and shortfalls of raw material, as well as providing the industry with cheap, low carbon materials.

Looking to renovate your home? No need for concrete fillers — just use rice!

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