Happy Friday, folks! For this week’s roundup of interesting engineering technology news articles, be sure to check out Disney’s video showing how their engineers celebrate Halloween and learn how one British company is changing the world of energy as we know it. Oh, and turns out Cinderella’s glass slipper could indeed support her weight as she dances the night away with her prince charming!
- 24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 MPH, All in One Jump
- In Disneyland, Even A Gingerbread House Can Be Scary
- British Engineers Produce Amazing “Petrol From Air” Technology
- Engineer Solves Glass Slipper Dilemma
- Google Engineers Policing Governments Trying to Police Internet
The New York Times
Last week, I blogged about Felix Baumgartner while the world watched in anticipation as he was all strapped into his capsule, ready to be the first man to essentially sky dive from space. By now, we all probably know that his first attempt was put on hold for a few days due to weather. Finally, on this past Sunday the 14th at 10:45am EDT, the world got to witness Austrian daredevil “Fearless Felix” jump from space, breaking the altitude and speed records set 50 years ago by Joe Kittinger, a retired Air Force colonel.
Even though the spotlight was on Felix, he had nearly 300 people on his team including more than 70 engineers, scientists and physicians who have been working on this project for 5 years. Kudos to them for bringing this guy back home safe.
I’ll leave you with the actual numbers:
- His maximum speed was 833.9 miles per hour (Mach 1.24), higher than the originally estimated 720 mph
- Jumped from an altitude of 128,100 feet, landing in a desert about 4,000 feet above sea level, making his jump 23.5 miles
- 4 minutes and 20 seconds of free fall time
With Halloween fast approaching, I was curious to see what bright-minded engineers do in celebration of one of my favorite holidays — and I stumbled across this little gem!
Around this time every year, Disneyland and Disney World are reinvented in the spirit of Halloween. Ghouls, ghosts pumpkins and the like are spread out every where and music from our favorite scary cartoons and movies are pumped throughout the parks.
But, something you may not know is that every year for the past 12 years, Disney engineers have gotten together and created eccentric Halloween gingerbread houses in an event called the Haunted Mansion Holiday. You can find their creations displayed in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion in the parks!
Disney has put out a video highlighting some of the gingerbread creations — take a look:
Yes, you read that right — A British firm called Air Fuel Synthesis have created technology that will produce gasoline from just air and electricity. Experts have called this scientific breakthrough a potential “game-changer” and a savior to the world’s energy crisis.
OK, let’s see if I can synthesize this for you in layman’s terms
Using electricity, the engineers create pure carbon dioxide by electrolysing sodium carbonate. Then, they produce pure hydrogen by using the same method to shock water vapor that was captured with a dehumidifier.Next, they use the pure carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methanol which in turn passes through a gasoline fuel reactor, creating gasoline!
The company says they have produced 5 liters (don’t worry, I’ve done the conversion for you: 1.32 gallons) of gas in less than 3 months, which can be used in any regular gas tank.
This specific technology was developed over the past two years as part of a project funded by a group of unnamed philanthropists who believe that the technology will be a lucrative way of creating renewable energy. Oh, and potentially change the world as we know it. No big deal.
Engineer Solves Glass Slipper Dilemma
Who doesn’t know and love the story of Cinderella, the glass slipper and her handsome prince? Last week, Design News challenged its readers to figure out what qualities the glass in Cinderella’s slippers need to have in order for her to walk and dance comfortably, and hold her weight? Well, Antariksh Bothale (a BTech and MTech in Mechanical Engineering) figured it out.
Here’s the nitty gritty:
Bothale started by assuming Cinderella’s weight could be applied evenly across her shoe and roughly estimated her foot size and overall foot area at A = 0.015m squared. If 50kgs (roughly 110lbs) of weight were to be applied equally across this area, he calculated that the compressive stress developed in the material would be:
Turns out that’s good news for Cinderella because Bothale concluded that the yield strength of ordinary glass for compressive stress is approximately 50MPa, which is three times more than what Cinderella’s weight could produce. Although, he recommends using thermal toughened safety glass vs ordinary glass because of its yield strength of 200MPa.
However, he couldn’t stop there — Cinderella just doesn’t sit around and look pretty — she dances the night away with her Prince Charming, which could lead to more compressive stress on the glass slipper.
To keep things simple, Bothale made a few assumptions of the height and diameter of the heel as well as her stepping angle. By plugging those numbers into his equation, he figured out that the maximum bending stress in the heel while twirling across the dance floor is dangerously close (but not over) to the critical stress level and making the slippers shatter!
Even when the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella has to run to her pumpkin carriage in those glass heels, Bothale figured out that her stepping angle would remain in the “safe limits” because her dress would likely prevent her from making long strides, ensuring her shoes wouldn’t shatter.
Cool, huh? What other fairy tales could we debunk with engineering?
Google Engineers Policing Governments Trying to Police Internet
What first began as tracking web traffic interruptions on a 36-hour delay for recording purposes quickly turned into something else — like reporting on breaking news. A few years ago, Brian Fitzpatrick (a Google Chicago engineer) and his team members began tracking the frequency and types of requests that Google gets to remove content from its products or turn over info about users. Thanks to its transparency report, we now know that online censorship comes from all sorts of places including governments and corporate organizations.
A few examples from the report:
- Google denied a request from the Canadian Passport Office to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian doing something inappropriate to their passport and then flushing it down the toilet.
- From July to December 2011, Google received 6,321 requests for user data in criminal cases involving U.S. governmental agencies, which affected 12,243 user accounts.
The interesting engineering angle here? The amount of time it took Fitzpatrick and his team to reduce the 36-hour delay to just minutes: “Originally Fitzpatrick’s team was tracking Web traffic interruptions on a 36-hour delay. During the Arab Spring, Google’s former senior vice president of engineering, Bill Coughran, asked for the lag to be reduced to less than five hours. Two days of engineering shrunk it to less than an hour and then Coughran said he wanted it at less than five minutes. That took more than a month, with Fitzpatrick’s team ultimately hitting the two-minute mark.”
That’s some pretty impressive engineering, if I do say so myself!
Another reason reason why this transparency report is cool is because it gives the world the ability to find out (within a few short minutes) when a country brings down the Internet or restores access to YouTube. Still, some countries will block content without going through any legal channel or notifying Google.
Have a great weekend!