Links for 8th June 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Inflatable tower could climb to the edge of space

    "The team envisages assembling the structure from a series of modules constructed from Kevlar-polyethylene composite tubes made rigid by inflating them with a lightweight gas such as helium. To test the idea, they built a 7-metre scale model made up of six modules (see image). Each module was built out of three laminated polyethylene tubes 8 centimetres in diameter, mounted around circular spacers and inflated with air.

    To stay upright and withstand winds, full-scale structures would require gyroscopes and active stabilisation systems in each module. The team modelled a 15-kilometre tower made up of 100 modules, each one 150 metres tall and 230 metres in diameter, built from inflatable tubes 2 metres across. Quine estimates it would weigh about 800,000 tonnes when pressurised – around twice the weight of the world's largest supertanker."

    Tagged with: spacespace-elevatorinflatabletowerengineeringlaunchplatform

  2. Steam Tech Gets Less Punk, More Stimulus Money

    "Many industrial and commercial entities are choosing to build their own combined heat and power generating facilities. In 1998, there were only 46 gigawatts of CHP facilities in the United States. By the end of 2008, 85 gigawatts of CHP capacity had been built.

    A DOE report released late last year found that CHP was already responsible for reducing American emissions by 248 million metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road. That’s a lot more than wind, solar or any of the other renewables. They have such a big impact because they effectively double the amount of work that we get from burning the same amount of fossil fuel."

    Tagged with: energypowersustainabilitysteamCHPinfrastructurelocalised

  3. Illegal downloads and dodgy figures

    "But what about all these other figures in the media coverage? Lots of it revolved around the figure of 4.73bn items downloaded each year, worth £120bn. This means each downloaded item, software, movie, mp3, ebook, is worth about £25. This already seems rather high. I am not an economist, but to me, for example, an appropriate comparator for someone who downloads a film to watch it once might be the rental value, not the sale value.

    In any case, that's £175 a week or £8,750 a year potentially not being spent by millions of people. Is this really lost revenue for the economy, as reported in the press? Plenty will have been schoolkids, or students, and even if not, that's still about a third of the average UK wage. Before tax." Goldacre: kicking ass and taking names.

    Tagged with: musicbusinesscopyrightpiracyp2pstatisticscorruptionfalsedata

  4. The future of robots is rat-shaped

    "Rather than try to replicate human intelligence, in all its furious complexities and higher levels of language and reasoning, it would be better to start at the bottom and figure out simpler abilities that humans share with other animals, they say.

    These include navigating, seeking food and avoiding dangers.

    And, for this job, there can be no better inspiration than the rat, which has lived cheek-by-whisker with humans since Homo sapiens took his first steps.

    "The rat is the animal that scientists know best, and the structure of its brain is similar to that of humans…""

    Tagged with: robotautonomydesigninspirationrodentrattechnologyexploration

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