Scientists Suggest an Environmentally Conscious Way to Deal With Land Mines: Blow Them Up

Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images
Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images

Land mines left over from conflicts can have disastrous consequences for the environment. Most of these bombs contain volatile TNT, and when these chemicals are released they contaminate the surrounding soil and water, poisoning the plants and animals that depend on those natural resources [PDF]. A lot of time and money is invested in deactivating leftover land mines in a clean and safe way, but new research published in PLOS ONE suggests that bomb squads may be better off blowing them up.

As Gizmodo reports, the study, conducted by Australian and Scottish researchers, shows that detonating land mines ends up causing less harm to the environment than deactivating them and removing them from the ground. At first this might seem counterintuitive: How can a large explosion do less damage to the environment than a bomb that never goes off? But the violent impact of the bomb is ultimately what allows for cleaner soil.

When a land mine is detonated, that explosion disrupts the surrounding soil, causing it to become loose and porous. The new air pockets in the dirt leave room for bacteria to squirm through and consume pollutants, a process called bioremediation. Researchers found that the site of a detonated land mine had lower levels of TNT after six weeks than the site of a deactivated one, thanks to greater activity from these toxin-munching bacteria.

Previous research had mainly examined the effect of detonation on the exterior of soil aggregates. This study is the first to investigate the effects of landmine blasts on the soil's interior structure, and the findings could lead to better methods of bioremediation in polluted sites, the authors note in the study.

Land mines are a major threat in areas touched by war. There’s still no one technique used by bomb squads to sniff them out (drones and rats are just a couple of the tools currently in play), but when they are located, the new research may change the way these explosives are handled.

[h/t Gizmodo]

How to Build an Igloo, According to a Canadian Film From 1949

iStock.com/vovashevchuk
iStock.com/vovashevchuk

Centuries before you started building snow forts in your backyard, the Inuit had mastered using snow as construction material. This 1949 video, produced by the National Film Board of Canada (and with narration that uses some outdated terminology), illustrates how exactly people native to the Arctic can erect warm, temporary homes using nothing but a knife and the snow beneath their feet. The artifact was spotted by The Kid Should See This.

The igloo (or iglu in Inuktitut) in this footage takes around 90 minutes to erect, but a similar structure can be built by a skilled person in as little as 40 minutes. To put together the shelter, the two men carve up firm, packed snow into blocks that are about 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.

After the first row of blocks is placed in a circle on the ground, the builder slices a section of the blocks to create a slope. Each row that's placed on this foundation will spiral upward, creating a shape in which the blocks support their own weight. By the time the keystone block is fitted into the top, the igloo is strong enough to support the weight of a man.

The final steps are carving a doorway out of the bottom of the structure and plugging up the cracks with additional snow from outside. Even on a frigid Arctic night, the temperature of a well-insulated igloo can reach 40 degrees above the temperature outside. And the warmer the igloo gets over time, the stronger it becomes: The heat from the Sun and the bodies of the inhabitants melt the outer layers of the blocks, and that water eventually freezes to ice, giving the home more insulation and structural integrity.

If you aren't ready to build an igloo, here are some less intimidating snow projects to tackle this winter.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

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