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Magnetic sails could put the brakes on interstellar space probes

The Breakthrough Starshot program plans to send tiny probes to Alpha Centauri, and a German physicist ...

Our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is just four light-years from Earth, and while that’s pretty close in the grand scheme of things, we can’t just pop over to borrow some milk. With our current technology, the journey would take tens of thousands of years, but there are plans for tiny unmanned probes that could trek there in as little as 20 years. Now, a German theoretical physicist has detailed a method to use magnetic sails as a braking system, to slow craft down to a cruising speed once they get there.

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students and schools • Re: Students Hard at Work

Ryan_T_Genena wrote:
designbreathing wrote:
Can you share any final presentation evaluation criteria for student universal design projects?

Cheers from Seoul

I am one of the students in the class, however, I think this information from the syllabus will answer your question to my best ability.

“Designed solutions provide some kind of interface between the user, the object, and the environment. Examine the relationships between our bodies and the built environment. We will utilize both anthropometrics and field testing to design objects with which we physically engage our bodies.”

Research (20%), Visual Presentation (20%), Craftsmanship (20%), Process (20%), and Human Factors (20%).

You can also refer to the competition criteria at http://gero.usc.edu/udcompetition/.

edit: my peers also had significantly varying degrees of sensitivity. One of the criteria our professor tried to push us towards was to design with empathy. Here’s some more information on the assignment criteria from the project brief:

Option 1 - “Develop a product/prototype that embraces and utilizes the ideas and principles of Universal Design for use at home” as an entry into the USC School of Gerontology Universal Design Competition.
Option 2 - Choose your own adventure. Identify a product category with opportunities for ergonomic improvement and design a new product that overcomes the problems that you uncover during the research phase of the project.

What is that competition, could you tell me more about that competition, please?


wind-turbines-rural_740

Smaller, quieter wind turbines could boost public support

Vertical axis wind turbines, which may have fewer effects on birds and nearby people, could increase public support for new wind energy installations, new research suggests.

With global carbon emissions on the rise, wind power continues to be an attractive option for states and countries looking to limit fossil fuel use and increase renewable energy. Wind already accounts for over 5 percent of electricity generation in the United States.

A number of issues plague the low-carbon energy source, however, such as complaints from nearby residents about noise and the killing of hundreds of thousands of birds and bats each year that collide with turbine blades.

Last week, in a setback to wind energy proponents, the Vermont Public Utility Commission adopted new regulations that limited the amount of sound new wind projects are allowed to produce. And in counties across California, similar restrictions have been passed limiting wind energy expansion. While some states are growing their wind power sectors, California has seen a plateau in growth over the last four years.

wind turbines in rural setting
Researchers surveyed Californians on how they felt about traditional versus vertical axis wind turbines in a rural setting. (Credit: Iris Hui/Stanford)

To better understand these concerns over wind energy, researchers conducted a poll examining how receptive people in California are to vertical axis wind turbines in various settings.

“For California, even with the state’s support for climate action and reducing emissions, wind farms can be a tough sell for residents,” says Iris Hui, a coauthor of the paper and senior researcher with the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University.

“We wanted to see if the potential for lower impacts from vertical axis turbines might persuade Californians to be more receptive to large-scale wind projects,” Hui says.

‘Opinion matters’

Vertical axis turbines have been around for decades but have been less popular options for large wind farms because of concerns that current models are less reliable and produce less energy per unit. But the tide could turn with public concern over the effects that wind energy has on people as well as birds and other wildlife.

“Because vertical axis turbines operate at lower speeds, lower height, and have a different visual signature than conventional wind turbines, we anticipated that they would have less impact on birds and wildlife,” says coauthor John Dabiri, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of mechanical engineering at Stanford University.

 

wind turbines in openspace
The researchers also asked how Californians felt about traditional versus vertical axis wind turbines in an open space setting. (Credit: Iris Hui/Stanford)

“Our field testing over the past eight years has shown this to be anecdotally true. We also expected the fact they they’re less noisy and harder to see from a distance would make them more attractive for communities. But it was important to test these assumptions in practice.”

