In the weird science department, scientists at UC Berkeley developed a small, fast robotic cockroach that's made from cardboard. Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics created high-tech gloves that help you find what you're looking for by vibrating when you get close to the lost item. The French electronics company Parrot just unveiled the Flower Power, a new gizmo that monitors the moisture, sunlight, humidity, temperature and fertilizer conditions of your houseplants. And in perhaps the week's oddest story, the Dutch nonprofit Mars One announced that it is now accepting applications for a four-person Mars colony with hopes of establishing a permanent settlement on the Red Planet.
Is it feeling hot in here, or is it just us? The National Climate Data Center announced this week that 2012 was the hottest year on record, crushing the previous hottest year, 1998, by a full degree. The need to develop carbon-free energy sources is greater than ever, and Germany is leading the charge, breaking all previous solar installation records in 2012. But the German government's decision to cut subsidies on solar power is putting the future in doubt. In other green energy news, Nicaragua announced plans to produce 94 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2017 and South America's first solar thermal plant recently opened in Antofagasta, Chile. And UC Davis researchers figured out a way to engineer blue-green algae to make fuel from sunlight.
As 2013 kicks into gear, Inhabitat has been profiling some of the world's most exciting new green developments, ranging from small pavilions to soaring skyscrapers. In Milan, we shared an update this week on Bosco Verticale, a new high-rise development that will feature the world's first vertical forest with large trees growing from the balconies. Meanwhile, in Spain, organizers constructed a pavilion from 45,000 recycled milk cartons, winning the world record for a construction project using a recycled material. At Sweden's Icehotel, designers from Pinpin Studio carved a frosty suite with glowing UFOs made entirely out of ice. And architecture firm HWKN sent Wendy, the firm's spiky blue, smog-eating pavilion, across the globe for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.