Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flood Plug Minds the Gap

From Wall Street Journal...

"The humble sandbag has a rival in the fight against floods: a 400-ton water-filled tube that plugs holes in levees like a giant wad of chewing gum.

Sandbags are used to shore up the thousands of miles of U.S. levees--man made earthen barriers that shield people and property from swelling floodwaters. When a levee is breached, even the biggest sandbags can only slow the erosion of the structure.

Now comes the Portable Lightweight Ubiquitous Gasket, or PLUG, the first tool designed to repair a breach while powerful floodwaters are still coursing through it.

Developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the 104-foot-long, vinyl-coated tube can be transported by helicopter to a failing levee and filled with floodwater on the spot using pumps. The resulting sausage-shaped behemoth gets sucked into the breach by the force of escaping water, sealing off the flow until permanent repairs can be made."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shard London Bridge skyscraper splinters opinion

From BBC News...

"It began as a sketch on the back of a napkin in a Berlin restaurant in 2000. Ten years on, Shard London Bridge is the tallest building in the UK, at more than 235m (771ft).

Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the south London skyscraper is planned to rise to 87 storeys, 310m (1,016ft) by 2012, becoming the tallest building in the European Union.

Mr Piano has a clear vision of the positive impact he thinks the tower will have on the city.

'The building will be atmospheric. It will play with the city. It will be a symbol of lightness,' he said.

But the skyscraper, better known as the Shard of Glass, also has its critics.

'I would have liked to see something more materially interesting and elegant,' said Philippa Grantham, 31, who has watched the tower rise on the capital's skyline each day on her commute into London Bridge station.

'In my opinion, a tower doesn't have a particular front or a back but this building certainly has a back side and it's fairly crude.'"

Read more here

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Skyscraper Gathers Own Heat to Help Fuel Growth

From The Wall Street Journal...

"Vornado Realty Trust, the largest owner of office property in the Pennsylvania Station area, is set to cut the ribbon this week on the city's largest power cogeneration plant.

Three yellow engines the size of small locomotives have been installed in the building. For the past month, they have been pumping out 6.2 megawatts of energy an hour, or enough to fulfill half of the energy needs of Vornado Realty Trust's 57-story skyscraper at One Penn Plaza.


The new plower plant, on the skyscraper's 12th-floor setback, consumes natural gas to produce electricity, and then uses the byproduct of that process—heat—to fuel the building's boilers. It allows One Penn to be relatively energy efficient, and far less dependent on the city's sometimes unreliable power grid. Vornado executives also hope it will help attract tenants interested in burnishing their corporate images by locating in "green" earth-friendly buildings."

Read more here

Monday, November 15, 2010

Real Estate November 11, 2010, 11:00AM EST London's Rising Towers May Presage a Shrinking Economy

From Bloomberg Businessweek...

"If hemlines tell which way the stock market is headed, maybe city skylines do the same for the economy. Tall stories often have unhappy endings.

That thesis certainly holds up in London, where new towers are sprouting. British Land, the U.K.'s second-largest real estate investment trust, has revived plans for a 47-story tower in the City of London dubbed the "Cheese Grater." Land Securities Group, its bigger rival, has found backers for its "Walkie-Talkie" building, which will be 10 floors shorter. Next to London Bridge, cranes are attaching glass panels to the soaring frame of the "Shard of Glass." Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the 1,017-foot (305-meter) pyramid will dwarf the other buildings north of the Thames to become Britain's tallest.

The history of this global capital suggests vertical ambitions often presage a southerly direction for the economy. In mid-2004, Britain was enjoying its 48th consecutive quarter of gross-domestic-product growth, while Swiss Reinsurance was moving into a 40-story edifice in central London nicknamed the "Erotic Gherkin" for its resemblance to a swollen pickle. Four years after the Gherkin opened for business, the British economy was in recession, and continued to shrink for five quarters."

