Politics, Psychology, Science, Society

It Was Bound To End In Tiers

I’ve just heard yet another news report about anti-lockdown protests in London, people chanting “take your freedom back.”¬† What freedom has been taken away exactly?¬† The freedom to contract a potentially deadly virus and then pass it on to someone else who might then die or perhaps the freedom to die yourself?¬† Such people say it’s their responsibility if they catch it, or they don’t believe it exists – one man, when asked if he had a face mask said he hadn’t and was asked to remain behind the screen instead at which point he said “it’s sad that you’ve got to believe in this crap”– and this attitude demonstrates the levels of sheer selfishness in modern society and ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence – ask someone whose relative has died from it if it isn’t real.¬† Their protest is not about freedom, it’s about ego.¬† It’s about being told they can’t have parties, go to the pub and show off to their friends.¬† If they wear a mask then it means accepting, visibly, that they’re not able to do whatever they damn well like, that they’re not so badass and indestructible.¬† They’re terrified that they’ll look silly in a mask, weak, or afraid of the virus.¬† They’re terrified they’ll look boring, subservient or submissive, it’s not cool to follow rules.¬† They want to show that they’re too special or tough to be affected, that even if they catch it it won’t bother them, when this attitude is demonstrated by so-called celebrities who should be setting a good example then it’s all the worse.

What they’re also showing is that they care not a jot about anyone but themselves.

Since we started wearing face coverings in the UK I’ve seen quite a few people, men and women, wearing a mask over their mouth but not nose – a fundamental misunderstanding of the plumbing inside their own heads and the nature of Covid-19, preferring to live, as it does, in the lungs not the mouth, it’s not fatal halitosis.¬† I also saw a young couple, of the type you see on so-called Reality TV shows – all gelled hair and excessive makeup.¬† He was wearing a mask and at first sight she wasn’t, until I noticed she was wearing one – on her wrist.¬† I know she might have had a good reason to take it off but you have to wonder if she was instead taking the definition of “wearing” at face value, or not face value.¬† In our shop a man came in with what appeared to be a scarf covering his mouth and when he started to talk he pulled it down to around his neck.¬† I saw the same thing in another shop.¬† I wonder what they think the face coverings are actually for.¬† Similarly during the Tour de France and Giro D’Italia there were spectators stood in the road on the slow climbs, leaning in to within a couple of feet of the riders, shouting “encouragement” at them, many with their masks worn round their neck or on their chin at the most – potentially one big dose of the virus sprayed into each cyclist’s face.¬† No doubt it would have been the same at other such events.¬† I’ve even heard it said that “it’s ok, I’m outdoors” – hence large groups travel halfway across the country to see some snow.

The first lockdown was imposed because something had to be done fast to keep people apart as face masks weren’t readily available.¬† But it was also because of the reason the subsequent lockdowns have happened – because a large number of people won’t follow rules and as such they have to be legislated into doing so.¬† We’re told to wear masks, many won’t; we’re told to stay two metres apart, they won’t; we’re told not to go to each others houses or gather in large groups, people gather in large groups and have parties at each others houses, or just continue to visit their friends and family like nothing’s happened.¬†

The lockdown measures aren’t the fault of the government or scientists but the arrogant and/or stupid who refuse to follow simple rules, who can’t compromise for a year – to go without socialising, to go without their holidays like most of us have.¬† If they’d be sensible then the pubs that they complain about being closed could still be open.

Those crying about losing their freedom would still expect the NHS to make them better if they catch the virus, they’ll probably also be the ones shouting loudest to get the vaccine first too. Our global situation needs cooperation not selfishness – we’ve seen plenty of the former but sadly too much of the latter.

[For those outside the UK the title refers to our Tiered Lockdown system, where we’re mostly in Tier 4, or is it 5?]

Standard
Architecture, Science, Tech

Bunker Mentality

“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares” Isaiah 2:3-4

During the Cold War many nations dug holes into their lands, even tunnelling into mountains like frightened moles, to find safe places for their generals and governments to hide if the worst happened, the buttons were pushed and the general populations were unceremoniously fried. Who they thought they would have left to govern is anybody’s guess.

