Thursday, 31 March 2011

The MINI E UK Field Trial Ends

The MINI E UK Field Trial which has been researching and analysing the use of fully electric MINIs on UK roads since December 2009 has come to an end today. The 40 'pioneers', who are the second set of participants in the trial handed back their MINI Es at an event at MINI Plant Oxford

These 40 'pioneers' are part of MINI E UK Research Consortium, one of eight UK projects supported by the Technology Strategy Board and Department for Transport's £25m Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator Programme aimed at accelerating the introduction of viable electric passenger vehicles to the UK.

During the UK trial the MINI E was tested on British roads by a mixture of 80 private, corporate and public sector drivers - all of whom gave valuable feedback to the project consortium and UK Government. Between them they covered over a quarter of a million miles throughout the duration of the trial. These findings will ultimately be used in the engineering and infrastructure support of mass-produced electric vehicles and establish the social and economic issues and aspects of running an electric car.

The 40 MINI Es will remain in the UK and will be used in a small number of commercial partnerships, they will also be used at consumer and corporate events as well as in partnerships with government and industry stakeholders.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Seaward's new adaptor extends the range of electrical safety tests that can be carried out on 3-phase equipment

In many cases 3-phase industrial equipment is fitted with electronic control circuitry which makes insulation testing inappropriate. In such cases the insulation should be assessed by measurement of the protective conductor current.

Seaward has introduced a specialist new adaptor to extend the range of electrical safety tests that can be carried out on 3-phase equipment. The new Seaward TPA test adaptor makes this possible and allows specialist factory, industrial and workshop equipment to be included as part of in-service inspection and testing protocols as required by the IEE Code of Practice.

The specially designed new Seaward TPA unit is available with 16A or IEC 60309/ BS4343 compatible plugs and sockets allowing it to be connected in-line with the 3-phase supply to measure the current flowing in the protective conductor.

The TPA has been developed for use with the new Seaward PrimeTest 250 PAT and extends range of measurements that can be performed on 3-phase equipment using a lightweight and highly portable handheld tester.

The test adaptor is connected to the PrimeTest 250 allowing quick and easy measurement of the earth continuity without removing covers or disconnecting wires to gain access to the protective conductor in the in-coming supply. When the 3-phase appliance is operating, the protective conductor current measured by the test adaptor is shown on the PrimeTest 250 display.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Can cosmic rays shoot down aeroplanes?

At cruising altitude, planes get a heavier bombardment from cosmic rays than we do at ground level. So you need to be very sure that any critical electronics controlling the plane can cope.
The same applies to a lesser degree even at ground level, especially as electronic systems get smaller and faster.

Electronic devices rely on semiconductors. In metals, electrons are free to move around between atoms. In insulators they are tightly bound to the atoms and can't move. But in semiconductors they are almost free. All they need is a little nudge and they can carry an electrical current, and this is why we can use them to build complex devices by arranging exactly how and when any current will flow.
Unfortunately they can get a nudge from a passing cosmic ray too. This can turn a one to a zero in a computer's memory. Not too bad if it just means your mp3 player skips a beat, but terrible if the autopilot goes haywire.

A very good way to test electronics, and make sure this won't happen, is to put your prototype electronics in a beam of neutrons, which you can do at the ISIS spallation source in Oxfordshire. The neutrons fake the most dangerous cosmic rays.

ISIS suffered some severe cuts in that spending review, and was going to have to run below capacity. So I was very glad to see that a couple of days ago David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, announced a new £11 million investment in a project called "Chipir" on ISIS which will test the safety of electronic systems found in aircraft and cars.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Solar panels to be included in recast WEEE Directive

Amidst uncertainty over whether the UK has met its battery recycling targets, the EU Environment Council has agreed tougher targets for WEEE recycling and producer responsibility, extending it to include solar panels.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman and energy secretary Chris Huhne attended yesterday's meeting in Brussels at which a staged approach to the targets was agreed.
These would require European member states to collect 45% of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from four years after the legislation comes into effect, rising to 65% four years further on.

The recasting of the WEEE Directive is also intended to reduce illegal exports of such waste from the European Union.

This recast approach relates to electronic equipment actually sold, well as targets that have been backed by the European Parliament last month for 85% of all WEEE to be collected. There is therefore a difference of opinion between the European Environment Council and the European Parliament.
The scope of the WEEE Directive has also been broadened. It currently includes TEN specific categories of equipment which are split into 13 categories in the UK.

The Council extended the scope of the law to cover "in principle all electric and electronic equipment six years from the entry into force of the recast. Photovoltaic panels will be included and will have to be separately collected," said a statement.

Officials from the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills have previously argued against opening the scope in this manner.

BIS senior policy advisor Graeme Vickery said last month: “Some member states want an open scope but there are others – the UK included – saying we first need to look at what the benefits of that might be and should stick with the existing scope but give greater clarity on what the scope is.”

