Secretive U.S. Air Force space plane ready to return to Earth – an annotated infographic

October 17, 2014

The U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane is set to return to Earth after almost two years in orbit. The secret mission is believed to have been a test of new sensors and other next-generation satellite technologies.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

U.S. Air Force X-37B

U.S. Air Force X-37B

E&T news weekly #22 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

October 17, 2014

Friday October 17 2014

  Aasha Bodhani Aasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor
First Google Glass addict admitted for treatment

It has been reported an American man has been diagnosed with having an addiction to Google Glass, having used the wearable technology for up to 18 hours a day as part of his job. The man experienced irritable and aggressive traits when stripped of the glasses, and would dream about seeing the world through the Glass’s small screen. He’s now reportedly under an ‘internet detox’ programme, including Google Glass and other electronic devices.

Windows flaw used by hackers to spy on Nato

Cyber security experts iSight Partners say they’ve detected a flaw in Microsoft Windows, providing Russian hackers the opportunity to spy on Nato, the EU, Ukraine and energy and telecommunications companies. The attack was achieved by targeted phishing emails and an unknown method to bypass all forms of security protection. While no comment has been made from the Russian government, Microsoft have been alerted and are issuing an automatic update.


  Tereza Pultarova Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter
First Google Glass addict admitted for treatment

Most of us have probably observed the negative effects of excessive Internet exposure on our attention span and would admit sometimes checking our smartphones, emails and social media accounts far too often. However, the world’s first Google Glass addict has taken the gadget addiction to an entirely new level, even developing dreams in which he sees the world through the Google Glass display.

Mars One settlement would perish in weeks

There has been a lot of media fuss about the daring Mars One project, which aims to establish a permanent human colony on the Red Planet within the next decade. With a reality show-style astronaut selection process and a claim that the technology needed for such an ambitious venture already exists, the project has raised eyebrows of many experts. It doesn’t come entirely as a surprise then that the concept didn’t fare particularly well in an independent engineering assessment.


  dominic-lenton Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Influx of foreign engineers to UK mightier than ever

With immigration set to be one of the hot topics of next year’s general election, news that the number of non-EU engineers recruited by UK companies has increased by 36 per cent in the last year. Good news that firms are getting back in the hiring mode, but why are they finding it so hard to find suitable workers that they have to look overseas?

TV white space used to monitor endangered wildlife

With the annual return of the BBC’s ever popular Autumnwatch on the horizon, thousands of viewers will be tuning in to live wildlife webcams on the web. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Google are taking a more innovative approach to ‘citizen zoology’ by using the white space gaps between channels in the digital TV spectrum to test technology that monitors endangered wildlife in remote areas.


  Lorna Sharpe Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
TV white space trial to provide flood warning

interesting application of so-called ‘TV white space’ technology, collating data from a network of sensors that monitor waterways and groundwater in a flood-prone area, with the intention of giving residents early warning of problems.

Radar tests detect small aircraft among wind turbines

Ever since wind-farm developments took off in a serious way it’s been recognised that moving turbines create spurious signals on air traffic control radars, and engineers have been looking for ways to mitigate the problem. UK trials of a Danish radar system are showing promising results.


  Edd Gent Edd Gent, online news reporter
Experts question Lockheed fusion reactor claims

Fusion is one of those technologies that always seems to be 50 years away, so fair play to Lockheed for sticking their necks out with a prediction that they will be able to produce one in a decade. The jury is very much still out on the claims, largely due to the lack of detail, but here’s hoping it’s not all a load of hot air.


  Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Shelve the Climate Change Act, says former minister
Shale firm to appeal council’s exploration refusal

It isn’t much of a stretch to join the dots of these two stories from the same day this week to complete an ugly picture of the shortsighted, selfish greed typical of Tory MPs and vampiric fossil-fuel drilling companies. First, former (note former) Tory environment secretary Owen Paterson challenges David Cameron to shelve the Climate Change Act, on the basis that scrapping policies focused on renewable energy targets in favour of “common sense” energy policies would be a “glorious opportunity” for the Conservatives and a chance to address the threat posed by the rise of right wing rival party Ukip. One of Paterson’s primary columns supporting his argument? Push for shale gas. And what do you know? Celtique, the shale drilling company, is now challenging the decision made in July this year by West Sussex County Council’s planning committee to refuse Celtique’s application to drill for oil and gas exploration near Wisborough Green, a conservation area just outside the South Downs National Park.

New issue of E&T magazine available online now – the Antarctica issue, conservation vs fossil fuels

October 15, 2014

The new issue of E&T magazine is available online now: the Antarctica issue.

The Antarctic is the Earth’s last great wilderness, but can we keep it that way? As global warming melts that continental land ice, ironically the region becomes more attractive to companies interested in extracting fossil fuels and countries looking to extend and secure their territories sitting on or near valuable natural resources.

Nations are also readying for take-off in a race to exploit the energy resources of another great uninhabited region, but this one is sustainable and it’s extraterrestrial. Solar power from space is an exciting prospect, but so far it hasn’t got off the ground. Shouldn’t more of our energy needs be met by renewables now, anyway? The UK is lagging well behind its neighbours in its contribution from renewable sources.

While the debate over extra runways for London rumbles on, could electric planes be the answer to the concerns about air pollution and noise? Also in this issue: special effects taking over films; the rights and wrongs of U2 album spam, and how more electronics in cars is causing headaches about safety and security.

Check out the new issue of E&T magazine online.


E&T magazine. Cool.

How West African countries hit hard by #Ebola outbreak get medical aid by plane – an annotated infographic

October 15, 2014

Only a handful of international carriers are still flying to the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, keeping a vital air link open for medical aid workers. However, this has raised fears that the virus could spread further afield.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Ebola medical air services

Ebola medical air services

E&T news weekly #21 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

October 10, 2014

Friday October 10 2014

  Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Turing’s codebreaking machine voted engineers’ favourite

It’s been a momentous week for the mathematical legacy of Alan Turing. Not only did the biopic of his life, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley, debut at the London Film Festival, Turing’s World War Two codebreaking machine, nicknamed The Bombe, was also voted the engineers’ favourite artefact in a new survey to mark the 30th anniversary of the Engineering Heritage Awards.

Police struggling with cybercrime says top policeman

A worrying admission that the robbers are smarter than the cops these days, as Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe acknowledges at a recent security conference that police have still not “got to grips” with online fraud despite a huge rise in the crime.


  Vitali Vitaliev Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Driverless and first-time air-conditioned Tube train design revealed

This welcome development looks like a possible end of a very long saga. It also contradicts earlier conclusions of London transport engineers to the effect that effective air-conditioning in London Tube stations and trains was technically impossible. In 2010, we had a rather heated (sorry for the pun – could not refrain from it!) discussion on the pages of E&T as to whether cooling the Tube was a reality or a dream. Looks like it was (is, will be?) a reality, after all – a fact particularly pleasing for an inveterate passenger like myself who had a heat stroke while travelling on the Tube in July 2003!


  Edd Gent Edd Gent, online news reporter
LED inventor unhappy at Nobel Prize snub

It’s great that research central to a lot of electronic engineering received the Nobel Prize for Physics this year, but the furore over the snubbing of the inventor of the first visible-light LED and also the inventors of the first ever LED, the infrared LED, highlights the fact that scientific research is not a series of Eureka moments but a steady and incremental accumulation of knowledge.


  Dickon Ross Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game opens festival

As The Imitation Game, the new biopic of cryoptoanalyst and computer science pioneer Alan Turing, opens the London Film Festival, the stars admitted they struggled with the maths. E&T has seen the preview of the film and found it really quite moving. Bletchley Park, prepare for a lot more visitors.

