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The Best of Treehugger: Google Targets Cheap Solar, the Local Kinkos for Stuff, and New York's Craziest (Sanest) Building




Google builds its own servers because the commercial ones are too expensive. It's also building solar panels for the same reason—and by focusing on mirrors, the company thinks it can cut the cost of solar energy by 60 percent. Overachievers. (They're going to do it, aren't they?)

While we're talking about dramatic percentages, an engine developed in England takes up 50 percent of the volume of a regular engine but gives twice the torque for the same power output—making it perfect not just for electric cars but renewable energy generation, aerospace, even electric bikes. And another dramatic percentage: Yanaizu, Japan is apparently 3290 percent efficient, due to its dependence on geothermal energy.

It's getting easier to make your own stuff: Ponoko, a digital fabricator, has teamed up with ShopBot to form 100K Garages, which will link those who need something made with a community of more than 6,000 fabricators. It's kind of like a Kinkos for things.

China may be throwing up its hands on keeping a global temperature rise within a critical 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but maybe we can find some solace a bit south, off the coast of Singapore: the world's largest ghost shipping fleet sits idle—another way the recession is inadvertently keeping CO2 emissions down.

By next year, will those ships traverse the world's next Suez Canal? Global warming has melted enough ice in the Northeast Passage to open a brand new, long sought-after shipping route, altering the way goods are transported around the world.

Volkswagon showed off a 1-Liter diesel-hybrid concept car, which gets 170 MPG. Then again, in the 19th century, hillside cable cars often ran on water. And in Switzerland, they were powered by sewage.

The craziest new building in New York is also one of its sanest: Thom Mayne's Cooper Union academic building begins with an airy central atrium, an elevator that only stops on two floors, and some of the best stairs—yes, stairs—we've ever seen. And then there's that spectacular, luminous, energy-saving skin.

Kids don't walk as much anymore in the United States, but even in a city (with sidewalks and density), it can be hard to find enough space to walk. As Mark Gorton of Streetsblog reminds us, that's because we give all of our space to the least spatially-efficient or environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.

An updated version of the website e-cycler connects those with recyclable items and no good way of getting rid of them with those who can make some cash off them. And just in time: a new push for new e-waste rules in the United States reminds us that in a metric ton of old cell phones, there's $15,000 worth of metals.

Why don't we convert more salt water to potable water in places where it's needed? Pablo explains the complexities of desalinization, reminding us that the cheapest form of drinking water is the water we save.
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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

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Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture

In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

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Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

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