Posts Tagged ‘E&T’

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. The winner’s name will be announced on this web page after the prize has been claimed and the prize delivered as soon as possible. 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.

#Nasa probes Jupiter with Juno spacecraft in July – an annotated infographic

June 22, 2016

Nasa’s Juno spacecraft is bound for a Fourth of July encounter with the planet Jupiter, in the latest quest to study how the largest planet in the solar system formed and evolved.

The billion-dollar solar-powered probe, launched from Earth nearly five years ago, will spend 20 months in polar orbit around the gas giant.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Juno what I mean?

Juno what I mean?

Christo’s The Floating Piers art installation – an annotated infographic

June 22, 2016

Thousands of people have tried out the latest installation by conceptual artist Christo – a 3km floating pontoon in northern Italy.

“The Floating Piers” allows people to practically walk on water, across the walkway constructed from more than 200,000 interlocking cubes wrapped in yellow nylon.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Christo almightyo

Christo almightyo

Book review: The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth – Robin Hanson

June 20, 2016

by Jade Fell 

9780198754626 (1)

Oxford University Press, May 2016, 426 pp, ISBN 978-0-19-875462-6, £20.00, Hardback 

Ever wondered what a world inhabited almost entirely by intelligent machines might look like? Or even, what smart robots might look like and what their uses, design, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses could be? If any or all of these questions are in the back of your mind, then The Age of Em could be just the book you are looking for. In this revolutionary new publication, economist Robin Hanson combines existing theories in physics, computer science and economics to create a realistic vision of a world dominated by robots.

Each day, advanced reports emerge of experiments in how artificial intelligence and robotics is revolutionising the way we live our lives, but the realisation of a truly intelligent machine still seems far over the horizon. What kind of robots could equal the actions of a human being? Hanson looks to the robotic brain emulation, or ‘em’ as a solution for a truly intelligent machine. The premise is simple enough; take a detailed scan of a human brain and then build a computer model that processes signals in accordance with the same characteristics as the brain. The result is a robotic brain, which can be trained to carry out tasks in the same way as a human baby.

A single brain emulation can be copied thousands of times, creating a literal army of robotic workers with human-like intelligence. The Age of Em serves as an in-depth portrayal of a future where this has become a reality –  ems are the norm and cities, streets, transport and leisure are all designed around these new inhabitants. The era of the em is as different from our own today, as we are from the lives of the farmers and foragers who came before us. Progress has changed once again, with further steps towards efficiency, rendering previous assumptions about life more or less redundant. Moral progress no longer holds such an important position at the forefront of society, with ems, the new master race, rejecting many of the values we hold dear.

It’s a strange world and one which many of you may find unsettling, but is no different than our present lives are from the eras that came before us. To most of us, our lives today may feel preferable to the work-intensive existence of our ancestors, we may even enjoy living as we do today. The em era is no different; it feels good to be an em.

Hanson’s work is revolutionary, not in what it says, but how it attempts to say it. While the majority of previous literary presentations of a world ruled by machines are firmly rooted in the realms of fiction, this text is hard-core theory, attempting to create a realistic image of what a world inhabited by future technology would look like.

Let’s not attempt to flatter the author or reassure the reader by saying that The Age of Em is an easy book to read. It most certainly is not. Those with little experience of economics, physics or computer science may well feel as though they are traversing a figurative Everest of text, but once over the peak, the expedition feels more than worthwhile.

E&T news weekly #99 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the past week

June 17, 2016

Friday 17 June 2016

Rebecca Northfield  Rebecca Northfield, assistant features editor
Pepper the humanoid robot joins hospital staff in Belgium

You’re desperate for the loo, but everything is in Japanese. You’ve run around the whole place like a madman, squeezing your bladder tight so you don’t pee yourself. You can’t find any signs and you think that this is the worst place in the world and needs to be burned to the ground because you’re dying from pee fever. And you scorn yourself because you were too lazy to learn Japanese. You miraculously find the reception, and you’ve pressed the bell. You tap your fingers impatiently on the desk. Nothing happens. No one comes. You growl with anger and a touch of fear, knowing wetting your pants is imminent. And then up rolls Pepper, the humanoid robot who will recognise your panicking face.

“Pepper! Where is the toilet?” you scream in English, hoping she will understand you.

“Ah, the toilet,” she responds in kind. “This way, follow me please.”

Then you do the toilet tango of sorts. The robot comes around to your side of the desk and continues forward, running over your foot. You yelp in pain and almost lose control of your bladder.

