Brief #7 - okładka

Humans and animals

An eight million dollars study funded by the United States Airforce is looking into the armor of an insect called diabolical ironclad beetle, with the hope of gaining insights into the construction of more resistant planes and buildings. The beetle can withstand forces almost 40 000 greater than its weight. Until now, such research was done mostly via microscope observation, but this time scientists are scanning the beetle’s armor to see inside of its structure and the way the plates fit together.

Bears in Japan’s Iwate prefecture are wandering into the human-populated areas more often. Experts call for the improvement of their natural habitat as the activity is most probably provoked by the search for food which is in shortage, especially acorns. Since the beginning of 2020, 11 people have been injured by bears in Iwate and 157 were injured nationwide last year – the highest count in a decade. One person died. Authorities are exploring possibilities of different solutions to the problem, including safe feeding spaces.

Owning domestic animals, especially dogs or cats, contribute to the damage done to the environment by humans. A rough estimate based on the studies suggests that cats alone kill 200 million wild animals a year in the UK. Dutch research from 2019 reported that the carbon emissions from the food were at 1,4 and 0,25 tons a year for dogs and cats respectively. Double the household electricity, in the first case. That, plus billions of plastic bags for the poop and hundreds of millions tonnes of waste.

The U.S. Army helping Talibans and far-right terrorists

Far-right groups are behind the most terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2020. Between January and August, they have been involved in forty-one out of sixty-one “terrorist plots and attacks” (67 percent of all of them). Far-left groups were responsible for twelve (or 20 percent) of all of them.

The United States Army is using drones and planes to support the Taliban fighting with ISIS in the Afghan Kunar province while attacking the Taliban positions in other provinces at the same time. American soldiers rely on intelligence data to perform airstrikes that would benefit the Taliban the most. Such informal cooperation puts the U.S. Army in a peculiar situation: Taliban are fighting ISIS but remain allied with an arch-enemy of America, al-Qaeda. This month, Afghan security forces killed one of the senior al-Qaeda leaders, Muhsin al-Masri, accused by the U.S. authorities of terrorism.

Terrorist attacks conducted by the extremist groups related to ISIS or Al-Qaeda surged in 2020. ISIS is trying to rebuild its position in Africa, two years after the fall of the self-declared Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Now, its affiliates are growing in terms of the territory controlled, manpower and firepower, according to the journal published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. ISIS is especially active in West Africa – in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Space junk and computers heating houses

Roughly 40% of the energy consumed by the data centers is used for cooling down the computers. The heat they produce could be used for warming businesses and houses. In 2010 in Helsinki, a thousand households were connected to the heating system that used warmth from the data center nearby. Paris started to heat its arboretum with the help of data centers this year, and Facebook just finished a project that uses hot water from a server farm to heat 6 900 houses in Odense, Denmark.

TerraCycle is a company dedicated to waste that is hard to recycle. It offers waste recycling programs financed by the producers, retailers, and global brands to allow customers to collect and recycle their waste. Since its inception, TerraCycle has become a world leader in recycling. Until now, over 200 million people in 21 countries have gathered more than 44 million dollars for charity.

Since the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957, humans put another 9600 in the orbit. According to the European Space Agency, roughly 34 thousand pieces of space junk bigger than 10 cm, and more than 128 million smaller ones revolve around the Earth these days. They all come from the old satellites. Space agencies advise catching these floating trash with nets, harpoons, or robotic arms. That way, they could come back on Earth or burn in its atmosphere.

Underwater turbines and going green after a tornado

The tornado that hit Greensburg, Kansas in the U.S. in 2007 destroyed 95% of the buildings in that town. After its rebuilding, Greensburg is now a zero-emission city. All of the electricity used by the inhabitants comes from a wind farm, and the heating and cooling systems rely on geothermal energy. All the buildings are energy efficient, streets are lit with LED lighting, and there’s a rainwater irrigation system. Thousands of liters of water are saved thanks to low-flow toilets. The street furniture was designed to be drought-resistant. Greensburg was rebuilt with the use of recycled materials.

Tiny underwater turbines will be installed in the East River, New York as a testing project for creating electricity from the tides. Until now, similar initiatives faced issues like high costs and mechanical problems. The new turbines have over five meters high rotors and a capacity of 35 kilowatts each. It’s about four times more than the typical U.S. residential rooftop solar system.

The biggest in the world, the 10-gigawatt solar farm is to be constructed in Australia’s Northern Territory. It will cost 20 billion dollars and spread on about 12 000 hectares. Two-thirds of the electricity produced will be sold to Singapore via undersea cables. Australia aims to become the world leader in clean energy exports and use its desolated areas, wind, and sun to produce hydrogen and ammonia.

Babies swallowing microplastic

Babies fed from bottles swallow on average 1.6 million microplastic particles every day, according to the new study. The research published in Nature found that preparing the baby formula in the bottle (sterilizing it and then shaking the drink) produced microplastics that count at even trillions per liter of the fluid. That amount could be cut by boiling the water in a non-plastic container, cooling it, and then rinsing the bottle three times after sterilization with the hot one. Last year’s study by WHO suggested that humans swallow 300 to 600 microplastic particles a day. The new research found this number to be higher by several orders of magnitude.

Scientists suggest that people should eat more jellyfish instead of fish. With over 90 species of endangered fish being industrially and legally caught, jellyfish could be a more eco-friendly alternative. Because biologically jellyfish are clones of each other, harvesting it is more comparable to picking apples, without destroying the trees, rather than hunting or fishing. Numerous species of jellyfish are edible. They contain around 43 calories per 100 grams of serving and have been used in various local cuisines for thousands of years. If people are to look at jellyfish as a source of food, the harvesting has to be managed sustainably.

The European Parliament voted against the ban of using the meat-related names for vegetarian products and products not containing meat. The proposed amendment prohibited giving the names like “burger”, “sausage”, “cheese alternative” and others to the plant-based products.

Tactics of protests in Poland and Thailand

In Poland, thousands of protesters are disrupting church services and blocking traffic across the country after the country’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that terminating a pregnancy due to congenital fetal defects is “unconstitutional”. The decision further limited what was already Europe’s second strictest abortion legislation and came under heavy criticism from the general public, intellectuals, politicians, doctors, and celebrities. In the past Polish Constitutional Tribunal was itself a subject of controversies and even concern from the EU over the legality of the way the ruling PiS party appointed its judges. Now, there’s a broad perception that the decision is coming from the government. The ruling sparked massive demonstrations amid the rising pandemic problems in the country.

Protesters in Thailand are taking inspiration from the protests in Hong Kong and draw from the experience there. They use translated Hongkongese guides on preparing, mimic some of the tactics employed there, and use similar online communication to gather and organize themselves. Protesters from both countries also support each other in what is called the “Milk Tea Alliance”.

Facial recognition, a tool that until now was associated with the governments, is now used by the activists. In Portland, US, a man is developing a system that would allow to identify police officers after they started to cover their names during the protests. Similar solutions were developed in France and Hong Kong – with both being taken down. The first after the intervention of the French interior minister, the second after the arrest of its developer.