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Engineering

Amazing feat of engineering as China builds a massive skyscraper in a matter of days

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I knew that the Chinese were hardworking people, but wow! The country’s latest amazing achievement was to erect a massive skyscraper in the city of Changsha in just 19 days. We’re talking about a 57-story skyscraper that was built at the incredible rate of three storeys per day. The tall building sits as a testament of hard word and ingenuity, but it also serves to remind us that pretty much anything can can be resolved more efficiently if we make good use of the appropriate technology.

Specifically, the skyscraper was built beforehand and only assembled on the site. The company behind the project goes by the name of Broad Sustainable Building and it used prefabricated blocks that resemble LEGOs to build the whole structure. This process has been used before for quite some time, but this is definitely a new record when it comes to building a skyscraper this tall in such a short amount of time. What’s more, by using prefabricated materials, the company was able to cut down on resources and save a lot of concrete in the process, 15,000 trucks of concrete to be precise. In addition, the skyscraper caused minimal pollution while it was being erected thanks to the ingenious construction method used.

Air pollution is a great cause of concern for the Chinese people, so the fact that engineers have come up with a way of raising huge buildings without adding even more to the problem is a pretty big achievement indeed. In fact, Broad Sustainable Building claims that the air inside the skyscraper is far more suitable for breathing than the highly polluted air outside. This was achieved by tightly sealing the building and implementing an advanced system of air conditioning. If you’re curious about seeing a 57-story skyscraper being constructed in a mere 19 days, you can watch the whole process in just under four minutes thanks to the time-lapse video below.

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Artificial Intelligence

The Holodeck from Star Trek has been replicated as a virtual training environment for advanced robots of the future

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Many Star Trek enthusiasts have pondered the possibilities of encountering a new species, swiftly teleporting out of an uncomfortable social situation, or zooming through space at warp speed (just be cautious not to exceed warp 10!). Many of the impressive technological advancements portrayed in the franchise are still confined to the realm of fiction. However, certain innovations inspired by Star Trek have indeed materialized in the real world. Thanks to a group of brilliant minds at the University of Pennsylvania, we can now proudly include a holodeck on that remarkable list.

Let me clarify something as we share your disappointment. We’re not referring to a futuristic world where humans can engage with characters in a holographic environment. That kind of technology is still a long way off. A team at Penn Engineering and their collaborators created the Holodeck system, which has the remarkable ability to create a wide variety of 3D environments. All you need to do is inquire.

“Language can be utilized to exert control,” stated Yue Yang, one of the co-creators. You have the ability to effortlessly describe any environments you desire and train the AI agents that inhabit them.

The holodeck system portrayed in Star Trek series such as The Next Generation and Voyager is a highly adaptable virtual environment capable of transforming simple verbal commands into fully simulated worlds. These types of environments, although smaller in scale, have significant applications in training robots.

Developing a virtual world can be quite time-consuming. “Creating these environments requires manual effort, with artists dedicating a significant amount of time to building just one,” Yang explained. To effectively train a robot to navigate real life, it is crucial to expose it to a diverse range of environments for testing purposes. Generative AI, which has gained significant popularity in recent months, appeared to be the obvious solution.

“AI systems such as ChatGPT undergo extensive training on an enormous amount of textual data, while image generators like Midjourney and DALLE are trained using a vast collection of images,” explained Chris Callison-Burch, an Associate Professor specializing in Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Holodeck utilizes a sophisticated language model known as a large language model (LLM). This powerful system, similar to the ones used in chatbots like ChatGPT, engages in a conversation with the user to determine the specific parameters of the desired environment. The system utilizes a vast digital library known as the Objaverse, which contains countless preexisting objects. It can effortlessly choose appropriate furnishings from this collection. Additionally, a layout design module ensures that the spatial arrangement of these objects is logical and coherent within the room.

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Practically speaking, if you inquire about the apartment of a cat owner, Holodeck will make sure that the final room is equipped with all the necessary furniture, including a cat tree.

The team conducted a comparison between Holodeck and a previous tool called ProcTHOR. They created 120 scenes and administered a blinded test to students, asking them to indicate their preferences. Holodeck clearly outperformed its competitor in every aspect. The system demonstrated its versatility by successfully generating a wide range of unique spaces, including science labs and wine cellars.

According to co-creator Assistant Professor Mark Yatskar, the ultimate test of Holodeck is its ability to assist robots in safely navigating unfamiliar environments.

Virtual training typically focuses on residential environments, but there are countless unfamiliar worlds that a robot may encounter and must learn to navigate. Utilizing Holodeck instead of the previous tool had a significant positive impact. For instance, a robot that underwent pre-training on 100 virtual music rooms created by Holodeck demonstrated a 30 percent success rate in locating a piano, compared to just 6 percent after training with ProcTHOR.

This holodeck has the potential to make a significant impact in the field of robotics, although it may not be suitable for running a Dixon Hill holonovel.

The study is scheduled to be presented at the 2024 IEEE/CVF Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference. An unpublished paper that has not undergone peer review can be accessed through arXiv.

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Engineering

Dali forcefully collided with Key Bridge, with a force equivalent to that of 66 heavy trucks traveling at high speeds on a highway

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The cargo ship Dali caused significant damage to the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collided with one of the bridge piers. As a result, three main truss spans, which were constructed using connected steel elements forming triangles, were knocked down. This incident occurred early on Tuesday morning, March 26, 2024.

