Wednesday, April 2, 2008

7 Engineering Wonders of the Modern World: Contemporary World Record-Setting Construction

Would you believe that the tallest bridge in France reaches higher than the Eiffel tower, or that a single dam in China can hold back 1.4 trillion cubic feet or water? Each of the projects depicted here has set at least one world record for its height, scale, daring or ingenuity. From Venice to Boston, Egypt to England, here are seven amazing engineering wonders of the modern world. Know of others? Add to the list below!
Venice, Italy: The Venice Tide Barrier Project will be the largest flood prevention project in the world. The project has been debated in one form or another for over 40 years as a way to protect this historical city-on-the-water for future generations. With Venice slowly sinking, and the water around it slowly rising, and floods always a fear, Italians have known for a long time that something needs to be done. Finally, the Prime Minister of Italy approved the second phase of the plan, including 80 hinged barriers, each approximately 6,500 square feet.

Zhangjiajie, China: The Bailong Elevator is the world’s largest exterior elevator. At over 1,000 feet tall, this elevator looms high midway up a cliff overlooking a valley far below. Moreover, the elevator is mostly glass, affording passengers a dizzying view to the depths below. There is some concern, however, about the elevator’s long-term impact on the surrounding natural environment.
Worlds Tallest Bridge France

Millau Bridge in the Mist

Millau Bridge France

Millau Bridge

Millau, France: The Millau Viaduct is the highest bridge in the world. At almost 1,000 feet high (taller than the even the Eiffel Tower) and over 8,000 feet long it sometimes sits above the cloud line, as shown in the beautiful photographs above. The engineered wonder of the bridge itself is nearly as amazing as the view of the valley below.

More, Norway to Easington, Britain: The Langeled Pipeline is slated to be the longest underwater gas pipeline in the world. It will ultimately supply 20% of Britain’s gas needs, connecting England to the largest gas field in Europe via 750 miles of complex underwater terrain. Engineers have had to account for subzero temperatures an stormy waters in addition to developing techniques for installing the pipeline in the first place. They are able to lay an amazing 8 miles of pipe per day.

Three Gorges Dam Aerial

Three Gorges Dam Map

Three Gorges Damn Photo

Yangtze, China: The Three Gorges Dam has drawn fire from people around the world for its role in raising water levels and displacing millions of Chinese residents in the area. As a work of engineering, however, it is unparalleled. It will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, 600 feet high and holding 1.4 trillion cubic feet of water behind 100 million cubic feet of concrete. This engineering wonder will also eventually provide as much as 10% of China’s vast power needs.

The Big Dig Boston 2

The Big Digg Boston

Big Dig Collapse Boston

Boston, Massachusetts: The so-called Big Dig is a massive tunneling project in the heart of Boston, and is the most massive and expensive construction project in the history of the United States (at 15 billion dollars). Disaster and scandal have haunted this endeavor from the beginning, including accidents, deaths and even arrests for criminal negligence. Engineers were forced to navigate a maze of subways, pipes and utility lines in the course of the project, all with minimum disturbance to the bustling streets of Boston above.

Mubrak Pumpting Station Aerial

Mubrak Pumping Station Model

Mubarak Pumping Station Construction

Mubarak, Egypt: The Toshka Project is an amazing attempt to convert a half million acres of desert landscape into arable land. The Mubarak Pumping Station is at the center of this effort, and will channel millions of cubic feet of water per hour. It will ultimately redirect 10% of the country’s water from the Nile and will increase the inhabitable land in Egypt by as much as 25%.

Original here

Using Phones In-Flight

U.K. regulatory agency approves a system that would enable mobile phone use on airplanes

European travelers may soon have a chance to chat away on their own phones while in flight. For the new system to work, planes would be outfitted with small mobile base stations known as pico cells. The cells would be switched off during take-off, and turned on once the planes reach a given altitude, which would be a minimum of 3,000 meters. Phone signals would be routed to the mobile base stations, which would in turn dispatch signals to ground-based networks through a satellite link.

