Category Archives: Nature

Updates from Georgia Tech

Driving Cassini: Doctoral Student Controls Spacecraft in Mission’s Final Days

By Jason Maderer – When the Cassini spacecraft plunges into Saturn on September 15 to end a nearly two-decade mission, Georgia Tech student Michael Staab will have a front row seat. It’s almost literally the driver’s seat.

Staab is working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California while pursuing his aerospace engineering doctoral degree in the distance learning program. He’s a Cassini Spacecraft Flight Controller, which means he’s one of only three people authorized to tell the machine what to do and where to go as it orbits Saturn.

The job is almost finished. Just before 8 a.m. (Atlanta time) on Friday, Staab will hear Cassini’s signal for the final time before it dives into the planet’s atmosphere, becoming a part of Saturn.

Prior to attending Georgia Tech, I was a flight test engineering intern at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California and, later, a test requirements and analysis engineer for Boeing in St. Louis. I had a lot of control room and operations experience, which is exactly what JPL was looking for.

The duty of a flight controller at JPL is fairly straight-forward; we possess absolute command and control authority of the spacecraft when tracking it through the Deep-Space Network. more> https://goo.gl/aAU76G

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Updates from GE

Strange Cargo: How Do You Move An 8 Million-Pound Heat-Recovery Steam Generator Down The Hudson? Swimmingly.

By Amy Kover – The journey — the first of its kind for such a machine — began in 2015, when the New Jersey-based power company PSEG ordered GE’s latest HA-class gas turbine and other equipment for a new combined-cycle power plant in Sewaren, an industrial town tucked away behind New York City’s Staten Island.

The machines included a heat-recovery steam generator, or HRSG in power-industry parlance. It recovers waste heat from the gas turbine and turns it into steam that powers a steam turbine to generate more electricity, making the power station more efficient.

GE typically arranges to have all the parts delivered to the power plant for on-site construction. However, as the project began to unfold, it became clear that building the steam generator, which is much larger than the turbines, in New Jersey was going to be a challenge. The site happens to be located in one of the country’s most densely developed areas.

To overcome this challenge, PSEG decided to build the 4,000-ton HRSG in upstate New York and ship it to New Jersey in one piece. GE worked closely with PSEG and construction firm Megrant to crack this logistical riddle. more> https://goo.gl/u8Y2mi

Updates from GE

Weathering The Storm: This Tech Will Help Utilities Keep The Lights On

By Bruce Watson – As Hurricane Harvey drenched the Texas coast in August — and Irma devastated the Caribbean and soaked Florida last week — the media was filled with scenes of flooded streets and gymnasiums crowded with people seeking shelter.

If earlier disasters are any indication, a key to these regions’ recovery may lie in how soon they are able to restore electricity to the millions of people who lost it. In the case of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New York’s inundation with salt water knocked out power across New York City and and in many seaside towns, slowed down recovery efforts, and made it impossible for many people hit by the storm to return to their normal lives — and their jobs. According to some estimates, power and other infrastructure failures may have more than doubled Sandy’s long-term economic losses.

Part of the problem is the way that most regions plan for disasters. Traditional planning tends to focus on recovery — solving the problems caused by a disaster, like sheltering displaced people or fixing failed power grids. By comparison, grid resiliency, an emerging trend in preparedness, works to create infrastructure that will continue to function in the face of disaster or that can recover quickly. more> https://goo.gl/YUPzNT

Updates from Autodesk

Design, Hydraulic Analysis, Modeling of Water Systems

HydrauliCAD – HydrauliCAD ™ is an exceptionally easy to use water pipe design hydraulic analysis software program. It is useful for both pro WaterModelers or any Engineers with a basic AutoCAD fluency. It is used for simulation watermodeling of water pipe networks “Right out of the Box. Water system Design with Epanet hydraulic analysis, in an AutoCAD Municipal water system design program.

The president of HydrauliCAD Software, Ralph Armour, a 30 year water system designer, is the owner and creator of HydrauliCAD water network design software in AutoCAD.

As a user of several water network design software in AutoCAD programs to complete his own work, Ralph had always felt that most Design / Hydraulic Analysis Modeling programs were cumbersome, overpriced and designed to be far more difficult to learn and use than was necessary.
He also felt that they seemed to focus on areas that might be fun for University Profs to get hypothetical with, but did not focus on the areas used daily by most Civil Engineering firms or Municipalities.

The end result is a water network design software in AutoCAD program that is the very best out there in the areas that most water network designers actually use, truly Intuitive and easy to use, while extensive with tools designed specifically for this purpose. more> cadinnovation.com

Updates from Georgia Tech

You and Some ‘Cavemen’ Get a Genetic Health Check
By Ben Brumfield – Heart problems were much more common in the genes of our ancient ancestors than in ours today, according to a new study by geneticists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who computationally compared genetic disease factors in modern humans with those of people through the millennia.

Overall, the news from the study is good. Evolution appears, through the ages, to have weeded out genetic influences that promote disease, while promulgating influences that protect from disease.

But for us modern folks, there’s also a hint of bad news. That generally healthy trend might have reversed in the last 500 to 1,000 years, meaning that, with the exception of cardiovascular ailments, disease risks found in our genes may be on the rise. For mental health, our genetic underpinnings look especially worse than those of our ancient forebears. more> https://goo.gl/txQhqU

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Updates from Aalto University

Aalto-1 satellite sends first image
By Jaan Praks, Antti Kestilä – Launched on the morning of 23 June from India, the Aalto-1 satellite’s first month in space has gone according to plan.

