All posts by L.E

Dry Water

Scientists discovered that dry water may play a decisive role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and averting a climate apocalypse.
Dry water consists of 95% fluid water and 5% silica. Silica is  not to be confound with silicon but generally known as sand. This Sand encapsulates micro drops of water preventing these from bonding and creating a substance akin to powdered sugar.

Actually dry water was already discovered in 1968 but its unique characteristics have just been found.
Studies revealed that dry water is three times stronger in absorbing and storing carbon dioxid than fluid water making it a crucial and promising instrument against greenhouse gases.
The powder is particular suitable for absorbing gases, which combined with water form hydrates.
Therefore dry water can simplify the transportation of many dangerous gases reducing the risk of accidents and the quantity of the absorbed gas. One possible use would be the absorption of methane. One liter of methane gas can be stored in six gram of dry water supporting the future use of methane as an energy source.

Another positive characteristic is that dry water catalyses the reactions between hydrogen gas and maleic acid to produce succinic acid, a feedstock or raw material providing a basis for cosmetics, food ingredients and many other consumer products. The catalyzing property of dry water replaces the energy that originally had to be added to have the two substances chemically react.
So all in all dry water is a product easily produced, useful and unique in ist characteristics. A lot of research is still to be done but it sounds like a promising product to reduce our pollution and transport of hazardous gases.

References:

http://cleantechnica.com/2010/08/29/dry-water-could-be-the-first-oxymoron-to-help-fight-climate-change/#more-14660

http://de.news.yahoo.com/34/20100827/tsc-trockenes-wasser-soll-erderwaermung-98fda55.html

http://ecards.orf.at/news/152454.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100825174102.htm

Transhumanism – The super breed

What is Transhumanisms?

In general it is a philosophy and an active movement advocating human modification by technological means aiming at enhancement of human possibilities and living conditions of all kinds.
The philosophy detaches itself from our evolutionary concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest and replaces it by humans own wishes and perceptions. The human becomes the steersman of evolution!
At this point many recent and historical leaders of the movement do not follow the nationalistic study and practice of eugenics – state controlled selective breeding creating an advanced human species- but every set of parents has the choice to create a child according to its own wishes and conceivability.
To advance the human intellectually, psychologically and physically the movement wants to make use of various technologies.
The main technologies are: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science and hypothetical future technologies such as simulated reality, artificial intelligence, super intelligence, mind uploading, chemical brain preservation, and cryonics.

But as tempting as it sounds to create super humans it also poses many problems and controversies.

At first there is a practical criticism arguing that the necessary technology does not exist and never will. Referring to earlier predictions of genetic engineering that overestimated by far the capabilities of this technology.
Ethics is another critical aspect that should be kept clearly in mind.
Can humans defy evolution and play god?
Can our planet handle a population with access to the fountain of youth.

These are just some questions out of an endless pool that must be posed.
Many dystopian horror-scenarios have been thought and put down in writing our movies recently and in the past. Ranging from The Brave New World, Futurehype: The Tyranny of Prophecy, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, … to Terminator or Repo man.

The biggest community with regular meetings is in California, Los Angeles.
Circles of transhumanists are looking for the fountain of youth and I doubt that they are intending to share their findings with the public. I personally think that it is very scary to know that there might be an elite with access to eternal life. So let’s hope that is more hype than reality and we will never have to face theses problems and still know where we belong.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

http://humanityplus.org/

http://www.au.dk/fukuyama/boger/essay/

http://www.changesurfer.com/Acad/TranshumPolitics.htm

http://www.detrans.de/

A Gallon of Algae

The green protozoa belong to the oldest living organisms on earth. They grow rapidly and practice photosynthesis. These facts uses Glen Kertz from Texas to produce alternative biofuel. Like other plants, algae transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. Thereby pure plant oil is a side product which is stored in the plant tissue. It makes up 50% of their dry weight and is the raw material for biofuel.

Kertz found a new and more efficient way to extract and process the pure plant oil. After producing the oil in his bathtub he launched the company Valcent Products that was immediately supported by the us investment company Global Green Solutions with 2,5 million US Dollar and is still a continuously growing Green energy company.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $9 million in funding for research into the use of algae that occur naturally in seawater to produce a sustainable twofer.
The funds will go to a Hawaii-based group called Cellana, LLC Consortium focusing on finding new strains of algae for more efficient production of biofuels.
Interesting is the fact that the consortium leader, Cellana, is a joint venture of renewable energy startup HR Bio Petroleum and oil industry giant Shell. The fact that the Shell is investing in alternative fuels is a bit suspicious but you never know.