Catching up with Pepper, you hobble behind her like a disgruntled troll, your body folding in on itself to relieve the pressure.

Why does she go so slowly?! Why are you following this robot to the toilet?

What if she didn’t understand you and is taking you to the boiler?

Seriously, she is so slow you can’t believe – “and we are here,” Pepper says in a monotonous, unfeeling voice.

Finally! You dive into the loo, not looking back.

She will never know your pain, the robot rascal.
-End scene-

Seriously this isn’t going to happen if robots become receptionists. But I was trying to think of a scenario where they wouldn’t be the best help. Plus, who names a robot Pepper?

Jade Fell  Jade Fell, assistant features editor
A millennium and a half before alien contact, astronomers claim

“I don’t believe in aliens, I know they exist” – these were the words once spoken by an annoying colleague of mine. The comment annoyed me – like, you don’t know, you don’t know anything – but I understand where he was coming from. The universe is huge after all, so it feels impossible, not to mention super unsettling, to think that we are entirely alone. There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and close to 50 per cent of those stars hold the potential to host Earth-like planets – so why haven’t we found any aliens yet? It certainly isn’t for lack of trying, for years now SETI scientists have been scouring the cosmos, searching for alien signals, but have so far come up empty handed. This week, a team of scientists have announced that in all probability, it could be another 1,500 years before ET finally manages to phone our home planet, or, if you like, to have his mobile phone hacked by nosy researchers. The calculation is based on the probability of extra-terrestrial life existing, and the likely length of time that such creatures would have been emitting signals across space. I’m not sure how they work out these probabilities, but I really hope the estimations are off by say, 1,495 years or so. I’ve waited 27 years for news of little green men, and I am just about out of patience. Guys, if you’re out there please make contact already! We are waiting for you!

Lorna Sharpe  Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor
Nasa ignites largest fire in space as safety experiment

Nasa has lit an experimental fire inside an unmanned cargo delivery space capsule returning from the International Space Station so scientists can study the risks and improve astronaut safety. In particular they want to find out how flames behave in microgravity. The experiment will transmit images and sensor data until the vehicle enters the Earth’s atmosphere and is destroyed, which is expected to be on 22 June. Unsurprisingly, previous fire tests in space have been extremely limited, as operators say “not on my spacecraft,” so this work is an important precursor to any long-haul manned missions.

3D printed robots could emulate Raspberry Pi success

I’ve never felt any desire to get a Raspberry Pi, but these cute ‘Marty’ mini-robots look much more fun. Edinburgh start-up Robotical is looking for funds to start producing them on a commercial scale in kit form, so buyers can build their own and begin controlling them at a fairly basic level before moving on to more advanced programming. By coincidence, just after I saw our news story I was asked to edit a longer piece about employment opportunities for engineers in the construction-toy market, which features an interview with Marty’s creator, Dr Alexander Enoch.

Jonathan Wilson  Jonathan Wilson, online managing editor
E3: PlayStation VR release dated; souped up Xbox One announced

The relentless pace of technology developments and product upgrades can catch any of us out. Last Sunday, my tweenage son, having ummed and aaahed for the last two years – as well as painstakingly saving every single penny he ever got in money gifts for Christmas, birthday, Easter etc – finally committed to ordering a new Xbox One from Amazon. The very next day, Microsoft announced its all-new Xbox One S console! The very next day! Even before my son’s Amazon order could be delivered, the technology was outdated, superseded en route by a newer, faster, shinier, more desirable iteration. Fortunately, I believe there should be a happy ending to my son’s Xbox odyssey, as Amazon has accepted the return request, so all he has to do now is wait – albeit begrudgingly – another couple of months to take receipt of an even better Xbox than the one he was hoping to be playing with tonight.

Nasa ignites largest fire in space as safety experiment

It doesn’t sound like a good idea – deliberately lighting fires inside orbiting space capsules – but Nasa wants, and needs, to understand how fire behaves in space, so that future long-term missions, such as journeying to Mars, can be better planned. Better for all known eventualities to have been studied and analysed in controlled isolation, instead of trying to put out emergency fires as they happen.

Dickon Ross  Dickon Ross, editor in chief
E3: PlayStation VR release dated; souped up Xbox One announced

Is 2016 the year of virtual reality? At the E3 show in Los Angeles, both Sony and Microsoft announced moves into VR gaming, following the Oculus Rift launch earlier this year. But the VR announcements are mostly about gaming so far. I can see that gaming is the most immediate market, but it’s not the most interesting nor ultimately likely to be the largest. As we explored in our VR issue back in March, there are much more exciting applications for VR, in the world of art, music, medicine, tourism, journalism, engineering and even office work. gaming will be most important in providing the applications to get the hardware out there and the provide the revenues to invest in much more interesting applications.

