Posts Tagged ‘E&T’

China’s C919 domestic jetliner unveiled – an annotated infographic

November 4, 2015

China’s first large passenger aircraft to be made in the country has been rolled out of the final assembly line in Shanghai. The twin-engine C919, which is expected to enter service in 2019, is one of three aircraft intended to compete in the market for single-aisle jets, a space currently dominated by Airbus and Boeing 737.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

The 1 after 909

The 1 after 909

Final moments of Russian #Airbus321, flight KGL9268, pieced together – an annotated infographic

November 3, 2015

ADS-B data from online tracking website Flightradar24 is providing more indications about the mid-air break-up of the Metrojet Airbus A321 over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, a crash that killed all 224 people on board.

The Automatic Dependent Surveillance data is helping investigators determine the Metrojet’s final moments.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Tracking data reveals final moments

Tracking data reveals final moments

BAE Systems invests £20m in Reaction to propel the company into space – an annotated infographic

November 3, 2015
With a bit of spare cash in its back pockets, BAE Systems has bought a 20 per cent stake in Reaction Engines, a company developing a radical engine that could propel aircraft into space.
The Sabre (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) hybrid rocket/jet engine is designed to launch satellites at a fraction of current costs. BAE will invest £20.6m to acquire 20 per cent of Reactions’s share capital to accelerate the company’s development of Sabre.
E&T covered this BAE news in full yesterday.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Sabre rattling

Sabre rattling

Latest theories about Russian #Airbus321 plane crash – an annotated infographic

November 2, 2015

The Russian Airbus A321 that crashed in the Sinai peninsula on Saturday broke up in mid-air, possibly from a very sudden structural failure causing explosive decompression of the fuselage. Aviation experts are looking at a possible rupture of the rear pressure bulkhead — a critical seal in the cabin’s pressurization system.

E&T news reported the latest information about the Airbus A321 air disaster earlier today.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Russian Airbus A321

Russian Airbus A321

Hallowe’en asteroid spooks Earth on frighteningly close flyby – an annotated infographic

November 2, 2015

Apparently, Asteroid 2015 TB145 – a big ol’ space rock measuring approximately 320 metres in diameter – passed by the Earth at about 1.3 lunar distances on the night of October 30-31, e.g. Hallowe’en. This was the closest flyby of a space rock since 2006.

Did anyone notice this? E&T was naturally too busy prowling the dark October night streets while dressed as zombie Michael Faraday, pounding on strangers’ front doors and demanding highly sugared confectionery for free, to care.

The Earth being pummelled by a giant errant space rock on Hallowe’en would have been quite the shocker, though. All trick, no treat there, for sure.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Hallowe'en asteroid

Hallowe’en asteroid



Will @TeslaMotors new Model X give #electriccars a major boost – an annotated infographic

November 2, 2015

Tesla’s electric Model X SUV can sprint to 100km/h in 3.2 seconds, features radar and sonar to enable hands-free autopilot driving and can travel 400km on a single charge – at a fuel cost of just €4.

The new Tesla Motors Model X SUV is so packed with headline grabbing features like the “falcon wing” doors, mind-boggling performance and a giant windscreen, that you might forget the fact that it is all electric, too. It might even protect you if biological warfare breaks out.

The Fremont, California-based battery-powered car pioneer led by charismatic entrepreneur Elon Musk has cornered the market for luxury electric vehicles with its current Model S saloon, to the consternation of the German premium manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW. They are fighting back, but promised competitor products which include the Audi e-tron Quattro and Porsche Mission E are still more than two years way. By then Tesla is likely to have its most important car ready for sale, the lower cost Model 3, which is expected to be more of a mass market competitor priced at around $50,000.

Tesla hasn’t yet revealed the base price for the Model X, although that is expected to be close to $80,000. The all-singing all-dancing special versions it has unveiled so far are much pricier. The Signature costs $130,000 and the Founder $142,000.

