Tech Tuesday, Bacteria Still Rule Edition (12/5/17)

So I recently discovered Steven Universe. I fully recommend it (it’s on Cartoon Network and Hulu). Some people on Tumblr, etc. get a little too into it, but it is quite smart. Don’t let the animation style make you think it isn’t.

Aerospace

AERO1 – Not water, just sand, but still impressive what we can learn just by looking from far away.

AERO2 – More about what we learned from looking at our interstellar cigar.

AERO3 – I love the idea, but I’m left wondering where they think they are going to get 160km of superconducting wire that can readily form a loop?

AERO4 – For serious citizen scientists, and serious kooks who want to know how many extra layers of tin foil to put on their hats today.

AERO5 – Well if we can’t have them on Earth, let’s NUKE MARS!

AERO6 – High altitude drones are way cheaper than satellites, to build and deploy.  Honestly, tech like this, parked over a city, can remove the need for concepts like net neutrality (yes, I’m being intentionally vague about why, so we can talk about it in the comments).

AERO7 – Another entrant into the electric commercial aviation field.  Given my employer is part of the partnership, I’ll be interested to see what work comes my way.

Architecture

ARCH1 – This is a fantastic idea!  Now just extend this to Olympic games and we’ll be set.  Hell, extend it to every professional sport.

ARCH2 – More ideas for living on the water.  On a related note, I really hope Moody’s follows through on this.

Bio/Medical

BIO1 – This is not permission to indulge at Cinnabon.

BIO2 – Not the first time I’ve seen nanoparticles being employed to hunt down cancer cells.  Does anyone know if any of these nanoparticle therapies are actually past clinical trials and in use today?

BIO3 – I haven’t been too worried about the bees, since restoring a collapsed hive isn’t hard or terribly expensive, but it’s still a problem that needs addressing, so it’s good to see work like this.

BIO4 – A simple enzyme, really?

BIO5C, G, A, T, X, Y

BIO6 – Evolution so fast we can use it to do computations?  Am I reading this right?  Also, teaching bacteria to do our chemistry for us, but don’t let them learn how to resist our antibiotics..  Also, turning E. Coli into a sensor grid that can record and report data.

BIO7 – Plants, the silent spies.  My prediction:  DARPA will engineer a strain of Dandelion that blooms a different color if it’s in the presence of a given isotope (something you’d only find around a nuclear weapon site).  Spread the seeds over the DPRK.

Energy

ENRG1 – I applaud efforts to turn Bio-Waste into energy, but I’m starting to wonder if there aren’t simply too many different approaches that only know how to deal with a too limited set of biomass.  What happens when the available biomass can’t keep pace with the energy demand, or the biomass supply dries up?  People need to start thinking bigger.

ENRG2 – Now this is just too cool, or hot, or smoothly going from hot to cool , or something!  (PS Thermal battery unlike anything you’ve ever heard of)

ENRG3 – Did anyone not see this coming?

ENRG4 – It can turn sunlight into electricity!  It can split water molecules! It can make Julianne fries!

ENRG5Graphene popcorn can make your phone battery charge way faster!

ENRG6 – I’m not up on the chemistry here, but the words ‘Magnesium’ and ‘non-flammable’ are not words I often see together.

Materials

MAT1Superelastic chainmail tires for a future lunar rover.  Won’t be seeing these on a NASCAR track (speed rating is gonna be very low), but it’s still a pretty cool variation of a Twheel.

MAT2 – Adding graphene to asphalt could double the lifespan of asphalt, thanks to the heat transfer abilities of graphene.  Sounds reasonable, but I’ll hold off on getting too excited until the test kilometer has gone a couple of years.

MAT3 – Looking to sea urchin spines for super strong concrete.  It’s all about the micro and nano structures.  What fascinates me isn’t that we’ve figured these things out, it’s that we can reliably get these micro and nano structures to form without having to assemble things molecule by molecule.

MAT4 – Graphene sheets could be used as a near infinite power source thanks to ambient heat.  Some comments:  First, the idea of extracting useful amounts of energy from micro and nano level vibrations isn’t out there, although AFAIK, it hasn’t been used for any kind of commercial application (which is why this is in Materials instead of Energy), but the theory is sound.  Second, Graphene is only 2D in the sense that it’s only one molecule thick, it’s not truly 2D.

