Tuesday, 31 January 2017


10 foods and beverages that boost brainpower
By Sidney Stevens,
Mother Nature Network, 30 January 2017.

Just as eating right makes your body healthier, it also keeps your brain fit, happy and working at top capacity. But which nutrients contribute most to mental and cognitive wellness?

The following brain-boosting foods and beverages all promote gray-matter health. Some improve memory. Others sharpen concentration and focus. A few keep depression at bay, and some even ward off Alzheimer’s and slow brain aging. While you require more than nutrients to make your brain hum - you’ll also want to include plenty of exercise, sleep and mental stimulation - these 10 foods and beverages should definitely be part of your "smart" eating plan.

1. Coffee

Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr

Java lovers depend on their morning cup o’ joe to jolt their brains awake. But research suggests that caffeine found in coffee offers more than a temporary mental lift. Its brain benefits may be longer lasting. According to the Harvard Health Blog, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition found that coffee helped participants do better on several memory tests. And good news for seniors: A 2015 Italian study showed that drinking one to two cups a day lowered rates of decline in mental function and memory (called mild cognitive impairment or MCI) among people aged 65 to 84. Researchers suggest that maintaining a moderate caffeine habit may also cut damage from the buildup of amyloid protein plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Added bonus: Coffee is one of the best sources of plant antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid. These super-nutrients prevent cell damage from harmful molecules in the body and brain called free radicals, which cause chronic inflammation and lead to aging and disease.

2. Turmeric

Photo: Steven Jackson/Flickr

It’s the spice that gives curry its yellow color, but turmeric also contains the potent anti-inflammatory chemical curcumin that researchers believe is a major boon to the brain. Studies suggest that including more of this natural antioxidant plant compound to your diet (it’s a vital ingredient in many Indian, Asian and Caribbean dishes) helps lower inflammation in the brain and cuts your risk of dementia.

Animal research shows this wonder spice also boosts your levels of feel-good brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, dampening your chances of depression. Plus it stimulates the growth of new brain cells and protects them from damage that can cause mental illness.

3. Tea

Photo: Melinda Stuart/Flickr

Yes, caffeine is one reason tea makes the brain-booster list. (FYI: We’re talking about green, black and white teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant, and not those derived from herbs and flowers.) But tea is also chock full of other brain-promoting nutrients that help you think and remember better. One is the calming amino acid theanine, which, in combination with stimulating caffeine, cuts mental fatigue, improves alertness and increases memory.

Teas also contain an abundance of powerful brain-friendly plant antioxidants called catechins. Studies show these special disease-fighting nutrients not only enhance cognition, memory and attention, but some may also decrease depression and mental dysfunction.

4. Fish

Photo: OrcaTec/Pixabay

The brain benefits of eating fish - particularly oily fish like salmon, sardines and herring - can’t be overstated. That’s because fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid. DHA helps build brain cell membranes (which contain a high degree of fatty acids) and is essential for optimal cognitive power. Research shows that DHA deficiency may be behind age-related cognitive declines, and that older adults who eat seafood regularly are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other dementias. If you’re a vegetarian, opt for omega-3-rich flax seed oil, soybeans and chia seeds.

Fish is also an excellent protein source, rich in amino acids that help build your brain’s neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that allow it to communicate with the rest of your body). Plus, it’s high in vitamin D, which research shows aids in brain function and information processing.

5. Chocolate

Photo: skeeze/Pixabay

No need to worry if you can’t get enough of this divine goody. Your guilty pleasure may actually be making you smarter and happier. The reason? Cocoa in chocolate is brimming with plant-based antioxidants called flavonols and stimulating methylxanthines like theobromine and caffeine. Together these nutrients appear to lessen depression and anxiety, as well as induce a sense of calm. Yes, those waves of well-being you feel after nibbling the sweet stuff are real.

Flavonols also boost blood flow to the brain, stimulating the growth of new neurons, as well as improving their function and protecting them from free radical damage. To get the most brain bang for your buck - and avoid weight gain - eat moderate amounts of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa.

6. Blueberries

Photo: jia3ep/Pixabay

This colorful berry, along with strawberries, raspberries and its other bright-hued cousins, rank high on the list of brain foods. According to researchers at Tufts University, they all contain super-antioxidants called anthocyanins, which not only give berries their vibrant shades but also boost the brain’s signaling and cognitive functions, as well as protect it from age-related damage.

