Posts Tagged ‘E&T’

E&T news weekly #103 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the past week

July 15, 2016

Friday 15 July 2016

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Nuclear reactor construction falls to zero globally in 2016

It seems that nuclear power is out of fashion at the moment – perhaps partly because the Fukushima disaster dented people’s confidence in the technology, but also because nuclear plants are hugely expensive to build. On the other hand, governments around the world are committed to cutting carbon emissions, so while replacing existing fossil-fuel plants with more efficient ones may just about be acceptable, renewables are currently the only show in town when extra capacity is needed. That still leaves the question of finding the right technology for local circumstances, at sufficient scale, and making it affordable. There’s still a lot of work to do.

Carbon Trust scheme to slash cost of offshore wind power

This story highlights my previous point about choosing the right technology for the location. While countries nearer the Equator may invest heavily in solar power, Europe’s more northern coastal states are putting money into offshore wind. It’s still a relatively new technology – even inshore turbines were a research novelty when I joined E&T in its previous incarnation as IEE Review – and I recall a naval architect warning conference delegates never to underestimate the difficulties of construction in a maritime environment. That said, the industry has made huge progress, but there’s a long way to go to get generation costs down to the Carbon Trust’s target of £100/MWh.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
£4.12m space rocket test facility given the go-ahead

The interesting thing about the heavily engineering-based and peculiarly British strain of science-fiction that was popular in the 1950s was that it assumed the UK was going to be at the forefront of interplanetary exploration. From Bernard Quatermass and his British Experimental Rocket Group to the terrific 1959 radio series ‘Orbiter X’ that was rebroadcast for the first time by the BBC earlier this year, there was an expectation that UK scientists and engineers would be leading the race for space, even if it meant they’d be the first to experience any of the nasty consequences. The public didn’t know at the time, but there was plenty of effort going on at secret locations like the High Down site on the Isle of Wight (now run by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re there this summer) where projects with stirring names like ‘Black Arrow’ were being tested as part of the Cold War effort. Things didn’t turn out quite as those TV and radio shows expected, of course, but Britain still has a flourishing space industry and it’s one of the sectors on which government is pinning hopes of post-Brexit growth. Fittingly, the new National Space Propulsion Facility announced this week is going to be based at the same site in Buckinghamshire that was home to the top secret Rocket Propulsion Establishment set up in 1946 and is now a business park housing several space technology companies. Prospects for success are good, and maybe it’ll provide the inspiration for a new generation of sci-fi writers to pen stirring stories of British rocketeers.

IoT ‘smart desk’ ends office disputes over room temperature

Micromanagement isn’t usually considered a good thing. Arup has given it a new spin however with a sensor-fitted desk that lets workers in open-plan offices control the climate in their personal space. You only have to look around a typical workplace to see some people sitting in shirtsleeves while others a few feet away are wrapping in heavy cardigans – it’s one of those things that can cause massive disputes between colleagues who otherwise get on just fine. The bonus with the smart desk is that it also detects when no one’s sitting at it and turns off lights, monitors, heating and the rest.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
China takes on nature with weather engineering technology

“The Communist Party is in control of everything, even weather,” they used to say in the USSR. And rightly so. Everybody could see that the weather was always nice during the 7 November annual celebrations of the ‘great’ Bolshevik revolution (read coup d’etat) of 1917 (which, incidentally happened in October, not in November, but that is a different story), the Victory Day military parades and the 1 May enforced ‘demonstrations’. And of course, there was not a single cloud in the sky for the whole of three-week-long botched Moscow Olympics of 1980 (I was there and can confirm it). The rumour had it that on the eve of all those events, squadrons of light Soviet Army planes would disperse the clouds by spraying them with a cocktail of chemicals invented by heroic Soviet scientists in some top-secret laboratories. I never seriously believed in those rumours… But now, having read this story, I’m ready to admit that I was wrong. The Soviet Union must have had something similar to China’s Weather Modification Program, run by the Weather Modification Department of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences… Why not, when window dressing (or cloud dispersing, if you wish) was – and, it appears, still is – an obligatory feature of any Communist country, be it defunct, like the USSR, or alive and thriving, like modern Communist China? Why do they require window dressing on such a scale (to the point when the exemplary ‘Communist weather’ had been engineered and maintained through the duration of Beijing Olympics in 2008), when the nation seems to be prospering anyway and does not require constant reassurances of its own greatness, you may ask? Frankly, I have no idea, and the only plausible explanation I can find is in the popular English saying “old habits die hard”. They certainly do. And old Communist habits die hardest. I have little doubt therefore that ‘weather engineer’ is among modern China’s most prestigious occupations, even if they have so far failed to stop frequent flooding and no-less-frequent droughts costing the country thousands of human lives. Who cares about natural disasters as long as the Sky above the Tiananmen Square always stays cloudless and blue?

