The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'engineering'
A few interesting engineering-related developments in the news today:
- There is a proposal to provide most or all of Europe's energy needs with solar collector farms in the Sahara, slashing the continent's carbon emissions dramatically.
- England's parliament has approved the Crossrail rail scheme; from 2017—in nine short years—London will have a fast east-west underground rail link, sort of like Paris's RER, going from Paddington, under Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon, and hitting Stratford and Canary Wharf.
The much vaunted Russia-Alaska railway tunnel under the Bering Strait is on the agenda again, with Vladimir Putin set to discuss the idea with George W. Bush, and Roman Abramovich (who, when he's not in England, is the governor of the Russian far eastern province of Chukotka) having, coincidentally, invested £80m in the world's largest drill.
Two Oxford University sociologists look at the question of why graduates in science, engineering and medicine are overrepresented in terrorist and extremist groups:
However, contrary to popular speculation, it's not technical skills that make engineers attractive recruits to radical groups. Rather, the authors pose the hypothesis that "engineers have a 'mindset' that makes them a particularly good match for Islamism," which becomes explosive when fused by the repression and vigorous radicalization triggered by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries.
Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, they pointed out that a disproportionate share of engineers seem to have a mindset that makes them open to the quintessential right-wing features of "monism" (why argue where there is one best solution) and by "simplism" (if only people were rational, remedies would be simple).
The Russians are once again talking about building a tunnel under the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska. Apparently the US and Canada are on board, and the project is expected $65 billion, with the tunnel itself costing $10 to $12 billion; much of the rest will be spent on providing a rail link across inhospitable terrain to the heretofore unconnected northeastern frontier of Russia.
A 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile) transport corridor from Siberia into the U.S. will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S.
The planned undersea tunnel would contain a high-speed railway, highway and pipelines, as well as power and fiber-optic cables, according to TKM-World Link. Investors in the so-called public-private partnership include OAO Russian Railways, national utility OAO Unified Energy System and pipeline operator OAO Transneft, according to a press release which was handed out at the media briefing and bore the companies' logos.
Russian Railways is working on the rail route from Pravaya Lena, south of Yakutsk in the Sakha republic, to Uelen on the Bering Strait, a 3,500 kilometer stretch. The link could carry commodities from eastern Siberia and Sakha to North American export markets, said Artur Alexeyev, Sakha's vice president.I hope they run passenger trains through the tunnel when it's built. Being able to travel by train from, say, London to New York, taking the long way around, would be interesting.
The Spanish and Moroccan governments are talking about building a high-speed rail tunnel under the Strait of Gibraltar, linking Europe and Africa. If it happens (and that is a big if; the entire endeavour would cost about US$13 billion and cost 20 years to construct), it would make it possible to travel from one continent to another by rail.
How far down through Africa railways could extend is another matter; I imagine a London-Johannesburg rail link would be pushing it.
As part of an ambitious plan to divert all cross-country freight onto the railways, the Swiss are digging a railway tunnel under the Alps. The tunnel, which (at 57 kilometres) will be the world's longest, will form part of a new, faster railway link between Zurich and Milan, and make crossing the Alps quicker and easier than it has ever been:
A key feature of the project, which is new to alpine transport, is the fact that the entire railway line will stay at the same altitude of 500 metres (1,650ft) above sea level.
This will allow trains using the line to reach speeds of 240km/h (149mph), reducing the travel time between Zurich and Milan from today's four hours to just two-and-a-half. That would make the journey faster than flying.
Whilst initially intended for freight, the service is expected to carry passenger trains; an underground railway station has been established one kilometer beneath the village of Sedrun, for use in the construction project, and there are plans to turn it into a passenger station, to be known as "Porta Alpina", or "gateway to the Alps":
Tourists will be able to arrive by train in the Alps in record time, and then be whisked up to fresh mountain air by way of the world's longest elevator.On one hand, travelling to the Alps by high-speed train, ascending in a lift and emerging in a tiny Alpine village does sound cool. On the other hand, I had the good fortune to travel from Zurich to Milan by the slow way—the train winding around the sides of silvery lakes, crossing bridges over valleys and corkscrewing its way up the Alps on the German-speaking part, going through a (relatively) short tunnel at St. Gotthard's Pass, and then coming back down on the Italian-speaking part, with its entirely different architecture and vegetation, and that was (as you can undoubtedly imagine) a magnificently scenic journey. A tunnel just wouldn't be the same.