Read more here

Friday, October 22, 2010

R & D vacuum magnetic mainland 4,000 km per hour minimum _cnBeta scientific exploration


"A minimum speed of 4,000 kilometers, less energy consumption airliner 1 / 10, noise and air pollution and accident rates close to zero, a new type of transport - Evacuated Tube maglev train is very obvious - Evacuated Tube train, will Beijing and Washington into a two-hour traffic circle, with several hours to complete trip around the world has become a goal of scientists in recent efforts, and China in this study have been walking in the world."

Read more here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How Plane Fuel Kills 8,000 People a Year


"As if airlines needed any more reason to reduce fleet emissions, MIT reports this week that pollution from airplanes flying at cruise altitude (approximately 35,000 feet) cause 8,000 deaths globally each year.

Current emissions regulations only target planes flying up to 3,000 feet. In the past, regulators assumed that emissions above the 3,000 foot mark would be dumped into a part of the atmosphere with smooth air that couldn't send pollutants drifting toward the ground (the air is more turbulent at lower altitudes). But MIT has found that that's not true--and unfortunately for those of us on the ground, 90% of aircraft fuel is burned at cruise altitudes."

Read more here

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gulf May Avoid Direst Predictions After Oil Spill

From the New York Times...

"Marsh grasses matted by oil are still a common sight on the gulf coast here, but so are green shoots springing up beneath them.

In nearby bird colonies, carcasses are still being discovered, but they number in the thousands, not the tens of thousands that have died in other oil spills.

And at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the zone of severely oxygen-depleted water that forms every summer has reappeared, but its size does not seem to have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

How much damage resulted from almost five million barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico is still being toted up in laboratories and government offices. It will be some time before the government releases its formal assessment of the effects — one that will define the scope of environmental restoration required by BP, Deepwater Horizon’s operator, and other companies."

Read more here

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dallas' Building Codes Not Up To EF-2 Tornadoes


"Most Dallas buildings could not withstand a direct hit by a tornado packing 115 mile per hour winds.

We checked the city's building codes, and they don't require construction to that degree. The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Mockingbird Lane Wednesday had 115 MPH winds.

In April 1957, a tornado headed for Downtown Dallas carved a path killing 10 people and destroying hundreds of buildings. Larry Holmes was just a kid, but he says Wednesday's tornado was a eerie reminder of the one he saw more than 50 years ago.

"As I watched this tornado, those thoughts were going through my mind," Holmes said. "Was this going to turn into that bad and that massive of a tornado?"

Today Holmes works for the City of Dallas Building Inspection Department and helps enforce codes that should prevent this damage. In recent years, the City has beefed up wind speed requirements by adopting the International Building Code which requires that all buildings constructed from Dallas to the Canadian Border can sustain 90 mile per hour winds."

Read more here

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cambodia Spurs Development With Tallest Building in Asia


"Cambodia, despite, being one of the poorest nations in the world, has announced plans to build the tallest building in Asia, a 1,820-foot skyscraper in its capital, Phnom Penh. Some may applaud the idea as a step toward development, but for others the announcement is radically unnecessary, given the country's vast poverty and struggling socio-economic indicators. Wouldn't the $200 million dollars be better spent elsewhere? [...]

There is a precedent for building in uncertain times, such as the Empire State Building's construction during the Depression, but "economic development does not mean having the biggest companies or tallest buildings. It is worrying to see Cambodia take a Dubai approach to plant a foot on the world map," says Sinclair. But it seems Cambodia wants Siam Reap to be the next New York City and is willing to risk the well-being of millions of its citizens to reach that goal via a vision for Asia's tallest building."

Read more here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

As East Coast Braces For Hurricane Earl, NASA Watches From Above

From Popular Science...

"East Coast residents are bracing for this monster, headed their way with 125-mph winds, as a fleet of NASA satellites and airplanes monitors its evolution.

As of Wednesday morning, Hurricane Earl was a Category 3 storm, but an especially large one. Storm-force winds extend 200 miles from its eye, seen above in a photo snapped from the International Space Station.

