Herbaceous Innovation

In mine fields and at home, specially engineered plants are helping to keep us safe.

Technological breakthroughs don't have to involve high-tech gadgetry or chemical compounds: While some are busy shrinking microchips and expanding wireless networks, there is also cutting-edge experimentation happening in the comparatively stodgy world of plants.Green Light is an LED ceiling lamp (powered by its own solar panel) with an integrated terrarium of plants that cleanse the air of common indoor pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene, and other poisonous compounds. Designed by Natalie Jeremijenko, Amelia Amon, and Will Kavesh of NYU's Xdesign Environmental Health Clinic and Lab, the lamp produces a light spectrum that catalyzes the plants' chlorophyll, letting the grasses, mosses, and leafy greens suck up chemicals that seep out of home and office furnishings.Offering a more aggressive sort of protection is a kind of biosensor-a weed known as Thales cress-that has been genetically modified to provide a natural warning in the presence of land mines. Thales cress is inherently sensitive to nitrogen dioxide, a chemical byproduct of land mines. The Copenhagen-based biotech company Aresa tweaked the weed's genes so that its leaves would turn from their natural green to bright red in the presence of latent explosives. Field tests have thus far been successful, meaning traditional methods of human and canine mine detection may soon have a less dangerous alternative.LEARN MORE aresa.xkRx Green Light is only available by prescription from NYU's Environmental Health Clinic. Make an appointment at
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet