Discarded Electronics Are Literal Gold Mines

If you have seen any dystopian film or have read any piece at all of dystopian literature, you would know that a landscape made of metal offers intense horrors that bank on some of the deep-seated fears of today’s society.

Realistically speaking, we have been inventing ways to address the problem of metal such as recycling laptop batteries into a source of alternative energy or something as strangely innovative as making stylish backpacks out of car parts, but there is a need to push further. A trio of researchers recently took a shot at that and conducted a study which tries to answer how profitable it is to recover metals from old electronics.

In 2016 alone, the world discarded 44.7 million metric tons of unusable or simply unwanted electronics, according to the United Nations’ 2017 Global E-Waste Monitor report. That’s 4,500 Eiffel Towers-worth of phones, laptops, microwaves, and TVs. Only 20 percent of this e-waste was properly recycled that year. The rest was likely either incinerated, pumping pollution into the atmosphere, or added to a landfill somewhere, with its toxins now leaking into our soil and water supply.

It turns out, urban mining costs much less than traditional mining. The researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Sydney’s Macquarie University published their results in a scientific journal after collecting data from recycling companies in China. While the cost of recycling might vary from country to country, China’s status as the world’s biggest producer of e-waste makes light of the truth that the practice of urban mining could have a big impact on both economic and environmental matters.

[W]e already knew electronics contain precious metals in addition to all that glass and plastic. While a single smartphone might not contain all that much, consumers buy about 1.7 billion of the devices each year. In just one million of those, you’ll find roughly 75 pounds of gold, 35,000 pounds of copper, and 772 pounds of silver.

Necessary reminder though: this is no reason at all to justify our technological consumption practices. If anything, it should make us ask more conscientiously, what do I do with my smartphone once I find a new replacement that has great upgrades and loads informative online articles (like this!) much faster?

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Scotland’s Wind Power Enough for 5 Million Homes

Attempts at finding alternative energy sources to fossil fuels might seem like everyday news—of course not futile, still of course productive and necessary, though less surprising. Every so often, some efforts make the world extra proud, extra green, and extra clean, like perhaps seeing the biofuel potential of kelp farms in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and running an entire school in Denmark solely through solar power.

Today, one groundbreaking (or windbreaking?) story brings us a breath of fresh air. Scotland has achieved another wind power record by supplying energy equivalent to the usage of five million homes.

“Renewables have provided an incredible amount of power during the first three months of this year,” Dr. Sam Gardner, WWF Scotland’s acting director, said in a statement. “An increase of 44 percent on the record-breaking equivalent period in 2017 is clear evidence the investment made in this technology has paid off for the economy and the environment, putting Scotland at the forefront of the fight against climate change.”

In the first quarter of 2018, 5.3 million megawatt hours of energy were generated by Scotland’s wind turbines. March 1, considered so far as the best day in the country for wind power, produced 110,000 megawatt-hours of energy that could have provided for 173 percent of the nation’s entire electricity demand.

But WWF Scotland’s acting director is not only proud; he wants the potential of the country’s wind power production to serve as a call to action for the rest of the UK.

“If Scotland’s full renewables potential is to be unleashed to power our economy, heat our homes and charge our cars, then the UK government needs to stop excluding the cheapest forms of power, like onshore wind and solar, from the market,” he said.

With this record and all its implications for Scotland’s—and perhaps the UK’s—future, not only is Scotland taking our breath away, it is set to take the world by windstorm.

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Dogs Love Baby Talk, Study Says

Dear dog moms and dog dads, fret not. When your pup saves people from a house fire, learns a new trick that would make the family proud, or simply behaves like the good boy that he is, you are not delusional to spend a few minutes babying him. You don’t even need to get him a comfy armchair or mouth-watering treats, researchers at York University say that dogs appreciate baby talk or high-pitched “dog speak.”

“Obviously we know that dogs can’t learn to talk, so we wanted to know whether dog-speak also has a function for dogs, or whether it is simply something we tend to use with our pets in a culture where we think of dogs as part of the family, like fur-babies,” lead author Alex Benjamin told HuffPost […]

The researchers wanted to see if the dogs were interested in the high-pitched intonation used for them or if they were responding to the actual words said to them. After conducting speech tests with 69 adult ones, the research team discovered that dogs were most likely to engage with people who mix dog-directed speech (high-pitched tone) and dog-related content (“Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy!”).

“I was a little surprised that in the second experiment, neither content, nor prosody ― which [is] intonation of the voice ― was driving the dogs’ preference,” she said. “I think it is really interesting that our dogs are able to use both acoustic and content information to determine what speech might be meant for them.”

So next time, when somebody says that you’re just being a crazy dog mom or dad, give them the scientific basis of your adoration. Perhaps using baby talk could help you guys communicate, too.

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Apple Now Powered by Clean Energy

Corporate giants like McDonalds (along with other fast food chains) and Google (along with other tech companies) have been participating in the global venture towards turning green. Recently, another giant techie has joined the cause: Apple has announced that its operations are now completely powered by renewable energy. The company claims that all of its shops, offices, and data centers across 43 different countries are part of the program.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

In a similar vein, Apple has also built an Apple Park campus completely powered by solar energy, as well as other wind and solar projects in China to help counteract its manufacturing wastes. However, Apple products still come from suppliers that the Apple company does not have complete control over. In response to this, the giant has been active in encouraging its suppliers to improve their standards, inclusive of labor conditions and environmental work.

