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Indian state steps up hunt for mythical glow-in-the dark plant
28 July 2016 - A state in northern India is about to embark on a multimillion-pound search in the Himalayas for a mythical plant believed to hold life-saving properties. Uttarakhand is committing 250m rupees of state money to hunt for the the herb sanjeevani booti, which is credited in the ancient [Vedic] text the Ramayana with restoring life to Rama's brother Lakshman. Ancient texts say the plant has life-restoring properties, grows in the high mountains of the Himalayas, and glows in the dark. (more)

Afghan refugees are cooking up a better future in India
28 July 2016 - A project in Delhi is giving refugee women from Afghanistan the opportunity to run a catering business. The women cook the dishes at their homes and deliver to the designated pick-up centres. Given the growing demand, there are plans to set up a community kitchen. (more)

An insider's guide to Jodhpur, India: blue buildings and green energy
28 July 2016 - Jodhpur in the Indian state of Rajasthan is home to solar power initiatives. Acknowledging the potential of solar power ( Jodhpur is commonly known as Sun City), the Indian Institute of Technology has a new centre for researching solar energy, while India's first solar train is set for a trial run from Jodhpur. Commercial establishments are increasingly incorporating solar power, having received incentives from the government to do so, and domestic homes are waking up to the idea of exploring it as well. There are also plans to set up solar parks in the city. (more)

The Africans buying sunshine with their phones
28 July 2016 - Solar-powered electricity units are removing the need for dangerous kerosene lamps and allowing Africans to stay connected. (more)

Sri Lanka to conserve climate-friendly mangroves ecosystem
27 July 2016 - Sri Lanka's government and environmentalists are working to protect tens of thousands of acres of mangrove forests -- the seawater-tolerant trees that help protect and build landmasses, absorb carbon from the environment, and reduce the impact of natural disasters like tsunamis. There are 22 species of mangroves in Sri Lanka, a third of all mangrove species found around the world. They grow in brackish water estuaries which are not favorable for other plants to grow, and create many environmental and health benefits: (more)

To reverse damage of sitting, take an hour-long walk
27 July 2016 - Researchers found that people with the highest levels of moderate physical activity -- 60 to 75 minutes daily -- erased the higher risk of death linked to being seated for more than eight hours a day. The paper was published online Wednesday in the journal Lancet. (more)

Yemen's ancient art of brickmaking endures war
26 July 2016 - Traditional mud brick tower houses have always been a source of pride to Yemenis, and over a year into a devastating civil war, they are also providing some much-needed jobs in the ancient capital Sanaa. The traditional [brick] houses of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site, are said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago. Despite the threat of destruction, a decades-long spread of concrete construction, and tight wartime budgets, the appeal of the ancient art of brickmaking remains strong. (more)

US: California governor signs bill to require registration of 'ghost guns'
26 July 2016 - California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Friday, 22 July, a bill to require anyone planning to build a homemade firearm to first obtain a serial number for the weapon and submit to a background check, his office said in a statement. The legislation signed by the Democratic governor of the country's most populous state follows his signing earlier this month of a sweeping package of gun control bills. (more)

With the creation of an all-Africa passport, a push toward African unity?
26 July 2016 - The African Union is set to launch a common electronic passport that would grant visa-free travel to all of its 54 member-states, a move that hits at the organization's long-running goal, of more closely linking nations from across the continent. 'The passport is a way to deepen the integration of Africa as one continent,' says Rita Kiki Edozie, who coauthored a book about the AU, which replaced the earlier OAU in 2002. (more)

The momentum to free hens from cages may be going global
25 July 2016 - Dozens of American restaurant chains, supermarket chains, and dining service companies have committed in the last two years to ending their use or sales of eggs laid by caged hens. On Monday, one of the world's largest food service suppliers, Paris-based Sodexo, upped the ante, saying it would switch to cage-free eggs in all its global operations by 2025. The announcement by a major international company is a sign that the rapid shift in the United States to cage-free eggs, led by consumers but long championed by animal rights activists, is going more global. (more)

AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws
23 July 2016 - Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013. Americans find common ground on other issues. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they support requiring background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through other private sales. (more)

New brain map unearths 97 new areas
22 July 2016 - Powerful software helps scientists pick out specific grey matter regions -- and all without opening your skull. A new map of the brain based on scans of 420 people has defined 97 new functional parts of the cortex -- the wrinkled grey outer shell -- more than doubling previous tallies. The atlas and software, produced by researchers in the US and the Netherlands, combines different imaging and measurement techniques to assign each cortex area a 'fingerprint' based on architecture, cell type, and function. (more)