The stand-out feature of the Model X is the falcon wing doors, reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL in the 50s and 60s or the notorious DeLorean. The Model X doors, though, are much more sophisticated. They are double-hinged and open upwards then outwards to allow parking in tight spaces. The giant windscreen stretches up and over the front seat occupants and offers the second row passengers a better view. The performance is more sports-car than SUV with blistering acceleration to 60mph (97km/h), and on to 155mph (250km/h) in unlimited Germany at least.

Tesla claims superior safety too, as unlike regular high-riding SUVs the X is less prone to rolling over because it will be pinned down by the weight of the batteries which are spread under the floor. The big crumple zone will protect passengers too. In conventional SUVs the massive internal combustion engine at the front threatens the occupants in a crash.

The Model X boasts state of the art technology, and then some. The doors open automatically as it detects the driver approaching the car. Each model carries a forward-looking camera, radar and 360-degree sonar sensors enabling advanced autopilot features and bringing the car close to autonomous operation. The current Model S already allows internet driven software changes to take place in the car to download features like Autosteer and Autopark. The 17-inch (43cm) touch screen integrates media, navigation, communications, cabin control and vehicle data, with some voice activation.

CEO Musk, who has five children, points to the family friendly nature of the Model X, which has three rows of seats, the middle ones motorised for ease of entry into the back.

The air filter is so powerful it provides air as clean as in an operating theatre and will keep you safe in a chemical warfare attack, Musk said at the launch of the vehicle. The Model X is about two years late reaching the market. Maybe that’s because the specification was a shade over-ambitious?

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

She's a Model and she's looking good

She’s a Model and she’s looking good

E&T news weekly #68 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

October 30, 2015

Friday October 30 2015

Jack Loughran  Jack Loughran, news reporter
Fracking rule amendments ‘sneaked in’ says Greenpeace

As someone who used to work as a content writer for the fracking industry, I have a fair amount of knowledge on the issue and this is a very bad idea. In America, where fracking has taken off in a big way, the industry has generated some major catastrophes already, in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas. Greedy operators who force too much water down the wells to boost extraction rates have ended up breaching the water tables and damaging them irreversibly. Frankly, oil companies are renowned for their underhand tactics and profit motivations over all other considerations including safety, need I bring up the Gulf of Mexico.

Essentially, in a dodgy fracking operation, water crammed with chemicals and muck brakes through an underground barrier of rock and leaks into neighbouring water tables resulting in permanently contaminating a source of drinking water. In America, vast swathes of desert are fracked, if a water table is damaged its bad news for the local population but these areas are often largely uninhabited.

If the same thing occurred in England however, it would have devastating and permanent effects on our fresh water supplies with far bigger consequences for the densely packed population of our little island. With one hand in each other’s pockets, the Conservative Party and the big oil companies will prioritise cheap, easily accessible fuel in the short term with potentially dire long term consequences for the future safety of our drinkable water supplies.

The Conservative focus on short term energy supplies without any sort of consideration for the energy needs of the country in the coming decades is made even more apparent when considering the massive cuts made to renewable subsidies over the summer.

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Walmart to join drone-delivery race

Walmart applied for a permit on the 26th October to join the army of drone deliverers and are asking for permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get goods to customers using the open skies. The retailer has been doing trials for several months and they think they are ready to get their products flying. Drones manufactured by SZ DJI Technology are the company of choice for Walmart, who would like a distribution centre with hundreds of trailers. Basically this is going to be big if all goes to plan. Commercial drones are banned at the moment in America, exceptions are considered by the FAA on a case-by-case basis. In the near future, I can imagine all of the drones from major retailers blacking out the skies, dropping groceries off to eager consumers. Hopefully, a drone doesn’t drop its load onto an oblivious pedestrian. I for one wouldn’t be too happy if I had a load of broken eggs and milk on my head. Or a Star Wars toy.

