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

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.

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