TWIE 99: Apollo 11 Rockets Found in Ocean

This Week in Engineering - Apollo 11 rockets found; chip simulates digestion; students with earthquake detectors; hundred-year-old lightbulb glows; feces-powered rickshaw; and mass-produced bendable e-readers.

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Apollo-11 rockets found founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced this week that his team, using deep sea sonar, has found the rocket engines for the Apollo 11 mission lying 14,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. Bezos and his team will now attempt to recover the rockets, still the legal property of NASA, which he hopes will be donated to the Smithsonian and possibly Seattle¦s Museum of Flight. The billionaire pointed out that no public funding will be used. And I know it ain¦t gonna be cheap, as those rocket engines are ineligible for super saver shipping.

Chip simulates digestion
Researchers from Harvard University¦s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a new microdevice lined with living human cells that imitates the operation of the human intestine. The so-called "gut on a chip" will study disorders like Crohn¦s disease or ulcerative colitis more accurately than animal models, which often differ from humans. With a single layer of actual human intestinal lining, the device even supports microbes living inside its luminal space. Say, I¦m gonna start the next big rich-people fad: probiotics for your electronics. I call it Probionics. TM!

Students with earthquake detectors
A new project in Taiwan is attempting to study earthquakes by crowdsourcing data from high school science students. The students mount pocket-sized MEMS sensors to the floors of their homes and classrooms, and then connect them with an open-source citizen science platform, allowing scientists to study the data. The program should generate data far cheaper than conventional seismic sensors, while getting kids invested in science. Wow, vibration detectors inside student homes? With the right app, I bet they can definitively determine if the student¦s prog-rock band really sucks.

Hundred-year-old lightbulb glows
This week, GE employees opened a time capsule at the Nela Park campus in East Cleveland, and discovered a 100-year-old light bulb, sealed since the park¦s opening in 1912. When plugged into a socket and brought up to a gentle 60 volts, the old tungsten filament amazingly emitted a faint glow. Wow, GE sure could keep things working back then! Nowadays, they can¦t even keep "Community" going three years. Chevy! Dan! Can you please just get along!

Feces-powered rickshaw
The Denver Zoo has converted a rickshaw to be powered by a fuel that all zoos have in abundance: animal dung. Through the process of gasification, the dung (or carbonaceous biomass, dude!) is heated with a limited amount of oxygen to avoid combustion, which creates a combustible mixture called syngas. The zoo has toured the vehicle to promote the sustainable power technology. I can¦t wait until this goes mainstream, and if you run out of gas, you don¦t walk the road with a gas can, but with a bed pan. "I heard this hospital might have some fuel!"

Mass-produced bendable e-readers
LG Display has begun mass-producing the XGA, a 6-inch-wide, 14 gram flexible electronic paper display. Built with a plastic substrate instead of glass, the surface is thinner, lighter, and less breakable than current e-readers. While not foldable like paper, the display can bend up to forty degrees from the center. People, we are that much closer to my dream of a Kindle Pirate Scroll. Gyar! Just got a wireless update! The treasure¦s already been pillaged! Let¦s go home! Gyar!