People often associate engineering with bridges and buildings, but, in fact, engineering is all around us. From sustainable coffee cups and people-powered pavements to new medical technologies, quantum computers, and the internet of things, there is a huge range of engineering wonders that we encounter in our day-to-day. The sheer variety of these innovations never fails to amaze me, but two of my favourites are an incredible paint called Inesfly, and a videogame called MalariaSpot. Both of these – while entirely unknown to most – save thousands of lives from insect-borne diseases every year.
Image caption (Credit NASA): Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo ll mission commander, at the modular equipment storage assembly (MESA) of the Lunar Module “Eagle” on the historic first extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. took the photograph with a Hasselblad 70mm camera. Most photos from the Apollo 11 mission show Buzz Aldrin. This is one of only a few that show Neil Armstrong (some of these are blurry).
Create the Future episode two
The second episode of the Create the Future podcast – Moon landing and Mars rovers: our forays into space – is out now! Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, we talk with Apollo engineer Dr David Baker and then traverse the surface of Mars with Airbus ExoMars rover engineer Abbie Hutty.
Uwe Bornscheueris biotechnologist and holds the chair for Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis at the University of Greifswald in northeastern Germany. Gert Weber, a structural biologist and biochemist, is affiliated with the Helmholtz-Zentrum-Berlin, Bessy II Synchrotron. They have teamed upto improve the catalytic properties of plastic-degrading enzymes for use in sustainable recycling – iteratively engineering proteins on the basis of molecular structure.
We’ve long celebrated plastics for their strength and simple manufacture, but their high production rates and uncontrolled disposal have turned them into a global environmental burden. The amount of industrially-produced plastics increases year-on-year, and their production depends on an ever-declining resource – fossil fuels. For us to limit environmental pollution and prepare for the reduction in crude oil, we need to introduce more sustainable (and biodegradable) polymers into the supply chain and stop wasting our existing oil-based plastics – ensuring that they enter a circular and sustainable economy.
Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a way to detect low levels of antibodies in a person’s blood – potentially allowing the individual to get treatment before they even feel sick. Brian Geiss, a senior researcher in the project, explores the possibilities of such a point-of-care diagnostic below.
“The world is becoming a smaller place” has become a bit of a cliché, but it does have a kernel of truth to it. I can be sitting on my porch in Colorado drinking coffee in the morning, and 12 hours later be having a sushi lunch in Tokyo. The movement of people, goods, and materials all over the world has become so fast and efficient that anything and anyone can get to any part of the world in less than 36 hours. Compared to just 100 years ago, our society has gone from relatively isolated independent countries to a robust interconnected network with constant flow between nodes.
Kodama is a new platform launching today (6th June) on Kickstarter that allows people to intuitively express their imagination in 3D environments. The first commercial use of the technology, Kodama3DGo, will allow kids – or adults with a taste for imagination – to create in three dimensions by moving the 3DGo controller with their hands.
We sat down with Charles Leclercq, Founder and Director at Kodama, to learn more about where the technology started.
The evolution of music creation has always been rife with controversy and resistance. Take the words of early 20th century classical guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia.
“Electric guitars are an abomination, whoever heard of an electric violin? An electric cello? Or for that matter an electric singer?”
But as Segovia probably knew; breaking barriers and ruffling feathers is the backbone of art and music. As with evolution of technology in any industry, the sea of change pays no respect to protests from the old guard. These days, electric violins, cellos and even singers are commonplace. As for electric guitars? Last year over one million electric guitars were sold in the US.
Electronically displayed information is everywhere; smartphones, laptops, TV, advertising billboards, wearables… the list of devices we use goes on and on. These displays are mostly based on either liquid crystal (LCD) or organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology. These are great technologies, but they are not without limitations. We have all experienced the poor readability of a phone screen in sunlight and short battery life, largely due to the high power consumption of the display. Recent research has also shown that evening use of these light-emitting devices can negatively affect sleep and next-morning alertness.
So how can we design the next generation of displays to address these issues? A promising approach is to develop displays which can reflect natural ambient light or room lights to illuminate the screen, rather than using the powerful backlighting used in LCDs. Deployed in eReader devices, reflective displays provide vastly improved power consumption and outdoor readability. But this current form of reflective display technology cannot render good colour, nor deliver video rate refresh rates – a major limiting factor to wider application.
Dr Vinton Cerf was one of the recipients of the inaugural QEPrize, taking the accolade in 2013 for his part in creating the Internet. He was awarded the prize alongside Dr Robert Kahn, Louis Pouzin, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen, whose work gave rise to the fundamental architecture of the internet, the World Wide Web and the browser. We caught up with Cerf, who is now vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, to find out what his team has been working on since he received the prize.