It's Like Dune, But In Norfolk
Coastal erosion is a problem in many countries, and the UK is firmly in that list. When I was in school there was a lot of study of sea defences and erosion protection, and pretty much no consensus on what would actually help, apart from "stop building houses even remotely near cliffs".
Now, a years-long experiment to halt (or at least slow) erosion has concluded - and their method? Dump a load of sand in front of the thing you want to protect, in this case a rather difficult-to-move gas terminal. Well, scientifically dump, there is an actual process here!
Did it work? Well, it mostly seems like it did - good news for the gas terminal, or at least for the next fifteen years, as that's how long the solution will last. It won't work everywhere - coasts vary wildly - but hopefully, it might help save a bit more land from the ever-encroaching sea.
What's Up With America's Railways?
The USA is a bit of a conundrum when it comes to rail - a vast network that was built at great (human) expense during the frontier years, and which arguably was the backbone of travel and commerce, but which is now mostly used for freight - albeit a lot of it.
Analysing why Americans really don't use trains is something that happens on the regular, but this article hits some good points - including the current big-two problems of zoning and frequency. Worth a read if you want a bit more insight into what it might take to bring the US some actually-modern passenger rail.
The Subtle Tree Troll
When you own a bit of forest, you want to look after it the best you can. Cut down old trees, plant new ones, and figure out how to make the forest look visually appealing in the process. But what if you have a clear-cut area of land that overlooks a highway that you, say, want to be a bit more interesting than normal forest?
In Oregon, someone did just that. They planted two different species of trees in the shape of a giant smiley face - and while most of the year you can maybe make it out if you squint, come autumn, the two species of trees go different colours and bam, giant face staring down at Highway 18 in Yamhill County.
I think more forests could do with trees being planted in very strange shapes. Just don't spell out HELP by planting brand new trees - by the time it's visible, I imagine it'll be too late.
It's Very Exfoliating For The Skin, And Also Ships' Engines
There are many undersea volcanoes all around the world just having a good time, erupting occasionally, heating up the water around them to form their own ecosystems, and occasionally making sunken ships re-emerge, as we talked about last issue.
This time, though, the eruption of a volcano off the coast of Japan is spewing tons of magma into the ocean which is very quickly turning into pumice - a rock which is well known for being both quite abrasive and generally lighter than water, so it floats.
Unfortunately for Japan, a really large amount of this has floated over and blocked some ports and covered a load of beaches, leaving to several ships who tried to navigate through it with rather beaten-up props and engines, many more stuck in port or out at sea, and rather less appealing beaches than normal. They're trying to clean it up, but it turns out it can be hard to outpace an erupting volcano.
Staying Secret In The Skies
In the air, it's important to tell everyone where you are, so ATC can keep everyone clear of each other and try to stop planes hitting each other, which everyone agrees is Not A Good Thing.
Of course, people who own private jets tend not to be thrilled about the whole "you can track exactly where I fly and when" aspect of this system - be it for corporate espionage reasons, paparazzi, or maybe something altogether more criminal.
Back when it was all just centrally tracked, the FAA (in the US) would let you opt out of them sending your flight tracking information to the public - but now there's thousands of individual receivers across the US listening for ADS-B beacons and reporting to independent aggregators, so that doesn't work any more. Instead, the FAA appear to be letting you pick random unused registration numbers to fly under instead, which seems like it might work, but is my definition of a "hack" if I ever saw one.
It Seems The Urine Tube Fell Off
A bit more info on that unfortunate toilet mishap from the Inspiration4 mission - it seems that one of the tubes for the urine collection system came unplugged, and manage to distribute urine behind the interior panels of the spacecraft and partially into the fan system.
Fortunately it sounds like nothing actually made its way out into the crew space, but it's still not great to have that sort of liquid splashing around back there. Not only is it conductive, but urine can be quite corrosive, too.
My thoughts go out to the SpaceX team who pulled up the capsule's floor after launch and found the "contamination", as it's so nicely phrased. At least it sounds like they can fix it before the next launch.
We'd Write A Book About It, But...
Stop me if you've heard this before, but there's a supply shortage - this time, of paper, especially the kind you print books on.
Now, I know that paper books are not the ubiquitous thing they once were, but they're still popular and important for people without e-readers around, as well as - if you ask me - just a physically nicer thing to have.
And lest you think it's just Europe - it's happening in the US as well. I do like that the US-centric article is less about books and more about packaging and marketing materials, though - a little interesting culture bias, maybe.
Can We Actually Turn CO2 Into Something Useful?
Some interesting new research here into carbon dioxide capture - piping it through nanoparticules of gallium, and then shaking it around (in a very scientific way), turns it back into oxygen and sheets of carbon - both super-handy materials to have around and considerably better for the greenhouse effect.
Now, there's one small snag - we don't have a lot of processed gallium lying around, mostly because it's not really concentrated anywhere and so you tend to just pull it out of the result of mining for other metals (especially aluminium) since some of the filtering has already been done for you.
That said, if this does prove to be a very effective capture method that is (as the researchers claim) totally renewable - maybe it's worth going to find some more gallium. Any capture mechanism that doesn't require a consumable resource gets me interested.
You Wait Ages, And Then Two Saunas Come Along At Once
Saunas. Tranquil, serene, relaxing. Often made out of natural materials, and maybe ensconsed in a quiet valley, or next to the roaring ocean. This is probably what you picture, but Himeji City in Japan has decided on something else entirely - buses.
That's right, they're converting a set of old buses into portable saunas, and will drive them around to various places - campgrounds, rivers and the like - where one might need a sauna-on-the-go.
I particularly like that the inside still looks like a bus, complete with grab handles. No word yet on whether you'll be able to use the sauna while the bus is in motion - though if you want to get on a hot, sweaty bus, you can usually find them in most cities in the summer anyway.