CA Freeways Will Soon Generate Electricity

Cars, Piezoelect, SoCal, EcoWatch_com

Energy conservation is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about freeways jammed with idling vehicles.

But in California, which has some of the most congested freeways in the country, that’s about to change. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals will be installed on several freeways.

No, these aren’t some kind of new-agey crystals with mystical powers. Piezoelectric crystals, about the size of watch batteries, give off an electrical discharge when they’re mechanically stressed, such as when a vehicle drives over them. Multiply that by thousands of vehicles and it creates an electric current that can be harvested to feed the grid.

In fact, scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10-mile stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000).

“I still get stopped on the street by people who ask what happened to the idea of using our roads to generate electricity,” said Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles assemblyman, in a press release announcing the program. “California is the car capital of the world and we recycle just about everything. So why not capture the energy from road vibrations and put it to good use?”

Piezoelectric-based energy‐harvesting technology is already being used in other countries. Since 2009, all the displays in the East Japan Railway Company’s Tokyo station have been powered by people walking on the piezoelectric flooring. Italy has signed a contract that will install this technology in a portion of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada. Israel is already using this technology on some highways, which is how Gatto got the idea for the pilot program in California. A friend returning from a trip to Israel raved about a road that produced energy …

Piezoelectric technology has been used for years in electric guitars and sonar. The crystals are “in effect the reverse of sonar: a vibration comes in and an electric pulse comes out,” according to the press release …

“Thirty years ago, no one would have believed that black silicon panels in the desert could generate ‘solar‘ power,” Gatto stated. “Piezoelectric technology is real and I am glad the state has finally acknowledged its potential in becoming an energy source.”  read more, see video –>  http://www.ecowatch.com/california-freeways-generate-electricity-piezoelectric-crystals…

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Best Detergents for Smelly Workout Clothes

Olympic Hurdler, ConsumerReports_org

Before arriving at the Olympics, the athletes underwent years of training and produced piles of sweaty workout clothes. But you don’t have to be a world-class athlete, or the parent of one, to appreciate the benefits of a top-performing laundry detergent. Across the country kids are coming home from camp with duffel bags full of smelly clothing and, at the same time, pre-season sport camps are ramping up for the beginning of school. Time to break out one of the detergents that medaled in Consumer Reports tests.

Top of the podium is Persil ProClean Power-Liquid 2in1, 25 cents per load, which beat out our long-time champ, Tide. But Tide held steady with two varieties tied for second, liquid Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release, 25 cents, and Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative, 23 cents, a powder. All three are intended for front-loaders or high-efficiency top-loader washing machines and are superb at removing grass and blood stains and ring-around-the-collar. The trio also aced our cold-water washing test.

Bargain Buys
Paying top dollar for Persil and Tide can add up in a hurry if your washer is running nonstop to keep up with a small team’s worth of workout clothes. Sam’s Club members should consider Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean, which can be used in high-efficiency or conventional washers. It costs just 12 cents a load, and was tough on grass and ring-around-the-collar. Costco shoppers can consider Kirkland Signature Free & Clear liquid detergent, a good choice at 11 cents per load. And if you don’t shop at Costco or Sam’s Club, opt for Wisk Deep Clean at 14 cents per load.

Convenient If You’re Careful
While we stopped recommending single-dose detergents because of the poisoning danger they pose to small children, they are still a good option for grownups on the go because you can throw a few in your gym bag. Tide Pods Plus Febreze tops our tests of pods and packs but at 33 cents per load costs almost twice as much as the runner-up, All Mighty Pacs Oxi, which is only 17 cents per load. Just make sure to keep any pods away from children who might mistake them for candy.

Laundry Tips
Whichever laundry detergent you choose, it’s important to follow best practices, especially when you’re dealing with large, smelly loads. Sort by colors as well as fabric types—jeans and heavier items in one load, and T-shirts and lighter fabrics in another. Don’t overload the machine with workout clothes, or you’ll probably have to wash them a second time. And follow the manufacturer’s measuring directions for large or very dirty loads. You might be tempted to add even more detergent, but this can leave residue in your machine and on your clothing.

courtesy of:  http://www.consumerreports.org/laundry-detergents/best-detergents-for-workout-clothes/…

Stubby Purple Squid Just Chillin’ Off SoCal Coast

Scientists try to maintain their composure when conducting research. But researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus couldn’t help but get excited when they happened upon a goofy-looking, googly eyed purple squid while mapping the seafloor off southern California last week.

