TWIE 121: Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars

This Week in Engineering - The Mars rover has detected proof of a river and alluvial plain on Mars. The river flowed for thousands, or perhaps even millions of years. We wonder what happened to that river. Any ideas?
Channel: This Week in Engineering iTunes Podcast
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Transcript For This Video

Dark Energy Camera Online
The Dark Energy Camera, from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory has taken first light. A key part of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration, the camera will try to answer why the expansion of the universe is speeding up -- one of the biggest mysteries of astrophysics. The Dark Energy Camera was constructed at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, and mounted on the Victor M. Blanco telescope in Chile. The cameraÆs array of sixty-two charged-coupled devices is especially sensitive to red light, and when combined with the rest of the Blanco telescope, will be able to study galaxy clusters, supernovae, large-scale galaxy clumping and weak gravitational lensing, all at the same time. The Dark Energy Survey will study one-eighth of the sky over a period of five years.

Turbulence avoidance system
The National Center for Atmospheric Research has developed a system to provide pilots with turbulence data, so they can avoid the potentially dangerous areas, and the system has now been cleared for use in the US. The system is a network of wind-measuring instruments, with software that interprets rapidly-changing wind patterns. The system was commissioned in July for the Juneau International Airport in Alaska, and is now being adapted for other airports known for turbulence, such as those in mountainous regions in the western US. But turbulence is how I get my thrills! Guess IÆll just have to ride my dressage horse over cobblestone during an earthquake.

Reusing waste heat
Roughly two-thirds of the energy we consume is wasted as heat, and thermoelectric materials, which could convert the heat to electricity, are not yet practical, but are becoming more efficient. Scientists rate thermoelectric materials by the ZT scale, which incorporates the preferably-high electrical conductivity, and preferably-low heat conductivity. A ZT value of 2 is roughly twelve to fifteen percent efficient, similar to industrial photovoltaics -- and new nanostructures have enabled ZT scores up to 1.8 at 750-900 K. I say, why convert heat to volts? Just re-use the heat! ThatÆs why I run my carÆs radiator water through espresso grounds after my morning commute. Mmm, tastes like dizzy!

Martian riverbed
Mars Science LaboratoryÆs Curosity rover has now returned clear evidence of flowing water -- a photograph of a jagged rock slab flecked with round gravel pieces. NASA scientists are convinced that the gravel -- too heavy to be carried by Martian winds -- was deposited by a stream running about three feet per second, somewhere between ankle- and hip-deep. The water flowed from a channel in Gale Crater known as Peace Vallis, where it spread out into an alluvial fan, and the number of channels suggests it flowed for thousands, or perhaps millions, of years.

Maternity climbing gear
Teresa Delfin, an anthropologist, rock climber and outdoor enthusiast, had trouble finding outdoor clothing to wear when she got pregnant. So she founded Mountain Mama, and now the company has teamed up with equipment maker Mad Rock to develop the first-ever rock climbing harness for pregnant women. The adjustable harness features padded leg loops and an open belly, and is expected to be available early next year. Pregnant ladies, IÆm glad youÆre active and all, but stop making me look bad. First you pass me in a fun run, now summiting El Capitan? Fine, IÆm taking up competitive limbo. Your move.

Washing machine shower
Four industrial design students from Turkey have designed the ôWashitö, a shower equipped with a small washing machine. The system uses the water from the showerÆs drain, known as ôgrey waterö, runs it through carbon, organic and chemical filters, cleans it with UV rays, and sends it into a tank where it can do load of laundry. The designers have won an IF Concept Design Award and are now working on a prototype. You call that grey water? Not after my day cleaning septic systems, de-boning chickens, and then reading youtube comments -- thatÆs a filthy job. Fine, theyÆre Lego bricks! Jeez!