Why Italian earthquakes could pile up in a ‘domino effect’

November 1, 2016 by  
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Three earthquakes measuring over 6 on the Richter scale have hit Italy in the span of a little over two months, killing 297 people in the 6.2 August quake. On October 30, another destructive 6.6 earthquake battered central Italy, devastating the historic Basilica of St. Benedict. Now a seismologist from an Italian national institution said there could be more quakes in a process akin to a ‘domino effect.’ Seismologist Gianluca Valensise of the National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology in Italy told Reuters, “An earthquake measuring 6 or larger creates stresses that are redistributed across adjacent faults and can cause them to rupture, and this is probably what we have seen since August. This process can continue indefinitely, with one big quake weakening a sister fault in a domino process that can cover hundreds of kilometers, in principle.” Related: Dozens killed by powerful earthquake in picturesque rural region of central Italy Italy has seen processes similar to the domino effect before. In 1783, Southern Italy experienced five earthquakes that measured 6.5 or higher in under two months. In 1997, two earthquakes struck central Italy over two days and about 20 days after still another hit, with small ones scattered in between. Valensise said the 2016 earthquake sequence thus far is “on a larger scale” than in 1997. On August 24, a 6.2 earthquake rattled central Italy. This past week the region saw a 6.1 earthquake on Wednesday, and a 6.6 earthquake on Sunday. Valensise said the August earthquake is connected to the others through a “geodynamic link.” He can’t predict whether or not there will be more large quakes in central Italy this year, but said there will certainly be aftershocks for “at least a few weeks.” But since fault lines to the southeast and northwest of the beleaguered central region have been hit lately, according to Valensise, “if the process of stress redistribution finds other faults close to rupture level they could go off in the next days or weeks.” Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons and US Army Africa on Flickr

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Uber confirms rumors they are testing a self-driving car

May 19, 2016 by  
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For the past year, rumors have been swirling that Uber is getting into the game of self-driving cars . The company opened the Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, where journalists spotted a vehicle that looked suspiciously like a driverless one marked with the Uber logo. This week, the company officially announced in a press release they are testing a self-driving car on the streets of Pittsburgh . The car is a hybrid Ford Fusion, and while it has “self-driving capabilities,” a driver will be present to take over if needed. Along with testing its autonomous function, the car will collect data for maps . According to Uber, the vehicle has been equipped with “a variety of sensors including radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras to map details of the environment.” Related: The self-driving car didn’t start with Google, or Tesla Uber allowed Pittsburgh Tribune-Review journalist Aaron Aupperlee to take a ride. He said , “The car’s sensors detected parked cars sticking out into traffic, jaywalkers, bicyclists, and a goose crossing River Avenue.” The transportation networking giant claims they still have a long way to go, but that they’ve received support from Pittsburgh city leaders including the mayor, who expressed excitement that Uber is pursuing innovative technology in his city. Uber said the city environment in Pittsburgh is the perfect place to test out their self-driving car, since it has to face challenges such as snow, hills, and narrow roads . While many have focused on the developments coming out of leaders like Google and Tesla in the self-driving car sphere, The Verge reports many experts are actually following Uber’s progress as they stand to benefit more as a company from autonomous technology. In their press release heralding the Pittsburgh test car, Uber said self-driving vehicles could save millions of lives, claiming, “1.3 million people die every year in car accidents – 94 percent of those accidents involve human error.” Via The Verge Images via Uber and Wikimedia Commons

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Google patents sticky "fly paper" car hood to protect pedestrians in self-driving car crashes

May 19, 2016 by  
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Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Google . Imagine the amazing ping pong games and impromptu office jam sessions you would witness. Chances are you would also catch a whiff of Google’s latest innovations , some in their primordial brainstorming phase. One such idea took one step further into reality when Google was awarded a patent for a strong adhesive automobile hood, designed to catch pedestrians that have been hit by cars before they reach the ground and are potentially run over. Is Google preparing to launch some sticky self driving cars ? The adhesive hood patent was filed in 2014 and awarded to Google earlier this week, though the company has no immediate plans to bring it to life. In the patent, Google frames its idea as a potential safeguard for self-driving cars as the technology is developed. “While such systems are being developed,” reads the patent, “it must be acknowledged that, on occasion, collisions between a vehicle and a pedestrian still occur Such safety mechanisms may become unnecessary as accident-avoidance technology is being further developed, but at present it is desirable to provide vehicles with pedestrian safety mechanisms.” Related: Google’s driverless car causes an accident for the first time To avoid endlessly trapping small objects like actual insects and debris, Google’s automotive “fly paper” would be covered with an “eggshell” layer that breaks upon impact. As crazy it sounds, the idea may have some scientific merit. “Getting hit by a car once is much preferable to getting hit by a car and then the ground and then another car,” says Rebecca Thompson, head of public outreach for the American Physical Society. “Cyclists wear helmets not as much to prevent their head’s impact with the car as much as their head’s impact with the ground when they fall.” There are some drawbacks for the design, such as the potential for trapping a victim in a dangerous position on the hood. However, Thompson believes that such a design could decrease the number of hit-and-run incidents. After all, it’s hard to flee when a human fly is stuck to your vehicle. Via Gizmodo Images via Becky Stern/Flickr and Travis Wise/Flickr  