The creature was a stubby squid, Rossia pacifica, a species that lives in the Pacific ocean from Japan to southern California. The creature was just sitting out in the open on the sea floor when the crew spotted it. “It looks so fake,” one of the researchers says in a video of the encounter. “It looks like some little kid dropped their toy.”

The creature does look strange, like its eyes were painted on its bright purple body by a child. But Samantha Wishnak, a science communication fellow aboard the E/V Nautilus, tells Kacey Deamer at Live Science that things only get weirder from there. “They actually have this pretty awesome superpower, they can turn on a little sticky mucus jacket over their body and sort of collect bits of sand or pebbles or whatever they’re burrowing into and make a really nice camouflage jacket,” she says. “When they go to ambush something and prey on something, they’re able to sort of turn off that mucus jacket.”

The researchers were lucky, says Wishnak, to see the little squid out in the open since the nocturnal predator typically hides in the sediment in its jacket waiting for prey. She also says most of the scientists watching the feed from the ROV were geologists and ecologists unfamiliar with deep sea species, so they were much more excited to see the crazy-looking creature than seasoned marine biologists. Biologists watching the video feed on shore identified the little squid … just gotta’ see what this stubby purple squid looks like?  Click here to read more, watch video —>   http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/…

You’ll Be Glad to Know What Possums Eat!

Posssum Diet, Ticks, OffGridQuest_com

At night, when you catch sight of an opossum in your car headlights, you are allowed to think, “That is one ugly little animal.”  But what opossums lack in looks, they make up in originality.

They’re America’s only babies-in-the pouch marsupial.  They’re a southern species — proper name Virginia opossum — that’s adapted to New England winters.

They’re one of the oldest species of mammal around, having waddled past dinosaurs.

They eat grubs and insects and even mice, working over the environment like little vacuum cleaners.

“They really eat whatever they find,” said Laura Simon, wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society.

And they’re an animal whose first line of defense includes drooling and a wicked hissing snarl — a bluff — followed by fainting dead away and “playing possum.”

“They are just interesting critters,” said Mark Clavette, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

And now ecologists have learned something else about opossums. They’re a sort of magnet when it comes to riding the world of black-legged ticks, which spread Lyme disease.

“Don’t hit opossums if they’ve playing dead in the road,” said Richard Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

Ostfeld is forest ecologist and an expert on the environmental elements of infectious diseases like Lyme disease.

Several years ago, scientists decided to learn about the part different mammals play in the spread of the ticks and the disease.

They tested six species — white-footed mice, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys and catbirds — by capturing and caging them, and then exposing each test subject to 100 ticks.

What they found, is that of the six, the opossums were remarkably good at getting rid of the ticks — much more so that any of the others.

“I had no suspicion they’d be such efficient tick-killing animals,” Ostfeld said.

Indeed, among other opossum traits, there is this: They groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they lick it off and swallow it. (The research team on the project went through droppings to find this out. All praise to those who study possum poop.)

Extrapolating from their findings, Ostfeld said, the team estimated that in one season, an opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks.

What ecologists are learning is how complex the interaction of ticks and mammals can be.

For example, foxes probably serve as a host for ticks seeking a blood meal. But foxes are great at killing white-footed mice — the species in the environment credited with being the chief reservoir of the Lyme bacteria.

Likewise, Ostfeld said, opossums, waddling around at night, pick up lots of ticks. Some ticks end up getting their blood meal from the possum. But more than 90 percent of them ended up being groomed away and swallowed.

“They’re net destroyers of ticks,” Ostfeld said.

For Simon, of the U.S. Humane Society, the Cary Institute research is a welcome justification to just leave opossums be.

“People are so hard on them,” she said.

That’s in part because people think oppossums might be rabid when they drool and hiss and carry on when threatened. In fact, opossums are resistant to rabies.

Meanwhile, they are not particularly pretty. People who “ooh” and “aah” over fawns and bluebirds may not extend the same love to pokey animals with triangular heads, white faces and naked tails.

“I tell people ‘We can’t all be beautiful,’ ” Simon said.

courtesy of, see video:  http://www.offgridquest.com/wildlife/

 

What Happens When a Chameleon Looks in a Mirror?

Chameleon, NatGeo-crop

Female in the Mirror 

Females change color to communicate their sexual status to males, Hughes says. Female Mediterranean chameleons, for example, display yellow spots to signal sexual receptivity, according to a 1998 study.

Female social signals may be fewer “because they choose and males are competing to be chosen.”

