OLPC Game Jam

Gaming Comments Off on OLPC Game Jam

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The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project is asking software coders to develop free, open-source educational computer games for the XO laptop, continuing its push toward a September launch date.

OLPC on Thursday offered a laptop prize for software teams who create new games during a three-day “game jam” scheduled to begin June 8 on the campus of Olin College, an engineering school in Needham, Massachusetts.

“The purpose of the game jam is getting people together to hack for a couple of days. Hopefully this will be the first of many,” said SJ Klein, OLPC’s director of content.

XO users already have their choice of certain games in a “Pygames” library of open-source applications written in the Python programming language, and the XO’s eToys application that allows children to create their own basic media and games, he said.

But in the game jam, developers could create new types of games that rely on features of the XO’s design such as mesh networking between nearby users, an integrated still or video camera, and a tablet mode for mobile gaming.

“There aren’t too many games right now that take advantage of mesh style networking,” said Klein, referring to the XO’s ability to use Wi-Fi to communicate with other users up to a kilometer away, and display them as icons on its Sugar interface. “There are networked games, sure, but they aren’t sensitive to the ability to display the presence of other users depending on where they are in relation to you, or to pop up on the screen when they are close enough.”

Beyond creating games that teach specific tasks like counting or reading, OLPC hopes the contest will produce templates that allow kids to build their own games, according to OLPC’s development guidelines.

original article via Yahoo. OLPC Game Jam’s official site.

William McDonough: The wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle

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Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “All children, all species, for all time.” A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of “cradle to cradle” design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world’s largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he’s designing in China.

Janine Benyus: 12 sustainable design ideas from nature

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With 3.8 billion years of research and development on its side, nature has already solved problems that human designers and engineers still struggle with. In this inspiring talk, Janine Benyus provides fascinating examples of biomimicry — the way humans mimic nature in the products we build and the systems we implement. And because the champion adapters in the natural world are, by definition, those that can survive without destroying the environment that sustains them, biomimicry can contribute to the long-term health of our planet.

Noah’s Ark rebuilt to show climate change threat

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MOUNT ARARAT, Turkey, May 23 (Reuters) – Noah’s Ark, built to save humanity and the animal kingdom in the face of a great flood, is being reconstructed in model form on Mount Ararat as a warning to mankind to act now to prevent global warming.

Environmental activists are behind the initiative in the lush green foothills of the snow-capped mountain in eastern Turkey, where the Bible says the vessel came to rest after a flood had wiped out corrupt humanity.

Volunteers are racing to complete the wooden vessel under bright sunshine by end-May, to coincide with a summit of leading countries next month in Germany where climate change will be high on the agenda.

Original Article via Reuters

Play Games With Your Brain, Literally

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Wow! This will absolutely change how we are gonna play games and communicate with the computer in the future. Imagine you can control your avatar to kick or jump with your mind, without even touching the joystick or any controller devices. Two Silicone Valley startups, Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky both have develop headsets that “tunes into electric signals naturally produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expression. It connects wirelessly with all game platforms from consoles to PCs. And makes it possible for games to be controlled and influenced by a player’s mind.” It is just like the ultimate fight as described in the Chinese Wu Xia world:

HOW would you like to rearrange the famous sarsens of Stonehenge just by thinking about it? Or improve your virtual golf by focusing your attention on the ball for a few moments before taking your next putt on the green-on-the-screen? Those are the promises of, respectively, Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky, two young companies based in California, that plan to transport the measurement of brain waves from the medical sphere into the realm of computer games. If all goes well, their first products should be on the market next year. People will then be able to tell a computer what they want it to do just by thinking about it. Tedious fiddling about with mice and joysticks will become irritants of the past.

Controlling things by mere thought is a staple of science fiction. That fiction, though, is often based on a real technique known as electroencephalography (EEG). This works by deploying an array of electrodes over a person’s scalp and recording surface manifestations of the electrical activity going on under his skull.

At the moment, EEG’s uses are mostly medical. Though the output of the electrodes is a set of crude brain waves, enough is now known about the healthy patterns of these waves for changes in them to be used to diagnose unhealthy abnormalities. Yet, because parts of a person’s grey matter exhibit increased electric activity when they respond to stimuli or prepare for movements, there has always been the lingering hope that EEG might also manifest someone’s thoughts in a machine-readable form that could be used for everyday purposes.

To realise that hope means solving two problems–one of hardware and one of software. The hardware problem is that existing EEG requires a helmet with as many as 120 electrodes in it, and that these electrodes have to be affixed to the scalp with a gel. The software problem is that many different types of brain waves have to be interpreted simultaneously and instantly. That is no mean computing task.

Original Article via Economist, Msnbc also has an article about Neurosky.

Here’s a video from Emotiv:

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Seville Solar Thermal Tower powered 6,000 homes

Greenhouse Gas, Renewable Energy 1 Comment »
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This stunning Lord Of The Rings looking PS10 Solar Power Tower in Seville, Southern Spain, is Europe’s first commercial concentrating solar power plant. Upon completion in 2013, the plant will produce enough energy to power 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville without producing one particle of carbon emission.

