Thursday, 30 April 2015


10 impressive innovations for cleaning up oil spills developed since the Gulf disaster
By Megan Treacy,
Treehugger, 29 April 2015.

Over the five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, numerous new techniques, materials and approaches to cleaning up oil spills have graced the pages of TreeHugger. Most likely spawned by the immense need to find a better way to clean polluted water and land than using things like chemical dispersants, these ideas started being tested and developed.

Hopefully, when another disaster occurs, we'll be better prepared so that the impact is far less severe.

Here are 10 impressive innovations for cleaning up oil spills developed in the last five years.

1. Smart filter that uses gravity, not chemicals, to separate out oil

Credit: Laura Rudich

Researchers at the University of Michigan believe that they have developed a next generation oil clean-up technology that could forgo chemicals and could clean-up water through gravity instead.

The smart filter technology is able to essentially strain the oil from the water because of a novel nanomaterial coating that repels oil, but attracts water.

To test the material, the team dipped postage stamps and small scraps of polyester in the solution, cured them with ultraviolet light and tested them in various oil and water mixtures and emulsions, including things like mayonnaise. Amazingly, with 99.9 percent efficiency the material was able to separate out all the different oil and water combinations.

2. Milkweed kits

Credit: pl1602

An amazing natural solution to oil spill clean up is the milkweed plant. Famous for being the sole food source for the monarch caterpillar, the plant has a super power that we're just discovering. The fibres of the seed pods of the plant have a hollow shape and are naturally hydrophobic, meaning they repel water, which helps them to protect and spread the seeds of the plant. But the surprising thing is that the fibres are also really great at absorbing oil.

In fact, the fibres can absorb more than four times the amount of oil that the polypropylene materials currently used in oil clean up can.

The Canadian company Encore3 has starting manufacturing oil clean-up kits using the milkweed fibres. The technology is made by mechanically removing the fibres from the pods and seeds and then stuffed into polypropylene tubes that can be laid on oil slicks on land or water. Each kit can absorb 53 gallons of oil at a rate of 0.06 gallons per minute, which is twice as fast as conventional oil clean-up products.

The kits are already being used by the Canada parks department for small oil spills on their sites and the bonus benefit of planting all of that extra milkweed for harvesting is that it helps support the endangered monarch butterfly.

3. MIT magnets that could pull oil from water

Credit: YouTube/MIT

In a typical oil spill clean up, the oil is burned or skimmed off the surface, but that process is inefficient at best and also removes any possibility of that oil being reused.

This new technique from MIT "would mix water-repellent ferrous nanoparticles into the oil plume, then utilize a magnet to simply lift the oil out of the water. According to a recent release, the researchers envision that the process could take place aboard an oil-recovery vessel, to prevent the nanoparticles from contaminating the environment. Afterward, the nanoparticles could be magnetically removed from the oil and reused. It's believed that this ability to recover and reuse the oil would offset much of the cost of clean-up, making companies like BP more willing to foot the bill for their mistakes."

4. Super absorbent polymer material

Credit: YouTube

Published in the journal Energy & Fuels in 2012, scientists from Penn State reported that they had demonstrated a "complete solution" for oil spill clean-up. It's a super absorbent polymer material that can soak up 40 times its own weight in oil. The material could then be shipped to an oil refinery for recovery of the absorbed oil.

The material that they call PETROGEL transforms the absorbed oil into a soft, solid oil-containing gel. The scientists say that one pound of the material can recover about 5 gallons of crude oil. It's strong enough to be collected and transported where it can then be converted to a liquid and refined like regular crude oil.

You can watch an amazing video of the material completely skimming oil out of a dish of water here.

5. Lotus leaf-inspired oil-trapping mesh


The newest innovation in oil spill clean-up is this oil-trapping mesh developed by researchers at Ohio State University. The stainless steel mesh stops oil, but allows water to go through and its design was inspired by the lotus leaf.

Lotus leaves are covered in tiny bumps that are tipped with even tinier hairs, which cause water to bead up and roll off when it lands on the surface - oil, however, isn't affected in the same manner. The scientists altered the design of the mesh so that oil was repelled, but water was not.

Tests showed that when oil contaminated water was poured onto a piece of the mesh, the water flowed through while the oil was stuck on top. The researchers believe that large nets made from the mesh could be used to gather crude oil from sea water and then the oil could be used.