NASA scientists are flying airplanes into this swirling mass, measuring the hurricane’s wind speeds, precipitation and more. As part of NASA's GRIP program — Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes — a NASA DC-8 flew through Earl's eye six times as the hurricane intensified from a Category 2 to a Category 4 storm."

Read more here

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apple Prepares for Next Great Leap Forward: Liquid Metal


"Everyone -- ourselves included -- coos and squeals about Apple's design genius. But the real secret might be their astonishing manufacturing capabilities; the reason your iPhone 4 or MacBook Pro look so slick is that they're made with cutting-edge manufacturing.

Apple's about to get one step better, having just ordered "the most advanced manufacturing machine on the planet," which uses something called Liquidmetal. (Yes, Liquidmetal. No T-1000 jokes allowed.) Though the machine is still a first prototype, Apple has already paid a reported $11 million to the Liquidmetal company to license its tech. Its engineers will soon start exploring its capabilities using their new toy."

Read more here

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Self-Cleaning Solar Panels

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"One of the best places to put a solar panel is in the desert, where it's sunny. But deserts are also dusty, which means the panels have to be washed frequently so the dust doesn't stop them from capturing sunlight. New technology could provide a solution--by letting solar panels clean themselves."

Read more here

MIT Inventors Create Robot Swarm for Mopping Up Oil Spills


"Forget skimmer ships, top kill, and any gibberish that came out of James Cameron's mouth: MIT researchers have invented a super-absorbent robot that can lap up oil faster than you can say Deepwater Horizon.

Seaswarm, as they call it, basically works like a maxi pad. A patented hydrophobic nanofabric devours as much as 20 times its own weight in oil without collecting water. To capture the oil, the nanofabric's draped over a conveyor belt that's then dispatched on the surface of the ocean like "a rolling carpet," to quote Assaf Biderman, associate director of MIT's Senseable City Lab. The robot's entirely autonomous; it swims along, powered by a pair of solar panels."

Read more and watch video here

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In India, Many Potholes and Not Enough Engineers

From the New York Times...

"Despite this nation’s rise as a technology titan with some of the best engineering minds in the world, its full economic potential is stifled by potholed roads, collapsing bridges, rickety railroads and a power grid so unreliable that many modern office buildings run their own diesel generators to make sure the lights and computers stay on.

It is not for want of money. The Indian government aims to spend $500 billion on infrastructure by 2012 and twice that amount in the following five years.

The problem is a dearth of engineers — or at least of civil engineers with the skill and expertise to make sure those ambitious projects are done on time and to specification."

Read more here

Fighting Disaster with Crowdsourcing

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"David Kobia, the 2010 TR35 Humanitarian of the Year, explains how Ushahidi grew from a single blog post to a sophisticated online platform that can manage crises around the world."

Watch video here

"The Ushahidi project brings crowd­sourcing to bear on some of the most desperate situations people face around the world. Its downloadable software allows users to submit eyewitness reports during a conflict or disaster; the collected reports are displayed on a map. At times when ordinary sources of news and public information are unavailable, Ushahidi gives users a way to share information and shape political opinion, guide rescuers, or pool resources. Ushahidi has been used to monitor elections in Sudan, document violence in Gaza, track the BP oil slick, and assist earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti."

Read more here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review

From the New York Times...

"For professors, publishing in elite journals is an unavoidable part of university life. The grueling process of subjecting work to the up-or-down judgment of credentialed scholarly peers has been a cornerstone of academic culture since at least the mid-20th century.

Now some humanities scholars have begun to challenge the monopoly that peer review has on admission to career-making journals and, as a consequence, to the charmed circle of tenured academe. They argue that in an era of digital media there is a better way to assess the quality of work. Instead of relying on a few experts selected by leading publications, they advocate using the Internet to expose scholarly thinking to the swift collective judgment of a much broader interested audience."

Read more here

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Physics and Not Biomechanics Determines Human Throwing Accuracy

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Here's a straightforward question. Imagine you are throwing a ball into a bin. Are you better off using an overarm or an underarm throw?

