Tag Archives: Germany

Finally, A Solar Panel That You Can Actually See Through!

Solar power technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years. The rapidly decreasing cost and increasing efficiency of solar power has set off a solar revolution worldwide.

Germany, which is currently using solar to produce 50% of its total energy, has led the charge, along with the rest of Europe.

Other countries, like India, have made the expansion of solar infrastructure a primary focus.

The growth of solar power in the last 15 years. Click to enlarge

Now, there’s a new advancement which could end up being the tipping point in the solar revolution: a totally transparent solar concentrator.

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” can be placed over windows to gather solar power while still allowing people to actually see through the window.

The concentrator, which was designed by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, can also be used on cell phones or pretty much anything with a clear surface.

Other people have tried to design transparent solar concentrators before, but the materials they used were inefficient (in terms of energy  production) and created some pretty obvious tints on the window.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass… It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent,”

said Robert Lunt, an engineering professor at MSU who led the research.

A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)
A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)

This new solar concentrator uses tiny organic molecules that were specifically designed by Lunt and his team to absorb wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,”

said Lunt while explaining the process. This infrared light is then directed to the edges of the concentrator, where tiny strips of photovoltaic cells convert it into electricity.

Since the molecules used to capture the energy are specifically designed to not absorb or emit light within the visible spectrum, the concentrator appears to be almost completely transparent to the naked eye.

The electromagnetic spectrum. Click to enlarge

The technology is innovative, functional and versatile. Lunt believes it could ultimately become a huge part of our lives:

“It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Read the original story from Science Daily here.

Using Abstract Shapes to Capture the Motion of Legendary Olympians (Video)

Felix Deimann, a young motion artist from Dortmund, Germany, has always been fascinated with the dynamics of motion.

So for his final college thesis project, he decided to use digital graphics and abstract shapes to capture some of the most iconic athletes from the history of the Olympic Games.

His subjects: Nadia Comăneci, the first gymnast to ever earn a perfect 10, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, the legendary U.S. basketball Dream Team that dominated the ’92 games in Barcelona, and Usain Bolt, who still holds the title of the fastest man ever.

He named the project “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, after the ancient Olympic motto meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

This isn’t Felix’s first time creating awesome motion art, however.

In 2013, while still in college, he did another student project called “In Vitro”, in which he captures the earliest phases of life creation within the human body:

Felix also does some static art. Check out some of his work in the images below (click an image to enlarge):


You can check out more of Felix’s work on his website here.

Why This World Famous Gunmaker’s Newest Gun Has Gun Rights Activists Up In Arms

Ernst Mauch is a legend in the firearms industry.

In his 30 years at the legendary German gunmaker Heckler & Koch, Mauch became a sort of folk hero in the gun world, designing some of the most deadly firearms in the world, including the one which reportedly killed Osama bin Laden.

The HK-416 that is rumored to have killed Bin Laden. The gun was originally designed by Mauch while he was working for Heckler & Koch. Click to enlarge

But Muach’s new gun has turned him from hero to villain overnight in the eyes of many gun rights activists. But how could a famous gunsmith make gun-lovers mad by designing a new weapon?

Well, Mauch’s new gun, the iP1, is a “smart” gun. The gun is programmable, and can only be fired when its rightful owner is wearing a special watch that is wirelessly connected to the gun.

Mauch began working on designing smarter guns following an unfortunate tragedy in the 1990s: after a child accidentally killed one of his friends using a gun that Mauch had designed, the German gunmaker was called in for questioning by the authorities.

A Heckler & Koch poster display’s the company’s motto: NO COMPROMISE

The officers asked him a number of questions, including why the boy didn’t know that the gun was loaded or that there was a live round in the chamber.

He was questioned for four hours. Afterwards, he told his wife,

“My dear, I will never forget these last four hours.”

The tragedy weighed on Mauch heavily, as did all of the innocent lives lost due to weapons he had designed. He was a deeply religious man who knew that his career making instruments of death was somewhat at odds with his faith in God:

“It hurts my heart… It’s life. It’s the lives of people who never thought they’d get killed by a gun. You have a nice family at home, and then you get killed. It’s crazy.”

The more Mauch thought about all of the gun-related tragedies, the more he realized that the problem wasn’t with guns being bad- the problem was with guns being “dumb”.

So, while running Heckler & Koch in the early 2000s, Mauch awarded research funding to a small company working on smart gun technology designed specifically to address this problem.

In 2005, disputes with H&K over their investors prompted Mauch to leave the company. Shortly afterwards, he joined a spin off of the smart gun firm he had awarded the funding to a few years earlier. The company was called Armatix.

Mauch poses with an iP1

By 2006, Mauch and Armatix had designed the first round of .22-caliber iP1 smart guns, and set about targeting the biggest gun market in the world: the United States.

To Mauch’s surprise, however, his smart gun has terrified many gun activists in America. Their biggest worry is that once the iP1 starts becoming popular, the government will begin mandating that all guns come with these “smart” computer systems built into them.

Jim Schatz is a gun industry consultant who worked for Mauch at Heckler & Koch. He had this to say:

“I love Ernst, and his contributions to firearms are incredible…But he doesn’t understand that the anti-gunners will use this to infringe on a constitutional right. They don’t have a Second Amendment in Germany.”

Jim Schatz (left) watches as a new weapon is tested out. Click to enlarge

The NRA and other gun rights groups are pointing to a new law in New Jersey to substantiate their worries. The law mandates that all guns sold in the state must be smart guns within three years of smart guns becoming available there.

But despite all of the negative feedback from gun rights activists in the United States, Mauch is still pushing to popularize smart guns like his iP1:

“When it comes to the end, you are responsible for what you did. There will be one question asked of you: What did you do to help others? I cannot sit still. There are tragedies that could be eliminated. Bingo. End of story.”

