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Printing Your Own Food

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The next frontier in the fight against hunger may be manufacturing food through 3-D printers.

Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.

Food Printer

Rowan Fee/Getty

Twister

The Real Climate Lesson

It’s too soon to tell whether climate change worsens tornadoes. But the real lesson, says 'Overheated' author Andrew T. Guzman, is that we ought to ignore the noise from zealots and listen to the scientists.

It seems that every major weather-related event becomes a skirmish in the climate-change wars. The terrible tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma is no exception. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, for example, suggested a connection between the tornado and climate change. Climate change deniers responded in the usual way, with accusations of fear-mongering.

Oklahoma Tornado

Residents pass a destroyed car as they walk through a tornado-ravaged neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma on May 21, 2013. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

With respect to the connection between climate and tornadoes, things seem to have already settled down and most media discussions seem to be getting the question about right. Given the current state of our scientific knowledge, we cannot say with any confidence that climate change makes tornadoes stronger or more common. Tornadoes require two things—energy and wind shear. Climate change increases the available energy, but reduces the wind shear, making the net result hard to predict.

Military Power

U.S. Army Goes Green

Seeking to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce the cost of generating power in the field, the U.S. military has become one of the most aggressive investors in renewable energy.

This gives a new meaning to the term “military power.” The U.S. Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, is becoming more earth-friendly.

Army Solar Installation

The U.S. Army's largest solar photovoltaic system at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. (U.S. Army/AP)

The Solar Energy Industries Association released a report Friday detailing the military’s recent commitment to power 25 percent of its electricity intake with renewable energy by 2025. So far more than 130 megawatts of solar voltaic systems have been installed in military bases spanning 31 states and D.C. The panels provide enough electricity to power 22,000 U.S. homes.

Home Front

Vets + Veggies = Jobs Now

With the Marines’ former top trainer on board, the ex-newsman’s venture into sustainable farming and changing prospects for returning U.S. military launches today.

Less than two years ago, Dylan Ratigan was ubiquitous. The journalist, author, and entrepreneur’s MSNBC show was the channel’s top-rated program outside prime time, and his book Greedy Bastards was a bestseller. But the disillusioned newsman walked away last June, when his contract was up.

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Journalist Dylan Ratigan, center, visits "The Chew" on March 21, 2013. (Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty)

These days, he’s working full time with a group of combat veterans on a hydroponic farm near San Diego. Inspired by these environmentally conscious Marines, he’s partnered with Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese, the former global head of Marine Corps Training and Command, on a new nationwide job program called the Veterans Job Corps, which launches today.

NEW VINTAGE

Turning Wine Barrels into Furniture

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A page from the catalog of Barrique. (Barrique)

An Italian organization is bringing new meaning to the concept of rehabbing old materials. Barrique is turning used wine barrels into high-concept furniture—all for the benefit of a renowned substance abuse treatment facility.

Touring the downstairs gallery at SoHo’s Poltrona Frau last weekend, you’d notice two common themes: every piece of furniture is constructed from the slats of wine barrels, and each is accompanied by a photo of what looks like adult summer camp. Those adults, at work and at play, are patients at the San Patrignano rehab facility outside of Milan.

Barrique: The Third Life of Wood is the brainchild of Letizia Moratti, the former Mayor of Milan and Italian Minister for Education. The concept: recruit top international designers to create furniture from wine barrels. Send those designs to San Patrignano, where patients build the products. Sell those products for a cool $1,000-25,000. Return the profits to the rehab facility.

With top designers like Mario Botta and Marc Sadler at the helm, Barrique’s furniture has the elegance that most recycled design lacks. The curves of the casks seem perfectly suited for the contours of the human body in a swinging loveseat or a leather-lined chaise longue. And the wood’s second life as a vessel for wine has stained it a lovely burgundy, an element most designers chose to keep (though some sanded it clean).

Waste Not

Garbage In, Power Out

Landfills are generally useless, smelly eyesores. But many towns are finding new, profitable uses for the piles of junk that dot America’s landscape.

