News

App Turns Smartphones into Earthquake Detection Network

UC Berkeley scientists released a free Android app that taps a smartphone’s ability to record ground shaking from an earthquake, with the goal of creating a worldwide seismic detection network that could eventually warn users of impending jolts from nearby quakes. The app, called MyShake, is available from the Google Play Store and runs in the background with little power, so that a phone’s onboard accelerometers can record local shaking any time of the day or night.

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Will commercial supersonic planes become a viable way to travel?

This week's Question: NASA announced last week that it was resurrecting a supersonic aircraft called the Quiet SST (“QueSST”). The space agency believes that the traditional sonic boom can be mitigated into a soft thump, or “heartbeat.” Supersonic planes could potentially reduce cross-country travel times to two hours or less, and make a trans-Atlantic trip in a matter of a few hours. The question is whether commercial jet makers and airlines will use the design concept.   What do you think? Will commercial supersonic planes become a viable way to travel?  

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Ultra-Thin Solar Cells Rest on a Soap Bubble

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated a solar cell so light and thin that it can rest atop a soap bubble.Though it may take years before the device is developed into a commercial product, the laboratory proof-of-concept shows a new approach to making solar cells that could help power the next generation of portable electronic devices.

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Will driverless cars increase road reliance?

This week's Question: Autonomous vehicles have been touted as a way to combat roadway accidents and reduce energy expenditure and greenhouse gas emissions. A new study from University of Leeds, University of Washington, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, however, claims that the actual impact may be both positive and negative due to how technology will change humanity’s relationship with vehicles. The study estimated, for example, a 50% to 60% increase in car energy consumption due to travelers choosing to use driverless cars in situations where they would have previously taken alternative transport, such as trains or planes. Additionally, the study predicts that people who currently find it difficult to drive, such as the elderly or those with disabilities, will have increased access to road transport with the advent of the new systems, resulting in an estimated 2% to 10% increase in road energy use for personal travel.  What do you think? Will driverless cars increase road reliance?  

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Researchers Charge Up ‘Water Batteries’

Researchers from TU Graz and the Wetsus research center in The Netherlands have produced electrically charged water by means of a floating water bridge. The electric charge of the "water battery" can be stored for a short time.

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NASA Shakes Up Earthquake Warning Systems

The most important information that is immediately needed for earthquake disasters is the location, depth, and magnitude of the earthquake. The most common method of establishing an earthquake's magnitude is using seismic sensors on the ground that measure the shaking of the earth's crust. Authorities and first responders need better data to accurately and quickly assess the risk associated with the earthquake.

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Smartphone-Based System Could Speed Development of Driverless Cars

Two new systems for driverless cars can identify a user’s location and orientation in places where GPS does not function, and identify the various components of a road scene in real time on a regular camera or smartphone, performing the same job as sensors costing much more. The separate but complementary systems have been designed by researchers from the University of Cambridge.

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