Although the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have been extensively explored, the Indian Ocean is less well known. To remedy this, an international UN program, led by Australia and India, is exploring this huge ocean floor using robots acting as analytical laboratories - but 2,000 meters below sea level. Developed by CSIRO, the Australian national science agency, these robots, known as BioArgos, will identify the biological and physical characteristics of the Indian Ocean with their multiple sensors. During a week in July, they will travel from Madagascar to Christmas Island following the currents. Scientists will be able to build a detailed real time 3D map of the ocean.
It’s a major issue in China. Every year pollution causes the deaths of around 500,000 people from respiratory problems or diseases triggered by the smog - the cloud of pollution that covers many cities. To bring these hazards to the attention of the public and the authorities, the company Xiao Zhu, a specialist air purifier manufacturer, set up a shock campaign, dubbed Breathe Again. With light projectors, the company shows images of children and adults in tears, choking, directly in the smoke emitted by the factories. From time to time, the faces give way to a message, 'Clear the air. Let the future breathe again.' It could perhaps encourage the state to toughen up its anti-pollution measures…
400 years. That’s how long it takes for a plastic bag to decompose – making them one of the largest sources of land and ocean pollution in the world. In Uganda, 39,600 metric tons of plastic waste annually block watercourses, sometimes causing floods and creating places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. To combat this pollution, an entrepreneur came up with the idea of making fully biodegradable plastic bags from banana fibers. A ban, introduced in April, on most plastic bags in the country helped popularize Godfrey Atuheire’s service. He is now producing 3,800 bags per day, sold at between 17 and 88 euro cents each, and plans to double both his production and number of employees over the coming months.
Divers exploring the waters of Liguria in Italy this summer may have a surprise in store. Eight meters down and a hundred meters from the shore, they could just happen upon three plastic bells fixed to the sea floor. Inside are compost bins containing basil plants! Sergio Gamberini, the CEO of a company specializing in underwater communication equipment, came up with the idea of using the advantages presented by the seabed to grow his plants. The humidity under these bubbles stays between 80% and 90% thanks to evaporation, and the condensation provides fresh water for the plants, which receive enough light from the surface (60%). According to the company, growing underwater provides thermal stability because there is little diurnal variation in the temperature of the water. This method of cultivation produces more basil than average. The experiment has worked so well that Sergio Gamberini planted lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, strawberries and beans this summer.
Sidelined by the digital world because of the technical obstacles, visually impaired people will soon have the first fully Braille touchscreen tablet to surf the Internet. Designed by the Austrian group Blitab Technology, this revolutionary tablet uses a smart material for its screen - the characteristics of which the company has not revealed. It will display small bubbles as a Braille text is being read on the Internet, directly on the tablet screen. Ideal for blind people wanting to read a digital book. The device could be available as soon as 2016. The invention may encourage the development of an Internet for blind people, with many pages written in Braille.
Working together on the same laptop has never been easier. The Belgian startup Sliden'Joy has just developed the very first multi-screen PC. The additional screens are in a small wooden holder that attaches to the original screen. The multiple screens can be arranged around the computer so that several people sitting at a table can see the same content without having to gather behind the user. They are connected to the central display via a single USB port. The project is already creating a buzz on Kickstarter - the crowdfunding platform - where the start-up hopes to collect 300,000 euros. Sliden'Joy will cost between 249 euros (for one extra screen) and 349 euros (for two screens) - and should be on sale before the end of the year.
When your baby wakes up at night, what is needed is the reassuring voice of dad or mom to get back to sleep. Wanting to help exhausted parents, the start-up SleepHero has developed a mobile application that means they can stay in bed when baby cries at three in the morning. The app provides a selection of rhymes and stories on which parents record their voices. When the baby cries, the parents simply remotely activate the app, which then plays the selected songs until the child sleeps again. An option allows the app to detect the baby crying and then automatically launch the program.
In the slums of Lima, three million Peruvians have no toilets and so have to use rudimentary latrines - with all the accompanying health risks. X-runner has developed an alternative, reliable and sustainable sanitation system that meets the needs of urban populations - dry, odorless, waterless, easy to install toilets that separate urine from feces. Once a week, a truck comes to collect the bags full of excrement and take them to a processing center where they are composted. In two months the pathogens are eliminated and a nutrient-rich fertilizer is left. After the pilot program, x-runner hopes to equip 550 homes this year in Villa El Salvador and San Juan de Miraflores, two metropolitan districts in the province of Lima.
A strange building stands at Mason's Bend in Alabama. It is made with 72,000 carpet tiles - originally just waste. It is the home of Lucy Harris, who previously lived in a makeshift shanty house. The Rural Studio, founded by Samuel Mockbee, is behind this unusual construction. In Lucy’s town, architecture students work on eco-friendly participatory construction projects in poor rural communities in Alabama. So one day, visiting the Interface warehouses - the Ronald McDonald of carpet tiles - a group of budding architecture students found thousands of abandoned carpet tiles and decided to give them a second lease of life. After a whole battery of tests conducted by engineers, it only took five weeks for this carpet house to become a comfortable bioclimatic home for Lucy and her family.
After buses and cars, planes are also turning to biofuels. This summer the commercial airline United Airlines will be launching an aircraft equipped with hybrid engines, 30% of which will be powered by a biofuel made from animal feces. The first flight will be between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If the test is successful, four out of five flights will use this new propulsion system from September. The company believes in biofuels: it has just invested $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy, a company specializing in the production of biofuels for planes.