Many states and cities have long been turning trash into treasure by burning garbage to create heat and electricity, or by harvesting the methane gas that is released as junk decomposes. But in a new twist on this theme, several cities and municipalities are transforming capped landfills—the ultimate waste of space—into solar-power plants.

Capped Landfill in Massachusetts

A solar technician working on solar panels in a field, over a capped landfill in Greenfield, Massachusetts. (Jake Wyman/Corbis)

“When you get done with a landfill, that property’s primary function can no longer be used anymore. It’s a great pyramid of waste,” said Mark Roberts, vice president of HDR, an engineering company that constructs solar-voltaic landfills. “So the question is, What do you do with these facilities when you’ve filled it up. What you can do is cap the landfill in such a way that it meets the EPA requirements but gives you an opportunity to still get benefits from its use.”

Volvo’s Magic Bus

New plug-in hybrid diesel bus could slash fuel consumption up to 80 percent.

When it comes to the electrification of motorized transport, cars like the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Volt have received the most attention. But the same technologies are also being put to use in much larger vehicles.

Volvo Plug-In Hybrid Bus

The Volvo plug-in hybrid bus. (Volvo)

Volvo is testing a new plug-in electric hybrid diesel bus in Gothenburg, Sweden. The company says the vehicles can cut fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions by 75 to 80 percent compared with conventional buses. And if the buses are fueled with biodiesel, carbon-dioxide emissions would be cut by 90 percent.

Nice Try

North Carolina’s Ridiculous Tesla Ban

North Carolina wants to ban Tesla. It's not going to work.

North Carolina’s legislature is being mocked for a proposed ban on Tesla's electric sportscars. Technically, it’s a ban on automakers selling cars directly to consumers without going through a licensed dealer, but because Tesla is the only automaker that does this, it’s pretty blatantly a Tesla ban. It should also come as no surprise who’s backing it: the North Carolina Car Dealers Association, which, Slate points out, gave $8,000 to state Sen. Tom Apodaca, the bill’s sponsor.

Tesla

A Tesla Model S sits on display at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California on June 22, 2012. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

In fairness to North Carolina, they’re not the first state to try this. A similar bill just failed in the Minnesota legislature, but dealers there are still threatening to sue. The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealer’s Association already tried that, when they sued to shut down a Tesla showroom in 2012. They lost. Same story in New York. Even if North Carolina’s law goes into effect--it passed the Senate on Monday--it may not stand up to legal scrutiny. As Forbes points out, the bill would likely be ruled an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce.

WATCH THIS!

How to Eat a Cicada

Millions of little gremlins are emerging from the dirt after 17 years of hiding. So fire up the grill! We talked to entomologist Louis Sorkin about the best ways to prepare the little protein nuggets.

A feast is coming.

Any day now, millions of cicadas are going to emerge from the dirt and head up into the trees, where they will swarm, sing, mate, and then die. While they are here, predators up and down the Northeastern United States will feast. Wasps, birds, rodents, small mammals, and snakes will all dine on the Magicicadas of Brood II. But what about me? Can humans eat the bugs?

Turns out yes, we totally can. And many do!

CHARGE

Tesla Pays Back the Gov’t

The electric sports car maker is using a debt offering to repay a $465 million government loan – nine years before it is due.

Tesla Motors, the electric sports car start-up, and its founder, Elon Musk, are on something of a roll.

Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks through the assembly area at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

The company just turned its first (small) quarterly profit, and the stock has been soaring. On Wednesday, the company moved to cash in on the momentum – by issuing some $830 million in stock and debt. The company announced it would sell 2.7 million shares of common stock, plus $450 million of debt, in the former of senior notes.

Shame on You, Walmart!

With an Ohio Walmart hosting a holiday food drive for its own workers, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticizes the notoriously stingy company for not paying them more.

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THE LATEST IN BUSINESS

Congress: Hail Our Media Overlords

Congress: Hail Our Media Overlords

Forget Comcast being on the ropes over its proposed multibillion-dollar merger with Time Warner Cable. It smoothly overrode concerns at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

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