It turns out that this question has been surprisingly hard to get to grips with for physicists and biomechanicists alike. Today, however, Madhusudhan Venkadesany and Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan at Harvard University's Applied Math Lab, throw some additional light on the problem.

The difficulty is in the complexity of the problem. The arm, shoulder and wrist make up a many-jointed system that allows a large number of variations in throwing style. In addition, the parameters involved in throwing are difficult to compare. For example, a 5 per cent error in throwing angle does not easily stack up against a 5 per cent error in throwing speed because these quantities have different dimensions. It's like comparing apples and bananas.

Venkadesany and Mahadevan have a neat way round this conundrum. First, they consider only the simplest type of throwing model: an arm consisting of a lever pivoted at the "shoulder" which can throw either underarm or overarm. These throws can be described by two parameters: the angular velocity of the swing and the angle of the arm at release. Second, they introduce a natural length scale, called the arm length, and use this to make their analysis of launch angle and velocity dimensionless."

Read more here

Monday, August 16, 2010

TED Cube Building in Taiwan/ BIG Architects


"TED is a public building in Taiwan that uses a form and highly mixed program to encourage a large cross section of users. Designed by BIG Architects, the 57 meter cubed building has an open section, or ‘street’ to allow full public access through the building. The access rises and dilates near the top of the building and opens onto a rooftop garden. The roof is to be a public park and informal performance area. Radiating from the street will be hotel, retail, office, restaurants, etc, with no particular formal arrangement. The building is an expression of a city bock packed into a more vertical system. The ribs, evocative of the underside of a mushroom form stairs through the structure and is repeated on the walls and ceiling thus creating a visually continuous facade. The access through the building allows for ventilation, shade, and increased fenestration for the occupants. The building site is not yet disclosed."

Read more here

Stone House in Portugal


"Inspired by the Flintstones cartoons, this stunning house was constructed between two giant stones on the hillside of Fafe mountains in Portugal. Because of its unusual design, the house attracts many tourists from all over the world."

Read more here

Abstract of the Dissertation Defense for Kyle Butler

Abstract 1

Aircraft engineers turn to biomimicry for greener designs


"Birds do it. Bees do it. And now, increasingly, aircraft engineers are falling in love with the idea of studying the natural world to find solutions that can be adapted and applied to the design of more fuel-efficient airliners.

The science of biomimicry is taken seriously by aircraft manufacturers, and there is the potential for some quite mind-boggling tricks of nature to be emulated and used in aviation to reduce drag and better enable aircraft to adapt to changing conditions during flight."

Read more here

Saturday, August 7, 2010

AP Enterprise: Scientists think Gulf can recover

From the Associated Press on Google News...

"Want to know the future of the oil-stained Gulf of Mexico ecosystem? Look first to its muddy, polluted past.

The recent ecological history of the Gulf gives scientists reason for hope. In an extensive survey of Gulf of Mexico researchers by The Associated Press, at least 10 of them separately volunteered the same word to describe the body of water: "resilient."

This is buttressed by a government report that claims that all but 53 million gallons of the leaked oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon well are gone. The report issued Wednesday says the cleanup extracted a lot of it, but the natural processes that break up, evaporate and dissolve oil took care of 84 million gallons — more than twice the amount human efforts removed.

At the same time, more progress was made in sealing the well for good as BP finished pumping cement into it on Thursday."

Read more here

Thursday, August 5, 2010

NASA Mind Training Tackles Motion Sickness

From Discovery News...

"Is quelling motion sickness a question of mind over matter? Possibly so, given the proper training, say researchers who are testing a NASA biofeedback system developed to try to help astronauts adjust to microgravity.

The disorientating effects of spaceflight will sound familiar to anyone who has ever grown dizzy, nauseous or faint riding in a car, flying in an airplane or sailing on a ship."

Read more here

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Strata: World’s First Skyscraper with Built-in Wind Turbines


"It rises 143 meters above central London, making it the district’s tallest residential structure. Its nickname is ‘The Razor” owing to its sharp angular design. It’s also the first skyscraper to have electricity-generating wind turbines built into its core design “fabric”.

