Since around 2005, at least 24 small islands have effectively vanished from the Indonesian archipelago. While sea levels are rising quickly enough to make some islands vanish (and solving long-running turf disputes in the process), these particular islands are not victims of climate change, but of ‘sand pirates’ digging them up and shipping them away to be used as building aggregates on the mainland [via Technovelgy].
Given the vast amount of stuff we put into landfills around the world, maybe we could build some new islands from McMansion rubble and consumer electronics junk?
I usually try very hard to think up my own headlines when passing on items like this, but sometimes you just have to concede that the one you found can’t be improved upon. So, enter the newest candidate for the ultimate in environmentally-friendly building materials – fungal mycelium [via MetaFilter; image by James Jordan].
Mycelium doesn’t taste very good, but once it’s dried, it has some remarkable properties. It’s nontoxic, fireproof and mold- and water-resistant, and it traps more heat than fiberglass insulation. It’s also stronger, pound for pound, than concrete. In December, Ross completed what is believed to be the first structure made entirely of mushroom. (Sorry, the homes in the fictional Smurf village don’t count.) The 500 bricks he grew at Far West Fungi were so sturdy that he destroyed many a metal file and saw blade in shaping the ‘shrooms into an archway 6 ft. (1.8 m) high and 6 ft. wide.
A promising start-up named Ecovative is building a 10,000-sq.-ft. (about 930 sq m) myco-factory in Green Island, N.Y. “We see this as a whole new material, a woodlike equivalent to plastic,” says CEO Eben Bayer. The three-year-old company has been awarded grants from the EPA and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Department of Agriculture–because its mushrooms feast on empty seed husks from rice or cotton. “You can’t even feed it to animals,” says Bayer of this kind of agricultural waste. “It’s basically trash.”
Ecovative’s next product, Greensulate, will begin targeting the home-insulation market sometime next year. And according to Bayer’s engineering tests, densely packed mycelium is strong enough to be used in place of wooden beams.
There are so many possible punchlines that I think I’ll leave you to pick your own…
With people starting to talk about the rights of robots, I thought it’d be a good time to link to the fun site ‘Let’s Make Robots’, which has a pretty comprehensive set of blog entries and guides to building your own cybertronic friend. Start at the post advising you the best way to build your own robot and work your way through some of the variety of constructions made by the team.
Of course, if you’re not in the mood for a bit of android DIY, there’s plenty of other places you can watch other people’s creations. Try the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, or the hovering Drone soon to be working for Miami Police . Alternatively, if you don’t care about robot rights and just want to watch them take each other apart, try some of the Robot Wars sites like Roaming Robots or the homesite of Tornado, the winner of the 6th UK wars. There’s even recent highlights from Japan’s ROBO-ONE, which pits bipedal robots against each other in the ring. After all, one of the Robot Wars judges thinks that we’ll be watching real battles of robots ‘within ten years’. A British group is already campaigning against autonomous robots capable of killing humans.
[picture via Let’s Make Robots of a robot by Fredrik Andersson]