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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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Kellogg's CEO tells people to eat cereal to save money

It doesn't matter if you're a single adult or married with children, there's nothing quite like having cereal for dinner or a late night snack once in a while.

Something about it feels nostalgic but it's also really easy to fall back on when you're too exhausted to cook a full meal. There's nothing wrong with grabbing a bowl of cereal for a meal outside of breakfast. You're feeding yourself or your family a food that contains some of the vitamins a body needs.

Maybe that's the thought process Kellogg's CEO Gary Pilnick was going with when he unintentionally sparked some serious backlash. Pilnick was interviewed by CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" discussing the cereal giant's new commercial featuring Tony the Tiger. The commercial itself isn't really the problem. It features a mom holding a box of cereal with kids excitedly awaiting their cereal for dinner chanting along with Tony the Tiger's call to eat the sweet meal.

The backlash came followeing Pilnick's comments about why his company felt the need to create a commercial advocating families eating cereal for diner.

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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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Pop Culture

Monica Lewinsky reclaims the office power suit in new voting campaign

The activist teamed with apparel brand Reformation to combat voter frustration in a fabulous way.

Lewinsky partnered with Reformation for their "You've Got The Power" voting campaign

Monica Lewinsky knows a thing or two about reinvention.

The former White House intern became the source of media obsession after her affair with former President Bill Clinton become public. It solidified her place in history against her will, but through her actions since, Lewinsky has transformed her public persona into a feminist icon and champion of a powerful anti-bullying campaign.

Now, the 50-year-old Lewinsky is lending her household name to sustainable fashion brand Reformation and Vote.org in hopes to encourage people to vote this year.
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Pop Culture

Don't worry, Wendy's isn't raising prices during the busiest times. But changes are coming.

People were very upset after hearing that surge pricing may come to the local drive-thru.

A combo meal from Wendy's.

In a world where prices are continuously increasing, prominent companies are turning to surge pricing to raise prices even further during peak demand times. Uber charges people more for a ride when demand is high. Hotels have been changing prices based on demand for years and Amazon uses AI to keep prices constantly in flux.

Recently, Ticketmaster, known for charging high fees, has been charging customers even more for tickets as demand rises.

On Monday, February 26, news reports began circulating that Wendy’s, America's 5th most popular fast-food chain, would implement dynamic pricing at its restaurants. Many assumed that meant a Dave’s Double burger would cost an extra $3 during dinner time or medium fries would cost an extra buck during the lunch rush.

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Pop Culture

What is in its 'golden age' but not enough people know about it?

There's so much good out there if you know where to look.

Canva

From astronomy to knitting, some fields of human endeavor are having a heyday.

When you peruse the news headlines or dive into discussions on current events on social media, it's pretty easy to feel despondent. Doom and gloom sells, unfortunately, and our natural negativity bias that's meant to protect us can be overworked by a 24/7 bombardment of humanity's challenges.

There is an anecdote to all of that, though: Curating and cultivating the good. Sometimes it's just knowing where to look to find examples of problems being solved, discoveries being made, innovation taking huge leaps and other evidence that humans are moving our collective life forward in incredible ways.

Someone on Reddit asked, "What is currently in its 'Golden age,' but not enough people know about it?" and thousands of people responded. Reading through the answers is an enlightening and uplifting glimpse of things we might not personally be involved with but are happy to see having a heyday. Like, who wouldn't like to know that we're in a golden age of astronomy and paleontology. Space and dinosaurs? It's like realizing our 5-year-old selves' ideal future.

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