These “secret” bunkers are dotted around the country, often disguised – like the famous one, now open to the public, at Kelvedon Hatch which I thought was an appropriate name for the local village, which had as its entrance not a hatch but what was supposed to look like a farmhouse but most resembled… a standard MOD gatehouse. They have for the most part been abandoned now and sold off to any member of the public or bond villain in need of a secret lair.

Many have been turned into museums to educate future generations about the fear and madness we lived through, others have become homes, movie or game sets or glorified adventure playgrounds for grown-ups to play real-life versions of their video games.

Others have a new use that they seem pretty much designed for. Originally they were built to withstand both an explosive detonation, hence they’re physically strong; they were intended to support living humans so had electrical cabling, air conditioning and filtration and other utilities such as water supplies; then they had to withstand a by-product of a nuclear blast which is an electromagnetic pulse or EMP which tends to disagree with electrical equipment, especially computers. This was done by incorporating a metal cage into the outer structure, a Faraday Cage, which channels electrical energy around what’s inside it, like a car struck by lightning, protecting the occupants.

Theorists of future warfare have predicted that the best way to destabilise or even paralyse a country in the future would be to detonate a nuclear weapon above their enemy and simply wipe out their means of planning and communication – the computers and internet, basically. But it’s not just humans who can generate such destructive events, so can nature.

The sun ejects massive amounts of charged particles into space and we orbit through this flow, the solar wind, and it interacts with our planet, the particles are redirected around us and to the poles, causing aurorae in polar regions. These beautiful displays are also a hint of the destruction that can be caused when the Sun throws a tantrum, or perhaps burps more violently in our direction. A coronal mass ejection aimed at us throws an even larger amount of energetic particles at us and that can also affect electrical equipment – it knocks out satellites, overloads power grids and so on.

With all this in mind the organisations who operate the banks of server computers that store all our online data and channel it around the world have started reusing many of these old bunkers to house their equipment and they’re perfect for the job. Mostly underground, kept cool, shielded from electromagnetic interference and even secure from intruders. The internet itself grew from a military project, and now even much of The Cloud’s physical home will do too.

Standard
Nature, Science, Tech

Of Stars & Smartphones

Stars

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I have been interested in Astronomy and space in general for a long time, I remember the first Space Shuttle launch, watching Space 1999 and Blake’s 7, and Patrick Moore on The Sky at Night. I have only briefly owned a basic telescope but still like looking at the stars, especially now as where I live, on the edge of the countryside, has the advantage of darker skies at night away from streetlights. I find it very relaxing.

Recently I found that a moving light in the sky was the International Space Station – I felt I should have waved – and just the other night I looked out of the front window and saw the moon accompanied by two “stars” which turned out to be Jupiter and Saturn – the thought that these two bright points of light in the sky were two massive planets millions of miles away is still awe inspiring to me.

How do you find out what these points of light are though?

I still own two plastic discs which would be called old tech now called Planispheres which consist of a movable oval shaped window over a map of all the stars visible in the night sky from my latitude, you rotate the window round to match the date and time and it shows what stars can be seen then and where they are in the sky. Useful and non-dependant on batteries, it was still supplemented with technology.

In the nineties I received, attached to a computer magazine, a small program called Skyglobe. It was a pre-Windows program running in MS-DOS and gave a full, interactive view of the night sky on the computer, it could update in real time, showed the planets and the moon, the shapes of the constellations and you could even speed up time to see how the stars changed in the sky over the course of the year, all thanks to the wholly predictable nature of the motion of the Earth against the stars and planets. It was a fantastic piece of software, it had an elegant, uncluttered user interface that could be almost entirely hidden to just show the stars, operated via the keyboard, and it fitted on a single floppy disk. I still have a copy today that can be made to work, once you convince Windows to run it.

