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Well 2010 is here, and although flying cars and Martian colonies aren’t on our immediate horizon, the world is brimming with new technological advancements designed to keep our planet clean and green. This month, Greenshoots explores a few of the out-of-this-world green discoveries made in the past year that you may have not even realized existed!

The Vehicle O’ Veggies
You’ve heard of gadgets and art made from recycled materials, but what about a 147 mile-per-hour race car? Enter WorldFirst, a British-designed racing automobile made almost entirely of recycled plastic bottles, potato starch, carrot fiber, and other random recycled materials like carbon, flax and hemp. The remarkable car is a byproduct of a grander research project aimed at developing new, super-efficient recycled materials for use in vehicles and medical care. The veggie car is an almost exaggerated testament to the amazing things we can achieve and build when green materials are re-imagined.
Learn more about the race car at the Scientific American site.

Enlist Your Cell Phone in the Fight for Clean Air
Researchers at UC San Diego have come up with a much more efficient and widespread way to track air pollution, but it relies on your participation… or your cell phone’s that is. The tracking system is called CitiSense, and plans for hundreds or even thousands of mini air quality sensors to be installed around the city (adding to the lonely five Environmental Protection Agency sensors now in use). Using alternative energy sources like solar power, the sensors will transmit air quality data to nearby active cell phones which will, in turn, relay the info to the project’s research station computers. CitiSense still has a few bumps to iron out, but with support from the National Science Foundation, city-wide collaborative efforts to conduct green research aren’t far out of reach.
Learn more about this project at the Discovery site.

Cattails Rid Drinking Water of Arsenic
Who knew a little botany and natural ingenuity could potentially guarantee safe drinking water for 57 million people? After learning how high the arsenic levels were in Indian and Bangladeshi wells (about six times the maximum safe amount), Jeremiah Jackson, a civil and environmental engineer, began studying the way cattails absorb arsenic from marshlands. After some experimentation, he developed a cheap and simple way to filter about 89% of the arsenic from a tub of drinking water. Jackson’s cattail discovery could mean safe drinking water for the 46 to 57 million people exposed to cancer-causing arsenic as estimated by the World Health Organization. What’s more, he decided not to patent his invention so it will remain freely accessible to poor countries where expensive filtration systems are hard to come by.
Learn more about this innovation at the Treehugger site.

Pandas Have a True Taste for Green
Panda bear eats bamboo stalkEveryone knows that pandas survive on bamboo (don’t worry, not the kind we use for products!), but scientists have only just recently figured out why. In 2009, 120 researchers collaborated on mapping the genome of the giant panda, or Ailuropoda melanoleuca. (The first genome in the bear family to be decoded!) They discovered that the panda has all the inner workings of a typical carnivore and should therefore be able to digest meat. However, the T1R1 gene, which allows carnivores to taste meat flavors caused by glutamic acid, appears not to function in pandas. This finding suggests that pandas opt for plants because they literally have no taste for the meats other carnivores enjoy.
Learn more about this discovery at the Scientific American site.

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