Fishermen cast their nets over a flooded paddy field on the outskirts of Agartala, the capital of India’s northeastern state of Tripura, May 26, 2010. [REUTERS/Jayanta Dey]
Ancient farming seen curbing extinctions of animals, plants
Ancient farming practices, such as raising fish in rice paddies in China or Aboriginal Australian fire controls, will get a new lease of life under plans to slow extinctions of animals and plants, experts said on Monday.
Turning to traditional farming is seen as a way of limiting what U.N. studies say is the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, driven by a rising human population that is wrecking natural habitats.
U.S. Archives showcase Magna Carta in new gallery
The only original copy of the Magna Carta in the United States is the centerpiece of a new museum gallery at the National Archives, tracing the evolution of rights and freedoms through present day.
On Wednesday, the archives will open its new “Records of Rights” permanent exhibit in an expanded museum space on the National Mall. Philanthropist David Rubenstein donated $13.5 million to fund the project, along with funds from Congress. Rubenstein also is loaning the 1297 copy of Magna Carta to the archives.
Magna Carta was the first English charter to directly challenge the monarchy’s authority. It became a precedent for the concept of freedom under law as envisioned by America’s founding fathers.
The historic document will be surrounded with documents and images exploring the evolution of citizenship, equality and free speech. [x]
Mexico’s president signs energy reform into law; enabling legislation next
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law a sweeping reform that will allow private companies to drill for oil and gas, and end a seven-decade-long monopoly held by the state oil company.
Mexican law previously restricted such work to Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, in constitution articles that have long been considered sacred. The monopoly was seen as safeguarding the country’s patrimony from foreign exploitation after the Mexican Revolution.
Pena Nieto said the new energy laws and other reforms have strengthened confidence in Mexico, citing them as the reason Standard & Poor’s raised the country’s credit rating one step to BBB+.
"We, Mexicans, have decided to set aside myths and taboos, to take a big step forward," said Pena Nieto, who argues that Mexico needs the foreign companies’ expertise and technology to exploit its vast reserves.
He called the energy bill “a fundamental, historic reform” needed for Mexico to speed up the lagging pace of its economic growth.
Last year, researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland announced plans to outfit a male patient with an artificial hand connected directly to the patient’s nervous system, enabling him to not only control the artificial hand, but to feel via touch signals embedded in the skin of the prosthetic.
Around the world, advancements in prosthetics are accelerating. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new artificial retina technology known as the Argus II that can restore partial sight to people suffering from a specific type of blindness known as retinitis pigmentosa.
Scientists at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles believe they are close to being able to restore a person’s memory capabilities with microchips inserted in the brain, while a San Diego-based company expects to be able to create a human liver via 3D printing technologies sometime in 2014.
(Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)
The University of Oregon has a remarkable specimen in its paleontology department: a rare fossil of a fish. In this case, Onchorynchus rasters, the distant ancestor of the salmon you might enjoy draped on sushi rice or served over wilted spinach. The fossil is five million years old. It is seven feet long. It is saber-toothed. And while these features must have made the proto-salmon quite terrifying in life, in death its remains are incredibly fragile. So much so that it’s hard for researchers to examine the specimen without damaging it. As for anyone else interacting with it? Out of the question.
Enter 3D printing.
[Image: University of Oregon]
"For the first time in two millennia, wild horses are once again galloping free in western Spain, reversing what happened when the Romans moved here and domesticated the animals.”
— I posted a link to a news article about Jonny Benhamin’s “Find Mike” campaign the other day. Because of his campaign, he found the guy who stopped him from jumping off a bridge!
A coalition of conservationists has bought nearly 15,000 acres of land in Bolivia, more than doubling a key habitat for the critically endangered blue-throated macaw.
GALLERY: 100-Year-Old Negatives Found in Antarctica
Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators recently made a stunning discovery: a box of 22 exposed but unprocessed negatives, frozen in a block of ice for nearly one hundred years. Take a look at some of the processed pieces of history
[UPDATE: Broken links fixed… apologies! ~Ian]
Huge rare blue diamond discovered in Africa
ITV News: An acorn-sized blue diamond, one of the rarest and most coveted gemstones in the world, has been unearthed in South Africa at a mine near the country’s capital Pretoria.
The 29.6 carat stone, described as exceptional, is reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars.