A U.K. regulatory agency has given the system the OK, but no airlines have officially announced plans to adopt it, and it still has to pass a few more administrative and safety tests before proceeding. For one, airlines will need to be sure that the technology doesn't interfere with a plane's navigation or communications systems.

The service will probably be pricier than making a normal call. Hopefully that will dissuade chatty seat-mates from talking for hours on end.


Original here

Scientists: Sleep More and You'll Avoid Putting on Weight

A good night's sleep the key to staying slim
Seven to eight hours is the optimum time in bed

Sleeping for eight hours a night is the secret to not putting weight on, according to scientists.

  • Surly teenagers need 9hrs 12mins of sleep
  • Have your say: Do we all need more sleep?
  • They found that those who slept for less than six hours a night - or more than nine - put on more weight than those who slept for seven or eight hours each night.

    The research published in the Journal Sleep found those who did not get enough sleep gained almost 4.4lbs (2kg) compared to those who slept for the recommended number of hours.

    Those who had too much sleep gained 1.58 kilos (1.58kg) more than those who slept for the recommended number of hours over six years.

    Short sleepers were 27 per cent more likely to become obese and long sleepers were 21 per cent more likely than those had an average night’s sleep.

    The research also found that things were worse for people who got less sleep as they were 35 per cent more likely to gain 11lbs (5kg) over six years than those who had seven or eight hours sleep.

    Those who slept too long were 25 per cent more likely to gain 11lbs (5kg) in the same time.

    The reason that the amount of sleep a person gets can govern their weight is because sleep affects hormones levels, especially those involved in appetite and feeling full after a meal.

    The study was carried out by Jean-Philippe Chaput, of Laval University in Quebec, Canada.

    He said: “Our study provides evidence that both short and long sleeping times predict an increased risk of future body weight and fat gain in adults.

    "Furthermore, these results emphasize the need to add sleep duration to the list of environmental factors that are prevalent in our society and that contribute to weight gain and obesity.

    "Since preventing obesity is important, a pragmatic approach adding sleep hygiene advice to encouragement towards a healthy diet and physical activity may help manage the obesity epidemic.”

    The study is based on 276 adults aged between 21 and 64 and the researchers took into account their weight at the beginning of the study.

    UK and American sleep experts say the chances of getting a good night’s rest increase if you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even at weekends and set a relaxing routine before getting into bed such as having a bath or reading.

    Watching television in bed is not recommended and it is best to avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and exercise in the evening.

    If you have trouble getting to sleep it is best to get up and do something relaxing like reading until you feel ready for sleep.

    Almost everyone has problems sleeping at some point in their lives, normally because of stress, and around a third of people in the UK have bouts of insomnia.

    Original here

    It’s Illegal to Sell Pot Flavored Candy In Georgia

    Oh, that wiley Georgia Legislature. You know it’s a good story when the first question anybody asks when they hear about it is “was this an April fool?”
    Image from dave linger on flickr

    It’s now the law in Georgia, you may no longer sell pot-flavored candy to minors. The bill, which passed the senate 42-3, and was introduced by– seriously, not an April Fool– Doug Stoner, a Democrat from Smyrna, was passed by the house last year. The bill claims that the candy gives children the false impression that marijuana is safe, takes particular issue with the marketing claim that “every lick is like taking a hit.”

    A group of high school students, who presumably are against drugs because nobody has ever been friendly enough to offer them any, were rallying in support of the measure in the halls of the capitol while the measure was up for a floor vote, calling the oily candy bars and lollipops a “gateway candy” to drugs and a dangerous lifestyle.

    I’m personally glad to see our war on drugs has extended down to the level where candies are being labeled as ‘gateways’; sooner or later this means that the government is going to start doing things like banning dreadlocks and acoustic guitars, and requiring showers or all citizens, then we’ll be able to really make progress.

    Environmental Graffiti is up for four bloggers’ choice awards. You can vote for us for best entertainment blog, best blog of all time, best geek blog and best animal blogger.

