Sci-Tech

  • Laws of traditional physics would foil Santa's effort to carry out mission

    Santa has 31 hours to visit 378 million Christian children; at the rate of 3.5 children per household, and assuming at least one good child per home, this comes to 108 million homes; if each child receives no more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh would be carrying more than 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself; Santa would thus need at least 360,000 Reindeer to pull the sleigh; since Santa must visit 108 million homes in 31 hours, he will have to travel at 650 miles per second — 3,000 times the speed of sound; at that speed, the lead pair of Reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each and vaporize – indeed, the entire Reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second; Santa himself would be subjected to forces of 17,500 Gs; a 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, and be crushed

  • String theory explains Santa Claus

    Calculations maintain that the laws of physics should prevent Santa Claus from delivering all his gifts and that Santa would burn up in the atmosphere if he tried; the Norwegian Internet magazine, forskning.no, has put together a team of four top researchers to look into the case; the panel’s conclusion is clear: Santa can do the job and Christmas is saved!

  • LEMV surveillance airship taking shape

    The persistent-surveillance long-endurance multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV) is designed to have an endurance when operating unmanned for 21 days at 20,000 ft. carrying a 2,500-lb. payload of sensors and communications equipment; the critical design review was completed at the end of November, final assembly is to begin in February, and first flight is planned for the end of July 2011

  • Giving crowds a lift with spiral escalator

    A monorail-inspired design could help create the world’s first continuous spiral escalator; the spiral escalator could transport larger numbers of people than a lift in a vertical space too narrow for a traditional escalator; this could reduce the floor space needed in buildings for personal transporters and cut the cost of putting escalators into underground railway stations

  • China's dominance in rare Earth elements to weaken

    China currently has a lock on the rare Earth elements market: in 2009 it provided 95 percent of the world’s supply, or 120,000 tons; other countries used to produce rare Earth elements, but environmental and economic considerations led to the near death of the industry outside of China; the growing unease with China’s dominance — and its willingness to exploit this dominance for political gain — have led to a renewed interest in reopening abandoned mines; U.S. company Molycorp has just secured the permits and funding to restart production at a mine in Mountain Pass, California, which would become the first U.S. source of rare Earth elements in more than a decade; full operations will start by the end of next year; by 2012, the revamped U.S. mine is expected to produce around 20,000 tons of rare Earth materials per year

  • Clinical psychology on how American Muslims cope with 9/11 aftermath

    A Tel Aviv University clinical psychologist examines how various Islamic beliefs and practices impact the psychological well-being of its adherents; among American Muslims, he is attempting scientifically to quantify how the after-effects of the 9/11 attacks — after-effects which included many stressors, such as increasing number of security checks, harassment, and verbal abuse — have affected mental well-being and what therapeutic role Islam plays, hoping to identify a clinical path for recovery; it is the first study of its kind and has findings applicable to other religions

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  • Biting winters driven by global warming: scientists

    A string of freezing European winters scattered over the last decade has been driven in large part by global warming; the culprit, according to a new study, is the Arctic’s receding surface ice, which at current rates of decline could to disappear entirely during summer months by century’s end; the mechanism uncovered triples the chances that future winters in Europe and north Asia will be similarly inclement, the study reports

  • DHS to address climate change as homeland security issue

    DHS has a new task force to battle the effects of climate change on domestic security operations; DHS secretary Janet Napolitano explained that the task force was charged with “identifying and assessing the impact that climate change could have on the missions and operations of the Department of Homeland Security”; a June 2010 DHS Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan states: “climate change has the potential to accelerate and intensify extreme weather events which threaten the nation’s sustainability and security”

  • U.S. will carefully watch, but not regulate, synthetic biology

    White House commission says biologists can engineer custom organisms from synthetic genomes, with the government watching but not regulating the research; critics claim synthetic biology will create unnatural organisms likely to wreak havoc on the larger ecosystem if they got loose in the wild — to say nothing of the risks of bioterrorists using design pathogens; self-regulation, say the critics, is equivalent to no regulation

  • China to step up efforts to control Mother Nature

    China is facing increasingly sever water shortages; the Chinese government is expanding it activities to combat extreme weather such as droughts, exploring airborne water resources, bringing water from he sea inland, and other measures to secure stable water supplies for cities, industry and agriculture

  • BAE develops vehicles for ground war of the future

    A range of technologies could improve the effectiveness and fuel efficiency of current military vehicles, while laying the groundwork for future fighting vehicles; BAE looked at 567 technologies and 244 vehicle concepts, which had to fit only two criteria — the vehicle could weigh no more than 30 tons, and had to carry an equivalent punch to a Challenger 2 tank; the company settled on seven future vehicles

  • Engineers enhance building designs better to withstand earthquakes

    Earthquakes come in all sizes with varying degrees of damage depending on the geographic locations where they occur; even a small one on the Richter scale that strikes in an impoverished nation can be more damaging than a larger one that occurs in a city where all buildings have been designed to a stricter building code; the current building codes are insufficient because buildings designed according to these codes have evolved only to avoid collapse under very large earthquakes

  • Hope for terahertz: laser operates at higher temperatures than thought possible

    Terahertz rays — radiation between microwaves and infrared rays on the electromagnetic spectrum — are a promising means of detecting explosives, but they have proven hard to generate cost effectively. So far, solid-state lasers — the cheap, miniature type of laser found in CD players — have been unable to produce terahertz rays unless they are super-cooled, which makes them impractical for mass deployment; now a group of researchers report a solid-state terahertz laser that operates at nearly twice the temperature that putative proportionality would have predicted

  • General Atomic says its Blitzer rail gun already "tactically relevant"

    Last Friday the U.S. Navy tested a rail gun with muzzle energies of 64 megajoules; the gun aims to deliver a projectile to a target 200 miles away at speeds of up to Mach 7+; not to be outdone, General Atomics has just released information about how, back in September, it tested its own rail gun — dubbed the Blitzer; while the Navy researchers are still preoccupied with the velocity of the projectile and muzzle energy, GA says it is farther along in weaponizing its system, which it describes as already “tactically relevant”

  • DoE report warns of U.S. vulnerability to China's rare-earth supplies

    A U.S. Department of Energy report draws attention to the need to diversify the supply of rare Earth metals needed for clean technology and defense; China currently supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements; the largest U.S. producer of rare earths last week announced a $130 million funding deal with Japanese company Sumitomo that promises the financier “substantial quantities of rare-earth products”