Photo: Blue diamond recovered at South Africa’s Cullinan mine (Petra diamonds)
Live crowdfunding tested out in Finland
There is a buzz of excitement at Helsinki City Hall. Large numbers of startup entrepreneurs and investors have assembled at PitchHelsinki, held this year for the seventh time. The event is making history: for the first time, live crowdfunding is possible from around the world.
Ethiopia approves 3 new solar projects
Global Trade Development Consulting and its Project Development Partner, Energy Ventures, both US companies, announced that they have been awarded the contract by the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy and the Board of Directors of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation to build, operate, and transfer three 100-MW solar farms in Eastern Ethiopia.
Solar PV Electricity generating systems are emerging renewable energy technologies and can be developed as viable option for electricity generation in future. This project also improve the provision of power supply in terms of quantity and quality through the enhancement of generation capacity mix of the Ethiopian national grid system and reduction of system losses and provision of alternative electricity green energy solution. The Integrated energy policy of Ethiopia envisages electricity generation installed capacity of more than 20,000 MW by 2020 and substantial contribution would be from renewable energy, resource.
Ethiopia is in the initial set of countries in President Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative. In addition to the needed power generation capacity, this 300 Megawatt Solar Project will contribute to economic development resulting in the creation of more than 2,000 construction jobs that would inject additional revenue to the Ethiopian economy. Ongoing plant operations would yield several hundred new jobs as well.
According to the Honorable Minister Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Water, irrigation and Energy for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, “this project represents a significant advance in our Ethiopian energy initiative and is now part of our comprehensive Energy Plan. Given Ethiopia’s large hydro-electric generation capacity and now wind and geothermal power generation coming on-line, large scale solar fits nicely into our energy portfolio and will provide significant power generation capacity much faster than the other renewable technologies. We welcome this project with open arms.”
"We spent months analyzing the potential for a large-scale solar project in Ethiopia. We found that Ethiopia has some of the highest solar irradiance factors in Africa," said Dr. Yonnas Kefle CEO of GTDC. He added, "As with all our projects, we intend to maximize the amount of local resources in the performance of this project."
Ms Tigist Mamo, COO of GTDC, emphasized that “the project performance which is so far accelerating in the right direction intends to engage local resources while working to ease the existing energy problem.” According to Ms. Tigist, Ethiopia needs the Solar PV Electricity generating systems to enhance its fast social and economic development.
"We are excited to be the Project Developer leading this important project for Ethiopia. The powers that this project will deliver have a dramatic effect on millions of Ethiopians’ quality of life," said Lynn R. Hogg, Founder and CEO of Energy Ventures. [x]
Fuel Cell Bus Comes Online In Netherlands
The world of hydrogen fueling stations and vehicles which make use of them expanded slightly recently courtesy of a new installation in the Netherlands. Besides servicing new prototypes of hydrogen buses, the location at the Automotive Campus NL in Helmond will be used to fuel a small fleet of garbage trucks.
The hydrogen station, and the new bus prototypes, both make use of applicable technology from hydrogen systems provider Hydrogenics. It consists “of a 20 ft containerized water electrolyzer that includes a water treatment system, gas purification, cooling system and a 350 bar dispenser to supply up to 65 kg of clean hydrogen fuel per day.” This will change within the next few months, being expanded to “include a 700 bar dispenser to make it suitable for passenger cars.”
The bus prototype, meanwhile, comes from VDL Bus & Coach, a major Dutch bus manufacturer, and is rather unique in that it “incorporates an energy power plant where the only interface to the vehicle is a 600 VDC cable connector and a vehicle communication port.” This power plant is, of course, driven by a fuel cell power module, courtesy of Hydrogenics.
Even as this pilot program goes on, other hydrogen activity is happening as well in this small European nation. Last year, for example, students from Delft University of Technology built and raced a hydrogen powered electric race car. [x]
Stunning medieval murals survive under twenty paint layers
The BBC reported today about an amazing find in a local church in Llancarfan, Wales. A thin red line was discovered some time ago and upon further investigation expert discovered numerous 15th-century wall paintings behind the 20 layers of lime wash that were added over the past five centuries. They have been restored over the past months and can now be enjoyed by everybody. It’s fascinating how these medieval paintings lay dormant - were able to survive, really - behind layers and layers of paint.
Read more about it here - including a short film.
Here are many more examples. Both references via @ETreharne.
[image source here]