Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Elephants are actually helping to keep the lights on at the Munich Zoo. The zoo's resident Indian elephants are providing 'Elephant Energy' by creating power generated from their dung. This is achieved by harnessing what the Munich Zoo is referring to as "poo power" -- energy stored in animal waste -- which can be converted into a fuel known as "biogas."
How It Works…
The zoo has built three large containers, each capable of holding about 100 cubic meters of animal waste --which is approximately a week's worth of dung collected from all the vegetarian animals in the zoo. The dung is then mixed with warm water and the bacteria in the dung is left to decompose in an oxygen-free environment for 30 days. The resulting biogas, mainly comprised of methane and carbon dioxide, rises naturally through vents in the ceiling to a corrugated hut on the roof where it's collected in a "big balloon" which resembles a small Zepplin. The biogas is then fed into a gas-powered engine that's used to generate electricity.
"When you turn the biogas into electricity, it creates heat which we also store," Munich Zoo park supervisor Dominik Forster told CNN. "This is then used to warm the gorilla enclosure, -- but it could be used to heat about 25 homes," he added.
Apparently, dung alone does not produce all that much energy relative to its size, and by the time the food has been digested by the animal, a lot of the energy in it has been used up or burped out. However, using animal waste to create electricity, heat or fertilizer is important in helping change our mindset from dependence on one source of energy to many different complementary sources.
By Nick Glass and George Webster, CNN
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Owney was a scruffy mutt who became a regular fixture at the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. His owner was likely a postal clerk who let the dog walk him to work. Owney was attracted to the texture or scent of the mailbags and when his master moved away, Owney stayed with his new mail clerk friends. He soon began to follow mailbags. At first, he followed them onto mail wagons and then onto mail trains. Owney began to ride with the bags on Railway Post Office (RPO) train cars across the state and eventually the country! In 1895 Owney made an around-the-world trip, traveling with mailbags on trains and steamships to Asia and across Europe, before returning to Albany. Railway mail clerks considered the dog a good luck charm. At a time when train wrecks were all too common, no train Owney rode was ever in a wreck. The Railway mail clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags on his collar. Each time Owney returned home to Albany, the clerks there saved the tags. Postmaster General John Wanamaker was one of Owney's fans. When he learned that the dog's collar was weighed down by an ever-growing number of tags, he gave Owney a harness on which to display the "trophies." On April 9, 1894, a writer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that "Nearly every place he stopped Owney received an additional tag, until now he wears a big bunch. When he jogs along, they jingle like the bells on a junk wagon." In June, Owney boarded a mail train for Toledo, Ohio. While he was there, he was shown to a newspaper reporter by a postal clerk. Owney became ill tempered and although the exact circumstances were not satisfactorily reported, Owney died in Toledo of a bullet wound on June 11, 1897. Mail clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was given to the Post Office Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian Institution, where he has remained ever since. Owney can be seen on display in the National Postal Museum's atrium, wearing his harness and surrounded by several of his tags.