We're used to elevators being able to take us up and down. But, it's long been dreamed of them being able to take us left and right within a single building. Now that the demand for greater vertical living increases, there is even a greater sense of urgency. Vertical elevators have several limitations such as cable length and the space required for their mechanisms and so far, only practical explanation of horizontal elevators are ones that are similar to rapid mass transit systems.
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It's hard living in a developed country sometimes, we have all amenities to hand, we never have to think about where to get power, most of us have panic attacks and heart palpitations if we don't have access to the internet. It truly is shocking but now there is something else for us to worry about, sewage. Yes, it's a horror and one we in "civilized" countries may struggle to come to terms with. But, nonetheless, as populations continue to grow and water companies seem determined to make bigger profits from supplying us with our needs, we may have to face the fact that we'll need to start drinking sewage water. Let's get the facts straight and avoid the headlines that our over reactionary press will throw out every time the idea is propositioned. Two significant first world countries are already doing this or in the process of doing it: Singapore and Australia. They're doing it for different reasons but the results are the same, their citizens will have to use treated sewage water in their daily lives. Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR), is where drinking water sources are mixed with treated sewage and has been used for a long time but when the public thinks that it's being done to combat water scarcity, it becomes a PR problem. In Singapore, they launched the NEWater initiative and use state-of-the-art technology from the U.S. to clean the secondary sewage effluent using MF/ultrafiltration and RO membranes followed by UV disinfection. Although this water is mostly used in industry, a small amount (<3%) is fed back into the drinking water reservoirs. The quality of the water is strictly monitored with tests over 239 parameters and exceeds the requirements of the World Health Organization for safe water. However, the success of Singapore hasn't been mirrored in Australia as the country has such a fragmented system of water management and it's down to individual states and cities to manage their own supply. In Toowoomba in Queensland, a planned IPR scheme ground to halt when, despite an initially favorable consultation, lobby groups and other location citizens started to complain and local politicians pulled out and with them went the funding. Non-potable Reuse is a lot less controversial than IPR because the filtered water sewage doesn't go back into the drinking system and is instead used for industrial purposes. As has been seen, Singapore has already implemented this but in Australia where control of the water supply varies between states and cities, it's more challenging, however, in Sydney, effluent is providing 7,000 ML/y for Blue Scope Steel in Brisbane their wastewater treatment plants is providing 40 ML/d to the BP oil refinery for their cooling towards. The bottom line is that as city populations grow and the climate changes in unpredictable ways, we need to find ways to manage the only true essential resource that we can't manufacture. We have the technology to ensure that sewage water and saltwater can be treated in such a way as to remove everything that is harmful to use and it will pose no more threat than the rainwater that fills our reservoirs. Since we were little, we have been conditioned not to do disgusting things, we learned that drinking black water is a bad idea. We need to start trusting our water suppliers that they can and will deliver healthy water from our waste or worrying about our inability to connect to social media will be the least of our worries.
The invention of air conditioning has transformed the way we live. No longer do we have to sweat day and night in high temperatures. But, unfortunately, our comfort comes at an environmental cost. The HFCs used in cooling and refrigeration is causing the ozone layer to degrade and this in turn causes an increased in global warming and also, the amount of electricity used to keep ourselves cool is an issue that is not discussed a lot.
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Making pharmaceutical drugs was, for a long time, a manual process, but these days to avoid contamination and improve accuracy, the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) insists that the process is fully automated in order to improve accuracy. In developed markets like the U.S., this isn't a problem for large pharmaceutical companies but in countries that want to get in on the lucrative business of producing over the counter (OTC) drugs like aspirin it's a huge barrier to entry.
There's a lot of talk about making things smarter using electronic gadgetry. We have in our lives electric replacements for just about everything only to find that sometimes the old ways were the best. Your electric coffee maker is gathering dust since a component snapped and now you're back to the simpler plunger system; the electric tooth brush that just broke and you've gone back to the manual system only to find that your gums are healthier than before; the e-book reference guide that is never read because it's easier (and more satisfying) to flick through the pages of a physical book and make handwritten notes or bookmarks.
In our ever more manic attempts to try and harness Mother Nature, we're ruining the countryside with monolithic wind farms. Since the wind blows stronger and more consistently above 50 meters, commercial wind farms by necessity are built to be tall. But now a designer from Paris has developed an artistic windmill that wouldn't look out of place in a city park.
For any gardener recognizing which plants they have in their plots or pots is a challenge especially if you're growing different varieties of the same species. For amateurs, there are apps available which crowd-source information. But for farmers, trying to grade the quality and even variety of their produce is a perennial problem. One variety of strawberry looks pretty much the same as another to the untrained eye and even long-term farmers may struggle, as do peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and so on. So for a commercial enterprise being able to grade and classify their produce is essential if they're to get the best prices and avoid mistakes.
Electric cars have been around for surprisingly a long time. They were first developed in the 1880's and remained popular until the early 20th century when the internal combustion engine gained dominance. There have been other resurgences in the electric car when the fuel crisis of the 1970's and 1980"s happened but, there were relatively short lived. The problem with electric cars is twofold: distance between charges and the speed of the vehicle. But in recent years, with an even more acute awareness that fossil fuels are finite resource plus the advances in battery and engine technologies there is resurging interest. Obviously, the mass car manufacturers are investing in electric car companies such as Mitsubishi, Smart, Volvo, and Ford. But, the new kid on the block who is taking the U.S. by storm and ruffling a few features in the process is Tesla Motors.