Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, April 25, 2007day link 

 Tunnel across the Bering Strait
Russia plans to build a $65 billion tunnel under the Bering Strait to Alaska. Cool, finally I'll be able to drive to California, even though it will be a bit long. CNN:
The proposed 68-mile tunnel would be the longest in the world. It would also be the linchpin for a 3,700-mile railroad line stretching from Yakutsk -- the capital of a gold- and mineral-rich Siberian region roughly the size of India -- through extreme northeastern Russia, in waters up to 180 feet deep and into the western coast of Alaska. Winter temperatures there routinely hit minus 94 F. (Map)

By comparison, the undersea tunnel that is now the world's longest -- the Chunnel, linking Britain and France -- is only 30 miles long.

That raises the prospect of some tantalizingly exotic routes -- train riders could catch the London-Moscow-Washington express, conference organizers suggested.

Lobbyists claimed the project is guaranteed to turn a profit after 30 years. As crews construct the road and rail link, they said, the workers would also build oil and gas pipelines and lay electricity and fiber-optic cables. Trains would whisk cargos at up to 60 mph 260 feet beneath the seabed.

Eventually, 3 percent of the world's cargo could move along the route, organizers hope
Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, approved a similar plan already more than 100 years ago. Hopefully it works out this time.
[ | 2007-04-25 13:51 | 28 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Open source hardware
picture Make Magazine has a nice overview article of what open source hardware would look like, and what different layers we'd be talking about. They're focusing on electronics, which probably makes good sense as one of the first fields where it might work. The different layers they're talking about are:
  • Hardware (Mechanical) diagrams
  • Schematics & Circuit diagrams
  • Parts list
  • Layout diagrams
  • Core/Firmware
  • Software/API
  • Projects
Obviously it is more complicated to open source hardware than software, where you just need to download some code. So, there are many possible projects that open source just some parts, but not others. If you have the diagrams and parts list for some device, you can in principle go and buy the parts and build it, but the components aren't open source, of course. Until the point where you have a nanotech matter compiler, it will always be a bit incomplete. But it sounds like smart people are expanding what is possible.
[ | 2007-04-25 14:01 | 12 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Quantum physics says goodbye to reality
PhysicsWeb. I'm not sure I understand it well, but the scientific discussion seems to be on whether there are hidden variables in the universe that make reality exist in a consistent way, even when nobody's looking at it. And whether the universe is basically local or non-local. "Local" would mean that one can separate events completely from each other, so that they can't instantenously influence other events.
Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues from the University of Vienna, however, have now shown that realism is more of a problem than locality in the quantum world. They devised an experiment that violates a different inequality proposed by physicist Anthony Leggett in 2003 that relies only on realism, and relaxes the reliance on locality. To do this, rather than taking measurements along just one plane of polarization, the Austrian team took measurements in additional, perpendicular planes to check for elliptical polarization.

They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell's thought experiment, Leggett's inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we're not observing it. "Our study shows that 'just' giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics," Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. "You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism."
Sounds like they're saying that experiements really do confirm that reality isn't real unless somebody's looking at it, and that everything is instantanously connected with everything else, so you can't isolate any piece of anything and claim that it has a real existence, separate from everything else, and seperate from who's observing it. I sort of figured as much, but it sounds good if they're rocking the boat a bit by proving it.
[ | 2007-04-25 14:17 | 88 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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