• Geologists warn of warming-induced landslides flattening cities

    There are 39 cities around the world with populations greater than 100,000 — and an untold number of smaller towns and villages — which are situated within 100 kilometers of a volcano that has collapsed in the past and which may, therefore, be capable of collapsing in the future; thinning glaciers on volcanoes could destabilize vast chunks of summit cones, triggering mega-landslides capable of flattening cities such as Seattle and devastating local infrastructure

  • Curved escalators can follow any path upward

    A retired British mechanical engineering professor designed an escalator, or conveyance — dubbed the Levytator — that can be designed into any shape, so architects can incorporate escalators that follow curves rather than travel in straight lines; the Levytator moves a continuous loop of curved steps, which can follow any path upwards, flatten, and straighten, and descend again with passengers onboard

  • Bridge column withstands 6.9 quake in tests

    Engineers in California test a bridge column design capable of withstanding a 6.9 quake; nearly all of California’s 2,194 state-owned bridges have been retrofitted better to withstand tremors; local cities and counties across California own 1,193 with work done on 729 of them

  • The National Infrastructure Bank idea gains adherents

    The U.S. aging infrastructure will eventually constrain economic growth; government alone can no longer finance all of the nation’s infrastructure requirements; a national infrastructure bank (NIB) could fill the gap; the NIB could attract private funds to co-invest in projects that pass rigorous cost-benefit tests, and that generate revenues through user fees or revenue guarantees from state and local governments; investors could choose which projects meet their investment criteria, and, in return, share in project risks that today fall solely on taxpayers

  • Using bacteria to create self-healing concrete

    Cement production has an impact on the environment as it is very energy intensive, accounting for about 7 percent of the total anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 emissions; in addition to the energy consumption from production and transportation, air pollution, as well as land use and impacts on the landscape from related mining activities are also matters of concern; means of increasing the service life of concrete structures would make the material not only more durable, but also more sustainable — and researchers find that embedding certain bacteria in the concrete promises to do just that

  • Braess paradox "disappears" under high traffic demands

    In an urban area with a lot of traffic, adding a new road to distribute the traffic may seem like a sensible idea. According to the Braess paradox, just the opposite occurs: a new route added in a transportation network increases the travel times of all individual travelers; scientists found that that the paradox stops occurring as the demand for travel increases

  • Obama proposes ambitious $50 billion infrastructure program

    President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious 6-year infrastructure investment program; its goals include building or repairing 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail lines, and 150 miles of airplane runways; the plan also includes a new air-traffic-control system designed to reduce flight delays, and an “infrastructure bank” that will help determine the worthiest projects

  • Transportation industry eager for more details of infrastructure plan

    The White House released an information sheet that tells in broad strokes how the administration plans to use the money but did not say how much it will spend on different transportation segments or how soon it will ask Congress for the money; industry groups want to know

  • The world's longest tunnel to open 15 October

    At 57 kilometers, the Gotthard tunnel, connecting Zurich and Milan, will be the world’s longest tunnel; constructing the tunnel, which opens on 15 October, required the excavation of m an estimated 24 million tons of rock at a cost of $9.5 billion

  • New cement absorbs CO2

    Concrete — the essential material used by the world’s $3.8 trillion construction industry — accounts for 5 percent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions; each ton of cement emits about 800 kg (1,763 lb.) of CO2 during manufacture — and every year, some 3 billion tons of cement turn into nearly 30 billion tons of concrete, a British start-up has devised a new cement — based on magnesium silicates rather than limestone — that absorbs and stores CO2 when it is produced

  • Water-proofing cities by using buildings for flood protection

    Buildings, car parks, and roads can be designed in such a way that they can protect the urban area behind them from flooding, alongside their regular urban functions; these innovative construction techniques can also be adapted to the circumstances in the long term, enabling flood protection systems to take account of external influences such as climate change and economic development

  • Elevated super bus to solve Beijing's traffic woes

    Beijing and Mexico City vie for the title of the city with the worst traffic jams in the world; Beijing is now looking at an elevated “super bus” as a possible solution; the bus travels on rails and straddles two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to drive under its passenger compartment, which holds up to 1,400 people

  • China's Three Gorges Dam's showing cracks

    The Three Gorges Dam is China’s largest construction project since the Great Wall; the dam was hailed as an engineering feat that could withstand the worst flood in 100 years, but this year’s torrential rains have severely tested its capacity to control the surging Yangtze

  • Small bridge sensors will give early warnings of anomalies, weaknesses

    University of Maryland researchers devised a lightweight, low-power, wireless, credit card-sized sensor that will detect weaknesses in bridges and other infrastructure before they can turn into calamities; the sensors would detect anomalies in the structure of even the most inaccessible parts of bridges and send alerts via cellular frequencies to its human masters. Among the things it would measure would be stress loads, vibration, temperature and the creation and growth of cracks

  • China, Pakistan floods; Haiti earthquake: not merely "natural" disasters

    The recent disasters in Pakistan, China, and Haiti have done more than kill thousands and displace millions: they have raised questions about whether the modifier “natural” — as in “natural disaster” — is accurate in describing the sources and scope of the catastrophes; these and other recent disasters, in other words, raise questions about how much of the damage caused comes from the forces of nature and how much is the result of human activity; experts say that a major contributing factor to the scope of these disasters are development decisions which are too often controlled by wealthy and corrupt elites who have no interest in protecting people who have been marginalized by poverty