Jade Fell  Jade Fell, assistant features editor
Farnborough Airshow evacuated following heavy downpour

I don’t normally like to comment on my own stories, it feel a bit self-interested, but I have to make a comment on this story, purely for the fact that I was at Farnborough on the ill-fated opening day, and witnessed the events first hand. I’ve lived in the UK all my life, and I know we do love a good summer shower, but I would go so far as to say I have never seen rain like that which battered the Farnborough showground on Monday, it was quite literally Biblical. In fact, I saw a few other news organisations commenting on the storms, and asking people to be on the lookout for plagues of frogs and locusts. I slipped inside the Raytheon chalet for an interview at 1.30pm, leaving behind a suitable amount of sunshine for a July afternoon, and emerged outside an hour later to fast-flowing rivers were the roadways once were. I had an ankle-deep wade across the site to get to my next appointment, which was cancelled due to the power being cut. I know a lot of people were quite disgruntled by the fact that the show had to close early, “we missed out on valuable sales time” and all that jazz, but I don’t see how the organisers could have anticipated falling foul to the wrath of a fire-and-brimstone god.

IoT ‘smart desk’ ends office disputes over room temperature

Wave goodbye to your office-induced chilblains, there’s a new piece of equipment in town that is about to revolutionise your work environment. A fantastic team of engineers from Arup have developed a solution to disputes over room temperature, in the form of a ‘smart’ IoT desk which allows workers to control their very own microclimate. Truly a desk to rule them all. In my short working life I have never once been wholly satisfied by the temperature in any office I have worked in. It’s always too hot, too cold, or too comfortable. In my last job, I had a small heater hidden under my desk that I would use to toast my feet for 11 months and 3 weeks of the year, which would be swiftly replaced by a fan for the one week of British summer time. The setup worked quite well for me, but I can’t help but feel guilty when I think about all the electricity I must have consumed. This new desk presents a much more eco-friendly approach to the personal heater/fan scenario – that’s a double win if you ask me. The new sensor-fitted desk allows its users to create their own perfect working environment, in terms of temperature, and lighting, using software that takes control of central air-conditioning units and desk-fitted lighting.

Georgina Bloomfield  Georgina Bloomfield, digital content editor
Fingerprint recovery solution for plastic banknotes invented

So, the news here is that a team of British scientists has developed a technique for recovering fingerprints from plastic banknotes, such as those to be introduced by the Bank of England in September. This technique supposedly will help in investigations with fraud, stolen cash and similar crimes. With banknotes becoming more and more elaborately designed to prevent fraud, does this mean cash will be more or less popular than digital means of payment that we have today? And how effective will the technology be on a banknote that’s been in many a cash register, crumpled behind a sofa or put through the wash? I still think people prefer the novelty of contactless payment. After all, you spend money without the emotional parting of a £20 note, and you can pretend you haven’t spent anything at all. The technology on these banknotes seems promising, but whether it will withstand public handling is another matter.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Co-bots collaborate with humans on Ford Fiesta assembly line

I like this story as much for the cheery robot gesture in the accompanying image, which made me involuntarily smile, as I do for the news that industrial robots at Ford’s Cologne plant are working directly alongside their human counterparts. It’s a real partnership, man and machine, the one assisting the other, with each playing to their respective strengths in dividing up the work involved. This is the future for robots in the workplace. Far from taking away human jobs completely, robots are more likely to be used to alleviate the stress and strain that heavy lifting jobs – such as automotive assembly – can place on human beings. Thumbs up to that.


