Sea cucumbers are in the news – again. The marine creature has been talked about as an adjunct treatment for those undergoing chemotherapy. They have also been tipped as a “wonder ingredient” in cosmetics. Not to forget the sea cucumber capsule industry, Asian cuisines that consider it a delicacy, and its place in the underground market of aphrodisiac market. This time around, the news isn’t good.
Yes, the Greek people are going through difficult times. There are scenes of pensioners queuing at cash machines to withdraw part of their monthly pensions. And there is also a significant need for reform. Even the International Monetary Fund is going back on its word, prompting the country to look at what best it can do. The space of energy would be a good place to start with, given that the country has under-utilized its natural and most abundant asset.
When you discuss abundance of resources, it’s inevitable that shortage creeps into the conversation. So when one looks at how many of the 7,000 islands that make Philippines lack electricity, it’s also difficult to miss the natural and abundant seawater. Engineer Lipa Aisa Mijena and team put both in the same equation and the result is a a lamp that’s capable emitting light for 8 hours on just 1 cup of saltwater.
About three years ago, I wrote in a post from Ecuador that “Even after taking a pretty intense ornithology class at Cornell University and working for the Lab of Ornithology, I don’t really consider myself a birder.” Last year I revised that statement a bit, clarifying that “now, as James and I add our observations around Xandari to eBird every day, my opinion may have changed slightly (though I can’t yet subscribe to the labels of bird-head or bird-nerd by a long shot).” Then, this January I wrote of myself and my friends John and Justin that, “Although none of us are the type of birder that pursue ‘life lists’ — a checklist of the thousands of bird species in the world that one has seen — we all use eBird and are definitely interested in seeing and identifying wildlife of any sort.”
When it comes to faith matters, it’s interesting to see how matters of divinity are linked to food. One interpretation of it could be the need to connect the intangible with the tangible. And no better universal language than food as a medium to impart lessons for the soul. While most Hindu temples distribute prasad, churches have the Eucharist, Jewish rituals revolve around the seder meal and so on. The Buddhist temple at Jinkwansa too has a food tradition, one that goes back 1,600 years and is renowned for its detoxification power.
A recent report from United Nations University (UNU) found that the world produced 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste in 2014 – an amount that would fill 1.15 million 18-wheel trucks. Lined up, those trucks would stretch from New York to Tokyo and back. Computers and smart phones are among the ditched items, which could top 50 million tonnes by 2017, UNEP estimates. Virtually all electronics contain toxic materials and a lot of this hazardous stuff is in the circuit board, including lead (in the solder), mercury (in switches and relays), and brominated flame-retardants. Some electronics, like smart phones and laptops, contain heavy metals like cadmium, beryllium, hexavalent chromium, or arsenic, which have been shown to build up in our bodies and the environment. Also, the wires and cables that run through all this stuff are often coated with PVC, which contains toxic additives called phthalates.
According to a 2013 report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten. About 24 percent of all calories currently produced for human consumption are lost or wasted. In a world full of hunger and volatile food prices, these statistics make a case for ideas to combat food waste. And this Swedish startup may have a solution in which grocery stores and their stock of nearly expired food are the main players.
What New York is to the world’s money markets, Antwerp is to the global diamond trade. Antwerp is also the centre of the secondary or rough diamond market. More than 50% of global production of rough, polished, cut and industrial diamonds passes through Antwerp. Around 80% of the world’s rough diamonds are handled in Antwerp generating an annual turnover of some €30 billion. The most valuable diamonds are usually cut in Antwerp, but as the economy globalises Antwerp remains a nerve centre with much of the actual diamonds shipped out to other, cheaper locations.
One must always be camera-ready at Xandari; otherwise one might miss the unexpected beauties that present themselves. On Friday I postponed my dinner (despite my grumbling stomach) in order to take a picture of the breathtaking sunset that was slowly sinking behind the mountains. I had to get to the sunset pool to capture this marvel, and believe it or not, I actually ran. Every second spent getting to the pool meant one less streak of vivid color highlighting the darkening sky. Not to mention, it also meant one second less of battery life on my camera phone with 4% battery left. The stakes were high.
I had not yet witnessed nightfall from the sunset pool, and as soon as I reached my destination I drew in a quick, shallow breath and let out long whispered ‘wooow.’ I was paralyzed with wonder. Birds were swooping down to drink some water from the pool, dodging and weaving one another with such swiftness that I’d lose track of which one I was looking at, all the while the sunlight retreated in the background. It was the ‘bleep’ of my “dying” phone that woke me to my senses and reminded me why I had run here in the first place. I took my pictures quickly and then observed the fleeting moment in stillness. Read more…
This one’s a win for goodwill and technology, a fine example of how how ideas can traverse diverse spaces and change lives. The high cost of human prostheses has long been a challenge for amputees and people born with missing limbs, but 3D printers have begun to change that. Unlike traditional manufacturing, 3D printing can create an object in almost any shape by reading a digital model. Using cheap materials, companies and non-profits can now print simple prosthetic hands and arms for as little as $50. And animals like Grecia and Derby, and now Fred, stand to gain, too.
I recently had the chance to visit the Harvard Natural History Museum. Despite having lived in Cambridge for nearly a year, and having often thought about visiting the museum when I passed by going to and from my apartment, I had not stopped in until now. What a treat! The collections are full, diverse, and well curated. On this occasion, I spent most of my time in the animal wing, but I plan to return soon to take in the flora and minerals, and spend much more time in choice display rooms (e.g. the absolutely gorgeous Mammals/Birds of the World permanent exhibit: see below for pictures).
1.2 billion people around the world lack access to reliable electricity. They end up using kerosene lamps or diesel generators for their lighting requirements. But did you know that the annual collective emissions from kerosene lamps all over the world is equal to the carbon emissions of 38 million automobiles? It’s not just the carbon footprint – burning kerosene lamps indoors is as bad for the lungs as smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
A citizen science project to study when and where orchids bloom around the UK has already revealed 200 new flowering locations for particular species. Members of the public are submitting and identifying orchid photos, and also annotating historical specimens. Called Orchid Observers, the initiative aims to measure the effect of warming, and other environmental changes, on the distribution of 29 different orchids. Orchid Observers is a collaboration between the museum and Zooniverse, the citizen science platform established at the University of Oxford. The data it yields will not only be used by researchers at the museum, but will feed into the biological records data held by the BSBI.