The research also aims at algae as a feed source for cattle which has a desirable side effect: An algae diet reduces the methane emissions from cows which form a magnificent source of greenhouse gases.
Under perfect circumstances algae produce 30 times more oil than corn, soybean, sunflower or other Biofuel sources. Additional they reduce the CO2 emission as they are already responsible for every second oxygen molecule on our planet.
Furthermore algae grow in seawater which is a big advantage considering the future worlds struggle for drinking water. The cultivation does not need any pesticides or fertilizers. The use of big agricultural machinery would also be eradicated. All in all a positive development we should strive for. Although right now the costs for mass production still exceed the earnings, with raising oil prices and rising pollution the research on alternative fuels becomes inevitable.

References:

http://algaefuel.org/

http://www.algen.biz/Biosprit/Biodiesel.php

http://cleantechnica.com/2010/07/20/holy-sustainble-cow-ordinary-algae-can-double-as-biofuel-and-cattle-feed-too/#more-13116

http://www.br-online.de/wissen/umwelt/energie-alternativen-DID1188467066442/algen-biotreibstoff-biosprit-ID1209387131457.xml

http://www.focus.de/wissen/wissenschaft/klima/mobilitaet/biodiesel_aid_137668.html

http://www.valcent.net/s/Home.asp

Lumenhaus – when light meets design

The project Lumenhaus designed and developed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University came in first at the Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 in Madrid.
The Solar Decathlon is a forum for research and development of innovative, eco-friendly energy technologies and high-performance buildings. Schneider Electric, a French global company for electric equipment, sponsors the initiative for the following two years and collaborated on 8 of the 17 introduced projects. Additional the US ministry for economy and technology sponsored the initiative focusing mainly on energy efficiency.

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Lumen is Latin for light and Haus is German for  house, so the name implements the purpose.
The zero energy house points into a future of solar energy and more awareness of environment and ecology. But unlike others the attention was also drawn towards comfort. The project combines optimum energy efficiency with no waiving of luxury.
The energy is supplied by a huge solar panel roof and many more of the newest solar technologies.
An integrated weather forecast station feats the smart home with changing weather conditions allowing the responsive architecture to adapt correspondingly.

In terms of design the project concentrates on an open air feeling as well as an optimal light yield. The entire house can be controlled by a computer or even a smart phone giving the user the power to overrule the computer. A nice feature of the equipped software is an overview of all energy consuming devices in and around the house resulting in a more thoughtful use of energy. And at last for people how like to move a lot, the house is as a whole transportable via special equipped transport devices for a truck.
I personally like the fact that it is on the one hand a zero energy house but on the other hand has no limitations in comfort and design.

If you want to no more see for yourself.

References:

http://www.ep-photovoltaik.de/gesponsort-von-schneider-electric-lumen-haus-gewinnt-solar-decathlon-europe-2010/2010/07/12

http://www.lumenhaus.com/eu/

http://www.solarportal24.de/nachrichten_35011_lumenhaus_gewinnt_solar_decathlon_europe_2010.html

http://www.trendsderzukunft.de/projekt-lumenhaus-das-haus-der-zukunft-ist-da/2010/07/14/

Happylife

In 1983 George Lucas used facial recognition in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. C3PO and R2D2 need to pass the Forbidding Gate and have to undergo a facial scan in order to enter Jabba the Hutts palace.

In 1983 was it more fiction than science but today is it reality. CCTV and other security systems use it for crime prevention making more and more efficient use of the technology.

In 2010 facial recognition peaked out at a joint project, called Happylife.
Happylife is the implementation of  the smart home, a concept that has been around for quite a while. An intelligent home that can read and fulfill your desires via facial recognition technology. The project between EPSRC, Royal College of Art and NESTA was introduced at the Impact exhibition in London, a unique collaboration between science and design that explores the importance of engineering and physical sciences in all aspects of our lives.

The science of the project is described by Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al-Rjoub from the Computer Science Department of Aberystwyth University:

Real-time dynamic passive profiling technique will be based on the modeling of facial expressions, eye movement and pupil changes in both the visual and thermal domains and link these to malicious intent and physiological processes (such as blood flow, eye movement patterns, and pupil dilation). To facilitate this process, one of the initial aspects of the project will be the collection, analysis and development of the dataset used to model the baseline of facial imagery behaviour of the general population against which physiological behaviours in people with malicious intent would need to be detected. Both the baseline and the dynamic profiling will be based on the response to a series of questions. The developed techniques will be evaluated in operational trails at border control points. The multi-modal facial analysis will provide additional information to the current profiling and the developed techniques will have a wider remit into other domains.

A visual display, linked to the thermal image camera, shows for each family member one individual rotary dial and one RGB LED display effectively acting like emotional barometers. These show current state and predicted state, the predicted state being based on years of accumulated statistical data.