6. Roomba-like robots

Credit: YouTube

This idea for a helicopter-deployed Roomba-like robot called the Bio-Cleaner that could clean oil out of water is just a concept, but it's one we can get behind.

As Alex reported, "The yellow robot has three arms to propel itself. It has a built-in pump to separate out water, and a compartment with bacteria that degrades oil.

The cleverest part is an "acoustic wave device" that emits high-frequency sound waves designed to keep animals at bay, so they don't join the ranks of oil-soaked creatures that rarely survive."

We may not see this exact device helping clean up any oil spills in the future, but the design may very well inspire real-world solutions.

7. Pallets of clams

Credit: scott*eric

Instead of making a new material or robot, researchers at Southeastern Louisiana University are now looking into the oil cleaning abilities of the Rangia clam.

Since clams are bottom-dwelling filter feeders, the method by which they eat is what makes them excellent cleaners and they're already notable for their ability to make a dent in water pollution. The university is researching how the clams could intake oil-laced water, absorb the nutrients and oil, and then spit out clean water while keeping the toxic hydrocarbons in their bodies.

Of course clams are a food source for other marine animals, so the clams would be placed in a pallet that would allow them to clean the water without being accessible to other animals to eat.

8. Armies of microsubmarines

Credit: ACS Nano

These tiny technological marvels could propel themselves through water and absorb oil and when the job's done, gather at a collection area, guided by magnetic or electrical fields.

The microsubmarines are based on microtube engines that were created to deliver medicine through the bloodstream of the human body. The submarines are eight micrometres long - ten times smaller than the width of a human hair - and are propelled by an inner layer of hydrogen peroxide that reacts with the liquid they're submerged in to produce bubbles and shoot them forward. The submarines have a cone-shaped front end and are coated with a "superhydrophobic,” or extremely water-repellent and oil-absorbent, coating that helps them to glide through the water but also absorb any oil droplets along the way.

In small-scale tests, the microsubs were able to successfully gather and transport oil in water.

9. Autonomous sailboats


A team of inventors is developing autonomous sailboats that could be used to clean up oil spills, monitor water for radiation and even clean up plastic pollution - basically handle any environmental disasters that are too dangerous for humans to go clean up. The Protei Project has already started building these little boats and has even used them to take samples of river beds near Fukushima.

In the event of an oil spill, the sailboat's detachable boom could collect 2 tons of oil on each trip per boat, so with a swarm of them deployed, you could make an impact. While things in the ocean move downwind, the genius of Protei's design is that it can tack into the wind without loosing power, using a front rudder. It would start at the end of the oil spill and work upwards as the oil was blown toward it.

Right now the ships have to be controlled from shore, but the future versions will use algorithms to guide them through the water.

10. NASA's "frozen smoke"

Credit: NASA/JPL

Aerogel, also known as "frozen smoke", is a wonder-material that was first created by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931, and subsequently used by NASA to do things like capturing comet dust. The company that makes the material, AeroClay, has realized that the material could also be used to clean up oil spills through the creation of an Aerogel sponge.

The sponge would be able to absorb either water or oil, and its chemistry could be altered to do either. Because of its very low density, it could absorb far more oil than other materials. An Aerogel sponge could clean up oil covering rocks and birds like a kitchen sponge, but ideally it would be put in place to absorb oil from the water and keep it from reaching the shore.

Top image: Deepwater Horizon oil spill site. Credit: Green Fire Productions/Flickr.

[Source: Treehugger. Edited. Some links added.]


10 Inventions Change Colour on Demand: Photos
By Renee Morad,
Discovery News, 29 April 2015.

You say red, I say blue. You say green, I say yellow. Now we can get along. Researchers around the world are using materials science to give fabrics, flowers, light fixtures, even eyeballs colour-changing capabilities. Here we look at 10.

1. Chameleon-Like Material


Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley developed an ultra-thin silicon material that can change colour when flexed or when a small amount of force is applied to the surface. The new technology provides flexibility and precision in generating specific colours, paving the way for new advancements in display technology, camouflage materials or even to someday infuse colour into buildings or bridges.

2. High Heels


The Volvorii Timeless smart shoe can change colours and patterns - polka dots, stripes or other designs - through an app that is controlled by a smartphone. The shoes, which were supported by an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, will start at US$249 and are expected to be available in December of 2015.