FAST telescope to hunt for extraterrestrial life – an annotated infographic

July 8, 2016

The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope – aka FAST – is the world’s largest radio telescope.

Hewn out of a mountain in China at a cost of $180 million, it will explore space and hunt for extraterrestrial life.

E&T news reported the story about China’s hunt for alien life in full detail earlier this week.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

FAST forward

FAST forward

E&T news weekly #102 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the past week

July 8, 2016

Friday 8 July 2016

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Robotic rectum to boost prostate cancer diagnosis

It would be easy to take a mickey out of this new invention, but on this occasion I am not going to do it. Moreover, I would be willing to characterise the robotic rectum – without a shadow of irony – as a major scientific breakthrough. The reason? Prostate cancer is a bane of modern human males. Natural shyness and sheer intrusiveness of the examination procedure have stopped thousands of men from seeking help until it was too late. Anything that facilitates prostate cancer diagnostic procedure and therefore makes the deadly and treacherous disease, with symptoms getting obvious only at its final stages, more identifiable and hence more treatable, should be extremely welcome. Another positive side effect of this invention is the fact that the person with (perhaps) the UK’s rarest profession – rectal teaching assistant – is likely to be made redundant at last. I don’t think he will regret his resignation too much.

Parking robot replaces valets to move cars into tight spaces

Continuing the theme of robots in “tight spaces” (sorry, could not refrain from this quip, but promise: there will be no more). It’s all very well to have a robot lifting your (empty) car and squeezing it between two other cars (or between a car and a car-park pole) – in fact, I was able to observe that very kind of parking more than once in the streets of Rome, with no robots involved. The question is who is going to un-park your vehicle? The news story stays mum about it which led me to assume that it won’t be the same robot, programmed for the parking function only. So getting out of the tight parking slot will probably be up to the driver. Only to un-park the car, he or she has somehow to get inside it first – and that should be difficult, if not impossible, due to the very tightness of the allocated space. Does this mean that your car will have to stay in that very coveted parking slot forever? Can you imagine what kind of parking charges that would involve? Well, I hope I’m getting it all wrong here, and, although it is not mentioned, the same hard-working robot that parked the car will somehow drag it out back into the open. Forgive me if that is the case. But I also know that the desire to find parking in a busy city is sometimes so strong that one would not even think of the consequences. I know for certain that some people (myself included) would do anything to get rid of their vehicle here and now, even if they are not going to drive it ever again.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Solar power use hits record high in UK

Despite all the efforts by the UK government to keep renewables down and prop up our desperately failing, landscape ravaging but politically lucrative fossil-fuel industries, solar power use is actually regularly hitting record highs. It’s almost as if regular folk have realised that despite what politicians tell them they want, they’ve actually worked out for themselves that all that free sunshine isn’t going to run out any time soon, that it is environmentally clean, perpetually renewable and no one company can claim to own it and build a dirty, destructive business model around it. Whatever is Big Oil going to do about that?

Parking robot replaces valets to move cars into tight spaces

This is an idea so simple and so effective it’s surprising that no one came up with it before. ‘Geta’ (get a car) is a laser-guided robot that can slide under a vehicle, pick it up, find a free parking space in the tightest of spots and place the car perfectly within it. Essentially, it’s like a reverse car-impound service, in as much as this robot finds your car the best available space and moves it there for you, rather than finding your car in a good spot, penalising you for parking Against The Rules and confiscating your vehicle. I’m sure in time ‘Geta’ will be deployed by both sides of the Parking Wars that threaten to choke our city streets, so expect future iterations of Geta to come equipped with missiles in order to destroy other Getas in the battle to claim more vehicles for their own side.

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Parking robot replaces valets to move cars into tight spaces

I’m the kind of driver who would rather walk a bit further than struggle to get into a tight parking spot, especially if there are other people around to watch how many iterations it takes. I definitely like the sound of a robot that would do the job for me – but I suspect that at £115,000 a time, there won’t be many local authorities or supermarkets rushing to buy one.

Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash setback for autonomous driving

This is thought to be the first fatal accident involving an autonomous car, and it just goes to show how hard it is to think of everything that could possibly go wrong. As reported, the car ploughed into the side of a tractor trailer that was turning in front of it (what we call an artic in UK English) because neither the Tesla’s systems nor the human driver picked out the white trailer unit against a bright sky. On the other hand, it’s surprising to me as a British reader that the Tesla was able to pass underneath the trailer. The mandatory safety shields lorries have here owe a lot to the foolish imitators of a famous TV stunt and have nothing whatever to do with self-driving cars. Maybe US regulators should do a web search for ‘Frank Spencer rollerskating’.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Engineers unite to push for decent EU deal

Why UK engineering has to be fractured into so many different organisations is a perennial question levelled at the profession’s leaders, and a phenomenon that’s often blamed for the lack of influence many engineers believe it exerts. Nice to see then that the IET’s among 35 bodies who have joined up to create a policy group they hope will help the government negotiate an exit from the EU that does as little damage as possible to the country’s industry and economy. Many of the participants supported the Remain option ahead of the 23 June referendum, so it’s reassuring that they’re now uniting to try and influence the direction Brexit takes from and informed position. Together, they represent more than 450,000 people who work in a sector that’s responsible for more than half of UK exports. When the letter they’ve written offering their support lands on the desk of Oliver Letwin MP, who’s currently heading the transition planning team, let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves.

Drones and renewables on the agenda for new A-level

Doing the rounds of university open days with one of my children who’s contemplating an engineering degree, it’s interesting to see how often drones come up as an example of the extent to which today’s graduates will need cross-disciplinary experience that takes in more than just the established elements of electronics, mechanics, computing etc. The idea of putting a camera in a speedy remote control drone then coupling it to a virtual reality system for real-time racing involves serious technology, but is just the sort of thing that gets young people excited about what a career in engineering might involve. Some will probably be sceptical about this new A-level’s focus on issues like climate change and DNA testing, seeing it as a crude attempt to attract students who aren’t good enough for traditional course. There’s plenty of research, though, that shows these are exactly the topics that can persuade more young women to consider engineering as a career, so let’s at least give it a chance.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Brexit: UK research and innovation sectors wary of impact

Brexit is likely to hit the UK’s universities hard on three fronts: students, staffing and research. Tereza Pultarova has followed up her pre-referendum research with an analysis of how things are shaping up for universities and there is already evidence they are losing out, especially in research. It’s not just about the money either – access to collaborative programmes and research facilities will suffer. It will be in our next issue but you can read her article online now.

Engineers unite to push for decent EU deal

One effect of Brexit has been to bring together the UK’s engineering organisations. It has formed a policy group of several dozen institutions representing 450,000 engineers in an effort to steer government policy in a better direction for engineering and as it negotiates the UK’s divorce form EU over the next few years.

Engineering students reject hard hat as symbol of their industry

Engineers wearing hard hits are on the rise, according to those who monitor UK engineering media for pictures that give the wrong image to the engineering profession. E&T has always avoided hard hats and spanners as symbols of engineering because we know they sometimes offend. However, some types of engineers do wear them in their work. Several recent recipients of the Young Woman Engineer of the Year award released PR shots of themselves in hard hats, for example. And civil engineering is full of engineers – and indeed CEOs and MDs – doing site visits where they have to wear them. It would be absurd and dishonest to avoid them completely. But we do certainly avoid hard hats on ‘generic’ unnamed engineers. Except for this one…

Jack Loughran  Jack Loughran, news reporter
London Mayor Sadiq Khan calls for greater air pollution controls