In a city not as suited for solar power, as say Phoenix , AZ, London is now starting to take advantage of one of its more plentiful, renewable resources: wind.

While there are other, much taller buildings with turbines added on following the finish of their primary construction, the Strata has included them in the architectural plan from the get-go. The threesome of integrated wind turbines, at full capacity, will generate 8% of the buildings energy needs. This may not seem like very much, but it amounts to several dozen mega (million) watt hours annually–saving the owners and residents a great deal of money (and freeing up extra capacity from traditional utilities)."

Read more here

Monday, August 2, 2010

Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age

From the New York Times...

"At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.

Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed."

Read more here

A theory of power-law distributions in financial market fluctuations

From Letters to Nature...

"Insights into the dynamics of a complex system are often gained by focusing on large fluctuations. For the financial system, huge databases now exist that facilitate the analysis of large fluctuations and the characterization of their statistical behaviour [1,2]. Power laws appear to describe histograms of relevant financial fluctuations, such as fluctuations in stock price, trading volume and the number of trades [3-10]. Surprisingly, the exponents that characterize these power laws are similar for different types and sizes of markets, for different market trends and even for different countries--suggesting that a generic theoretical basis may underlie these phenomena. Here we propose a model, based on a plausible set of assumptions, which provides an explanation for these empirical power laws. Our model is based on the hypothesis that large movements in stock market activity arise from the trades of large participants. Starting from an empirical characterization of the size distribution of those large market participants (mutual funds), we show that the power laws observed in financial data arise when the trading behaviour is performed in an optimal way. Our model additionally explains certain striking empirical regularities that describe the relationship between large fluctuations in prices, trading volume and the number of trades."

Read more here

A Richter Scale for Markets

From the New York Times...

"It’s tempting to pull out the old earthquake metaphor when talking about the latest financial crises. How else to describe the economic devastation — the tremors in the subprime mortgage market, the seismic collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the aftershocks reverberating in Europe?

But some academics are now taking the metaphor seriously, pursuing a new approach to economics they call econophysics. The field represents a significant break from traditional economics, by studying financial earthquakes in much the same way geologists study those on terra firma. “New approaches are needed to address the fundamental and practical challenges of our financial, economic and social system,” a group of econophysicists wrote recently in an open letter to George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist."

Read more here

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We Must Stop the Avalanche of Low-Quality Research

From The Chronicle of Higher Education....

"Everybody agrees that scientific research is indispensable to the nation's health, prosperity, and security. In the many discussions of the value of research, however, one rarely hears any mention of how much publication of the results is best. Indeed, for all the regrets one hears in these hard times of research suffering from financing problems, we shouldn't forget the fact that the last few decades have seen astounding growth in the sheer output of research findings and conclusions. Just consider the raw increase in the number of journals. Using Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, Michael Mabe shows that the number of "refereed academic/scholarly" publications grows at a rate of 3.26 percent per year (i.e., doubles about every 20 years). The main cause: the growth in the number of researchers."

Read more here

Taking Lessons From What Went Wrong

From The New York Times...

"Disasters teach more than successes.

While that idea may sound paradoxical, it is widely accepted among engineers. They say grim lessons arise because the reasons for triumph in matters of technology are often arbitrary and invisible, whereas the cause of a particular failure can frequently be uncovered, documented and reworked to make improvements.

Disaster, in short, can become a spur to innovation."

Read more here

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'Elegance in Science'


"Ian Glynn is a physiologist with a passion for a concept not usually associated with his field: elegance. Specifically, its application and relevance across a wide range of scientific disciplines, from physiology to physics, astronomy to neurology. In his new book, Elegance in Science: The Beauty of Simplicity (Oxford University Press), Glynn gives examples of elegance from each of these subjects and several others, showing how elegance crops up in places where it might be expected (in the mathematics and mechanics of Archimedes) and where it might not be (in the nerve fibers of a giant squid)."