3. Eye Colour


California-based Stroma Medical is using melanin-targeting laser technology to break down the pigment on the outer layers of brown irises to give customers permanently blue eyes. The company says the process takes only about 20 seconds and the colour change is visible within four weeks. The procedure isn’t yet FDA-approved and experts have expressed safety concerns about the long-term effects that would first need to be addressed.

4. Flowers


Revolution Bioengineering (RevBio), based in Colorado, has genetically modified flowers to change colour continuously throughout the day when activated by a dilute ethanol, such as beer. Some flowers can change from, say, pink to blue and back again. Others change from white to red on demand. According to RevBio, if you know which enzyme is not working in a flower, the process can be fixed and the flower can gain colour again by watering the plant with a dilute ethanol. [More at Indiegogo]

5. Sneakers


SOLS, a start-up for customized orthotic insoles, is developing a new 3D-printed sneaker line called ADAPTIV that incorporates biomechanics, fashion and robotics. The shoe uses a system of gyroscopes and pressure sensors to alert the shoe’s adaptive materials to adjust air pressure and fluids to support body motions. It also allows for constant monitoring of health stats and incorporates colour-sensing cameras with RGB-adjustable LED lights to change colour to match different outfits.

6. Chameleon-Inspired Fabric


Karma Chameleon, a project being developed by researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, is investigating ways to use electronic fabric that can change its own visual properties by harnessing power directly from the body. When woven into fabrics, the garments will change colour in response to physical movement. Researchers, however, believe it will be about 20 to 30 years before these fabrics reach stores.

7. Light Fixtures


LED lighting company Solid Apollo LED recently unveiled colour-changing lighting fixtures. Perfect for entertainment rooms and bars, the three-knob colour control and wireless remote control can play one of 29 colour-changing programs and provides more than 16,000 colours on any RGB LED strip light or lighting fixture.

8. Handbags


VanDerWaals unveiled a new handbag that can change colours by pressing a button on an app. The bag can be programmed to flash a custom lightshow synchronized to a song or flash a selected colour when the user receives a phone call. In addition, the bags are capable of charging a smartphone, tablet or another personal electronic device. The handbags retail between US$499 and US$699 and are now available for pre-order on the company’s website.

9. Walls


With E Ink Prism, large, rectangular tiles can change colour on demand. Power is required - in very small amounts - when the colours actually change. With this new material, architects could create more versatile and cost-effective designs and eliminate the need to paint buildings or rooms.

10. Ice Cream

Credit: Cocinatis

This ice cream, called Xameleon, changes from purple to pink when licked. Spanish physicist-turned-cook Manuel Linares won’t divulge his recipe, but says the ice cream is made from natural ingredients.

Top image: The “chameleon skin” material. Credit: The Optical Society via Discovery News.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


10 Myths And Misconceptions About World Languages
By David Tormsen,
Listverse, 29 April 2015.

Many people spend years learning foreign languages, a process that is difficult but ultimately rewarding. Yet, there are some strange notions out there about the languages of the world. Here are 10 of the most pernicious.

10. Japanese Is Unique And Impossible To Learn


Many Japanese have long believed that the Japanese language is both unique and impossible for foreigners to truly understand. This forms a part of “Nihonjinron” (Japanese Theory), which emphasizes the special nature of the Japanese culture and people that supposedly makes them unlike any other on the planet. Nihonjinron claims that the Japanese language is homogenous and intimately tied with the Japanese race and culture and therefore has a pure and spiritual link to the people. Popular views of the futility of foreigners attempting to understand Japanese run like this: “[The] language barrier accounts for nine-tenths of the Asiatic mystery,” and “Anyone who has acquired by some gruesome brain manipulation the faculty to speak Japanese realizes how futile were his efforts.”

Most of Nihonjinron’s arguments are laughably false. Japanese is not homogenous; it is divided into dozens of different dialects, which makes sense for a country of mountainous islands. The national prestige language, hyojungo, was originally based on the Tokyo dialect, but even the capital has since developed its own way of speaking. Japanese isn’t even an isolated language: the Ryukyuan language of Okinawa is completely unintelligible to Japanese speakers and preserves features from Old Japanese from before it diverged in the sixth century AD. As for the idea that Japanese is unique, it stems from a tendency to compare the language with European languages and boggle over difference. However, when compared to world languages in general, the linguistic structure of Japanese is not particularly unusual. Finally, while written Japanese is difficult due to the use of four different writing systems (kanji, hiragana, katakana, and romaji [Roman letters]), spoken Japanese is considered relatively easy thanks to consistent rules of conjugation, an efficient vocabulary, and the fact that, to the Japanese, taking long pauses in the middle of a conversation while trying to remember a word looks like you’re being profound rather than horribly awkward.

