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Friday, 11 October 2019


7 Innovative Street Lighting Designs of the Future
By Christopher McFadden,
Interesting Engineering, 7 October 2019.

Over 140 years ago, Thomas Edison produced the world's first commercially viable electric light bulb. Since then, they have been making life and work easier and keeping us all safer on the streets.

Here we explore seven interesting concepts that might be the next step in the evolution of street lights.

Was the light bulb one of the greatest inventions of all time?

The invention of the lightbulb is widely considered as one of the most important inventions of all time. They allowed the working day to be extended well into the night in a safe and relatively cheap way.

Prior to their development, most artificial light sources were combustion-based. The fuels used included things like candle wax, kerosene, whale oil, and gaslighting. These were dirty, smelly and potentially dangerous as they could start building fires if left unattended or accidentally knocked over or damaged.

The light bulb was also safer as it immediately removed the potential for inhalation of toxic gases on a regular basis, especially carbon monoxide. Electrical artificial lighting also helped alleviate serious health and safety risks in the workplace related to bad lighting or the potential for explosions, in places like mines and factories.

But, whether or not one considers this as the greatest invention of all time, is something of a matter of opinion.

What impact did the lightbulb have on society?

We've already touched on this a little above, but the invention of the electric light bulb had an enormous impact on society. Almost overnight, artificial lighting became more efficient, longer-lasting, more reliable, and safer.

"More than 150 years ago, inventors began working on a bright idea that would have a dramatic impact on how we use energy in our homes and offices. This invention changed the way we design buildings, increased the length of the average workday, and jumpstarted new businesses. It also led to new energy breakthroughs - from power plants and electric transmission lines to home appliances and electric motors," states

Seven amazing innovative lighting solutions in the pipeline

Artificial lighting has revolutionized the way we work, live, and play since its development over 150 years ago. But these next seven ideas might offer the next quantum-leap in lighting, in the not too distant future.

1. Check out these "Solar Trees"

Designed by Ross Lovegrove, the "Solar Tree" is an interesting take on the traditional streetlight. As you've probably ascertained from its name, the "Solar Tree" uses solar panels to power its LED bulbs.

Each "tree" would have up to ten leaf-like PV panels facing the sky.

Of course, in order to work when actually needed (at night), any and all energy generated in the day is stored in internal batteries.

The lights also come equipped with handy light-detecting sensors that automatically turn the lights on, when the sun goes down. The entire design is intended to remove lighting from the electrical grid and make them far more efficient than traditional setups.

2. "sTREEt" is a further development of "Solar Trees"

Source: kibisi

"sTREEt" is another interesting take on the concept of urban lighting. It is fairly similar in concept to "Solar Trees" detailed above but envisages using a single larger "mother tree." That tree collects and stores solar energy, to power its own grid of child streetlights.

The "mother tree" would be outfitted with large amounts of solar panels and would be a pretty large structure. Harvested energy would then be transmitted to smaller streetlight structures in the surrounding area.

"The family of sTREEt ranges from little sprouts combining a few elements, to the mother tree that occurs on urban squares and generous public spaces. In addition to social elements such as seating, playthings, and swings, the mother tree sports a tree crown of solar panels to create shade and shelter for the urban space beneath it, as well as to power the local ecosystem of sTREEt." -

3. The "Flowlight" uses wave energy for power

Designed by Shane Molloy, the "Flowlight" is yet another interesting take on urban lighting solutions. Unlike previously mentioned concepts, this one uses tidal power to keep the lights on.

As it relies on tidal power, this lighting solution would be geographically limited and could be used for piers, sidewalks, and roads that run alongside watercourses. Each light has its own water turbine-equipped arm that dips into the water to generate power from the movement of the waves.

Each arm floats and moves up and down with the position of the tide throughout the day. This enables it to harvest energy to keep the lights on continuously.

4. Urban Green Energy's "Renewable Street Lamps" could be the future

Unlike others on this list so far, Urban Green Energy's "Renewable Street Lamps" are actually commercially available.  However, UGE has since stopped trading, but their products can still be found on sites like

These lights are self-sufficient and have shown that streetlighting can be possible off the grid. Each light is dual-powered and utilizes both solar and wind energy to store and power the lights at night.