Even Skyglobe though has been superseded. On my tablet I now have a program (sorry, app) called Stellarium that looks fundamentally the same except that it has fancier graphics with a landscape rather than just a horizon line. This app can update in real time too, but to change the direction you’re viewing you can, of course, swipe and drag the image around rather than using arrow keys, it’s also just a little bit more portable than a PC with a CRT screen was before. One major change though is its ability to use the tablet (or phone’s) sensors to detect where you’re pointing it and show the same region of sky on the screen so you don’t even need to know which way’s north anymore.

Combined with telescopes that have been able to know where they are and point to any star you choose since the early 2000s amateur astronomy has embraced the digital – the old technology of mirrors and glass guided by new technology of GPS, smartphones and tablets and all driven by our fascination with knowing what’s out there.

Standard
Music, Productivity, Science, Tech, Work

The Technology of Staying Apart

high angle view of woman sitting at desk

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

Traditional industries such as the one I am in don’t allow working from home, we sell glass, I haven’t got the room for the cutting table. Cloud based working though has allowed many businesses to continue through the current pandemic, many of whom have been critical. The internet of course has been fantastically useful at home for entertainment, education and information. It has been amazing how a number of technologies which once seemed niche have suddenly come of age.

Remote working has evolved quickly in the last few years thanks to Cloud Computing – information and even applications that you access on a computer being stored on servers somewhere else in the world, connected via the internet rather than being in the same building or on the computer itself – from the old days of clunky low-bandwidth video calling and rudimentary remote control to full team working and sharing of screens and data enabling full real-time collaboration where all participants can manipulate data in a shared space while discussing it as though in the same room. The most important area where this technology is critical is the efforts to develop a vaccine where data can be shared instantly.
¬† The advent of internet phones and internet based systems used by large companies has allowed call centres to be distributed, you might ring British Gas or Severn Trent Water – as I did about a blocked drain – and it seems like you’re talking to a chap in a big room full of people but maybe the background noise doesn’t seem the same, maybe that’s because he’s in his kitchen at home, in his slippers. Because the booking system for the engineers relies on internet-connected servers rather than the old wired connections within a building the computer used can be anywhere. Internet phones are the same, plug one into any internet connection and the traditional landline phone number associated with it can be used to ring it, anywhere on the planet.
¬† It was also a momentous day when Prime Minister’s Questions was carried out for the first time ever with barely any MPs present in the house of commons – most of them attending via video link. This could be a hint at how to do things in the future, cut travel costs and make sure that all the MPs can be there wherever they are. In fact already there are rumours (some are calling them conspiracy theories already) that universities are looking at this situation as a model for future methods of delivering lectures and that this could usher in a new business structure where companies have their workers at home all the time and wouldn’t need large offices just facilities for the servers and spaces for face-to-face meetings. The number of people commuting could be reduced too reducing road traffic and pollution as everyday work, meetings and even conferences and presentations can be done online as more people have now had to learn how to do it, the tv joke of someone sat in a suit and tie up top with pyjamas below the desk could, in the future, become normal. The nightmare flipside is being asked to take your phone and laptop on holiday with you – just in case we need you to take a few calls – ha, don’t think so.

Beyond work video calling, such as by Zoom, Skype or Facebook’s standalone devices keep family and friends in contact alongside normal phones. Online shopping allows people to get essentials while in isolation. Even volunteering, whether on a local scale or the NHS’ system has enabled volunteers to be notified on their mobile apps if someone needs medication delivering, taking to an appointment or just needs a chat with someone. Technology has truly enabled everyone to pull together and feel closer together while staying apart.
  Radio stations have set up micro studios in presenters houses, TV presenters have similarly done shows from home, adverts for TV and radio have been made remotely, many using footage from smartphones including shows specially for the lockdown including cookery and craft shows. Stock footage and image libraries have clearly been plundered for many of these lockdown-specific adverts.
  Have I Got News For You, which I just happened to see on the BBC the other night has the usual studio setup with the presenter in the middle and the two teams of panellists either side but with the guests on superimposed monitor screens instead of being present which looked surreal as they still cut to each guest as if they were there rather than showing their image full-screen.
¬† BBC4 have made a short series of programmes “Museums in Quarantine” featuring art experts exploring closed museums either via their online presence or via special permission to visit on their own providing a different viewpoint and something interesting to watch.
¬† Then there was the remotely recorded, distributed benefit concert Together At Home, which seemed to gether more comments on the artists’ homes, or home studios, than anything regarding their performances.
  Formula One and Formula E have held simulator based virtual races, using the already realistic training sims the drivers use before each race to practice for the first practice on the real thing. And even the Grand National was held virtually, all thanks to the still increasing power of computers that pack the graphical power of what used to fill a room into a desktop box Рor rather a server rack full of them.