9. French Is More Logical


The myth that French is a clearer and more logical language has been propagated over the past four centuries by, unsurprisingly, the French. In 1647, the acclaimed French grammarian Claude Favre de Vaugelas said, “We in everything we say follow exactly the order of logical thought, which is the order of Nature.” The idea was that the French grammar system possessed a natural logic and clarity that other languages, even Latin, messed up with ambiguity and inarticulateness. Some linguists even saw the complex perfection of the French language as a reflection of civilization itself. These ideas have since been taken up by both the French and Francophiles abroad. Rapper MC Solaar’s “Pour la beaute de la langue francaise” stands as evidence of this.

However, the problem with this whole idea lies in the fact that while human language is necessarily linear, human logic and perception is not. When we see a bear eating a taco, we perceive it holistically as a whole concept, without reference to the linguistic process of bear (subject) - eat (verb) - taco (object). Any language can be expressed with logic and clarity, and any language, including French, can be expressed incoherently, as anyone who has tried to talk to the people selling cheap souvenirs under the Eiffel Tower can attest.

8. Chinese Characters Are Ideograms


An ideogram is a symbol able to convey an idea directly to the mind without the detour of speech-based language, like a “No Smoking” symbol or a skull and crossbones. European thinkers have believed for hundreds of years that Chinese characters do just that, with the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci calling Chinese writing “similar to the hieroglyphic signs of the Egyptians [and] each word has its own hieroglyphic character.” The idea was that Chinese characters could be read, and the meaning understood, by anyone who knew the meaning of the symbol, bypassing language and giving pure meaning by calling up images directly into the mind. While the concept inspired linguists and philosophers, it was a gross oversimplification of Chinese characters, conflated with popularly held ideas about ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

It is impossible to completely separate writing from speech and still express complex or meaningful concepts. Chinese characters include parts called phonetic components and semantic components. Phonetic components are parts of a character that help indicate how it is meant to be pronounced, while signifying components are parts of a character that suggest the word’s meaning. Characters that lack those two components make up only around 15 percent of characters, and they are usually used as phonetic components in other characters themselves.

As for the idea that characters can be used as a universal form of communication: It is an exaggeration. It is true that characters can sometimes be used to communicate between speakers of different Chinese dialects, but the differences in vocabulary usage mean that this is not a fool-proof means of communication. The simplification of characters and the restriction of education to Beijing-based national language putonghua has caused further estrangement between written Chinese and dialects. Between languages, it is even more treacherous: One character means “mother” in Chinese but “daughter” in Japanese. For words composed of multiple characters, the differences are even more extreme: One word is composed of characters that ostensibly mean “hand” and “paper.” In Japanese, this is tegami, (letter), and in Chinese, it’s shouzhi, (toilet paper).

7. Welsh Is Unpronounceable And Archaic

Photo via Wikipedia

It is a common source of English humour that Welsh is a dying language that lacks vowels and is impossible to pronounce without spitting everywhere. This was a source of considerable wit by unlamented former BBC loudmouth Jeremy Clarkson, who said, “What’s the point of Welsh for example? All it does is provide a silly maypole around which a bunch of hotheads can get all nationalistic,” and “Fair enough if a bunch of pasty-faced ginger separatists insist on conversing in their native tongue, that’s their lookout but for the rest of us it’s baffling and even dangerous. Please drive slowly appears as ‘gyrrwch yn ofalus’ but by then you’re through the village anyway.” This is not a new sentiment either; in 1749, English traveller John Torbuck described the Welsh language as “a tongue not meant for any mouth; as appears by instance of one in our company who, having got a Welsh polysyllable into his throat, was almost choked by consonants, had we not, by clapping on his back, made him disgorge a guttural or two, and so saved him.”

Welsh is, in reality, known as Cymraeg. Welsh is a Germanic word meaning “foreigner” and is actually a reasonably phonetic language that is pronounced as it looks and spelled consistently once you learn the rules. English, on the other hand, is notorious for its downright chaotic spelling conventions. Welsh merely appears intimidating to English speakers because it uses different principles, but those principles are not worse. In fact, they are significantly easier to pick up.