LED inventor unhappy at Nobel Prize snub

Not everyone was happy about the Nobel prize for physics going to the inventors of the blue LED.

Spanish smart meters easy to hack

Concerns that hackers could take control of smart meters in Spain. There will be more like this to come as the security of the new generation of networked devices will become a running story – and not just consumer devices in the home. The players involved in building the Internet of Things are taking security and privacy issues very seriously indeed and talking about what needs to be done by industry and government to reassure the public. Watch this space.


  dominic-lenton Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Smart waste collection service launched in Spain

Suggestions that how well British householders are at recycling could be monitored by ‘smart’ rubbish bins have met with predictable mutterings about Big Brother going through our bins. Spain isn’t going that far, but is using technology to plan refuse collection routes more effectively by tracking which bins are closest to overflowing.

Engineering adventure stories to inspire next generation

American aerospace engineer Ken Hardman is determined to attract more young people into engineering by telling stories about the exciting side of the job. “Engineers don’t just sit around writing software and solving mathematical equations,” he says. “They go on business trips, they have deadlines, they conceive new ideas, they solve problems.”

Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370 – undersea search area moves on – an annotated infographic

October 8, 2014

The near-impossible search for the wreckage of flight MH370 valiantly continues in the Indian Ocean, as the search area is moved to a new location.

Now three ships will use “towfish” – underwater vessels equipped with Synthetic Aperture Sonar that creates high-resolution images of the ocean floor – in the search for any sign of the missing plane.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Flight MH370: still missing, still looking

Flight MH370: still missing, still looking

#AppleWatch launch may be delayed – manufacturing issues – an annotated infographic

October 7, 2014

So not everything goes Apple’s way. On a day when the world has been openly gawking with car-crash fascination at Samsung’s announcement of a projected 60 per cent collapse in its smartphone profits for Q3 this year, details have emerged of a fly in Apple’s Watch ointment that may delay production and launch.

GT Advanced Technologies, the makers of the watch’s toughened Sapphire Crystal screen, unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy. No screen: no Apple Watch. It’s a rum old business, really, as you’d think a company that had potentially secured a lucrative revenue stream with the world’s pre-eminent high-end gadget brand would be immune to such financial ruin.

More details will undoubtedly emerge over time (no Watch pun intended). Will Apple move to secure its own supply chain, instead of having to rely on third-party suppliers?

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Apple Watch: it's about time

Apple Watch: it’s about time

E&T news weekly #20 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

October 3, 2014

Friday October 3 2014

  Vitali Vitaliev Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
US Air Force seeks alternatives to Russian rocket engines

This made me think of other original Russian technologies the West may now have to find alternatives for. It should be possible – at least theoretically – for US engineers to replace or replicate such recent Russian inventions as the first mass-produced portable nuclear power station, the longest offshore pipeline, a space-based radiotelescope with the highest angular resolution, and the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge… But how about the good old AK-47 assault rifle in use with many a Western army? I foresee potential problems here.

Londoners would give up children to connect to Wi-Fi

This kind of behaviour, to my mind, can be explained by the Londoners’ reluctance to read the small print, or sheer laziness, rather than their cannibalistic child-hating attitudes.

Low-cost invisibility cloak developed by US researchers

How about a further scientific challenge of making the Rochester Cloak itself invisible? Or is it invisible already? If so, would you pay a thousand dollars for something you cannot see? Move over, JK Rowling!


  James Hayes James Hayes, technology features editor
Research to scrutinise cyber-risks to infrastructure

While this research project is welcome, the risks to CNI are already well known about; more efforts toward effective remediation are needed with immediate effect. A significant amount of the information and communications technology behind CNI – in both the UK and elsewhere – was not designed to be ‘cyber-secure’ and, as such, is innately vulnerable. Hackers have already turned their attention to industrial control systems and SCADA-based sub-systems, and the kudos from the Black Hat community for a hacker who manages to ‘bring down’ a power station would be considerable.


  dominic-lenton Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Londoners would give up children to connect to Wi-Fi

Several Londoners who took part in an Internet behaviour experiment designed to see how much attention they paid to small print unwittingly agreed to “render up their eldest child for the duration of eternity” in exchange for free Wi-Fi. Just bear that in mind next time you automatically click on an ‘Accept’ button.