‘We have run checks on the majority of the satellite’s systems and found that the devices are fully functional,’ Professor Jaan Praks, who is heading the satellite project, explains.

‘We have also downloaded the first image sent by Aalto-1, which is also the first ever image taken from a Finnish satellite. It was taken while on orbit over Norway at an altitude of about 500 kilometres. The image shows the Danish coast as well as a portion of the Norwegian coastline.

Unlike traditional cameras, which measure three colours, the hyperspectral camera is able to measure dozens of freely selected narrow color channels. For this reason, it can be utilised for example in surveying forest types, algae and vegetation and as a tool in geological research. more> https://goo.gl/QGMNGu

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Updates from GE

Sea Change: GE’s French Wind Turbine Factory Will Power Germany’s Renewables Revolution
By Tomas Kellner – GE is a relative newcomer to offshore wind. The company explored the field a decade ago and returned to the industry in 2015, when it acquired the energy assets of Alstom, and built its first wind farm in Long Island Sound near Block Island, Rhode Island, last year. As the inaugural offshore wind farm in the United States, the project made a splash even though it holds just five turbines. But Merkur, which will have 66 turbines, is a much bigger beast. “This one is special,” says Pascal Girault, who runs the Saint-Nazaire plant. “Everything is big.”

Girault spent the early part of his career managing supply chains for the car industry, but ramping up production for Merkur is no Sunday drive. Workers in Saint-Nazaire make generators and assemble nacelles for the 6-megawatt GE Haliade turbine. The nacelle is the casing on top of the tower that shelters the generator and other equipment. It includes some 30,000 components.

Adding to the task’s complexity, the composite blades for the machines’ 150-meter-diameter rotors come from GE’s LM Wind Power factory in Spain. The steel segments for the tower are being made in Germany and China. U.S. and European companies supply electronics and mechanical components for the converter and generator. “The scale and the speed of the project are challenging,” Girault says. more> https://goo.gl/GSScqV

These 5 Countries Are Killing It in the Battle Against Climate Change

By Raya Bidshahri – When it comes to climate change, government leaders and politicians must begin to think beyond their term limits and lifetimes. They must ask themselves not how they can serve their voters, but rather how they can contribute to our species’ progress. They must think beyond the short term economic benefits of fossil fuels, and consider the long term costs to our planet.

Climate change is considered one of the greatest threats to our species. If current trends continue, we can expect an increase in frequency of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and heat waves. All of these pose a threat to crops, biodiversity, freshwater supplies and above all, human life.

Here are examples of a few countries leading the way.

Denmark: Considered the most climate-friendly country in the world, Denmark is on the path to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

China: Home to the world’s biggest solar farm, China is the world’s biggest investor in domestic solar energy and is also expanding its investments in renewable energies overseas.

France: Thanks to the production of nuclear energy, representing 80 percent of nationwide energy production, France has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions.

India: The nation is on the path to becoming the third-largest solar market in the world. Solar power has become cheaper than coal in India.

Sweden: Sweden has passed a law that obliges the government to cut all greenhouse emissions by 2045. With more than half of its energy coming from renewable sources and a very successful recycling program, the country leads many initiatives on climate change. more> https://goo.gl/PPrn3b

What Happens When Quantum Physics Meets Cryptography?


By Paulina Gomez – In today’s world of ever-increasing security threats and breaches, encryption is a common technique used to protect critical information from getting into the wrong hands. In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a plaintext message in such a way that only authorized parties can access it. The result of this process is encrypted information, also known as ciphertext. But how is this done exactly? The plaintext message is transformed using an algorithm (or cipher) to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, which is referred to as the key.

Today’s state-of-art secure communications use advanced mathematics to protect in-flight data leveraging highly secure algorithms, such as in Ciena’s WaveLogic Encryption solution. Even though many cryptographic algorithms used today are publicly available, such as the popular Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), they are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time given the computational power of today’s computers. In fact, the keys used in modern cryptography are so large that breaking the AES-256 standard would require “fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion (1018) AES keys per second [and] would, in theory, require about 3×1051 years.”

The field of Quantum Cryptography is an area of security research and development focused on the introduction of new technologies that will offer more resistance to the computing power of quantum computers. Quantum cryptography draws its strength from the unpredictable nature of photons – the smallest particles in the universe. more> https://goo.gl/FTh77p

Five Things to Know About the Latest Gene Editing Breakthrough

By Ben Panko – In this study, scientists worked with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, which is kind of like cut and paste on for genes. It’s based on a naturally occurring immune system found in many bacteria species in which the microbes keep a “hit list” of virus DNA in their genomes so they can recognize future dangerous intruders.

If any of that DNA is present, the bacteria deploys enzymes called Cas (CRISPR-associated proteins), which precisely and efficiently snip out that DNA.

This research was notable for its use of viable embryos, or embryos that could likely develop into a baby if allowed to grow, reports Dina Fine Moran for Scientific American.

This is the first time this has ever happened on U.S. soil, but scientists in China have already been pushing the envelope for years. more> https://goo.gl/oxtpXQ

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