Humanity is carried on the voice
By Nicholas Epley – Hard-thinking people have spent millennia trying to articulate what distinguishes us from all other creatures. Is it having opposable thumbs? Walking upright? Using tools? Thinking analytically? This question finally got a fairly clear answer several years ago thanks to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, who brought in 105 human two-year-olds in order to compare their intellectual performance on essentially two different measures of IQ with that of 106 chimpanzees and, just for good measure, another 36 orangutans.
In tests that required reasoning about physical objects—things such as being able to track where a reward is placed under a cup, or being able to use a tool to solve a problem—the toddlers were basically neck and neck with the other primates in their performance. But in tasks where some social intelligence was involved, where subjects had to be able to track what was going on in someone else’s mind and respond accordingly—such as following the path of someone’s gaze, or understanding what someone was intending (but failed) to do—the human toddlers crushed the competition.
It makes sense that we’re good at this sort of social thinking: we are literally built for it. Our human brain stands out in the animal kingdom for its relatively gigantic neocortex—the fat part just above your eyes. What’s all that neural capacity good for? Lots and lots of things, but what it really seems to be designated for is social stuff.
If you look across primate species, what you see is that the size of the neocortex relative to the rest of the brain is positively correlated with the size of the social group that primate species inhabits. The larger the social group, the larger the neocortex relative to the rest of the brain. Human beings are the most social of all primates, and we also have the largest neocortex relative to the rest of the brain.
Living in large social groups requires having a tremendous amount of neural capacity to keep track of who knows what, who believes what, who likes what, who should be trusted and who should be avoided, and so on. Living in large social groups is also easier if you have some capacity to anticipate others’ actions before they make them, meaning that the ability to interpret somebody’s behavior in terms of an underlying mental state or goal is also invaluable. It’s our social intellect, not our thumbs, or our posture, or anything else, that makes human beings so special. more>
Maybe we don’t have to speculate about what life is like inside a bubble. It might be the only cosmic reality we know.
By J Richard Gott – The explanation for the accelerating cosmic expansion, surprising as it was at first, was readily available from the theoretical toolbox of physicists. It traced back to an idea from Albert Einstein, called the cosmological constant. Einstein invented it in 1917, as part of a failed attempt to produce a static Universe based on his general theory of relativity. At that time, the data seemed to support such a model.
In 1922, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann showed that relativity in its simplest form, without the cosmological constant, seemed to imply an expanding or contracting Universe. When Hubble’s observations showed conclusively that the Universe was expanding, Einstein abandoned the cosmological constant, but the possibility that it existed never went away.
Then the Belgian physicist Georges Lemaître showed that the cosmological constant could be interpreted in a physical way as the vacuum of empty space possessing a finite energy density accompanied by a negative pressure. That idea might sound rather bizarre at first. We are accustomed, after all, to thinking that the vacuum of empty space should have a zero energy density, since it has no matter in it. But suppose empty space had a finite but small energy density – there’s no inherent reason why such a thing could not be possible.
Negative pressure has a repulsive gravitational effect, but at the same time the energy itself has an attractive gravitational effect, since energy is equivalent to mass. (This is the relationship described by E=mc2, another implication of special relativity.) Operating in three directions – left-right, front-back, and up-down – the negative pressure creates repulsive effects three times as potent as the attractive effects of the vacuum energy, making the overall effect repulsive. We call this vacuum energy dark energy, because it produces no light. Dark energy is the widely accepted explanation for why the expansion rate of the Universe is speeding up.
Distant galaxies will flee from us because of the stretching of space between us and them. After a sufficient number of doublings, the space between them and us will be stretching so fast that their light will no longer be able to cross this ever-widening gap to reach us. Distant galaxies will fade from view and we will find ourselves seemingly alone in the visible Universe. more>
Transforming the Capital Asset Lifecycle – Part 1
By John Lusty – “Innovate or die”. Three years ago, in the global oil & gas industry, this was the dire message communicated from the boardroom to the operating plant as falling commodity prices were hollowing out corporate income statements. The same story echoed through the supply chain as engineering contractors and equipment manufacturers fought for survival – trying to win enough work to remain healthy within a shrinking capital project market while creating greater value from the existing capital asset lifecycle.
The cost-cutting that ensued was ugly, and the job losses were substantial. In parallel, the appetite for innovative ideas sky-rocketed as producers worked to wring out costs and remain profitable at any price. This triggered a new behavior within the traditionally siloed energy industry, for the first-time visionaries started to look to other manufacturing industries for capabilities that could be adapted to their own companies.
What they saw was a shock. Despite years of investing in software and technology, capital asset owners in the energy and process industries still had a long way to go to get full value from their technical information compared to other, more mature, industries. Unlike their business information which, to a greater degree, had been consolidated following two decades of ERP implementations, the technical information supporting their plant assets was still scattered across different locations and incompatible file formats.
To make matters worse, data from multiple projects and facilities used software from a variety of vendors along with their own standards and specifications. Plants that came in through acquisitions and mergers were even more unique. more>
Posted in Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, Energy & emissions, How to, Nature, Net, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Capital, Energy, Internet, PLM, Product lifecycle management, Siemens
Tiny Vibration-Powered Robots Are the Size of the World’s Smallest Ant
By John Toon – Researchers have created a new type of tiny 3D-printed robot that moves by harnessing vibration from piezoelectric actuators, ultrasound sources or even tiny speakers. Swarms of these “micro-bristle-bots” might work together to sense environmental changes, move materials – or perhaps one day repair injuries inside the human body.