It has encouraged suppliers to follow its lead in using renewable energy, it said, and now 23 of them are committed to working on green power.

If corporate competition between biggies in various industries like food and tech keep happening on the green stage, then one victor would always emerge for sure: our environment. Let’s just hope the battle continues.

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London Buses To Run On Coffee Fuel

Coffee: it’s every workaholic’s go-to beverage and, astoundingly, perfect for manufacturing sportswear. Nowadays, it isn’t just perfect for a pick-me-up — it’s potentially fueling London’s signature double-decker buses.

“Instead of sending a tonne of waste coffee grounds to landfill where it degrades and releases methane and CO2, we collect it, recycle it and turn it into a renewable fuel which is then used to replace further conventional fuels – so it’s a double saving”, [said] Bio-bean founder Arthur Kay.

Among the heaviest Americano consumers, Londoners contribute up to 200,000 tons of coffee waste annually. To make the most out of discarded grounds, Bio-bean is extracting 6,000 liters of oil to mix into fuel. The final blend is of 20% biofuel, which will also help to reduce carbon emissions.

“We’re not saying that it’s going to totally replace fossil fuels overnight,” Kay said.

“The amount of diesel produced globally is always going to be more than the amount of coffee.”

Considering London buses run nearly 2 billion trips a year, Bio-bean’s initiative could encourage alternative energy use. Perhaps a beer fuel may even be in talks.

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Volkswagen To Debut Electric Zero-Emissions Beetle

Eco-friendly vehicles have come a long way from simply being prototypes. Manufacturers have been ambitious with emissions-free cars, even attempting to assemble them using resin. However, for big names in the industry, keeping it simple is key. Known for its funky appearance, the VW Beetle is getting another makeover — this time, it’s going electric.

“If we wanted to do a Beetle, electrically it would be much better than today’s model, much closer to history, because it could be rear-wheel drive,” said [VW chairman Herbert] Diess.

It may still be in the talks, but VW already has its hands full with an electric version of its classic microbus. Despite their overflowing to-do list, it seems fans of the Bug are on their toes. Thrilled prospective customers have been pleading with the chairman to follow through via letters and e-mails.

VW is aiming for a massive revamp of its vehicles by 2030. While that may seem a long ways away, its $24 billion budget speaks volumes about the group’s potential.

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Cult TV Show Helps Raise $400,000 For Museum

Rarely does anyone outdo Bill Gates when it comes to charitable acts — but one can surely try. Popular TV show “Stranger Things” recently set its own record, helping raise $400,000 for the Science Museum of Minnesota. And it was all thanks to a dinosaur hoodie.

Dustin, who is played by Gaten Matarazzo, was seen in the premiere episode of Stranger Things 2 wearing a purple hoodie with a Brontosaurus “Thunder Lizard” logo emblazoned on the front, along with the tagline ‘The Science Museum of Minnesota’.

Selling since the 1980’s, the popular hoodie was so in-demand that fans crashed the museum website for well over a day. Number of hoodies sold? Over 10,000. The proceeds will go to future research, which I’m sure the kids of Stranger Things are all about.

“For us, we’re just relishing this opportunity to be connected to the popular show, especially one that has characters that are interested in science,” [museum public relations officer Kim] Ramsden said.

See, kids? Science is a lot cooler than you think.

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eHighway Electrifies Trucks With Cables

With a rising number of electric buses and taxis headed for the streets, roads are having to undergo adjustments, too. Los Angeles is home to an excess of both trucks and smog. To revamp the deadly duo into something more eco-friendly, Siemens has installed its first electric highway where trucks can charge on-the-go.

“To have the road electrified and have these heavy trucks electrified is just far more efficient from the perspective that you don’t waste fuel, you save energy because the electric motor is far more efficient than the gas motor, and you have no emissions at all,” says Andreas Thon, the head of turnkey projects and electrification in North America.

The trucks are rigged onto overhead wires that run the entire length of the highway. The trucks themselves are cost-efficient, requiring significantly less maintenance than diesel motors. The highway also alleviates battery problems, as they don’t generate enough energy for heavy loads.

Thon says, “With this technology, you permanently feed energy into the truck.”

Siemens also hopes to install charging technology beneath road surfaces — but that will have to wait. After all, it does require a lot more science and a lot more money.

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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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Nature Park Installs Colorblind-less Viewfinders

For decades, technology has paved the way for treating detrimental illnesses such as HIV and leukemia. While some conditions remain without a cure, therapy and devices have made everyday living more bearable. A Tennessee nature park gave back to its colorblind visitors by installing a special viewfinder.

“To realize, through red/green deficiencies and other forms of colorblindness, there potentially are more than 13 million people in our country alone who cannot fully appreciate the beauty our state has to offer, we wanted to do something about that,” [said Kevin Triplett, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Tourist Development.]

The colorblind-less viewfinders alleviate specific color deficiencies, allowing tourists to marvel at the park. In the fall, trees don an incredible concoction of reds and yellows, a first sight for some.

“I’m glad to have seen it. I just wish I had seen this all my life,” [local Jim] Nichols said through tears. “Kinda like what I would imagine the difference between here and heaven.”

Positive responses from colorblind sightseers had the state installing more viewfinders across other parks. And there you have it — never take your senses for granted. Not everyone can enjoy them the way we do.

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