From endangered species to interplanetary species… and beyond

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Humanity has reached yet another important phase in its evolution. You’ve probably heard that a lot lately, it’s almost a cliché to hear it again. Well, get used to it as you will hear it more an more. In this ever-accelerating world we live in, progress and regress take less time than they did before. Although we get “there” faster, it feels that we are already a bit late. We have the potential to reach for the stars and start a colony on Mars, but at the same time we are close to becoming an endangered species.

Huh… ?! An endangered species (one might ask)? But… why?! And how did we get here?

A simplified answer for the why, is the continuous decay of our habitat. Humanity’s reckless route to progress has had some serious side effects on our planet. We have recently passed the carbon tipping point. Permanently.

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, it “seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.” Their findings are based on the weekly observations of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, who have been monitoring the CO2 levels on a weekly basis, since 1958.

Scientists have been warning us years before that if atmospheric carbon surpasses 400 parts per million, it would be an irreversible situation for an indefinite period of time. The first region to surpass these values was the Arctic, back in 2013. Fast forward to present, and now these values has been surpassed on a global scale.

1475015483983587Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Nature Conservancy warns that one fourth of Earth’s species could become extinct by 2050. This in turn will cause a massive food chain disruption. Other side effects include rising sea levels and ocean acidification, to name only a few. So, yes! We, humans, are soon to become an endangered species.

While our habitat decays in such a manner, a mission to Mars becomes more poetic. It will not be centered anymore around one man’s ambition, an entire species will reach out for the stars…

The calling of the open road becomes the calling of the open void

Since writing could record, humans have been drawn to far out places. The open road whispers a romantic calling, a calling coded in the root code of our DNA. A base code meticulously written by natural selection, as an essential mechanism of human survival.

After thousands of years of sedentary establishment we are again left in the want for more. Even after all the material gains which came with settling in, there is still a place in our souls that longs for continuous exploration. From tribes to villages, to cities, to empires, to lost civilizations. Nothing lasts forever. Exploring and spreading is the only way we can ensure species continuity in the vastness of space-time.

A mission to another planed may be an interesting topic for a sci-fi movie, however there are visionaries like Elon Musk who dare to materialize such a vision. He puts his money where his mouth is with SpaceX, investing almost all his capital in this ambitious project.

For those of you who don’t know, SpaceX is a privately owned space company which has as main business activity the delivery of cargo to the International Space Station. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. Their concept of reusable rockets keeps cost low and the business going, having NASA as their client.

However, SpaceX has bigger plans. Its stated goal is to establish a colony on Mars with a population of at least 80,000 people. The aim is to lower the cost of a trip to $200,000, in order to make this affordable and sustainable. Right now the estimated cost range from $6 billion to $500 billion for crewed programs and the cost for a person is estimated at $10 billion. Before that happens, SpaceX would have to overcome multiple important milestones. The forward thinking approach and the ambitious leadership of Elon Musk might be just the right combination to make this real.

At this point in time, this might seem unrealistic. What might seem even more surreal is the timeline proposed to make this happen. If you are reading this in 2016, the journey is expected to happen in 8 years time.

If all goes as planned, in 2024 we might witness a presentation as significant as J.F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech. Back in 1962 the idea of two people walking on the moons in less than 7 years time seemed just as unthinkable as the idea of a Mars colony is today. To give us an idea of what a trip to Mars would look like, SpaceX has created this interesting animation of their vision of the Interplanetary Transport System:

Although there are many limitations and obstacles, the history of human progress teaches us that man, in his quest for knowledge, progress and expansion, is determined and cannot be discouraged. The exploration and colonization of space will happen, whether we choose to believe in it or not.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

J.F. Kennedy Moon Speech – Rice Stadium, 12 September 1962

 

Put the negativity back where it belongs

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If you are like me, you don’t really know where the negativity belongs. Don’t worry, we will find out together.