Magazines such as Fortean Times have been able to distribute their operation to their staff’s homes, having prepared years ago to be able to do so so apart from the printing and distribution the magazine can still be produced – and were even prepared for if it had to become online only for a while as they provided temporary free access to the digital edition for us subscribers. Again this is thanks to being able to create the various bits on PCs at home and then bringing them together via the Cloud, or email, into a print magazine via Desktop Publishing which is then sent digitally to the printers where the ethereal finally becomes the physical and drops on our doormat without any hint of disruption.

Home schooling has become the norm and there are numerous online resources for all ages, many of which have either always been free or have been while our lockdowns have been in place, with even the BBC providing what they’ve called Bitesize Daily – short educational programmes, as well as other online courses being provided free for people staying home to have something educational to do.¬† Online gaming has continued to bring people together, even if they are marauding across a virtual battlefield.¬† If there’s been nothing to watch on TV then there’s been the seemingly infinite resource of learning, entertainment and cat videos, YouTube to fall back on.¬†

There had been initial problems with systems for remote working struggling with the extra demand, such as with Microsoft Teams, but the providers have been able to quickly adapt to cope. Zoom has proved controversial too due to government security concerns concerning the encryption keys sometimes going through Chinese servers.

On the inevitable dark side of things criminals have been trying to use the pandemic to con people but again technology has also helped against the online threats, Google’s Gmail for example has blocked 18 million malware and phishing attacks per day through use of machine learning to teach the system what to look out for. A massive number of emails and messages have been pretending to be from the WHO so much so that efforts have been made to specifically filter such messages to confirm authenticity.

Other technology that even I have dismissed in the past has suddenly become very useful and even I’ve used it. Contactless payment is particularly useful when food shopping, I criticised this when it came out for its potential for theft from your cards but even I have used it throughout. Online banking – which I still won’t use personally – is undeniably useful in reducing the number of people needing to use physical banks, where you have to use the ATMs for all transactions now – which of course can now take deposits, carry out transfers and so on as well as doling out cash.

It’s not only tech that seems to be, by good fortune, in place just when needed the TV channel Dave in the UK has been partnering with the Campaign Against Living Miserably for a number of months now to make people aware of the importance of staying in touch with those friends or family who are alone and at this time it’s an all the more important cause.

Standard
Gadgets, Science, Tech, Uncategorized

From OK Computer to OK Google

Turntable & Laptop

Image by Becca Clark from Pixabay

Today I recieved a Radiohead album, it’s the second copy of OK Computer I’ve bought in my life but this one’s special, it has a second disc of b-sides and it came out last year to celebrate the TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the original which I bought when it came out.

TWENTY YEARS?

Where the hell has it all gone.  For goodness sake.  Shakes head.

Anyway, my point, oh yes. I looked at it and thought about the title and thought about how much technology has changed in those twenty years and society with it (which is the core point of this blog).¬† The CD Walkman has become thirty-thousand songs stored on a phone, or millions on a streaming service.¬† Phones themselves have become electronic Swiss Army Knives and almost thin enough to be used as one.¬† We’ve gone from five TV channels in the UK to hundreds of channels showing mainly repeats, along with a seemingly endless choice of streaming media.¬† Texting has become Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Whatsapp (the latter three of which I don’t use and in the case of the last one I wouldn’t know what to do with).¬† Phone calls are becoming a thing of the past it seems with the younger generations in particular communicating via thumb rather than tongue these days.¬† However we are finally talking to computers, our eighties sci-fi dreams of being able to command the computer like Scotty on Star Trek are finally coming true, enabling us to make appointments, ask questions, play music and, of course, buy more things. All with the swiftness of a “Hey Siri”, “Alexa?” or “OK Google”…

Standard
Health, Psychology, Science, Society, Work

Reclaiming The Evening

Fairground At Night

Fairground Lights

Another of the reasons my blog turned silent for eight months was the fact that I didn’t have time to write it.

