Desalination takes an enormous amount of energy, and as the water crisis increases, the search for ways to create fresh, clean water from the vast resource of the oceans becomes more intense.
Enter Samuel Ghalan, who has plans to put pesky seagulls to good use. Seagulls have a natural ‘salt-gland’, which enables them to drink salt water. It filters out the salt, letting it run from channels in their beaks, leaving fresh water behind.
“It’s quite ingenious, really, and it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Seagulls, and other marine animals like turtles and crocodiles, haven’t got another source of fresh water. The thing is, we don’t have many turtles or crocodiles, sure, yet we’ve got a s***-load of gulls,” he says.
His proposal includes capturing and harnessing the gulls in giant ‘rookeries’ that mimic their natural roosting environment. They would then be individually subject to an operation to insert a ‘water-collector’, a custom device to divert a small amount of fresh water from the gland to a collecting satchel. The water collected is then released while the bird is resting.
“It’s only a few mils at a time. The birds don’t seem to mind. While one or two birds doesn’t yield a lot, a couple of thousand would do it. And the best thing is it’s as cheap as chips!”
Now there’s a new way to celebrate the life of a loved one, as well as give back to the environment. ‘Cemetrees’, trees grown with their roots tapped into a decaying corpse, are the latest trend to hit the posthumous.
“We mourn the dead, and cemeteries are a reflection of the sorrow felt for the lives lost looking like a sea of granite tombstones, cold and lifeless. Once the tears have dried, the celebration of the life can begin. That’s where cemetrees come in,” says Sarah Gallagher, founder of the new concept, “Why lock the blood and bone, which is excellent fertilizer, inside a casket that will take decades or even centuries to break down?”
Not just any tree will do. Sarah has specially selected a variety of shrubbery that can be safely planted without disrupting neighbouring plots.
“We get a lot of calls for evergreens, but some people like the idea of a deciduous. Fruit trees are becoming popular, mostly dwarf pear and apple, but some citrus varieties as well. They need to be pruned once in a while, so they don’t overreach the plot boundaries.”
Asked whether there was any issue eating the fruit that came from the trees ‘grown by grandpa’, Sarah replies, “That’s a matter of taste.”
Nature has inspired town planners in an unusual way. The hexagonal pattern of honey-comb is chosen by bees for the close-packed arrangement and efficient use of space and this has led city designers to create plans for blocks to be six sided.
A new ‘hexasect’ street system is being trialed in China in a bid to curb traffic before it begins. The ‘hexasect’ design was first suggested over a decade ago, yet only recently, with the aid of advanced computer generated trials, it has been shown that congestion can be reduced by more than a quarter compared with traditional square or Cartesian based road systems.
“It’s counter-intuitive to the way we would normally plan a city,” Xian Xiao, spokesperson for the HUA group in charge of planning the new town, “Yet the simulations show that there is no better way. Roads with one and only one intersection and a clear set of rules reduces the need for negotiation. It scales incredibly well.”
The new concept also allows for tighter packing of building, reducing the strain on infrastructure, leading to a more efficient city that is cheaper overall to operate.
“The naming of streets may take some getting used to, since there are no long-running streets, however we are confident that this is a minor drawback to a very enticing prospect.”
The properties of recycled paper is forcing staple manufacturers to rethink the archaic staple design.
The rise in the percentage of recycled material in paper is blamed for the recent move to redesign the common staple to create ‘Super-Staples’. More recycled material amounts in a paper that it tougher than pure pulp, says Roger Tasco, leading Technical Expert at Sawmill Papers in Hampshire, England.
“Recycled paper has come a long way: the microscopic inclusions are smaller and fewer than they used to be. You can’t really feel the difference with your hand, but to a staple it’s like passing through smooth peanut butter versus crunchy. It used to be that you could safely staple ten pages with a number 56, now that number has dropped to nine or even eight. This means more jams, more wasted staples and paper.”
Rather than forcing stationery users to upgrade their staplers to hold larger, stronger staples, Roger is behind a nationwide move compelling staple manufacturers to change the design of staples.
“We’ve found that small alterations in the manufacturing process, say by using a few microns more steel per unit and honing the tips to a razor-sharp point brings the staples back into line with their expected capabilities. And, of course, non-recycled paper doesn’t stand a chance!”
But Roger is not content to stop there. He proposes that the archaic design of staples can be vastly improved, with ideas including angled barbs, fluted and channeled shafts, a beveled top edges.
Regarding his thoughts on these new Super-Staples’ he says, “They (Super-Staples) would be good for the stationery industry as a whole, only these puppies will have to come with a safety warning. They’ll be downright deadly.”