What I’m talking about? Well, I’m talking about the negative attitude, words and feelings we keep in our lives and refuse to give away. Those bad things are moving us away from our true selves, from who we can be and what we can do. How? They get in our mind and make a shelter there. The mind is more than welcoming; it arranges a cozy, warm place for the negativity to settle and the negativity takes the chance in a blink.

Our mind doesn’t really know how to be optimistic, so it needs a little help from us. The human’s mind is used to think about all that “what if” situations and most of those are negative. What if you won’t get the job? What if your boyfriend will leave you? What if you won’t be slim again? What if…? Do you recognize that kind of thoughts? Of course you do, you have at least 10 of those a day. But what if I told you that you can reduce that number to 7 then 3 and then 0? Not in a day, but in this lifetime.

Just be yourself – even if it’s not the best self on Earth yet

If you are like me, you are a perfectionist. And, despite of all those ideas that being a perfectionist is a good thing, I tell you it’s not. It is not a good thing to do something and then immediately think that you could have done it better. Maybe you could, but you didn’t have the inspiration, the motivation, the ideas, the feels or who knows what. What if I told you that you can make mistakes? You know what Napoleon, Roosevelt and others men like them said? They said that “a man who has never made a mistake, has never made anything”. And that’s right, because what is a mistake? A mistake is something that happens when you try to do something, but it doesn’t come out the way you planned. But you did something! You did something, you made a mistake, you have a lesson to learn.

Don’t set expectations – at all

Generally, when people make mistakes, the others blame them. And that’s somehow understandable, if the others have set high expectations. But that’s not all. The one who made the mistake blames himself too and most of the times he’s harder on himself than others would’ve been. And that’s not understandable. You are allowed to make mistake, but you are not allowed to be so hard on yourself. If you don’t cheer you up, then who you think would do that?

Do the shift

So, how not to be that hard on yourself when something bad happens? First of all, try to shift the negative feelings into positive ones. Instead of saying “It is a nightmare”, try saying “It is a challenge”. Instead of “It’s stressing me out”, say “It’s OK, I can deal with it”. Instead of “My kids are driving me insane”, try “My kids are challenging me”. Instead of “You don’t have what it takes”, say “You will do great!”. You get the idea.

By doing that, you don’t run away from your problems, how many may be tempted to think. You just diminish the effect a bad situation may have over you. Your mind is used to criticize and it won’t stop if you don’t teach it how to. You have to teach your own mind how to not be that harsh on you and, instead, to be more supportive.

Something you can do to help your mind doing the shift is to change a little bit the environment where you are spending most of your time. For example, at your office you can make a panel where to put positive thoughts and quotes. At home, you can put post-its in some places where you spend most of your morning routine, like the bathroom and the kitchen. Write on them encouragements to cheer you up when you feel down. They also can give you a boost when you already feel good.

Write down “You can do it!”, “You’re good at it!”, “You are powerful!”, “You are beautiful!” and also some specific ones “You will get the promotion!”, “You will get a new job!”, “You will find a partner who’s best for you!”, “You can run 10 km today!” and the list could go on with anything you want and makes you feel good.

So stop criticize and start admire yourself!

Save the planet?

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For some time now I think about “saving the planet”. It seems like a very clear mission we have here, to save the plant. But, you know, I think know the planet will be just fine without us. The planet doesn’t need to be saved. We need to save ourselves from us. We need to save the planet from us and for us.

OK, maybe Earth needs our guidance to thrive, but that should be the best guidance, in order to really benefit the planet. Just take a look at what we’ve done since we appeared here until the present moment: we’ve changed the way the weather works, which leaded to global warming and loss of biosphere integrity; we’ve polluted the places we’re living in to the point that they are no longer livable; we’ve transformed once green, fertile areas into desert; we’ve let metal encroachments creep into the soil. And this list could go on and be more detailed, but there’s no need for it.

Researchers all over the Earth spent time trying to find out what we did to this planet and how we could save it. They’ve discovered that changes of the last 60 years are unprecedented in the previous 10.000 years. 10.000 years of relatively stable climate and a significant accession of human civilization.

