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NASA confirms asteroid came from another solar system – and it’s incredibly bizarre

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The presence of an unidentified object hurtling through our solar system recently prompted a call to action from observatories throughout the world. NASA has confirmed that it’s the first object to arrive from another star – and it may be as long as a quarter mile. While the rocky asteroid, dubbed ‘Oumuamua, is definitely not piloted by aliens, it could give us clues into the formation of other solar systems.

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In late October, scientists thought they might have observed an object that came from outside the solar system with the aid of the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope. The International Astronomical Union reclassified the object from a comet to an interstellar asteroid, per a November 14 release. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a November 20 press release: “For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now – for the first time – we have direct evidence they exist.”

Related: Scientists might have spotted the first object from outside our solar system

Yesterday the journal Nature published a study on the find, led by scientists at the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii. NASA helped fund the work. The bizarre asteroid could have been “wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system,” according to the agency.

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‘Oumuamua – Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first” – has a slightly reddish hue, and is around 10 times as long as it is wide, according to NASA, which said the asteroid’s aspect ratio is bigger than any other asteroid or comet we’ve ever observed. And it varies widely in brightness: “by a factor of 10 as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours.” It’s likely dense, comprised of metals or rock, without ice or water, and could have been reddened by irradiation from cosmic rays.

A few of Earth’s big ground-based telescopes are still tracking ‘Oumuamua. It’s around 124 million miles away from our planet and will probably be too faint for detection around mid-December. It will head for the constellation Pegasus after exiting our solar system.

Via NASA

Images via European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser and the International Astronomical Union

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Brilliantly renovated Rusty House is wrapped in a layer of rusted steel

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Exposed raw steel wraps around this small house in the Czech Republic, renovated by OK PLAN ARCHITECTS. Covered with a vibrant layer of pre-rusted sheet metal (CorTen), the Rusty House is a minimalist residence that surprises passersby with its unusual exterior and layout maximizes the potential of its tiny plot.

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After living in the house for twelve years, the owner decided to renovate the interior of the house and “soften” the appearance of the main living space. OK PLAN ARCHITECTS helmed the renovation process which included landscaping the surrounding garden.

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Related: Rusty tin shed transformed into beautiful two-story studio in Sydney

Exposed concrete, galvanized steel and corrugated sheet metal dominate the house. The architects added layers to the interior, including oak ceiling panels, in order to improve the organization of the interior and its acoustic performance.

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Custom-made furniture and fixtures were added to bring an element of modernity to the place. Older kitchen cabinets were replaced, and a new fireplace installed in the living room. The architects blended the old and the new to respond to new functional and aesthetic demands, while preserving the rawness of the original structure.

+ OK PLAN ARCHITECTS

Photos by BoysPlayNice Photography

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Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

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Rusty House, OK PLAN ARCHITECTS, sheet metal, CorTen, exposed concrete, concrete, Czech Republic, green renovation

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Iconic Dutch dike renovation opens with energy-generating kites that can power 200 homes

The Netherlands’ legendary Afsluitdijk dike has been in use for 85 years but it needed a renovation — so the Dutch government turned to designer Daan Roosegaarde for help. Studio Roosegaarde recently unveiled their Icoon Afsluitdijk project featuring three eye-catching designs: Gates of Light, Windvogel, and Glowing Nature, with elements from clean power-generating kites to live bioluminescent algae.

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Studio Roosegaarde launched three striking designs at the Afsluitdijk. Icoon Afsluitdijk is intended to bolster the causeway’s iconic value, with the installations bringing light to the area after sunset.

Related: Daan Roosegaarde unveils mind-expanding 295-foot SPACE installation in Eindhoven

Gates of Light includes restored 1932 floodgates fitted with prisms that reflect light from vehicle headlights. If there are no cars by the Gates of Light – which the studio described as an example of a “futuristic and energy neutral landscape” – the structures don’t light up. Studio Roosegaarde said they were inspired to utilize retroreflection based on how butterfly wings reflect light.

Windvogel could offer enough power for 200 households. The smart kites’ lines move back and forth in the wind to generate energy, much like a dynamo on a bicycle, according to Studio Roosegaarde.

Glowing Nature is an exhibit in the dike’s historic bunkers featuring living algae. The bioluminescent microorganisms only light up when touched under optimal conditions and care. They could offer inspiration for light or energy solutions for the future, according to the studio.

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Roosegaarde said in a statement, “The Afsluitdijk represents a part of Dutch daring and innovation. We live with water, we fight with water, and we endeavor a new harmony…By adding a subtle layer of light and interaction, we enhance the beauty of the dike and form new links between man and landscape, darkness and light, poetry and practice.”

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Gates of Light will become a permanent part of the dike. Glowing Nature and Windvogel can be glimpsed until January 21, 2018.

+ Studio Roosegaarde

Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

You wouldn’t have felt it, but sometimes the Earth’s rotation slows down. Sure, the fluctuations are minute – maybe a millisecond here or there. But two geophysicists think there could be more destructive quakes next year because of the phenomenon. There is a silver lining: such small changes also might help us forecast earthquakes.