China installed 20 GW of solar power in first-half; triple from a year ago
22 July 2016 - China installed 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday citing the country's largest solar industry lobby. China surpassed Germany as the largest solar power generator worldwide last year, with installed PV capacity totaling 43 GW as of the end of 2015. (more)

Did Rembrandt trace his self-portraits?
22 July 2016 - The 17th-century artist and other Old Masters could have exploited mirrors and lenses to achieve their detailed, life-like paintings. A pair of independent researchers in the UK set up mirrors and lenses which allow a painter to project their image on a canvas. They published their work in the Journal of Optics. Previous hypotheses on this are hotly debated. Now Francis O'Neill and Sofia Palazzo Corner's study details why the use of technology in producing portraits is entirely possible -- and in the case of Rembrandt, perhaps even probable. (more)

Mapping electromagnetic waveforms
22 July 2016 - Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second. Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and it is difficult to capture them in action. However, a better understanding of the dynamics of field variation in electronic components, such as transistors, is indispensable for future advances in electronics. (more)

Wal-Mart names eight chemicals to be removed from products
21 July 2016 - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday, 20 July, it was pushing suppliers to remove or restrict the use of eight hazardous chemicals from products including household cleaning, personal care, and beauty items. Target Corp also moved last year to remove more than 1,000 chemicals from its household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products, and has been promoting the products that comply. (more)

African honeyguide birds aid hunters in rare, sweet partnership
21 July 2016 - A small African bird that guides people to bees' nests hoping to share honey and wax responds to hunters' special calls in a rare example of a partnership between wild animals and humans, scientists said on Thursday, 21 July. Cooperation between the greater honeyguide bird and hunters was first written about by a Portuguese missionary in 1588, but was widely dismissed as pure hearsay. In recent years, however, researchers have found ever more evidence of the bond. (more)

Iran: UN chief hails Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as 'historic achievement'
21 July 2016 - In a statement on Wednesday, the UN chief congratulated Iran and the participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the first anniversary of the 'historic achievement' and commended progress made so far. On 20 July last year, the Council adopted resolution 2231 (2015), endorsing the JCPOA under which Iran pledged that it would not seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons. (more)

New mayor wants Turin to become Italy's first 'vegetarian city'
21 July 2016 - Meat dishes have been central to the food tradition of northern Italy for centuries. But Chiara Appendino, the new mayor of Turin and a force in the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), could be about to change all that. The move is unprecedented in Italian municipal government. Last year the World Health Organization labelled cured meats such as ham, sausage, and salami as carcinogenic. (more)

Newly developed wheel converts any bicycle into an electric vehicle
21 July 2016 - Right off the bat, Michael Burtov said he and his team at technology startup GeoOrbital did not re-invent the wheel. But, in a sense, they did. After two years and five prototypes, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup has developed a new type of electric bicycle wheel. (more)

US: Obama administration offers EV charging loan guarantees
21 July 2016 - The White House on Thursday (21 July) said it was expanding a federal loan guarantee program to include companies building electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, part of a broader effort to boost electric vehicle sales. The Obama administration also unveiled a partnership with nearly 50 automakers, utilities, states, and electric vehicle charging companies to get more EVs and charging stations. (more)

Why jetlag is worse flying east
21 July 2016 - Mathematical modelling of circadian cells suggests travellers' instincts might be right. Frequent travellers often insist that flying east causes worse jetlag than flying west. And, despite those who may dismiss the notion, a new study suggests that they are right. Jetlag is believed to be caused by the disruption of our body clocks -- the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm itself is regulated by a clump of brain cells known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, controlled by exposure to light. (more)

Wild birds lead people to honey if they make the right sound
21 July 2016 - In Mozambique's woodlands, the sound of sweet evolution is at work.Over the centuries humans and a wild bird species have learned to work together with a simple sound: 'Brrr-hm.' When human honey-hunters make that call, the bird called the honeyguide does its namesake job with incredible accuracy, leading people to hidden bees' nests. Scientists put this ancient practice to the test and it passed with high flying colors. (more)

New map lays out brain's cerebral cortex
20 July 2016 - Neuroscientists acting as cartographers of the human mind have devised the most comprehensive map ever made of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions such as abstract thought, language, and memory. Using MRI images from the brains of 210 people, the researchers said on Wednesday they were able to pinpoint 180 distinct areas in the cerebral cortex, the brain's thin, wrinkly outermost layer made of so-called gray matter. (more)

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