Liquid window 💧 Soil gel 🌱 Pet boom 🐕!

Technology News

​NTU scientists develop energy-saving ‘liquid window’

Scientists have developed a ‘smart window’ by placing hydrogel-based liquid within glass panels and found that it can reduce up to 45 per cent of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning energy consumption compared to traditional glass windows. The liquid turns opaque when exposed to heat, blocking sunlight, and, when cool, returns to its original ‘clear’ state. A test revealed that the smart liquid window had a lower temperature (50°C) during the hottest time of the day compared to a normal glass window (84°C). The smart liquid window also reduces noise 15 per cent more effectively than double-glazed windows.

‘Electronic skin’ promises cheap and recyclable alternative to wearable devices

Researchers are developing a wearable electronic device that’s “really wearable”—a stretchy and fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin. The device can heal itself, much like real skin. It also reliably performs a range of sensory tasks, from measuring the body temperature of users to tracking their daily step counts. The device is a little thicker than a Band-Aid and can be applied to skin with heat. It can also stretch by 60% in any direction without disrupting the electronics inside. If you slice a patch of electronic skin, all you have to do is pinch the broken areas together. Within 13 minutes, the damage will be almost undetectable.

Science News

Self-Watering Soil Could Transform Farming

A new type of soil can pull water from the air and distribute it to plants. The atmospheric water irrigation system uses super-moisture-absorbent gels to capture water from the air. When the soil is heated, the gels release the water. When the soil distributes water, some of it goes back into the air making it easier to continue the harvesting cycle. In an experiment, the team planted radishes in two types of soil. The radishes in the hydrogel soil all survived a 14-day period without any irrigation beyond an initial round to make sure the plants took hold. None of the radishes in the sandy soil survived more than two days after the initial irrigation period.

New study finds psilocybin greatly and quickly relieves depression

A study of 24 adults with major depression finds that two doses of the psilocybin, given with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms. “The effect sizes reported in this study were approximately 2.5 times greater than the effect sizes found in psychotherapy, and more than 4 times greater than the effect sizes found in psycho-pharmacological depression treatment studies.” The effectiveness of psilocybin therapy appears after only one or two administrations. Four weeks post-treatment, 54% of participants were considered in remission, meaning they no longer qualified as being depressed.

Business News

Pandemic pet boom puts dogs, cats and other critters at the top of the holiday gift list

Pet merchandise is expected to be one of the top gift-giving categories. About half of the more than 4,000 people surveyed said they plan to purchase pet foods and supplies during the holiday season. On average, they plan to spend $90 on pet items, such as gifts for their own dog or for a family member or friend’s pet. One in four people said they plan to buy pet toys, decor and accessories as a gift. About 15% of those surveyed said they hoped to receive those as a gift. The U.S. is the largest market for the pet care industry – an approximately $53 billion market that’s projected to reach about $64 billion over the next four years.

Pandora paying all staff in full through pandemic

The world’s biggest jeweller, Pandora, has no plans for the permanent closure of any of its thousands of stores despite the coronavirus pandemic. Chief executive Alexander Lacik said the firm could “withstand a big drop in sales” before he would even start considering store closures. At the height of the pandemic, 80% of the company’s 2,700 stores around the world were closed. However, Pandora “kept its staff on the payroll”. As with many other companies, there has been a huge growth in online sales. They almost doubled, growing 89% in the three months to the end of September and accounting for 21% of the company’s $648m (£493m) of sales.

Miscellaneous News

United Arab Emirates relaxes Islamic laws on alcohol and cohabitation, criminalizes ‘honor’ killings

The United Arab Emirates announced a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalizing so-called “honor killings.” The broadening of personal freedoms reflects the changing profile of a country that has sought to bill itself as a destination for Western tourists and businesses, despite its legal system based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The reforms aim to boost the country’s economic and social standing and “consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance.”

Kerala’s capital to have world’s largest elephant care & cure centre

The Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottoor in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is set to become the largest care and cure centre for elephants in the world. The Centre is being upgraded with extensive facilities to include 50 elephant enclosures to house elephants in their natural habitat on 176 hectares of forest land in the Kottur forest area. A unit for making paper from elephant dung and a system for producing biogas from waste will also be setup. The purpose of the new centre is to give the elephants that come to the rehabilitation centre a natural ecosystem just like in the forest.

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