Amazing technology would allow for underground parks in NYC
If you’ve been to Manhattan in the past several years, you may have heard of the Highline in Chelsea. It’s a project that converted an abandoned above-ground railroad track into a park, and it has turned the formerly underdeveloped area around it into one of the trendiest new neighborhoods in the city; if you visit Manhattan, you have to check it out. Anyway, two architects want to build a park that will do for the Lower East Side what the Highline did for Chelsea, but with a twist: they want to build it underground!
If you’ve been to Manhattan ever, you’ll also know that space is at a premium, and there are few open spaces left to grow leafy green things or build a park. Dubbed the LowLine, the project would convert an old underground trolley car station, abandoned in 1948 and untouched since, into a 1.5 acre underground park. But how? This is where the science comes in: they’ve developed the technology to transmit sunlight underground. Using large parabolic mirrors and a fiber optic relay, sunlight from the surface would be shuttled to the park and then redisbursed, allegedly yielding enough light for photosynthesis. As shown in the artist’s renderings above, the park could house trees, grass, farmers markets, or art installations, all year round, rain or shine. The architects raised money on Kickstarter for a proof-of-concept exhibition, happening RIGHT NOW in the Essex Street Market in NYC, and they’re doing battle with the city and the transit authority that owns the underground depot for approval. Here’s to hoping the city bureaucrats see the light! *slaps knee*
The Silurians would love this.
A truly MINDBLOWING lesson on the origin of American Southern accents.
Capturing CO2 with Tomatoes
A California farmer is finding a unique way to capture emissions of carbon dioxide — piping the climate-altering gas from a power plant into his massive greenhouse, spurring more plant growth and tastier tomatoes.
This carbon capture and tomato storage project is the first of its kind in the United States although similar ones exist in Europe.
The new $13 million combined heat and power co-generation plant opens Aug. 22 at Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo, Calif. The two GE-built engines will burn natural gas to keep the greenhouse warm, while generating some extra electricity that is sold back into the local grid. At the same time, the 8.8-megawatt plant feeds its waste carbon dioxide directly into Houweling’s giant 150-acre greenhouse.
“All the electricity (power) plants out there are putting CO2 into the atmosphere and heat which are two big consumptions,” said owner Casey Houweling. “If we use our energy wiser we would have impacts from two sides, reducing cost and becoming more efficient.”Houweling says the co-generation plant is a big investment but he expects it will pay off in the long run. ”There will be a big benefit because we won’t be exposed to energy prices because we are selling the electricity,” Houweling said. “Long-term we believe this will stabilize our production costs.”
The power industry has looked at many types of carbon storage projects over the years as a way to reducing atmospheric emissions of the heat-trapping gas. Some firms have tried injecting it underground to abandoned mines or salt deposits, others have tried bubbling CO2 through ponds of microscopic algae. But Houweling says that the extra CO2 is a perfect fit for his greenhouse. He already has to purchase the gas anyway from an industrial supplier to makes his plants grow.
“In a greenhouse, if we don’t add C02,” Houweling said, “the plants will pull down the level so much they will stop growing.”
Houweling says the addition of the co-generation plant makes his greenhouse facility almost 100 percent energy-efficient. He recycles 90 percent of his waste, captures rainwater for irrigation, and has deployed five acres of solar panels. The greenhouse-grown tomatoes also use less land than traditional row farming. That is a further energy savings, according to Scott Nolen, product line leader for General Electric.
“He can grow as much food on 150 acres as his neighbor in 5,500 acres,” Nolen said. Nolen said that until renewable sources of energy pick up the slack, there are still ways of making fossil fuel plants have less of an environmental impact. ”We’d all like to be in world where we don’t burn hydrocarbons,” Nolen said. “That’s not possible yet but in the meantime, we want to make sure every molecule of hydrocarbon we burn for fuel is as efficient as possible.”
How an Unknown Grad Student Saved Apollo 13 - and how NASA covered it up.