This was possible because the urban population has increased sevenfold since the ‘50s and the need of energy and food increased exponentially. This thing leaded to a growth of primary energy use by a factor of five, an amount of fertilizer of up to eight times higher and a quadrupled amount of nitrogen entering the oceans.

We couldn’t see the impact we had on Earth until recently, but the researchers saw it and warned us that all of these changes are shifting the planet into a “new state” that is becoming less hospitable to human life. Thing that brings me back to my thoughts – the planet doesn’t need us. I think we should re-think the way we live and the way we are doing things here, on Earth, because who knows if there is any chance for us to find another planet suitable for human life?

Have you ever thought what would happen if all the humans would disappear from Earth? Of course, the first years could be terrifying, but after 10.000 years, the only proof that humans were on Earth would be the Chinese wall, the Rushmore Mountain or other rock structures.

I’ll let you with this short video clip that explain better the idea of human extinction and Earth revival and with the hope that a shift, no matter how small, will happen in your life.

 

One app to rule them all

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– A story about the future of apps and the future of user privacy –

Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon, eBay are just some of the apps we use on a daily basis. These apps assist us on our daily routine of our modern lives. They can provide information, social interaction, and cater to our needs and wants. They know us, almost as well as we know them.

 Because nothing is really free on the world wide web, these apps also need their fair share of our daily exchange. We use these apps for our own purpose and the apps begin to “know us”. More precisely, know more about us. In general the end game is to sell us something. The more it knows about us, about our behavior, desires and needs the easier it is to make us buy something.

Of course, nobody is really making you buy a certain product, if you don’t want it or need it. However, some cases are questionable, or even abusive. A friend was telling me about a TV show which was addressing this topic exactly. She was telling me about how companies make a business out of collecting and selling personal user information. And gave me creepy example of a case where a home security company was using personal user information to target their ads to users who were rape victims. We come to a point where we ask ourselves if our decisions are conscious or if they are the product of our cyber exploitation.

China, is apparently in lead when it comes to “knowing their users”. Due to thesheltered internet dictated by their country’s government they have created their own version of the internet. All the apps that we know and love, have been replicated in China’s internet. At their early stages these apps were regarded as rip-offs, however with the launch of WeChat (or Weixin in Mandarin Chinese) things are taking an interesting turn.

WeChat is a new breed of app that can do what WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Uber, Amazon, Tinder can do, and more. Users can make appointments to hospitals, order & pay for food, invest money, order a cab and my personal favorite, heat maps that show you how crowded a place is. The list can go on. Imagine doing all of the things you normally do on the internet in just one app. Now imagine the amount of data and metadata WeChat is collecting.

In a country where everyone shares everything this is very appealing for the government as well…

Johan Kessel and Paul Mazur of The New York Times talk about this issue in this cool video:

What is interesting to see, is that companies from the US are liking the idea of one app to rule them all. Companies like Facebook, are now starting to copy this concept. It seems like WeChat is a glimpse of the future.

The intention of this article is not to emphasize only on the the negative aspects of what this can bring. I acknowledge the many benefits of having such an app, and it’s needless to say how it can simply our lives. However I think that knowing the bad side of the story, not just what they sell us is important to making a conscious decision. A well informed decision is a conscious decision.

Teen Titans: Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup

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Boyan Slat, a 21 year old Dutch inventor, entrepreneur and aerospace engineering student who, at the age of 19, started the The Ocean Cleanup with the dream of removing all plastic waste from our oceans.

According to their research, every year we produce 300 million tons of plastic, a portion of which enters and accumulates in the oceans. A considerable portion of that gets infiltrated into the water stream and ends up in our oceans. Due to large offshore currents, plastic concentrates in vast areas called gyres, which basically result huge islands of floating micro plastics and garbage.  And I say micro plastics because, due to the harsh conditions of the oceans and sun exposures, plastics are broken into smaller and smaller pieces that are not even that visible. So if you were imagining a giant island of waste floating around, you have the wrong image in your head. The fact that the plastic is broken down in such smaller pieces makes things even worse, in terms of cleaning it and also in terms of the ecosystem. Aside from marine animals dying from it because they confuse it with food and eat it, we also poison ourselves because some of those animals end up on our plates.

