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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wall-E meets his Canadian DJ maker, turns into a real robot toy (video)

What do you get when you cross a dj with a "Canadian roboticist?" An almost true-to-fiction Wall-E, that's what. In this rendition of garbage-bot gone cute, amateur robotics enthusiast DJ Sures (yes, he makes music) hollowed out a U-Command Wall-E toy and fixed him up with some servo guts. The voice-activated, semi-autonomous modjob has a built-in eye camera that recognizes motion, colors and faces, coming the closest we've seen to replicating the CG-romantic. The whole AA-battery powered affair runs on the EZ-B Robot Controller software shown off by Sures in the video below. And unlike other past re-creations, this little guy knows how to get down without the need for sped up video tricks. Clearly, the Pixar-bred bot's become the unofficial icon of the homebrew robotics community, so where's his official counterpart? You listening Disney? Get cracking.

Real Live Vertical Farm Built In South Korea, Churning Out Lettuce

by Lloyd Alter
suwon korea vertical farm photo
Image Credit Rural Development Administration
We have been showing conceptual vertical farms for years, but in Suwon, South Korea they have one working and producing vegetables. It is a little three storey demonstration project in a nondescript building (image here), operating much like Dickson Despommier has described in his book, The Vertical Farm, right down to the airlocks and sterility he suggests is required.
Image Credit Rural Development Administration
Fabian Kretschmer and Malte E. Kollenberg write in Spiegel Online:

Every person who steps foot in the Suwon vertical farm must first pass through an "air shower" to keep outside germs and bacteria from influencing the scientific experiment.....Heads of lettuce are lined up in stacked layers. At the very bottom, small seedlings are thriving while, further up, there are riper plants almost ready to be picked. Unlike in conventional greenhouses, the one in Suwon uses no pesticides between the sowing and harvest periods, and all water is recycled. This makes the facility completely organic. It is also far more productive than a conventional greenhouse.
The authors tour many of the vertical farms that we have shown on TreeHugger, and note what has traditionally been considered the major difficulty:
The main problem is light -- in particular, the fact that sunlight has to be replaced by LEDs. According to [agriculture researcher Stan] Cox's calculations, if you wanted to replace all of the wheat cultivation in the US for an entire year using vertical farming, you would need eight times the amount of electricity generated by all the power plants in the US over a single year -- and that's just for powering the lighting. It gets even more difficult if you intend to rely exclusively on renewable energies to supply this power, as Despommier hopes to do.
But that is no longer necessarily true. Speigel Online has missed the recent work of vertical farm pioneer Gordon Graff, who's thesis at the University of Waterloo looked at the issue of energy and lighting, and has made a plausible solution for dealing with it. Here is what he proposed:
A vertical farm must be able to produce enough food to cover the cost of its day to day operations and, ultimately, the capital cost of the building's construction (or renovation). While this is clearly dependent on some factors outside the realm of architectonics, such as the market price of food and current state of grow-lighting technology, the physical arrangement of the building can have a profound impact.
gordon graff skyfarm vertical farm image
For the purposes of the thesis, Graff concentrates on one form of hydroponic system, a a drum system like the Omega Garden, seen on TreeHugger here and here. In terms of yield per kWh it is probably the most efficient system available. He packs it all into a 14,700 square meter building.
The drums are stacked three high,
gordon graff skyfarm vertical farm image
The drums are then are arranged on the production floor. An automated system extracts the drums and moves them to the ground floor via special dumb-waiters for harvesting.
On the ground floor, the contents are harvested and shipped and the drums are then returned to the growing floors. While the drum system is the most efficient available in terms of electrical consumption, it still adds up to a huge number.
gordon graff skyfarm vertical farm image
But the lights aren't the only thing sucking up juice; plants transpire a huge amount of water, and the skyfarm has giant dehumidifiers to recapture it. Gordon writes:
Conventional greenhouses and other indoor agriculture facilities currently avoid reclaiming transpired water, electing to simply expel it to the outside world and consume more water to replenish irrigation levels....the incidence of water stress is widely projected to increase throughout much of the world in the coming decades. One study has calculated that if present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in absolute water scarcity by 2025, while a full two thirds of the human population will face water stress.With agriculture currently accounting for some 72% of human water use it seems likely that such steps to reduce water consumption will become a desirable provision of vertical farming in the future.
In California, an acre of lettuce sucks up between 1800 and 3500 cubic meters of water; the Skyfarm consumes 14.4 cubic meters, 1/240th as much. That is a very compelling reason to sit up and notice vertical farming.
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That adds up to a lot of electricity. But fortunately, there is a readily available source being trucked all around Toronto: organic waste from the City's green bin composting program.
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97 tons of collected waste would be fed each day into anaerobic digesters that produce methane gas, which then runs General Electric Jenbacher gas-fired generators.
click image to enlarge.
The carbon dioxide rich exhaust is then purified and fed into the atmosphere of the skyfarm to increase food production and convert it back to oxygen through photosynthesis.
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Nothing is wasted; even the little bit of nutrition-depleted waste water is run through "Living Machines", a self-contained biological wastewater treatment system designed to purify water using microorganisms, algae, plants, snails, and fish.
click image to enlarge
It is a sophisticated system where Toronto's green bin food waste is fed in one end and lettuce comes out the other end, along with digestate that is a rich fertilizer for conventional farms outside of the City.
I will not go into the pages of financial pro forma analysis, which is based on development costs of $110 million and the hypothetical sale of 25 million heads of lettuce per year into the local market; that is a lot of lettuce just to grow lettuce. But it does show that the economics can work, and as transport costs rise, our water supply gets worse and food costs increase, the economics will only get better.
Gordon's vision of the role of vertical farms in the city is powerful and persuasive. He describes how wasteful and inefficient our current system is:
Urban citizens consume food, water, and other commodities, their buildings and appliances consume electricity, and their vehicles consume fuel - the latter two also involving the consumption of raw materials in their manufacture. Without the complimentary metabolic functions of producers or decomposers urban agents must obtain these resources from sources found outside the community, while also creating wastes of little use to the community, forming the traditional input and output externalities of urban life.
gordon graff skyfarm vertical farm image
Instead, the vertical farm is part of a closed system.
Vertical farming would increase a city's resilience to the more long- term, systemic alterations that human society is widely expected to experience in the coming decades. With vertical farming's maximally efficient resource use and functional segregation from the natural world, cities could achieve food security amidst the environmental transformations and resource shortages that would cripple a conventional urban food network.
If I have one complaint about the project, and the role of vertical farms in cities, it would be that Gordon did not think big enough. The creative leap that Gordon makes is to tie the vertical farm into the city's organic waste system, but there is a really good reason to put this in the middle of a sea of condominiums: It could act as a giant purification system. Imagine if all of those buildings had vacuum waste systems delivering organic waste, urine separating toilets to deliver phosphorus, gray water systems to supply the plants, which then return pure water through the dehumidifiers. It feeds the city and processes its waste in a closed loop.
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Gordon Graff defending his thesis. Image Credit Lloyd Alter
Gordon Graff's thesis is not fully resolved. Architecturally it is not the eye candy that makes so many vertical farm proposals so delicious. But so far as I can tell (and I have looked at a lot of vertical farm proposals) it is the first time that anyone has made a plausible case for why one would want to put a vertical farm in the middle of a city, and shown how it might really work technically and economically. The vertical farm is no longer just pie in the sky.

Disney doppelgangers: The copy and paste guide to animation


We're not ashamed to admit that we're big Disney fans here at Stylist. Having grown up in the days before Pixar and CGI animation, classics such as Snow White, Robin Hood and The Lion King are a treasured part of our DVD collection. So we felt just a touch disappointed to discover not all of our favourite films were hand-crafted from scratch.

Given that it used to take around three years to make a traditional, hand-drawn animated film, Disney's team no doubt rellished the opportunity to cut a few corners. The easiest way to do it? The 'copy and paste' trick - copy a scene that works, draw in new characters, and hey presto: a "brand new" Disney film from an old clip. A seemingly easy win which went completely unnoticed by viewers - until now, as the YouTube video below of the most obvious Disney doppelgangers shows...