Tractor beam moves objects using sound waves

British researchers have found a technology that moves objects using sound waves. It’s described as the world’s first tractor beam. It’s exciting stuff, really. The system can only handle tiny, light items like polystyrene balls, but the scientists think it can have more useful applications, like in surgical procedures. It works by the scientists controlling dozens of loudspeakers to generate an acoustic hologram that manipulates objects in real-time with no contact. High amplitude sound waves trap the objects and the force field can keep them in the air using 64 tiny loudspeakers. It’s so Jedi-like, I love it. Use the force!

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
British Gas blames data leak on external source

As if Talk Talk wasn’t getting enough bad press about its reaction to last week’s cyberattack, the media is now contrasting it with how British Gas handled the exposure of some of its own customers’ data. Admittedly it’s a lower-key incident, and appears to be the result of individuals themselves falling for phishing attacks, but as a British Gas customer I was much more reassured by the messages coming from the company than I would have been if I was relying on Talk Talk to keep my data safe. Like the hammer blow that the emission-testing scandal has dealt to Volkswagen’s reputation, will breaches of cybersecurity be one of the new big issues that affects consumer confidence in major brands in the future?

Explicit filenames providing hacker signposts to sensitive data

In the case of British Gas, it looks like however strongly you advise people not to click on links in unsolicited emails or respond to phone calls they’re not expecting, enough will fall for the scams to make it worth the effort for criminals. We’re all just as aware of the need to use different passwords for everything and to change them regularly, but how much attention do we pay to naming files? This survey found businesses had uploaded thousands of documents to filesharing services with giveaway words like ‘confidential’ in the title. It’s not just companies that should be bother though; how long would it take a hacker to find the most sensitive material on your computer just by scanning directory and file names?

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
British Gas blames data leak on external source

A rather unfortunate irony in this news story: British Gas is more accustomed to dealing with leaks of a different nature – good old gas leaks. Data leaks, however, while not immediately identifiable by their smell, are potentially much more dangerous and explosive than leakages from gas pipes. Can another 15-year old geek (pace the recent hacking of Talk Talk) be at fault here? Having in mind the double nature of the leaks and the inevitable Talk Talk analogies, I can suggest a new jokey nickname for British Gas – ‘Leak Leak’?

Poor infrastructure hampering Britain, say business leaders

If the tedious tongue-twisting word ‘infrastructure’ does imply the quality of roads and railways, then I am in total agreement with the anonymous ‘British business leaders’ quoted in this news story. Indeed, this country, being one of the four leading economies in the world, has the roads that – in the sheer number of bumps and holes – can only be compared to the mid-1970s Moscow ring road (I can feel the validity of this comparison every day when driving to and from work via the wheels of my old Fiat Punto). I read somewhere recently that a Japanese carmaking company had to be build a special testing range – with holes and bumps – to test-drive some Japanese-made cars intended for export to the UK. They were simply unable to find any stretch of road in their own country that would be comparable to British motorway in its bumpiness. As for the railroads, despite some recent improvements, in terms of speed, comfort, cleanness and punctuality, while being slightly ahead of Mongolia and Bangladesh they are still far behind Romania and Poland. Let alone Italy. Not to mention Germany and Switzerland. There are of course thousands of excuses – some plausible, others less so: old track and even older rolling stock, climate fluctuations (as if Germany doesn’t have those), leaf slippage (as if leaves do not fall off trees in Switzerland), and so on. Whatever the reasons (and political procrastination can indeed be one of them), the fact remains: these gaps in the otherwise solid “infrastructure” of British economy, do hamper the pace of progress. As a British patriot and citizen of many years standing, and at the peril of sounding like an old fogey (maybe I am one, who knows?), I would be delighted to see some real changes here. I’m sure they will come one day, and when they do, I will know immediately from not feeling like James Bond’s Vodka Martini (“shaken, not stirred”) after a short drive home of an evening.