Boyan also did a Ted talk about The Ocean Cleanup in 2012 when he first started:

At the time there were a lot of skepticals, thinking that this might worsen the problem and damage maritime life. So, in order to tackle the opposing opinions, The Ocean Cleanup team produced a feasibility study (that you can find here) that demonstrates this project is indeed sustainable and it works. The evolution of the project is documented and captured in The Ocean Cleanup official website where they keep a blog to keep viewers informed. There is also a career section and donations can be made, for people who want to get involved.

Based on their research, Boyan and his team estimates that the oceans can be cleaned of plastics in approximately 5 year times in optimal conditions. Only 2 years after the Ted talk, The Ocean Cleanup published this video on youtube, signaling the feasibility study. This brings a lot of hope and reassurance for the followers but also for the skepticals.

Not many would have thought that the younger generations would give us lessons in environmental problems such as these, already cleaning up our mess that we and our predecessors left behind. This is what I call a Teen Titan, and it’s initiatives like these that build a bright future.

We need more Teen Titans and the wolrd needs to hear about projects such as these. If you know of other Teen Titans that strive to make the world better, please share them with us in the comments section below.

For more information please visit The Ocean Cleanup website: http://www.theoceancleanup.com/

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Source: The Ocean Cleanup

Be a conscious consumer Part 3. Clicking Clean

Right now there are more than 3 billion people online. Billions of devices that are glowing in the faces of users hungry for information and entertainment. Devices and machines that are in turn hungry for electricity. If you think that surfing the internet takes only as much energy as to power your laptop, desktop or tablet your are in for a big surprise.

In reality, data centers make up a large percentage of the energy consumption of the Internet as a whole. In fact, if the Internet were a country, its electricity demand would currently rank sixth.

Ok, so this doesn’t consume as much energy as other industries (like the cement industry for example), however looking at the rate the Information Technology and Internet as a whole is growing, makes up a good reason to do something about it now. Experts estimate that by 2017 there will be a half a trillion kilowatt rise in energy consumption for web-based activities. Most of this is derived primarily for streaming video, which is predicted to account for 76 percent of Internet usage by 2018.

Clicking Clean for a green Internet

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Through the power of the Internet, many people around the world experienced positive changes in their lives. It is one of the most important breakthroughs in our era and it will certainly facilitate our evolution moving forward. However, if we want to make the switch to a renewable powered society fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, the Internet must also be a platform to transition the world toward a renewable energy future. It is a powerful medium for spreading information and thus can educate a lot of people towards sustainable and clean practices.

In addition, leading by example would be one of the most important markers for this change. Having this industry commit to clean and sustainable energy sources can, perhaps inspire morality to other industries and they will follow as well. In the end it all comes down to our collective aspirations and the choices we make, Clicking Clean – or choosing to support  companies that follow this ideology – can be our greatest tool for achieving this goal.

If having the audacity to rely on grid power now puts a company at risk for public shaming, then the day is coming when every company’s energy usage will be viewed through a moral filter – similar to how its labor practices and foreign investments are viewed today.

– David Crane, NRG CEO

See the companies that host much of the Internet in their data centers and how green they are

The good news is that a growing number of companies have begun to create a corner of the internet that is renewably powered and coal free, with over a half dozen major internet companies now committed to being 100% renewably powered. Renewable commitments by internet companies have had a big impact in driving renewable power in several key markets, as a growing number of utilities have begun to shift their investments to renewable energy to meet this new demand.

A Greenpeace report shows the big players are stacking up: [Report Here]

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Apple is leading the way with an 100% Clean Energy Index. Since 2012, all of Apple’s data centers have been powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources. That means no matter how much data they handle, there is a zero greenhouse gas impact on the environment from their energy use. These data centers use renewable energy sources like solar, wind, biogas fuel cells, micro‑hydro power, and geothermal power from onsite and locally obtained resources.