These lights have a built-in battery that is able to keep each light going for 3-5 days. This is useful, especially in the event that the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

As a further incentive to businesses who might consider using these on their properties, each one comes with ample advertising space.

5. "EnergyMe" helps you save on gym membership

If you are a regular gym-goer, the idea of generating power from people exercising might have crossed your mind. And that's exactly the premise behind the "EnergyMe" street light.

The idea is simple - get free access to gym equipment, to help keep the local areas streetlights on. Citizens can walk, run, push, pull, and pedal their way to fitness and contribute to the benefit of their local community at the same time.

This solution not only helps keep fit but also reduces the environmental impact (and costs in taxes) for running streetlights. Win, win!

6. The "Windtulip" is an interesting concept

Designed by Mebrure Oral, the "Windtulip" is another inspired reimagination of the traditional streetlight. Each light comes with its own vertical wind turbine at the top that charges an internal battery day and night whenever the wind blows.

When the sun goes down, the light's energy-efficient LED lamps turn-on to keep the streets safe. Each and every light is designed to look like a piece of urban art, and it also beautifies the area in which they are installed.

7. Recycle your old batteries with "The Energy Seed"

And last, "The Energy Seed" is a fantastic idea to replace traditional streetlights. The idea behind them is to help reuse spent batteries instead of just chucking them away.

As you are probably more than aware, although used batteries might not have enough voltage to run your favorite gadget, that doesn't mean all their stored energy is used up.

"The Energy Seed" concept proposes using those little bits of leftovers (akin to a Joule Thief) to power streetlights at night.

Designed by Sungwoo Park and Sunhee Kim, each light is "planted" in a small pot with round battery receptacles on the top. Users would deposit their old batteries in the device that would then harvest any and all remaining energy within them.

This is obviously just a concept at present, and a lot of research would be required to make it a practical solution.

Top image: Windtulip (left) and EnergyMe (right).

Thursday, 10 October 2019


Catastrophic Failures of the Pharmaceutical Industry
By Justin Crockett,
Toptenz, 9 October 2019.

We place our lives in others’ hands every time we see a doctor or have medicine prescribed for us. It’s an unspoken agreement we’ve entered into, and we’re okay with it. After all, most of us don’t know how to do medicine, unless you’re some kind of village shaman.

We’re also seemingly okay with all the side effects that modern medicine creates. You take a pill for depression, and it can cause suicidal thoughts and…depression. You take a new medication for arthritis and it makes your jaw dislocate. It’s unfortunate but, again, are you going to create a new wonder drug in your bathtub? Probably not. Oddly enough, some pharmaceutical companies have released products that not only seem like they were created in a bathtub, but that were just unsafe to give to human beings. Here are some of the worst offenders.

10. Heparin recall

Heparin is a blood thinner that’s commonly used in dialysis, and to keep veins and arteries free of blood clots. It’s also partially made from pig intestines, so there’s also that. One problem that arose during production of the usually-very-helpful drug was that there wasn’t enough heparin in the United States, so much of it was brought in from China.

Too bad some of it was incredibly contaminated. After quite a bit of investigation, it was found that a Chinese company sent tainted batches to the U.S., causing up to a hundred deaths. What’s particularly disturbing is that the contaminated items passed through several stringent quality checks. Scientists are trying to find a better way to make a kind of synthetic heparin, as the world relies on China for up to 70 percent of the world’s heparin.

9. Elixir antibiotic (led to creation of FDA) - 100 dead

In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt received a letter from a mother whose child had died after receiving a dubious medication called Elixir Sulfanilamide. It was touted as one of the world’s first true antibiotics. The problem was that there was a poison contained within the mix, called diethylene glycol.

Almost immediately, patients began experiencing everything ranging from nausea to kidney failure, to even comas. 107 patients died from consuming Elixir Sulfanilamide. The man who created it took his own life two years later, devastated from the death toll. If one good thing came about because of the tragedy, it was that a precursor to our modern day Food and Drug Administration was established soon after.