Cool Off with Most Beautiful Waves Ever

by Jaymi Heimbuch
clark little waves slideshow phot

In case you haven't noticed, there's quite a heat wave happening in several parts of the world, including along the East Coast of the US where temperatures hit record highs yesterday. If you're looking for a way to beat the heat, even if just mentally, we have a perfect solution.

Clark Little is a photographer with a gift for capturing the ocean at its most extraordinary. He literally dives into his work, with a special camera to capture waves with amazing color, detail, and movement. Check out some of the most breath-taking photos of waves you'll ever see, and cool down in the process.
Most Beautiful Waves...Ever

The Worst Theme Parks in the World

By Justin Thomas

Summer is a great time to toss the family in the minivan, pick up a week’s worth of Ritz crackers and gummy worms, and hit the open road for a good ol’ fashioned family vacation. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the few Americans who can afford a vacation this year, there are plenty of awesome theme parks to choose from. There are also a few really crappy amusement parks that you should try to avoid at all costs. Here are the 10 Worst Theme Parks in the World:


South Korea
lovelandEverybody likes porn, so why haven’t they ever made a theme park of it? That’s exactly what some people in South Korea thought in 2004, aso they came up with the best idea ever: a porn-themed amusement park! Located on Jeju Island, South Korea, Loveland is an outdoor park that features giant erotic statues portraying weird, kinky sex acts and positions. In other words, it’s not the best place to take a first date. Definitely a go-to for your third date, though.

Bon Bon Land

bon bon land
If you enjoy Bon Bons, then you’ll probably be impartial to Bon Bon Land, because it really doesn’t have anything to do with Bon Bons. As the fourth largest theme park in Denmark (which is about as big as New Hampshire), Bon Bon Land boasts an impressive collection of wacky cartoon statues and carnival rides that you could find at the far end of any Wal-Mart parking lot, along with a whole bunch of playgrounds and a “Beaver Rafting Ride” that lets users ride down a little fake river in a raft. It was listed as one of the most popular Denmark tourist destinations in 2008, but that’s like saying you were the most popular student in your home school class. It’s Denmark, so it doesn’t really count.


For those of you who have never seen a construction site before (let alone been annoyed by one that’s been working right outside of your window every morning for several months in a row), you’re in luck: you can go to Diggerland! Diggerland is England’s premiere construction-themed amusement park. How exciting! At Diggerland, you can actually sit in construction equipment like forklifts, bulldozers, and even cranes! Just in case you’re wondering, you’re not allowed to operate any of the machinery at Diggerland. You can just sit in it. So it’s kind of like breaking into any construction site, except that you have to pay for a ticket.


Y’know what sucks about Disneyland? It just doesn’t have the “Communist USSR” vibe that we’re all looking for when we set out to an amusement park. Luckily, Isgyvenimo is here to save the day! Isgyvenimo is more of a dramatic experience than an amusement park, but it’s definitely a hot tourist destination for dozens of Lithuanians who really miss the good old days when the USSR controlled every facet of their lives. Visitors to Isgyvenimo will be immediately charmed by the parks rustic “Old Soviet Bunker” feel and those who don’t get freaked out from wearing a gas mask will get to experience the ins and outs of every day Lithuanian life back in 1984, when the country was under Soviet control. In Soviet Russia, amusement park enjoys YOU!


There’s no better way to top of your summer vacation than by having your eyes raped by vibrant pastels and rounded bubbly Sanrio cartoon characters, and that’s exactly what Japan’s Hello Kitty-themed Harmonyland has in store for you. And it’s not just the collection of creepy, child-like costumed characters that will enamor your soul. If you’re a 12-year old Asian girl, you’ll absolutely love this place. Otherwise, you’ll probably hate it. The theme park also boasts a whopping 12 Hello Kitty-themed rides and a number of live shows, so you’ll definitely make good use of the Hello Kitty Japanese-to-English dictionary you’ll buy in the gift shop.