Another large, long-term study of 16,000 women aged 70 and older who participated in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that those who consumed one or more half-cup servings of blueberries or two or more half-cup servings of strawberries a week stayed mentally sharper than non-berry eaters. In fact, participants who ate berries appeared to delay cognitive aging by two and a half years compared to those who didn’t.

7. Beets

Photo: RitaE/Pixabay

They may not be a crowd-pleaser, but these red root veggies contain loads of nitrates that increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain and raise mental performance. Research has focused mainly on beet juice, and the results are impressive. In one study by scientists at Wake Forest University, adults aged 70 and older who drank 16 ounces of beet juice a day had increased blood flow to the white matter of their frontal lobes. This is the part of the brain most often linked to the deterioration that causes dementia and cognitive declines. Researchers hold out great hope that drinking beet juice regularly (and presumably eating whole beets) could help prevent or slow the progression of age-related brain degeneration.

8. Walnuts

Photo: Pauline Mak/Flickr

Just a handful of walnuts a day can have a profound impact on your how well you think and remember. That’s the conclusion of a large analysis from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Researchers found that people of all ages who ate 13 daily grams of walnuts performed better on cognitive function tests that measured information processing, memory and concentration. Previous research has shown similar results, including evidence that a walnut-rich diet can slow or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s.

One reason walnuts are so good for your mind is their high levels of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid shown to boost brainpower. Walnuts are also loaded with free-radical-fighting antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. Other nuts with brain-healthy nutrients include almonds, pistachios and macadamias.

9. Spinach

Photo: kkolosov/Pixabay

Like beets, this dark, leafy green - along with kale, collard greens, some lettuces and mustard greens - is high in brain-enhancing nitrates. Another reason to load up on leafy foods is their abundance of antioxidant vitamins and plant nutrients, including lutein, folate (vitamin B9), beta carotene and especially vitamin K. Often called the “forgotten” vitamin, K helps prevent calcium from accumulating and hardening in arteries (including those in the brain).

One study followed the eating habits of 950 older adults (average age 81) for five years. Those who consumed one to two servings of leafy, dark greens a day for five years had the cognitive power of someone 11 years younger than those who ate none.

10. Olive oil

Photo: stevepb/Pixabay

If you’re a devotee of the Mediterranean diet your brain may be in luck. One foundation stone of this esteemed healthy eating plan is extra virgin olive oil, which research shows bolsters memory and learning in mice due to its abundance of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and other powerful free-radical-fighting antioxidants.

Additional research shows a substance called oleocanthal in olive oil also protects against dementia by ramping up production of proteins and enzymes that remove Alzheimer’s-causing amyloid plaques in the brain. All good reasons to keep more of this ‘smart’ oil handy in the kitchen.

Top image credit: OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images added.]


6 of the World’s Most Mysterious Standing Stones
By Claire Cock-Starkey,
Mental Floss, 30 January 2017.

Standing stones, stone circles, and megaliths have been discovered across the world, but scientists and historians continue to debate their purpose, construction, and meaning. Many theories have been put forward for these creations, from astronomical sites to places of ritual and worship. But perhaps even more puzzling than the meaning of their creation is how they were built with enormously heavy stones long before the creation of the wheel, let alone other modern technology. Below are seven of the world’s most mysterious stones.

1. Carnac: Megalithic standing stones in France

Image credit: Steffen Heilfort/Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Around the small village of Carnac in Brittany, France, thousands of ancient menhirs (single upright monoliths) and other types of megaliths stand arranged in rows. The stones have been dated to the Middle Neolithic period (around 3000 BCE) but an exact date has yet to be proposed. There are over 3000 of them, measuring as much as 20 feet high and stretching on for a total of more than four miles. The site includes groupings of megaliths, burial mounds, and enclosures, representing an extraordinary feat of construction for Neolithic peoples. The arrangements are long thought to have served some magical or religious purpose but no one is quite sure what (one popular legend has it that when the Roman army was marching on Brittany the wizard Merlin appeared and turned them to stone). Historians studying the site have proposed that the lines of stones in fact delineate a sacred space, perhaps leading people toward an area of worship.

