Nebia via Kickstarter
Nebia via Kickstarter

Tech Giants Are Investing in This Water-Saving Shower Head

Nebia via Kickstarter
Nebia via Kickstarter

California is entering the fourth year of its historic drought, and the situation in the Golden State continues to look grim. While some Californians have taken modest steps toward conservation, such as letting their lawns dry up and flushing their toilets less often, others in rural parts of the state have had to cope with dry wells and “third-world-type conditions.” To prevent the situation from becoming even more dire, residents throughout the state—and in other parts of the world—need to radically change the ways they consume water. The creators of a new, high-tech shower head believe they can help.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s family foundation, and thousands of Kickstarter backers are among those who've invested money in the highly-efficient Nebia shower head. The ingenuity of the product lies in the way it disperses water: it atomizes it to create millions of small droplets that cover 10 times the surface area of a conventional shower. The heavy mist washes just as well as a typical shower stream, while using 70 percent less water in the process. 

Americans spend an average of eight minutes a day in the shower, which adds up to 20 gallons of water with a traditional shower head. The founders of Nebia (a spin on the Italian word for “mist”) saw this area as an untapped opportunity for innovation. Now, after five years of testing, Nebia is preparing to release their product into the commercial market. 

Even after receiving major investments from two of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, the company took their idea to Kickstarter to gauge public interest. In just two days they raised $1.3 million, dwarfing their initial goal of $100,000. 

With an estimated retail price of $399, it’s unlikely that there'll be a Nebia shower head in every California bathroom anytime soon. But for those who can afford it, it's a simple way to conserve water and an important step in the right direction. Advance orders can be purchased for $299 with delivery set to start in May 2016. Until then, the shower heads can be found in Equinox Gyms or on the Google and Apple campuses. 

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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iStock
This Self-Cloning Tick is Terrorizing More States
iStock
iStock

Few arachnids are as demonized in the summer months as ticks, the parasitic little nuisances that can spread disease in humans and pets. That's not likely to change now that there's a exotic new species that can not only self-replicate, but is also poised to attack animals like a colony of swarming fire ants.

This super-tick is Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the longhorned tick, native to East Asia and imported to the U.S. by unknown means. The first North American sighting took place in August 2017 in New Jersey when a farmer walked into a county health office covered in nearly 1000 ticks after shearing a pet sheep that had been infested. The insect was then spotted in Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas, with caution advised in Maryland. As of this week, it’s now a confirmed resident of North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports.

H. longicornis invites more dread than a conventional tick for several reasons. It can “clone” itself, with females laying up to 2000 genetically identical eggs without any assistance from a male, a process called parthenogenesis. Reproduction is faster, with offspring appearing in just six months compared to two years for common deer ticks. It’s also an aggressive biter, nibbling on any animal flesh it can latch on to, and is able to transfer a host of diseases in the process—some of them fatal. In addition to Lyme, longhorned ticks can transmit the flu-like ehrlichiosis bacteria and the rare Powassan virus, which can cause brain inflammation.

The news isn’t much better for livestock. Given enough opportunity, the ticks can siphon enough blood from an animal to kill it, a process known as exsanguination. The attack can become so concentrated that pets have been spotted with ticks hanging from them like bunches of grapes.

New Jersey officials have confirmed the tick has survived the winter by burrowing underground, a somewhat ominous sign that the invasive species might be durable enough to become a widespread problem. Experts recommend taking all the regular precautions, including wearing long pants when outdoors, using repellent, and examining yourself and your pets for ticks. While the longhorned tick hadn’t yet displayed a taste for human flesh, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for the sheep: following a chemical treatment, she made a full recovery.

[h/t Charlotte Observer]

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