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Good Thinking

In tropical countries such as the Philippines, there are plenty of rice husks ... and also plenty of termites. A group of engineering students from the University of California, Riverside, recently decided to use the former to address the latter, by creating termite-resistant particleboard from rice husks.

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The humble ball bearing is a key component of nearly every device with moving parts, taking advantage of the vastly reduced friction you can achieve when rolling a ball between two surfaces as opposed to sliding them across one another. Now, a Japanese company has come up with a simple design that removes a key component from a typical bearing – the cage that keeps the balls separated as they roll around. Coo Space's Autonomous Decentralised Bearings don't need to be greased, and according to their inventor, this fact alone can reduce their friction by up to 90 percent compared with standard bearings.

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For women, buying the wrong shoes can be about more than just esthetics. If they end up with shoes that don't fit properly, they can develop foot disorders such as bunions, hammertoes or ingrown toenails. That's where the European Union's DemoShopInstantShoe project comes in. Established a few years ago, the collaborative effort is now about to release a device that instantly adapts off-the-rack shoes to a custom fit.

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Israeli electrical engineer Avraham Hagay wrote into Gizmag this week to tell us about his invention, a motorized shopping trolley designed to make it easier to push a full load of groceries around the store and back to your car. The system, which carries loads of up to 120 kg (265 lbs), can be retrofitted onto existing carts or integrated into new builds. Hagay's currently in talks with local companies and he hopes to soon find a business partner to help manufacture, market, and sell the technology worldwide.

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The category winners for the 2015 Designs of the Year awards have been announced. One of the winners from the architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport categories will be picked as overall winner.

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An injured sea turtle has become the unlikely beneficiary of 3D printing technology. After being seriously wounded in an encounter with a boat propellor, the turtle is now on the road to recovery thanks to an imaginative medical team.

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If you're into handwriting, drawing, keeping diaries the old fashioned way and sipping wine, you may soon be able to merge all those activities into one. A new device created by Portland-based designer Jessica Chan adds a bohemian touch to the old fountain pen, by allowing it to be charged with any type of raw liquid with a staining property, including – you guessed it – wine. Called WINKpen, it also uses tea, beer, and anything else that tickles the user's fancy.

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Despite its reputation as one of the safest countries in the world, Japan isn't immune to the problem of violence towards women. And is so often the case, alcohol is often involved. In an effort to raise awareness and force a shift in the attitudes of boozy bar hounds, the Yaocho Bar Group nightspot chain has designed a series of coasters with portraits of Japanese women that reveal facial injuries in reaction to having cold drinks placed on them.

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A remarkable 26 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level. A series of dikes, dams and waterworks are used to keep the country from being submerged. But what would happen if those defenses weren't there? An installation by Studio Roosegaarde aims to show just that.

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Australia's Sydney Trains has adopted a new approach to tackling vandalism, trialling new technology designed to quickly alert staff to offenders by sniffing out spray paint vapor. While only in its infancy, the project, which know as "Mousetrap," has already produced some promising results.

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