2. Costa Rica: Mysterious stone balls

Image credit: Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

In the 1930s, employees of the United Fruit Company were clearing the jungle of Diquis Delta in Costa Rica when they discovered a series of perfectly spherical carved stones, some just a few inches across, others up to 6 feet wide. Hundreds of the mysterious spheres have since been identified across the region, and many have been adopted as decorations for official buildings.

The exact origin and purpose of the stones is debated by archaeologists. Some excavation around the stones still in their original position has revealed pre-Columbian pottery, linking their existence to ancient pre-conquest cultures, but so many have been moved from their original sites that analysis of their origin and pin-pointing their date of creation has become difficult. Some of the stones were discovered in seemingly astronomically significant alignments, leading some archaeologists to propose that they may have been used for astronomy or navigation.

What we know for sure is that the stones are made of hard igneous (solidified from lava or magma) rock such as granodiorite, and were shaped by humans rather than nature. Unfortunately, many of the balls have been damaged or moved by trophy hunters and so today very few remain in their original position - two have even been transported to the U.S., one at museum of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. and the other at a courtyard near Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

3. Stonehenge: Neolithic stone circle

Image credit: falco/Pixabay

Stonehenge in Salisbury, England, is one of the most iconic megalithic sites in the world. The circle of stones was built starting around 3000 years ago by Neolithic peoples, and the blue stones that make up the ancient monument have been traced to quarries in Pembrokeshire, Wales, hundreds of miles from where the circle now stands. Historians have theorized that the stones were transported the long distance on rafts down rivers and then pulled along on wooden sleighs using rollers, a process that must have involved months of hard work. The stone circle is just part of a series of ancient structures across the landscape of Salisbury Plain, with earthworks, ditches, and Bronze Age burial barrows. The site has long been a sacred space and even today pagans gather there to celebrate on the winter and summer solstices.

4. Mongolia & Siberia: Deer stones

Image credit: Aloxe/Wikimedia // FAL

The deer stones are a series of over 1200 ancient standing stones scattered across Mongolia and Siberia, given their name because many of them include elaborate carvings of flying deer. The stones range in height from about 3 to 13 feet and are often grouped together, sometimes associated with ancient burial sites. Scientists believe they were erected over 3000 years ago by Bronze Age nomads. The carvings include not just deer but elk, people, and representations believed to be the sun and moon. The intricate carvings would have taken a lot of skill and so historians think the stones may have been dedicated to great warriors or chiefs, but their exact purpose can only be guessed at.

5. Avebury: The world’s largest stone circle

Image credit: krotilm/Pixabay

The world’s largest prehistoric stone circle is found in the quaint English village of Avebury, not far from Stonehenge. The circle originally contained some 100 stones and encircled two smaller stone rings. The stones are thought to form part of a wider ritual landscape, which was built and altered from about 2850 to 2200 BCE; archaeologists think that the circles, henges, and avenues of stones formed part of a public space for religious ceremonies, but their exact use or the nature of these ceremonies remain a mystery. In the 1930s, an excavation by archaeologist Alexander Keiller revealed a grisly secret when a skeleton was discovered crushed underneath one of the stones. The body did not belong to one of the Neolithic builders, but rather a man from the fourteenth century who was crushed to death when trying to move the pagan stones.

6. South Korea: Gochang dolmen site

Image credit: Kussy/Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

A huge prehistoric burial site in South Korea spread across the areas of Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa contains hundreds of ancient dolmens - tombs built from large stone slabs. These Neolithic and early Bronze Age structures are made from two or more stones, topped with a large capstone, forming a marker for a burial site. The sheer number of dolmens is the most surprising aspect of this World Heritage Site, with thousands dotted across the Korean landscape - the highest concentration of dolmens in the world.

Top image: Panoramic view of the Avebury stone circle and henge. Credit: Ethan Doyle White/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images added.]

Monday, 30 January 2017


10 Infamous Computer Viruses
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 30 January 2017.

Much like humans, computers can contract nasty viruses that completely wreak havoc on their systems. It’s believed that there are over 100,000 computer viruses, though some experts contend that there are over a million. The good news is that many of the viruses are not in circulation and are merely a part of collections. However, there are some that have been released, and in some cases, they caused massive devastation. These are 10 of the most notorious.