Either via movies, news reports or by word of mouth, you’ve likely heard of the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission. Next to Apollo 11, it’s one of NASA’s proudest achievements — returning three men to Earth against insurmountable odds. That return was only possible thanks to the bright idea of a NASA scientist who claimed that slingshotting the craft around the moon was the only way back. Now, a former NASA staffer has revealed that it wasn’t NASA’s idea at all, and the internet is on a quest to find who it was.
The bold claim that NASA didn’t actually save Apollo 13 came from the space agency’s ex-deputy chief of media relations during the time of the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11. He’s 97 years old now and like the good sport he is, took part in a Reddit ask me anything with the aid of his grandson.
He was asked pretty early on in the caper about Apollo 13, and whether or not he thought the crew would make it back to Earth. He said he had no hope for the crew’s survival, but that didn’t stop him and everyone else at NASA from staying awake for 7 days straight to try to bring the astronauts home.
That was before he dropped this bombshell:
All the engineers and everybody else at NASA in Houston were working hard at recovering the moonshot, and they were in real trouble, weren’t sure they could get it back. They got a phone call from a grad student at MIT who said he knew how to get them back. They put engineers on it, tested it out, by God it worked. Slingshotting them around the moon. They successfully did. They wanted to present the grad student to the President and the public, but they found him and he was a real hippy type — long hair and facial hair. NASA was straight-laced, and this was different than they expected, so they withdrew the invitation to the student. I think that is a disgrace.
According to the grandson who was relaying the answers, the 97-year old had been keeping this secret his whole life based on how hard the story was to tell. NASA apparently made a concerted effort to bury the grad student’s involvement in the mission.
History recounts the decision to slingshot around the moon as one that was weighed against what’s known as a “direct abort”. That is, burning every last drop of fuel in the craft to put it into an about face and return it to Earth. Flight Director Gene Kranz reportedly made the decision to slingshot around the moon in a bid to get the astronauts home. No grad student has yet been mentioned in the pages of history.
Redditors called on the ex-NASA member to right the wrong by outing the name of the grad student, but got no response. As a result, the community is now on the hunt for the name of the student.
MIT creates camera that shoots 1 trillion fps and can see light in motion
MIT has created a camera that can actually view light in motion. By firing trillions of pulses of light and syncing their cameras shutter, they can create a video that shows how light moves through space and reacts to mass. By recording this amazing detail, these cameras can actually see into objects and around corners by monitoring the way the light bounces off and around an object.
How Much are Olympic Gold Medals Worth?
As far as the value of the raw materials in them, this varies from Olympiad to Olympiad. For the current 2012 Olympics in London, the medals are the largest of any in Olympic history, weighing in at 400g for the gold medal. Of this 400g, 394g is sterling silver (364.45g silver / 29.55g copper) with 6g of 24 karat gold plating. At the current going rate for gold and silver, this means a gold medal in the London Olympics is worth about $624, with $304 of the value coming from the gold and about $320 coming from the sterling silver.
Of course, athletes can often get much more than this selling the medals on the open market, particularly for momentous medals, like the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 men’s U.S. hockey team gold medal. Mark Wells, a member of that team, auctioned his medal off in 2012 and received $310,700 for it, which he needed to help pay for medical treatment.
Most auctioned medals don’t go for nearly this much, though. For instance, Anthony Ervin’s 50 meter freestyle gold medal won in 2000, even with all proceeds going to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, only sold for $17,100. John Konrads’ 1500 meter freestyle gold medal won in 1960 only sold for $11,250 in 2011. This is a great return in terms of what the raw value of the materials are worth, but certainly nowhere close to Mark Wells’ medal.
Gold medals in the Olympics weren’t always made mostly of silver. Before the 1912 Olympics, they were made of solid gold. However, they tended to be much smaller than modern medals. For instance, the 1900 Paris gold medals were only 3.2 mm thick, with a 59 mm diameter, weighing just 53g. For perspective, the London 2012 medals are 7 mm thick, with a diameter of 85 mm and, as mentioned, weigh 400g. The 1900 Paris gold medals at today’s value of gold are worth about $2685. For the 1912 games in Stockholm, the last year the gold medals were made of solid gold, the value of the gold medals at current prices of gold would be $1207.86.
