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These Sustainable, Fireproof, Weather-Proof Geoship Domes Could Solve Today’s Housing Crisis

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These Sustainable, Fireproof, Weather-Proof Geoship Domes Could Solve Today’s Housing Crisis
Photo Credit: Geoship

As the years go by, natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes are becoming more frequent. Meanwhile, architects have been battling with this situation by coming up with new design ideas that are resilient and stronger, capable of withstanding the growing forces of nature. One such design solution – the bioceramic geodesic dome – comes from an eco-friendly architectural firm in Seattle called Geoship run by two brothers.

The “home of the future” is not made from conventional building materials such as wood or concrete. It is made from bioceramic, a material which can withstand disasters, and has the potential to dramatically lower construction costs. One of the owners of the firm a young engineer called Morgan Bierschenk, told FastCompany that the idea to use this material first arose when he asked himself: “Why we’re still pounding nails in wood, like people were doing 100 years ago?”

Geoship home. Credit: Geoship

When Bierschenk began researching better ways to design, he came across the architectural revolution of the geodesic dome, promoted in the 1970s by Buckminster Fuller. That was when the lightning bolt struck. While Fuller envisioned the design solution to be something that could help the housing crisis after WWII, he was a little ahead of his time because the materials and methods were not advanced yet to make his idea revolutionary. He realized the idea itself was brilliant, and it’s relevant to today’s crisis too, maybe even more so… and now we do have advanced enough materials and methods to mass make these geodesic homes affordably to house all the people in need of shelter! From this moment, Bierschenk and his brother founded the Geoship startup.

Credit: Geoship
Advantages Of The Bioceramic Geodesic Dome
  • The overall shape is inherently strong and efficient. The structure should be able to withstand extreme forces from wind and weather.
  • The main material is ceramic composite (CC) which was originally developed at Argonne National Labs for use in shielding nuclear waste – it is a highly resilient substance made from minerals and it is reliable.
  • The CC can be made into any shape one wishes. They had the material made into modular triangular panels for their geodesic domes.
  • The CC is lightweight.
  • The CC is fireproof up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit; in a fire, the house won’t burn.
  • The CC reflects more than 80% of the heat from the sun, helping keep the inside cool in heatwaves, a plus with the onset of climate change.
  • The CC resists insects and mold. It absorbs little water so it is also ideal in case of flooding.
  • The panels are chemically bonded together so there are fewer connections and therefore fewer chances for failure.
  • The homes are modular and can be disassembled and rebuilt elsewhere.
  • Any repairs are easily done by simply using the same material again to patch up a panel. The bioceramic acts like glue and bonds to itself.
  • The homes estimated to have a 500-year lifespan.
  • Overall costs are said to be 40% less than traditional construction. The geometry shrinks the amount of material needed.
  • The primary material in CC is phosphate, which can be recycled from wastewater.
  • The panels would be mass made in a factory, then delivered in a shipping container and assembled on-site. It would only take a few days saving heaps in labour costs. “Essentially, it’s like Legos going together,” said Bierschenk.
  • The homes are chemical-free and chemically inert. The materials don’t create any indoor air pollution.
  • The homes are self-venting and full of natural light. Vents at the top and the bottom of the dome help cool the house naturally. Insulation is made by making hollow panels – the same ceramic material is used but filled with air. This makes the home “passive” so it can be heated and cooled without external energy, therefore saving on energy use and costs.
  • The homes sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Geoship Villages

The company has plans that could make it possible for people with little money to afford a home through community land trusts. They aim to help groups start land trusts to create dome “villages” and even offer co-op part-ownership of the company to the buyers. “We think to really solve the affordable housing crisis you have to have some way to kind of transcend the single-family home with land ownership and take land speculation out of the picture,” Bierschenk said.

Credit: Geoship

Geoship is even building a platform that groups of people can use to collaborate on the design of a village of the homes. They will then walk groups through the process of setting up the community land trust and provide them with a cooperative ownership model in which customers will ultimately own between 30% and 70% of the company. “This fundamentally reshapes the home building industry, and capitalism itself,” Geoship writes on their website. “Our success becomes your success.”

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Innovation

New Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon And Has Twice The Nutritional Value Of Kale!

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Photo Credit: Pexels

Could it really be true, that you can eat bacon guilt free? With a seaweed called dulse, the answer is yes! As a bonus, these algae are packed with nutritional value and it’s a good source of protein. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it!

This unique variety of dulse has been engineered and harvested by professor Chuck Toombs and scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) to taste just like bacon when it’s cooked. This seaweed is a form of red marine algae that usually grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It looks like translucent red lettuce.