10. The Morris Worm


Robert Morris, Jr. is the son of a famous American cryptographer and pioneering computer scientist, Robert Morris, Sr. In 1988, he was a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell, when he wrote an experimental program called a worm. The worm was 99 lines of code and it had the ability to self-replicate and self-propagate.

On November 2, 1988, Morris loaded his program onto the internet using a computer at MIT. However, Morris made a mistake in his coding and the worm spread quickly. Since the internet wasn’t as widespread then as it is now, the Morris Worm managed to infect 10 percent of all computers on the internet (which was about 6,000).

The program ran a bunch of invisible tasks and this caused computers around the United States to crash or become catatonic. When Morris realized what was happening, he contacted a friend at Harvard and they came up with a solution. They tried to send out an anonymous message on how to fix it, but it was too late and the message got lost in the traffic caused by the worm.

Computer programmers around the country worked for days to figure out how to debug the computers. In total, it cost anywhere from US$200 to more than US$53,000 to fix an infected computer. After investigating, all evidence in the coding of the worm pointed to Morris. He was convicted of violating the Fraud and Abuse Act and handed a sentence of three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and fined US$10,050.

9. The Omega Time Bomb

Omega Engineering is a Stamford, Connecticut based company that designs and manufactures high tech instrumentation. On the morning of July 31, 1996, an employee in the Computer Numeric Control department started up the file server that controlled all the manufacturing machines. However, the server didn’t boot up and instead a message popped up that said that the file server was being fixed.

However, quite the opposite happened. Instead of fixing the files, it deleted them. Even worse, the virus destroyed any way of finding the programs again. Computer Security Journal said that the lines of code were scattered like a handful of sand thrown onto a beach. Omega was sure they had backups on tape and on local computers, but when they went to retrieve them, they could not be found.

When the employees realized what had happened, the first person they called was Tim Lloyd, a former employee who oversaw the computer network. He had been with the company for 10 years, but lost his job three weeks before the server crash because of problems with his attitude. Over the course of a year, Lloyd’s personality had changed and he became an angry man who lashed out at co-workers. His attitude also led to him purposely bottlenecking projects, which slowed production. He was given several warnings before he was fired on June 10, 1996.

When Omega realized how much information they had lost, they called the police who, in turn, called in the Secret Service. When they investigated, they found that the virus was just six lines of code that worked like a time bomb. When someone logged on July 31, 1996, it would delete all of Omega’s computer files. The most obvious suspect was Lloyd and the Secret Service looked at his home computer and found the same six lines of code. They determined that Lloyd was planning on quitting and he made the time bomb virus at home. He then installed it at work after everyone had left for the night. However, before he got a chance to quit, he was fired.

Lloyd was arrested and sentenced to three and a half years in prison, and ordered to pay US$2 million in restitution. At the time, it was the worst act of work-related computer sabotage. It cost Omega over US$10 million in lost business and US$2 million in reprogramming cost. They also had to lay off 80 people. It took years for Omega to overcome the virus attack, but they are still in business today.

8. Melissa

The Melissa virus started to spread on March 26, 1999, via email. The subject line of the email was “Important message from [Sender’s Name]” and the body of the email was, “Here is that document you asked for…don’t show anyone else ;-).” Finally, there was a Microsoft Word document labeled “list.doc.” When people would open the document, it would send out the same “Important Message” email to the first 50 addresses in the person’s Outlook address book.

The virus spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in the first several days. In some cases, it caused servers to shut down. Even Microsoft and Intel were infected. Microsoft chose to shut down their outgoing internet email service to stop the spread. In total, it’s estimated that the Melissa virus caused around US$400 million in damage.

The virus was traced back to David L. Smith, a network programmer who lived in Trenton, New Jersey. Smith had hacked an America Online account and launched the virus from his apartment. He was arrested less than a week after the virus was released. He said that he named the virus Melissa after a topless dancer in Florida. He was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

When he was asked why he did it, Smith basically said that he did it to see if he could do it. Fair enough, we guess.

7. LoveBug aka ILOVEYOU

On May 4, 2000, people in the Philippines started getting emails with the subject line “ILOVEYOU.” The body of the email read, “Kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” Finally, there was an attachment with a file name like “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many people who got the email couldn’t resist the thought of someone sending them a love letter out of the blue, so millions tried to open what they thought was a text file. And as you probably have guessed, it was, of course, a virus.