Jade Fell  Jade Fell, assistant features editor
Poor infrastructure hampering Britain, say business leaders

Personally, I can’t say I’m shocked with this news – it’s no secret that Britain’s roads and railways aren’t up to scratch – and if you are then I suggest jumping into a car and risking the congested roads at rush hour, or hopping onto a creaky, cross country train at peak time, it will more than open your eyes to the state of our ageing infrastructure. Results from an industry survey, conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), have revealed widespread dissatisfaction among industry leaders as to the progress of infrastructure projects to improve Britain’s railways and roads and boost airport capacity. The survey highlights fears that the country’s ageing infrastructure could negatively impact on future investment. As a result business leaders are calling on the current parliament to commit to the delivery of key infrastructure development projects.

Self-healing concrete tested in Wales

Following on from the disappointment of a relatively hoverboard-free 21 October, this piece of futuristic news has put a smile on my face. Ok, so it’s not even nearly a hoverboard, but it’s still seriously cool. Researchers from Cardiff University have developed concrete equipped with ‘healing’ properties that should enable it to remain intact without the need for human intervention. The concrete contains shape-shifting polymers, capsules filled with bacteria, and organic and inorganic healing agents, which, the researcher envisage, will work together to detect damage in the concrete structure and automatically fix it.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
MI6 recruiting spies from Mumsnet and launches cyber-security apprenticeship

You only have to read the first part of this headline and you’re drawn to the story. The British Intelligence service has indeed launched a recruitment drive for intelligence officers on parenting advice website Mumsnet after it was urged by MPs in March to recruit a new generation of female spies. Mum knows best.

Google balloons to offer internet access to Indonesians

Another marvellous headline enticing you to read an equally marvellous story. Like a 21st-century Phileas Fogg, minus the tortilla chips, Google is about to launch its internet-beaming balloons into orbit over Indonesia in order to boost online access across the 17,000 islands that comprise the region. The Project Loon programme uses thirty 12m-tall solar-powered balloons, travelling at speeds of up to 30km/h, which contain equipment that broadcasts 3G-like wireless speeds to ground-based antennas.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
Cosmic rays to reveal treasures of Egyptian pyramids

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since childhood and there are so many ancient ruins and artefacts strewn down the Nile that you can’t but help feel that what you can see is just the tip of what is really there, laying under the sand just waiting to be discovered. So this project to use technology to look for chambers under the well-trodden pyramids is really quite exciting – not just for what may be found under the pyramids but for how it could be used to explore so much more up and down the Nile and in the desert beyond.

E&T news weekly #66 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

October 16, 2015

Friday October 16 2015

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Fruit-picking robot knows how to deal with change

This story caught my eye purely because the first time I saw industrial automation in action was in a fruit warehouse, round about 1977. I wasn’t even supposed to be there; I was accompanying a government film crew that had been to film one of my own employer’s innovations and they had arranged to go on to the fruit farm afterwards. I remember being very impressed by the way the machines sized and sorted the apples and packed them in a protective cardboard mesh in their cartons. Back then, the notion that a machine could handle an assortment of mixed fruit and even separate green apples from red ones was pure science fiction, but now Cambridge Consultants has demonstrated just that in its development lab. Commercial application must surely follow.

Students head to the Outback for World Solar Challenge

Right now, three UK student teams are in Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This is a tough competition in which they will race solar-powered cars they have designed and built themselves down the full length of the country from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of 3000km, on public roads alongside normal traffic that includes some very large lorries. Three years ago I met the Cambridge team preparing for the 2013 challenge [ ] and I was blown away by their enthusiasm, as well as the knowledge, skills and confidence they were acquiring by working on this project alongside their normal studies – all attributes that should be very attractive to future employers. Good luck to all this year’s participants.

