Top 5 Engineering Technology Picks for the Week

I’m in Austin working on a cool simulation-related project. Details soon. In the meantime, snack on these engineering technology- and science-related stories from the last week:

China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth
Why VR Matters, Especially in Rural Schools
MIT scientists use radio waves to sense human emotions
Federal policy for self-driving cars aims to set framework for next 50 years
New Supercomputer Cooling Method Could Save Millions of Gallons of Water a Year

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China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth
Popular Mechanics

tiangong engineering pickSad news for those of us excited by space exploration. Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station, will likely crash into earth late next year. Obviously what goes up must come down. But instead of a more controlled re-entry, the station is apparently out of China’s control. That means we can’t yet predict where it’s going to fall. In all likelihood, it’ll smash into water.

Still, I’ll be looking up a lot in 2017.

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Why VR Matters, Especially in Rural Schools
TechCrunch

No one can yet argue that virtual reality can compete with the real thing. But for poor families, it might be an OK substitute. Those are the findings from Harvard professor Robert Putnam.

Putnam found that children from more affluent families were better traveled and were exposed to more varied experiences. But kids in poorer, rural schools are often left with a narrower world view because they haven’t been given those chances. But leveraging the power of VR, these children could explore new countries or walk in the shoes of a child with Down syndrome.

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MIT scientists use radio waves to sense human emotions
CNN Money

It’s not quite extrasensory perception, but it’s getting closer. MIT scientists have created a device to sense some basic human emotions. Using radio waves this small device detects breathing, heartbeats, blood flow and skin vibration. With a little interpretation, that indicates whether the subject is happy, sad, angry or excited.

Researchers think that the device could one day detect depression. Commercially, it could be used to gauge moviegoers’ reactions to a film of customers’ real feelings about a product.

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Federal policy for self-driving cars aims to set framework for next 50 years
Digital Trends

Some of the most interesting science news coming out of Washington this week was around self-driving cars. The US Department of Transportation introduced a framework with a goal of consistency in each state for testing and deploying vehicles to ensure safety.

With Uber’s recently roll-out of autonomous vehicles near the ANSYS headquarters — and as a victim of an automobile accident due to human error — it’s certainly something that has caught my attention. Let’s see how quickly other governments follow — or reject the idea of these self-driving cars.

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New Supercomputer Cooling Method Could Save Millions of Gallons of Water a Year
Engineering.com

How much water do you use every day in your home? Chances are, it’s a lot less than a midsized computer center, which weighs in at 350,000 gallons. Water absorbs the heat from the computers in these centers and is piped into what’s called a cooling tower. A lot of water is wasted during this process.

But Sandia National Laboratories has developed a process using a liquid refrigerant to remove heat from the water without any loss. While it only works under certain temperature conditions today, the future could see even broader use – and more water conserved.

 

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