You may not know this, but below the surface of many new civil engineering projects are giant blocks of polystyrene foam - yes, the same stuff new appliances or devices are often packaged in.
You see, Geofoam - as it's called in this form - is very lightweight, easy to maneuver and handle, and surprisingly strong under compression. It makes a perfect infill material where you want something lightweight that won't shift or slip, and it doesn't degrade over time - one of those occasions when plastic not being bio-degradeable is useful!
Apparently it holds up so well they unburied blocks from the 70s and then re-used them because they were still good. So, next time you see earthworks or large-scale landscaping, don't be surprised if you see giant white foam blocks mixed in with all that earth.
As we look to turn more and more vehicles electric, one sector stands out - long-distance road hauliage. Large trucks/lorries ply the roadways of the world, hauling huge loads across a road network that is still unbeaten even by the best railway networks.
Electric vehicles have one main drawback - their range coupled with their recharging time - and there's a couple of proposals to fix it. I enjoy this one, though, as it's basically just re-interpreting existing ideas - pantographs from electric railways, and trolleybuses - and applying them to road freight.
Of course, I have some questions - namely, "what happens when the cables go down", and "how reliable is the vehicle side going to be" - but I'm sure they've thought of those. With this trial happening alongside others like swappable batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, I hope we're going to hit on the right solution with one of them.
Urban design and planning is a rich field - the number of problems to solve are endless. Aesthetics, drainage, utilities, walking routes, roads, and more. One thing we could do more of, though, is designing for more than just humanity, and including nature as well.
It's more than just sticking grass on your roof (though that's a good start) - it's adding niches into the design that benefit both people and animals in our ever-growing urban landscapes. You might not think, for example, that you want a group of bats living in a nearby bat box - but you'll be very happy when they eat all the mosquitoes near you. Also, they're quite adorable, so that helps.
If you find yourself in a place where you can affect some architecture or landscaping, it's worth stopping and thinking how you can help keep the ecosystem around you happy and healthy. The article has some good ideas, but there's many more.
Victoria, in Australia, is the site of one of the first utility-scale battery packs - the Tesla "Megapack". Designed as a cheaper, smaller alternative to other energy storage technologies, like pumped hydro, it promises to significantly help power demand in the region and generally seems like a good idea.
Unfortunately, while testing it before it got brought onto the grid full-time later this year, it appears to have caught fire. Lithium battery fires are no joke - they're really hard to put out - but it looks like they managed to stop it spreading to the other batteries nearby.
I'm surprised there's not a larger fire-break between batteries built into the facility design, but maybe this is a one-off. Fingers crossed that it is, as utility-scale batteries are going to be really useful as we move more energy generation to renewables.