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
British public gives thumbs up to nuclear power

When a majority of people polled say they support the UK’s continuing use of nuclear power, what they’re really backing is replacement of the country’s ageing infrastructure with new build. Would the answer be different if it was clear to them that it would be constructed and run by foreign companies, or would that give a boost to the significant minority who are opposed? Another finding in this survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is something we could have predicted – despite general support for nuclear, more than 40 per cent of people wouldn’t want the waste-processing facilities that would be an essential part of investment in the technology to be sited anywhere near their own homes. So it’s nuclear power, yes please, but not in my back yard.

Little evidence that NHS-recommended depression apps work

Effective use of technology promises to be one of the solutions to the increasingly embattled National Health Service. It would be great if apps which claim to help people suffering from depression could provide a silver bullet in the area of mental health, but researchers from the University of Liverpool have found that up to 85 per cent of those recommended by the NHS via its own apps library have no proven positive effects on patients’ well-being. It sounds like a similar situation to homeopathy and other ‘complementary’ therapies which have their advocates in the NHS but whose effectiveness is disputed. The argument that if they don’t actually do any harm they shouldn’t be discouraged doesn’t stand up when they’re being used as a stop-gap for vulnerable people at the end of a long waiting list.

Top apprentices can earn more than graduates

Move along, nothing to see here. With three children around school-leaving age looking at options for work and higher education I shouldn’t be highlighting this finding by the Sutton Trust that people following the apprenticeship route into a career can earn more than university graduates. Top apprentices take home almost as much over the course of their working life as colleagues with a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. I’d recommend considering it to my own kids; sadly there are still traditional prejudices in secondary education where almost two-thirds of teachers say they would rarely or never advise a student to look at an apprenticeship if they had good enough grades to go to university.

Jade Fell  Jade Fell, assistant features editor
Portable exoskeleton to help keep elderly active

Without a doubt one of the most exciting things I have read all week. There is so much talk recently about technology to help elderly people with failing minds, now, finally something to help those with failing bodies. Researchers from the Aalborg University in Denmark have developed the idea of a portable exoskeleton designed to provide additional support to aging joints and bones. I am a firm believer in the importance of staying active as you get older – it’s a slippery slope once a daily walk turns into an afternoon nap. Unlike mobility scooters, which provide complete support and can quickly become depended upon, the electric motors in the ‘exoskeleton’ provide only 30 to 50 per cent of the energy needed to carry out certain activities, thereby encouraging movement and allowing the user to remain active for longer.

Hydrogen powered bike brings long range without batteries

Let’s forget all about the weird, pod-like, push bicycle from last week, there’s a new bike in town and this one’s actually pretty cool. Technology company the Linde Group has developed an electric bicycle powered by a hydrogen. The super-efficient prototype is completely emission free, and is capable of assisting travel of distances up 100 kilometres before refuelling. Not only that, it actually looks like a bike!

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Portable exoskeleton to help keep elderly active

I was cheered up by this news, and not just because I am approaching the ‘elderly’ category myself. (Aren’t we all? As my ailing friend the writer Clive James put it recently: “We are all terminally ill”). Living in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, I am often exposed to the sight of OAPs bumbling along in crude, bulky and visibly uncomfortable mobility scooters (the better name for some of them would probably be ‘disability scooters’). With the sheer number of those semi-adroit mini-vehicles in the town’s streets and with a handful of stores selling nothing but them, a kind of mobility-scooter emporia of sorts, Letchworth could probably qualify for the (dubious) title of the mobility scooter capital, if not of the whole world, then definitely of Britain. I was always of the opinion that our elderly did deserve something better than that. And here – at last – hope is on the horizon. This prospective suit-like device does sound terrific in everything but name. What pensioner in his or her right mind would voluntarily equip himself or herself with something that is generically known as an ‘exoskeleton’ and, as if that is not enough, is monikered – rather clinically, if you ask me – ‘AXO Suit’? It does sound off-putting, even a bit scary (particularly the skeleton bit). Why can’t it be called, say ‘homo-cycle’, or something of that sort? That would make the manufacturers’ task of convincing the elderly to use it much-much easier.

