Category Archives: Nature

Updates from Boeing

Boeing and subsidiary Liquid Robotics team up to explore deeper possibilities for autonomous systems
BY Dan Raley – Created by Boeing subsidiary Liquid Robotics, this maritime innovation known as the Wave Glider was originally intended to record the songs of migrating whales. When integrated with Boeing’s advanced sensors for defense applications, the Wave Glider can locate undersea vehicles at substantial distances, hunt for mines, monitor land radar, and gather and relay data to other systems, all while operating on solar and wave power for months at a time.

“It’s a hidden treasure,” said Jim Bray, Boeing autonomous systems technology integrator in St. Louis. “There’s a lot going on under the sea.”

Covered with fiberglass panels and small antennas topside and tethered to a wing-like propulsion system beneath it called a sub, the Wave Glider communicates by low-Earth-orbit satellite through a command-and-control unit and surface radio modem, similarly to someone sending a text message by smartphone.

“It’s revolutionary stuff,” said Scott Willcox, Liquid Robotics technology lead. “It’s like reinventing the sail — fundamentally, it’s a new way to get around the ocean. What you can do with it is almost limitless.”

In Ventura, Calif., in July, seven months after Boeing acquired Liquid Robotics, the companies teamed to test new Wave Glider capabilities in the ocean that would be presented to a customer for the first time. The testing demonstrated how transponders placed on the ocean floor by the Wave Glider conceivably could provide an oceanic GPS. An unmanned undersea vehicle in need of updating its location could use these underwater acoustics to determine where it is and never have to surface. more>

Do civilizations collapse?

BOOK REVIEW

Understanding Collapse: Ancient History and Modern Myths, Author: Guy D Middleton.

By Guy D Middleton – In After Collapse (2006), Glenn Schwartz compiled a useful list of circumstances in which archaeologists might identify collapse: ‘the fragmentation of states into smaller political entities; the partial abandonment or complete desertion of urban centers, along with the loss or depletion of their centralizing functions; the breakdown of regional economic systems; and the failure of civilizational ideologies’.

We also need to think about what we apply the term ‘collapse’ to – what exactly was it that collapsed? Very often, it’s suggested that civilizations collapse, but this isn’t quite right. It is more accurate to say that states collapse. States are tangible, identifiable ‘units’ whereas civilization is a more slippery term referring broadly to sets of traditions.

Looking around us, we can see the trouble we are in, we can see the threats to our overpopulated world, to our overly complex and thus increasingly vulnerable society and way of life.

We do not need to make other peoples’ histories into lessons for ourselves. When the evidence for environmentally driven collapses in the past is so weak, and the evidence for contact-era atrocities so strong, it is a wonder that the former is the focus and the lesson, rather than the latter. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves what exactly we should be learning from history. more>

Updates from GE

GE Is Helping Build A Huge Wind Farm On Santa’s Doorstep, Europe’s Largest
By Dorothy Pomerantz – In Markbygden forest in the northern Sweden, the temperature drops to minus 10 degrees Celsius in the winter and bitter winds blow. That makes this area 60 miles south of the arctic circle uncomfortable for humans, but the sparsely populated region, where real reindeer roam, is perfect for a wind farm.

Engineers there are now building the roads and preparing the land to erect some of the world’s largest wind turbines. When the project is complete, 179 GE turbines, each twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, will rise approximately 140 meters above the forest, where they will catch the nearly ceaseless wind to generate 650 megawatts of electricity. When complete in 2019, it will be the largest operating wind farm in Europe, increasing Sweden’s installed wind generation by 12 percent, says Thomas Thomsen of GE Renewables.

GE machines already power Europe’s largest operational wind farm in Fântânele-Cogealac in Romania, which can generate 600 megawatts. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Spain’s Forestalia Group to supply wind turbines for a planned 1,200-megawatt wind farm near Aragon. The company also will supply turbines for the planned 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher in the Oklahoma Panhandle, which will be the largest wind farm in the U.S. more>

Updates from GE

Inside This South African Smelter, Software Is Going Platinum
By P.D. Olson – Demand for platinum, also known as the rich man’s gold, has been growing because of a long list of evolving industrial applications, including computer memory chips, dental crowns, defibrillators, catalytic converters for cars and even wedding bands.

The metal is so rare that miners and smelters literally move mountains to extract only a few hundred tons of the metal out of the earth’s crust every year. Following an expensive and time-consuming process, it takes them half a year and around 12 tons of ore to produce just a single troy ounce, or 31.1 grams, of platinum worth around $1,100.

No wonder producers like Lonmin, a platinum-mining company in South Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s platinum is produced, are looking for an upgrade.

Percy French, operations manager at Lonmin, is betting on a digital solution. A decade ago, he began using a smelter software application from GE’s Digital Mine suite to make his operation more efficient. By 2016 the software had helped him increase throughput at Lonmin.

Based on this early success, French upgraded his systems to include a new application that allows him to track plant performance and key performance indicators and also automate operations. The app, called Operations Performance Management (OPM), uses real-time and historical data along with advanced analytics to help Lonmin make better-informed operational decisions and help the plant troubleshoot and prevent issues with its machines and other assets. So far, the app has reduced chemical waste at Lonmin by 3 percent and has led to a 10 percent improvement in throughput. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Daydreaming is Good. It Means You’re Smart
By Jason Maderer – A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming during meetings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might be a sign that you’re really smart and creative.

“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” said Eric Schumacher, the Georgia Tech associate psychology professor who co-authored the study.

Schumacher says higher efficiency means more capacity to think, and the brain may mind wander when performing easy tasks.

How can you tell if your brain is efficient? One clue is that you can zone in and out of conversations or tasks when appropriate, then naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps.

“Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings,” said Schumacher. “Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.” more>

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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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