Read more here

Whither the Wikis?


"Of all the Web 2.0 tools that have become de rigueur on college campuses, wikis fundamentally embody the Internet’s original promise of pooling the world’s knowledge — a promise that resonates loudly in academe.

And yet higher education’s relationship with wikis — Web sites that allow users to collectively create and edit content — has been somewhat hot-and-cold. Wikipedia, the do-it-yourself online encyclopedia, vexed academics early on because of its wild-west content policies and the perception that students were using it as a shortcut to avoid the tedium of combing through more reliable sources. This frustration has been compounded by the fact that attempts to create scholarly equivalents have not been nearly as successful.

However, academe’s disdain for the anarchical site has since softened; a number of professors have preached tolerance, even appreciation, of Wikipedia as a useful starting point for research. As the relationship between higher education and wikis matures, it is becoming clearer where wikis are jibing with the culture of academe, and where they are not."

Read more here

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Aerodynamics of the World Cup Ball

Good Vibrations: Treating brain disease with some good vibes


"Columbia University bioengineer Elisa Konofagou is making waves when it comes to researching treatments for degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. These aren't just any waves; they're ultrasound waves.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Konofagou is experimenting with ultrasound technology and how it could become part of a comprehensive treatment for various degenerative brain diseases."

Read more here

Monday, June 28, 2010

NatHaz Undergraduate Researchers Honored

From Notre Dame News...

"Olga Beltsar and Laura Divel, juniors in the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, along with Mark Pomerenke, a junior in the Department of Electrical Engineering, have been awarded scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year from Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

Tau Beta Pi scholarships are presented to junior members of the society on a competitive basis of high scholarship, campus leadership, service and the promise of future contributions to the engineering profession. A total of 102 students received scholarships this year."

Olga Beltsar and Laura Divel both serve as undergraduate research assistants in the NatHaz Modeling Laboratory. The members of the NatHaz Modeling Laboratory are proud of the accomplishments of Olga and Laura.

Read more here

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sustainable by design


"When the Burj Khalifa opened with a dazzling fireworks display earlier this year, the tower was hailed as a marvel of modern engineering, which it certainly is. However, it is also an excellent example of sustainability at work.

From the facilities management system that increases efficiencies and the practices and technology to extend the tower’s lifespan, to the use of condensation to irrigate its 11-hectare garden and solar panels to heat water, the Burj Khalifa comes with a ‘sustainability inside’ tag."

Read more here

Not so fast, Pisa! UAE lays claim to world's furthest leaning tower

From CNN...

"Chalk another record to the United Arab Emirates' collection.

The Capital Gate building in the desert kingdom's capital, Abu Dhabi, has been certified by Guinness World Records as the "World's Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower."

How far does it lean? Nearly five times farther than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy."

Read more here

The Genius Behind Minority Report's Interfaces Resurfaces, With Mind-blowing New Tech


"It's a cliche to say that Minority Report-style interfaces are just around the corner. But not when John Underkoffler is involved. As tech advistor on the film, he was the guy whose work actually inspired the interfaces that Tom Cruise used. The real-life system he's been developing, called g-speak, is unbelievable."

Read more here

Friday, June 4, 2010

Generating Power from a Heart

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"A tiny, nearly invisible nanowire can convert the energy of pulsing, flexing muscles inside a rat's body into electric current, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have shown. Their nano generator could someday lead to medical implants and sensors powered by heartbeats or breathing."

Read more here

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wind-Powered Car Actually Moves Faster Than Wind Speed, Answering Tricky Physics Question

From Popular Science...

"A California team recently tested a wind-powered car that can actually outrun the wind, adding more fuel to a lingering physics debate.

In a test two weeks ago, the car hit a top speed 2.86 times faster than the wind, according to its creators. Some physicists say this should be impossible, but car-builder Rick Cavallaro says that's exactly what happened on May 16. What gives?"