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Google patents sticky "fly paper" car hood to protect pedestrians in self-driving car crashes

Groundbreaking affordable, paper-thin filter removes viruses from water

May 19, 2016 by  
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Though over 748 million people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water , water filters aren’t as widely used as they could be due to prohibitive costs. Many rely on chemical methods of cleaning water instead, which only inactivate microorganisms rather than getting rid of them. Yet Uppsala University researchers developed a paper-thin water filter called the mille-feuille filter that not only cleans water, but rids it of harmful viruses , all at an affordable price. Uppsala University designed a filter that comes as a paper sheet using cellulose nanofibers, which allows it to perform the potentially life-saving application of cleaning water of viruses. Cellulose is used in vacuum cleaners and tea bags, among several other common uses, yet typical cellulose can’t filter out viruses. This development is especially groundbreaking because most water filters can’t filter out viruses either; the pores in such filters are too large. Some viruses even resist chemical methods. Related: Researchers create nanoparticles that scrub polluted water at an accelerated rate The mille-feuille filter, named for its internal resemblance to the French pastry of the same name, is not only effective but affordable as well. Uppsala University Professor of Nanotechnology Albert Mihranyan said , “With a filter material directly from nature, and by using simple production methods, we believe that our filter paper can become the affordable global water filtration solution and help save lives. Our goal is to develop a filter paper that can remove even the toughest viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee.” Water-borne infections threaten not only those in developing countries who often don’t have adequate sanitation, but developed countries as well. One example is the Swedish town of Lilla Edet, where residents were infected with norovirus due to unsanitary municipal water in 2008. The mille-feuille filter could improve lives in every country worldwide. Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons and YouTube screenshot

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Google’s self-driving car could rival Uber and Lyft

December 23, 2015 by  
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Google is reportedly working on a plan to expand its self-driving car fleet, which will involve turning its self-driving car division into a dedicated company. The standalone company would commercialize the project and give Google a driverless rival to ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft. Read the rest of Google’s self-driving car could rival Uber and Lyft

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Google and Ford will join forces to make self-driving cars, report says

December 22, 2015 by  
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It’s not news that a number of different companies have been working to develop self-driving cars . Tesla and Google are clear front runners in the race, but some big car makers are looking to get in on the action as well. Nissan, Toyota, and Ford have all dipped their toes into the autonomous vehicle technology pool. With so many companies chasing their own dreams of cars that need no driver, one wonders how anyone will be able to translate technological advances into an actual product that people can buy and drive, err, ride in. Reportedly, Google and Ford are teaming up to do just that, pooling their knowledge and resources to create a new company specifically focused on self-driving cars. Read the rest of Google and Ford will join forces to make self-driving cars, report says

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2017 Volvo S90 gets us one step closer to fully autonomous cars

December 21, 2015 by  
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Over the past few years, Volvo has continued to test its autonomous driving technology as part of its goal to prevent anyone from being killed or injured in a Volvo by the year 2020. Volvo is now one step closer to that reality with the introduction of the all-new 2017 S90 sedan, which is Volvo’s first production model to offer semi-autonomous technology. Read the rest of 2017 Volvo S90 gets us one step closer to fully autonomous cars

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Tesla to design fully driverless cars

December 2, 2015 by  
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After Tesla rolled out Autopilot features to its Model S cars in October, drivers immediately started exploiting the newfound capabilities and using them in ways the electric car company’s CEO warned against. Still, that hasn’t scared Tesla away from the quest for a fully autonomous car. The big boss man Elon Musk took to Twitter recently and put out a call for software pros who might like to join the Tesla Autopilot team. Read the rest of Tesla to design fully driverless cars

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Nissan’s IDS concept previews the future of autonomous driving

October 29, 2015 by  
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After leading the development and expansion of EV technology, Nissan once again stands at the forefront of automotive technology. By integrating advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI), Nissan is among the leaders developing practical, real-world applications of autonomous drive technology. Nissan has already announced its goal of having its self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020, but what form will these new autonomous vehicles take? Without the need for traditional steering wheels and other vehicle components, designers will have much more freedom when it comes to how a car’s interior will look. Nissan has revealed it’s vision of the future of autonomous driving with the new IDS concept at the Tokyo Motor Show . Read the rest of Nissan’s IDS concept previews the future of autonomous driving

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Palau just created a marine reserve larger than Texas and Alaska combined

October 29, 2015 by  
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The Pacific island nation of Palau, just east of Indonesia and the Philippines, announced its plan to designate 193,000 square miles of nearby ocean territory to be a fully protected marine reserve. The news comes at a pivotal time of concern for Earth’s oceans and joins numerous other landmark preservation efforts just this year. In fact, there has been more square footage of ocean territory protected in 2015 than any other year – totaling over one million square feet. It seems we’re finally catching up with amending, or at least slowing, the damage we are causing. Read the rest of Palau just created a marine reserve larger than Texas and Alaska combined

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