On any given day, our data centers will use renewable energy to serve tens of billions of messages, more than a billion photos, and tens of millions of FaceTime video calls. They also run services like Siri, the iTunes Store, the App Store, and Maps. So every time a song is downloaded from iTunes, an app is installed from the Mac App Store, or a book is downloaded from iBooks, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature.

They also have an environment section on their official website, which is really nice to see in a tech giant such as Apple.

Google also has the goal of powering their operations 100% on clean energy. They have committed to purchase nearly 2 gigawatts of renewable energy to date, making them the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Google also committed to separately invest $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects, which also makes them one of the largest corporate investors in renewable energy in the world.

We believe that by helping power more of the world with renewable energy through these two initiatives, we’re creating a better future for everyone.

Check out their Google Green webpage and find out more about their efforts in this area.

Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft are also already on their way to achieving this. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other high-profile entrepreneurs have pledged to spark a “new economic revolution” based around clean energy after launching a new investment drive for renewables.

The Internet of Things has the potential to reduce power consumption to a minimum

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For those of you who are not familiar with the concept yet,The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity—that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

More and more smart devices or things are appearing on the shelves of stores. The most popular ones are regular household items, like smart light-bulbs or thermostats that have motion detection sensors which may only trigger when there is activity in the room. The same principles can apply to cooling appliances. For you it may come as a convenience, maybe even a cost savings. For society and the environment, it’s a precious mouthful of fresh air, decreasing costs and pollution at the same time.

Imagine this on a larger scale like industrial, for companies or even grander to an environment level. The possibilities are endless. Supply chain control, marine pollution, commercial fleet tracking – all of these sectors could be revolutionized with the introduction of simple IoT. Smart sensors could monitor and regulate power consumption, and report in the event of technical issues.

I really believe in the huge potential that technology brings. All the above are very good examples of technology helping the society and the environment, if used properly. It is up to us – the creators, makers, builders, users – to make conscious decisions moving forward, decisions like…. Clicking Clean. 🙂

P.S.: If you want to join the Greenpeace Clicking Clean campaign and make the Internet greener you can sign the petition here.

Just for fun. Here’s how you can turn your phone into a 3D hologram projector

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Ever since I was a kid I can remember being fascinated about holograms. The first time I heard about this was in one of Jules Verne’s’  books, The Carpathian Castle, which was originally published in 1892 (yes, he somehow predicted this). Fast forward to the present day and you will find that holograms are not anymore a subject for fiction books or movies. We see this technology used for entertainment, for advertising and of course more practical uses like medicine, computer data storage, car design and so on.

But how would you like to build a hologram of your own just for fun, and turn your phone into a 3D hologram projector? This is the type of project that you can do in the office if you get bored or perhaps something you can do with your kids at home.

Here is what you need to turn your phone into a 3D hologram projector:

  1. Graph paper, but you can also use some from a math notebook;
  2. A CD case, or some transparent plastic that you can cut;
  3. A pair of scissors;
  4. A pen;
  5. Sellotape or superglue;
  6. A craft knife or glass cutter;
  7. Your smartphone;
  8. Download or play a 3D video on your phone.

Great, now you have what you need, let’s start building. Follow this simple steps and turn your phone into a 3D hologram in no time.

1. Sketch out a basic trapezoid shape on the graph paper using the dimensions 1xm x 3.5cm x 6cm. You can also make it bigger but you need to keep the proportions;

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2. Snap off the shallow sides of the CD case and carefully trace around the paper template to cut the shape into the transparent plastic. Repeat four times.

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3. Tape the four shapes together, with the longest sides facing the top of the structure.

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4. Select the holograph-specific video you’d like to project. Click here for a sample video.

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5. Place the shape over a video playing on your smartphone to create a mirrored, 3D hologram.