This results of the poll could help California and other states make better use of abundant wind energy, says coauthor and political science professor Bruce Cain.

“The issue is both a technical engineering problem and a political science problem because opinion matters so much to which technologies get adopted and implemented. That’s why we brought people from both disciplines together on this,” says Cain.

Better for bats and birds

The team devised an online opt-in survey that asked respondents about their feelings on the different turbine technologies. The most desirable feature for vertical axis turbines was the idea that they may kill fewer birds and bats.

Cost remained a big concern, however, as did where to put the turbines. While support for installation was 75 percent for turbines that would be 50 miles from their home, support plummeted significantly as the distance from the turbine installation to the respondent’s home got smaller.

Wind turbines change visitors to tortoise burrows

Dabiri’s lab is working on ways to develop vertical axis turbines that can reach parity on energy output with horizontal axis turbines and has research showing the potential of deploying smaller vertical axis turbines (about 30 feet high compared to the iconic white horizontal axis turbines stretching over 300 feet tall) in clusters to further perpetuate wind.

Due to their smaller stature, there is also more potential to deploy these turbines in a more urban setting than is possible with larger horizontal axis turbines. However, neither of these ideas gave vertical axis wind turbines a significant advantage over conventional wind turbines with the respondents.

Respondents with higher educational levels who value action on climate change were more likely to support integrating vertical axis turbines into an urban setting.

The researchers stress these findings indicate that, rather than being competing technologies, vertical and horizontal wind turbines can be complementary.

“Vertical axis turbines could be favored in areas of significance to wildlife or in certain urban settings where larger turbines are not viable,” says Hui.

In addition to this study, Dabiri’s lab has funding through the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment’s Realizing Environmental Innovation Program to study how to lower the impacts of wind energy expansion on birds and ecosystems.

“The real challenge that remains is to do more rigorous testing on how vertical axis turbines impact birds,” says Dabiri. “If our anecdotal evidence of lower avian impacts can be supported by formal biological studies, it could make a real difference in public acceptance.”

To cut power use, put a price tag on carbon

The researchers report their findings in the journal Energy Policy. The Bill Lane Center for the American West funded the work.

Source: Stanford University

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7 Wild, Wonderful Icons Of Postmodern Architecture

Pomo’s wackiness was an antidote for modernism’s asceticism. And decades after its heydey, it’s finally getting its due.

Imagine only being able to color with a No. 2 pencil, then suddenly being able to use a full Prismacolor set. That’s what the transition from modernism to postmodernism was like. With its vibrant hues, wild shapes, and historical winks, postmodern architecture rejected the stoic rigidity of its predecessor. Liberated from modern architecture’s preoccupation with formal purity and “honest” materials, postmodern architects were free to use every bit of their creative imagination. The results were often mind-boggling, as the new book Post-Modern Buildings In Britain (Pavilion 2017) shows.

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materials and processes • Metallic Paint Spec Books

Currently, when we spec metallic paint, if there isn’t a Pantone metallic chip that’s right (which is usually the case), I have to send our sourcing partner the page out of our DuPont Spectramaster book and hope they send the page back at the end of the project.

To avoid this, I am looking for a metallic paint chip book I can have our sourcing partner in China buy (or buy one and send it to them). I thought I’d just buy the same Spectramaster book we use, but they don’t seem to sell them any more. The only ones I can find to buy are used on eBay.

Is there a different system anyone here uses to spec metallic paints overseas?


general design discussion • Re: Tradeshow experiences that impressed

Well, one of the things I learned is to keep things very portable, lightweight and good for transportation. Unless you want to end up with the back of your truck transformed into a jumbled mess. It also helps to have a 3D preview of your booth before starting the installation (yes we didn’t always use to do that). And make sure you put the interesting things on the outside of the booth near the walking aisles, for visitors it is like entering shops and most of them rather see the window shop first.