Dickens World

dickens world
If you’re looking for a solid escape from reality this summer, look no further than the mid-19th century-themed Dickens World. If you hate reliable indoor plumbing and love the smell of coal and dirty little panhandling kids with driving caps and cockneyed accents, then travel into the world of Charles Dickens. Explore a few streets modeled after the 19th century English neighborhood where Dickens lived. Look at a stunning recreation of Dickens’ house, and encounter a number of recognizable characters from famous Charles Dickens novels. Just be sure not to solicit the 1860′s English prostitutes, because as it turns out they are not real prostitutes and you will get kicked out of Dickens World, which is something that you can never be proud of.

Shijinghan Amusement Park

Beijing, China
worlds worst theme park
Just to be clear: Shijinghan Amusement Park is not affiliated with Disney in any way, and they’re also definitely not ripping off Disneyland. I can see how a common tourist might see a lot of similarities between the two parks. Both are built around giant model castles that are nearly identical to one another. Both of them feature a vast assortment of costumed characters including a black mouse with red pants, a duck wearing a blue sailor’s outfit, and a big “goofy” dog wearing overalls, but just because they’re exactly the same in every way doesn’t mean that Shijinghan Amusement Park is blatantly ripping off Disneyland, because it’s totally not. That costumed character that you think is Mickey Mouse is actually a black cat who just happens to be wearing mouse ears. And that duck is a goose…who happens to look exactly like Donald Duck. In fact, the two parks are so dissimilar to one another that everyone in China was totally surprised when Disney sued Shijinghan Amusement Park a few years ago for copyright infringement and forced them to change some of their more blatantly “borrowed” park elements. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in copyright infringement then this is definitely the park for you.


Alexandria, Egypt
Imagine what an amusement park would look like if you visited immediately after an Apocalyptic world war, in which every living thing on the planet was killed and every structure on Earth was leveled to the ground. That’s pretty much exactly what Egypt’s Fantazyland looks like. The seemingly-abandoned-but-still-charging-for-admission theme park is considered by some to be the worst amusement park in the entire world. Most of the rides don’t work, the ticket takers will blatantly rip you off, and the place is simply a shambles. Half-finished construction sites block of crudely paved trails. The “lagoon” looks more like a bubbling cesspool, and the rides are more dangerous than the inside of a porta-potty at a chili cook-off. If it were a junkyard, it would still be a crappy junkyard, so you can imagine how you’ll feel when you actually pay to see the devastation that is Fantazyland.


South Carolina
If there’s one complaint that people often voice about South Carolina, it’s that the state as a whole just isn’t racist enough. That’s why South Carolinians created Pedroland, an amusement park that was built specifically to ridicule Mexicans. There are more than enough incredibly racist attractions at Pedroland to keep even the most hatefully racist person occupied for an entire afternoon. The entire landscape is donned with traditional Mexican decor, like pink flamingos and hot tamales. And we all know how Mexicans like to make fun of their own language by using really bad puns all the time, right? Well South Carolina knows that too, and they spared no expense in utilizing only the best puns to entice your adventurous side, like the “Golf of Mexico” mini-golf course (did you get it? Golf of Mexico!). That’s just the tip of the iceberg, my amigos.

Mukluk Land

Alaska doesn’t have much in the way of entertainment, which is probably one of the many reasons why they boast the highest suicide rate in the country. What they do have, though, is something far more exciting than entertainment: they have the largest mukluk in the world. If you have half of a brain in your head, you already know that a Mukluk is a….well, it’s like a…kind of a shoe thing…kind of like a mocassin, but not exactly…it’s kind of like a non-commercialized Ugg boot. Well, anyway, a mukluk is a shoe-like thing and Mukluk Land is the proud home of the largest Mukluk in the world. But don’t just pay your admission, check out the Mukluk for a few thrilling hours, and then turn around and head home. There’s so much more to Mukluk Land! The theme park also has skeeball, mini golf, and a giant cabbage. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a giant cabbage, would you?!