Read more here

How iTunes Genius Really Works

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Ever since the feature debuted in 2008, there's been a lot of speculation about how iTunes Genius accomplishes its playlist-building magic. Now an engineer at Apple that works on the iTune Genius team has revealed some tantalizing clues--a rare disclosure for the infamously secretive company."

Read more here

Using Neural Networks to Classify Music

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"New work from students at the University of Hong Kong describes a novel use of neural networks, collections of artificial neurons or nodes that can be trained to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, previously used only in image recognition. The students used a convolution network to "learn" features, such as tempo and harmony, from a database of songs that spread across 10 genres. The result was a set of trained neural networks that could correctly identify the genre of a song, which in computer science is considered a very hard problem, with greater than 87 percent accuracy. In March the group won an award for best paper at the International Multiconference of Engineers and Computer Scientists."

Read more here

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crowd Science Reaches New Heights

From The Chronicle of Higher Education...

"Alexander S. Szalay is a well-regarded astronomer, but he hasn't peered through a telescope in nearly a decade. Instead, the professor of physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University learned how to write software code, build computer servers, and stitch millions of digital telescope images into a sweeping panorama of the universe."

Read more here

How Can Big Cities Adapt to Climate Change?


"Regardless of whether climate change is real, man-made, or happening at an accelerated rate, there's no harm in preparing for the worst. In Climate Change Adaptation in New York City, a new report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, a motley crew of scientists, government officials and legal, risk management, and insurance experts plan out the city's attempt to survive in the face of climate change."

Read more here

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Life on Board a Gulf of Mexico Oil Drilling Platform


"The people of Ursa, Shell's $1.45 billion oil-and-gas platform, live 65 miles offshore, in an environment that is demanding and dangerous, and that could drive them crazy. Here's how they work -- and how they cope."

Read more here

Monday, May 10, 2010

MIT Media Lab to Handle Chaos, Meshing Ideas: Review


"As I pondered a 12-legged robot in the new Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I marveled at how architect Fumihiko Maki, who creates buildings of elegant, serene dignity, accommodated the messy endeavors here.

As academic research goes, it doesn’t get more untidily free-form. I watched researchers with little finger extensions project data onto a screen and manipulate it. A video showed a man bounding along a sidewalk with scarily flexing poles attached at his feet and waist, an experimental exoskeleton intended to augment failed legs."

Read more here

China Longyuan to Spend $13 Billion to Lead Wind Power League


"China Longyuan Power Group Corp, plans to spend about 92 billion yuan ($13 billion) over the next five years to become the world’s No. 1 wind-power producer as global demand for clean energy increases.

The Hong Kong-listed company aims to install at least 16,000 megawatts of wind turbines in China and overseas by 2015, President Xie Changiun said in an interview after a climate conference in Beijing today.

The expansion plan comes as the Chinese government encourages the use of renewable energy to cut reliance on more polluting coal. The Beijing-based company in December raised a net HK$16.7 billion ($2.2 billion) from the sale of 2.14 billion shares in Hong Kong in the world’s third-biggest IPO by an alternative energy company."

Read more here

Electricity-Generating Shock Absorbers

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Shock absorbers that generate electricity, which are being developed by Cambridge, MA-based Levant Power, can lower fuel consumption by 1.5 to 6 percent, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions. The system can also improve vehicle handling.

Levant has demonstrated the technology in road tests with a Humvee and will expand testing to trucks, buses, and other vehicles this summer. The shock absorbers look like conventional ones from the outside, except for a power cord coming out of one end, and they can be installed in ordinary vehicles by mechanics. They plug into a power management device that can also manage power from other sources, such as regenerative braking systems, thermoelectric devices that convert waste heat into electricity, or solar panels. The power is then fed into the car's electrical system to reduce the amount of load on the alternator."

Read more here

A skyscraper designed to make a rotten river run clean

From CNN World...

"Imagine a skyscraper that -- instead of hosting offices -- houses a system that purifies the water of a polluted river, employs the people living in surrounding slums and gives them a home in which to live.

That's the revolutionary idea behind an architectural concept that aims to solve the problems generated by the polluted Ciliwung River in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia."