Sadiq Khan’s recent announcement regarding new measures to tackle London’s air pollution shows a promising start for the new mayor but also prompts one to ask why such measures weren’t put in place previously. In his first two months in the post, Khan has already set out proposals to charge the most polluting vehicles £10 a day in the centre of the city from 2017 and extend the planned ‘ultra-low emissions zone’. He’s also seriously looking into pedestrianising Oxford Street, a natural continuation of Ken Livingstone’s similar efforts in Trafalgar Square, and is set to introduce a new bus fare system to make it cheaper for Londoners to use public transport. But how do these proposals reflect on Boris Johnson’s eight year tenure as the London Mayor? In that time, he managed to get stuck on a zipline, announce a few pie-in-the-sky ideas that will never get built, and generally splurge his bumbling ‘everyman’ persona all over the UK media in his (now failed) attempt to rise through the political ranks. In stark contrast to Khan, one of Johnson’s first acts as mayor was to actually scrap the western extension of the congestion charge. But what about Boris Bikes? Their implementation has been shakey and at a cost far greater than was initially envisaged, but they are finally here and genuinely improve London’s heavily congested transport networks and potentially discourage car usage. Well, these can’t be attributed to the blond buffoon either, since it was a project introduced by Ken in his final years that was well underway before Boris was voted in. Ken Bikes would be a more appropriate name, even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. So what did he actually do? Admittedly some of the most lethal areas of London for cycling have been improved, with roadworks taking place across Elephant and Castle and Vauxhall to create segregated lanes. But other than this, there really isn’t a lot. He used the mayoral post to boost his own personal profile while wilfully ignoring some of London’s most pressing issues. Hopefully Khan will take the role more seriously and continue to introduce tangible measures that will undo eight years of stagnation under Boris.

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Mars-inspired robots to search for oil on Earth

While we’re bugging about whether a stone on Mars that kind of looks like a head is a sculpture of some sort (it’s not, it’s a lump of rock), the tech used for the ExoMars rover is being utilised back here on Earth to help oil extraction. Where they’re going nowadays to collect oil is pretty much inhospitable, so the red planet tech would be perfect. There’s plenty of oil underground, so why not drill into our planet where we shouldn’t really go in the first place, get really invasive and nab some ancient plankton and plant juice? Because that’s what us humans do, of course. Duh!

#Brexit repercussions ripple across Europe – EU power struggle builds – an annotated infographic

July 6, 2016

The Brexit reverberations continue. As if things haven’t been made complicated enough in Great Britain by the result of the referendum, now the remaining EU nations find themselves sliding in to an ideological power struggle that could easily culminate in the implosion of the concept of the EU as a unified group of countries.

The battle for Europe’s future pits Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Parliament President Martin Schulz — both of whom want deeper European integration — against EU heads of state, led by Angela Merkel, who want to repatriate rights from Brussels.

E&T has been following the Brexit impact on the science and engineering communities.

E&T also reported on how a working group of the key UK engineering organisations has been formed to lobby government for the most favourable EU deal.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Talking heads

Talking heads




#Mosquito repelling TV launched by LG in India – an annotated infographic

July 5, 2016

The Indian division of South Korea’s LG Electronics has developed a TV it claims can repel mosquitoes, which spread diseases such as malaria, Zika and dengue.

E&T news covered this mosquito-repelling TV announcement in detail last month. The TV’s ‘Mosquito Away Technology’ uses ultrasonic waves that are inaudible to humans, but cause mosquitoes to fly away, according to the company. Quite where the mosquitos fly away to is not known – presumably to one’s next-door neighbours, who don’t have an LG television.

Technology is increasingly being deployed in pioneering ways in the global fight against the spread of dangerous diseases. Mobile phones have been used to help fight outbreaks of both malaria and dengue fever.

It is also hoped that technology can arrest the spread of the Zika virus, as Dr Nicola Davies reported in E&T magazine earlier this year.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Buzz off, I'm watching telly

Buzz off, I’m watching telly

F-35 Lightning II fighter jet to debut @FIAFarnborough – an annotated infographic – #FIA16

July 5, 2016

The world’s most advanced fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II, is making its first appearance at the Farnborough airshow in the UK in July.

Three F-35B jump jet aircraft are due to perform in the skies over the week-long event.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Lightning strikes: F-35 flies in to Farnborough

Lightning strikes: F-35 flies in to Farnborough

IET events this July – #engineering and #technology dates for your diary

July 4, 2016

JulyThis month many IET events appear to have a focus on furthering skills, with courses and workshops taking place across the UK as well as online.

Interested members can sign up for courses on TRIZ and MBSE or attend Lifeskills workshops on topics such as management and communication.