From Wetsuits to Wax: 9 High-Tech Products for Sustainable Surfing (Slideshow)

by Blythe Copeland
surfing intro photo
Photo: mikebaird/Creative Commons
Surfing: Alone on a wave, it is just you and the great wide ocean. It's easy to forget the outside world -- unless you are stepping around miles of endless trash on the beach, pulling off plastic bags caught on your fins, and getting sick from the sewage that flows into the water with every rain storm.
Perhaps this sport -- one that requires skill, mental stamina, a taste for adrenaline, and gives its fans an excuse to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world -- inspires a need to hold on to unblemished beaches more than any other.
But the synthetic wetsuits, fiberglass boards, and petroleum-based waxes aren't exactly kind to that ocean surfers love so much: The nine high-tech products here ensure the waves without the environmental sacrifice.
From Wetsuits to Wax: 9 High-Tech Products for Sustainable Surfing slideshow

Pancake-making robot is awesome, made out of LEGOs

By: Jennifer Bergen

Breakfast is a special meal for many of us. Sometimes we take the time to make a nice meal with eggs, bacon, French toast, or (and?) pancakes. But before we know it that Sunday morning meal is a lot of work. Problem solved! Inventor Miguel Valenzuela designed a robot that not only makes pancakes, but it makes them whatever shape you want.

As if the idea of a pancake-making robot wasn’t cool enough, the Pancake Bot (PB) is made of 99% LEGO and 1% ketchup bottle. Yes, the nerdiness factor just skyrocketed through the roof. Valenzuela goes into some pretty technical detail on his blog about how he made the robot. For example, he used a pneumatic pump and compressed air to dispense the batter. The manner in which the batter will be dispensed is pre-programmed with coordinates, so you can chose to make various shapes. The photo below shows some pretty good-looking Mickey Mouse flapjacks.

The PB is similar in some ways to the Solar Sinter, a 3D printer that we reported on earlier this month that creates objects out of sand. Both devices move smoothly on a track to produce a final product. In this particular case, the track leads a ketchup bottle full of batter down the length of the griddle, dispensing as it goes.

It’s slightly sluggish, so if you want to make some quick pancakes, you’re most likely better off just spooning the batter yourself. But a speedy breakfast is obviously not the point of the PB.

Valenzuela’s daughters Maia and Lily helped and are credited as “assistants” on the project. We’re not sure what part the young girls had in the making of the PB, but we have a feeling it may have something to do with the eating part. Judging by Valenzuela’s blog, being his kid seems pretty awesome. Not only does he create pancake-making LEGO machines, but he also builds awesome snow sculptures of Tauntauns, AT-ATs, and a humongous, awesome looking robot.

Make sure to check out how the Pancake Bot works, oggle over his awesome snow sculptures (scroll down), and watch the PB in action in the video below.

Via Waylou

21 Photos of Celebrities And Their Doppelgangers


Have you had anybody tell you that you looked a particular celebrity? Many people have. In fact, doppelgangers are so common that you will find certain celebrities looking like other fellow celebrities. Take a look at the following pictures that show how Hollywood contains a rich supply of doppelgangers. Let us know in the comments which ones surprised you most.

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 America Ferrera/Jordin Sparks

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Peter Jackson/Jason Segel

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Renee Zellweger/Joey Lauren Adams

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 Pee Wee Herman/Alan Cumming

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 Helen Hunt/Leelee Sobieski

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 Brian Baumgartner/Greg Isdaner

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 Elijah Wood/Mischa Barton

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 Elias Koteas/Christopher Meloni

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 Krysten Ritter/Anne Hathaway

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 Josh Duhamel/Johnny Knoxville

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 Dave Coulier/Jeff Daniels

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 Brad Pitt/Robert Redford

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 Javier Bardem/Jeffery Dean Morgan

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 Zooey Deschanel/Katy Perry

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 Isla Fiscer/Amy Adams

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 Kenny G/Weird Al

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 Stephen Colbert/Bob Saget

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 Kofi Anan/Morgan Freeman

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 Daniel Day Lewis/Jennifer Connelly

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 Zoë Saldana/Thandie Newton

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 Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)/Will Ferrell