Elaborate Software Model Addresses Burning Question: 'How Is the Eiffel Tower Still Standing?'
|7:01:32 PM, Sunday, January 16, 2011|
The Eiffel Tower was intended to stand for only 20 years past its 1889 debut--in fact, the original contest rules for the design stipulated that the tower must be easily demolished. Experts at the time predicted it would come crashing down before construction was even finished. Yet it has withstood both the general hatred Parisians feel for it and the test of time, and is still standing. Specialists have constructed an incredibly elaborate software model to explore the tower's longevity, and discovered its secret.
The study was commissioned by SETE, the Eiffel Tower Operating Company, to gather more data about the strengths and weaknesses of the iconic structure. But that's an even more complicated task than you'd imagine. You've got the usual variables, like the tower's weight (9,369 tons) and added weight from restaurants and such (another 3,306 tons), and the impact of weather on its peculiar design, but there were some unexpected struggles.
The tower is constructed not of the typical steel but of so-called "puddle iron," a popular iron-treatment of the 19th century that involves heating and folding over sheets of iron. It performs totally differently than steel, and so the engineers had to pretty much start from scratch to build an accurate model--they called in materials engineers to reconstruct the long-forgotten puddle iron and perform various tests on it. Other problems included the ludicrous number of separate pieces in the construction (over 18,000, not including additions) and the impact of time (the tower has shrunk a few inches).
But the findings are encouraging for those who love the tower--the engineers at the Technical Center for Mechanical Industries bombarded the model with every conceivable kind of inclement weather, and even doubled the weight, just to see what would happen. In the worst cases, like with the absurd weight gain, a SETE rep notes that "the tower moves, but is not destroyed." As it turns out, the tower's strength is largely due to that near-forgotten puddle iron--the engineers estimate that the tower will still be standing for at least another two or three centuries.
Drunk Scientists Pour Wine on Superconductors and Make an Incredible Discovery
|6:46:46 PM, Sunday, January 16, 2011|
“Wine makes superconductors better at their jobs. And apparently, it makes some scientists better at their jobs too.
Superconductors behave like most metals; they conduct electricity. They do so, however, with a twist. All metal has some resistance to the flow of electricity. But when the temperature drops, superconductors get less and less resistant (and therefore more conductive). When they reach very low temperatures, their resistance drops to zero.
Yoshihiko Takano and other researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan were in the process of creating a certain kind of superconductor by putting a compound in hot water and soaking it for hours. They also soaked the compound in a mixture of water and ethanol. It appears the process was going well, because the scientists decided to have a little party. The party included sake, whisky, various wines, shochu, and beer. At a certain point, the researchers decided to try soaking the compound in the many, many liquors they had on hand and seeing how they compared to the more conventional soaking liquids.
When they tested the resulting materials for superconductivity, they found that the ones soaked in commercial booze came out ahead. About 15 percent of the material became a superconductor for the water mixed with ethanol, and less for the pure water. By comparison, Shochu jacked up conductivity by 23 percent and red wine managed to supercharge over 62 percent of the material. The scientists were pleased, if bemused with their results…”
Eisenhower's Warning Still Challenges A Nation
|6:38:45 PM, Sunday, January 16, 2011|
“Before President Reagan urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," and even before President Kennedy told Americans to ask "what you can do for your country," President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined his own phrase about "the military-industrial complex."
That statement, spoken just days before Eisenhower left office in 1961, was his warning to the nation.
At the time, the United States was sitting atop a huge military establishment built from its participation in three major wars. This buildup led Eisenhower to caution against the misplacement of power and influence of the military.
Fifty years later, the United States is engaged in two wars abroad, and some say Eisenhower's warning still holds true…”
Straight Into The Charts . . . A Hit From 1568
|10:47:17 AM, Saturday, January 15, 2011|
“Thomas Tallis’s 'Spem in Alium’ has an appeal that defies time.
Take a look at Classic FM’s Hall of Fame, and there among the poll of listeners’ favourite classical pieces you’ll find a surprise. Coming in at number 89, just ahead of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and only just behind Albinoni’s Adagio, is Thomas Tallis’s sacred vocal work Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui – “I have no other hope (than God)”.
Why should an immensely complex piece in a dead language have struck such a chord? Part of the reason is the current vogue for spiritual music, which has sent CDs of chants by Spanish monks and The Priests soaring up the album charts. But there is something extraordinary about this particular piece. It’s like an ocean of sound, where individual voices are glimpsed for a few seconds before they vanish back into the mass.
Beyond that, the piece is a masterful combination of rhetorical persuasiveness and architectural cogency. By the time he wrote it, possibly around 1568, Thomas Tallis had a huge reputation as a composer of artfully complex music, full of arcane technical devices and hidden symbols. Born around 1505, Tallis had worked his way up from being the musical director of a modest little priory in Dover to being a key member of the Chapel Royal in London. He was right at the centre of power, which in one way was advantageous as it gave him the best singers and players to work with.