By today’s standards, the virus was pretty tame. It would make duplicate copies of media files and documents. It would also email the virus’ creator the user names and passwords of infected computers, which would allow him to log onto the internet for free. However, the real problem was that it could email a copy of itself to every email address in the infected computers’ Microsoft Outlook address book. At the time, not many people saw the importance of having things like an up-to-date antivirus program. As a result, according to the BBC, the LoveBug (as it was sometimes called) spread to 45 million computers in the first couple of days.

When programmers looked at the code, they found an email address embedded in it and the worm was traced back to 24-year-old Onel de Guzman, who was a student at the AMA Computer College in the Philippines. De Guzman had recently dropped out because his undergraduate thesis, which was to commercialize a Trojan horse that stole passwords, was rejected.

After the virus was released, De Guzman went into hiding. When he reemerged several days later, he was arrested along with one of his friends, Reomel Ramones. However, there were no laws regarding malware in the Philippines so neither man was ever charged or prosecuted. De Guzman says that the virus was “probably” his creation and admitted that he may have “accidentally” let it out of captivity.

The LoveBug became the first virus to successfully spread using social engineering, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

6. Agent.btz


In the fall of 2008, the U.S. Military’s computer network was hit by a variation of a SillyFDC worm. At the time, the SillyFDC worm was a fairly benign worm; before the attack, a SillyFDC worm was listed as “Risk Level 1: Very Low.” One reason the worm wasn’t super effective is that it wasn’t transferred through something like email. Instead, it was transferred via storage devices, like thumb drives.

However, a new variation of the worm, called Agent.btz, infected a military laptop at a base in the Middle East when someone inserted an infected flash drive. The laptop was connected to the U.S. Central Command and the virus was uploaded to the network. From there, the virus spread undetected through both classified and unclassified systems. Once the virus was in place, data could be secretly transferred to different foreign servers.

In a process called “Operation Buckshot Yankee,” it took the military 14 months to finally clear out the virus and it led to the formation of a new unit called the United States Cyber Command.

The leading theory is that the virus was an espionage attack by a foreign country, most likely Russia.

5. Flashback


Apple has long promoted that Macs are much safer than PCs because, Apple says, they are less likely to get viruses or malware. There are two big reasons for this. The first is that Microsoft Windows is used by a vast majority of computers. Even in 2016, Macs only account for 7.4 percent of home computer sales. This makes Windows a much bigger target. Secondly, it is much harder to make changes to Mac’s operating system, macOS (formerly OS X). There are areas of macOS that are walled off and you need administrative privilege to change it, meaning its operating system has a limited amount of points of intrusion.

However, that doesn’t mean Macs are invincible from viruses. The most notorious of them was discovered in September 2011. How it worked was that it was disguised as an Adobe Flash installer and it got around Mac’s security because there was an unpatched vulnerability in Java. The result was that 650,000 Macs, which was about 1.5 percent of all Macs at the time, were infected.

The Trojan horse virus did two things. The first is that it created a backdoor in the system so data, like passwords, could be stolen. It also took control of the computers, making them a botnet, which is when one central computer controls a collection of zombie computers.

By February 2012, Mac released a security tool to remove the virus and Oracle, who makes Java, fixed the vulnerability.

4. Sasser and Netsky-AC


The Sasser virus was first detected on April 30, 2004. It was different from other viruses at the time because with other viruses, users needed to do a task to infect their computer, like open a file. Instead, the Sasser virus passed through the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). It would scan random computers until it found a vulnerable system and then it would copy itself as an executable file to the computer. When the computer was booted, the virus would install itself.

Microsoft knew about the vulnerability and issued a patch for it on April 13, 17 days before the virus was first detected. However, not every computer had updated the patch and this left them exposed. In the two days after the virus was detected, a cleanup tool was downloaded 1.5 million times.

One thing that really set Sasser apart from other viruses is that in the days after the virus was released, an email started circulating with a file that was supposed to fix it. Instead, it was another virus called Netsky-AC.

The viruses didn’t cause any permanent damage. However, it did cause computers to crash and reboot more often. In total, hundreds of thousands of computers were infected.