The Council is proposing to increase the recovery and reuse requirements by up to 5% for electrical equipment as well, which would take effect three years from the entry into force of the recast Directive.
Last year, the UK reached a 38.4% collection rate, so the 45% target is well within reach. The 85% target would be challenging. Already now, EU countries must annually collect at least 4kg of electric and electronic waste per inhabitant.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The high-tech hairnet that can spot Alzheimer's

A revolutionary ‘hairnet’ that tracks brain waves could speed up the detection of Alzheimer’s.

The device is made up of sensors. As the sensors come into contact with the skull, they are able to pick up patterns of electrical activity linked with the onset of the brain-wasting disease.

Called the Cognition System, the  high-tech hairnet is undergoing trials in the U.S. If these prove successful, the device could be tested in the UK as part of worldwide trials.

The technology could mean drugs that slow disease progression could be given to patients much sooner, keeping them in good health for longer.
At the moment, there is no simple way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Doctors often rely on a memory assessment, or relatives’ descriptions of behavioural changes, such as anxiety, irritability or repetitive behaviour.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Mobile phones could run for months between charges

A team of electrical engineers at Illinois University in the US believe their method will enable mobiles and laptops to run for up to 100 times longer between charges.
It focuses on changing the way a device's digital memory works, as this consumes much of the charge.
At the moment mobile phone memories contain thin metal wires. Every time information is accessed, electricity is passed through them to retrieve the data.
The electrical engineers thought that if the size of the components used to store and retrieve the information could be reduced, so could the amount of electricity.
They have discovered a way of using carbon nanotubes - tiny tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair - instead.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Thousands of charging points to be installed across UK over next two years, Government to say

The scheme is part of a new Carbon Plan, launched today by deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy secretary Chris Huhne, which sets deadlines to help turn Britain into a greener economy.
The Government’s plan says it wants to have developed a “nationwide strategy to promote the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure” by June this year.
The 83 page plan commits the Government to overseeing “up to 8,500 charging points installed across the UK by 2013”, costing up to £30million,
It says: “If we are to see large-scale take-up of electric vehicles as a major form of road transport, developing charging infrastructure will be vital”.
The money will pay for charging points in “streets, homes and sites such as car parks and commercial retail and leisure facilities”, the plan says.
The commitment comes despite recent concern about that not enough demand to support more charging points.

The wide-ranging Carbon Plan also commits the Government to setting up a new Green Investment Bank by September next year.

Whitehall will also be mandated to cut central Government emissions by 10 per cent by May next year, to set an example on fuel efficiency.

Homes will be encouraged to let their power suppliers install new energy saving products, such as insulation, and then pay for them over 10 to 15 years through their power bills.

In a joint foreword to the report, Mr Clegg and Chris Huhne, the Climate Change secretary, said the plan shows how the UK will “play our part in the global effort to tackle climate change, and build a green economy”.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

New Camera Makes Seeing the “Invisible” Possible

The science similar to the type used in airport body scanners could soon be used to detect everything from defects in aerospace vehicles or concrete bridges to skin cancer, thanks to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The research team, led by Dr. Reza Zoughi, the Schlumberger Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Missouri S&T, has developed a patented handheld camera that uses millimeter and microwave signals to non-intrusively peek inside materials and structures in real time. His contributions to this field, in part, have earned him the 2011 Joseph F. Keithley Award in Instrumentation and Measurement from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
“In the not-so-distant future, the technology may be customized to address many critical inspection needs, including detecting defects in thermal insulating materials that are found in spacecraft heat insulating foam and tiles, space habitat structures, aircraft radomes and composite-strengthened concrete bridge members,” Zoughi says.
The technology could help medical professionals detect and monitor a variety of skin conditions in humans, including cancer and burns. It also has the potential to help Homeland Security personnel detect concealed contraband (such as weapons) or reduce the number of passenger pat downs at airports. Even homeowners could see a direct benefit from the technology as it potentially could be used to detect termite damage.
How it works
The compact system can produce synthetically focused images of objects – at different planes in front of the camera – at speeds of up to 30 images per second. A laptop computer then collects the signal and displays the image in real-time for review. The entire system, powered by a battery similar to the size used in laptops, can run for several hours.
“Unlike X-rays, microwaves are non-ionizing and may only cause some heating effect,” Zoughi says. “However, the high sensitivity and other characteristics of this camera enables it to operate at a low-power level.”
The idea for developing a real-time, portable camera came to Zoughi in 1998 while he was on sabbatical in France. In 2007, Zoughi's research group completed the first prototype and has spent the past three years decreasing its size, while improving its overall efficiency.
Currently the camera operates in the transmission mode, meaning objects must pass between a transmitting source and its collector to be reviewed. The team is working on designing and developing a one-sided version of it, which will make it operate in a similar fashion to a video camera.
“Further down the road, we plan to develop a wide-band camera capable of producing real-time 3-D or holographic images,” Zoughi adds.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Fire chief says health and safety law 'prevents rescue'

The head of Scotland's largest fire brigade has claimed health and safety law is preventing firefighters from saving lives.

