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Posts Tagged ‘elf’

Here’s a green-transportation update from the radio show Living on Earth.

“ELF stands for Electric, Light and Fun, And this particular Elf is an invention that launched with a Kickstarter in 2013. As Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer reported, it’s a human- and solar-powered, covered tricycle that aims to create a commuting revolution, and might just help combat climate change. Now two years on from the Elf’s Kickstarter campaign, its designer and developer, Rob Cotter, tells Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer how successful the invention has proved. …

“COTTER: Many years ago I was working for Porsche and BMW more on the race-car side of things — and I was living in Southern Calif. — and they were building the Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross — the pedal-powered aircraft — not too far from me, so I kind of linked up with those folks. … I became vice president of land for human-powered vehicles, I built a 62 mph tricycle about 30 years ago — and once I realized you could go highway speeds at one horsepower — I realized how inefficient everything is that we do. …

“PALMER: [Elf] uses no gas at all: just human-power, sun-power and a battery pack with a 30-mile range. It’s not built for highways though — only for local roads, and bike trails, as federal regs say a bicycle can’t go faster than 20 miles an hour. Cotter says if enough people who drive about 30 miles a day climbed out of their cars and into an Elf, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions could be startling. …

“COTTER: Each one of these on the road takes about 28 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere per year — so 100 of these on the road are equivalent to a 4-megawatt wind turbine at about 20% of cost. … The base price is $4,000 [and] we have over 400 orders or reservations currently, just from our website.

“PALMER: And that was before the Kickstarter campaign got underway — they reached their $100,000 funding goal in 12 days, and 40 people have actually paid for the vehicles. …

“COTTER: We actually worked with an organization in San Jose that trains homeless people to become bicycle mechanics, so we went there as kind of a test pilot to see who could build this and how, and in a week’s time we taught them how actually to build ELFs, and maintain them, and service them …

“COTTER: People are using them all winter long in places like Canada. They’re pulling trailers, 500, 600-pound trailers around with snow-blowing equipment and yard equipment on there. They turn them into food trucks. There’s a gentleman in Pasadena that has a gelato freezer on the back … One gentleman rode from Ontario, Canada, to Key West, Florida, on his Elf all on secondary roads and bike paths. But the thing that amazes me most I think is people with disabilities that are using the Elf to increase their mobility. So, this one woman, she broke both her legs in 20 places and doctors said she would never walk again without assistance. And she purchased an Elf, she lowers herself in it, and takes off on electric power, and when she can she goes ahead and just rotates the pedals. And six months later, she’s riding 22 miles a day and able to walk without a cane.”

More here.

Photo: Joanna Rifkin
Inventor Rob Cotter shows reporter Helen Palmer the ELF.

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Doubtless you know about fairy circles, also called fairy rings. According to Wikipedia, they’re a “naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms. The rings may grow to over 10 metres (33 ft) in diameter, and they become stable over time as the fungus grows and seeks food underground.

“They are found mainly in forested areas, but also appear in grasslands or rangelands. Fairy rings are detectable by sporocarps in rings or arcs, as well as by a necrotic zone (dead grass), or a ring of dark green grass. If these manifestations are visible a fairy fungus mycelium is likely to be present in the ring or arc underneath.

“Fairy rings also occupy a prominent place in European folklore as the location of gateways into elfin kingdoms.”

But in Africa, there is a different kind of fairy circle that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with mushrooms.

Did you catch the article by Sindya Bhanoo in the NY Times?

“The grasslands of Namibia — and to a lesser extent its neighbors Angola and South Africa — are speckled with millions of mysterious bare spots called ‘fairy circles,’ their origins unknown.

“Now, a study based on several years of satellite images describes the circles’ life span as they appear, transform over decades, and then eventually disappear.

“Writing in the journal PLoS One, Walter R. Tschinkel, the study’s author and a biologist at Florida State University, reports that the circles can last 24 to 75 years.

“The circles, which range from about 6 to 30 feet in diameter, begin as bare spots on an otherwise continuous grass carpet; after a few years, taller grass starts to grow around the circle’s perimeter.”

The reader is left with the question, Are these circles gateways to elfin kingdoms? What kind of elves are in Namibia?

I don’t understand why scientists don’t investigate matters like that.

Update July 13, 2012: Asakiyume has been tracking down stories about African fairy circles. Read this.

Update March 30, 2013: NY Times has fingered a particular species of sand termites, Psammotermes alloceru. Read this.

Photograph: Walter R. Tschinkel

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