With summer upon us it’s also a great time to get out and about and so many of the IET’s Local Networks have been arranging special technical visits. In the Hong Kong region especially, members are spoilt for choice with several technical visits happening throughout the month.

July also offers the opportunity to come along to IET London: Savoy Place for a tour of the new and improved building, and for those that follow the renowned Present Around The World competition, the EMEA region final takes place towards the end of the month in Barcelona.

Below are a few of our highlights for the month, but also be sure to check out the full IET events listings to find out about everything taking place near you.


05 July, Introduction to TRIZ, Birmingham, course

06 July, RNLI Shannon Class Lifeboat building, Poole, technical visit

06-07 July, Mastering requirements using MBSE, London, course

06-07 July, Essentials of management, Manchester, course

09 July, Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, Guangdong, technical visit

12 July, CLP Smart Grid Experience Centre, Kowloon, technical visit

16 July, IET London: Savoy Place Tour, London, visit

22 July, Webinar – Communicating for success, online, course

23 July, EMEA Present Around The World regional final, Barcelona, competition

27 July, Continuing professional development, Manchester, workshop

29 July, Coding the Future, London, workshop



E&T news weekly #101 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the past week

July 1, 2016

Friday 1 July 2016

Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Google and Facebook begin auto-blocking extremist videos

And not before time. Freedom of speech is all well and good, and we like to think of it as a basic human right, but some things really do not need to be said, disseminated, repeated and amplified. Haters are always going to hate – and murderous lunatics are always going to murder – but there’s no need to encourage them in their twisted vanity by giving them a public platform from which to scream their demented extremist bile.

Edible crops successfully grown in Martian soil

OK, so maybe it’s going to take at least another 15 years before mankind begins to colonise Mars but we’re already getting the vegetables sorted. All we need now is to figure out how to farm livestock on the Red Planet and we can continue to enjoy our meat and two veg on various planets across the Solar System.

dominic-lenton Dominic Lenton, managing editor
Driverless cars should kill their passengers if necessary poll finds

Last week brought a survey for UK Robotics Week which found the British public are looking forward to robot-driven vehicles reducing the number of accidents on our roads. Here’s the flipside of the situation, where another survey found we’re less keen on artificial intelligence deciding it’s better to avoid killing several people if it can take evasive action that results in the death of a smaller number of its passengers. Hardly surprising, and an example of well tested theories about how inconsistent even the most rational of us are about perceiving risk depending on what level of control we have over a situation. The problem is that we’re asking machines to make snap decisions in situations that are far from clear cut. Few of us would expect our human driver to plough through a group of small children messing around on a crossing even if taking evasive action meant heading for a brick wall. What if it was one elderly person emerging unexpectedly from between parked cars though? Can the calculation be as simple as working out which course of action will harm the fewest people, regardless of who they are, and doing that? Either way, the aftermath of future road traffic accidents could change dramatically, from breathalyser tests and police station interviews to software specialists downloading on-board records of what the vehicles involved did while the humans walk away. Then again, maybe it’ll result in a macabre marketing race between manufacturers: “Buy our car. It’s programmed to keep you safe and leave the pedestrians to look out for themselves!”

Student-built electric car breaks acceleration record

I’ve been visiting universities with one of my offspring recently to look at engineering courses, and Formula Student is a great example of how institutions can differentiate themselves with enthusiasm for competitions which pit institutions against one another. Plaudits then to the team from ETH Zurich and Lucerne University who have held top spot in the electric racing car challenge since 2013 and have set a record by getting it from 0-100 km/h in just over one and a half seconds. It’s a glimpse of the performance we can expect of mainstream EVs in the future, and a reason why we need to think about questions of how they’ll be programmed if they’re driverless as well.

