How to Build a Biosand Water Filter Using a Wood Mold

biosand filtersBiosand Filters use sand, gravel, and natural biological process to filter out contaminants in water, making it safe for drinking. They’re a great low-tech drinking water solution:

  • No electricity or running parts to operate the filter
  • Made with 100% locally available materials (unlike larger community based systems where foreign parts typically need to be imported)
  • Labor intensive NOT capital intensive
  • Very durable, can last more than 25 years if maintained properly
  • Little maintenance required
  • Very effective for removing bacteria, protozoa, helminths from water and reducing turbidity

The main problem with concrete biosand filters is they require a heavy, expensive steel mold to make. [Read more…]

DIY Tools that Serve Disabled People’s Unique Needs

low-tech hacked prosthetics

“In response to a heart attack, Cindy experienced an adverse reaction to medication and multiple organ failure. These complications resulted in amputations involving all four limbs: both of her legs below the knees and varying amounts of each of her fingers. With time, though, Cindy regained her ability to walk and started to find a “new normal.” She got great care from occupational therapists, physical therapists, physicians, and prosthetists.

But she found that the standard tools provided to her, even at a top-flight rehab hospital, didn’t facilitate some of the most important things she wanted to recover—how to write a thank you note, feed herself, put on makeup and jewelry, turn the pages in a picture book as she reads to her grandchildren. So Cindy started to design and build what she needed. From small hacks on her hand cream jar to repurposing cable ties for pulling out drawers and salad tongs for holding a sandwich, Cindy has embraced an everyday engineering ethic that she never thought possible. [Read more…]

Hand Crank Marble Machine

low-tech music“The Wintergartan Marble Machine, built by Swedish musician Martin Molin and filmed by Hannes Knutsson, is a hand-made music box that powers a kick drum, bass, vibraphone and other instruments using a hand crank and 2,000 marbles.”

Read more at Wired: Wintergatan’s ‘Marble Machine’ makes music with 2,000 marbles.

Transcontinental Old School Cycle Race

transcontinental cycle race

“In the early days of bicycle racing there was a time when plucky riders took on long hard races alone with no team cars and soigneurs to look after them.  They were hardy and desperate men who ate what they could find, slept when they could and rode all day.  They weren’t professional athletes or men of means, they were “mavericks, vagabonds and adventurers” who picked up a bicycle and went to seek their fortune.

The founders of the Tour de France wanted to create a race of thousands of miles of cycling, whatever the weather and road conditions where “even the best will take a beating”  Often they would race long into the night to distances of over 400 km each day in stages that would take more than 18 hours.  Henri Desgrange, the father of the tour once noted that “the ideal Tour would be a Tour in which only one rider survives the ordeal.”

Somewhere along the way from a variety of influences, the grand tours changed to become what they are today; a race of the elite, held apart from the common cyclist by budgets, sanctions and industry.  Don’t get us wrong, the Grand Tours as they are now are great and exciting things.  We however also like the old way where a rider can simply pick up a bike, shake hands on the start line and race thousands of miles for the pure satisfaction of sport and no other motive but for the learnings of one’s self.”

The Transcontinental is a low impact, self supported cycle race. Now in it’s 4th year, it will travel between Geraardsbergen in Flanders and Canakkale in Turkey passing through control points in the Auvergne region of France, Switzerland, the Dolomites in Italy and Durmitor national park in Montenegro. Entries for 2016 are closed, but the organisers are looking for volunteers, who will be eligible for a priority application in next year’s race.

The Internet in a Box

internet accessLow-Tech Magazine and No Tech Magazine have given permission to the WiderNet Project to distribute all of our content via the eGranary Digital Library to people lacking Internet access.

The WiderNet Project is a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill that promotes low-cost information and communication for underserved populations.

The eGranary Digital Library, also known as “The Internet in a Box”, is an off-line information storehouse that delivers educational resources to people living in underserved areas of the world.