If the current 2012 Olympic gold medals were made out of solid gold, they’d be worth about $20,266 each. This may seem do-able, considering how much money the Olympics brings in, until you consider just how many medals are awarded during each summer Olympics. For instance, in these 2012 Olympics, about 4,700 medals will be given out, so over 1500 gold medals. At $20,266 each, that would be just shy of $32 million dollars for the gold medal materials alone.
As it is, with the current gold medals having about $624 worth of materials, then $330 for the silver medals (93% silver, 7% copper), and $4.70 for the bronze (which are mostly made of copper, with a very small amount of zinc and tin), about $1.5 million is still being spent on the materials alone for the medals awarded, not to mention the cost of minting them.
- Strict guidelines are set for the minting of Olympic medals. For instance, for gold medals the silver must be 92.5% pure silver (with 7.5% copper), and they must include at least 6g of gold for plating the medal. They also must be at least 3mm thick and 60mm in diameter.
- Nobel Prize gold medals really are made of mostly gold. Today they are made with 24 karat gold plating and 18 karat green gold (gold with a small amount of silver) for the rest. Before 1980, they were made from 23 karat gold.
- The practice of giving out gold and silver medals is thought to have its origins with the military. Before a standard set of military awards were created, it was common to reward soldiers (in a variety of militaries throughout the world) for special achievements by giving them gold and silver medals. For instance, in the United States, special awards were given to commanding officers in the form of gold medals and the officers under that commander would receive silver medals.
- The gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, being smaller than the current medals (Barcelona medals at 9.8 mm thick, 70 mm in diameter, weighing 231g) are only worth about $484 at the current price of gold and silver.
Chemistry On Mars
The Mars Science Laboratory will be seeking clues to the planetary puzzle about life on Mars, the Curiosity rover is one of the best-outfitted chemistry missions ever. Scientists say Curiosity is the next best thing to launching a team of trained chemists to Mars’ surface.
“The Mars Science Laboratory mission has the goal of understanding whether its landing site on Mars was ever a habitable environment, a place that could have supported microbial life,” says MSL Deputy Project Scientist, Ashwin Vasavada, who provides a look “under the hood” in this informative video from the American Chemical Society.
“Curiosity is really a geochemical experiment, and a whole laboratory of chemical equipment is on the rover,” says Vasavada. “It will drill into rocks, and analyze material from those rocks with sophisticated instruments.”
Curiosity will drive around the landing site at Gale Crater and sample the soil, layer by layer, to piece together the history of Mars, trying to determine if and when the planet went from a wetter, warmer world to its current cold and dry conditions.
The payload includes mast-mounted instruments to survey the surroundings and assess potential sampling targets from a distance, and there are also instruments on Curiosity’s robotic arm for close-up inspections. Laboratory instruments inside the rover will analyze samples from rocks, soils and the atmosphere.
The two instruments on the mast are a high-definition imaging system, and a laser-equipped, spectrum-reading camera called ChemCam that can hit a rock with a special laser beam, and using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, can observe the light emitted from the laser’s spark and analyze it with the spectrometer to understand the chemical composition of the soil and rock on Mars.
The Time They Used a Cigarette Lighter to Light the Olympic Torch
When it comes to the Olympic Flame, its keepers take no chances. Multiple backup sources are lit from the torch so that if the original goes out (which isn’t totally uncommon), it can be reignited using the same fire.
But what happens when the Flame goes out and the backups are nowhere to be found? That’s exactly what happened during the 1976 Montreal Summer Games. Though Olympic Stadium had been constructed just for the Games, construction strikes halted progress on the building, leaving the roof and tower unfinished. In fact, patrons of Olympic Stadium didn’t have a proper roof over their heads until more than a decade later.
This proved problematic when an unexpected rainstorm hit a few days into the Games, extinguishing the unprotected Olympic Flame. No events were scheduled at that particular venue for the day, so the bearers of the backups were nowhere to be found. “Use what you got,” onsite plumber M. Pierre Bouchard must have figured, and pulled a cigarette lighter from his pocket.
When Olympic officials found out about the incident shortly thereafter, the not-so-distinguished Flame was put out and relit with a proper backup.