And if she sees herself in a mirror? It would likely be more subtle than the male reaction, Hughes says—although there isn’t enough knowledge of female chameleons to know for sure.

“Female-female communication in chameleons is generally not well understood,” he says, and may be less obvious than interactions between males.

Color us humans envious of an animal who looks in a mirror and sees little that needs changing.

Male in the Mirror 

Chameleon colors aren’t just camouflage, says Eli Greenbaum, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Texas at El Paso—they also change due to temperature shifts or emotions.

And males get emotional when they see other males that could be rivals for females or habitat.

“Male chameleons will, in most cases, immediately change colors in response to seeing another male, and in this instance, to itself in a mirror,” says Daniel F. Hughes, a doctoral candidate in Greenbaum’s lab. (Related: “What Do Animals See in the Mirror?“).

To illustrate his point, he referred us to a YouTube video of a male panther chameleon, a species native to Madagascar, doing that very thing.

A male chameleon that sees a “rival” would get excited and change from its camo green to noticeable hues of yellow, orange, or even red, says Michel C. Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva … read more –>   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/…

Meteor Shower of the Decade Tonight! Thur, 8/11 + Fri, 8/12/16

Meteor Shower, Perseid, PopularMechanics

Astronomers predict next week’s meteor shower will have twice as many meteors as normal.  If you find yourself outside during the night next Thursday, don’t forget to look up.

On August 11 and 12, the biggest meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be lighting up the night sky, and this year the Perseids promise to be the best shower of the decade.

The Perseids typically peak in mid-August every year, when the Earth intersects with the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Debris from the comet impacts the Earth’s atmosphere and streaks across the sky, creating shooting stars.

Typically, the Perseids’ peak features about 100 meteors per hour. But this year, we may see twice that many thanks to an “outburst,” which occurs when the Earth runs into leftover debris from past orbits of the comet as well as debris from the current year. The extra material combines to create a truly spectacular meteor shower.

This year, the Perseids are expected to contain meteors from comet trails laid down in 1862, 1479, and 1079. This means that some of the meteors that will impact Earth’s atmosphere next week broke off from the Comet Swift-Tuttle nearly a thousand years ago.

If you’re planning to watch the Perseids, it’s best to be prepared. The optimal time to see the meteor shower is from late at night on Thursday August 11 to early Friday morning on the 12th, before sunrise. Be sure to get plenty of rest if you’re going to stay up late to watch the show.

Pick a spot that’s far away from city lights that brighten the sky. The darker the sky, the better the viewing, so you may have to drive into the countryside. This tool can help you find a dark sky location nearby. Remember to give your eyes at least 20 minutes to adjust to the dark.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself and have fun! Meteor showers are always better with people, so bring some friends or loved ones along, and keep your eyes on the sky.

courtesy of:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/

What Is Your Clan?

Teepee, Crow, NatGeoWhat is your clan? What is your Indian name? Who named you?

When anthropologist Aaron Brien puts these questions to a group of Crow Indian students gathered in the community of Crow Agency, Montana, most of the hands tentatively go up.

“My name is Emily Not Afraid. I am a Whistling Water and a child of the Newly Made Lodge. My Crow name is Baasshuushe isitccheesh, which means ‘Likes to tobacco dance.’ I was named as a baby by one of my clan mothers, Clara Big Lake.” …

… This, says Brien, is what makes the Crow—or Apsáalooke in their native Siouan language—different from any other tribe on the planet:  their clan system.  But it’s one that’s in danger of disappearing …

… To put the Crow Reservation’s size in perspective, it’s physically larger than Delaware and about a million acres shy of equaling the size of Connecticut. One of seven reservations in Montana, its largest town is Crow Agency, home to around 1,500 of the 13,000 or so enrolled tribal members … two decades ago, it was rare to hear conversations in English, and the clan system was practiced as part of everyday life. Now, in a single generation, the opposite is true. Both the Crow language and the idea of the clan system is quickly becoming a casualty on the battlefield of pop culture …

Ashammaliaxxiia, the word for the Apsáalooke clan system, translates to “Driftwood Lodges.” As the name implies, just as pieces of driftwood band together in turbulent waters, so do the Apsáalooke people to provide spiritual and material support to clan members. The Crow clan system is unique not just among Plains Indians but also among all tribes and nations. At its simplest level, the mother’s clan is responsible for the physical and emotional health of the clan member, while the father’s clan is responsible for spiritual support.

“The clan system creates a respect between people,” Brien says. “It’s a kinship system. It needs to be an everyday thing.” …  read more –>   http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2016/07/…