Rebecca Northfield Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Edible crops successfully grown in Martian soil

Last time they were concerned that the Martian soil compounds would get into the fruit and veg and make us sick. This time, it was proven that if we eat the Martian treats, we don’t vomit or turn into mutant monsters. So this means if humans consume their crops from the Moon, nobody dies! Huzzah! Apparently, the tests mean that attempts to colonise the planet could go ahead in the distant future. There was no heavy metal in the crops – shame, I like that genre of music the most – which meant it wouldn’t be dangerous for us to munch away on our food grown on other planets. Imagine if people were poisoned by the alien compounds? Now that would be Metal, indeed! *does sign of the horns*

Light pollution triggers early spring, study finds

I can’t even tell what a season in Britain is anymore, so I am not even surprised. Plus, I like seeing baby versions of things, like lovely lambs and bouncing, orphaned Bambis.

Lorna Sharpe Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Light pollution triggers early spring, study finds

So far this week, the news media have been almost entirely dominated by the fallout from the Brexit referendum result, but outside the world of politics life is going on pretty much as usual – and that includes the ‘citizen scientists’ whose observations have made such a valuable contribution to this study. The researchers collated satellite images of night-time lighting with information from the general public about when trees came into bud to conclude that street lighting has a significant effect. Astronomers have been complaining about light pollution for a long time. Now there’s another reason to consider how we can reduce it.

3D bio-printed cow cartilage offers hope for arthritis sufferers

I know people who wince just walking across a room, and I’ve seen that surgery hasn’t provided a quick or easy solution for them. Work in the lab to manufacture ‘cartilage patches’ might still be a long way from clinical practice, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

Georgina Bloomfield Georgina Bloomfield, digital content editor
Toyota recalls 3.37 million cars over possible faults

There are several reasons why I clicked on this story – first, I’m on my second Toyota, so I have a vested interest. Second, my first Toyota got recalled a couple of years ago for the same reason they’re being recalled now – airbag issues. I find it somewhat surprising that the cars are being re-recalled, especially as airbag issues are slightly scary. Having said that, the concept of airbags alone is a little unnerving. There you are, driving along knowing that a faulty airbag could go off at any minute. If that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is. New Toyota cars (and most new cars I imagine) now have a helpful yet somewhat off-putting graphic on the passenger sun visors, showing what happens if an airbag goes off and a child is in the seat at the time. Just focus on the road, people.

Dickon Ross Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Will Brexit lead to ‘Techxit’? What does the vote mean for UK engineering?
Brexit fallout: Hinkley Point threatened; other companies weigh options

The engineering and technology sector is reeling from the UK referendum’s decision to leave the European Union. It’s not the result it was expecting and now it’s trying to assess what it will mean for the industry. Talk has turned to fears of a ‘Techxit’ as technology startups, half of which are set up by entrepreneurs from outside the UK, may think about setting up in cities such as Berlin instead of London. Some voices are more optimistic. E&T has been following the fallout of Brexit and we’ll be rounding it up in our next issue of the magazine – out next week.

#Brexit – the rocky road ahead – an annotated infographic

June 28, 2016

Amid the confusion between Britain and the European Union over what happens next following the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron will likely be replaced by Boris Johnson, former London mayor, who campaigned for a Leave vote. It’s also possible that there will be early elections, won on a pro-EU mandate.

E&T news reported last Friday on what the Brexit result could mean for the UK’s engineers and technologists.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Europe - the final countdown

Europe – the final countdown

Win! Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – 200th anniversary giveaway

June 24, 2016

If you saw last week’s review of Restless Books’ shiny new edition of Mary Shelley’s much-loved novel Frankenstein, you are no doubt desperate to get your hands on a copy. Well, I have good news for you my friends – Restless Books have given E&T three copies of the book to giveaway to lucky readers of E&T.

To be in with a chance of winning, just comment on this post by next Friday (1st July) at midday. Winners will be selected at random and notified via email once the giveaway has closed.

Good luck!


Restless Books, June 2016, 294pp, ISBN 978-163206078-5, $19.99, Paperback

Terms and conditions
This giveaway is open to UK entrants only and runs until 01/07/2016 at midday. There are  three books available. There is no cash alternative and the prize is not transferable. Employees of the IET and their families may not enter.
A winner will be picked at random and contacted via email. If they do not respond within 3 days, another winner will be picked. Entrants’ details will be used only in connection with this competition and not retained or passed to any third parties.
E&T, as the promoter, reserves the right to cancel or amend the giveaway and these terms and conditions without notice.


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