From ENS:

“Known as PS10, the project produces electricity with 624 large movable mirrors called heliostats. Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 foot) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity. PS10 is the first of a set of solar electric power generation plants to be constructed in the same area that will total more than 300 MW by 2013. Power generation will be accomplished using a variety of technologies.”

More related links:

Here’s an article from BBC. Inhabitat has a detailed report with more pics. Abengoa, the mother company of Solucar is creating a new U.S. subsidiary.

Australia’s EnviroMission that propose to build the Solar Tower Buronga (here’s an article on CNN Money), proposed to build a similar skyscraping solar tower in Texas.

Wikipedia articles on how Solar Thermal Energy and Solar Updraft Tower works.

New Phytoplankton Model May Revise Warming Estimates

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How can Phytoplankton, the microscopic plants that live in the ocean which perform two-thirds of all the Earth’s photosynthesis and directly affects the concentrations of CO2 in the ocean, be left out in the climate simulation model for the whole time?

Global climate models are missing a good chunk of plant information that could significantly alter long-term climate change predictions. A new technique for modeling phytoplankton — microscopic plants in the upper layers of the Earth’s waters — could reveal a much more accurate picture.

“(Other) modelers have populated their oceans with three or four kinds of plants, said Mick Follows, a researcher in MIT’s Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate. “We’ve represented a much more diverse community, and allowed it to have interactions that regulate it more naturally.”

Phytoplankton populations are constantly changing, which makes them difficult to predict. So the MIT researchers developed an algorithm using evolutionary principles to more accurately represent the microscopic plants. A more precise count is important because phytoplankton process carbon dioxide — a significant contributor to global warming.

Original Article via WIRED

Enertia’s Geo-Solar House Wins National Inventor Award

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Michael Sykes’ “Enertia” building system wins the Grand Prize in the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge hosted by the History channel.

Michael Sykes’ invention… is technology to turn a piece of wood into a thermal battery. Wood is no longer just a structural member, or just a decorative trim or paneling- it becomes a solar energy storing device, and when the house is properly configured and sited it can heat and cool itself. Obviously, the more wood the better, so the invention is especially applicable to solid wood homes. This energy from a shift-in-time is called “Enertia®” a word, like the word “Laser,” that Sykes made up and trademarked to describe the phenomenon. Enertia® Building Systems has developed a line of solid Gluelam wall homes to maximize the energy-storing potential of the wood, and to offer the mainstream appearance necessary to attract traditional housing buyers.

In the Enertia® Building System, solid Energy-Engineered(tm) wood walls replace siding, framing, insulation, and paneling. An air flow and access channel, or Envelope, runs around the building, just inside the walls – creating a miniature biosphere. Here solar heated air circulates, pumping and boosting geothermal energy from beneath the house, storing it in the massive wood walls. Thermal inertia causes the house to “float” between the cycles of night and day, and even between the seasons.

Physorg has the a list of the runner-ups winners. New York Times has an interview with Michael Sykes. And if you cannot afford to build a brand new house, Newsday.com has an article about economically greening your home bit by bit.

DIY Photo Bio Reactor

Greenhouse Gas, Miscellaneous Comments Off on DIY Photo Bio Reactor

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What the hell is Photo Bio Reactor? It is an “artificial environment for photosynthetic organisms” that basically eats the CO2 from the air. And now you can build your own for $200:

I have wanted to do this a project for a long time and with earth day this year it kinda just fit timing wise. Its really a simple and quick build, yet getting the level up in bio-friendly-geek makes this all the more fun. Now I admit that I have a lacking of unquenchable aspirations to being a hugger of trees or a crusader of tofu and hemp. But I do believe in making changes so that the poor saps that come along after me might have the world a little less badly off for them. Let’s face it, we kind of effed up the whole earth thing… But in all seriousness, once we get a good strong colony established we will be doing some testing of the amount of carbon these can remove from our environment with a C02 PPM meter.

Here’s a video showing when the gadget is working:

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What if we make a gadget that not only absorb CO2 but also produce energy? Technology Review has an article about supplying the world’s energy need with light and water.

Southern ocean carbon sink weakened

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Original article via CSIRO Australia

Scientists have observed the first evidence that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, has weakened by about 15 per cent per decade since 1981.

Dr Paul Fraser, who leads research into atmospheric greenhouse gases at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, says the international team’s four-year study concludes that the weakening is due to human activities.

“The researchers found that the Southern Ocean is becoming less efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide due to an increase in wind strength over the Ocean, resulting from human-induced climate change,” Dr Fraser says.

“The increase in wind strength is due to a combination of higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and long-term ozone depletion in the stratosphere, which previous CSIRO research has shown intensifies storms over the Southern Ocean.”

The increased winds influence the processes of mixing and upwelling in the ocean, which in turn cause an increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, reducing the net absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean.

“Combined, the Earth’s land and ocean sinks absorb about half of all carbon dioxide emissions from human activities,” Dr Fraser says. “The Southern Ocean takes up 15 per cent of these emissions, hence a reduction in its efficiency will have serious implications for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over coming decades.”