Strathclyde's fire chief Brian Sweeney also said it was time for a change in the law to protect his staff from prosecution when rescues went wrong.

His comments follow a fatal accident inquiry into the death of a woman whose rescue was delayed for safety reasons.

Alison Hume died after being trapped in a mine shaft for six hours.

link -

Monday, 21 March 2011

Japan nuclear watchdog: unaware of inspection lapses at plant

Japan's nuclear safety watchdog is unaware of any safety-inspection lapses at the country's quake-stricken nuclear power complex, a senior official said on Monday.

Hideohiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, had been asked to comment on a media report that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power had falsified inspection records of some electrical equipment before the March 11 quake and tsunami wrecked the complex.

US firm strikes £3.5bn E.ON deal

American utility firm PPL has snapped up its second major UK electricity network after striking a deal worth £3.5 billion with Germany's E.ON.
The acquisition of the Central Networks business adds an electrical supply system serving five million customers in the Midlands, including Birmingham and Nottingham, through about 83,000 miles of overhead and underground cables.
Pennsylvania-based PPL already owns Western Power Distribution, which provides regulated distribution through 52,000 miles of power lines to 2.6 million customers in South-West England and South Wales.
With the acquisition of Central Networks, PPL will own and operate what it says will be the largest network of electricity delivery companies in the UK in terms of regulated asset value - a combined £4.9 billion.
The deal, which is expected to complete next month, forms part of E.ON's plan to sell 15 billion euro (£12.7 billion) of assets by the end of 2013 as it looks to cut debt and expand in regions such as Latin America.

Three brigade bosses to be charged with manslaughter

Three fire service managers have been charged with manslaughter over the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse blaze.
The deaths of the men, all part-time, were believed to have been the single worst loss of life for the fire service in 35 years.
Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward will face charges of manslaughter by gross negligence in court on April 1 over the deaths four years ago


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Copper thefts rise to an all-time high

Police warn that an epidemic of stolen cables is the biggest threat to Britain's security after terrorism

An epidemic of copper thefts across the UK has grown so serious that police are warning of the threat it poses to Britain's infrastructure. Emergency services and online business security are being undermined, with railway lines and telephone networks routinely disabled by thefts.
Police recorded the highest level of copper thefts in January and warned that almost any metal is at risk of being stolen for scrap, from cabling at telephone exchanges and electricity substations, to church roofs and even manhole covers.
Chief Superintendent Eamonn Carroll of British Transport Police (BTP) said: "Cable theft is the next biggest priority after the terrorist threat. The disruption and the problems it can cause are immense."
Experts confirmed the cost to the UK has more than doubled to £770m in the past 12 months.
BTP is now pushing for new legislation to stop stolen copper from being sold at scrapyards for cash. More than 325 cable snatches have already been recorded this year. Last year's total of 2,770 showed an increase of 65 per cent over 2009's total of 1,674. Organised gangs risk death by using power tools to cut through live train signalling, electricity and data cables – in some cases using quad bikes to tow up to 200m of copper at a time.

Dyan Crowther of Network Rail first spotted an escalation in cable thefts in Yorkshire and the North-east in 2006. She said: "They cut either end, and rip it out, some using quad bikes, but we've known some thieves who take it away in a wheelbarrow. It can be that basic. It's also dangerous for the thieves, They can be hit by trains or be electrocuted." After a theft, signals turn red and trains have to be directed with hand signals, causing major service disruptions.

Several people were recently arrested in Saltash in Cornwall, Newcastle and the Midlands, and a man in the North-east was treated for burns after he tried to hack through a cable. In Nottingham, two copper thieves were jailed for three years earlier this month.

Police launched a manhunt last month for people who caused chaos on the Forth Bridge in Scotland as they tried to steal copper. And trains were severely disrupted last year after a 650v live signalling cable was severed at Inverkeithing in Fife. BTP said thieves have been stealing copper cable from railway lines in South Wales almost every night.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Smart grid research centre powers ahead in Cumbernauld

A multi-million pound research centre which aims to speed up the adoption of new, 'smart' energy technologies is to be opened in Cumbernauld.

The £12.5m Power Network Demonstration Centre will be the first of its kind in Europe.
It is being created by Strathclyde University and a number of leading energy companies.
The centre aims to play a key role in increasing the UK electricity grid's efficiency and reliability.
It will also test the next generation of smart electrical technologies.

Its work will support the integration of new renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and smart household appliances with the grid, which in turn should lower costs and emissions.
About 25 staff will be based at the centre which will include advanced control, monitoring and communications systems.

Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy are also involved in developing the centre with support from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council.
It is expected to open at the end of 2011.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Fukushima nuclear plant owner falsified inspection records

THE Japanese owner of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant falsified safety data and "dishonestly" tried to cover up problems there.

Tokyo Electric Power Co injected air into the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor No 1 to artificially “lower the leak rate”. When caught, the company expressed its “sincere apologies for conducting dishonest practices”.

The misconduct came to light in 2002 after whistleblowers working for General Electric, which designed the reactor, complained to the Japanese government. Another GE employee later confessed that he had falsified records of inspections of reactor No1 in 1989 - at the request of TEPCO officials. He also admitted to falsifying other inspection reports, also on request of the client. After that incident TEPCO was forced to shut down 17 reactors, albeit temporarily.

Mr Bridenbaugh told ABC News: “The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant.”

In a document entitled Lessons Learned from the TEPCO Nuclear Power Scandal, released by the company and seen by The Times, TEPCO blamed its “misconduct” in 2002 on its “engineers' overconfidence of their nuclear knowledge”. Their “conservative mentality” had led them to fail to report problems, the company said, resulting in an “inadequate safety culture”.

In 2007, TEPCO ran into trouble again after misinforming government officials about breakdowns at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which had been damaged after a magnitude 6.8 quake. In a cable released by WikiLeaks, a US official said: “TEPCO issued a corrected statement on July 18 in which it admitted it miscalculated the amount of radiation leakage.”

Bankside electricity substation handed over to Tate Modern

UK Power Networks has handed over half of its former electricity substation at Bankside to Tate Modern to allow the expansion of the gallery.

the culmination of a six-year £60 million substation refurbishment in the building alongside the modern art gallery's Turbine Hall.
New electrical equipment has been installed inside the refurbished substation and has been connected to London's existing electricity distribution network.

Modernising the substation has released more than 1,000 square metres of space for the expansion of Tate Modern on the southern side of the building. The rebuilt substation has halved in size, enabling the art gallery to grow.

As an additional benefit, heat emitted by the six electricity transformers in the new substation will be captured and used for heating and hot water in the new building. At full capacity, the system will have the potential to provide about 600kW of heat.

the sub station has an innovative waste heat recovery system in our new substation will eventually be turning heat from our electricity transformers into hot water and heat for the gallery. It will demonstrate energy efficiency on a grand scale

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Smoke alarms in rented homes may become law

AN MP is pushing for a new law which would lead to all rented homes being equipped with smoke alarms, following a tragic fire in Derbyshire.
Adrian Sanders said he was "shocked and appalled" by the blaze in Hulland Ward last month, which saw three young children die in a devastating house fire.

The Torbay MP is currently trying to get his Fire Safety (Protection of Tenants) Bill, which would make smoke alarms a legal requirement in all rented properties, on to the statue book.

The figures showed that of the 944 accidental house fires tackled by the service since April 2009, 206 houses had smoke alarms that were not working correctly and 224 had no alarms at all.

In the same period, nine people lost their lives in fires. Three of those houses had no smoke alarms at all, two had faulty alarms and there has been no evidence to suggest the house in Hulland Ward had a working alarm either.

proposals want to make it clear that it is both the landlord's and the tenant's responsibility to make their home safer.

The bill's second reading is scheduled to take place in Parliament on Friday, April 2.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Analysts Debate the Safety of Nuclear Power Plants

Authorities in Japan have evacuated the area around a nuclear power plant after its reactor's cooling system failed following Friday's massive earthquake. Pressure began building overnight at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, prompting officials to consider venting radioactive vapor on Saturday. The situation has prompted analysts to debate whether nuclear power is safe to use in earthquake-prone regions.
Japan has 55 nuclear power plants that produce nearly one-third of the country’s electrical output. Its also lies in one of the most seismically active zones in the world, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Nuclear waste specialist Kevin Kamps at nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear says these two factors put Japan at a big risk. "An earthquake that damages multiple levels of the safety systems can lead to a troubled situation very quickly."

Kamps said the worst case scenario for the Fukushima Daiichi plant would be what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986, when the radioactivity escaped to the outside environment, causing environmental and health hazards across portions of Europe. He said Japan should consider other energy options.

'Which' say Electric cars no "great difference" from diesel

The slogan used by many car manufacturers that electrical cars do not emit emissions has been disputed by consumer watchdog Which?, in a recent study comparing carbon dioxide by charging electric cars, and that emitted by the most efficient diesel models, and found that sometimes there’s not a great deal of difference.
The common manufacturer claim that electric cars produce ‘zero emissions’ ignores the fact that most drivers use a conventional electricity supply to charge them, which has a carbon cost from burning fossil fuels.

The consumer champion found, for example, that the electric Smart Fortwo* creates an equivalent of 84 grams of CO2** per kilometre driven, whereas the diesel Smart Fortwo emits 103 grams.

