Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Environmental
July 31st, 2015
5:43
 

When I was younger, my little brother had a set of trains – the really cool ones where you took a big wooden board and put down fake grass and trees and little buildings.  The whole thing ran on electricity provided by a transformer that you plugged into the wall outlet.  The tracks were metal and the cars seemed to always be toppling over.    We spent hours with that setup – it was so much fun!

A love for railroads seems to be part of every child’s DNA; something that many really never outgrow!  There have been steam engines, trains powered by coal, diesel, electricity; a ride on a train used to be a luxury and there are pictures that make folks really nostalgic.  We’ve upped our population & we keep improving the technology to meet the changing needs of our planet…

Here’s another cool innovation from the European continent:

Biodiesel to Power Swedish Train Line

Swedish operator Inlandsbanan AB has said it hopes to convert its entire fleet of passenger and freight vehicles to bio-diesel by 2020.  Inlandsbanan AB has received funding from the EU to assess the feasibility of converting its diesel trains to RME, a biodiesel produced from rapeseed.

 

Rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel; leading producers include the European Union, Canada, China, India and Australia.

“Can’t ya hear this whistle blowin’?”  Do you have a plan for alternative fuel?  Take it to the rails!!

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Lots of people spread lots of (what we politely refer to as) manure when they are speaking or writing.  There are tabloids and blogs and conversations overheard that reek of the stuff.   BUT – there’s a real world application for manure in the farming sector of the economy that is beneficial  (and maybe less toxic than gossip or rumor?), and there’s new tech to help with precise application… Read about it here:

Digi-Star Introduces Rate Control

Manure SpreadersLook – The first step to assessing soil health is to simply look for ...

 

Digi-Star LLC is headquartered in Fort Atkinson, Wis., with additional facilities and businesses in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. Digi-Star LLC is a global supplier of electronic sensing equipment, precision sensors, displays and software used by farmers and other equipment operators to precisely measure and analyze valuable data from critical farming processes.

Here’s some press about the award they’ve garnered for their technology:  Digi-StarNT8000iEarnsAward

There’s a “world” of farming tech to be explored – visit this site by clicking the logo to learn more:

  ASABE  (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers)

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Seahorses are those almost comical looking creatures that inhabit shallow tropical waters in temperate climates.  They are really cool to look at and are a particular favorite of children.  Watching one “swim” can inspire wonder…how DO they do that anyway?  (Since I never made it much past the dog-paddle stage myself, observing a seahorse in motion is quite fascinating for me!)

But there’s more to the structure of a seahorse than meets the eye – and their specific skeleton and musculature may lead the way to improved technology and less stiffness when we move forward on invention of the next generation of robots!  Traditionally, our attempts to make robots have had some problems when it comes to mobility.  Further, the exoskeletal properties of the seahorse could lead to improvements in body armor or protective materials.  A study was led by Michael Porter, an assistant mechanical engineering professor at Clemson University in South Carolina that has been published online in the Journal Science.  His findings are quite amazing!

Read about it here:

Seahorse’s Amazing Tail

 

Could Inspire Better Robots

 

seahorse

The seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis at the Seattle Aquarium.
Credit: Dominique Adriaens

 

The piece linked below has some really interesting stuff about these little guys, too.  Give it a look-see…

Secret of the Sea Horse:How Creature Got its Curve

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When solar panels first began cropping up on rooftops and in large fields, a number of people were ‘offended’ by what they considered an ‘unsightly blight’ on the landscape.  This rather fun story tells the tale of how a film director’s sense of humor can turn things around…

 

James Cameron’s

 

Open Source

 

Sun Flower

 sunflower

And a second article on this happy topic from Spirit Science

Perhaps the most exciting dimension of this flora is that it’s expected to be OPEN SOURCE!  That means you and I can make our own “garden”!

A little sunshine & laughter can go a long way to making the formerly unpalatable more appealing & acceptable – and who doesn’t smile at the sight of sunflowers?!

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The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has become the first building to obtain the world’s four highest sustainable building standards, according to Phipps.

blog phipps

The Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes has recently received full Living Building Challenge certification (Photo: Denmarsh Photography)

The Living Building Challenge is said to be the most stringent measure of building sustainability. It considers projects based on criteria in the seven categories of place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty. For full certification, buildings must be shown to have net-zero energy and water usage over the course of one year.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes design is based on what Phipps calls an “outside-in, passive-first” approach. The building is orientated to maximize its exposure to the sun, with a variety of heating and cooling methods employed. These include the use of thermal massing, high-performance glazing, brise-soleil screens and solar shading.

See how this living building took shape:

YouTube Preview Image

It inspires me to take a trip to Pittsburgh, PA to see this wonderful achievement!

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