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Although holograms have yet to fully make the leap to mainstream use, this is a interesting and fun way to experiment with this technology. You can even make it on a larger scale, using a tablet screen instead of a phone screen. The possibilities are numerous, be creative and have fun with it! 🙂

Water powered cars – The reality behind the myth

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We have entered an era of green energy breakthroughs, water powered cars are now beyond myth. Unfortunately, looking at the huge negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry, this happens more as “a must do or else” than a global collective realization of the grater good for our species. More and more educated opinions warn us about a not so bright future if we do not change our ways now.

Before looking at solutions, I propose we have a better understanding of the problems resulted from this soon to be obsolete energy source, petroleum. This is a very vast subject, but having at least a basic understanding of it’s both morally and socially important for us, as inhabitants of this planet.

  • Toxicity – crude oil (from which you get gasoline or benzine) is known to be very toxic to humans and animals. For humans it is directly linked to lowering the white blood cell count, thus making people more susceptible to infections. It is also a known cause for cancer like leukemia. Oil is also “acutely lethal” to fish – that is, it kills fish quickly in relatively small concentrations.
  • Exhaust – when oil or petroleum derivatives are burned, usually the combustion is not complete. Incompletely burned compounds of oil are very toxic in high concentration. Examples are carbon monoxide, methanol, fine particulates of soot which prove to be carcinogens. These compounds blacken our lungs and cause heart problems or death.
  • Acid rain – is created due to high temperatures by the combustion of petroleum and a chemical reaction created in the atmosphere. Acid rain causes many problems like: killing trees, acidifies rivers, lakes, sees and oceans thus killing fish and coral. Acid rain also causes corrosion in structures or machinery. Archaeological structures are especially damaged.
  • Oil spills – either accidental or on purpose (for financial profit), release liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, but not limited to land areas. Aside from killing all fish, oil penetrates into the structure of the plumage of birds and the fur of mammals, reducing its insulating ability, and making them more vulnerable. Clean-ups are very difficult and may take weeks, months or even years. This is one of the worst types of man made pollution.
  • Volatile organic compounds – are gases or vapours emitted by various solids and liquids, many of which have short- and long-term adverse effects on human health and the environment.
  • Waste oil – is used oil containing not only breakdown products but also impurities from use. Some examples of waste oil are used oils such as hydraulic oil, transmission oil, brake fluids, motor oil, crankcase oil, gear box oil and synthetic oil. When waste oil from vehicles drips out engines over streets and roads, the oil travels into the water table. Runoff from storms carries waste oil into rivers and oceans, poisoning them as well.
  • Oil wars – a term that describes a conflict about petroleum resources, or their transportation, consumption, or regulation. It generally happens in regions that contain oil reserves or that are geographically positioned in a location where an entity produces or transports infrastructure for petroleum products. Historically a lot of people died and still die from interests related to oil reserves (see list of oil wars).
  • Climate change – (last but not least) is strongly linked to burning large amounts of petroleum that in turn creates large amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

So now you know and you have a better understanding why the era of petroleum must become obsolete. It has done it’s part in our evolution as a species, it enabled many technological advancements and opened many possibilities for us. However, nowadays, strong side-effects are showing, due to the way we abused it, and due to our massive increase in population and how we all depend upon it.

Many other bright minds have foreseen all the above, and some of them already developed and are still in continuous development of engines that are powered by alternative energy sources that may or may not cater to our ever growing needs for energy. Engineers are trying to harvest nature’s cleanest energy sources like solar, wind, tidal or water. The aim is to avoid the mistakes of the past and tap into theunlimited and clean energies of the earth.

Looking at one of the most important areas of today’s society, which is transportation, engineers have come up with electrical engines that are soon going to be more efficient and powerful than the ones running on gas. The most popular achievements in this area are electric cars, which have now reached a big milestone with flagship products like the Tesla Model S. The main disadvantage is that electric cars rely on batteries that need to be charged more often than you would normally stop for gas. Another disadvantage is the coverage of electric charge stations, which is in a very early stage of development. Due to these reasons, many people will still prefer the gas alternative.

But what about water powered cars?