In collaboration with Dr Richard M. Turley a narrative based prospect has been written.

We installed Happylife. Not much happened at first: an occasional rotation, a barely appreciable change in the intensity of light. But we felt it watching us, and knew that some kind of probing analysis had begun. After only a few months, we found ourselves anticipating the position of the dials. The individual displays rarely contradicted our expectations, but when they did it encouraged us to look inwardly at ourselves.
It was that time of the year. All of the Happylife prediction dials had spun anti-clockwise, like barometers reacting to an incoming storm. we lost David 4 years ago and the system was anticipating our coming sadness. We found this strangely comforting.
We were all sitting in the lounge, like any evening. Sandra and I were watching some nondescript documentary and the kids were playing with their lego. The moment stole up on us. Paul was first to notice the unusual glow coming from Happylife. It continued to brighten – a gradual, barely conspicuous build up of intensity until we had to look away.
The morning Paul had to go, Sandra’s dial was barely registering. I’d seen it that pale only once; then for obvious reasons it stayed that way for weeks. I tried to comfort her, saying it wasn’t as if he’d be away for ever. She turned to me with her face blank and puffy and then ran out of the room.
I arrived home from the meeting, pushed off my shoes and glanced up at the Happylife display. Sandra’s dial had rotated 2 clicks further than I’d ever seen it. The orb was pulsing wildly. She’d seemed fine when I left.

But as shown there are always two sides of the coin, one may be contributing while the other may be harmful. If the smart home is an enrichment or just another step towards Skynet (Terminator) cannot be said so far. However the smart home is now ready for the first real family and from there on we will see.

References:

http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/cs/research/vgv/

http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=23

http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/happylife/#more-9061

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1133

Eats waste and shits oil

Greg Pal, 33, a senior director of the company LS9 located in the Silicon Valley introduced what he calls “renewable petroleum”.
Scientist genetically modified E-coli bacteria in order to create petroleum. The trial was a success and the first bacteria eating agricultural waste and excreting oil was cultivated.

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The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

Today most of the alternative biofuels of the US come from Corn. But as this biological energy source is heavily controversial LS9 is looking for other agricultural waste intending to tailore every region according to its particular needs in terms of climate and economy. For instance wheat straw in the East or woodchips in the South of the US.

If someone can produce bacteria at a large maybe global-scale, we would be one step closer to find a sustainable crude oil substitute. But right now we should maybe focus the oil eating bacteria to overcome our oil catastrophe in the Gulf from Mexico.

The new generation of oil sheiks


References:

http://themoderatevoice.com/20412/oil-excreting-bugs-to-save-the-world/

http://www.nextnature.net/2008/12/bacteria-that-eat-waste-shit-petrol/

http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2008-04/breeding-oil-bug

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,776544,00.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article4133668.ece

Qatars bid for green soccer

This weekend starts the Fifa football world cup in South Africa and everybody is keen to watch the world’s best players score. But some people are already planning 12 years ahead. The Emirate Qatar applied with many other to be the venue of the World Cup in 2022. But unlike the other contestants Qatar submitted a very unique proposal to persuade the Fifa selection committee. The proposal contains five renewable energy stadiums manly designed by German Albert Speer & Partner GmbH.
The models are a mixture of local characteristics and modern architecture with special attention to sustainability. Solar power supported by other renewable energy sources shall guarantee the CO2 neutrality and reduce the temperature in the stadium to a maximum of 27° degree Celsius.

Al-Shamal Stadium

Al-Shamals history is coined by fishing so the Stadium will be imitate a Dhow, a traditional fisher boat.

• Al-Khor Stadium

In the northeast situated city Al-Khor the Stadium will be based on a sea shell.

• Al-Gharafa Stadium

The Stadium does already exist but will be additionally equipped with a new facade coating the Stadium in bands in the colors of the participating nations.

• Al-Rayyan Stadium

The Rayyan Stadium will be upgraded with a LED facade screening sport events nonstop.

• Al-Wakrah Sports Complex

Al-Wakrah Sports Complex will be more than just a stadium it will be a complex of relaxing in spas, shopping in malls, living in exclusive hotels and watching first class soccer.

The design and eco-friendliness of the stadiums should position Qatar well in the competition for running as a host for the World Cup in 2022. Furthermore  Qatar has various supporters for instance the former Dutch Barcelona and Ajax player Ronal de Boer who ended his career in Qatar.

References:

All pictures are from AS&P – Albert Speer & Partner GmbH

http://www.as-p.de/
http://www.qatar2022bid.com/
http://www.Stadiumwelt.de/
http://www.trendsderzukunft.de/fussball-wm-2022-katar/2010/05/31/