Read the full story from the Washington Post here.

This German Soccer Star Used His $400,000 World Cup Bonus to Pay for the Surgeries of 23 Brazilian Kids

This past Sunday Germany took soccer’s most coveted title: the World Cup championship trophy.

Along with the honor and legendary status of winning a World Cup for your country, the German players received bonuses for their triumph. Reportedly, the amount was 300,000 euro ($405,775.50 US).

German soccer superstar Mesut Özil decided to use his bonus to give back to the country that hosted him and his teammates for the tournament.

Ozil holds the trophy as the team passes Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (Photo: Markus Gilliar/Getty Images)

Before the tournament even started, Özil paid for the operations of 11 sick children in Brazil. After securing the title for Germany, he announced that he would adding another 12, bringing the total to 23.

Özil confirmed the reports on his official Facebook page, saying:

“Prior to the #WorldCup I supported the surgery of eleven sick children [in Brazil].

“Since the victory of the #WorldCup is not only due to eleven players but to our whole team, I will now raise the number to 23.”

A number of players have used the World Cup as an opportunity to give back. Following a captivating 2-2 draw with Germany, Sulley Muntari of Ghana took a walking tour of the poor Brazilian city of Maceio, where the Ghanaian team was based.

Muntari shook hands, signed autographs, and handed out money to the city’s poor:

Also, the Algerian national team, following their exit from the tournament (they lost to Germany too), announced that they would be donating their World Cup earnings to the Palestinians in Gaza.

(h/t ESPN)

Did You Know… Your Skin Can Smell. And the Scent of Candlewood Makes It Heal Itself

Olfactory receptors are the cells which give us our sense of smell. The average human has five to six million of these olfactory receptors in their nose.

Though there are other creatures with more powerful noses (dogs have up to 220 million olfactory receptors), the human sense of smell is actually one of the more acute in the animal kingdom.

But olfactory receptors aren’t just in the nose. In recent years, scientists have been finding them in all kinds of strange places: the spine, the kidney- even in sperm!

Recently, a group of researchers from the Hanns Hatt’s lab at Germany’s Ruhr University of Bochum discovered that these smell cells are also in our skin. And what’s more, these olfactory receptors seem to be involved in the healing process. Their results were published in the journal Nature.

Ruhr University of Bochum

One of the olfactory receptors they found in the skin is known as OR2AT4. Furthermore, the researchers found that Sandalore (a synthetic sandalwood oil that’s often used in aromatherapy) bonded to the OR2AT4 receptors in the skin.

But rather than sending a signal to the brain when it bonded (like the receptors in your nose do), the Sandalore triggered the skin cells to divide and migrate- the two processes that your skin uses to heal itself.

In their experiments, the researchers mixed skin cells with Sandalore in test tubes and cultures for five days. They found that in the presence of Sandalore, new skin cells were created (through cell division) 32% faster and migrated 50% more than skin cells that hadn’t been exposed to the oil.

Pieces of Sandalore wood (Courtesy of PBS)

The results were undoubtedly impressive, but the researchers also pointed out that just like everyone’s noses are different, so are the smell receptors in our skin. Some people have more, some have less.

Just how much of an impact sandalwood oil has on the healing process depends on the amount and the type of olfactory receptors in your skin.

Check out the original story from PBS here.

What the Brazil vs. Germany Game Looked Like On Twitter (Interactive Map)

After Brazil was destroyed by Germany in the first World Cup semi-final yesterday, Twitter announced that the match was the most discussed game ever on Twitter, generating 35.6 million tweets.

Twitter than collaborated with the interactive map developers at cartodb.com to create an amazing map which shows the mentions of Brazil and Germany on Twitter as the game went along.

Click the image below to check out the interactive map:

BONUS: Many of you probably saw images of a devastated old Brazilian fan clutching a replica of the World Cup trophy. The man is Clovis Fernandes, often known as Brazil’s “12th player”.

What you probably didn’t see was the image of him handing the cup to a young German fan, telling her, “Take it to the final! As you can see, it is not easy, but you deserve it, congratulations!” (roughly translated)

A touching gesture to remind us what this beautiful global tournament is all about.

The NSA’s House of Cards Is Crumbling: Their German Double Agent Just Got Arrested

A man identified by media as a German intelligence officer was arrested this past Wednesday (7/2/2014) on charges of leaking information to the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far declined comment on the arrest, but her spokesman Steffen Seibert called the issue a serious matter, adding,

“I will have to leave the conclusions to you.”

German media hasn’t been so mute. Though they refuse to release their sources, a number of news outlets have reported that the man works for the German foreign intelligence service BND.

One of the gates into the BND headquarters

The double agent reportedly told German interrogators that the Americans were particularly interested in information about the German parliamentary inquiry into the activities of the NSA following the revelations that one of the victims of the NSA hacking scandal had been Chancellor Merkel herself.

The popular Bild newspaper reported that the man had been working as a double agent for two years, meeting with American officials at least three times in Austria during that span.

The double agent was reportedly paid $34,000 for hundreds of documents he passed on to the NSA. 218 of these stolen files were found on a thumb drive at the agent’s home.

Click to enlarge

German media adds that if the allegations are true, this is,

 “the biggest scandal involving a German—American double agent since the war.”

So far, the only American response was a short, “no comment” from the National Security Committee’s spokeswoman in Washington.

You would think the NSA would’ve at least tried to be a bit more careful in how they handled such a delicate operation.

It’s hard to ignore the irony of the agency getting caught spying on an investigation that was about them spying in the first place.

Meanwhile, our global image will take yet another hit because of a government agency that has shown a lack of respect for the citizens it’s supposed to protect as well the countries who are supposed to be our allies.

Read the original story from the National Post here.