However, electric cars are much greener than diesel cars when it comes to localised emissions, as they don’t emit toxic chemicals that degrade air quality. This is especially significant in cities, where the uptake of electric cars is predicted to be highest.

Richard Headland, editor, Which? Car, says:
"We applaud carmakers’ efforts to create greener cars – but we don’t agree with their ‘zero emissions’ claims. Until more electricity is produced from renewable sources in the UK, the carbon footprint of driving an electric car may not be as small as owners think."

Monday, 14 March 2011

How to treat an electric shock

If someone has been electrocuted, dial 999 for an ambulance.

Switch off the electrical current at the mains to break the contact between the person and the electrical supply.

If you cannot reach the mains supply, protect yourself by standing on some insulation material, such as a phone book.

Then, using something non-conductive such as a wooden broom handle, push the person away from the electrical source. Push the source away from the person if this is easier.

Do not go near or touch the person until you are sure any electrical supply is cut off and it is safe.

If the person is not breathing, carry out CPR and call an ambulance.

Always seek medical help unless the shock is very minor.

remember this, you could save the life of a loved one.

stay safe

Friday, 11 March 2011

Youngsters urged to consider apprenticeships

OFFICIAL figures reveal that nearly a million young people are unemployed and hundreds of thousands of them have never worked since leaving school or university.
In light of these shocking stats, young Britons are being encouraged to value and seriously consider apprenticeships, which can lead to successful and lucrative careers and are becoming increasingly sought after in the tough economic climate of today.
NICEIC, the UK’s voluntary regulatory body for the electrical contracting industry, has recently launched its own Apprentice Academy aiming to provide students with the necessary training and skills for jobs in the electrical industry.
The academy aims to build a real future for the electrical contracting industry which is currently enjoying growth with more men and women taking up the mantle.
The apprenticeships are run in partnership with Bedford College and consist of a series of fortnightly courses over two years followed by a final year of professional development under the guidance of NICEIC.
The course covers a wide range of topics ranging from first aid and risk assessments, to much newer areas such as renewable energy.
In addition to this, research carried out by the NICEIC reveals there is a huge leaning towards young females looking to take on a trade over a profession.
In the current climate 63% of 16 to 24-year-old women polled said they are more interested in learning a skilled trade rather than a profession, because a trade stays with them for life.
When asked which trade they would most like to learn, the number one choice was an electrician (35%), followed by a carpenter (21%), plumber (20%), builder (10%) and farrier (6%).
The least popular choice was a bricky, getting just one per cent of the votes.
Emma McCarthy, chief executive officer of Ascertiva Group - parent company of the NICEIC - said:

"Apprenticeships can make industries more effective, productive and competitive by addressing the skills gap directly.

"They are the proven way to train the workforce of the future.

“NICEIC’s Apprentice Academy offers students the best possible training.
"The course is an excellent way for young people, both male and female, to learn vital skills needed for a career in the electrical industry; it will give those starting out on their careers the knowledge to complete electrical installations in line with current and future working practices.”
For more information on how to apply for the Apprentice Academy or to find your locally registered electrician, click on this link - D A Woolgar

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Space weather could wreak havoc with your gadgets

A geomagnetic space storm sparked by a solar eruption like the one that flared toward Earth Tuesday is bound to strike again and could wreak havoc across the gadget-happy modern world, experts say.
Contemporary society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers, airline navigation, telecommunications networks and other electronic devices.
A potent solar storm could disrupt these technologies, scorch satellites, crash stock markets and cause power outages that last weeks or months, experts said Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.
The situation will only get more dire because the solar cycle is heading into a period of more intense activity in the coming 11 years.
"This is not a matter of if, it is simply a matter of when and how big," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator Jane Lubchenco.
"The last time we had a maximum in the solar cycle, about 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. Cell phones are now ubiquitous; they were certainly around (before) but we didn't rely on them for so many different things," she said.
"Many things that we take for granted today are so much more prone to the process of space weather than was the case in the last solar maximum."
The experts admitted that currently, little that can be done to predict such a storm, much less shield the world's electrical grid by doing anything other shutting off power to some of the vulnerable areas until the danger passes.

"Please don't panic," said Stephan Lechner, director of the European Commission Joint Research Center, drawing laughter from the scientists and journalists in the audience. "Overreaction will make the situation worse."

The root of the world's vulnerability in the modern age is global positioning systems, or GPS devices, that provide navigational help but also serve as time synchronizers for computer networks and electronic equipment, he said.
"GPS helped and created a new dependency," said Lechner, noting that the technology's influence extends to aerospace and defense, digital broadcast, financial services and government agencies.
In Europe alone, there are 200 separate telecommunication operators, and "nothing is standardized," he said.
"We are far from understanding all the implications here," he said.

