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Heroes

How do you power a solar panel without sunlight? These scientists have an awesome answer.

We might not need ideal weather conditions to generate solar power.

The more you think about it, the more it seems like solar panels were gifted to us by a strange foreign planet.


Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.


They're stronger than a hurricane, they harness their power from the sun, and they provide us with a valuable service while asking nothing in return. If that doesn't scream "the Superman of the environmental conservation effort," I don't know what does.

GIF from "Superman Returns."

Of course, there's one major catch: The amount of energy solar panels create and store can be substantially affected by weather.

Photo via iStock.

Yes, the cumulonimbus cloud is truly the kryptonite to the solar panel's Superman, to continue with this clumsy metaphor.

For some areas of the world, the push toward clean, renewable solar energy has faced an uphill battle due largely to climate constraints and regional weather patterns. With environmental experts predicting that solar energy could account for two-thirds of all new energy generated in the next 25 years, these areas are increasingly at risk for missing out on this largely untapped goldmine.

That is ... they were at risk until last month.

Scientists from China just unveiled an "all weather solar cell" that could turn even gloomy weather into glorious electricity by generating energy from raindrops.

Photo via iStock.

In a paper published by the Angewandte Chemie Journal, the scientists explained that by cloaking traditional solar panels with a thin layer of graphene — a highly conductible carbon material first discovered in 2004 — the new panels can actually break down the salt found in rain on a subatomic level.

In fact, I'll just let the experts at Science News Journal explain the nitty-gritty details of this game-changing technology:

“The salt contained in rain separates into ions (ammonium, calcium and sodium), making graphene and natural water a great combination for creating energy. The water actually clings to the graphene, forming a dual layer (AKA pseudocapacitor) with the graphene electrons. The energy difference between these layers is so strong that it generates electricity.”

Got that? Basically, we might not need ideal weather conditions to generate solar power.

Lex Luthor would be so proud.


GIF via "Smallville"

With a little tweaking, these graphene-coated cells could very well revolutionize how the some areas on our planet generate power.

But the story actually gets more dramatic from there.

Not wanting to be outdone, researchers at Binghampton University's Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science inNew York published a paper of their own on the same topic.

In their study, they were able to generate energy across a bio-solar panel using bacteria. BACTERIA, you guys! According to their research:

"Using cyanobacteria (which can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat on the planet) as a source of clean and sustainable energy ... the group connected nine identical bio-solar cells in a 3x3 pattern to make a scalable and stackable bio-solar panel. The panel continuously generated electricity from photosynthesis and respiratory activities of the bacteria in 12-hour day-night cycles over 60 total hours."

This means the weather might not even matter much for generating solar energy in the future. "This could result in barrier-transcending advancements in bio-solar cells that could facilitate higher power/voltage generation with self-sustainability, releasing bio-solar cell technology from its restriction to research settings and translating it to practical applications in real-world," the report read.

Both rain and bacteria-powered solar energy are a long way from becoming readily available, but the proof of concept under development in these projects is awesome.

People are really into solar energy right now. In fact, last year was the biggest year on record for solar energy development, with over 7,000 megawatts of solar power being installed in the United States alone. China also plans to triple its solar power capacity by 2020 in an effort to significantly reduce its greenhouse emissions, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.

But even with the solar power industry set to double by the end of the year, we're still searching for ways to undo, or at least repair, the damage that harmful coal and fossil fuels have done to our environment.

Because in the words of the (Super)man himself, "Earth is a terrific planet! But it needs all the help it can get!" Maybe bacteria and rain powered solar energy are part of the answer. I sure hope so.

Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

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Turns out we've been threading needles all wrong

If you've ever taken a sewing class then you've probably had the pleasure of some older woman telling you to stick the loose end of the thread in your mouth as an easy way to thread it through the eye of a needle. Even with the soggy thread mending together the fibers at the end, you hands still shake and your eyes go crossed while you try to get it through the tiny hole.

But it turns out that there's a much easier way to thread a needle and it doesn't involve licking it. In fact there's more than one way to thread a needle that will save you a headache from trying to see where the thread is going. There's one particular technique that has people thinking there may be witchcraft involved, but it's just science.

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We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

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Pets

What it’s like to adopt a dog, as told through a 14-part comic

Moscow-based comic artist Bird Born explains why adopting a dog changed his life.


Rescuing a pet is an amazing and heroic undertaking.

7.6 million pets go into shelters each year, according to the ASPCA. And of those pets, about 2.7 million pets are rescued by humans who give them forever homes.

Moscow-based comic artist Bird Born experienced firsthand the power of welcoming a pet into your family when he adopted a dog.

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Health

5 things I didn't want to hear when I was grieving and 1 thing that helped

Here are my top five things not to say to a grieving parent — and the thing I love to hear instead.


In 2013, I found out I was pregnant with triplets.

Image via iStock.

My husband and I were in shock but thrilled at the news after dealing with infertility for years. And it didn't take long for the comments to begin. When people found out, the usual remarks followed: "Triplets?! What are you going to do? Three kids at once?! Glad it's not me!"

After mastering my response (and an evil look reserved for the rudest comments), I figured that was the worst of it. But little did I know I would be facing far worse comments after two of my triplets passed away.

On June 23, 2013, I gave birth to my triplets, more than four months premature.

My daughter, Abigail, passed away that same day; my son, Parker, died just shy of 2 months old. Before then, I didn't know much about child loss; it was uncharted territory. Like most people, I wouldn't know how to respond or what to say if a friend's child passed away.

Image via iStock.

But two years later, I have found that some things are better left unsaid. These comments come from a good place, and I know people mean well, but they sure do sting.

Here are my top five things not to say to a grieving parent — and the thing I love to hear instead.

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Joy

A husband took these photos of his wife and captured love and loss beautifully.

I feel as if I were right there with them as I looked through the photos.

Snuggles.

When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.

The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

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