Cool list of Folding Bikes

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via EcoGeek:

Bicycle commuting rocks. It’s healthy, safe, fast, cheap and the only emission is what the biker breathes out. But it does have it’s problems. One is that bikes generally have a very awkward shape. If there is no bike rack, or if you want to go somewhere with your bike, you’re reduced to lugging a very cumbersome package around with you.

Well what if there was a bike you could fit in your trunk, that was the size of a briefcase, or that you could take on the subway. That sure would be nice.

Thus, the concept of the folding bike. You might be surprised to learn that there are actually quite a lot of these guys out there. They range from the practical to the nonsensical and from frugal to near-car prices. And today, at EcoGeek, we’re going to show you the best of the folding bikes.

Burning Man goes green!

Climate Change, Miscellaneous, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Design Comments Off on Burning Man goes green!

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2007 Burning Man‘s theme is called “The Green Man” that celebrates clean energy, green technology and environmental responsibilities. Already a festival with a strong leave no trace behind consensus, this year’s the Burning Man figure will “stand atop a structure that resembles green mountain peak. Nestled at its base, will be the Green Man Pavilion, 30,000 square feet of shaded exhibition space for the display of interactive artistic, scientific and educational models, a “World’s Fair” of emerging technologies.”

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One of the centerpieces, Jim Mason‘s Mechabolic, is an 80-foot-long slug that will process garbage and turn it into clean energy using “Gasification” technology similar to the energy-from-waste project led by researchers at Purdue University. “The Mechabolic invites participants to walk through the innards of an exploded metabolic animal and contribute their waste paper, wood, coffee grounds and food compost to the fuel making effort. Participants can watch all fuel/food processing through transparent process tanks and plumbing, as well as handle the feed and fuels at various points in the “refining” process. All in all, a fun house walk-through journey of machine digestion and respiration –from mouth to anus, oil well to gas tank, trash dumpster to carburetor plenum– with all the interstitial fun and mysteries of organic chemistry implied therein.”

Cnet has a great article explaining the projects and Eco Razzi has a detailed overviews of this year festival.

David Fisher’s Wind Powered Dynamic Architecture

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Added to Dubai’s insane architectural developments including Time Residences– a fully rotating residential tower powered by solar energy and Hydropolis– the world’s first underwater hotel, Italian-Israeli architect David Fisher unveils The Rotating Tower– a 59 floors Dynamic Architecture building which will be constantly in motion changing its shape. The building “employs wind turbines, positioned horizontally between each floors, which will produce energy to the building itself and will supply as well energy for several other buildings.”

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“The total energy produced by this inbuilt ‘powerhouse’ every year will be worth approximately seven million dollars. Each turbine can produce 0.3 megawatt of electricity, compared to 1-1.5 megawatt generated by a normal vertical turbine (windmill). Considering that Dubai gets 4,000 wind hours annually, the turbines incorporated into the building can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt-hour of energy.

As average annual power consumption of a family is estimated to be 24,000 kilowatt-hour, each turbine can supply energy for about 50 families. The Dynamic Architecture tower in Dubai will be having 200 apartments and hence four turbines can take care of their energy needs. The surplus clean energy produced by the remaining 44 turbines can light up the neighborhood of the building.

However, taking into consideration that the average wind speed in Dubai is of only 16 km/h the architects may need to double the number of turbines to light up the building to eight. Still there will be 40 free turbines, good enough to supply power for five skyscrapers of the same size.”

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More resources at Wall Street Journal, EcoGeek and Inhabitat

26 most common climate myths debunked

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Original Article from New Scientist.

Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

We can’t do anything about climate change

The ‘hockey stick’ graph has been proven wrong

Chaotic systems are not predictable

We can’t trust computer models of climate

They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

It’s been far warmer in the past, what’s the big deal?

It’s too cold where I live – warming will be great

Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

It’s all down to cosmic rays

CO2 isn’t the most important greenhouse gas

The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming

Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

The oceans are cooling

The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England

We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

Mars and Pluto are warming too

Many leading scientists question climate change

It’s all a conspiracy

Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

Polar bear numbers are increasing

Self-Powered Skyscraper with zero emissions

Renewable Energy, Sustainable Design Comments Off on Self-Powered Skyscraper with zero emissions

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German architect Eckhard Gerber reveals the Burj al Taqa, “Energy Tower“, a 68 stories high office building that powers itself through solar, wind and water installations with zero emissions.

“The Burj al-Taqa’s cylindrical shape is designed to expose as little surface area to the sun as possible.” The building is designed to act like a Thermos Flask that “have a cooling effect in the summer and retain heat in the winter.” Besides using seawater to pre-cool the air, the eco-friendly building also draws inspiration from the Persian wind towers “Badgirs“, which use “clever design to create natural air conditioning- Cool air will be sucked down into the tower while hot air will rise out.” The electricity will come from a “60-meter (197-feet) turbine on the tower roof and two photovoltaic facilities with a total area of 15,000 square meters (161,459 square feet).”

(Original article via Spiegel Online)

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