E&T news weekly #24 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

Friday October 31 2014

  Tereza PultarovaTereza Pultarova, online news reporter
High-tech air-con to save Sistine Chapel art

In 2010, curators at the Vatican Museums discovered the famous renaissance frescoes, including the iconic Creation of Adam painted on the chapel’s ceiling by the great master Michelangelo, were rapidly degrading. The 15th century chapel famously holding secretive conclaves where new popes are elected, simply wasn’t designed to handle millions of visitors every year – exhaling carbon dioxide, increasing humidity, sweating and bringing dust. There were two solutions – to close the chapel to the public or to employ cutting-edge engineering skills and design an air-purification and air-conditioning system that would handle the load. Luckily for all art-loving visitors to Rome, the Vatican Museums took the second option and the new system was launched earlier this week.

World’s longest superconductor cable works without a hitch

The world’s first superconductor cable integrated into a city grid and the longest ever created has concluded six months of flawless operations. Installed in Essen, Germany, the Ampacity project has delivered above satisfying results, the team behind the project says.

  Vitali VitalievVitali Vitaliev, features editor
High-tech air-con to save Sistine Chapel art

Better late than never, they say. I was glad to learn of the latest Sistine Chapel restoration, for it was stuffy and humid inside the treasure trove in St Peter’s Square when I visited it briefly last January. One could almost see the Saints on Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’ sweating in the heat (if Saints can sweat at all). A new air-conditioning system promises to be a truly ‘state-of-the-art’ one, for the state of the priceless art works inside the Chapel will benefit from it greatly. Visitors to the Chapel will feel much better too.

Charitable giving goes contactless with Transport for London

The very phrase ‘contactless charity donation’ strikes me as a bit of an oxymoron, for benefactors have the right to know where exactly their donation will go to and how it will be used, even if it is just a penny. TFL is already the world’s most expensive – and by far not the most efficient – transportation system, so in this case, the suggested ‘contactless donation’ is a penny too many, if you ask me.

Yamaha recreates voice of dead artist

A similar voice-synthesis technology to this was described in E&T in 2010 [http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2010/17/speech-generating-software.cfm]. I remember Ian Schofield, the inventor of Jaybee technology, who wrote it, telling me that recreating the voice of a deceased person was possible, provided there existed sufficient amount of his or her voice recordings. But to record a song using the dead singer’s voice is certainly a huge step forward which opens up some truly amazing possibilities. Will we soon hear a new Michael Jackson performance? A previously unheard aria sung by Pavarotti? Or perhaps even all four of the Beatles recording a new album together?

  Lorna SharpeLorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Didcot B power station back on line after fire

With so much concern at the moment about Britain’s tight power-capacity margins this winter, it’s excellent news that the fire-damaged unit at Didcot B has been able to restart operation in a limited way after only nine days, and a fantastic tribute to the engineering teams that made it happen,

Charitable giving goes contactless with Transport for London

Travellers in London are well used to paying for their bus and train journeys with contactless cards, and Britain is also noted for its generous charitable giving, so the capital is an ideal place to introduce a new micro-donation scheme developed by Barclaycard. People who sign up to the Penny for London scheme can opt to donate a penny (or up to 10p) every time they use their Oyster card on services managed by Transport for London.

  Aasha BodhaniAasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor
Charitable giving goes contactless with Transport for London

Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the ‘Penny for London’ scheme to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds this week. He estimates that if 100,000 people sign up to the scheme in 2015 and donate a penny for every journey they make, the charity could potentially raise over £1m.

Yamaha recreates voice of dead artists

Yamaha is celebrating the work of Hideto Matsumoto, a famous Japanese musician who would have turned 50 this December. Yamaha gathered digital analysis of his vocal recordings from the 1980s and 1990s and used its voice modification technology, VOCALOID to create the song ‘Co Gal’, which the artist never recorded.

  dominic-lentonDominic Lenton, managing editor
Russia invited to take delivery of French warships

Proving once again that economic pragmatism usually overcomes political principles, Russia said this week that it expected to take delivery of the first of two French-built warships whose fate had been cast into doubt by the situation in Ukraine. France had been under pressure to scrap the deal but at over a billion euros and with a thousand jobs claimed to be at stake it appears that the planned delivery ceremony in mid-November is set to go ahead.

Watershed moment for wearables this Christmas, says Samsung

Nothing gives a boost to a new big thing in consumer tech hitting the market at Christmas like the fact that proud owners will be able to flash it about in public on Boxing Day and show how up to date they are. Samsung reckons spending on wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers will be almost twice as much this year as in 2013. The marketing subtext, of course, is that if you don’t want to be the only person not sporting the latest in conspicuous technology come January 2015 you need to get down to the high street now before it sells out.

  Edd GentEdd Gent, online news reporter
Met Office to spend £97m on 16 petaflop supercomputer

Us Brits love to discuss the weather and the new supercomputer being commissioned by the Met Office should now allow our meteorological ponderings to wander further into the future thanks to the promise of longer-term outlooks and also more geographically specific forecasts.

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