Tech Tuesday 7/18/17 – Hagfish Edition

First day of the official Tech Tuesday!

Aerospace

Aero1 – Radiation in space is a serious concern.  A new space suit may help with that.  And if it is cheaper and

lighter weight than gold foil, it could protect satellites as well.

Aero2 – The USS Bruce Willis is all set to… Oh, wait, that’s not it’s name.  And it doesn’t involve oil rig workers, or drills, or cheesy nuclear warheads.

Aero3 – Getting a good look at Jupiter’s wine stain of a storm.  And if you are tired of hearing about the Jovian, here is Pluto once again.

Aero4 – Runaway stars.  Likely the result of a bad relationship that finally exploded.  How fast are they moving?  400 kps plus whatever orbital speed they had at the time of escape.

Aero5 – New ceramic coating may give new momentum to hypersonic vehicles (Mach5+).

Aero6 – For some reason, this sounds really familiar, but it’s being presented as new research (maybe I saw the working paper?).  Anyway, owl wings and wind turbine noise.

Aero7 – Using a gecko to clean up space junk.  Well, a robotic gecko.  OK, a robot with gecko inspired grippers.

Bio-Medical

Bio1 – Purple, anti-oxidant rich ric… oh, never mind, the anti-GMO folks will just destroy those crops as well.  Yeah for the purity of Gaia…

Bio3 – Vitamin A rich bana… This is just asking for trouble, people.  Just stop trying to help the poor an malnourished with science and evil GMOs, there are moral souls at stake here!

Bio2 – A vaccine for killing tumors.

Bio3 – Storing data in DNA.  I mean, we actually did it, a whole video.  And a computer virus and an Amazon gift card.  One TB of data, 150 grams of DNA.

Bio4 – A soft, fully functional, 3D-printed artificial heart.

Energy

Enrg1 – I would be surprised if something like this would scale to compete directly with a HAWT or VAWT, but it certainly could work on the small scale, or as an large scale array, since they could probably be sited much closer together.  Actually, a CFD simulation of a field of these would be pretty interesting…

Enrg2 – A technology demonstrator using Formic Acid as an energy source.  For those of you not familiar with formic acid, it’s HCOOH.  So what the tech does is extracts the H2 and releases the CO2.  The CO2 is then recycled to make more formic acid.

Enrg3 – Plans to build the worlds largest flow battery, in a giant salt cavern.

Environment

Env1 – Remember the Deepwater Horizon?  Remember how most of the oil from the broken well head never made it to the surface where we could clean it up?  Remember how a lot of it also just sort of vanished?  Well, it didn’t vanish, it got eaten, by a microbe.  And now we know which one.

Env2 – This one is for Kristin, in honor of her post.  And if concrete isn’t your thing, how about origami?

Materials

Mat1 – The secret to long standing Roman marine concrete?  Seawater.  Figuring this out will have long term benefits, not just by allowing us to build stronger, more durable piers and wharves, but sea walls as well, not to mention concrete hulls for floating houses, or whole islands.

Mat2 – Graphene to the rescue once again, this time in dialysis machines that are 10 to 100 times faster than current designs.

Mat3 – Artificial spider silk made at room temperature, without solvents or large energy inputs, that is non-toxic and 98% water.  I will now sit here and eagerly await the day when I can order my very own Spider-Man webshooters from Amazon.

Physics

Phys1 – Redefining the kilogram through Planck’s Constant.  In your everyday existence, having a super precise measurement standard for a unit of mass is no big thing, but it’s pretty damn important regardless.  Being able to mathematically define that standard through a physical constant not only alleviates the need to maintain physical representations of those standard measures, it also makes the standard open source, in that when you need to re-calibrate highly sensitive measuring equipment, you don’t need to wait for one of the standards to become available, you just dial it in mathematically.

Phys2 – Oh LHC, Charmed, I’m sure.

Technology

Tech1 – Smart windows are getting smarter by being self powered.

Tech2 – New materials to speed up recharge rates.

Tech3 – Introducing the worlds sharpest laser!  Wait, what?  How is a laser sharp?

Tech4 – A 34 ft LED flat screen.  Yes, that is feet, not inches.

Tech5 – Using the fuel to form the nozzle.

Transportation

Tr1 – That is certainly ambitious.  Good luck, Volvo.

Tr2 – If you´re having any car trouble, the Detroit Tow Truck Company will be the right tow truck for you if you´re looking for an inexpensive service.

Weird, Wacky, and Wonderful

Www1 – Oh look, it’s a revolutionary dumb-waiter, for people

Www2 – Our stupid obsession with the perfect lawn.

Www3 – What happens when Cthulhu sneezes all over the road.   Take a moment to read the whole FAQ, it’s amusing.

Image by checoo


Associate Editor

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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36 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday 7/18/17 – Hagfish Edition

  1. Tr2 – headline

    Volvo Cars to go all electric

    In the press release

    Volvo Cars will introduce a portfolio of electrified cars across its model range, embracing fully electric cars, plug in hybrid cars and mild hybrid cars.

    (em added)

    *thinkingface.jpg*

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  2. Bio4: The working heart isn’t 3D printed. A model is 3D printed, and the actual heart produced by a conventional lost-wax casting process.

    Is it just me, or is the frequency of errors getting past the editing processes increasing? The first three or four of these stories that I pulled up all had small but obvious errors.

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    • Sorry, that is on me. Errors are usually the result of stories I find as the deadline approaches, and they get a skim instead of a full read. I’ll get better about making sure the blurb is either accurate, or intentionally woefully incorrect.

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      • Not a big deal. One of the first applications for 3D printing has been faster, easier creation of complex molds for cases where you need either many identical copies, or things made from materials not suited to 3D printers.