This is not such a popular subject, which a lot of people avoid and/or dismiss due to the large amount of phony claims or conspiracy related content. Like you, I am not interested in all that, although looking the high stake interests in the petrol area and how many lives have been lost because of that, I can understand why it’s surrounded by so many conspiracy stories and theories.

I myself was very skeptical when first hearing about this, but it is not in my nature to dismiss an idea just because it sounds unrealistic at first. Of course a lot of other people have done a good job at discrediting this so far, so it’s understandable why this isn’t as popular as electric cars. Another reason could be the fact that water is much more abundant and accessible to people, than electricity or petrol for example, which is privately owned. Usually technologies that do not bring at least equal amounts of profit as earlier ones, are very likely to be pushed back by those in power. Ironically enough, even those who push back on this are slowly realizing that necessity will bring us to this change, weather they like it or not. The change is going to happen at some point, and it is up to us to make it either a smooth or bumpy ride.

If you do a search on Google for “water powered engines” or “water powered cars” you will curiously get some amounts of relevant results. Of course, as usual, your common sense would have to filter out all the garbage, but if you are a curious person you will surely find your way.

So what is a water powered car and how do water powered cars work (“in theory”)?

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A water-fueled car is an automobile that hypothetically derives its energy directly from water. Most concept vehicles may be claimed to produce fuel from water on board with no other energy input, or may be a hybrid claiming to derive some of its energy from water in addition to a conventional source (such as gasoline). In simple words, the process sounds simple, the hydrogen from water is turned into oxygen which is turned into electricity propulsion.

However, as it turn out, many of these claims are fake, and have been found to be pseudoscience and some were found to be tied to investment frauds. It takes exactly the same amount of energy to pry those hydrogen and oxygen atoms apart inside the electrolysis cell as you get back when they recombine inside the fuel cell. The laws of thermodynamics haven’t changed, in spite of any hype on some blogs or news. Subtract the losses to heat in the engine and alternator and electrolysis cell, and the engine is basically losing energy, not gaining it.

Separating facts from myth?

Of course, out of all that nonsense, you also find concepts that actually work. To prove it, I will share a couple of examples that I found in my research.

A promising example is a concept that runs on bacterial spores that are activated by water. Although this is far from mass production, only the idea of having such a concept work is amazing. See here the full article (link).

To save the best for last, and to answer the big question: Yes, there is a car that actually runs on water. Salt water to be exact. It works just like a hydrogen fuel cell except that the liquid used for storing energy is saltwater. Even more promising after making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show (pictured) in March, the saltwater technology has now been certified for use on European roads. The main downside for now it’s the price-tag, Nanoflowcell AG is the company behind the design, and they are currently preparing the technology for mass production, and which some experts suggest it could cost more than £1 million ($1.7 million).

The QUANT e-Sportlimousine carries the water in two 200-litre tanks, which in one sitting will allow drivers to travel up to 373 miles (600km). Overall, the four-seater is 5.25 metres (0.4ft) long, 2.2 metres wide (7.2ft), the 1.35 metre (4.4ft).

So, in conclusion although we may not be fueling our cars from the kitchen tap anytime soon, the fact that the “first step on the moon” – in terms of water powered cars – is actually real opens up new interesting possibilities for the future of transportation or even in a greater scheme of things, the future of humanity.

 

 

Author: Alexandru Cojocaru

Get clean energy from dirty grease

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The clean energy subject is not a new one on the market and not even on this site, because this thing became a real need these days. What I want to talk about now is the clean energy we can get from used cooking oil, that thing we throw away every time we fry something, because we don’t want the next food to have the taste of the prior. Well, did you know that by throwing away 1L of used cooking oil, one million liters of water are contaminated? Me neither! On contact with water, the used oil forms a thin film which stops oxygen to reach the creatures and plants in water – and this is something we could avoid, if we collect the used cooking oil and recycle it.

