Hello, and welcome to This Week in Engineering. Brought to you by ENGINEERING.com.
The second USA Science and Engineering Festival is coming to Washington DC on April 28 and 29. Vince and I will be covering the event, along with This Week in Engineering co-founder Todd Sierer. Celebrities at the festival include Bill Nye the Science Guy, the Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik, and Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. Entries are now being accepted for the 2012 Kavli Science Video Contest for students in grades 6-12, with cash awards and prizes. Deadline is March 21, 2012. For more information, click the link in our description section, or visit usasciencefestival.org.
Home levitation system
Japan’s Air Danshin Systems Incorporated has begun deploying a low-cost way to prevent earthquake damage to a home. When an earthquake is detected, a stream of air is pushed between the house and its foundation, lifting the home up to 3 cm. As the ground violently shakes, the home sits relatively still, and after the quake, it lowers back down, hopefully unharmed. Using air to levitate a house -- I’ve seen that in the movie “Up”. Thanks, Japan, but I really wanted a talking dog. If you could develop that collar, I’d really-- SQUIRREL!
Advertising for the ladies
Billboards at several London bus stops have been equipped with cameras that scan passersby. If the person is identified as a woman, the billboard plays an ad for a non-profit raising money to educate women in third-world countries. If a man walks by, instead of an ad, a simple link is displayed, in order to give men “a glimpse of what it’s like to have basic choices taken away.” I get that you’re trying to shame us, but I just added “bus stop ads leave me alone” as number 89 on the list of why its better to be a guy. (That’s above bathroom lines at concerts, behind peeing standing up.)
Robot fish leads school
Maurizio Porfiri from the Polytechnic Institue of New York University and Stephano Marras from Italy’s Institute for Coastal Marine Environment have built a fish robot that generates a wake similar to a real fish. When placed in a fish tank, the fish followed just behind the robot as though it were leading the school, suggesting that one of the major reasons fish form schools is to save energy by drafting, regardless of the draftee. The research may one day help lead fish away from dangers like oil spills. But I want to lead a school of sockeye salmon into my fishing net. I loves me some omega-3’s.
Tweeting open-heart surgery
Doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital recently live-tweeted the double-bypass open-heart surgery of a 57-year-old man. Anyone watching the #mhopenheart hashtag received surgical updates, Twitpic photos, and a helmet-cam video feed. Also, questions were answered by a cardiologist. The tweeting was not done by any doctors performing the procedure -- a dedicated tweeter was in the operating room. What? A dedicated tweeter? Not with my HMO. I’d be lucky to get anaesthesia. Just “Here, drink this, and bite on this.”
Speech stopping gun
Japanese researchers Kazutaka Kurihara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Koji Tsukada Ochanomizu University have built a speech-jamming device. Point it at someone who’s talking, and it plays a recording of exactly what that person is saying, but delayed 0.2 s. The victim experiences a previously-known psychological effect and is unable to speak, without suffering any physical discomfort or damage. I just don’t want this technology falling into the wrong hands, namely mine. There are so many blowhards that I want to shut up... I just wouldn’t know where to begin.
NASA’s Project Morpheus has performed a “hot fire” test of a new rocket engine propelled by a mix of liquid oxygen with methane, an environmentally-friendly and safer alternative to liquid hydrogen. The rocket will be equipped with on-board guidance and control, and should be capable of bringing 1100 pounds of cargo to the moon. Wow, a methane rocket! NASA’s budget cutbacks are so harsh, they’re powering rockets like Bartertown in that last Mad Max movie. I hope their methane comes from pigs.