World governments are hurrying to work on strategies for cooperation and information sharing ahead of the next anticipated storm, though forecasters admit they are not sure when that may occur.
"Actually we cannot tell if there is going to be a big storm six months from now but we can tell when conditions are ripe for a storm to take place," said the European Space Agency's Juha-Pekka Luntama.
On Tuesday at 0156 GMT, a huge solar eruption, the strongest in about five years, sent a torrent of charged plasma particles hurtling toward the Earth at a speed of 560 miles (900 kilometers) per second.

The force of the Class X flash, the most powerful of all solar events, lit up auroras and disrupted some radio communications, but the effects were largely confined to the northern latitudes.

"Actually it turned out that we were well protected this time. The magnetic fields were aligned parallel so not much happened," said Luntama.
"In another case things might have been different."

Space storms are not new. The first major solar flare was recorded by British astronomer Richard Carrington in 1859.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Computers - the next generation

The laser – a 50-year-old invention now utilized in every little thing from CDs to laser pointers – has met its match inside the “antilaser,” the first device capable of trapping and canceling out laser beams.
Even though such a device would appear most fitting in a science fiction movie, its real-world application will likely be in next-generation, optical computers, which will probably be powered by light additionally to electrons, American researchers said on Thursday.
“It’s a device which essentially works like running a laser backwards,” A. Douglas Stone of Yale University, who published his findings inside the journal Science, said.
Even though a laser takes in electrical energy and emits light in a quite narrow frequency range, Stone said, his antilaser takes in laser light and transforms it into heat energy. However it could possibly be effortlessly c-onverted into electrical -energy, he said.
Conventional lasers, which had been invented in 1960, use a so-called “gain medium,” for example a semiconductor material, to create a focused beam of light waves.
Stone’s device uses silicon as an absorbent “loss-medium” that traps light waves, which bounce around until they’re converted into heat.
And whilst the technologies appears cool, his antilaser would by no means be employed as a prospective laser shield.
“This is some thing that absorbs lasers. If a ray gun was intended to kill you, it is going to kill you,” Stone said.
He said essentially the most obvious use of his device is in computing. “The next generation of high-performance computers are going to have hybrid chips,” Stone said.
Rather than having chips with transistors and silicon, these new computers will use both light and electrical energy.
Stone said the device might be employed as a sort of optical switch that could be turned on and off at will.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Electric therapy 'to treat OCD'

An electrical treatment which zaps away symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can help extreme sufferers unable to cope with everyday life, a ground-breaking study has shown.
The pacemaker-like therapy, known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), involves passing a weak current through thin wire electrodes inserted deep into the brain.

Around 50 patients have undergone the pioneering treatment in the US, and findings of the study show that some of the worst affected had managed to keep their symptoms under control for more than eight years with on-going DBS.

OCD affects around 1% of adults at any one time. The condition causes intrusive and obsessive thoughts, compulsive urges and repetitive actions such as washing hands and locking doors.
Celebrity sufferers include soccer star David Beckham, who in 2006 spoke about how he was compelled to arrange items in straight lines and pairs, while Jack Nicholson portrayed an author with OCD in the Oscar-winning film As Good As It Gets.

The worst-affected patients spend almost every waking hour caught up in obsessive thoughts or performing senseless rituals. Many are housebound and some may be driven to thoughts of suicide.
The patients undergoing DBS were only considered for the "extreme" treatment after remaining chronically ill despite at least five years of aggressive conventional therapy.

Study leader Dr Benjamin Greenberg, a psychiatrist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said: "These techniques are promising but must be used with an abundance of caution. This is reserved for the small proportion of people who are severely disabled and have not benefited anywhere near adequately from very aggressive use of conventional treatments."
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Renting a property

What should you do as a tenant. Renting a property? Follow these simple do’s and don’ts

Report any problems to your landlord straight away.

Use appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Use an RCD when using electrical equipment outdoors.

Regularly check the condition of plugs, cables and extension leads.

Check that any adaptor you use is safe. It should comply with British Standards and be adequately rated for the connected load.

Remove plugs from sockets carefully. Pulling out a plug by the cable puts a strain on the wiring and can be dangerous.

Allow access to the property should an electrician need to visit.


Carry out your own electrical repairs.
Take mains-powered portable appliances such as radios, heaters or hairdryers into the bathroom.
Ignore worn flexible cables on appliances.
Use any electrical appliance with wet hands.
Use adaptors plugged into other adaptors.
Overload adaptors, particularly when plugging in kettles, irons or heaters.
If you don’t know who’s used it, check it first. Badly treated electrical equipment can be dangerous. Look out for the danger signs:
  • Frayed, cut or damaged leads.
  • Cracked or damaged cases on plugs or appliances.
  • Burn marks on plugs, leads or appliances.
  • Blowing fuses.
  • Loose cord grips in plugs or appliances.
If you notice any of these danger signs, stop using the appliance and report the problem to your landlord immediately.

