TWIE 85: Microsoft Nuclear Powerplant 1.0?

This Week in Engineering - Evidence of Martian water discovered; Bill Gates helps with a Chinese nuclear reactor; armband measures attention; slowing salt corrosion with sugar; shredder challenge solved; and crocodiles saved by nuclear plant.

Evidence of Martian Water Discovered

Bill Gates Helps With a Chinese Nuclear Reactor

Armband Measures Attention

Slowing Salt Corrosion With Sugar

Shredder Challenge Solved

Crocodiles Saved by Nuclear Plant

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Evidence of Martian Water Discovered
Mars rover Opportunity has found veins of a mineral, believed to be gypsum, that was deposited by water. Unlike other gypsum previously found on Mars, found blowing in the atmosphere, this vein was almost certainly formed by water containing minerals from dissolved volcanic rock, providing the best evidence yet of a history of water flowing underground on Mars. I say, keep working, Opportunity! You won¦t win over this skeptic until you find an old Martian water noodle.

Bill Gates helps with a Chinese nuclear reactor
Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has confirmed that Terrapower, a company he founded and funded, is collaborating with Chinese scientists to build a fourth-generation nuclear power plant. All currently-operating plants are either second- or third-generation, and this plant is classified as a travelling wave reactor, which should theoretically be safer, cheaper, generate less waste, and run off of depleted uranium instead of enriched. I love this research, but more than that, I love that somebody wanted a safe, stable reactor, and said, "Get me the guy who wrote Windows 95!"

Armband measures attention
Researchers have long been measuring brainwaves using spooky-looking EEG¦s on the head, but now Free Logic has come out with Body Wave, which measures certain neural patterns through an upper-arm band. The sensor can detect beta waves, which indicates that the subject is paying attention, and the software includes a game that can be controlled by paying attention to it. If your mind wanders, the device will detect the change in beta waves. Great technology, as long as it doesn¦t fall into the wrong hands. Those hands being my boss¦s during his 9am staff meeting. Snoozefest!

Slowing salt corrosion with sugar
Salting the roads in winter weather creates a lot of salty water that corrodes bridges and cars. The salt in the water is an electrolyte, allowing electrons the mobility to create rust. Now, a company called Rivertop has created an additive called Headwaters, out of sodium gluconate, which is derived from gluconic acid, an organic acid from corn sugar. A brine solution with the additive can have a corrosion rate of up to seventy percent slower. Why, that¦s the best use of corn sugar invented since... everything in my grocery store.

Shredder Challenge solved
About a month ago, DARPA challenged computer scientists to reconstruct five shredded documents, and answer the puzzles on the documents. Well, two days before the end of the challenge, a winner was proclaim: the team of "All Your Shreds Are Belong To U.S." So congratulations Otavio Good, Luke Alonso, and Keith Walker. You¦ve solved an amazingly difficult technical challenge. And forced me to dispose of records from my Cayman Islands account using fire. Your move, DARPA.

Crocodiles saved by nuclear plant
The Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Florida has about one hundred and sixty eight miles of man-made canals with water that is continuously piped through the nuclear reactor to cool it. Now, wildlife officials have used those warm waters as a habitat for the very temperature-sensitive endangered American crocodile. Thanks to the new habitat, there are now more than fifteen hundred American crocodiles in South Florida, and they have been upgraded "endangered" to "threatened." And best of all, the nuclear plant crocodiles aren¦t giant mutant destroyers of cities. Hear that, Syfy channel? Focus on what you do best: cat fights between 80s pop stars.