The lack of vowels is a specious charge, given that English has five, while Welsh has seven distinct vowels. Famously long and incomprehensible place names are due to the cultural tendency for long, descriptive place names. The famous village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch translates as, “The Church of St. Mary by the pool with the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s church and the red cave.” Even this example is contrived; the village’s original name was Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, meaning “St Mary’s Church In The Hollow Of The White Hazels,” and was pronounced “thlann vyre pooth.” The longer name was merely chosen as an 1860s publicity stunt to create the longest train station name in the British Isles...and now, the longest URL

6. Ebonics Is Lazy English


Many people in the United States, usually white people, believe that Ebonics, or African American Vernacular English (AAVE), is nothing more than poor grammar, lazy pronunciation, and slang. In 1996, an Oakland, California, school tried to recognize AAVE as a distinct dialect for educational purposes, and uninformed people across the country were outraged. The Economist even referred to it as “The Ebonics Outbreak,” a distasteful reference to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Zaire. People were horrified at the idea that people were suggesting teaching an “inferior” form of English in classrooms. The only problem was that, from a linguistic point of view, there is nothing that makes Standard English better than AAVE.

AAVE has consistent grammatical and pronunciation features that mark it out as a legitimate English dialect. Standard English proponents point to the use of double negatives in AAVE as evidence of its inferiority, such as “I ain’t got none,” but are curiously silent about French double negation: “Je n‘en ai pas.” AAVE even enjoys grammatical features that Standard English lacks, such as the imperfect tense, which usually refers to habitual actions or states. Therefore, the sentence, “He crazy, but he don’t be crazy” would be translated into Standard English as “He is currently acting crazy, but he’s not usually crazy.” These nonstandard constructions may appear lazy and incorrect to people who can only speak Standard English, but linguists have been able to work out the grammatical rules unique to AAVE, meaning that it’s not so much “bad English” as it is a different form of English.

While many believe that students should only be instructed in the standard dialect, studies have shown that this isn’t the best way to see improved outcomes. Educational studies in Sweden and Norway have shown that teaching in a vernacular language (such as Ebonics and nonstandard Swedish or Norwegian) helps students learn to read faster and retain information better than forcing them to study in the standard dialect.

5. The French Have The Most Fiercely Protective Language Policy


It is common to hear of the French Academy’s beleaguered attempts to prevent the spread of Franglais introduced through American cultural imports, as well as their desperate attempts to stamp out such terrible national threats as the word “hashtag.” But the French aren’t even the most protective of their language in the Francophone (French-speaking) world. Quebec holds that title, where laws were passed to protect the right of workers to communicate in French and force companies with more than 100 employees to have a “Frenchification committee.” In France, while a section of the Ministry of Culture exists to monitor the influx of foreign words and suggest French alternatives, their recommendations are not law and don’t have to be followed by anyone. Meanwhile, most other countries in the world have their own language protection policies in place. In the United States, for example, 35 states have declared English the national language due to fear of Spanish.

Iceland has had a policy of linguistic purism since 1780, which demanded the development of foreign words into Icelandic words. They achieved this in a number of ways: Calquing refers to combining native root words into a compound word matching the etymology of a foreign word. (“Amber” and “power” combine as rafmagn, [electricity]). Formal hybridity is combining native and foreign root words. Phonosemantic matching involves matching foreign words with variants of native words with similar sounds and meaning. (AIDS translates as eydni, from the word eyda [to destroy]). Finally, obsolete words are revived and given new meanings. Examples of the last method include tolva (computer), combining “number” with an obscure word from the Eddas meaning “soothsayer” and flugfreyja (stewardess), which combines “fly” with the name of the Norse love goddess Freya. The legacy of the strict policy allows schoolchildren to readily comprehend 12th-century Viking sagas.

Meanwhile, North Korea banned most foreign words, as well as the use of Chinese characters, after 1949 and has criticized the South’s language for its loan words from English and Japanese, as well as intonation filled with “nasal twangs favoured by women to coquette with men.” South Koreans mock the North’s awkward constructions designed to avoid using foreign words, such as bulal, which means “light bulb” in North Korea but “testicle” in South Korea. The divide between the countries has become so severe that Northerners living in the South have to take tutoring programs to adjust.