If you have reported a problem to your landlord and they have refused to put the situation right or ignored your request, you should contact your local authority who will be able to help you. Local authorities will ensure a landlord is meeting their legal obligations and can take enforcement action against them.


 What to look for in new accommodation (4 points)

  • An electrical report confirming that the electrics are safe for use (known as a Periodic Inspection Report).
  • Certification confirming that any recent electrical work meets the UK national standard BS 7671 (Requirements for Electrical Installations).
  • Sockets, switches and light fittings are in good condition with no signs of damage.
  • Any appliances are provided with the manufacturer’s instructions, have up to date PAT test stickers on them (not required on new appliances) and are in good working order.

What are your Landlord’s responsibilities?

They are required by law to ensure -

  • That the electrical installation in a rented property is safe when you move in.
  • That the electrical installation is maintained in a safe condition as long as you’re staying there.
  • That any appliance provided is safe and has at least the CE marking (which is the manufacturer’s claim that it meets all the requirements of European law).
  • To meet these requirements your landlord will need to regularly carry out basic safety checks to ensure that the electrical installation and appliances are safe and working.

Portable appliance testing (PAT)

The safety of appliances you bring into your accommodation is your responsibility. If you are in any doubt about the safety of an appliance, get it tested or replaced.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Kill an elephant to prove a point – best system AC or DC

Arguably Thomas Edison's best success was his ability to maximize his profits by establishing mass production systems as well as intellectual property rights.  By 1887, there were 121 of Edison's power stations that were delivering electricity to customers in the United States

He continued to promote DC electricity rather than AC electricity.  This continued to be a competition between Edison and Westinghouse, who preferred AC electricity which could be raised to high voltages with the use of transformers and sent over cheaper wires. 

In order to demonstrate his view of AC electricity and his dangers, employees of Edison would publicly electrocute animals.  One of these animals was Topsy the elephant at Luna Park following Topsy's killing of several men. 

Thomas Edison filed for a patent for his carbon filament lamp.  In 1878, Edison formed the Edison Electric lIght Company with the assistance of several financiers.  He had a demonstration of the incandescent light bulb for the public on December 31, 1879.  In 1883, it was ruled by the patent office that Edison's patent was based on the work of William Sawyer.  Therefore, the patent was considered invalid.  The litigation on the case continued for six years.  Edison and Joseph Swan formed a joint company in order to manufacture the invention. 

On the other hand in Europe we have a different, some say better system
Electric motors, power generation, electricity delivered over great distances, radio and even those sparking towers in the Frankenstein films - a Yugoslav-born electrical engineer is the one to thank
Many children are familiar with the Tesla coil - used at science demonstrations and lectures to demonstrate what happens when you discharge a high voltage (but low current: it's current that kills, not voltage) over a small space. Films of Frankenstein often show, somewhat anachronistically, Tesla coils discharging lightning-like bolts like billy-o.
Tesla, an ethnic Serb from Smiljan, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, started out his engineering life working for a telephone company in Budapest in 1881, aged 24. He'd already studied physics and maths; While there - while walking in a park, in fact - he had an inspiration and solved the equations relating to a revolving magnetic field. Which he then drew in the ground with a stick and explained to a friend. Quite a patient friend, one suspects.
Not much to you, perhaps, but those equations govern the induction motor, which is now the most common form of electric motor: put three coils around an outside former, and put a rotating element inside. If you run a current through the outside coils, and get the timing just right, then you create a current (and hence magnetic force) in the coils in the inside. So the inside rotor turns, but it doesn't have to touch the outer part: less friction means less energy used. (Compare that method to the carbon brushes needed in standard DC motors, which wear away where they touch the inner rotor.)
But it's in the development of mains electricity - the underpinning of our modern age - that Tesla really rules. When Americans tell the story of Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of the gramophone, and whose name is usually attached to the invention of the light bulb, Tesla's name is frequently left out.
However Tesla, who became an American citizen in 1891, worked with Edison for years, improving many of the early inventions and turning them into something workable. (The two were introduced in 1884, when Tesla came to the US, by a letter from a mutual friend to Edison which read "I know of two great men. One is you and the other is this young man.")

Yet it's thanks to Tesla, not Edison, that we have electricity coming out of plugs, and that we even have power stations able to generate serious amounts of energy. He won "the war of the currents" with Edison, who was convinced that direct current (DC) - the sort that comes out of an ordinary battery - was the way forward for power generation and distribution. Tesla was able to show that alternating current (AC) - which swaps its polarity at a regular rate, 50 times a second in UK mains electricity - was far more efficient (you don't lose anything like as much energy in transmitting it over long distances).