Toombs said: “Dulse is a super food, with twice the nutritional value of kale.”

Originally, this new strain was developed by Oregon state researcher Chris Langdon and his team while trying to find a good source of food for edible sea snails or abalones. Langdon realized he had his hands on something special when his colleague Chuck Toombs caught a glimpse of it. Toombs said he thought that the seaweed had potential for a new industry on the Oregon coast. He then began working with the university’s Food Innovation Center, which created a variety of foods with the seaweed as its main ingredient.

Dulse has actually been around for a long time already. It has been produced and consumed by people in northern Europe for centuries! It is well known as a natural source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Langdon told OSU:

“This stuff is pretty amazing. When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.”

Bacon HD
Photo Credit: Pexels

Some dried red algae are already available in health food supermarkets but it is expensive. Langdon says he is growing about 20 to 30 pounds of this particular strain of bacon-flavoured seaweed per week but he plans to more than triple the production.

No analysis has been done yet to find out whether commercializing the seaweed would be practical, but the team thinks that the vegan and vegetarian markets may be interested. The students and researchers at the university’s Food Innovation Center are already creating delicious varieties of recipes with dulse such as Veggie burgers, salad dressing, and even beer.

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New MRI Technique Can See Changes In Brain’s Molecular Composition

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Molecular Composition
Photo Credit: Intelligent Living

MRIs are a brilliant piece of modern medicine that give us a picture of our body’s insides – organs, bones, nerves, and soft tissue. Now, scientists have made them even more useful by successfully transforming an MRI from a diagnostic camera into a device that can record changes in the biological makeup of brain tissue. Meaning, it can show us the molecular makeup of our body parts!

This advance could help doctors more quickly determine the onset of disease and begin treatment. It will clarify whether a patient is merely aging or developing a neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Aviv Mezer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI)’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences successfully transformed an MRI into a diagnostic camera which serves as a device that can record changes in the biological makeup of brain tissue.

“Instead of images, our quantitative MRI model provides molecular information about the brain tissue we’re studying. This could allow doctors to compare brain scans taken over time from the same patient, and to differentiate between healthy and diseased brain tissue, without resorting to invasive or dangerous procedures, such as brain tissue biopsies.”

When you look at someone in person, the signs of aging are obvious – i.e. gray hair, a stooped spine, wrinkled skin, occasional memory loss, etc. However, what really matters is what’s going on upstairs, in the brain. Is that occasional forgetfulness normal or something to worry about? That can only be seen on the biological level. Normal aging and neurodegenerative diseases both create biological “footprints” in the brain. These “footprints” change the lipid and protein content of brain tissue.

Current MRI scans can only provide pictures of the human brain making it difficult to see the jeopardous biological changes. This new technique, on the other hand, provides biological readouts of brain tissue – the ability to see what’s going on on a molecular level and to direct a course of treatment accordingly.

Ph.D. student Shir Filo who worked on the study said:

“When we take a blood test, it shows us the exact number of white blood cells in our body and whether that number is higher than normal due to illness. MRI scans provide images of the brain but don’t show changes in the composition of the human brain, changes that could potentially differentiate normal aging from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.”

Mezer presumes that in the future, the new MRI technique will also provide a crucial understanding of how our brains age. He explained:

“When we scanned young and old patients’ brains, we saw that different brain areas ages differently. For example, in some white-matter areas, there is a decrease in brain tissue volume, whereas in the gray-matter, tissue volume remains constant. However, we saw major changes in the molecular makeup of the gray matter in younger versus older subjects.”

With technology like this available, patients will be able to get an MRI that has the adequacy of distinguishing molecular signs of normal aging from the early signs of disease. The day is soon coming where people will receive a correct diagnosis earlier and therefore be able to start treatment earlier. Those people will be able to maintain an improved quality of life for a longer time, all via a non-invasive technique, and that’s a beautiful thing!

This article (New MRI Technique Can See Changes In Brain’s Molecular Composition) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Innovation

Robotic Arm Inspired By Luke Skywalker Gives Amputees The Ability To Touch & Feel Again

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Robotic Arm Inspired By Luke Skywalker Gives Amputees The Ability To Touch & Feel Again
Photo Credit: Independent

“It almost put me to tears.”

New technology from engineers at the University of Utah is changing the lives of amputees. The robotic arm, which is being called Luke in honour of Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand. The robotic arm enables recipients to touch and feel again. The device consists of a prosthetic hand and fingers that are controlled by electrodes implanted in the muscles.