  • In developing countries, many of the universities, schools, clinics and hospitals have no Internet connection.
  • Institutions that are connected to the Internet have such limited bandwidth that they cannot offer free Web browsing to the majority of their staff and students.
  • Bandwidth in Africa can cost up to 100 times what it costs in the U.S., so for some organizations a slim Internet connection can consume the equivalent of one-half their operating budget.
  • Even for those individuals who have the wherewithal to pay for Web browsing, the experience can be frustratingly slow — it can take hours to download a single audio file.

The eGranary Digital Library addresses these issues by moving a large assortment of educational Web documents onto the subscriber’s local area network (LAN) so that the documents can be made available to everyone within the institution freely and instantly.

Related article: How to Build a Low-tech Internet.

Driverless Cars Could Increase Reliance on Roads

google self driving carDriverless vehicles could intensify car use — reducing or even eliminating promised energy savings and environmental benefits, a new study finds:

  • A 5 to 60 percent increase in car energy consumption due to people choosing to use highly automated cars in situations where they would have previously taken alternative transport (e.g., trains).
  • People who currently find it difficult or impossible to drive, such as the elderly or some people with disabilities, will have increased access to road transport with the advent of the new systems, resulting in an estimated 2 to 10 percent increase in road energy use for personal travel.
  • Possible higher speed limits because of the improved safety of autonomous cars (7 to 22 percent) and demand for heavy extra equipment in driverless cars such as TV screens and computers (0 to 11 percent) might also tend to reduce efficiency savings.

Read more: Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles, Transportation Research, Volume 83, April 2016. Summary: Driverless cars could increase reliance on roads. Via Road.cc. Picture: Google. Previously: Self-driving cars: A coming congestion disaster?

Renewables: The Next Fracking?

“Broadly speaking, there are two groups of people who talk about renewable energy these days. The first group consists of those people who believe that of course sun and wind can replace fossil fuels and enable modern industrial society to keep on going into the far future. The second group consists of people who actually live with renewable energy on a daily basis. It’s been my repeated experience for years now that people belong to one of these groups or the other, but not to both.”

renewables“As a general rule, in fact, the less direct experience a given person has living with solar and wind power, the more likely that person is to buy into the sort of green cornucopianism that insists that sun, wind, and other renewable resources can provide everyone on the planet with a middle class American lifestyle.”

“Conversely, those people who have the most direct knowledge of the strengths and limitations of renewable energy—those, for example, who live in homes powered by sunlight and wind, without a fossil fuel-powered grid to cover up the intermittency problems—generally have no time for the claims of green cornucopianism, and are the first to point out that relying on renewable energy means giving up a great many extravagant habits that most people in today’s industrial societies consider normal.”

Read more at The Archdruid Report: Renewables: The Next Fracking?

No Tech Reader #5

“The technology has made possible undetectable and untraceable manipulations of entire populations that are beyond the scope of existing regulations and laws”

Last two links via Carolynne Lord.

Enough with the Vertical Farming

dicksondespommier“In their efforts to develop a system that sustainably supplies cities with a large share of their food, theorists and practitioners of vertical farming face insurmountable obstacles.”

“These include the limited range of crop species that can be grown; the tiny proportion of our population’s total food needs that indoor crops could supply; the elite market being targeted; and the irrelevance of indoor agriculture to the lives and diets of people living in economically stressed rural regions where the bulk of our food is grown.”

“Meanwhile, looming largest among the many factors that will restrict the growth of vertical gardening (a term I believe is more apt than “vertical farming,” given the potential scale and the types of food that can be produced) are its extraordinary energy requirements and heavy climate impact.”

Read more: Enough with the vertical farming fantasies: there are still too many unanswered questions about the trendy practice. Via The Urban Vertical Project.

Building With Salt

building with salt

“The Salt Project is a biomimetic attempt to create architecture using seawater in the desert. By using locally available resources we can grow plants and create architecture without producing waste. The idea is to pump up seawater in arid areas around the world, split it in salt and fresh water, use the fresh water for produce and use the salt for architecture.” [Read more…]