Brexit won’t affect research funding, leave campaigners claim

A group of top Nobel-prize winning scientists came out in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union this week. They said they would lose too much valuable European collaborative research. The same could be said for engineering. And the UK does rather well for funding, compared to what it puts in. But the Brexit camp, responding as if it were a political party standing for election, promised that the UK government would maintain that research funding. But what about the collaborative aspect? The European scale often makes sense for university research projects and programmes. The EU partners may not allow outsiders into its projects, which is what Swiss sources told E&T earlier in the year for our Europe In/Out feature. But the referendum campaigners continued to argue about the money.

A millennium and a half before alien contact, astronomers claim

Catching up with a podcast version of BBC Radio 4’s excellent ‘In Our Time’ show from January this year about the planet Saturn I was reminded that it’s not so long ago fictional alien invaders were expected to come from that close to Earth. In this month’s issue of E&T, Piers Bizony takes the release of the new Independence Day movie as a starting point for an up-to-date look at the science behind the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, while the success of Ben Miller’s book ‘The Aliens Are Coming!’ (reviewed in the March 2016 issue of E&T) demonstrates the grip that the idea of invaders from another planet exerts on the public imagination over a hundred years after HG Wells wrote ‘The War of the Worlds’. Reassuring news, then, that US scientists reckon we won’t make contact with intelligent life for at least another 1,500 years. Their prediction isn’t as romantic as the fiction, but it’s based on hard facts about the likelihood of civilisations being technologically advanced enough to send out signals and the probable length of time they’ve been doing so. And sadly it all hinges on something called the ‘Mediocrity Principle’, which assumes that there’s nothing at all special about the Earth or its occupants, meaning there’s no reason we’re likely to be the first or last to develop radio technology.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Pepper the humanoid robot joins hospital staff in Belgium

Great news. From what the story says, Pepper, the robot receptionist, is already streets ahead of all human medical receptionists, most of whom (unlike Pepper) often have difficulties telling whether they are talking to a man, woman or child. My former surgery’s receptionist would routinely send me invites for some particular (feminine) smears and breast cancer tests. As for their (I mean the human receptionists’) linguistic prowess, it is more often than not much-much lower than Pepper’s. In fact, I have never come across a receptionist speaking any other language than English (and often even that one not very well). Yet, if you ask me, human receptionists are still in many ways irreplaceable in the UK, for I wonder if Pepper has been programmed to say: “The nearest available appointment is in three weeks’ time” in any of the 20 languages it speaks?

VR motion sickness alleviated with field of view alterations

Another piece of good news. To me at least it is, for I will never forget how dizzy I felt while exploring new Dassault Systemes’ VR apps in the company’s state-of-the-art virtual reality room in the outskirts of Paris several years ago. I remember my VR flight above medieval Paris. When I landed for a brief rest on the roof of the still unfinished Notre Dame cathedral (just next to a not-too-pretty chimera) and looked down I nearly lost my balance with dizziness and had to ask my hosts to stop the demonstration immediately lest I should fall down onto some not too inviting , even if VR, cobbles of an old Paris street. They did on that occasion. During another demonstration, however, neither they nor I had time to react when, driven by the virtual-reality sickness, I bumped my head (rather heavily) against an invisible (to me) glass wall while trying to enter a lovely-looking VR kitchen of a no-less-VR flat that I was exploring. Watching this from behind the control panel in one of the room’s dark corners, Mehdi Tayoubi, one of the company’s engineers in charge of the demonstration, said: “Be careful! The virtual world doesn’t hurt – it’s the real one that does!” It was easy for him to say; my encounter with the wall could have been virtual, yet the lump on my forehead was more than real and hurt like hell.

New issue of E&T magazine now online – the #Frankenstein issue

June 15, 2016

Mary Shelley started writing her classic novel ‘Frankenstein’ 200 years ago. The novel still speaks to us today because, like all great stories, it contains some universal truths.

People have long feared science – partly because they fear its consequences. The public today is more concerned about the impact of technological development than it has ever been.

Scientists, engineers and technologists, on the other hand, are more willing to talk about the risks of their work, discussing the unintended side effects or the dangers of misapplication so they can be addressed.

E&T magazine looks at the challenges of cutting-edge science and technology in our latest issue, the Frankenstein special.

It's alive!

It’s alive!


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