8. 2012 meningitis outbreak from epidural steroids

A Massachusetts compounding facility that made a steroid called methylprednisolone acetate was at the center of a horrific series of events that took place in 2012. The Framingham-based pharmacy put out contaminated product that was used in steroid injections, and at first owned up to knowing about it, putting out a recall on their own in September that year.

That’s when the extent of their culpability became known. They created a $100 million fund the following year to pay victims for their tainted product. 20 states around the U.S. reported contaminated steroids, and over 750 cases of meningitis were reported, directly tied to the drug. 64 people died from the outbreak of the disease. The owners of the pharmacy were among 14 people arrested, and some were even charged with second degree murder. This was after the company filed for bankruptcy and even claimed their cleaning company had a hand in poisoning the batches of medication.

7. Panama uses antifreeze for cough syrup

It was seemingly a noble move for Panama’s Social Security agency to distribute cough syrup to the country’s poor population. But at least 20,000 were passed out to folks without being tested, and a simple mistake of not reading an ingredient could have avoided disaster.

During mixing of the cough syrup, an ingredient called diethylene glycol was added, when the drug makers thought they were using a simple sugar substitute. What they were actually mixing in was a component of antifreeze. Which, most doctors say, is terrible for a cough. And for staying alive. Anywhere between 60 and 300 people died because the makers of the cough syrup mistakenly ordered a wrongly-labeled bottle. And again, all of this could have been avoided if even rudimentary testing had been done on the medication in the first place.

6. The Bextra settlement

Bextra was an anti-inflammatory drug put on the market by Pfizer. The painkiller didn’t last long, though, as people quickly began experiencing heart problems, and there were even reports of a fatal skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. In 2005, the FDA made the drug maker remove Bextra from stores. But that wasn’t the end of the matter, at all.

Pfizer ended up paying out one of the largest settlements in history for the Bextra fiasco. $4.85 billion for patient injury claims, as well as having to shell out more for fraudulent marketing and other class-action cases. They paid out the mammoth settlement without ever having to admit any wrongdoing, so there’s that.

5. DES estrogen drug

A synthetic type of estrogen that was sold to women in the mid-1900s. Up to 10 million females took it during their pregnancies, in the belief that it would help curb miscarriages. Diethylstilbestrol was touted as a miracle drug to help women carry their babies to term, but instead the estrogen invaded everything, including the blood of the fetuses themselves.

Upon birth, many of these children would have abnormalities in their reproductive organs. Many would turn out to be infertile, and would end up way more likely to develop various forms of cancer. Above all, the very thing DES was created for (to decrease miscarriages) instead increased chances of miscarrying. Armed with this knowledge in 1958, the FDA let the drug be used for another 12 years. They would ban its other use, fattening chickens, before they would take it off the market from human use.

4. Defective breast implants in France linked to cancer

Poly Implant Prosthesis designed and manufactured breast implants out of their France facility, and in fact was one of the world’s leaders in such production. It was when they started cutting corners in their work that the extent of their laziness for an entire decade was discovered.

30,000 women in France and surrounding countries were found to have received defective implants during that time. Instead of medical-grade fillers inside the breast implants, the company had been using industrial silicone, which saved them millions of dollars annually. That same silicone is normally used for computer parts and electronics. Their “savings” also led to ruptured casings which may be causing cancer.

3. Bayer HIV crisis

Hemophilia is a condition where a person’s blood does not clot normally, leading even a tiny injury to turn into a bloodbath. So a medication that helps prevent that would be a godsend. When pharmaceutical company Bayer (try their aspirin!) developed a drug for that purpose in the early 1980s, it looked like it could have been a game-changer.

Unfortunately in the early ’80s, there was also a mystery illness known as HIV spreading around. Bayer found out that the drug had at some point been contaminated with the HIV virus, so in 1984, they began heat-treating the medication to kill it. Thing is, they still had a bunch of tainted medication just laying around. Instead of doing the super humane thing and destroying it with fire, they opted to sell the rest off to poor countries in Latin America and Asia. At least a hundred hemophiliacs in Asian countries wound up with full blown AIDS, and thousands more around the world contracted the HIV virus from the contaminated product. Bayer and others paid out around $600 million for their troubles, but swear they’re “ethical” and “humane.”

