World’s longest bridge over water – extreme technology

Along with its massive high-speed rail network, China has officially surpassed the United States in yet another piece of transportation infrastructure: the world’s longest sea bridge.

The new bridge spans Jiaozhou Bay, on the southern coast of China’s Shandong Peninsula in northeastern China. At 26.4 miles long, it beats Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Causeway — the previous world-record holder — by at least 2 miles, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Chinese workers toiled at marathon pace to build the bridge in four years, starting at each side and meeting in the middle. The structure has 5,200 pillars and cost at least $2.3 billion, according to Chinese state-run media.

The Guinness officials say the bridge is earthquake- and typhoon-proof, and designed to withstand the impact of a 300,000-ton vessel. It links the port city of Qingdao to the island of Huangdao, cutting drive time from 40 to 20 minutes, according to the state-run China Daily.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Americans are apparently not giving up the world’s longest title without a fight, however. The newspaper talked to Carlton Dufrechou, general manager of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, who pointed out that the Jiaozhou bridge has a bend in it, and that the over-water length is only 16 miles, compared to 24 for his bridge.

“Bunch of wannabes,” he said. Read the Times-Pic’s piecefor his full take, in which he calls the Chinese news “propaganda.”

In any case, the bridge looks pretty neat, especially set to this haunting soundtrack. Check out some aerial views below.

[IB Times]

Ultrafast wireless, violating laws of physics

Steve Perlman, founder of the cloud-based gaming-on-demand service OnLive, claims to have discovered a new method of wireless communications that would not only drastically outpace what we have now, but would actually disprove many of the accepted rules of how wireless communications in general work.

First things first: This theory popped up in a presentation Perlman gave at the NExTWORK conference, and only received a small mention. There was no demonstration, no real proof given, and since his proposal flies directly in the face of the Shannon-Hartley Theorem, a guideline for wireless technologies, we’re not inclined to really believe his claims. But! Sometimes somebody says something so crazy with such confidence that you have to sit up and take notice, and this particular idea would have such massive effects on communications technology that we’re bound to at least encourage discussion about it. That’s not to be taken as an endorsement, though.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here’s what Perlman (all to briefly) proposed. DIDO is an entirely new radio system, with different towers and different chips that work in an (as yet undisclosed) entirely different way. He claims that DIDO would also be able to broadcast through solid objects that usually block cell signals, that it needs no bigger tower than a small base station “the size of a router,” and that the base stations can broadcast a signal much farther than usual towers–up to 30 miles, at which point they’d be dealing with the curvature of the Earth, which Perlman says does not deter them.

Perlman said that his DIDO (distributed-input-distributed-output) system overcomes the traditional broadband system in which each user gets a small piece of the overall bandwidth of the tower to which they’re connected. Instead, with DIDO, each user would be able to access the full speed of the tower.

Wired interviewed an electrical engineering professor who noted that elements of the Shannon-Hartley Theorem have in fact been disproved, or at least altered, with multiple-input-multiple-output systems, currently being used in the latest 4G tech. But nobody has yet seen Perlman’s DIDO system in action, though he has patented it and insists he is “as confident” about DIDO as anything else he’s ever designed. Us? We’re skeptical–but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t welcome a revolutionary wireless system.

[Wired]

Human belly button is home to hundreds of never-before-seen species

Call it a twist on the study of gut bacteria. Scientists sampling DNA strains from the navels of volunteer donors have found 662 microbes that are apparently new to science, showing that the human navel is apparently a ripe environment for bacteria.

The Belly Button Biodiversity Project, run by scientists at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has been analyzing navel swabs from a host of volunteers, as New Scientist explains. So far, they’ve found 1,400 distinct bacterial strains, nearly half of which have never been seen before.

The project was meant to interest people in microbiology and assuage the public’s concerns about microbes causing disease, but it’s also yielded plenty of new data about the human “microbiome,” the array of microorganisms that live inside (and on) us. The skin is still not that well studied, and researchers led by Rob Dunn and Jiri Hulcr at NC State wanted to examine belly buttons because, well, they’re harder to scrub than the rest of your body.

Science writers Carl Zimmer (who blogs at Discover) and Peter Aldhous (from New Scientist) each donated a swab, and while Aldhous’ sample failed to yield bacterial colonies, Zimmer’s sample was apparently flush with life. Some species in his microbiome have previously only been found in the ocean, he writes. Another one, a species called Georgenia, has only been found living in the soil in Japan. Zimmer has never been, he writes.

“It has apparently been to you,” Dunn told him.

The researchers have recorded a large number of new microbes, but most of them are found in small numbers, New Scientist reports. About 40 species account for around 80 percent of the bacterial populations of our belly buttons, Aldhous writes.

Something nice to think about when you’re sunbathing over the holiday weekend — your swimsuit has plenty of company.

[New Scientist]

Counteracting negative aftereffects of space-travel


Scientists have long known that red wine has health benefits; it contains resveratrol and antioxidants like flavonoids that are good for your heart, the Mayo Clinic explains. A new study shows resveratrol can prevent bone density loss and muscle atrophy, two problems that commonly plague astronauts and those who lead sedentary lifestyles.

Researchers in France (fittingly) worked with rats in an environment that simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight. Er, they hung them up by their tails. One control group did not get any special treatment, and another group got a daily dose of resveratrol.

The control group lost bone and muscle density and developed insulin resistance, according to the Journal of the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology. The resveratrol group did not suffer those side effects.

“Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal.

Astronauts on long-duration trips on the ISS or Mars spacecraft could perhaps take resveratrol supplements. Similarly, people with sedentary lifestyles, due to disability or other factors, could benefit from the compound. Or they could just drink some red wine.

–  Popular Science