Read more here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas


"How I first came to discover Johnson's work is a long story, but I was instantly enamored with it. His Nod Office, for example, is an ingenious piece of furniture that integrates a bed into a desk. Who among us has not wished for such a thing? He takes the idea of integration further--much further--with concepts such as Road Office ("for those wishing to catch up on work at the roadside ... or [in a] traffic tie-up," he says), the Treadmill Workstation (now that's productivity!), and any number of mobile workspaces, such as the chauffeur-driven executive suite or the Read Life Vehicle, an SUV that features rotating seats, pull-out computer stations, file cabinets, and laundry facilities."

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Information Processing: Has global warming stopped?

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"The current period is most likely a local minimum with respect to the last peak and one just need wait another 12 months or so, when we will return to increasing global monthly anomalies which then will be about +1 degree C in amplitude."

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Green City' Builders Facing Technological, Financial Hurdles

From the New York Times...

"Four years into the Masdar Initiative, a grand plan by the United Arab Emirates to create a new 'greenprint' for urban design, developers are finding that the necessary elements include a stable of the world's brightest minds, plenty of cash, and a stomach for trying over."

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Wind Turbines Shed Their Gears

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Seimans has begun selling a three-megawatt turbine using a so-called direct-drive system that replaces the conventional high-speed generator with a low-speed generator that eliminates the need for a gearbox. And last month, General Electric announced an investment of 340 million euros in manufacturing facilities to build its own four-megawatt direct-drive turbines for offshore wind farms."

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TR10: Real-Time Search

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Social networking is changing the way we find information.

How do you parse a tweet? Five years ago, that question would have been gibberish. Today, it's perfectly sensible, and it's at the front of Amit ­Singhal's mind. Singhal is leading Google's quest to incorporate new data into search results in real time by tracking and ranking updates to online content--particularly the thousands of messages that course through social networks every second."

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Burj Khalifa

828 meters above ground on top of Burj Khalifa, Mr. Ahmad Abdelrazaq who has the distinction of being a key member of the design team (at SOM), the construction team (Samsung Corp.), as well as the full-scale monitoring of tower performance team (Notre Dame).

Friday, April 23, 2010

TR10: Green Concrete

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"Making cement for concrete involves heating pulverized limestone, clay, and sand to 1,450 °C with a fuel such as coal or natural gas. The process generates a lot of carbon dioxide: making one metric ton of commonly used Portland cement releases 650 to 920 kilograms of it. The 2.8 billion metric tons of cement produced worldwide in 2009 contributed about 5 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. Nikolaos Vlasopoulos, chief scientist at London-based startup Novacem, is trying to eliminate those emissions with a cement that absorbs more carbon dioxide than is released during its manufacture. It locks away as much as 100 kilograms of the greenhouse gas per ton."

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

U.S. Embassy Tour Shows Small Measures Pay Off Bigtime

From Engineering News Record...

"We got a tour of the two-year-old U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, including its mechanical spaces, to see how its seismic mitigation measures play out, and how they performed. We found the building’s systems came through Jan. 12’s 7.0 earthquake with flying colors for a lot of good, specific reasons."

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Will Smart Contact Lenses Be the Bluetooth Headsets of the Future?


"Imagine instant access to the latest market segment information at a meeting, or seeing the fourth quarter earnings for a company in (literally) the blink of an eye.

Although it might sound like something from a science fiction novel, scientists at the University of Washington are working on solar powered contact lenses with transparent LEDs embedded onto the lens. This technology could be applied in countless ways, from health monitoring to text translation right in front of the wearer's eyes."

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Quantum Mechanics Explains How Muscle Produces Force

From Technology Review published by MIT...

"It wasn't so long ago that biologists would swear blind that their discipline would never be tainted by the strange effects of quantum mechanics. Today, quantum biology is an emerging discipline in many labs around the world and only the brave (or stupid) now argue against the idea that quantum effects play an important role in the workings of biological molecules, entire cells and even the brain."

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