A prototype has been given to Keven Walgamott, an estate agent from Utah who is one of seven test subjects. He lost his hand and part of his left arm in 2002 after an electrical accident. With the arm, Walgamott has been able to complete tasks that were previously very difficult, such as put a pillowcase on a pillow, peel a banana, and even send text messages. Study leader and University of Utah biomedical engineer Professor Gregory Clark told the Independent that one of the first things Walgamott wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. “That’s hard to do with one hand,” Clark said. “It was very moving.”

Engineers have named the ground-breaking device Luke after the prosthetic arm worn by Luke Skywalker at the conclusion of the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back.

Walgamott can even feel sensations like touching his wife’s hand, as well as distinguish between different surfaces. This is not only a major scientific breakthrough, but an emotional moment for Walgamott, who’s been without his left hand for nearly 20 years. “It almost put me to tears,” he said of using Luke for the first time. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”

For now, it remains a research prototype in a lab. But the team hopes that by 2021, three study participants may even be able to take their Luke Arm home.

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Innovation

Elon Musk’s Robot Surgeon Will Now Sew Electrodes Into Human Brains

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Robot Surgeon
Photo Credit: Fierce Biotech

Elon Musk’s super-secretive startup Neuralink has finally revealed where it’s at on the whole human-machine mind-meld project, and if the phrase “Elon Musk says a monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain” is on your sci-fi apocalypse bingo card, we have good news for you.

livestreamed presentation on Tuesday evening U.S. time revealed that the company’s tech involves incredibly fine “threads”, covered in electrodes, inserted into the brain by a robot surgeon and implanted next to neurons and synapses. The threads then record the information being transmitted onto a tiny sensor called the N1.

Musk and Neuralink president Max Hodak told the audience that they aim to have the technology in an actual human brain as early as next year – and, in an Olympic-level lede-burying that seemed to take the other team members onstage by surprise, Musk also confirmed in the post-presentation Q & A that the rumours about testing on primates were not entirely off-base.

Until now, all we (thought we) knew about Neuralink was that its mission is to create “ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers”. The idea was to start with medical applications – tracking neurons to help with research, treatment and so on – but eventually to allow puny human brains to keep up with AI by bypassing all that pesky talking and translation of thought into speech or action, which Musk frames as “compression”. Brain-control interfaces (BCIs) would streamline the whole process into a “lossless” interaction that’s faster and more efficient.

In September 2018, during Musk’s infamous appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the CEO told Rogan that Neuralink’s long-term purpose would be to enable human brains to be “symbiotic with AI”, and the company would have “something interesting to announce in a few months, that’s at least an order of magnitude better than anything else; probably better than anyone thinks is possible”.

And on July 13, Wait But Why host Tim Urban – who wrote a deep, deep, deep, and Musk-approved dive into Neuralink in 2017 – tweeted that he’d had another peek into its secretive workings, and Things were Happening.

Now we know.

The stream – which began over 45 minutes late, to the amusement and chagrin of users in the YouTube chat window that was disabled around minute 18 – was plagued by technical issues, which is a worrying sign from a company that wants to, and I can’t stress this enough, implant electrodes into human brains using robot-surgery sewing machines.

But while the company’s Twitter account promised viewers frustrated by the elongated wait that things would kick off “shortly”, Bloomberg went ahead and reported that the company had demonstrated in front of a reporter how the tech had been inserted into brain of a rat and successfully recorded the information being transmitted by its neurons:

A wire attached to a USB-C port in its head transmitted its thoughts to a nearby computer. The crackle of its neurons fining could be heard over a speaker while software recorded and analysed its brain activity, measuring the strength of the brain spikes.

Hodak explained that the company is hoping to have the FDA approve the first clinical study in 2020, testing the technology on quadriplegic patients with upper spinal cord (C1-C4) injuries – with the first goal to be training subjects to move a cursor on a smartphone using their minds.

That sounds all well and good, but just because it kinda works on rats (and monkeys), doesn’t mean it’ll work on humans – and selling this as a medical technology is key to further funding for Neuralink and achieving Musk’s long-term goal of allowing humans to “merge” with artificial intelligence.

True to form, Musk couldn’t help but talk the biggest game possible in his opening presentation, saying the technology is “important on a civilisation-level scale” (you know, because the singularity is coming, and it will be terrifying).

“Even in a benign AI scenario, we will be left behind,” he said. “With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can have the option of merging with AI.”

He also assured the audience that two people with the chips would theoretically be able to communicate though a kind of “telepathy” – and that the tech’s revenue stream would not be based on advertising beamed directly into the brain. Which, somehow, is less than reassuring.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

This article was written by Caitlin Welsh for Mashable where it was originally published and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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