But in another way it was risky. England in the mid 16th century was convulsed by religious upheaval. The initial traumatic break with the Roman Church brought on by Henry VIII led to the forcible closing and desecration of ancient monasteries (including Waltham Abbey, where Tallis was one of many who lost their living)…”
-- If Tallis had written nothing else but this, he would still be one of the the greatest composers ever.
Burmese Prison Inmates 'Used as Human Mine Sweepers'
|10:32:11 AM, Saturday, January 15, 2011|
“Some of the 600 prisoners shipped off to the front near the border with Thailand suffered serious injuries as they were forced to walk ahead of troops across mine fields in what one rights group said amounted to a "crime against humanity".
Inmates who did not have the funds to bribe their jailers to avoid the forced military service were sent to the fighting acting as porters carrying ammunition, according to three prisoners who escaped and made it to the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
The on-going fighting between the Burmese army and a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, rebels who signed a truce and sided with the junta, broke out on November 7, the day of the much-derided general election.
The most senior of the escaped prisoners, Thaung Htay Oo, 28 told of the abuse meted out to the inmates by the military.
"We had to carry ammunition, equipment and food for the soldiers," he said. "They worst thing is that they used prisoners to clear minefields ahead of their advance. There were many prisoners who were injured by the landmines after they were forced to walk ahead of the soldiers. We ran away because we didn't want the same thing to happen to us…”"
New Type of Glass Stronger and Tougher Than Steel
|10:13:11 AM, Saturday, January 15, 2011|
“Glass stronger and tougher than steel? A new type of damage-tolerant metallic glass, demonstrating a strength and toughness beyond that of any known material, has been developed and tested by a collaboration of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)and the California Institute of Technology. What's more, even better versions of this new glass may be on the way.
"These results mark the first use of a new strategy for metallic glass fabrication and we believe we can use it to make glass that will be even stronger and more tough," says Robert Ritchie, a materials scientist who led the Berkeley contribution to the research.
The new metallic glass is a microalloy featuring palladium, a metal with a high "bulk-to-shear" stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials.
"Because of the high bulk-to-shear modulus ratio of palladium-containing material, the energy needed to form shear bands is much lower than the energy required to turn these shear bands into cracks," Ritchie says. "The result is that glass undergoes extensive plasticity in response to stress, allowing it to bend rather than crack…””
|9:27:56 AM, Saturday, January 15, 2011|
Bad Blood by Steven Perry
|10:55:23 PM, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
Inside London's Sewer System
|10:11:10 PM, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
-- Rob Smith, head flusher at Thames Water, leads a guided tour of London's sewer system and explains how 'fat bergs' – amalgamations of illegally dumped cooking oil, wet wipes, condoms, dead rodents, you name it – can lead to blockages and flooding... Lovely! Follow the links to watch The Guardian video reportage.
Pentagon’s Mach 6 Warplane May Return From Limbo
|4:28:52 PM, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
“Forget robotic spy planes, drone fighter-bombers and self-landing orbital laboratories. In the world of secretive Pentagon aerospace projects, none are more sensational than the high-flying, Mach 6 Blackswift.
The hypersonic, unmanned Blackswift could become almost anything: a satellite launcher, an SR-71-style spy plane or even a super-evasive — nay, untouchable — bomber. That is, if it could just keep its funding. After many years rumored work, Blackswift stepped into the light in 2007 when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched a formal development program, aiming to build two prototypes for a total cost of around $1 billion. Two years later, Blackswift was dead, a victim of budget cuts and skeptical lawmakers.
Now Blackswift is (sorta) back, according to some stellar reporting at the Ares blog. “The U.S. Air Force is drawing up a new hypersonic development road map which, to the delight of many and the fear of some, revives the concept of a reusable flight research vehicle similar to the abandoned Blackswift,” Guy Norris revealed. He called the re-born hypersonic plane, “son of Blackswift.”
The revival raises some big questions: is Blackswift 2.0 at all related the Pentagon’s new bomber initiative, or the military’s secret battle plan for countering China? Can the new Blackswift overcome vexing technical challenges? And even if it can, do we have the billions of dollars it might take to build the Mach-6 plane in meaningful numbers?”
Black Box: Inside an Older Flight Data Recorder
|2:50:38 PM, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
-- Engineer Guy!
You Are All Stardust
|10:41:22 AM, Thursday, January 13, 2011|
Macklemore – The Town
|10:24:38 PM, Wednesday, January 12, 2011|
-- Seattle-based hip-hop artist's clip about his hometown Seattle. I have not even been there, but this song just seems to really capture the essence of the city. Make sure to watch it in HD, so good!
Improv Everywhere, No Pants Subway Ride 2011
|10:10:55 PM, Wednesday, January 12, 2011|
-- Dubiously SFW.
Colbert on Lithuania
|6:58:16 PM, Wednesday, January 12, 2011|
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