Stories tagged design

OK, it's Monday, not Friday, but last week's Science Friday video is too cool to skip. Without further ado... Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
"Maxwell von Stein, a 22-year-old graduate of The Cooper Union, built bicycle that uses a flywheel to store energy. Instead of braking, Max can transfer energy from the wheel to the flywheel, which spins between the crossbars. The flywheel stores the kinetic energy until Max wants a boost, then he can transfer the energy back to the wheel using a shifter on the handlebars."
It's Friday, so let's get right to it. Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday

"A rooftop farm in Brooklyn grows vegetables and doubles as a green roof, insulating the warehouse below. Green roofs save money on cooling and heating costs and also retain water, reducing the load on sewer systems. Annie Novak, head farmer and co-founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm gives us a tour and Lisa Goode, whose company installed the roof, talks about the process.

On top of a warehouse in Brooklyn vegetables are sprouting. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a 6,000 square foot plot that sells produce to New Yorkers and local restaurants. The soil also helps regulate the temperature of the building below. Science Friday stopped by for a tour.

It's Friday. Yes, I know I missed it last week. But it's time for a new Science Friday video.

Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
This week,
"The latest on the bug beat: To survive floods, fire ants band together to form a raft. They can sail for weeks. But how does the raft stay afloat? Researchers report the answer in PNAS this week. Plus, engineers at Tufts are looking to the caterpillar for inspiration for soft-bodied robots. The problem is that squishy bodies make it difficult to move quickly--but some caterpillars have developed a workaround."

ICON Univ of MN Solar Decathlon enty: crane lowers a section of roof onto the University of Minnesota's Icon House, which arrived on the Mall Oct. 2. The house arrived several days late because of transport difficulties.
ICON Univ of MN Solar Decathlon enty: crane lowers a section of roof onto the University of Minnesota's Icon House, which arrived on the Mall Oct. 2. The house arrived several days late because of transport difficulties.Courtesy Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy

20 Solar houses compete in fourth Solar Decathlon

I hope to one day live in a house that produces more energy than it uses. A competition between 20 such houses is going on right now on the Mall in Washington DC. The Solar Decathlon joins 20 college and university teams in a competition to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Points awarded in ten categories determine the overall winner. As of today (Mon) we have climbed up to 7th place(click for most recent rankings).


Lots of ways to learn about solar housing design

I have been excitedly working my way through information as it comes in. You can follow a umn_solar_house Twitter feed and there is an ICON Facebook fan page. The Solar Decathalon landing page allows you to jump to photos, videos, and team websites(not working? Try the site map). The University of Minnesota's ICON landing page branches off into a blog, a virtual tour, and lots of educational pages about design. The media (WCCO News and Washington Post) and bloggers (myself included) will be all over this. I recommend's cheat sheet and their overview of the UMN ICON house. You can also download a 966KB PDF media kit about the Solar Decathlon.


Robots are stealing our jobs: Even when our job is to eat bugs.
Robots are stealing our jobs: Even when our job is to eat bugs.Courtesy manbartlett
Yeah, hooray, robots can walk. I’ve been walking for, like, most of my life. A robot can make sad faces. Whatever. That’s practically my specialty. A robot can simulate excruciating pain and horror. So? Nuts to “simulate”—I live it.

Great. It’s all great. Robots are programmed and built to do all sorts of inane stuff, and people love it. But I’ve been able to do this stuff forever, and nobody’s giving me high-fives and kisses. Cool, a robot can remember your name. I can usually so that. A robot can remember your credit card number. I can for sure do that. Give me a chance people, and you’ll see how much better than a robot I am.

But no. Robot development rumbles onward, and, once again, robots are taking a brave new step where I’ve stepped years ago: they fuel themselves by eating bugs.

Some artsy science people in London have designed self-sustaining robotic furniture. The robots digest organic matter (bugs) in “microbial fuel cells,” creating enough power to run a clock (I can do that) or light up lamp (I could probably do that), and eat more bugs (done). Microbial fuel cells, by the way, are sort of like batteries that run on decomposing matter. Chemicals in the fuel cell (I think) pretty much steal the electrons being produced by bacteria as they break down organic fuel. I can’t do this, but, then again, no one is asking me to. MFCs seem like pretty interesting technology, actually. More about them here, if you’re interested.

The designers have made working models of a fly-attracting lamp that works like a pitcher plant to capture its victims, a wall-mounted clock with a sticky conveyor belt, and a table that attracts mice onto its surface and into a trap door, where (I guess) they are digested to death. (I can’t help it… it’s like the Pit of Carkoon! Argh. I’m always going to be this way.)

It’s all pretty neat, although the small mammal attracting and digesting table might be a little much. That one seems like a case of somebody getting a little too arty or a little too sciencey for their own good. I mean, I could lure and eat a mouse, and hold your food for you, but would you want me to?


Stradivarious secret is in the sauce
Stradivarious secret is in the sauceCourtesy caribb

Stradivarius violins soaked in "secret sauce"

Having obtained minute wood samples from restorers working on Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments, scientists now have verified that the wood was treated with borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts. Borax is a wood preservative and an insecticide. It makes sense that wood craftsmen would want to protect their creations from being chewed up by worms.

Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry, first theorized in 1976 that chemicals used on the instruments – not merely the wood and the construction – are responsible for the distinctive sound of these violins." Texas A&M University

Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry, along with Renald Guillemette, director of the electron microprobe laboratory, and Clifford Spiegelman, professor of statistics, all Texas A&M faculty members published their research in the current issue of the scientific journal Public Library of Science (PloSONE).

Learn more about Nagyvary's research

Source: "Secrets Of Stradivarius’ Unique Sound Revealed"
Nagyvary's website: Nagyvary Violins


Fluid flow separation: The fluid flow becomes detached from the surface of the object, and instead takes the forms of eddies and vortices.
Fluid flow separation: The fluid flow becomes detached from the surface of the object, and instead takes the forms of eddies and vortices.Courtesy jaganath

Fluid flow separation explained with mathematics in 1904

In 1904, Ludwig Prandtl, considered the father of modern aerodynamics, derived the exact mathematical conditions for flow separation to occur, but only in two dimensions for steady flows.

Unsteady fluid flow in three dimensions explained with mathematics in 2008

A century later, George Haller, a visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT led a group that explained the mathematics behind unsteady separation in two dimensions. This month, his team reports completing the theory by extending it to three dimensions. Papers on the experiments and theory are being published in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and in the September issue of Physics of Fluids, respectively. Haller's coauthors are Amit Surana, now at United Technologies; MIT student Oliver Grunberg; and Gustaaf Jacobs, now on the faculty at San Diego State University.

Fluid mechanics theorists are excited

The equation will forever change the face of advanced fluid dynamics and will have a profound impact on many industries, including the aerospace and automotive industries. This quote from Daily Tech Review shows that this breakthough has theorists in fluid mechanics excited;

The new work -- if it survives the extensive peer review that is to come -- will likely go down as the greatest scientific advance of the decade. The research has already survived a strenuous initial round of peer review.

Equally important, this month Thomas Peacock, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor and his colleagues report important experimental work verifying the theory.

"This is the tip of the iceberg, but we've shown that this theory works," Peacock said.

Fluid dynamics makes a difference

Understanding how surfaces effect how an object flows through a fluid (including air) can make big differences in maximizing performance. Did the new swimsuits make a difference in breaking world records in Olympic swimming competition? How about the surfaces of baseballs, golf balls, and tennis balls? The effects on miles per gallon for autos and airplanes can save millions (billions?) of dollars.

Source: MIT News


Solar home design competition

Solar Decathlon: The public flocked to see 20 solar powered homes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon)
Solar Decathlon: The public flocked to see 20 solar powered homes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon)
The Solar Decathlon is a competition in which 20 teams of college and university students compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The event took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., October 12 - 20.

To compete, the teams must design and build energy-efficient homes that are powered exclusively by the sun. The homes must be attractive and easy to live in. They must maintain a comfortable temperature, provide attractive and adequate lighting, power household appliances for cooking and cleaning, power home electronics, and provide hot water. These houses must also power an electric vehicle to meet household transportation needs.

The Solar Decathlon is 10 contests in one

Ten separate contests were scored, then added together to determine the winner of the Solar Decathlon. Each division below is linked to webpage for more information.

Winner: Technische Universitat Darmstadt

This team from Germany came to the Solar Decathlon hoping to have an impact on people, and it's safe to say that this happened. Darmstadt won the Architecture, Lighting, and Engineering contests. The Architecture Jury said the house pushed the envelope on all levels and is the type of house they came to the Decathlon hoping to see. The Lighting Jury loved the way this house glows at night. The Engineering Jury gave this team an innovation score that was as high as you could go, and said nobody did the integration of the PV system any better. Darmstadt was one of seven teams to score a perfect 100 points in the Energy Balance contest. All week, long lines of people waited to get into this

Learn more about the 2007 Solar Decathlon


Q-drum: credit: P.J. Hendrikse
Q-drum: credit: P.J. Hendrikse
Ninety per cent of Earth's population does not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum currently has an exhibit titled "Design for the other 90%".

Design away poverty.

“The No. 1 need that poor people have is a way to make more cash,” says Martin Fisher.

Martin Fisher, an engineer who founded KickStart, says Kickstart's mission is to help millions of people out of poverty. Pumping water can help a farmer grow grain in the dry season, when it fetches triple the normal price. Dr. Fisher described customers who had skipped meals for weeks to buy a pump and then earned $1,000 the next year selling vegetables.
Another successful pump is the bamboo-treadle pump. Over 1.7 million have been sold in Bangladesh and elsewhere, generating $1.4 billion in net farmer income in Bangladesh alone.

Design and transporting water.

How can a child transport over 100 pounds of water more than a mile? The Q-Drum is a durable container designed to roll easily. With a Q-Drum even children can carry more than 100 pounds of water more than a mile.

Read about dozens of designs that make a big difference.

The Design for the other 90% exhibit is divided into categories. By clicking on each you will be able to learn more about these life-changing designs.

Source: New York Times

Popular Science magazine has a photo essay on car designs from the past, and compares them to “new” designs now being promoted for the future.