Is Solar Powered Travel The Next Big Thing?

Jürgen Lison, Flickr

Using energy from renewable resources is always a good thing. But while adding solar panels to your own home might be an option, renewable energy is harder to depend on while you’re traveling. If we want to explore out of our immediate areas, we’re still stuck in a world of airplanes, cruise ships and cars after all. That might be changing.

While we probably won’t be seated on a solar powered plane across the Atlantic anytime soon, solar power is being put to use in creative ways that could have big meaning for the travel industry. And not just in high tech backpacks.

This summer, 55-year-old Bertrand Picard has spent much of his time flying in his solar-powered HB-SIA, a prototype plane with the same wingspan as an Airbus A340. Created in Switzerland, Picard’s Solar Impulse Project came to the United States in recent months, crossing from San Francisco to New York City in five stages. The goal is for a world circumnavigation with the next generation of the plane in 2015.

Picard’s not the only one.Earlier this spring, Li Linxiang and his wife Zhao Yafan, a retired Chinese couple, set off to travel around the world on their own solar powered electric tricycle. They plan to make it through China, Kazakhstan and the Middle East before wintering in Ethiopia, and then enter Europe in spring 2014. Covering the entire globe? That will take them about five years.

And while these examples may seem a little off the wall, solar power is nowadays becoming accessible to hotel guests around the world. From China to Maine to Australia, hotels are opting to power their operations with the help of the sun, and designers are working hard to come up with new ideas of how to put solar power to good use, in the hopes of greening the travel industry. Beyond hotels, there are plenty other examples of solar power and tourism coming together. This summer, New York City installed solar powered charging stations for cellphones and if you choose the right cruise line, you can even end up on a ship employing solar technology, like Celebrity Cruise’s Solstice.

So while your next non-stop flight to Europe might not be fueled by the sun, keep an eye out for emerging technologies, and watch as hopefully more businesses in the travel industry put solar power to good use.

Subway Library Opens On Shanghai’s Metro Line 2

Eduardo M.C., Flickr

If libraries can work in airports, why not on a subway line? China Daily reports that a recently launched book borrowing program on Shanghai’s Metro Line 2 has been a success.

Passengers will be able to select a book at one station, and return it to any of the other stations with customized bookshelves.

Readers do not have to pay a deposit or any rent for the books and magazines they take. Instead, they are encouraged to donate 1 yuan (16 US cents) to charity at the bookshelf.

The project is a joint effort of an online education serves and a bookstore chain, and has been seeded with more than 100,000 donated books.

[Via Los Angeles Times]

Charity Saving Animals From Illegal Dog Meat Trade In Thailand

dog meat
Dog meat for sale in Hanoi (Wikipedia)

Thailand has a thriving illegal trade in dog meat. While authorities have been cracking down on it recently, the demand is such that many dogs are stolen off the streets to supply restaurants in Cambodia and China, where the consumption of dog is legal.

Now a charity in Phuket, Thailand, is trying to save these animals. The Soi Dog Foundation has taken in hundreds of dogs seized by Thai border police and is asking for sponsors and adoptive families. Dog lovers as far away as Scotland have taken in some of the pets, but there are many more stuck in the charity’s bursting facilities.

While stealing pets and smuggling them across the border is certainly wrong, not to mention illegal, is eating dog meat wrong? Different cultures have different standards as to what food is OK and what isn’t. Hindus will tell you that eating any meat is wrong, and that eating beef is the worst of all. In Slovenia, they eat horse burgers, and while I’ve always loved horses I did give them a try. Horses are no less intelligent, loving and loyal than dogs, so what’s the problem? Is it all a matter of perspective? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Want to read about some more shocking foods? Check out our post on the weird things people eat around the world.

Chinese Zoo Thinks Visitors Can’t Tell the Difference Between a Dog and a Lion

Flickr user Mastino0100 A similar dog was used as a lion stand-in.

Angry zoo patrons howled, but the world roared with laughter after a Chinese zoo was caught trying to pass off a large dog as an African lion.

The subterfuge was discovered when the pseudo-lion started barking in its cage. Afterward the zoo, located in the in the People’s Park of Luohe in the central province of Henan, was found to have substituted other common animals for more exotic species, such as a white fox misidentified as a leopard, and another dog found in a wolf pen.

Liu Suya, the head of the park’s animal department, told the state-run Beijing Youth Daily that an employee’s Tibetan mastiff was held in the cage for safety reasons while the zoo’s actual lion was temporarily at a breeding facility. No explanations were given for the other animal switches.

Swapping animals is nothing new for zoos across the world, although it’s typically not this brazen. Near Gaza City, donkeys were painted with stripes to resemble zebras after an Israeli blockade prevented them from importing the animals. In Boston and Tokyo, zoo employees don animal costumes to practice their annual dangerous animal escape drills. And years ago in Houston, embarrassed zoo officials admitted its coral snake had been replaced with a rubber doppelganger for six months.

Have you every witnessed anything like this happening at your local zoo?

Why Do We Give Countries Different Names?

Endonym map of country names
EndonymMap.com

You booked a trip to Germany, so why does your passport stamp say Deutschland? Your name didn’t change from John to Johann, so why should the country’s name change? If you’ve ever wondered why countries go by different names in different languages, you can check out the Endonym map, that displays each country by their own name. Endonyms are a country’s name within its own borders (see: United States of America, Detschland, Estados Unidos Mexicanos), while exonyms are what it’s known by in other languages (a.k.a. Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, Germany, Mexico). Many of them are similar-sounding cognates that are easier to say or spell in our native language (Brazil/Brasil or Italy/Italia), or some are descriptive and sometimes derogatory names for a place (see this literal Chinese translated map of Europe, like Italy/Meaning Big Profit).

Can you figure out some of the more difficult English exonyms with a hint?Elláda: You might recognize this name better from its ancient pronunciation: Hellas, named for a famously beautiful resident.

Hrvatska: Such a combination of consonants might be familiar from one of their famous islands: Hvar.

Miṣr: You’ll read this name now in Arabic, not hieroglyphics.

Suomi: The more commonly known name for this country was found on rune stones in nearby Sweden.

Zhōngguó: Our name derives from Persian and Sanskrit, and now also describes a certain kind of porcelain dishes.

*Answers: Greece, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, China