        I’ve been considering getting a small 3D printer for hobby purposes. So far I’ve been put off by literature that shows, for example, a small plastic enclosure with a note like “Printing time, 6.4 hours.”

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    • OK, I just re-read that article, & I was not entirely wrong. The heart is 3D-printed, with a lost wax printer.

      If you want to print something out of a material that has a long set time (like silicone), you print it with a printer with two nozzles, one prints in silicone, the other with wax. The wax nozzle prints out a mold, and the silicone nozzle fills in the silicone. The wax holds it’s shape so the silicone can cure. Then, after the silicone cures, you melt the wax.

      At least, I think that is what they are talking about, it’s hard to tell, because you can also just print the heart in wax, build a plaster mold around it, then cast with silicone in a traditional lost wax process.

      But I will still be more careful.

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  3. The photographer makes the hagfish’s mouth look like some kind of therapeutic shower head.

    …Now you can’t unsee it, and will have to try hard to distract yourself from thinking about a massive hagfish hanging over your head the next time you groom yourself. You’re welcome.

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  4. The soft artificial heart story includes this line:

    The reasoning why nature should be used as a model is clear. Currently used blood pumps have many disadvantages: their mechanical parts are susceptible to complications while the patient lacks a physiological pulse, which is assumed to have some consequences for the patient.

    I know that I’ve heard of new artificial hearts that just constantly circulate blood without the thumpthump (remember this story?) but I would like to know more about the consequences for the patients that live pulselessly.

    And then I read *THIS* line:

    They proved that the soft artificial heart fundamentally works and moves in a similar way to a human heart. However, it still has one problem: it currently lasts for about only 3,000 beats, which corresponds to a lifetime of half to three quarters of an hour. After that, the material can no longer withstand the strain.

    Now I’d really, really like to know more about the assumed consequences for the patient.

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  5. Re Env1, its not really a surprise that such oil eating bacteria exist. After all in the gulf there are numerous natural oil seeps and for bacteria these provide good feeding. I suspect that other areas that have oil seeps tend to also have bacteria that eat the results of the seeps. So one metric for allowing drilling might be are there natural seeps in the ocean floor in the area to be drilled, because then clean up bacteria likley exist locally. There is still a lot of marine biology that is unknown, after all until recently the life around deep hot vents that lives off sulfur was unknown. For the bitumen it may be that the time constant is longer but since there are bitumen seeps I suspect that bacteria exist to eat them to.

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    • Really good oil-eating bacteria have been created in the past using the standard selective breeding techniques. Getting permission to distribute them has been difficult in many jurisdictions — no one wants to be responsible for introducing them and having a rogue mutation turn them into diesel- or gasoline-gobbling critters.

      Many years ago, I recall someone breeding bacteria that would, slowly but steadily, eat petroleum-based plastics, with the entirely good intent of cleaning up landfills. I heard about it because I worked in telecom at the time, and the horror story that killed the idea was “What happens if they get loose and start eating the insulation on the wire pairs in the telephone company’s cables?”

      It’s not an uncommon meme in science fiction. IIRC, the collapse of technology in Ringworld was due to an engineered bacterium that ate the room-temperature superconductors everything depended on.

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      • However the post on the oil suggests that left to its own devices evolution can produce similar organisms to those that are selectively bred if the ecological niche is large enough. In particular if we want to look for bacteria it seems that cold seeps of petroleum are a good place to start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_seep The bacteria in question are chemosynthetic.

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        • Squirrels (also ground squirrels, prairie dogs, etc) will chew on all sorts of cables — the outer jacket is a nice consistency for them to chew on to wear their incisors down at the proper rate. Bell Labs used to have a couple of researchers who looked for compounds with three properties: (1) squirrels hated the taste, (2) it didn’t kill the squirrels, and (3) it didn’t compromise the strength of the jacket when mixed into the plastic.

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      • the collapse of technology in Ringworld was due to an engineered bacterium that ate the room-temperature superconductors everything depended on.

        “Engineered” by aliens for the express purpose of causing the collapse of civilization.

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  6. Of all the links, there are two that I think are pretty significant in the immediate, mat1 & mat3.

    Mat1 because a concrete that can not only resist seawater, but actually gets stronger through exposure, could potentially open up our ability to exploit coastal regions, and especially shallow water regions.

    Mat3 for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the ease of production with aerogels (which are also easy to produce). Sure, it’s not the strongest silk, but it’s as strong as other synthetic silks, much cheaper to produce, and I would not be surprised if the next step was to combine the aerogels with the proteins that make spider silk crazy strong & see if the proteins will self assemble & entangle as desired.

    The benefits of super strong, easy to produce textiles are legion. This could be huge.

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    • Mat1

      I’m surprised at the surprise, because my understanding of how the Romans had built the Port of Ostia in Imperial times (which is nothing like a natural port, and it was rubish in winter, jeopardizing food supplies to Rome) involved loading galleys with concrete pre-mix, and then sinking those, the mix hardening into concrete in the sea water, to act as foundation for breakwaters.

      Hence, I thought this was old history. I guess what has been (re)discovered is the actual mix, and not the concept.

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      • It wasn’t the fact that the Romans knew that concrete will cure underwater. That is common knowledge (for those who don’t know – concrete hardens by way of chemical reaction – as long as you can prevent the concrete from flowing away, it will harden underwater). The thing that had scientists stumped was the fact that the concrete formulation that the Romans used got stronger the longer it sat under seawater, whereas the concrete we use weakens as it is exposed to seawater.

        Now they think they have the ingredients list for Roman marine concrete, and it’s just a matter of playing with the ratios of the ingredients.

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