4. The Spanish King’s Lisp


One of the most significant differences between Castilian Peninsular Spanish and the Spanish spoken in Latin America is the use of the zeta sound, the unvoiced interdental which appears in English as a hard “th.” Words that are pronounced with a “th” in Spain are pronounced with an “s” in Latin America. Legend has it that the difference was due to a desire to emulate the speech patterns of a king who suffered from a lisp, usually identified as either Alfonso X or Felipe II. While an entertaining story popular in US Spanish classrooms and stand-up comedy routines, it is completely false. For one thing, the “s” sound still exists in Peninsular Spanish. People in Madrid only use the “th” sound for words that begin with “c” or “z,” while “s” is just pronounced like an “s,” which would make no sense if it was all due to a lisp.

In medieval Spain, the letter “c” was pronounced “ts,” the letter “z” was pronounced “dz,” and the letter “s” was always “s.” In most of Spain, “ts” and “dz” eventually became “th,” but in southern Spain, the pronunciation of the letters “c,” “z,” and “s” all merged into the “s” sound. This process was unrelated to and asynchronous with the reigns of the two supposed lisping kings. During the Spanish colonization of Latin America, many migrants came from the Andalucia region of southern Spain, so the “s” pronunciation became standard across the board in the New World, while the use of “th” only exists in Peninsular Spanish. ¿Tienes thentido?

3. British English Is The Original English


It is commonly assumed that the Received Pronunciation (RP) spoken in the UK is the original English, while other forms of English, such as American, Australian, New Zealand, and South African, have diverged from this pure form of English. In reality, the dialect of English used in the British Isles has changed much more significantly over the last three centuries than standard American English. In the 1700s, the English used in both London and the North American colonies was rhotic, meaning that the letter “r” is pronounced after a consonant or at the end of a word. Americans still speak this way, but in 19th-century Britain, non-rhotic speech (which dropped the “r” in words like “hard” or “far”) became standard. This style of speech was associated with the upper classes and became standardized into Received Pronunciation, which was considered easy to understand. Through colonialism, mass education, and the BBC, non-rhotic English became standard in the British Isles and many of its colonial holdings.

Some areas of the United States that had close ties with southern England during the colonial period, such as New England and parts of the South, also picked up the non-rhotic habit. Colonists in other parts of the United States often came from Ireland, Scotland, and rhotic-speaking regions of England, which led to the retention of rhotic speech in the General American accent today.

In recent years, there has been a movement to perform Shakespeare’s plays in what is referred to as Original Pronunciation, our best reconstruction of what we believe Elizabethan English would have sounded like. While the results are very different from either main form of modern English, they exhibit features that have far more in common with American English, including the rhotic “r” and a flat “a” vowel sound in worlds like “bath” or “France.”

2. Primitive Cultures Have Primitive Languages


There is a common misconception that human cultures with a lower level of material development would have correspondingly simple language systems. This is where we get the idea of caveman speak and stories of isolated African tribes that communicate in grunts and gestures. These so-called primitive languages are meant to be characterized by a lack of vocabulary and abstract terms, irregular and minimal grammar, a tendency toward rapid, random change, and being overall less complex and expressive than languages of more advanced cultures. The idea is often linked with the notion that non-standard forms of languages used by low-income groups are similarly handicapped. This is entirely inaccurate. Linguists have proven that all languages are equally well-equipped to allow for their speakers to express what they want to say, and many cultures with a low level of material development have staggeringly complex and eloquent languages.

There is variance between languages in terms of the exact subjects that they are equipped to discuss, which is based on the sort of things that are relevant to that culture. The Saami language, for example, has as many as 1,000 different words to describe reindeer, and although the idea that the Inuit have 50 words for snow has long been considered a linguistic myth, new evidence suggests there’s some truth to it, since the Inuit language can combine many descriptors into a single word. Similarly, Italian has many words for different kinds of coffee and pasta. English, as an international language, has developed to cope with everything from scientific papers to barroom trash-talking, but that doesn’t make it linguistically more evolved than an Amazonian language highly specialized for discussing hunting techniques and tactics.

1. Chinese Is A Single Language


Most people assume that Chinese is a single, monolithic language spoken by over 1.3 billion people. Others may be able to distinguish between Mandarin and Cantonese, thanks to the cultural influence of Hong Kong cinema. Indeed, the Chinese government helps to advance this notion, identifying Mandarin as the standard language and everything else spoken as mere dialects.

