Infrastructure

  • Will the World Cup change South Africa?

    Thabo Mbeki, the disgraced former South African president, grandly claimed that the 2010 World Cup would be the moment when the African continent “turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict”; a BBC reporter touring the country on the eve of the tournament notes the new stadiums and roads, but says the more likely aftermath is that South Africa will have spent billions of dollars on a 30-day advert for the country that quickly fades as the sporting world moves on

  • Russia, Italy to build new fusion reactor

    The reactor, designed by MIT researchers, is based on MIT’s Alcator fusion research program, which has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor, and is the largest university-based fusion reactor in the world; the new reactor, called Ignitor, would be about twice the size of Alcator — but much smaller and less expensive than the ITER fusion reactor currently under construction in France

  • How to protect Times Square -- and other highly traveled areas

    New Yorkers were lucky that a T-shirt vendor notices the suspicious SUV left by Faisal Shazad in Times Square, but there are ways to improve on luck in trying to secure highly traveled areas; more coordinated CCTV system, blast-mitigation, and more call boxes are a few of the measures

  • Corps looking at water diversions to protect Louisiana coast

    The recent, 1,000-year Ohio River Valley rain event that is causing so much flooding in Tennessee and Kentucky is expected to make its way into the New Orleans area by 18 May doubling the current Mississippi River flow to 1 million cfs; The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has an idea: diverting the excess water to push water out of sensitive wetland areas and keep away oil that has been drawing near shore since the 20 April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig

  • Remotely controlled robot inspects dangerous structures

    A remotely controlled robot uses laser sensors to look inside damaged structures to look for survivors; when inside the structure, the robot takes multiple scans using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) unit that takes up to 500,000 point measurements per second. It also can scan through walls and windows

  • New sensor speeds water analysis

    New sensor creates a single procedure for in-situ monitoring of chlorinated hydrocarbons in water, obviating the need for laboratory-based technologies for the analysis of water contaminants, which are time consuming, labor intensive and expensive

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  • The technology behind the Gulf oil spill disaster

    The culprit on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a device called blowout preventer, or BOP; the Deepwater Horizon’s BOP is a 450-ton set of hydraulic rams that straddles the wellhead, just above the seabed; when the well blew out last month, sending oil and natural gas up the well, signaling from the rig operators or loss of communication with the surface should have automatically released pneumatic pressure stored in the BOP’s tanks, driving it mechanically to crimp or shear off the well pipe and close off the well; for an unknown reason, the BOP sat paralyzed on the sea floor, doing nothing; the disaster exposes over-reliance on blowout preventers that has been long disparaged by industry insiders and outside critics

  • The bad news: Expect about 38,000,000 gallons of oil to be released into the Gulf

    The 1989 Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound; the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on 20 April, has already released an estimated 9 million gallons of oil into the Gulf; this means that the well releases between 10,000 and 15,000 barrel of oil into the water (there are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil); BP says it will take about three months to cap the underwater gusher — meaning that we should expect the equivalent of 900,000 barrels, or 37,800,000 gallons, to released into the water yet

  • The good news: Tests confirm oil is light grade

    Preliminary tests on the oil spilled in the Gulf show that the material is typical Louisiana sweet crude, a light oil that can be either burned or readily dispersed; scientists were alarmed Friday when one of the samples showed a higher-than-expected concentration of asphalt and other nonvolatile components; such materials are extremely resistant to degradation, and they also are resistant to burning and extremely difficult to clean up once they reach the shore; scientists now believe the Friday samples were contaminated

  • Gulf oil spill exposes industry's lack of readiness, preparation

    The oil spill in the Gulf will inevitably become the worst spill in U.S. history — if it is not the worst already; BP has begun a three-month project to drill a relief well in 5,000ft of water to intercept and isolate the existing well at around 13,000ft below the seabed; one expert says: “At 1,500m the head is as easy to get to as if it were on the moon”

  • Trains still carry lethal cargo through Dallas-Forth Worth, other American cities

    A cloud of chlorine gas could kill up to 17,500 people and injure 100,000 others within several miles; about 1,300 chlorine-filled cars go through Union Pacific Railroad’s Davidson Yard in west Fort Worth in a typical year; the U.S. railroad industry, which is required by federal common-carrier law to ship chemicals such as chlorine, transported some 75,000 tank cars of toxic inhalants nationwide in 2009

  • New California tremor map shows 50 new faults

    California has an estimated 15,000 faults; many of those are short, and experts have found no evidence that they have generated sizable temblors; others, though, can produce major quakes; the state’s geological agency have placed fifty new faults — all of them surface faults that have been discovered over the last two decades — on one map which will help educate the public and aid in planning and quake readiness

  • Gulf of Mexico oil reaches coast; White House calls spill event of "national significance"

    Gulf oil spill reaches Louisiana shore; cost of clean up is estimated at $8 billion; DHS secretary Napolitano declares the spill an event of “national significance,” opening the door for increased federal involvement; Louisiana declares state of emergency

  • A first: Engineers build giant dome to contain Golf oil spill

    Engineers have began to construct a giant dome over a large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the dome would capture or gather the oil and allow it to be pumped out of that dome structure; the dome would be similar to welded steel containment structures called cofferdams used in oil rig construction, but it would be an original design never fabricated or tested before

  • Coast guard my use controlled burn for Gulf oil spill

    A large oil spill from a rig in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening vital ecological areas along the Louisiana shore; DHS and the Coast Guard are considering a controlled burn of the menacing oil spill; controlled burns have been done and tested before