The US has looked to China for help building railroads ever since Chinese laborers laid down the tracks for the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s. Now, California hopes a partnership with the Middle Kingdom can do for 21st Century high-speed rail what that far less pleasant 19th Century "partnership" did for the Transcontinental Railroad.
Thirsty Californians living in Sand City began satiating their thirst with Pacific Ocean water starting this week, following the official launch of the state's first full-scale seawater desalination plant. The city hopes to ensure that people won't notice any difference in quality or taste compared from the reservoir water that usually comes out of their taps, according to Scientific American.
The brackish water treatment plant is expected to provide up to 98 million gallons (370 million liters) of drinking water per year, and cut down on that amount of water drawn from the Carmel River and Seaside Aquifer reservoirs.
In an image that the residents of Middle Earth might find unnerving, an international coalition of scientists have captured images of a two-year eclipse that are the first close-ups of such an event beyond our solar system.
A Navy-funded thermal engine bobbing off the coast of Hawaii is accomplishing a rare feat -- it produces more energy than it consumes. Though it's not quite a perpetual motion machine, it could provide scientists or the Navy with a perpetual presence on the seas. The engine is attached to an unmanned underwater vessel, called SOLO-TREC (for Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangian Observer -- Thermal RECharging), and uses the energy of the ocean to derive a practically limitless energy supply.
SOLO-TREC is outfitted with a series of tubes full of waxy phase-change materials. As the float encounters warm temperatures near the ocean's surface, the materials expand; when it dives and the waters grow cooler, the materials contract. The expansion and contraction pressurizes oil, which drives a hydraulic motor.
I'm just back from a midtown Manhattan hotel meeting room, where I rode Honda's U3-X "Personal Mobility Prototype." It's a nifty little device: essentially a sit-down Segway unicycle that looks like a figure-8-shaped boombox, with a pop-out seat and footrests.
The machine balances itself, with or without a rider. You move and steer by leaning where you want to go, forward, backward, and -- in a unique twist -- side to side.
Shape-memory alloys that change shape when heated could become tiny mechanical muscles for electronic devices. New mechanical devices based on the alloys produce three to six times more torque than electric motors, and weigh just one-20th as much.
Such devices, known as actuators, can be cut from a flat sheet of metal just a fraction of a millimeter thick. They emerged from a roject that aims to build printable robots, where the robots would consist of both the metal actuators and plastic components that could be built layer-by-layer through a process similar to inkjet printing.
Electrode implants which zap areas of the brain have mysteriously helped ease the symptoms of crippling diseases such as depression and Parkinson's. Now brain scans could help predict who exactly might benefit from deep brain stimulation (DBS), based on seeing which interconnected regions of the brain "light up" at the same time, New Scientist reports.
If you're like most people, there's a thought that runs through your mind anytime you're checking into a flight, passing through airport security, changing terminals at the last minute, trying to sort out a missed connection, or standing close to anything an airline has touched: "There has to be a better way to do this." And you would be right. Southwest Airlines took a big step toward the future of commercial flight this week by implementing GPS satellite-guided landings.
Hybrid and even all-electric sports cars have become the rage as of late, but how many of them can recharge their lithium-ion battery in as little time as a pit stop at the gas station? Meet Finland's electric RaceAbout, an all-electric sports car that has its sights set on the $10 million Progressive Automotive X-Prize, according to Inhabitat.