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Top 10 must-read posts from August

Tue, 09/03/2013 - 11:17am
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

Here’s a rundown of the most read, most popular, most awesome articles on the web. Take a look at what you missed the first time around or check up on an old favorite to see the conversation in the comments. Keep checking out the Lead at www.ecnmag.com and follow us on Twitter @ecnonline for our most up-to-date articles.

Engineers killed Detroit
By M. Simon, Technical Contributor
There are a few theories as to what “killed” Detroit. Was it the high labor rates? Corrupt government? Fleeing companies? M. Simon’s favorite theory is that engineers killed Detroit by manufacturing cars that will last for 200,000 miles instead of 100,000 miles that their predecessors offered. Because the demand for cars is decreasing—if your car lasts for double the time, you won’t be buying as many in a lifetime—so is the need for labor. Automation will be the downfall of American manufacturing.

This is what a 550-ton hovercraft landing on a Russian beach looks like
By Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor
Technically the beach is a military zone and, technically, it's not a beach that people should be swimming from or sunbathing on, but that is one scary-looking piece of military equipment. According to a Russian defense ministry spokesperson, it's actually a government-owned beach and the landing was part of some military practice maneuvers. The hovercraft is a Zubr (Bison) and it's also used by the Hellenic Navy of Greece, Ukrainian Navy, and People's Liberation Army Navy of China. It's capable of carrying tanks and up to 400 troops as well as its share of sophisticated weaponry. It's said to be the largest hovercraft in the world at 187 feet long, with a beam of 84 feet, and a draught of 5.2 feet.

The 1950s guide to using a rotary dial phone
By Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor
This video explains how to use a rotary phone to make a call. While it’s somewhat funny to watch now, it’s also a little funny to think about the fact that in a short time, kids will watch this video and might not understand why it’s so funny. It will just be another old-people technology. It’s an interesting overarching reflection on the idea of what happens to obsolete technology once the main generation or generations that used it the most have passed on.

Most failure-prone part in a car
By Isidor Buchmann, CEO & founder of Cadex Electronics Inc.
You might not have guessed it, but the most failure-prone part in a car is the starter battery, and they’re only getting worse. Battery problems have quadrupled between 1996 and 2013, according to Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club. Only a few batteries reach the “average” age of five. According to Japan manufacturers, battery breakdown is the largest complaint amongst new car owners. Most of the failures are due to low charge causes sulfation and acid stratification.

Try clapping your wet hands; a physics lesson from Virginia Tech engineers
By Eurekalert!
Ever wondered why clapping wet hands results in the water splashing around as it breaks into smaller pieces? Sunny Jung, an assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics, did. Technically, Jungs newest paper is a discussion of the reactionary properties of thin films of liquid when compressed between two vertical objects. Jung discovered the up and down crown splash due to surface tension that causes instability in the water.

I am among the most and least trusted professions in America
By M. Simon, Technical Contributor
Because M. Simon considers himself both an engineer and a journalist, he is among the most and least trusted professions in the country, at least according to a recent study. As an added curveball, Simon is also former military. The study has Military as the most trusted profession in America, a little ways down the list is engineer, and further still – near the bottom – is journalist.

North Korean “indigenous” smartphone manufactured at unicorn factory by Keebler Elves
By Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor
North Korea has been “showcasing” their new “smartphone” called Arirang. It debuted to much skepticism from a world more used to news about famine in the country than the latest gadgets. The problem is that none of the highly publicized photos actually show any manufacturing, just workings inspecting finished products. The Arirang does exist. The question is whether it was manufactured in North Korea or in China.

Senator Feinstein: Unpaid bloggers don’t count as "journalists"
By Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor
Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California, has proposed that shield laws only protect journalists who fit within a specific definition. In this case, the key is that the journalist draws a salary from a company. The legal protections afforded by a shield law are that a journalist can’t be threatened or punished for refusing to give up sources. The original proposed bill states that authorities can’t compel journalists to give up sources unless it’s vital to a criminal investigation and there is no other solution. Feinstein’s amendment qualifies who counts as a “journalist.”

Ban open-source blueprints for guns, save the world
By Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor
In our second discussion about 3D printed guns, we took a look at the issue of open-source blueprints and their widespread availability, but debatable legality online. This was triggered by a video posted online displaying a gun completely 3D printed, that was about to fire 14 continuous. The key here will be getting ahead of the technology when it comes to regulations. Eliminate online blueprints for these machines. Yes, legally, you can make your own gun, which is a debatable law in the first place. But you can’t distribute them. So, nip that in the bud, and make the blueprints illegal. Eventually, these guns will evolve to the point where they are viable alternatives to actual firearms and if the legislation already exists, we might have a fighting chance.

Engineering Update #21: Boeing's laser weaponry and Samsung's secret smartwatch
By ECN Editors
In the 21st episode of Engineering Update, Associate Editor Melissa Barnes talks about an ambient backscatter for the Internet of Things, Boeing’s laser weapon system and Samsungs Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. (We’ve also included some bloopers from the video.)

 

 

 

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