Even though Edison took to electrocuting dogs in public displays to show just how dangerous AC was (no, really), Tesla won the day. Where DC could only be transmitted for a couple of miles before the resistance of the lines reduced it to nothing, AC can be transmitted at high voltages for many times that distance. (A side note: did you know that the distribution equipment - transformers, transmission lines - is 80% of the cost of running an electricity company? The power generation is only 20%. Which is why even if we had free electricity generation - say from nuclear fusion - the upkeep of the distribution network would still mean you'd get a bill every quarter. Quite probably it would still be for the house next door which isn't on the same provider, too.)

having said all this, Irony upon irony .... Just as his most famous stolen legacy, the incandescent light bulb, heads for extinction, his other great passion, direct electric current, is set to boom. The bulb that has dominated lighting for more than a century is now a pariah in the era of climate change and banned in many countries. Meanwhile, direct current - defeated by alternating current in the race to capture the electricity market in the 1890s - could help us hold back global warming.


Friday, 4 March 2011

Students - electrcial safety

According to new research by the Electrical Safety Council, an independent charity committed to reducing deaths and injuries through electrical accidents, a quarter of students surveyed reported potentially dangerous problems with the electrical installation or the electrical appliances supplied by the landlord in their rented home, ranging from exposed live wires to overheating appliances.

Meanwhile, only one-third of students say their landlord has done a Periodic Inspection Report confirming the safety of electrical installation (37%), and just one in five (20%) say the homeowner has had their electrical appliances ‘PAT-tested’ for safety.

What you can do
Take stock of their electrical dangers and bring them to the immediate attention of their landlord – it can be life-saving. Electrical problems account for 8000 reported fires in homes in the UK a year, and cause the majority of electrocution deaths. Yet many students live in housing rife with electrical dangers – often not because they are not aware of them, but because they are unsure of whose responsibility fixing problems belongs to.

Remember: landlords are legally obliged to ensure the electrical wiring and appliances provided as part of the tenancy are safe. You should never have to attempt DIY yourself!

Consider accredited accommodation – accredited accommodation can reduce the risk of shoddy workmanship and electrical dangers.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A wireless radio that is twice as fast

Researchers have developed the first wireless radio that can send and receive signals at the same time. This makes them twice as fast as existing technology.

'Textbooks say you can't do it,' said Philip Levis, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford University. 'The new system completely reworks our assumption of how wireless networks can be designed,' a Stanford statement quoted him as saying.

Cell phone networks allow users to talk and listen simultaneously, but they use a workaround that is expensive and requires careful planning, making the technique less feasible for other wireless networks, including Wi-Fi.

A trio of electrical engineering graduate students, Jung Il Choi, Mayank Jain and Kannan Srinivasan, began working on a new approach when they came up with a seemingly simple idea.

In most wireless networks, each device has to take turns speaking or listening. 'It's like two people shouting messages to each other at the same time,' said Levis. 'If both people are shouting at the same time, neither of them will hear the other.'

It took the students several months to figure out how to build the new radio, with help from Levis and Sachin Katti, assistant professor of computer science and of electrical engineering.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Porsche unveils electric Boxster E

German car manufacturer Porsche has unveiled its latest electric vehicle, the Porsche Boxster E - but sadly it's only a prototype for now.
The car, which takes the company's iconic styling and updates it for the 21st century, features front and rear electric motors for all-wheel drive - with a claimed power output of 240 horsepower, giving it the ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a mere 5.3 seconds.
That impressive power is provided by a 29KWh battery pack, which the company claims allows the prototype to travel around 100 miles on a single charge - and to do so remarkably quickly.
"The electrical vehicle is a central challenge of the coming years, and the engineers at Porsche would like to contribute with their usual excellence to help it to be resolved," claimed Porsche chief executive Matthias Müller at the prototype's unveiling ceremony. "The Boxster E prototypes will help us, serving as mobile laboratories in solving the practical problems of electric vehicles the way that our customers expect."

Sadly, that last sentence provides a clue as to Porsche's plans for the Boxster E: for now, the vehicles are likely to remain test model prototypes, with no immediate plans afoot to create a retail model.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Brain - storage capacity

It’s easy to feel both amazed and utterly overwhelmed by the amount of information that humans have created in the digital age. And now, researchers have calculated a number to go with those feelings. A big one.

As of 2007, humans had the capacity to store 295 exabytes. An exabyte is 1018 bytes. If you think of the gigabytes (a billion bytes) in which your hard drive space might be measured, an exabyte is a billion of those gigabytes. Another size comparison: Astronomers, by necessity, are designing new information processing techniques to help them grapple with the coming age of “petascale” astronomy, because they’re starting to get more information than they can handle. “Exa” is the prefix after “peta”; it’s a thousand times more.

Or, simply, a stack of CDs storing 295 exabytes of information would reach beyond the moon.

unfortunately, a lot of people you meet will not be using their full potential, this generally cannot be attributed to 'bad sectors on the storatge device'