December 12, 2013

Sochi's snowmaking system will automatically adjust to weather     Photo: wasja/Thinkstock

Olympic Organizers Call In Shamans to Pray for Snow

550 snow-making machines on standby

As the Sochi Winter Olympics approach, Russian organizers are pulling out all the stops to generate snow in the drought-plagued mountains. Dozens of shamans have reportedly been asked to pray for powder to insure good conditions come February. But, if the snow gods don’t answer to the shamans, Russia has installed an enormous backup system, including more than 550 snow machines, according to reports from NPR.

Concerns for good snow in this year’s Olympics are valid; many of the alpine events are being hosted just 30 miles from Sochi, a town with palm trees and beaches on the coast of the Black Sea. That said, snowmaking technology has come so far, events now don’t have to worry too much about natural snow.

At Rosa Khutor, a location that will host many of the snow sport events, SMI Snowmakers out of Michigan were part of the team contracted to build the advanced snow machine. The system includes two man-made lakes and has the ability to adjust to weather.

"If they do see a cold snap coming in, even if it's only for a few hours, they can go ahead and start more than 100 machines and get the pumping plant going all within, say, a matter of minutes," VanderKelen, of SMI Snowmakers, said.

Even if the shamans fail, and the snow machines don’t work, Sochi organizers have been saving snow under insulated blankets from last winter that can used at any time.

0 Comments

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This Bike Purifies Air As You Ride

We're talking to you, China

What if your bike didn't just get you from point A to point B with optimal efficiency, but actually cleansed the air around you as you rode? Thai designers Lightfog Creative & Design Company have unveiled their designs for just such a concept; a bike with a built-in air purification system.

The bike, which currently exists in concept only, would utilize a "photosynthesis system" that would generate fresh oxygen through a reaction between water and electricity from the bike's lithium-ion battery. "We decided to design a bike because we thought that bicycles are environmentally friendly vehicles for transportation,” Lightfog's creative director creative director Silawat Virakul told Fast Company. "We wanted to add more value to a bicycle by adding its ability to reduce the pollution.”

Of course, the details of the bike's construction, function, battery life, and price have yet to be determined, but Lightfog have already won an Red Dot design award with their plans and plan to follow up with a prototype in the near future. It can't come too soon. Now that China's smog can be seen from space, the bike could have immediate widespread application.

0 Comments

Two grizzly bears in a meadow in Yellowstone National Park     Photo: Chris Sevheen (USFWS)/Wikimedia

Yellowstone Bears in Crosshairs

Panel advises delisting grizz; opens door to hunting.

Federal and state wildlife managers have recommended that Endangered Species Act protections be removed from grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, which would lead to limited hunting in the park.

On Wednesday, members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted unanimously in favor of removing Endangered Species protections on the approximately 740 grizzlies in and around Yellowstone, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will next review the intergovernmental committee's recommendation. A ruling on ending protections could come as early as by mid-2014, but environmental groups say it is too early to take the bears off the threatened list.

"The strong political pressure to remove Endangered Species Act protections from grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region should not overshadow outstanding questions about the science supporting such a decision," Bonnie Rice, an official with the Sierra Club chapter in Montana, said in a statement. "It is vital they make a fully recovery so they don't slide back towards extension."

Yellowstone's grizzlies were removed from protected status in 2007 when they exceeded the government's recovery goal of 500. They were re-listed when a U.S. court of appeals, citing climate change as having accelerated a beetle infestation that destroys the bears vital whitebark pine food source.

However, a study conducted by an interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologist affiliated with the USGS, found that "whitebark pine decline has had no profound negative effects on grizzly bears at the individual or population level."

"These scientists don't put out garbage, they have a 95+ success rate on their research. So what they put out is going to stand," Grizzly Bear Committee committee spokesman Gregg Losinski said, "The bottom line is that the goal of Endangered Species Act is to delist these bears."

According to Reuters, Dan Ashe, the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a 2010 interview that the Obama administration would seek to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzlies in the Yellowstone area.

0 Comments

Comments