Burning Iron: An Eco-Friendly Brewing Process

beerSwinkels Family Brewers in the Netherlands recently adopted a new way to heat their brewing process: melted iron. And it’s arguably sustainable. It’s not as weird as it sounds.

Essentially iron dust is set alight, which burns in a contained system and produces heat (which is used to hear water in the brewery). Once burnt, the iron basically becomes rust, which then can be turned back into usable iron using electricity. If electricity is sustainably produced then the whole system is carbon neutral.

If burning metal powder as fuel sounds strange, the next part of the process will be even more surprising. That rust can be regenerated straight back into iron powder with the application of electricity, and if you do this using solar, wind or other zero-carbon power generation systems, you end up with a totally carbon-free cycle. The iron acts as a kind of clean battery for combustion processes, charging up via one of a number of means including electrolysis, and discharging in flames and heat.

As a burnable clean energy storage medium, iron powder’s advantages include the fact that it’s cheap and abundant, the fact that it’s easy to transport and has a good energy density, its high burning temperature of up to 1,800 °C (3,272 °F), and the fact that (unlike hydrogen, for example) it doesn’t need to be cryogenically cooled, or lose any energy during long periods of storage. 

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Stay Sane in Quarantine by Going Outside and Being Positive

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Many of us need to stay inside as much as possible to reduce the spread of COVID this winter, and with less sun and no end in sight of the pandemic staying positive can be hard. You can do it though!

We can learn from places that are cold and lack sunlight to see how they stay healthy both physically and mentally. In the Norwegian city of Tromsø they have some tips and tricks that we can all use.

But Tromsø regularly reports fewer cases of seasonal affective disorder per capita than much sunnier places. This recently piqued the interest of Kari Leibowitz, a health psychologist from Stanford University. She designed a survey called the “wintertime mindset scale,” which focused on Tromsø, plus two other Norwegian locales: Oslo, the nation’s capital, to the south, and Svalbard, home to one of the world largest populations of polar bears, to the north. Leibowitz asked locals a series of questions about the darkest days of the year, with particular emphasis on how the winter affected their mindset.

Leibowitz’s main takeaway from the study? The power of positive thinking. Norwegians employ techniques like “active coping,” “mental framing,” and “visualization” to get through tough winters. They’re still susceptible to anxiety and wind chill like everybody else, but they actively choose to view the polar night, and its surrounding months, as an opportunity. More northward Norwegians have more cause to embrace winter, because they’ve evolved to understand that they have no other choice. The most potent tool these locals have for getting through the winter isn’t hiding from it, but preparing for it, going out in it, naming it, seeing — with expectations kept low — if there might be some bright spots in all the darkness.

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Deleting Facebook Improves Your Health

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You’ve probably heard that Facebook is bad for you and shrugged it off thinking that it’s not a big deal. Turns out it is, and you really should get off of Facebook.

We all know how Facebook spies on use and profits from our secrets by selling our data. Tracking blockers and using privacy friendly browsers can help protect you from their spying.

It’s also now well known that Facebook harbours white nationalists and profits from cult-like groups (QAnon), and those too can be avoided. Facebooks real damage to your well being is more insidious than its attempt to promote radicalism and profiting from it. Facebook will make you feel awful because of what others post there.

The solution to make your life better: stop going to Facebook.

Is deleting your account too extreme? Start by limiting how often you go to the site, maybe just once a week or once a month. Definitely don’t post on the site.

“Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being,” the researchers wrote in a Harvard Business Review article. “These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year.” Yikes.

Why is too much Facebook bad for your emotional health? Previous research has shown that the social network creates a sort of false peer pressure. Since most people are cautious about posting negative or upsetting experiences on Facebook, the social network creates a misleading environment where everyone seems to be doing better and having more fun than you are. As the researchers put it, “Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison.”

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Former ICC Judge Wants to Criminalize Ecocide

Florence Mumba, a former judge of the International Criminal Court, is working hard to make ecological destruction a criminal act. Mumba and a whole team of international lawyers are focusing on getting legal definitions for ecocide and want to eventually charge people, governments, and corporations that commit massive ecological destruction. Small islands nations facing extinction due to climate change have called for this before, and so it’s really good to see that there is a concerted effort to put into international law the protection of our planet.

Sands said: “The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment … My hope is that this group will be able to … forge a definition that is practical, effective and sustainable, and that might attract support to allow an amendment to the ICC statute to be made.”

Mumba, a judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and former supreme court judge in Zambia, said: “An international crime of ecocide may be important in that individual/state responsibility may be regulated to achieve balance for the survival of both humanity and nature.”

Jojo Mehta, the chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told the Guardian: “In most cases ecocide is likely to be a corporate crime. Criminalising something at the ICC means that nations that have ratified it have to incorporate it into their own national legislation.

“That means there would be lots of options for prosecuting [offending corporations] around the world.”

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Tired? Try These Restful Solutions

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Getting enough sleep but still feeling tired? Try taking a rest.

Physician Saundra Dalton-Smith MD has identified seven types of rest everyone needs, and some people need more of a certain kind of rest. What type of rest that helps you depends entirely on your lifestyle and working conditions. The really nice thing about this approach is that sleep isn’t the focus, many people can get the suggested eight hours of sleep and still find themselves exhausted everyday.

The third type of rest we need is sensory rest. Bright lights, computer screens, background noise and multiple conversations — whether they’re in an office or on Zoom calls — can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. This can be countered by doing something as simple as closing your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day, as well as by  intentionally unplugging from electronics at the end of every day. Intentional moments of sensory deprivation can begin to undo the damage inflicted by the over-stimulating world.

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