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    Original here

    6 Habits To Avoiding And Overcoming Procrastination

    Try to put me in a room
    Distraction less
    (Everything is everything)
    Spare me from worse
    In the studio, I would finally burn
    (All the time is all you got)
    Tempted to work
    ~Amy Winehouse~

    In short procrastination is a habit if you will, a very bad habit, that consists in putting off something for the next day. Procrastination is to blame for most of our productivity problems and yet it seems that very few people actually do something about it. And this doesn’t solely apply to your personal life either, it just as well happens in your career as well, because chances have it you’ll behave the same way at work as well. Missed opportunities, frenzied work hours, stress, overwhelm, resentment, and guilt are just a few consequences.

    I’m pretty sure most of you’ve told yourselves at least once in your life I’ll do it tomorrow, I have the time or tomorrow’s another day. Ok, that’s true, but to paraphrase a common proverb, why put put for tomorrow, what you can do today? It’s safe to say that everybody knows that procrastination is hazardous, but what compels people, like you or myself, to do it? There’s a few reasons why people result to postponements like fear of the unknown, fear of change, perfectionism, fear of failure, disorganization and so on, but probably the most common reason is … laziness. That’s right folks laziness can really be a bugger, some go as far as saying it’s a terrible sickness, I personally think it’s all just a psychological issue.

    The key to overcoming procrastination is inner strength, inner strength to motivate ourself on completing a task no matter how big or small it is. However most of us lack a particular strength in character and get sucked away from our goals and plans. Do not despair though there are ways to help pass procrastination and eventually get things done.

    1. Take It One Step At a Time

    Some tasks, at first glance, may seem simply overwhelming or require a Herculean amount of effort, so in term we don’t do anything, at all. It’s important not to let yourself discouraged by any particular amount of work or pressure involved in an activity; what you need to do is start off slow, in small baby steps, in a revere pyramid style and you’ll soon find that things are actually beginning to shape up. For example the other week, I went in with my dad in the garage to clean up the place. There were wrenches, old car oil stench, used car parts, an old refrigerator, a broken TV and a bunch of other useless crap lying all over the place. I didn’t even know where to start from and it all seem like it was gonna take for ever to clean up the mess. My dad soon approached me and told me “there’s no hurry son, there’s no pressure, we’ll just take it one step at a time and see where we get.” We started off with the floor, then with the stocked up drawers and went to more and more difficult task from there on, until around midnight we finally finished. My garage never looked cleaner. This is not only a methodical technique of getting things done, but also a provider or motivation.

    2. You Don’t Need To “Have To,” You Need To “Want To”

    If you feel like you “have to” do something you’ll automatically feel a sense of restrainment and negativity, that comes naturally when we’re feeling obliged to do something. This leads to some serious procrastination issues and is most encountered at work. The solution here is to shift your mindset from “have to” to “want to.”Be a firm believer that if you don’t want to do something, then you don’t have to. Simple as that. This might of course have some serious consequences, like loosing your job for instance (in the most extreme cases), but if manage to master the art of avoiding unwanted activities, you won’t have any trouble. There are some unpleasant tasks that we can’t avoid, like work for some (I never could understand why some people would choose to make their living in a field of activity they displease), but even then we can avoid procrastination by tricking our brain. You can do this by finding anything remotely pleasant about what you’re about to do, no matter how small and then think about it all the time, while you pursue the respective unpleasant task. This will cheat your brain into thinking you want to do it, not have to.

    3. Brainstorm Your Way Out

    A common reason for procrastination is lack of ideas, when dealing with any kind of tasks, that mildly requires some creativity. We’ve all had our days of mind blocks or plateaus, it’s actually fairly common, but if this period of blockage is too long, procrastination can settle in. What you need to do is brainstorm. Go outside have a walk and freshen up, observe and analyze everything you see or encounter. Always bring a ben/pencil or a PDA (for those of you more tech savvy) and start taking notes of what you see. Don’t criticize yourself, write down even the most preposterous ideas your mind might produce, you never know when something brilliant might come up.

    4. Time Yourself

    I’ve found that many people resort to procrastination because they have to much time on their hands and so they put off things for the next hour, day or even weeks. Go to your desk, grab an alarm timer and set it for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever time you believe is necessary to complete your work. Be sure not to leave too much room though, in example this post in normal conditions might take me 2-3 hours to write, I’ve set my timer for 40 minutes. It’s still ticking. This will help you motivate yourself in completing your work, but also most importantly it will help you focus.