2. Fen-Phen

There was a diet pill craze that took place in the ’80s and ’90s, which the FDA kind of silently ignored. The makers of the pills would have to passively state that their products didn’t have the FDA seal of approval, and everyone allowed the ruse to continue.

Fen-Phen was a little different. It promised to end obesity. Doctors went absolutely nuts-butts for the stuff, cranking out 18 millions prescriptions for the drug in 1996. The drug fen-phen simultaneously decreased appetite and made the body burn calories at a faster rate. The trade-off, we found out, was that people’s heart valves became defective. Which is way better than being fat, obviously. The makers of the drug, American Home Products, had to cough up $3.75 billion dollars. 175,00 claims in all were filed against AHP, thought who knows how many actually got paid. And this wasn’t even the company’s first time in hot water with legal settlements and class action suits: they had to pony up $54 million the same year as the fen-phen settlement because of defective birth control devices they sold that had unknown side effects.

1. Thalidomide drug in 1950s and ’60s

You may have heard the buzz word “thalidomide” bandied about when you’ve come across your crazy anti-vax aunt engaged in a Facebook discussion. One key theory in the anti-vaccine movement is that something in the vaccines given to babies causes them to grow up with autism. Thalidomide is often pointed to as one of those ingredients. It’s all also incredibly reckless and untrue, and usually based on the “results” of one discredited gastroenterologist.

Thalidomide itself was actually used in the 1950s and ’60s, as a cure for morning sickness in pregnant women. Whether it worked or not isn’t nearly as important as the fact that it stunted blood vessel development at a key stage for the fetus. Five to nine weeks into the pregnancy is usually when the expectant mothers would take thalidomide, and in tens of thousands of cases, it resulted in astonishing birth defects in the brain and limbs of their born babies. It wasn’t until 1961 when thalidomide was finally discontinued, yet the damage had already clearly been done. If only there was a vaccine to keep drug companies from putting out harmful product to human beings.

Top image: Thalidomide effects. Credit: National Institutes of Health/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Monday, 30 September 2019


Top 5 Energy Companies that Are Changing the Face of Renewable Energy in 2019
By Kashyap Vyas,
Interesting Engineering, 29 September 2019.

Climate change debates have started taking their force in the international discussions after the increase in global warming and the melting of glaciers. This has also led to a renewed interest in using renewable energy to reverse the damages caused by the exploitation of non-renewable resources.

According to the recent data, some countries are entirely or mainly relying on renewable energy for their regular consumption. Countries like Paraguay and Iceland are 100% on renewable energy while Norway is 98.5 and Costa Rica is 99.

Regions like Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany are 100% on renewable energy. Similarly, Quebec and British Columbia in Canada are also 100% entirely on renewable energy sources.

These sources usually come in the form of solar, wind, hydropower, or geothermal energy. Currently, 25% of the planet’s energy comes from renewable sources. However, there are predictions from the International Energy Agency that says 40% of Earth’s energy would come from renewable sources by the year 2040.

Thanks to the strong potential, many energy companies have entered the market. These companies can be assessed in terms of their capacity with how many megawatts of energy they produce as well as the views that they receive.

With that as a basis, here is a list of some of the top five energy companies in the renewable sector that have the largest and the most significant share in the renewable energy market.

1. Siemens Gamesa

Siemens Gamesa is an energy company that is known for its initiatives in the renewable energy sector. It is selected by Dow Jones Sustainability World Indices (DJSI World) which is an organization that tracks the social, economic, and environmental performance of all the major sustainability-driven companies around the world.

This company is a pioneer in generating wind power. They were amongst the first few companies who started wind generators and owned some of the largest wind farms in the world.

Siemens Gamesa can be called one of the top companies that have contributed to changing the face of renewable energy in the wind energy sector.

2. GE Energy

GE Energy has some massive operations in the renewable energy sector because they see the potential of scaling it in the future. They are one of the largest wind turbine suppliers around the world.