The bridge collapse occurred with such suddenness that it afforded the work crews on the bridge little opportunity to evacuate. As a civil engineer, I have been closely monitoring this disaster, as it presents an opportunity to explore methods for enhancing the resilience of infrastructure, such as large bridges. For a bridge of this magnitude to fail, a significant impact force would be necessary. By applying the fundamental principles of physics, we can make a rough estimation of the force involved.

The impulse momentum theorem
Calculating the magnitude of the collision force of Dali can be done using the impulse momentum theorem, a fundamental principle in physics.

The theorem is derived from Newton’s second law, which states that force equals mass times acceleration. Adding time to both sides of the equation, the impulse momentum theorem reveals that force multiplied by time is equal to mass multiplied by the change of velocity when the force is applied.

The equation F*∆t = m*∆v represents a fundamental relationship in physics.

When calculating the impulse momentum theory for Dali’s collision, you’ll need to multiply the collision force by the duration of the collision. Then, compare that to Dali’s mass times the difference in velocity between before and after the crash. The mass of Dali, the length of the collision, and the amount of deceleration that occurs after the crash all affect its collision force.

The data regarding Dali’s accident
When fully loaded, Dali weighs a staggering 257,612,358 pounds or 116,851 metric tonnes. The vehicle was moving at a velocity of 10 miles per hour, equivalent to 16.1 kilometers per hour, prior to the impact. Following the collision with the bridge pier, Dali decelerated to 7.8 miles per hour, or 12.6 kilometers per hour.

Another crucial factor to consider is the collision time, which denotes the duration of the ship’s impact with the bridge during the crash, resulting in a sudden deceleration for Dali.

Based on the data from Dali’s voyage data recorder and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police log, it has been determined that the collision time was less than four seconds, although the exact time is still unknown.

When cars collide on a highway, the duration of the collision is typically between half a second and one second. It is logical to estimate the collision force by using the collision time duration, as Dali’s crash bears resemblance to a vehicle crashing on a bridge pier.

The powerful impact of Dali’s collision
By utilizing those estimates and applying the impulse momentum theory, one can gain a solid understanding of the likely magnitude of Dali’s collision force.

The collision force is determined by multiplying the mass of the object by the change in velocity before and after the crash and then dividing that by the duration of the collision. If we assume a collision time of just one second, the resulting collision force amounts to a staggering 26,422,562 pounds.

Calculating the equation, the result is 26,422,562 pounds

As a biophysicist would know, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has provided valuable information regarding the collision force on a highway bridge pier resulting from a truck crash, which is estimated to be around 400,000 pounds.

That being said, the impact of the cargo ship Dali on the Baltimore Key Bridge pier is comparable to the combined force of 66 heavy trucks traveling at a speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km per hour) and colliding with the bridge pier simultaneously. This level of magnitude exceeds the force that the pier is capable of withstanding.

Creating a bridge that can withstand such a high level of collision force would be technically feasible, but it would significantly raise the cost of the project. Engineers are exploring various methods to decrease the impact on the piers, such as implementing protective barriers that can absorb and dissipate energy. Implementing these types of solutions has the potential to avert future disasters.Engaging in a dialogue
Amanda Bao is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management, and Safety at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Check out the original article.

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Engineering

A drone is able to travel through the skies at speeds close to the speed of sound, namely at Mach 0.9

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A test flight of a new drone has taken off at speeds close to supersonic, going through the sky at Mach 0.9, which is 1,111 kilometers per hour (690 miles per hour).

But this is only the start of things. Venus Aerospace, the company that made the drone, hopes to get it to go nine times the speed of sound, or Mach 9.

The missile-shaped 2.4-meter (8-foot) drone was taken to a height of 3,657 meters (12,000 feet) on February 24 by an airplane. When the drone was let go, its hydrogen peroxide monopropellant engine was set to 80% power so that it wouldn’t go faster than Mach 1. It then flew for 16 kilometers (10 miles).

“Using a platform launched from the air and a rocket with wings lets us quickly and cheaply do the bare minimum test of our RDRE as a hypersonic engine.” Andrew Duggleby, CTO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace, said in a statement, “The team did a great job and now has a lot of data to use and tweak for the next flight.”

The new aerospace business, Venus Aerospace, is based in Houston, Texas. Its goal is to pave the way for hypersonic flight (speeds of Mach 5 and above).

In their most recent test flight, they did some testing for their Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine (RDRE). This engine is being made in collaboration with DARPA, the US State Department’s research agency that works on a lot of strange and cool technologies.

“Next is RDRE flight, and then hypersonic flight, which proves that the RDRE is the key to the hypersonic economy,” the company’s CEO and co-founder, Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, said.

They want to make a car that can go to Mach 9, which is about 11,000 kilometers per hour (6,835 miles per hour).

This is way too fast of a speed. The NASA/USAF X-15 is still the fastest plane that a person has ever flown. In 1967, pilot Pete Knight took this jet to a crazy high speed of Mach 6.7, which is about 4,520 miles per hour or 7,274 kilometers per hour.

Concorde was a business supersonic plane that flew people for money until 2003. Its top speed was Mach 2, which is about 2,179 kilometers per hour (1,354 miles per hour).

Even worse, Venus Aerospace wants to let people fly on these Mach 9 trips. Venus Aerospace thinks it’s making good progress toward its pipe dream, even though there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Sarah Duggleby said, “One bite at a time is how you do hard things.”

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