There we go, that’s a good enough reason, so let’s move on.

No, actually, let’s not. The reason was that when I got home from work, by the time I’d eaten, by the time I’d watched two hours of TV repeats I then wanted to catch up on some online reading, and I felt tired, so I thought “I haven’t got time, and I can’t think straight” and I went to watch some more repeats on TV instead.

Seven hours passed like nothing and the next thing I know it’s the next morning. A couple of months ago I finally made plans to do something about the cycle of believing that I hadn’t got the time, or the energy. Firstly the tiredness; I bought a new mattress as I thought that the old one (creaking all the time, springs jutting into me) might be disturbing my sleep. The new one is much more comfortable and combined with cutting down on excess light (I tried blacking out the window first to no difference then moved a bedside clock-radio) has made a difference, I feel much less tired and more energised than before in the evenings.

I have been eating Bananas religiously in the mornings which has possibly helped, although getting better sleep has similar benefits for memory, concentration and creativity so it could be either. The other dietary change has been returning to something I used to love when I was younger – a piece of toast and marmalade at supper time (9pm) as such carbohydrates eaten in the late evening can improve sleep some studies have shown.

Finally I changed my behaviour; I told myself to always go home at five o’clock, don’t think “I’ll just sort this out now”. It’s a little thing but it makes me feel that my life is my own as I’m going home to do what I want to do when I want to not when the job lets me, it’s empowering. I’ve also learned not to worry about work issues which drains you emotionally and leaves you feeling mentally exhausted.

I then told myself that I do have time to do stuff in the evenings and proved it – rather than watching a repeated TV show while eating and then watching the whole thing, the mental equivalent of eating one chocolate digestive and then thinking “what the hell, I’ll finish the packet” I told myself to switch the TV off after I’d finished eating then get on with the online stuff – reading, writing etc. Starting earlier gives you a buffer and once it’s done you’ve still got two or three hours left and can even watch a new tv show or two and listen to music or read before going to bed. There’s even time for decluttering if you feel like it.

As I’ve learned that new experiences and learning new information, exploring new frontiers even in an intellectual way can help with cognitive function I’ve also made space in my day for watching the late evening news, something I used to avoid as I felt that I’d just forget everything I’d seen – the side benefit to this is it gives you topics of conversation, something else I always felt I lacked.

I’ve rearranged things too, making tomorrow’s sandwich at the same time as I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking, and the same with washing pots still in the sink. It’s about efficient use of the time available and the more time you have left over the better you feel, your leisure time feels less like a high-pressure job and you can enjoy it more.

So, right now it’s 20:54 (GMT), I’ll just finish this off and go and get a slice of toast.¬† Goodnight.

Standard
Science

They Will Outlive Us All…

Bacteria solution

Bacteria solution (Photo credit: kaibara87)

Bacteria.¬† We live with them, they live in all of us, regardless of how much anti-bac spray or hand cleanser you use.¬† As we know some are beneficial to our digestive system for example, while others make us wish we didn’t have a digestive system, if you catch my drift.

It has been suggested in the past that our over-zealous use of disinfectants can simply drive more hardy bacteria to multiply especially since science has discovered the tiny organisms around deep-sea volcanic vents and nuclear reactors, proving that they can survive just about anything you throw at them, once the strongest survive, reproduce and hence evolve the species to cope.

Now they’ve even been found in what are supposed to be the absolutely cleanest environment humans can create – spacecraft assembly clean-rooms.¬† These bacteria, collected by the European Space Agency and currently residing at Leibniz-Institut DSMZ in Brunswick, Germany, have managed to survive extreme heat, chemicals and other treatments meant to remove any biological contamination from delicate equipment destined for space.¬† These new tough bacteria are special because they’re surviving in an entirely artificial biotope, an architectural space, though they’re not the first as earlier in the year new types of bacteria were discovered in a hospital sink.¬† Ironically, it is possible that the processes and places designed to stop us sending bacteria to Mars may have created organisms strong enough to survive the trip anyway and they may be colonising a bit of the red planet as we speak.