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Scientists have charted minuscule changes in the length of a day on our planet for decades. Sometimes we gain a millisecond, sometimes we lose one. But it turns out these tiny changes could impact us in a big way. They could be involved in the release of large amounts of underground energy. Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder presented the idea in a research letter published by Geophysical Research Letters in late summer and at The Geological Society of America’s annual meeting last month.

Related: Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

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Slowdowns in Earth’s rotation have corresponded with global increases of magnitude seven or greater earthquakes during the last century, according to the researchers: Bilham said, “The Earth offers us a five-years heads-up on future earthquakes.” In slowdown periods, Earth often sees two to five more large earthquakes than usual – but these arrive after the slowdown begins.

Earth’s magnetic field develops a temporary ripple as day length fluctuates over decades, according to Science Magazine. Both effects could be caused by small changes in molten iron’s flow in the outer core, researchers think. Earth spins 460 meters per second at the equator, according to Science Magazine, and “given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony.”

Bendick said the connection may seem crazy. But other researchers are intrigued – and geologist James Dolan of the University of Southern California said we should know if they’re on to something in five years. Based on the research, Earth should see five more major earthquakes than average starting in 2018 and we may have a new tool for earthquake forecasting.

Via Science Magazine and The Guardian

Images via Lorenzo Bollettini on Unsplash and Depositphotos

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Man quits his job, travels 31,000 miles in a renovated van with his cat [video]

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It turns out dogs aren’t the best travel companions, cats are! In 2015, a man named Rich East quit his corporate job, renovated a camper van and took off with his rescue cat, Willow. Since then, he and the friendly feline have traveled more than 50,000 kilometers (over 31,000 miles) across Australia’s six states and two territories, venturing down many of the country’s lesser-trekked paths.

Rich explains on his blog Van Cat Meow, “In early 2014 I started making plans for a massive life change. Unhappy with my 10 years in the corporate world I started designing a new life for myself. I started designing a campervan that could provide me with shelter, a home, and comfort for this next stage of my life. Slowly I began to sell all my possessions such that what was left would fit in this van.”

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In 2015, he was ready to go. “I sold my house, all of my possessions, and quit my job so I could take the trip of a lifetime,” he explained. “But one thing I couldn’t say goodbye [to] was this little cat so the obvious decision was to take her with me.” Their deep bond is evident in the travel photography East uploads to Instagram.

Related: Amazing camper van maximizes space with clever boat design tricks

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According to East, there are some distinct advantages to traveling with a cat, rather than a dog. He said, “I may be biased but I believe travelling with a cat is easier than travelling with dogs. Cats are very independent and don’t require a huge amount of attention. Willow is quite nocturnal, sleeping throughout the day if we are driving and coming out in the afternoon for some food and a cuddle.”

He added, “The only disadvantage to having a travelling cat is not being able to go into the occasional area where pets aren’t permitted. We avoid the National Parks to find our own hidden places that maybe we wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

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While most cats aren’t suited for nomadic living, Willow is the exception. “Some people think it’s odd that I’m traveling with a cat, but Willow is so chilled out and absolutely loves our new lifestyle,” East said. For her protection, the feline wears a special collar that tracks her location. “With the tracking collar, I have the peace of mind that if she decides to go for a hike I will be straight onto her,” he said.

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Though the pair’s trip concluded in early 2017, neither East or Willow have plans to stop traveling. East continues chronicling their adventures on Instagram and even compiled some of the best travel shots into a 2018 calendar that is now available for sale in the Van Cat meow online shop.

+ Van Cat Meow

Via MyModernMet, TreeHugger

Images via Van Cat Meow

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This brilliant project turns plastic waste into 3D-printed benches for Amsterdam

Rotterdam-based studio The New Raw is rallying citizens to turn their household plastic waste into stylish public furniture. Their “Print Your City!” initiative combines 3D printing with recycling to re-design urban space. The first prototype to come out of this call to action is the XXX bench, designed for the Municipality of Amsterdam.

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According to recent reports, Amsterdam residents generate 23 kg of plastic waste per person annually. Rotterdam-based studio The New Raw has worked out that this amounts to enough plastic to build one bench for every two Amsterdammers every year. The team collaborated with Aectual to 3D-print their first piece of 100% recycled furniture, the XXX bench.

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Related: World’s First Wrench 3D-Printed with Recycled Ocean Plastic Wins Innovation Award

The XXX bench seats two to four people and takes the form of a double-sided rocking chair. The balance required for it to function makes a statement on working together to close the cycle for plastic. Print Your City! was kick-started in 2016 as part of the AMS Institute’s Circular City Program and it’s supported by TU Delft and AEB Amsterdam.

+ The New Raw

+ Aectual

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The rapid disappearance of 5 billion passenger pigeons shows no population is safe from extinction

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Once upon a time, five billion passenger pigeons spread across North America in flocks so big that they could block out the sun and spread for hundreds of miles. Then, in just a few decades, they were gone. Now, scientists have found the cause for their devastating decline, and it reveals how fragile even large populations of animals can be.

