Electric vehicles are great and all, but they’re not exactly practical for everyone. Like, how’s a farmer in rural China going to a) afford a pricey green car and b) get enough access to electrical outlets and vehicle charging stations?
Well, if he’s Tang Zhengping from Beijing’s Tangzhou Wanji Yongle Town, he’ll build his own -- and it’ll be AWESOME.
In urban America, getting money out of the bank means walking a block to the ATM. In rural India, the nearest bank branch might be a day's journey away. But now a company called Vortex Engineering is using solar power to bring convenient banking to out-of-the-way villages.
The key: The company's ATMs are energy efficient. Vortex calls them the "world's lowest power consuming ATMs," and they use just 10 percent of the energy of other banking machines, according to Yale e360. It adds up to about the same amount of energy as a lightbulb. That low energy overheads means that solar panels can provide back-up power and keeping on running even in areas where electricity service is spotty.
Denis Hayes is about the last person on the planet you’d expect to find walking around a construction site in a hardhat, chatting up engineers and contractors. Hayes is best known as the guy who coordinated the first Earth Day, back in 1970, when he was 25. Since that time, he has earned a reputation as a fierce defender of the environment, raking in every imaginable green accolade. Today, he is honorary chair of the Earth Day Network by night and by day, president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, a major force in conservation in the Northwest.
But Hayes is full of surprises. He directed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under the Carter administration and has taught engineering at Stanford. He can talk BTUs-per-square-foot-per-year with the best of them. Which is handy, because at the moment, Hayes is orchestrating the construction of a new, uber green headquarters building for Bullitt. The building sets out to meet the Living Building Challenge, which means, among other things, that it will generate all of its own water and electricity. The latter is no small feat, when you consider that the building is in infamously gray Seattle – not exactly a Mecca for solar power.
With Earth Day 2012 looming (it's Sunday, people!), I caught up with Hayes to talk about the big day, green building, and his prognosis for the planet.
Here is an amazing example of humans piggybacking on a natural phenomenon to create an incredibly clever system: crab-based computing.
A crab-based computer starts with swarms of crabs. These swarms include hundreds of thousands of crabs that, individually, run every which way but that, as a group, progress in one direction. Even more incredible -- when two swarms collide, they merge and start moving along the vector of their combined velocity (hellloooo, high school physics!).
So what does this have to do with computing? A team of researchers set up a system where crab behavior would provide the basic logic on which computers work. For instance, a computer might need to take inputs X and Y, and output the result “X or Y” -- a 1 if either X or Y is 1, and a 0 otherwise. Crabs can do that:
Why is Gen Y migrating to the cities? Because millennials are craving the things they didn’t get in their suburban upbringings, like connectedness and adventure. Basically, they’re throwing off their cul-de-sac childhoods and seeking out authenticity.
Sweden's No. 1 burger chain got rid of its kids'-meal boxes and, contrary to expectations, sales of the meals rose. Apparently parents who are facing the prospect of their children scrabbling for survival on this wrecked cinder of a planet don’t like creating needless trash? At least in Sweden, anyway.
Unlike gluttonous American industry, Europe's most profitable companies plan to make even more money by getting ahead of this whole peak oil trend, reports Der Spiegel. And it’s a damn good thing, because if everybody guzzled oil like Americans, we’d be even more screwed than we are now.
Case in point:
If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.