Tech Universe: Tuesday 04 March

By Miraz Jordan

A road sign reads: 'Serious Drought Help Save Water', on Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, California. Photo / AP
A road sign reads: 'Serious Drought Help Save Water', on Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, California. Photo / AP

SALTY SOLUTIONS: While California suffers from extreme drought work is underway to build a huge desalination plant on the coast. The plant will process around 375 million litres of seawater per day. By the time the plant's finished in 2016 it should provide around 180 million litres of fresh drinking water per day — enough for 112,000 households. Which isn't that many in the scheme of things.

BRICK IN THE WALL: How do you stop a tornado? Well, a great big wall might help. One US scientist analysed how tornados form in the Tornado Alley area of the US and has a proposal. He suggests building a series of walls 300 metres high and 50 metres wide to help weaken or block the airflows that turn destructive. He says that walls in North Dakota, along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma to east, and in Texas and Louisiana could forever diminish the tornado threats.

And what else would they do?

HUFF AND PUFF: US scientists have been doing their sums. They found that, at least in theory, a large number of offshore wind turbines, in the right spot, could reduce the impact of a hurricane. Models of Hurricane Katrina found that 78,000 wind turbines, stationed within 100 Km of shore, would not only produce 300 gigawatts of electricity but could have reduced storm surge up to 79% and drained some 148 Kph from the wind speed. So if they could do that to a hurricane, how would they affect normal winds and tides?

HANDS MAKE WORK FOR THE IDLE: Some people and institutions have 3D printers that lie idle for much of the time. Meanwhile some people need a hand — literally, because they were born without a hand or an accident has lost them their hand. The Robohand project aims to match up these two groups to allow people to get a prosthetic hand for thousands of dollars less than it would normally cost. Free designs are published on Thingiverse and candidates are assessed by the organisation before prints are made using materials like medical Orthoplastic and stainless steel. Brilliant!

SAWS ON HIGH: Pruning very tall trees generally involves lots of hanging around on ropes. A tree-pruning robot though may be able to do the job instead. A robot developed in Japan encircles a 25 cm diameter tree near the bottom and then climbs straight up or in a spiral motion with a chainsaw at the ready to clear away small branches. An umbrella-like shade at to top of the robot keeps cut branches away from the mechanism. The robot uses its own weight to support itself against the tree so is in little danger of falling. When finished it climbs back down the tree to the ground.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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