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A new study shows that passenger pigeons have existed since the Ice Age in massive populations. But as large as their numbers were, they lacked genetic diversity. This allowed them to adapt quickly within the population, but it also meant that when a new threat came along – in this case humans – they couldn’t adjust quickly enough. While hungry humans are the main cause of their decline, the genetic shift caused by the shift from massive groups to small groups sped up the decimation of pigeon populations.

Related: The sixth mass extinction is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than “normal”

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“We often think of large populations as a safeguard against extinction,” said the study’s co-author, University of California, Santa Cruz biologist Professor Beth Shapiro. “What this study shows, however, is that we must also consider the longer-term natural history of a species when making decisions about their extinction risk.”

Via The Independent

images via Wikimedia and DepositPhoto

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This restaurant in London has a gorgeous living wall that purifies air and absorbs noise

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This restaurant in London has a daylit greenhouse at its heart with a beautiful living wall made of terracotta cells. Architecture studio Fusion DNA designed this verdant structure for Nando’s Putney Kitchen restaurant, creating a space that offers a moment of relaxation and peace amidst London’s bustling urban activity.

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The vertical garden occupies the restaurant main hall and features a glass roof that provides ample daylight that allows plants to thrive. The wall is made of terracotta cells, with a single pipe located at the top providing necessary water that is evenly distributed by gravity through a non-woven fabric. Cells are filled with a special substrate that stores water.

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Related: This living wall uses artificial intelligence to purify indoor air

The green wall has several functions–it absorbs the noise produced by the customers, as well as volatile organic pollutants in order to improve indoor air quality. The project, completed in collaboration with Spanish landscape and vertical garden specialists Singulargreen and Urbanarbolismo won the 2017 Bar and Restaurant Design Award, a globally recognized competition dedicated to the design of food and beverage spaces.

+ FUSION Design & Architecture

+ Singulargreen

+ Urbanarbolismo

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Nando's Putney Kitchen, restaurant, vertical garden, 2017 Bar and Restaurant Design Awards, Fusion DNA, Singulargreen, Urbanarbolismo, green wall, London, green interiors, greenhouse

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Too much antimatter is hitting Earth and scientists aren’t sure why

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Among the cosmic rays that normally immerse the Earth, scientists say there are too many high-energy positrons, the antimatter counterparts of electrons. Now a group of researchers from the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Poland are attempting to shed light on the mystery, and if they’re right, according to the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN), the excess positrons might be “the first particles recorded by humans to be derived from the interaction of dark matter.”

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In 2008, a probe in our planet’s orbit detected more positrons reaching us than scientists would anticipate. So a large team conducted observations at the recently activated High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory in Mexico to see if pulsars were the source of these baffling extra positrons. They analyzed data from two relatively close pulsars around 800 and 900 light years away. These pulsars, Geminga and PSR B0656+14, are “among the strongest sources of cosmic rays in our region of the galaxy,” according to IFJ PAN.

Related: Scientists observe light spectrum of antimatter for the first time ever

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The pulsars, albeit responsible for some of the positrons, contributed too small an amount to account for all the antimatter hitting Earth. Instead, the researchers’ observations bolstered a competing hypothesis IFJ PAN described as much more exotic: the “annihilation or decay or dark matter” could be the origin of the positrons. If the hypothesis is correct – and we won’t know for sure until future observations back it up or not – these perplexing positrons would be the first particles we’ve ever recorded coming from the interaction of dark matter.

The journal Science recently published the research. The University of Utah led the international team.

Via the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences and ScienceAlert

Images via John Pretz/IFJ PAN and Jordan A. Goodman/IFJ PAN

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This prefab Escape Pod rotates to catch the suns rays

Dreaming of your very own backyard escape? The cozy Escape Pod may be just what you’re looking for. UK-based firm Podmakers designed and crafted the Escape Pod, a cedar shingle-clad prefabricated unit that can be tailored to suit a variety of uses, including garden room and writer’s studio. The spherical unit takes inspiration from nature, from its round organic shape to the extensive use of timber inside and out.

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Designed to meet local UK planning laws, each 7-square-meter Escape Pod is built offsite in a Gloucestershire workshop and then delivered and installed using a forklift or crane. The pod is elevated half a meter off the ground and can be rotated to optimize natural light and views through European Oak-framed windows. An aircraft-style plug door opens up to a snug adaptable interior outfitted with insulation, electrical wiring, and heating (choice of a wood-burning stove or underfloor heating).

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“The organic nature of the Escape Pod’s materials contrasts with the engineering employed in its design,” write Podmakers. “To achieve its curved form, the pod’s design exploits innovative CNC milling and making techniques. This enables it to be fabricated with precision in the workshop, entirely from wood. Birch plywood, chosen for its strength and aesthetic qualities, forms the structure. It is exposed internally; from the pod’s framework to the bespoke laminated door hinge.”

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Related: Archipod’s Spherical Garden Office Pod

The base price for the Escape Pod starts at £19,800. Podmakers developed four recommended layouts—garden room, office, snug (bedroom), and work studio—however the pod can be customized to meet different needs.

+ Podmakers

Via ArchDaily

Images © Tim Brotherton

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