The prototype robots respond to different vibration frequencies depending on their configurations, allowing researchers to control individual bots by adjusting the vibration. Approximately two millimeters long – about the size of the world’s smallest ant – the bots can cover four times their own length in a second despite the physical limitations of their small size.
“We are working to make the technology robust, and we have a lot of potential applications in mind,” said Azadeh Ansari, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We are working at the intersection of mechanics, electronics, biology and physics. It’s a very rich area and there’s a lot of room for multidisciplinary concepts.”
A paper describing the micro-bristle-bots has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. The research was supported by a seed grant from Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology. In addition to Ansari, the research team includes George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Jun Ueda and graduate students DeaGyu Kim and Zhijian (Chris) Hao. more>
- Soft Wearable Health Monitor Uses Stretchable Electronics, John Toon
- Hackers Could Use Connected Cars to Gridlock Whole Cities, Ben Brumfield
- Reinvented Toilets Could Provide Safe Sanitation for 2.5 Billion People, John Toon
- GTRI Wins $245M Air Force Contract for Engineering, Advanced Technology Support, Joshua Stewart
- Metal Oxide-infused Membranes Could Offer Low-Energy Alternative For Chemical Separations, Josh Brown
- Peanut Plant’s “Chemical Breath” Could Give Clues to Drought and Other Stresses, John Tibbetts
- Georgia Tech Faculty Among Presidential Science and Technology Award Recipients, Denise Ward
- Think Small: Working with clinicians, Georgia Tech researchers develop innovative technology to fill the gaps in pediatric research – and save children’s lives, Kenna Simmons
- Georgia Tech Research Institute Develops and Teaches Tactics to Defend Transport Aircraft, Josh Brown
- What Delayed Earth’s Oxygenation? Maureen Rouhi
- Rising Tundra Temperatures Create Worrying Changes in Microbial Communities, John Toon
- Instability in Antarctic Ice Projected to Make Sea Level Rise Rapidly, Ben Brumfield
- Scientists Discover the Biggest Seaweed Bloom in the World, Josh Brown
Posted in Business, EARTH WATCH, Economic development, Economy, Education, Healthcare, How to, Nature, Science, Technology, Transportation
Tagged Business improvement, Climate change, Georgia Tech, Health, Internet, Skills, Technology
Why banning plastic bags doesn’t work as intended
Benefits of bag regulations are mitigated by changes in consumer behavior
By Rebecca Stropoli – As well-intentioned bans on plastic shopping bags roll out across the United States, there’s an unintended consequence that policy makers should take into account. It turns out that when shoppers stop receiving free bags from supermarkets and other retailers, they make up for it by buying more plastic trash bags, significantly reducing the environmental effectiveness of bag bans by substituting one form of plastic film for another, according to University of Sydney’s Rebecca L. C. Taylor.
Economists call this phenomenon “leakage”—when partial regulation of a product results in increased consumption of unregulated goods, Taylor writes. But her research focusing on the rollout of bag bans across 139 California cities and counties from 2007 to 2015 puts a figure on the leakage and develops an estimate for how much consumers already reuse those flimsy plastic shopping bags.
This is a live issue. After all those localities banned disposable bags, California outlawed them statewide, in 2016. In April 2019, New York became the second US state to impose a broad ban on single-use plastic bags. Since 2007, more than 240 local governments in the US have enacted similar policies.
She finds that the bag bans reduced the use of disposable shopping bags by 40 million pounds a year. But purchases of trash bags increased by almost 12 million pounds annually, offsetting about 29 percent of the benefit, her model demonstrates. Sales of small trash bags jumped 120 percent, of medium bags, 64 percent, and of tall kitchen garbage bags, 6 percent. Moreover, use of paper bags rose by more than 80 million pounds, or 652 million sacks, she finds. more>
Posted in Business, Economy, Education, How to, Nature, Net, Regulations, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Chicago Booth, Ecology, Economics, Internet, Skills
Well control equipment: Metal hat, Fireproof coveralls… CFD
By Gaetan Bouzard – In the Oil & Gas industry, the integration of possible risk linked with well control — such as subsea plume, atmospheric dispersion, fire and explosion — is critical for minimizing impact on the entire system or on operations efficiency, and for ensuring worker health and safety. Risk to system integrity must be prevented at the design phase, but also addressed in case hazards happen along equipment lifetime or system in operation.
Last September 25th, Mr. Alistair E. Gill, from company Wild Well Control demonstrates the value of advanced structural and fluid dynamics mechanics simulation for well controls, emergency response and planning, as part of a Live Webinar organized by Siemens and Society of Petroleum Engineers. In this article I will try to summarize his presentation. To have more insights feel free to watch our On-Demand Webinar.
To be honest when talking about well control for Oil & Gas industry, people usual conception is that some disaster happened and guys wearing protections are trying to light off a big fire. Actually companies such as Wild Well Control are using modern and innovative techniques as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation to support practical team on a well control incident trying to keep asset integrity at the same time.
Mr. Gill provides several examples to demonstrate simulation techniques that were used from
- Subsea plume and gas dispersion modeling to understand where hydrocarbons go in the event of a blow out
- Radiant heat modeling in case of a fire
- Erosion modeling
- Thermal as well as Structural analysis
There is basically three major categories of simulation used, starting with everything related to the flow within the well bore, looking at kick tolerance, dynamic kill or bull heading; next anything to do with 3D flow using CFD simulation which is the main focus of this article; finally structural analysis using Finite Element modeling. more>
Posted in Business, Economy, Education, Energy & emissions, How to, Nature, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Earth, Ecology, Internet, PLM, Product lifecycle management, Siemens, Skills, Technology