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Mexican Company Turns Avocado Pits Into Renewable Source of Biodegradable Plastic

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On last year’s Super Bowl Sunday, Americans prepared upwards of one hundred million pounds of guacamole, according to the Avocados from Mexico trade group. And this past January alone, U.S. grocery stores received 217 million pounds of avocados.

Avocados are a popular fruit all around the world and the appetite is only growing – from Europe to China, consumers have grown addicted to the heart-healthy and fatty fruit, whether to spread on their toast or slice into their salads.

But what happens to all of those big, inedible, stone-sized pits?

If it’s up to Biofase, a company based in the Mexican “avocado belt” state of Michoacán, our silverware and straws will soon be made from biodegradable plastics or bioplastics based on avocado seeds.

Biofase have been using tons of avocado pits every day to produce straws and cutlery, sourcing its material from avocado processors to create what it calls “the first [products] made from fully renewable and sustainable sources” rather than the fossil-fuel-based polymers that comprise common plastics.

The technology, in the works since 2012, will hopefully meet the demands of governments and consumer markets straining under the pressures of uncontrollable plastic waste – much of which comes from single-use, disposable goods – while also helping orient companies toward sustainable business models.

The company website touts two types of its “Avoplast” products – one that is 70 percent comprised of vegetable matter, and a patented blend that is 100 percent based on avocado seed biopolymers and other biodegradable elements.

Industry experts hope that bioplastics such as Avoplast will allow for the quicker and easier disposal of products. It is estimated that plastic straws – which are facing bans in cities and states across the world – take at least a couple centuries to decompose.

According to Now Science, bioplastics manufactured by Biofase take 240 days to decompose when buried in the ground or exposed to the elements.

The company has already seen some measure of success in Mexico, while the main customers for the company are chain restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Chili’s Bar & Grill, and Fiesta Americana.

However, company founder Scott Mungia has discovered one major stumbling-block to the mass adoption of avocado-based plastics by consumers:

People are still reluctant to pay more for [a product] that protects the environment.

If we’re going to make any headway when it comes to the environment and our effect on it, it has become apparent that consumers and corporations alike may need to be willing to shell out a little more money for a sustainable, environmentally friendly option. While that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it would behoove us to make minor changes here and there today before big, harder to swallow changes become inevitable.

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Health

3D-Printed ‘Suicide Pod’ Gets Legal Approval in Switzerland, Could Roll Out In 2022

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Switzerland is among a small group of countries, mainly in Europe, that allows for people to end their own lives under strict provisions through the assistance of a licensed physician.

However, one company in the Alpine nation is hoping to streamline legalized euthanasia by removing doctors from the process through a new invention that allows people to end their own lives quickly and painlessly. And now, the device has passed an important review by Swiss legal authorities.

Nonprofit company Exit International has produced a 3D-printed suicide chamber dubbed the “Sarco,” reports  Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. The 21st-century sarcophagus-like machine could roll out as soon as 2022.

Those faced with terminal disease and other excruciating physical conditions, as well as severe psychological pain, will be able to make a clean exit from this mortal coil by lying comfortably inside the small chamber. At the press of a button, the chamber will then fill with nitrogen gas, depriving them of oxygen and terminating their life in 30 seconds.

“There is no panic, no choking feeling,” said Philip Nitschke, the nonprofit’s founder who has been dubbed “Dr. Death” by media.

The chamber is also easy to transport, allowing people to end their lives wherever they choose – be it in a cabin in the forest, at the beach, or anywhere else they might choose.

The device is controversial, however, due to the fact that it removes medical professionals from the process of euthanasia. However, Exit International hopes that it can develop an AI-assisted online exam that can gauge the mental acuity of those who wish to use Sarco.

“We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Nitschke explained.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide and live in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of helpful resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources. Resources in other countries can be found here.

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Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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