Climate Crisis: The Smog Vacuum

china smog 2013 TV bldgIn recent years, strategies aimed at combating Climate Change have evolved to become a two-pronged attack. In addition to finding ways to reduce how much we pollute, a number of methods are being devised to deal with the pollution we have already created. And one such device is being deployed to where it is needed the most: Beijing.

For many years now, China’s capitol has been notorious for its poor air quality. But last Tuesday, in the northeast city of Harbin, roads, schools and even the local airport were closed for two days straight due to a thick, choking haze that was due to unseasonably warm temperatures and very little wind coinciding with the smoke from local farmer’s burning straw and the initiation of Harbin’s coal-powered municipal heating system. resulting haze measured 1000 micrograms per cubic meter. That’s three times the concentration deemed hazardous by the World Health Organization, and many dozen times what is considered safe. To remedy the situation, city authorities are now coordinating with Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde to launch what he calls an “electronic vacuum cleaner” to suck up 50 meter-high cylinders of polluted air.

Two weeks ago, Roosegarde successfully demonstrated his smog machine in a 25 square meter room, in which he used an electrostatic field from copper coils to magnetize and pull down pollution from the air above. The effect could be replicated, he says, if those coils were deployed in public spaces. Now, Roosegaarde is working with Bop Ursem, a professor at the Technical University of Delft, to scale up the technology in Beijing. has had experience working with electrostatic fields in the past. Last year, he proposed using electromagnetic charging strips to charge cars on “smart,” communication-enabled highways, which won the designer an INDEX award in 2013. He also claims the project is safe, “pacemaker proof”, and really no different than the waves of WiFi downtown areas are already inundated with.

In addition, electrostatic air filtering is already used on a much smaller scale, in hospitals where clean air is a matter of hygiene and sanitation. But part of Roosegaarde’s challenge will be creating a clean 50-by-50 meter space, controlling for factors like wind. He also concedes that his smog machine won’t solve the problem of all of Beijing’s pollution, but is meant to serve as an awareness-raising exercise. for the resulting particles that are collected from the air, Roosegaarde believes they could be refashioned into useable products, such as jewelry. But as he himself put it, the concept is about dealing with a serious problem in a practical, new way:

I think it’s quite feasible in a weird way. Every project has its beauty and bullshit, so to speak. Of course you’ll have influences like wind, how high is the smog, but these are the pragmatics. In principle, this is doable… It is a statement to show [that] this is the new world, why do we accept the old world? In a world which is changing, it’s all about finding the missing links between imagination and innovation, between science and art.

Given the historic problem of smog in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, London, and Southeast Asia, the concept is likely to catch on. While it is primarily intended on removing harmful particulates, like heavy metals and toxic chemicals, it stands to reason that such devices will be paired with Carbon Capture technology to ensure that all harmful pollutants are scrubbed for our cities air.

trafficReducing the amount of pollution we have to contend with while making sure we generate less. At this point in the game, it’s the only way the worst effects of Climate Change will be avoided in the coming decades. Stay tuned!


Space Shuttle Endeavour’s 2-Day Drive Through LA

Last week, amidst massive crowds and plenty of photo ops, the Space Shuttle Endeavour made a two day circuit of Los Angeles in order to mark its retirement. This was Endeavour’s 26th mission, the previous 25 having all taken place in orbit of the planet, a full 4671 orbits to be precise! During this time, Photographer/cinematographer Matthew Givot and his team followed the shuttle during the 2-day ‘endeavor’ – a drive that included photo-ops of the shuttle driving past several well-known L.A. landmarks – and compiled the footage into a nice 3-minute video (see below).

Showing the many twists and turns that were involved, not to mention stops for photo shoots and the crowds who showed up to pay their respects, the video concludes with Endeavour being brought into her new home, the California Science Center, where she will remain on display for years to come. Here, she joins such historic air and space craft as the A 12 Blackbird, the Apollo-Soyuz command module, Explorer 1, and the Viking Lander. Exhibitions for the Endeavour are reported to begin on October 30th, and are expected to draw some serious crowds!

On a side note, I have to admit that I feel bad for neglecting to mention Endeavour in any of my previous posts. For months now, news has been coming in about its final mission, but I was so caught up in my own story work and posts about cybernetics and other such stuff that I completely passed over it. I’m hoping this sets things to rights a little, as it would be a travesty if I didn’t acknowledge the retirement of this veteran spacecraft and all its accomplished over the years. Not to mention all the astronauts its delivered home, safe and sound. Good work, Endeavour! Enjoy the retirement, you’ve earned it!

Source: Universe Today, California Science Center

Also, if you want to see more of Endeavour’s cross-LA drive, Robert Pearlman has a gallery of over 150 images at, and NASA’s Flickr page has a huge collection, too.