Biologists are researching the captured bacteria to try to understand how they can survive and whether we could possibly derive some useful medical knowledge from them.¬† So it seems that not only are bacteria likely to be the last organisms to survive to the end of the Earth they’re using our architecture to toughen up in the process.

[Gizmodo UK]

Standard
Outdoors, Photography, Politics, Psychology, Science, Society, Tech, Uncategorized, Work

Lifelogging

The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camrea

The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often today people worry about surveillance by the government with CCTV everywhere and intelligence agencies able to view what we do online (hi, Mr/Mrs NSA/GCHQ person) but there’s another side to the technology which is becoming ever more popular.

Many of us carry some form of video camera, I have a smartphone and a good compact camera that can record HD video, in fact I used this the other day to record a worker at our factory who was adamant he could cut a worktop with a saw that everyone else said was clearly blunt.¬† The resulting video is a possible candidate for YouTube, complete with Top Gear style “four hours later…” captions, as I joked at the time.

We now have the ability to record everything we experience in some way or another and people feel the need, or the desire, to do exactly that and share it with the world, even in their most intimate moments, as if to prove that they did it, or how good at it they were, so to speak.¬† It’s a standing joke that Instagram and Facebook are a repository of photos of people’s dinner but in some ways it’s true.¬† In any pub you go in there are groups of drinkers gurning at smartphone cameras, never again will you be able to get utterly pished without it being recorded.¬† I once had my glasses “borrowed” by a woman whose friend took a photo of her, wearing my glasses, with me kissing her cheek.¬† Months later a woman stood by me at a bar turned and said “I’ve got a photo of you on my Facebook.”¬† Same woman, same glasses.¬† Technology has made it simpler, quicker and cheaper to create a digital photo album or slide show that, without needing shelf-space or the setting up of a projector, can be virtually infinite in size, accessible anywhere, searchable and sorted by date.

The next stage is again in the area of wearable technology.¬† Google’s Glass project, along with other similar techie-eyewear, promise the ability to instantly record anything you can see, which has worried many privacy campaigners despite the devices clearly having a red, Borg-like, light on the side when they’re recording.

The other type of device is specially designed for recording just about everything you experience – the Lifelogger.¬† Two devices have appeared so far, Autographer and Narrative, which are intended to document your life while you’re wearing it of course.¬† While you’re not you can imagine it sitting there wondering where you’d gone. ¬† The two have different approaches, Autographer uses five sensors to detect location and changes in light and motion to take a photo when you change location of when it thinks you’re doing something interesting like running after someone.¬† Narrative takes a picture twice a minute.¬† When downloaded you can then look through what they’ve logged and perhaps see things you’d missed or remember something you’d forgotten – which might be both a blessing and a curse depending on the event.

One day we could all be carrying a multi-sensored device that, in the event of an emergency, could log what’s happened to you and call for help – a kind of personal Black Box Recorder.¬† This is happening in cars already, as the Russian meteorite impact last year showed – the event captured by an unprecedented number of witnesses thanks to dashcams and smartphones.¬† In-car video is also useful for insurance companies, TV clip shows and YouTube, recent personal experience of idiot drivers makes me want one more than ever.

Whether the current Lifelogging technology has a use is down to whether it’ll record anything useful or interesting but the idea has been picked up by emergency services who have considered something like Glass to both record an incident and how it’s dealt with (possibly for legal, in case of being sued, reasons, inevitably these days) while also providing vital information to the medic or police officer in real-time.¬† Already trials have shown that police wearing body cams are seeing positive results in terms of arrested criminals accepting their guilt.

So we hurtle onwards into the recorded future, the problem could be having time to sort the wheat from the chaff of all these Lifelogged images and indeed where to store them all.

Looks like we’ll need a bigger server.