In reality, however, there are dozens of different languages spoken in China, which differ more from the standard Mandarin than different European languages do from one another. The largest non-Mandarin dialect is Wu, spoken in Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, and Fujian. This dialect is generally called Shanghainese, while linguists call it Wu after the ancient kingdom of Wuyue. Other speakers of Chinese consider it a soft and flowing language, but are often put off by Shanghai peoples’ refusal to speak Mandarin. Cantonese, spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan, is a nasal language with long vowels and nine tones and is considered to have preserved a number of features from the Classical Chinese language. Tang dynasty poetry often rhymes when spoken in Cantonese, but rarely in Mandarin.

Other languages still used by millions in China include Hokkien, Jin, Hunanese, Hakka, and Gan. In the early 20th century, Shanghai intellectuals pushed for a single national language in order to facilitate communication across the vast country. This backfired on them, as the widespread and relatively easy Mandarin language was chosen, which led to the systematic repression of all other forms of Chinese. However, these languages are still spoken by millions of people in China and by overseas Chinese communities around the world.

To get an idea of just how different the languages are, let’s have a look at the following comparison:

English: Hello! Have you eaten?
Mandarin: Ni hao! Ni chifan le ma?
Wu: Nong haw! Nong qi gu le va?
Cantonese: Leih hou! Leih sik dzo fan mei a?
Hokkien: Li ho! Chiah pa bue?
Hakka: Ngi ho! Ngi siit-de fan lo?

Top image via

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


10 Office-Boosting Furniture Items Created with Recycled Plane Parts
By Julian,
Business Pundit, 27 April 2015.

From elegant airliners to military jets, airplanes are truly incredible examples of engineering ingenuity, and they’ve made journeys that were thought impossible only a hundred years ago into an everyday reality. Still, even these cutting-edge machines have a limited existence, as fatigue and advancing technology conspire to make individual aircraft obsolete. The result? An undignified dump in a scrapyard.

Today, though, a handful of modern design companies are transforming redundant plane parts reclaimed from aircraft graveyards into striking contemporary office furniture. Bold and vibrant, these pieces are perfect for creating an inspirational workspace at any company, and there’s also the bonus of helping, in a small way, to save on waste and preserve the planet.

10. 1968 A-7 Corsair II Belly Tank Sofa


Want your organization to stand out from the crowd? Then perhaps this bright red sofa - which started out life as an attack jet’s fuel tank - is just the ticket when it comes to picking out office decor. Part of U.K. design firm Hangar 54’s “aviation furniture” range, the eye-catching piece boasts a part taken from a 1960s-era Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II jet that was sadly scrapped. Brothers Brett and Shane Armstrong, however, have imaginatively repurposed the tank to create a handsome couch with room enough for three people. The piece’s price tag of US$37,000 shows that such workmanship doesn’t come cheap, although renting it instead through Hangar 54’s product-leasing scheme may be another, more affordable option. Wherever it ends up, though, this bespoke sofa is sure to turn heads.

9. Fuselage Desk


Anyone who thinks that workspace cubicles have to be dull should have their mind changed forever by MotoArt’s astonishing Fuselage Desk. Conceived by Donavan Fell and Dave Hall, this inspired piece combines a section of the main body of an airplane with an aluminium-clad table to offer a dynamic and robust workstation. Even better, it’s customizable: there’s the option of having as many as five porthole windows within the fuselage section, as well as either an additional painted, polished or satin exterior finish to coordinate with other office design elements. Indeed, the Fuselage Desk was designed to remind employees that “they are part of a force that isn’t like the rest of the world” - a force that, in fact, is as unique and creative as the desk itself.

8. DC-8 Dual Cowling Reception Desk


The McDonnell Douglas DC-8 aircraft first went into production in the late 1950s, but this brilliantly reimagined reception desk - crafted from two of the jetliner’s engine coverings - is more than fit for a 21st-century office. The DC-8 Dual Cowling Reception Desk conforms to U.S. government standards for use by those in wheelchairs and can be used by either one or two employees, who may want to take advantage of its ever-necessary data ports. Moreover, the audacious design from California-based firm MotoArt has been built with longevity - as well as style - in mind. Fitting, perhaps, as the McDonnell Douglas DC-8 aircraft themselves are certainly durable; in fact, some are still in operation to this day.

