The Lush Billion-Tree Spectacle of China’s Great Green Wall

A desert doesn’t sound like the most promising place to plant a tree. Yet, since 1978, China has planted at least 66 billion of them across its arid northern territories, hoping to transform its sandy steppes and yellow dunes into a Great Green Wall.

Ian Teh documented this epic undertaking while traveling through northern China last year. His expansive photographs show workers tending saplings, filling irrigation tanks, and blasting young trees with water. “Planting trees sounds great on paper, but you can feel skeptical,” Teh says. “But in person, it was impressive.”

The tree-planting strategy is a massive attempt to help fight desertification. Roughly a million square miles of China—a quarter of the country—is covered in sand. Drought, deforestation, overgrazing and other problems threaten an additional 115,000 square miles, fueling brutal sandstorms that regularly blast cities like Beijing and Dunhuang. Many scientists are skeptical planting trees will make a difference in the long run. But China’s State Forestry Administration claims the measure has reduced sandstorms by 20 percent and desertification by nearly 5,000 miles in recent years.

Teh lives in Malaysia but works throughout Asia, documenting humans’ impact on the landscape. Over six days in May 2016, he photographed tree-planting schemes in the Gobi Desert in northern China. They seemed successful in places like Duolun County, some 220 miles north of Beijing, where the government has planted 2.6 million trees over the past 17 years. The place felt pastoral, almost lush. Teh had to stop his car on the side of the highway and hike several minutes over dunes just to see where the wind-blown grass ended and the sand began. “To be honest, it was hard to imagine it was ever a desert at all,” he says.

For contrast, he also flew some 800 miles southwest to the Tengger Desert, one of the places in China most affected by desertification. Outside the city of Wuwei, farmers struggled to work the dry soil. “It’s incredible to see them tilling land and everything around is dusty,” he says.

His images capture the two extremes, showing the immensity of China’s problem and the unlikely, grand solution it’s concocted to solve it. They’re as surreal and otherworldly as China’s Great Green Wall itself.

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Hulu Drops Prices Just as Netflix Raises Theirs

Hulu’s cutting its subscription price, just in time for the fall television season, and right after Netflix’s own subscription price hike. The best part? Both new and returning Hulu subscribers can take advantage of the promotional discount.

The promotional discount, $5.99 per month for a year, applies to Hulu’s cheapest paid subscription plan, commercials included, and is available to sign up for until January 9, 2018. After that first year, be prepared to have the price go back up to $7.99 per month, or unsubscribe, because hey, you got through Scandal already.

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You can snag other Hulu subscriptions if you’re interested in catching up on some Bob’s Burgers, but you won’t find any pricing deals. Hulu’s commercial-free option is still available for $11.99 per month, while the live TV and on-demand streaming service, Hulu With Live TV, is available for $39.99 per month. Whether it’s worth the price to watch TV live, however, is up to you and your own viewing habits. (And at that point, you may want to just spring for cable—or another live TV streaming package—instead.)

Hulu Drops Price of Entry-Level Plan to $5.99 Monthly for Limited Time | Variety

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Researchers create a fast-sealing surgical ‘glue’ for closing wounds

Closing up wounds typically calls for sutures or staples, but neither are able to create a complete seal. And when it comes to internal injuries that are harder to get to and wounds on organs that move a significant amount, such as lungs, treatment becomes even more difficult. Sealants offer a solution to those problems, but none of those available meet all of the requirements of an effective surgical tool. However, researchers have just developed a new type of sealant that may actually check all of the boxes. Their work was published this week in Science Translational Medicine.

"A good surgical sealant needs to have a combination of characteristics: it needs to be elastic, adhesive, non-toxic and biocompatible," Nasim Annabi, an author of the study and a researcher at Northeastern University, said in a statement. "Most sealants on the market possess one or two of these characteristics, but not all of them. We set out to engineer a material that could have all of these properties." Their product, dubbed MeTro, is biocompatible because it’s created with proteins similar to those that make up elastin in humans and changing the concentrations of those proteins in the sealant allowed the researchers to create MeTro hydrogels with a range of different elasticities. Further, MeTro sets in just 60 seconds with the help of a UV light.

MeTro was tested in rats by using it to seal incisions in arteries and punctures in lungs. It was also able to successfully seal wounds in pig lungs even during repeated inflations and deflations. The next step is to test the sealant in people.

"The potential applications are powerful, from treating serious internal wounds at emergency sites such as following car accidents and in war zones, as well as improving hospital surgeries," said Anthony Weiss, a researcher at the University of Sydney and an author of the study.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Science Translational Medicine

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Amazon reportedly wants one-time access to your home for deliveries

The extensive lengths Amazon goes to deliver packages can be stymied by a different kind of last-mile problem: Thieves nabbing stuff left on the doorstep. To combat these so-called ‘porch pirates,’ Amazon is considering a new program that would give its delivery employees one-time access to your car trunk or even inside your home, sources told CNBC. But Amazon has been toying with these ideas for years, making it uncertain whether either idea will make it to consumer deliveries soon.

For car deliveries, Amazon is in talks with Phrame, which makes smart license plates with a key-storing compartment unlocks via smartphone. Then users can remotely grant a delivery person access for them to pop open the trunk. Amazon is also toying with a smart doorbell that would recognize and allow delivery persons to enter on a one-time basis.

Amazon started trying out trunk deliveries in a pilot program back in 2015, following up on Volvo’s trial the year before. Reports surfaced a year later in September 2016 that two companies connected to the shipping giant, smart lock maker August and garage door firm Garageio, were both exploring allowing delivery persons temporary entry into homes to drop off packages. Like those earlier news points, Amazon’s latest forays into house or trunk delivery were only reported via unnamed sources, so it’s unclear how seriously the company is considering these alternative methods.

Source: CNBC

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Dirty Birds Are Refining Climate Models

Enterprising researchers working at the Field Museum in Chicago dusted off a collection of Horned Larks to get a better look at the dirt trapped in their wings.
That’s because these birds, some more than a century in age, together form a unique, physical record of industrial-era air pollution. Using soot that billowed from smokestacks and onto feathers during the factory boom, two University of Chicago graduate students updated estimates of atmospheric soot levels in the early 20th centur

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Acupuncture Works by ‘Re-Wiring’ the Brain, Evidence Suggests

Acupuncture is a form of traditional medical therapy that originated in China several thousand years ago. It was developed at a time bereft of tools such as genetic testing or even a modern understanding of anatomy, so medical philosophers did the best they could with what was available – herbs, animal products and rudimentary needles. In the process, perhaps, they stumbled on an effective medical approach.
In the past century, some modernization has taken place. For instance, acupuncture

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