Standard
Health, Science, Tech

Cast of Thousands

English: Fig 57 on Page 190. A broken arm in a...

English: Fig 57 on Page 190. A broken arm in a splint Flickr data on 2011-08-17: Tags: public domain, copyright free, illustration, drawing, image, Points in Nursing, 1910, Emily A. M. Stoney License: CC BY 2.0 User: perpetualplum Sue Clark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People are always saying “oh, you’ve just got to do this before you die” about so many things; seeing the sun set over the Kalahari, visiting Thailand, touring Italy, bungee jumping, and so on.¬† Breaking your limbs, however, not so much of a must-do and, call me insane if you must, personally I’ve avoided the experience as much as possible.¬† So far I’ve only managed to crack a clavicle.

One thing I would dread is the cast – the ugly lump of white plaster, er, plastered around your limb getting progressively grubbier and inevitably itchier with every passing day, getting in the way of normal clothes, making it awkward to sleep, bathe, eat and so on.

Well a solution may be on the horizon – Jake Evill, a Victoria University of Wellington graduate, has designed a concept for a modern replacement utilising the current wonder-tech of 3D printing.¬† While home 3D printers let us make little plastic models this concept spits out something very neat – a lattice-work structured, washable, hence hygienic and non-itchy, cast created using x-rays of the limb fracture which can concentrate its strength and rigidity where it’s needed most around the break.¬† It would be assembled and fitted together with permanent fasteners to prevent it being taken off prematurely or accidentally and would then later be sawn off in the same was as a conventional cast.¬† Another advantage is the plastic could potentially be recycled.

Once the current print time of 3 hours reduces this could be the more comfortable and less obtrusive future of broken limbs – just, as Gizmodo’s article points out, without the friends’ decorations.

[Gizmodo / Dezeen]

Standard
Cars, Science, Tech, Transport, Uncategorized

Running on Sunshine

Sol√ļcar PS10 es una planta solar termoel√©ctric...

Sol√ļcar PS10 es una planta solar termoel√©ctrica por tecnolog√≠a de torre, la primera en el mundo explotada comercialmente. Solucar PS10 is the first solar thermal power plant based on tower in the world that generate electricity in a commercial way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am interested in cars, nice cars.¬† I’d particularly like a new Jaguar F-Type, an orange one, if anyone’s feeling generous.¬† I’m telling you this in case you think this post is in some way biased.

I’ve just read yet another article about another designer with “eco” credentials planning a zero-emission or in this case emission-free car.¬† This one was a hydrogen powered car but others have been fully electric.¬† I have a little issue with the idea that these cars have zero-emissions.¬† It’s a case of semantics.¬† Petrol, diesel and hybrid cars have a pipe at the back that makes you cough like you have a forty-a-day habit if you wrap your lips around it, electric and hydrogen cars don’t, hydrogen cars even put water back into the environment, combining the hydrogen with oxygen in the power production process.

All good yes?¬† Well, apart from indirect emissions.¬† Electric cars are charged from the mains which at the moment requires mostly fossil-fuel powered generation.¬† Hydrogen, although common in the universe has to be extracted here on Earth and that takes…¬† electricity, fossil-fuel, etc.

I’m discounting the environmental impacts of building the cars in the first place as even the advocates of these technologies don’t deny that.

The thing is that cars won’t be truly zero-emission until we can generate power widely without emissions.¬† Some nations are fortunate to have abundant geothermal or hydroelectric power resources but for the rest of us we need to look elsewhere.¬† Nuclear power is still controversial, though the technology is still being refined to be safer in the long-term and new thorium reactors can even use previously created waste plutonium.¬† Personally, for cars at least, I think hydrogen is the way forward and another emerging technology is the way to make it.¬† In hotter countries such as Spain large solar power stations (see above) have been built that focus the sun’s immense power onto arrays of receivers which can be used to heat water to drive generators and generate electricity.¬† If you use that electricity to power a plant that creates hydrogen then the power created from the Sun’s energy is portable beyond the locality of the power station.

To places like this where we’re enjoying our couple of weeks of sunshine.

Standard