Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.
At 2,722 feet, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the planet's tallest building -- and on New Year's Eve it was transformed into a giant LED screen hosting the world's largest light show. The show was part of an epic New Year's celebration in downtown Dubai that featured fireworks, lasers and video projections. As the sun set on 2014, Inhabitat looked back at the year that was in green design, rounding up the year's top green design stories, the top green tech and science stories, the top news stories, the top green kids design stories and the top wearable tech stories from 2014. And to ring in the new year, we asked an all-star cast of architects, environmental activists, urbanists and journalists to offer their predictions for what 2015 will hold for green design and the environment.
Tesla founder Elon Musk blew some minds last year when he unveiled plans to build a "Hyperloop" train that could transport passengers at speeds of up to 700MPH. Now, it's beginning to look like Musk's vision could actually become reality one day. The crowdsourcing platform JumpStartFund just launched a new company that plans to develop a prototype of the Hyperloop within a decade. In other green transportation news, China is building a new high-speed train route that can take people 1,100 miles from Shanghai to Guangzhou in just seven hours. And if you want to get an up-close look at sea life, you could rent some scuba gear -- or you could take a ride in this transparent canoe. The one-of-a-kind canoe is made from the same material used for the cockpits of fighter jets, making it practically invisible as it glides through the water. And for the skaters out there, the artist known as Monsieur Plant (aka Christophe Guinet) recently created a skateboard that's made from a panel of tree bark. The one-off board was designed as a display, but it looks ready for a few ollies and kickflips.
On the tech and science front, Russian scientists are planning to create a "Noah's Ark" with the DNA of every animal species on the planet. The project would become the world's first database of its kind, and it's set to be completed by 2018. Humans tend to think of trees as inanimate objects rather than sentient beings, but new research by scientists in France reveals that trees emit noises when they're suffering from drought. The "ultrasonic pops" that trees make are 100 times faster than the human ear can hear. And in a major development for 3D printing, designer William Root has combined 3D scanning, printing and modeling software to create custom 3D-printed prosthetic limbs.
Let's be real: Who among us hasn't thought about quitting our jobs and living in a van? A former systems engineer did just that, converting a rusty old van that he bought on eBay into a cozy, timber-clad mobile cabin. The van is powered by a solar panel, and it features a working toilet, an extendable bed and a fridge/freezer. In green energy news, the Tarfaya Energy Project in Morocco -- Africa's largest wind farm -- finally began producing energy. At full capacity, the wind farm will provide power for 1.5 million homes. In the UK, a revolutionary new project spearheaded by several universities is using algae to clean up an old mine site that is contaminated with heavy metals. The goal of the project is to discover whether it's possible to rid the water of harmful materials like arsenic and cadmium. Money is burning a hole in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's pocket. Faced with the question of what to do with worn-out dollar bills that are being taken out of circulation, the federal bank is sending its beat-up cash to local power plants, where it's burned for energy. In the continuing quest to create cheaper, more efficient solar panels, researchers at the University of Toronto have unveiled spray-on solar cell technology that could transform just about anything into a solar panel.