They have offshore and onshore turbines where they also provide a flexible support service. Moreover, GE is also one of the largest generators of hydro turbines and represents about 25% of the total capacity that is installed around the world.

GE is working tirelessly towards hybrid energy storage systems to store the energy generated by renewable resources and use it later. GE Energy deserves to be in the list of top energy companies changing the face of the renewable energy system in 2019.

3. Berkshire Hathaway Energy

Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a renowned name in the renewable energy sector. The company delivers reliable and safe service to almost 11.8 million customers.

They believe in investing in sustainable energy sources to safeguard the interests of future generations. The company uses wind energy, solar, energy, hydro energy, as well as geothermal energy.

They generate almost 7800 megawatts of wind energy and have 1,500 megawatts of solar capacity in operation. The Topaz and Solar Star projects are known to be two of the most significant projects for solar photovoltaics around the world.

With their hydroelectric power plants, they use the energy generated by flowing water into electrical energy. Finally, their geothermal energy plants generate electricity from the steam that occurs naturally.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy is indeed a massive energy company making significant contributions in the renewable energy sector.

4. Cypress Creek Renewables

Cypress Creek Renewables is a company that is primarily driven by the motive of using solar energy to make the environment healthier and cleaner. They have been working for decades to create solar projects that can benefit communities.

They have more than 300 projects with 3.2 gigawatts of solar facilities that they have deployed across the United States. This is an energy company that also develops, constructs, finances, and operates several solar farms so that many communities can use affordable clean energy.

They also undertake many community projects to promote the use of solar energy. Their contributions towards the changing face of the renewable energy sector are massive and cannot be overlooked.

5. NextEra Energy Resources

NextEra Energy is one of the world’s largest producers of wind and solar energy. They are committed to finding innovative solutions to improve the energy situation and the environmental issues that are prominent around the world.

The company believes in having a sustainable future by making substantial investments in the infrastructure to develop clean energy. NextEra Energy started in the year 1925 and has become the energy leaders today with a market capitalization of over $100 billion.

With their plans to invest additional $50-55 billion over the coming years, NextEra Energy is essential in the field of wind and solar power and is continually looking for innovative solutions to improve the renewable energy sector.

Final words

To sum up, it is highly evident that renewable energy is super essential for a sustainable future. Therefore, the role of these energy companies is critical as they are using innovative measures to improve the energy generation through renewable resources and promote clean energy consumption.

Energy that comes from renewable sources has abundant potential. Renewable energy companies are not just great for curbing environmental pollution but also provide an excellent way to fight poverty and provide electricity to people in rural areas.

It is a great way to satisfy the energy needs of the people as compared to traditional sources. Moreover, it can also help in improving the relationship with neighboring countries by having joint solar, wind, and hydroelectricity projects.

This is the right time to take these energy companies as examples and work towards making them available to people around the world.

Top image: Renewable energy development in the California desert. Credit: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr.

Sunday, 29 September 2019


6 household items with hidden plastic in them
By Robin Shreeves,
Mother Nature Network, 26 September 2019.

It's hard to get away from plastic. The easiest thing to do is to get serious about reducing your use of plastic, but after that, it gets trickier.

Recycling is important way to keeping plastics and microplastics out of landfills and waterways, where fish, birds and other creatures are likely to ingest them. However, there are plastics hiding in places you may not suspect. Once you know something contains plastic, you can be more responsible about avoiding it in the first place. Just like it took you a minute to embrace the reusable bag habit, these solutions just require a change of habit, but they're easy to do.

1. Paper cups

Credit: Yuri_B/Pixabay

Paper cups are made of paper, right? Actually, most of a paper cup is made from paper, but disposable cups you'll get when you pick up a cup of coffee also frequently contain a thin plastic lining. It makes sense if you think about it. If a cup was 100 percent paper, it would buckle under the load of a very hot liquid. And while Starbucks gets points for recycling 25 million used cups into new ones, we still have a long way to go on this front.

What can you do: Take reusable water bottles and coffee cups with you whenever you go. At home, use real glassware.