The Virus That Might Kill Your Computer on July 9th (And How to Stop It!)
It sounds like one of those annoying chain e-mails that show up from technically-challenged acquaintances: “The FBI Will Take Your Computer Offline July 9 If It Has A Virus! Visit This Site Immediately To Check!! Forward This To Everyone You Know!!!”
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation really has posted a warning on its site about the risk of “DNSChanger” malware, which really will result in your computer getting disconnected from the Web on July 9, if you don’t clean it up.
The story began last November when the Bureau announced it had busted a four-year-old Estonia-based conspiracy. The suspects had infected about 4 million computers — some 500,000 in the United States — with malware called DNSChanger (also referred to as Alureon) that diverted victims to scam sites.
This “rootkit” malware was usually delivered as a fake download for Windows or Mac OS X that then silently altered the Domain Name System (DNS) settings on computers and even some wireless routers. That’s about the most serious compromise an Internet-connected machine can suffer; when DNS stops correctly translating domain names like discovery.com to machine-readable Internet Protocol addresses like 188.8.131.52, you no longer know what sites you’re dealing with.
But once an infected machine had been cuffed to DNSChanger’s rogue servers, shutting it off would effectively unplug it from the Internet. To give unaware victims time to clean up their systems, the FBI secured a court order requiring the Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit Net-architecture firm, to take over and sanitize those servers.
But all bad things must end; after one stay of execution, ISC is now set to turn off the DNSChanger servers on July 9. At that point, any infected machine will only be able to connect to numerical IP addresses, essentially, a rotary-dial version of the Internet.
Early advice on checking for a DNSChanger infection required a fair degree of technical skill, but now you just need to be able to read one line of text or know the difference between green and red. Visit www.dns-ok.us; if you see a green background to the image on that page and the words “DNS Resolution = GREEN,” you’re safe. (Your Internet provider may also offer a similar service; Comcast subscribers, for example, can check their computers at amibotted.comcast.net.)
If you see otherwise, you have a month and change to fix the problem. Since DNSChanger can disable security programs, you may not be able to do this the easy way, by clicking a “scan” button in your anti-virus app. You can try specialized DNSChanger-removal tools from such firms as SecureMac or run general-purpose anti-rootkit software like MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware or Kaspersky Labs’ TDSSKiller.
The DNS Changer Working Group, created by Internet-security experts to help clean up the problem, has also set up a page with links to manual malware-cleanup instructions from Microsoft and others. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to reinstall your computer’s operating system and software from scratch, using either the discs that came with the computer or the recovery partition on its hard drive.
But that still beats having a computer that can only navigate the Internet by numbers. So if you have friends or family members online who might not know to check for this problem, please forward this post to them. But hold the exclamation points.
I don’t expect anyone I know to have this….but maybe their parents might. If you’re iffy about the links on here, you can actually go to the FBI’s website and search for DNSChanger and it says roughly the same stuff.
Our Incredible Planet
These incredible images of the planet Earth show it at its most striking and dramatic, and are more akin to those normally taken from Neptune, Mars or Pluto.
The alien-looking images come from a variety of locations across the globe including the White Desert in Egypt, Monument Valley in the U.S., and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island in the Philippines. The images include shots of salt plains, rock formations, geysers, sand dunes, mud playas, lava shelves and deserts.
In 2009, a German Engineering Firm, Festo, developed two colonies of bionic penguins that are able to demonstrate collective behavior. The penguins can utilize their flippers and swim smoothly through the water just like real ones, and larger models filled with helium are able to fly and “swim” through the sky. The penguins contain a 3D sonar system, which is used to monitor its surroundings and avoid collisions.
Flexible glass fibre rods were used to control the heads, which enables graceful, smooth head turns. “The fibres are arranged around the side of each penguin’s head, while motors inside the body pull on one or more of them to twist the penguin’s neck in any direction and guide the swimmer, says Markus Fischer, who heads Festo’s corporate design team.”
The penguins are also able to collectively work together in a group, exhibiting what psychologists know as “crowd behavior,” in which one member can respond and react to what another does.
You can watch the video here.