7. Lycoming R-680 9 Cylinder Radial Engine Table


Transforming recycled airplane parts into inspired examples of interior design can be a protracted process, but the results may be stunning, and this incredible coffee table is certainly a case in point. The piece incorporates a gleaming air-cooled radial engine sourced from the Canadian Museum of Flight; in a previous life, the engine was part of a Boeing-Stearman PT-13 biplane that was constructed in the late 1930s and operated by the U.S. Army. Beautifully crowned by a square glass top, the Lycoming R-680 9 Cylinder Radial Engine Table is available to purchase from London-based modern design firm Decoratum for the princely sum of nearly US$30,000. Although not a specialist in aviation furniture, the company also offers a striking centre table made from propeller heads among its range.

6. F-Light


Paris-based architect Paul Coudamy’s F-Light venture proves that, with a little imagination and skill, the internal walls from a scrapped Airbus A300 jetliner can be transformed into a stunning lighting fixture. Coudamy originally created the system for French aircraft recycling project FLOWN, which in turn has described F-Light as “monumental” - and it’s easy to see why. The result is a bold visual statement with a modular design that leads to near-infinite possibilities in terms of size and shape. The F-Light’s arched contouring, meanwhile, effects a “floating ceiling” that can separate a space and produce a warm, consistent light underneath, making it the perfect fit for an innovative workplace.

5. C-130 Navigator’s Chair


Another iconic stalwart of the skies, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules has been in military service since 1954. And with over 2,400 of the planes produced, it’s perhaps not surprising that various parts from decommissioned Hercules aircraft have found their way into the hands of MotoArt. This time, the firm took a C-130 Hercules navigator’s seat and gave it a striking makeover, completely reconditioning the original metalwork and reskinning the chair in vibrant red fabric. The limited-edition item also boasts what MotoArt calls “low-profile casters” for easy movement; and with its adjustability and built-in arm rests, comfort is a given.

4. Fuselage Clock


U.K. firm Fallen Furniture’s innovative Fuselage Clock acts as an exceptionally stylish way to keep track of time in that next crucial client appointment. And a fair few hours went into the creation of the timepiece itself: after being carved out of the grounded hulk of a Boeing 747, the window piece that makes up the clock underwent a painstaking sequence of washing, modelling and refining. With the addition of those all-important hands, the creation reached its current statement-making form - and it’s something that would look very slick indeed on any boardroom wall. The clock is part of an impressive plane-repurposing furnishings range from Fallen Furniture, a company begun by siblings Ben and Harry Tucker.

3. Demonstrator Sidewinder Missile Table


The AIM-9 Sidewinder missile has been fitted to - and fired from - generations of fighter jets ever since it was conceived by the U.S. Navy in the mid-20th century. And although the weapon has destroyed more than 250 aircraft in its time, it’s nevertheless perfectly safe - and looks amazing - as part of this cool, contemporary glass-topped table. The highly polished shell of a once-lethal Sidewinder forms the base of the stunning creation from British aviation furniture company Intrepid Design. At US$22,000, though, this isn’t an impulse purchase, but for a table that gives an office considerable style impact, look no further.

2. Mk3 Ejector Seat Black Leather


Using a vintage ejector seat as an office chair is a sure-fire way to inject a bit of thrill into the workplace, and this clever design from the team at Hangar 54 ought to do just that. Moreover, it incorporates a device with a rather heroic pedigree. Martin-Baker’s ground-breaking ejector seat first saved a pilot’s life in 1949; the company’s Mk3 model, meanwhile, was alone responsible for preventing 255 further deaths. And it’s the base of a 1955 Martin-Baker Mk3 ejector seat used here, upholstered with plush black leather and mounted on superbly restored, chrome-finished exhaust cylinders. Sadly, though, it’s unlikely to be able to fling its owner out of that next tedious accounts meeting.

1. Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet Conference Table


Few airplanes are more iconic than Boeing’s 747, and few conference tables are as impressive as the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet Conference Table, created around a retired General Electric engine housing for a 747 craft. A dozen people can fit round the inspiring custom-made item - built using a magnificent engine stator with rainbow LED lights, all set below a sleek glass surface. It’s also fit for a contemporary workspace, as those all-important data ports and phone sockets can be included in the design. MotoArt is behind the stunning table, and any firm wishing to snap it up will join some of the world’s biggest brands on the furniture company’s impressive client list; these include Microsoft, Red Bull and - appropriately - Boeing.

Top image: Hanger 54’s Cowling Reception Desk, made from salvaged plane engine coverings. Credit: Hangar 54.

[Source: Business Pundit. Edited. Top image and some links added.]