MAT5 – Speaking of carbon, the nano-tubes are still kicking it as water filters.

Physics

PHYS1 – This is a comic book origin just waiting to be used.

Technology

TECH1Soft robots seems to be all the rage these days, although perhaps only halfheartedly.

TECH2 – Last time, I linked to research that worked to remove the vibrations from 3D print-head movements to speed up printing, now they are increasing the pressure and heating efficiency to improve speeds.

Transportation

TRANS1 – Speaking of improving 3D printing, the first 3D printed ships screw has been approved for use.   Ship screws, be they solid or variable pitch, are expensive to produce because they have to be cast and machined to the finished shape.  Building the casting molds is itself expensive (the curves have to be precise), and do not lend themselves to custom blade profiles.  This should permit some greater ability to play with designs, and reduce the cost of replacing screws.

TRANS2 – This showed up a bit sooner than I expected.

TRANS3 – Using internal air bladders in tanker trailers to reducing sloshing.

TRANS4 – That is some novel application of hydrofoils.

TRANS5High-res LIDAR for self driving vehicles.  I want to see how it works in the rain, snow, or fog, but it does make some pretty pictures.

Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful

WWW1 – A discussion of the public trust in scientific authority.  Via Pillsy.

WWW2Math epitaphs.  Also, if you aren’t checking out this excellent blog regularly, you should be if you have any interest in math.

Image by rulenumberone2


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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25 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday, Bacteria Still Rule Edition (12/5/17)

    • I love the wooden skyscrapers, partly because of the whole renewable material aspect, but also, steel, concrete, and glass can be kinda cold. I love looking at exposed wooden structure, brings a warmth to the place.

      The gothic touches are awesome, no one does that anymore, buildings have too many clean lines. I like looking at a building and thinking it’s a place Gozer would find welcoming.

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      • In a modern skyscraper the steel can be recycled, I suspect if the economics were there the concrete could be recycled also (not likley with it taking about the same amount of energy as virgin concrete and the large supply of limestone world wide). Also a wooden high rise would need a lot of fire protection or you would have a lot of Grenfell towers.

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        • There are multiple companies in my city that recycle both concrete and asphalt, although mostly for the aggregate. Much of ongoing road maintenance in the region is milling off the top couple-to-several inches of old asphalt and putting down new asphalt. The bitumen part is… well, up and down the Rockies there’s an immense amount of tar sands, as well as the bottom parts from oil refining. (The answer to the oft-asked question “How long can you maintain the roads?” is “If you don’t care about CO2, tens of thousands of years.”) I am always somewhat surprised when I visit other parts of the country where roads are predominantly concrete.

          The state is a net exporter of cement and almost all of that is, as you note, produced from local limestone, rather than recycled. There is at least one stretch of land tucked away out of sight in my city where busted up concrete from roads and buildings (plus cement) goes in one end, and large amounts of pre-stressed structural concrete stuff comes out the other.

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  1. Steven Universe is brilliant and also spectacularly subversive in a remarkably non-preachy way. Fans, of course, ruin everything but the show itself is really something else. Yeah I know it’s a cartoon for kids but it’s also awesome. Also its episode on wrestling finally made me vaguely understand pro wrestling.

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  2. Wife: “Honey, try this sauce, does it need anything?”

    Me: “Pretty good but hold on, let me get my Muon Detector it needs a little something else.”

    Wife: ” Stop!!! My sauce has enough Muon’s…..so do the holiday lights, the cats, the poinsettia my mom sent us and your pillow….Stop!!!”

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  3. AERO3: CERN contains about 7600 km of superconducting cable. It’s nobium-tin, so it’s only superconducting at liquid helium sorts of temperatures, but the stuff is easily formed however you like before cooling.

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    • Yeah, the brake will need a warmer superconductor. It’s gotta be stored for the trip in a bundle that can unfurl, and while one can probably rely on temps in the -260K range at system entry, that ambient temp will go up as you get closer to the system primary.

      Or rather, if you are in view of the primary, your superconductor had better be a damn near perfect reflector, or it will warm up pretty quick (space is a vacuum so it doesn’t have an ambient temperature to speak off).

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    • IIRC, the cigar is moving at a pretty good clip, I doubt we could get a ship built and launched quick enough to actually be able to catch it.

      The plants do change, what DARPA wants is something that will change in very specific ways in response to very specific stimuli.

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