After the viruses were released, Microsoft offered a US$250,000 reward for information on the author or authors. Two people turned in 18-year-old computer student Sven Jaschan, who was responsible for writing both Sasser and Netsky-AC. He was arrested and faced up to five years in jail; instead, he got a 21-month suspended sentence.

3. SQL Slammer

The fastest spreading computer worm in history, the SQL Slammer virus is also known as w2.SQLSlammer.worm, Sapphire, w32.SQLexp.worm, and Helkern. The worm started to spread at 12:30 EST on January 25, 2003. The virus would scan the entire internet for random IP addresses looking for vulnerable Microsoft SQL 2000 servers. The number of computers infected doubled every 8.5 seconds and within 10 minutes, 75,000 hosts, which was about 90 percent of vulnerable hosts, were infected.

The virus didn’t really effect home computers. Instead, it caused network outages, slowed down internet service, and denied some hosts access to the internet. This effected airline flights, interfered with electronics, and caused ATM failures. It is estimated that the virus cost US$1 billion in lost revenue.

A major investigation was launched, but the author has never been identified.

2. Storm Worm


On January 19, 2007, computers in the United States and Europe started getting emails with the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe,” and then there was an attachment called video.exe. Of course, the attachment wasn’t a video; it was a Trojan horse virus. After infecting the computer, it created a backdoor which the author could use later to get data, and it added the computer to the botnet. The botnet was then used to post spam.

One of the reasons that the virus was initially successful was because, at the time when it was sent, bad storms were raging in Europe. Later, the subject was changed to over two dozen different headlines including “A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and…,” “Chinese missile shot down USA aircraft,” and “President of Russia Putin dead,” just to name a few.

According to IBM, by February 2008 the worm had taken control of enough computers to perform spam attacks that were making the creators US$2 million per day. As for who the creators were, it’s believed that the virus originated in Russia, but beyond that not much is known.

1. Code Red


The first version of the Code Red worm was discovered on July 12, 2001, by several employees at eEye Digital Security. They spent all night analyzing the worm and while working on it, they drank Mountain Dew Code Red. So, they called the virus Code Red, and the name stuck.

The first variation of Code Red didn’t spread fast and didn’t do much damage. Some websites were defaced and they said “Welcome to China ! Hacked by Chinese!” However, on the 20th of July, the virus stopped trying to infect other servers and a launched denial-of-service attack on the White House’s web page. Fortunately, the White House was able to stop the attack by changing IP addresses.

Code Red version 2, on the other hand, was much more problematic. At the time, it was the fastest moving computer virus. It was discovered at 5:00 p.m. EST on July 19, 2001, and within 14 hours, over 359,000 computers were infected. In total, it’s believed that the worm infected 1 million of 5.9 million web servers. This caused internet traffic to slow but didn’t do any damage to the servers themselves.

Code Red version 2 was also one of the most costly viruses. In July and August, the virus led to US$2.6 billion in damages. The virus is believed to have originated at a university in China. However, it has never been confirmed.

Top image credit: geralt/Pixabay.

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


11 of the Most Impressive Solar Projects Powering Our World
By Darren Orf,
Popular Mechanics, 28 January 2017.

Here in the United States, we need updated infrastructure, but we also need some forward-thinking ways to power it now and into the future. There are plenty of examples out there around the world, many of which are solar-powered. Here's a brief tour of the parts of a sun-driven future that are already here.

1. Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, China


Located in China's Qinghai province, this is officially the largest solar park in the world, stretching to about 27 square kilometers (or about 10 square miles). This park outputs a whooping 850MW of power. The second largest solar farm by output, India's Kamuthi Solar Power project, puts out nearly 200MW less. Although China is the world's largest polluter, this solar park shows that it can capture enough clean energy from the sun to power nearly 200,000 homes.

2. Cochin International Airport, India

This Indian airport, the seventh busiest in the country, is the first airport in the world to run completely off solar power. In fact, it's not only 100 percent clean energy, its solar farm actually gives back energy to the electrical grid. The solar project, located on what was a veritable wasteland near one of the airport's terminals, has been a years long project. Looks like this solar investment is finally paying off.