A few years ago, a 10 year old girl from Ocean State of Rhode Island learned about the effects fossil fuels could have on the environment and the fact that if we continue that way, her entire state could become anunder ocean state. So, she came up with a plan to prevent it.

The little girl and her friends started a project whose purpose was to not let their state go extinct because of what we, people, are doing. They launched TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel) with a simple and yet ingenious approach: they asked restaurants for used cooking oil. The restaurant were going to throw it away anyway, so the kids helped them to get rid of that and the environment to get healthy.

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Slowly, but surely, the kid’s idea was adopted by local restaurants and by the community, which involved into the project. The biofuel created by the little “company” was used to warm the homes of families in need, because a good deed comes never alone.

Here is the little group who came up with the brilliant idea and how it evolved over the years (because yes, it evolved!).

Well, if a group of children could set up and make work a project that big, involving a community, at least we could start collecting used cooking oil and give it to them (someone near you) to recycle it.

If you are from Romania, you could contact Uleiosul and tell them to come and get the oil you used and want to throw away. So, besides the first benefits like no more clogged pipes, we help the environment to become cleaner and healthier.

 

Be a conscious consumer Part 2. The Story Of Stuff

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To be a conscious consumer doesn’t only imply to be careful with what we eat, and it’s also not just for our own sake. Consumerism not only relates to all that we eat, drink or ingest but also to all that we buy or use. The footprint of this daily practice is not limited just to ourselves, it affects an entire range of people, animals, and environments. The way in which we choose to do this, changes the outcome of a grander scheme of things. In the end, once you get informed, something which I plan to deliver in this article, it will all come down to making the right choices. The right choices for ourselves, for our loved ones and ultimately the world.

Consumerism as a social and economic order and ideology encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. This is a problem for a world with limited resources that are being drained at an ever alarming rate. We are encouraged to buy in times of crisis, when resources are most scarce. We celebrate holidays by buying stuff, wheather it’s Christmas, a friend’s birthday, Valentine’s or Halloween. And let’s not forget to mention our commercial institutions, the corporations, which have a tendency of doing everything in their power, no matter the cost, to get us to buy even more. In a society driven by all these incentives, it’s very hard to see over the shine of a new gadget. But today we are going to learn the story of our stuff, and I take full responsibility if your new phone won’t be as shiny as it was before.

Have you ever wondered where all the stuff we buy comes from and where it goes when we throw it out? The Story Of Stuff a documentary by Annie Leonard tells the story of material economy: extraction -> production -> distribution -> consumption -> disposal.

What I liked a lot about this documentary was the fact that it’s explained in a very simple way, so that everyone understands the message. It’s also nice to see that they are very transparent with the factual information presented here, the entire script as well as the sources are documented in this document (link here).

Now, don’t get me wrong, my intention is not to make you feel guilty nor to make you live a minimalist lifestyle. After all, to live is to consume and what’s done is done. The past choices will matter very little, if the future ones are the right ones. That’s what being a conscious consumer is all about – if you were to put it simply – making the right choice. Consumerism becomes excessive when it extends beyond what is needed. When we begin consuming more than is needed, boundaries are removed.

Banks trigger us to consume more, by offering personal credit that enable us to make purchases beyond our income level. Advertisements excite us subtly and thus reshape our desires around material possessions, making us wanting “the new” every time. All this in a global society where the only culture that transcends all differences – religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality – is consumerism.

In the almost complete absence of other sustained macro-political and social narratives – concern about global climate change notwithstanding – the pursuit of the ‘good life’ through practices of what is known as ‘consumerism’ has become one of the dominant global social forces, cutting across differences of religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality. It is the other side of the dominant ideology of market globalism and is central to whatManfred Steger calls the ‘global imaginary’.

– James, Paul; Szeman, Imre (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 3: Global-Local Consumption

This type of living, transforms us into zombie buyers, always in the want for the more, shinier, trendier, bigger, faster. A type of living that promises happiness, but never delivers. A type of living that leaves us in a permanent state of desire for… more. Take control and be(come) a conscious consumer.

Source: storyofstuff.org