    5. Eliminate All Other Distractions

    This means no IM, TV, no e-mail, no internet whatsoever (unplugging your chord would be a good idea), no music (for those of you that find it distractive, I personally can work fine with music in my headphones) or anything remotely distractive, that might break your concentration. Anything that might come between you and whatever task your trying to fulfill may disrupt your current activities and thus lead to procrastination. It’s better to avoid this by eliminating anything that might cause you to suddenly abandon your work. However, be careful. Don’t over exaggerate with this and lock yourself from the outside world, from your family and people that care for you.

    6. Stop Being A Perfectionist

    Another cause of procrastination is perfectionism. It’s natural for us humans to try to be the best at something, but sometimes along the path we can tend to over-react with our ambitions and turn to perfectionism. This way we try complete a task flawlessly from the very beginning, but this takes a lot of work, that in term leads to a lot of stress, which in term leads to procrastination. This is because your brain will soon associate that stress with the respective task and will try to avoid it, most often by postponing it.

    It’s important to understand that no one and nothing is perfect. It’s actually the imperfections that make the world around us so beautiful and most of all unique. You can try to write the most complete and helpful article ever or build the perfect software all you won’t, but you’ll never succeed, because there’ll always be room for improvement. Realize that an imperfect job completed today is always superior to the perfect job delayed indefinitely.

    Original here

    Seven New Cars We Wish Were April Fools' Day Jokes

    [UPDATE: Also check out our top ten list of the best...or was it the worst...April Fools' Day automotive gags.] Occasionally, an automaker likes to have a little fun on April Fools' Day by announcing a car so ridiculous it couldn't possibly be real. Unfortunately, what happens more often than not is that an automaker will announce a car so ridiculous that it couldn't possible be real... and it is. Some are poorly-styled and ill-conceived, while others seem to fill no foreseeable niche other than a need to show they're doing something, anything. Below is our list of new cars that are punch lines to jokes no one ever told (i.e. the least dragon-able new cars). [UPDATE: We've added a poll so you can proclaim the most foolish car of them all] 2009 Pontiac Vibe
    The name suggests vibrator, but one look at this poorly re-bodied Corolla-cousin to the Toyota Matrix is likely to prevent anyone but the most hardcore red arrow-fetishist from getting off.

    That Is Not The Right Spot

    2009 Toyota Venza
    You know what's great about the Toyota Venza? Yeah, neither do we. As much fun as the old angled-E-pillar Camry wagons were, Toyota decided to take the concept of a Camry wagon and cross it with ugly in order to make one of those famous "crossover" vehicles. Thanks for nothing.

    Noyota Venza

    2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible
    It took a keen eye, some serious hallucinogenic substances and a love of the George Foreman Grill to make the already fugly Chrysler Sebring even less fetching. Congrats to the Chrysler team for taking a car that distinguishes itself for lackluster performance and giving it a body to match. USA! USA! 2009 VW Routan
    We're not sure what the conversation was like at Volkswagen HQ when they decided to rebadge a Dodge Minivan, but we imagine it's only slightly more interesting then the conversation where they decided to give it yet another preposterous and meaningless two-syllable name. What, did someone already own the rights to Asscrap?

    Routan Clan Killer Bees On A Swarm

    2009 BMW X6
    We have yet to drive the new BMW X6 SAV (Stupid Automotive Variation), so maybe it's a revolution in automotive design. Or maybe it's a $52,000 miscalculation that offers the convenience of neither a car or an SUV. Only time will tell.

    X6 Is Six Times The Strange

    Maybach 62 Landaulet
    Although a concept, it's still the perfect ride for when you want to look like a million bucks because nothing says "kidnap my children" like a stretch, convertible Maybach. Rumor is they're going to build it. Oh geez.

    Martin Landau Approved

    2008 Ford Focus
    Leave it to Ford to take a car we absolutely loved when it first debuted and slowly engineer everything we like out of the car. But it's got Ford SYNC technology so... you know... victory!