3. Solar Star, California, USA


The Solar Star photovoltaic power station near Rosemund, California, isn't just the largest capacity solar park in the United States (and also the western hemisphere), it's also the largest solar installation in the country. It's spread over 13 square kilometers (or 5 square miles) and produces 579MW. The second largest U.S. solar farm, the Topaz Solar Farm, produces 550MW.

4. Solar Panel Bike Path, Krommenie, Netherlands


When the Netherlands installed the first solar powered bike path in 2014, it became a huge success. So much so that France has a plan to build entire solar roads that could provide up to 8 percent of the energy needs of the entire country. Japan is taking a similar approach, but instead applying the idea to water and creating the world's largest floating solar panel. It just goes to show that a small green energy project can have a huge impact.

5. Solar "Tindo" Bus, Adelaide, Australia


In 2013, the city of Adelaide in South Australia put the first fully solar-powered public transit bus into commission. Called the "Tindo," which is aboriginal for Sun, the bus can travel 125 miles before needing to recharge, which is does at a base station at the Adelaide Central Bus station. It also provides free wi-fi and A/C for up to 40 passengers.

6. Canal Solar Power Project, Gujarat, India

Credit: Hitesh vip/Wikimedia Commons

This solar project ingeniously kills two birds with one stone. Beginning as a pilot project, these strategically placed solar panels placed over canals not only provide much needed electricity but also keeps millions of gallons of water from evaporating annually. With water shortages and erratic access to reliable energy being two major problems for India, this inventive project seems like a doubly fantastic idea.

7. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Nevada, USA

Credit: SolarReserve

Many of the solar projects on this list are firsts, or perhaps the biggest of their kind. Although the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is a first of sorts - the first concentrating solar power plant with a central receiver tower - this project is on this list because it's the coolest-looking solar plant around. Its circular design with one central tower makes it look more like an archaic temple to a sun god - a fitting design for any solar power station.

8. Tokelau Renewable Energy Project, Tokelau

The pacific island of Tokelau, a relative speck of a country, is the first in the world to be completely solar powered. Built in 2012, this solar project provides all of the country's energy needs for its 1,500 residents spread across three atolls. The country was once 100 percent dependent on diesel fuel, but this solar project makes Tokelau completely diesel free. In fact, the project was so successful that the neighboring island of Ta'u, in the American Samoa, completed a similar project with SolarCity in 2016, preventing 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. These tiny islands will be the first major benefactors of a sun-only existence.

9. Vanguard 1


Of course not every solar revolution is a 21st century creation. The first satellite powered completely by solar cells was NASA's Vanguard 1 launched in 1958. To this day, it remains in orbit as the oldest man-made object in space. This small achievement sparked a trend of using solar energy for space vehicles, many of which have been solar powered for nearly 60 years.

10. Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse is the brainchild of Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg and Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. Its first flight began in December 2009, and the subsequent Solar Impulse 2 completed an entire journey around the world using just solar power in July 2016. Of course, the plane is little more than a proof of concept, but it shows that air travel is possible using just the power of the sun, leading to a possible future where airlines no longer pollute the skies. Of course, Solar Impulse owes much of its legacy to other solar experiments like the MacCready Solar Challenger, which flew on solar power from France to England in 1981, as well as NASA's Helios project.

Solar Impulse is the brainchild of Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg and Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. Its first flight began in December 2009, and the subsequent Solar Impulse 2 completed an entire journey around the world using just solar power in July 2016. Of course, the plane is little more than a proof of concept, but it shows that air travel is possible using just the power of the sun, leading to a possible future where airlines no longer pollute the skies.

Of course, Solar Impulse owes much of its legacy to other solar experiments like the MacCready Solar Challenger, which flew on solar power from France to England in 1981, as well as NASA's Helios project.

11. Arco Solar, California, USA


This solar power station, created in the rush of increased research into alternative fuels after the 1973 oil crisis, was the world's first photovoltaic system to reach a 1-megawatt capacity in 1982. Although the first, it certainly wasn't the best, with Arco selling off the money-losing plants in 1990. However, these early plants were just the beginning of bigger and better solar farms that are slowly dotting the globe. It's a kind of alternative energy science race among nations, a race toward a goal that everyone can get behind.

Top image: The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, Nevada, USA. Credit: SolarReserve.

[Source: Popular Mechanics. Edited. Some images and links added.]