Education Secretary calls for bully-reporting app for vulnerable kids

Digitising communications between school and parents has gone some way towards the eliminating the risk of important letters being left forgotten at the bottom of a student’s bag for weeks on end. Is it the right way to tackle bullying though? Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s speech suggesting some sort of smartphone reporting app could help was an interesting suggestion lost in the general hubbub of the Conservative Party Conference.


  Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Low-cost invisibility cloak developed by US researchers

You only have to see the image accompanying this story to have your mind blown by the possibilities promised by this development. American researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a $1,000 invisibility cloak (dubbed the Rochester Cloak) based on off-the-shelf technology, which uses a set of lenses placed in front of an object to make it – temporarily at least – disappear.

Electronics giant Toshiba turns to vegetable production

Another great image with this news story, which begs the question: why is Toshiba diversifying in to salad? At the Yokosuka Clean Room Farm, Toshiba has fitted its vegetable farm with cutting-edge technology, including fluorescent lighting with an output wavelength optimised for vegetable growth, air-conditioning systems that maintain constant temperature and moisture level, remote monitoring systems to track growth and sterilisation systems for packing materials.


  Edd Gent Edd Gent, online news reporter
Good progress as Human Brain Project celebrates first birthday

The Human Brain Project is possibly the most daring IT project in recent times and to hear that good progress is being made is great. Criticism from neuroscientists who would prefer the money to be spent on direct research needs to be addressed, but this kind of ‘moonshot’ project will always have its unambitious detractors.


  Tereza Pultarova Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter
Londoners would give up children to connect to Wi-Fi

Do you ever read terms and conditions before ticking the ‘accept’ box when connecting to a public WiFi network. Most of the time, I can’t be bothered. God knows what I may have agreed to in my life …..

Electronics giant Toshiba turns to vegetable production

One seriously wouldn’t expect a world leading engineering company to start producing vegetables. But Toshiba has no prejudice against agriculture and has assumed the task in its very own high tech way. Its Yokosuka Clean Room Farm features cutting edge technology to optimise the growth of vegetables by using artificial lighting, precise air-conditioning and watering management. As the plants grow indoors in special clean rooms, they are safe from germs and insects and can be grown without pesticides. The whole thing reminded me about my discussions with space gardening researcher Lucie Poulet about growing vegetables on Mars during our stay at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

Poor health simulator: What it’s like to be an old construction worker?

October 2, 2014

Young people think they’re invincible and that frequently puts their health and lives at risk. Loughborough University researchers have created a set of simulators to show construction workers what could happen to them over the years if they don’t take proper care of their health at work.

Watch our video from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Research Forum 2014

#ParisMotorShow 2014 – new star cars on display, #JaguarXE – two annotated infographics

October 1, 2014

The world’s pre-eminent petrolheads will shortly be gathering and munching on fresh croissant as the Paris Motor Show opens for business.

One of the glitziest events on the automotive calendar, this year’s show will see the debuts of Europe’s best new cars for the coming year, both the concepts and the production models. Stars at the City of Light will include Ferrari’s 458 Speciale A, the Jaguar XE, Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid SUV and Audi TT Roadster.

Of particular interest is Jaguar’s new XE sports saloon, as the British legend goes bumper to bumper with its German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz in an assault on the lucrative junior executive car market. The XE features light-weight aluminium construction and new fuel efficient turbo-charged engines to cut emissions and boost economy.

Click on either graphic for an expanded view.

Paris Motor Show 2014

Paris Motor Show 2014


Jaguar XE sports saloon

Jaguar XE sports saloon


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,517 other followers