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How Alaska fixed its earthquake-shattered roads in just days

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Earthquake damage sustained on southbound lanes near Mirror Lake in Alaska.

Shaking from the large earthquake that shuddered through Anchorage, Alaska last week was strong enough to turn smooth asphalt roads into broken, jagged depressions of rubble. But within just a few days, crews managed to repair the worst of the damage, unsnarling traffic in Alaska’s largest city.

Anchorage has a population of nearly 300,000 people spread across more than 1,900 square miles — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. That space is threaded by roads, asphalt lifelines of the population. When the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck last week, some of the most visceral images showed roads that had broken apart. But within days, many of these same cracked highways had been smoothed back into ribbons of pavement by crews...

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mrobold
7 days ago
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Orange County, California
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Battery idea: Hydroelectric pumped storage, but with bricks

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A company called Energy Vault has proposed a new utility-scale battery that is both old and new at the same time. The "battery" is mechanical, rather than chemical, and stores energy much like pumped hydro does, but it does it with bricks.

If you're not familiar with pumped hydro, it works like this. The system pumps water from a lower elevation to a higher elevation when electricity is plentiful and cheap. When electricity becomes more expensive, operators release that water through a hydroelectric turbine to give the grid some extra juice. Similarly, Energy Vault wants to build a system of six cranes, which will electrically stack heavy bricks into a tower when electricity is cheap and plentiful. When electricity becomes more scarce and expensive, the cranes will release each brick and harvest the energy from their fall.

This system solves an important problem inherent to pumped hydro: it requires a pretty specific kind of topography and often causes environmental concerns.

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mrobold
27 days ago
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Orange County, California
freeAgent
27 days ago
That's a great idea. I wonder what the maintenance differences are between something like this and hydro. I would guess this is cheaper/easier, but I don't know.
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Former NASA administrator says Lunar Gateway is “a stupid architecture”

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Man in suit talks into a microphone.

Enlarge / Michael Griffin, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, testifies during a House Armed Services Committee in April. (credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In recent weeks, NASA officials have been running a charm offensive on their proposed "Gateway" in lunar space, which would serve as a space station in a distant orbit around the Moon. The agency has proposed this interim step in lieu of returning directly to the lunar surface with humans. The agency has even started talking about the Gateway as a "spaceship," presumably because this sounds more exciting than a "station."

Public criticism of the proposal has been limited to date, in part because so much of the aerospace community has the potential to earn contracts by either helping to build the lunar space station or supply it with consumables once it is up and running in the mid-2020s. (We spoke to a few of the public critics for a feature published in September.)

However, during a meeting of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group on Thursday, some of the criticism we've heard privately spilled into public view. One of the committee's members, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, declared that, "I'm quite opposed to the Gateway."

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mrobold
29 days ago
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Orange County, California
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The fake video era of US politics has arrived on Twitter

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President Donald Trump gets into an exchange with Jim Acosta of CNN after giving remarks a day after the midterm elections on November 7, 2018 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

On Wednesday, CNN reporter Jim Acosta had a pointed exchange with the president over immigration during a press conference, resulting in the Trump administration banning him from the White House. During the exchange, a Trump aide attempted to wrestle his microphone away from him. Today, a partisan war broke out over what a video of that incident really showed — and in so doing, seemed to herald the arrival of an era in which manipulated videos further erode the boundaries between truth and fiction.

Aaron Rupar sets the stage at Vox:

When Trump insulted Acosta at the press conference, a White House intern approached him and tried to physically remove a microphone from his hands. Their arms touched as the woman reached across Acosta’s...

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mrobold
36 days ago
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Orange County, California
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The White House used a doctored video to tell a lie

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Yesterday, in Donald Trump’s first press conference following the midterm elections that swept a number of Democrats into Congress Tuesday night, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta had a contentious interaction with the president. Those few seconds have, in the intervening 24 hours, launched a nationwide conversation about doctored video.

“They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s not an invasion,” Acosta said, referring to the “caravan” of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. that Trump had demonized in the run-up to the elections. “I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN. If you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump replied. As Acosta tried to ask another question, a White House intern went to grab...

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mrobold
37 days ago
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Orange County, California
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Flickr will end 1TB of free storage and limit free users to 1,000 photos

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Flickr was purchased in April by professional photo hosting service SmugMug, and today, the first major changes under the new ownership have been announced. There’s a serious downgrade for free users, who are now limited to 1,000 pictures on the photo sharing site, instead of the free 1TB of storage that was previously offered.

As Flickr explains in its press release announcing the change, “Unfortunately, ‘free’ services are seldom actually free for users. Users pay with their data or with their time. We would rather the arrangement be transparent.” It makes a certain amount of sense — servers aren’t free, after all — but for free users with more than 1,000 photos, it’s not ideal news.

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mrobold
44 days ago
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Orange County, California
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