2. Tea bags

Credit: congerdesign/Pixabay

Plastic could be hidden in two places in tea bags. The bags themselves may contain a small amount of plastic that's added to help them keep their shape in boiling water. Unfortunately, that handy bag is also the biggest source of the problem, as researchers at McGill University in Montreal discovered. The found that steeping a plastic tea bag in water heated to 203 degrees Fahrenheit (95 degrees Celsius) released around 11.6 billion microplastics into a single cup, according to New Scientist.

In addition the bag, the wrappers for individually wrapped tea bags may also contain a plastic lining.

What can you do: Purchase loose leaf tea and use a reusable tea infuser, which will eliminate the plastic waste and a lot of the paper waste, too. Or look for tea bags that aren't made with plastic, like Numi, Organic Traditional Medicinals or Tetley Black and Green Tea. (Clean Plates has a list with more options.)

3. Fleece clothing

Credit: Ryj/Wikimedia Commons

Fleece clothing is made with plastic microfibers. Often fleece is made from recycled plastic, which seems like a good reuse for plastic bottles, but all fleece is bad in this regard. Every time a fleece item is washed, it releases thousands of microscopicplastic fibers into the environment. When those microfibers make their way into drinking water or into the ocean, humans and marine creatures ingest them.

What can you do: The jury is still out on how harmful these microfibers are to our health, but it's clear they aren't good, so choosing not to buy fleece is the best option as Starre explains in her handy guide to reducing your microfiber pollution. As she points out, you can purchase a filter for your washing machine that will remove many of the microfibers, but the easier option is to try something like the CoraBall, which simply goes into the machine with your clothes. It also helps to wash your fleece only when necessary.

4. Disposable wipes

Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr

One-time-use disposable wipes are so convenient. Baby wipes, personal hygiene wipes, antibacterial wipes, makeup removing wipes...there are many types. They often come packaged in plastic, which is a problem itself, but at least those packages can be recycled. The wipes themselves are also frequently made with plastic - and they rarely get recycled. They end up in the trash or flushed, which really isn't a good idea - but I'll get to that in a minute.

Wipes contain plastic fibers that aren't generally biodegradable, according to The Guardian. Those that get flushed clog up our sewers and create fatbergs - giant chunks of wipes and diapers held together by fats like bacon grease that gets dumped down the drain. Wipes that end up in the ocean can be mistaken for food by turtles. These convenient wipes are turning out to be majorly inconvenient to the environment.

What can you do: Only use disposable wipes when absolutely necessary. Inconvenience yourself. Use rags to clean surfaces instead of anti-bacterial wipes (and wash the rag after one use). Ditch the disposable bathroom wipes and use toilet paper. For babies, make DIY reusable baby wipes and use them as often as possible. Take your makeup off with a washcloth. And, when you do use disposable wipes, never flush them down the toilet.

5. Cigarette butts

Credit: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

When people toss their butts on the ground instead of disposing of them responsibly, they end up in waterways. It's strange that so many people still find it acceptable to throw cigarette butts, which is why they are the most pervasive man-made pollutant. Yet it takes just one cigarette butt to contaminate a gallon of water, says Science Alert. Part of that contamination comes from plastic, which is used in the filter.

What can you do: It would be easy to simply say, "quit smoking," but there are very few smokers who don't realize they should quit for their own health, let alone the health of the planet. If you do smoke, don't throw your butts on the ground or in the water. Dispose of them in the trash or in a safe cigarette receptacle.

6. Glitter

Credit: Evi Michailidou/Wikimedia Commons

Glitter is so hard to get rid of, and here's proof: there are services that will send glitter bombs to your enemies. When the envelope is opened, glitter flies everywhere. The glitter will be on that person's clothes, carpet and couch seemingly forever. And, even if they do manage to clean it up and put it in the trash, it will live in the landfill for a very long time. So just don't.

Glitter is made from plastic that's bonded with aluminum. If it winds up in the water, it becomes part of marine plastic litter - consumed by plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds and other creatures. Birds that have plastic litter buildup in their stomachs can die of starvation.

What can you do: At least this one is simple: Avoid all glitter.

Top image: Tea bags. Credit: freephotocc/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Images added.]