Fruit-picking robot knows how to deal with change

According to this news story, the new Cambridge-made fruit-picking robot “can automatically tell apples from bananas” – the task that very few humans seem to be capable of, or so it sounds. (I, for myself, always had problems telling apples from watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers and potatoes; to say nothing of pears and mangos). The next-generation fruit-picking robots should therefore be capable not just of adding apples to oranges, but, hopefully, of comparing them too.

Katia Moskvitch  Katia Moskvitch, technology editor
Moon refuelling would make Mars missions cheaper

With the movie ‘The Martian’ out now and all the constant news updates from the intrepid Mars rovers, it seems like the Red Planet is never off the agenda. So a recent report about refuelling on the Moon on the way to Mars is extremely timely. A team of MIT scientists says that routine human missions to Mars would be much more efficient if they first went to the Moon to top up the tank for the journey. So it’s just a question of creating such a refuelling depot first, at a point of gravitational equilibrium lying beyond the Moon’s far side.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
Smart pavement for superfast Wi-Fi access unveiled in Chesham

I have a lifelong affinity for Chesham, with an aunt and uncle (and associated cousins) living there since the 1970s. While a terribly nice place to pass a leisurely afternoon, it never struck me as a raging hotbed of technological innovation. Turns out times have changed and the well-heeled denizens of this quiet Buckinghamshire market town, nestled comfortably in the rolling folds of the Chiltern Hills, are now enjoying the benefits of smart pavements beaming superfast Wi-Fi at them from the ground up. The pavement, developed by Virgin Media, provides connectivity via submerged access points linked directly to Virgin’s street cabinets, which are connected to the fibre-optic network. I must pay my relatives a visit.

Sainsbury’s mobile network to shut down

An inevitable casualty of the “everyone else is doing it, so why don’t we?” school of management thinking. With Tesco Mobile enjoying runaway success, Sainsbury’s executives heeded the call and jumped aboard that particular bandwagon. Turns out the British public weren’t that bothered about a mobile phone service from Sainsbury’s. We’re on board with eating well for less and tasting the difference, but we don’t much care to have our mobile phone needs serviced there, too. To be honest, I didn’t even know Sainsbury’s had a mobile network, which probably sums up the problem.

Jack Loughran  Jack Loughran, news reporter
Multi-frequency wireless charger handles differing standards

I’m quite excited by this bit of tech. Wireless charging is something that I want to become commonplace; if every table automatically charged my smartwatch/phone/tablet/ laptop it would somewhat negate one of the major problems in tech at the moment – rubbish battery life. Having a whole bunch of competing standards is really holding wireless charging back however. It’s been around for a while but loses its usefulness when you have to ensure you have the right charging plate for the right device and this could solve the problem in one fell swoop or at least mitigate it until one of the standards is heralded as the victor. Competing standards in tech (see Betamax/VHS, Blu-ray/HDDVD) have always been something that only the company’s behind them can benefit from. For consumers it ends up as a confusing mess until someone loses and even then half of the early adopters end up with a bunch of unsupported devices.

#SPECTRE and the cost of every @007 James Bond movie made to date – an annotated infographic

October 15, 2015

Spectre, the 24th official Bond movie, is rumoured to have cost $350m to produce, making it one of the most expensive films ever made and totalling more than the budgets of the first nine Bond movies combined. It better be good, that’s all we can say.

What we can definitely tell you is that the new issue of E&T magazine is our James Bond 007 SPECTRE special and we dare to suggest that it’s really rather good.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

We know. it's baffling

We know. it’s baffling

Malaysia Airlines #FlightMH17 shot down by Russian-made Buk missile – an annotated infographic

October 14, 2015

The Dutch Safety Board has released its final report into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over war-torn Ukraine, which has concluded that a Russian-built Buk missile took down the plane.

The question of who fired the missile and thus who is to blame for the tragedy remains unresolved. Dutch prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation to find the perpetrators.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Buk to the future

Buk to the future


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