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Space Elevator Q&A

space elevator Ask Me AnythingThe concept of building an elevator to space has intrigued scientists for years and may become a reality. Four people behind a documentary about the concept called “Skyline” sat down for an Ask Me Anything session with Reddit’s Ask Science community. They were aerospace engineer Jerome Pearson; retired software engineer and past president of the International Space Elevator Consortium Ted Semon; Michael Laine, founder of LiftPort Group, a company that has been working on a space elevator since 2002; and filmmaker Miguel Drake-McLaughlin.

The scientists believe that a space elevator will become a reality. However, they believe the technology needed to build one on the moon is currently more advanced than the technology needed to build one on Earth.

Scientists are working on several materials that could potentially be used to build a space elevator cable. They include carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, carbyne, graphene, and diamonds.

Current designs call for a tether extending 60,000 miles into space. It would take four or five days to get to geostationary orbit and only a few hours to get to low Earth orbit. Climber speed would be very slow in the atmosphere and faster after leaving the atmosphere.

The lifter could be powered by lasers or solar power. With solar power, there would be “dead” periods when the elevator was in the Earth’s shadow, but they would get shorter and would eventually disappear as it went higher. A hybrid system using lasers or electric power and then switching to solar power might also be used.

The scientists say a space elevator would have no maximum load. It could be scaled up to carry thousands of tons at one time. Several loads could be transported on the tether at once according to a schedule.

The scientists propose using a space vehicle, the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator, to capture space junk in low Earth orbit so it would not collide with the space elevator. It could be used to build structures in LEO.

Severe weather could potentially damage the space elevator. Scientists would put it near the equator in an area that generally does not have strong storms. The elevator would have redundant cables in case one was damaged by a storm. If a storm occurred in the area of the space elevator, operations would be stopped until it passed.

The space elevator would be built in a remote location in the ocean far from populated areas and shipping lanes. If the cable collapsed for some reason, the location would be so remote that it would not pose a danger to people.

Falkirk Wheel Boat Lift Is an Engineering Marvel

Falkirk Wheel boat liftThe Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal in central Scotland. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and was named after the nearby town of Falkirk. It is the only rotating boat lift in the world and one of only two boat lifts in the United Kingdom.

The Falkirk Wheel was built as part of the Millennium Link project to reconnect the canals for the first time since the 1930s. Planners wanted to create a dramatic 21st century landmark.

The Lotteries Act 1993 raised funds that the Millennium Commission used for good causes in the public interest. The commission provided 42 percent of the money needed for the project. The remaining funds came from British Waterways, seven local councils, Scottish Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund, and private donations.

The wheel was designed to last for at least 120 years. It was constructed at the Butterley Engineering plant in Ripley, Derbyshire and then transported and reassembled in Falkirk.

The wheel lifts boats 24 meters, but they must go through a pair of locks to raise them an additional 11 meters to the Union Canal. The wheel has a diameter of 35 meters. Two opposing arms extend 15 meters beyond the central axle. The arms are in the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe.

Two diametrically-opposed water-filled caissons are located between the ends of the arms. The caissons always carry a combined weight of 500 tonnes in water and boats. A computer control system regulates the water levels on each side. The caissons can hold up to four 20-meter-long canal boats.

The machinery that drives the wheel is located in the aqueduct’s final pillar. The transformers are on the ground floor. A standby generator and switchgear are on the first floor in case the main power supply fails. A pair of hydraulic pumps that drive the hydraulic motors are located on the ground floor. Ten hydraulic motors supply power to the axle and double as brakes. A 100:1 gear system is connected to each motor to reduce the rotation speed.

A gearing system causes the caissons to turn at the correct speed and to stay correctly balanced. The ends of the caissons are supported on small wheels that run on rails on the inside face of the holes at the ends of the arms. The large central gear is loosely fitted over the axle at the end with the machine room and held in place to keep it from rotating.

Two smaller gears are fixed to each of the wheel’s arms at the end with the machine room. The motors rotate the central axle, the arms swing, the small gears engage the central gear, and the smaller gears rotate at a faster speed than the wheel in the same direction. The smaller gears engage large ring gears at the ends of the caissons and turn them at the same speed as the wheel but in the other direction. This movement cancels the arms’ rotation and keeps the caissons stable and completely level.

Since the load changes as the wheel rotates in opposite directions, some sections of the lift experience total stress reversals. The sections were bolted rather than welded to avoid fatigue and cracks.

A visitor center is located near the lower basin. Visitors can take boat trips approximately every hour. About 400,000 people visit the Falkirk Wheel every year.

Scary Elevators for Halloween

scary Halloween elevatorsSome people find elevators scary. It can be frightening to be enclosed in a small compartment, hoping that it will stop at the right floor and the doors will open, but knowing that occasionally that doesn’t happen.

A new game show is capitalizing on these fears. Later this year, GSN will introduce “Hellevator,” a new horror-themed game show. Teams of three contestants will ride an elevator through an abandoned warehouse. One player will get out on each floor to complete a challenge and earn money for the group. If the person doesn’t make it back to the Hellevator on time, the others move on. The show will be hosted by sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska.

A real or fake elevator can enhance the atmosphere of a haunted house or other scary Halloween attraction. It can increase guests’ feelings of being trapped and isolated. An elevator can seem to go out of control and plunge or get stuck. Monsters or ghouls can be waiting in the elevator to scare passengers as they enter, or they can jump out after the elevator begins moving or be waiting when the doors open for people to leave.

The elevator does not have to move to be scary. Implied movement can be just as frightening. This effect can be created by using lights or by changing the way the indicator lights function. Rollers or treadmills can scroll a brick or stone patterned fabric in an elevator window, or an animation can be shown on flat screen TVs. Speakers can cause vibrations to make guests feel like the elevator is moving. The feeling of being trapped or the fear of encountering ghouls in an elevator can delight and terrify visitors to a haunted house.

Indiana Grain Elevator Project Hits a Snag

Indiana grain elevator housingHamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND) in Indiana has hit a roadblock in its attempt to secure funding for a $12 million mixed-use proposal. HAND has proposed turning an old grain elevator in Noblesville into affordable housing.

On October 7, several people spoke both in support of and against the proposal at a meeting of the Hamilton County Council. The council declined to vote on a resolution to support funding for the project.

The proposal, which is known as the Elevator and Lofts at the Noblesville Granary, calls for 54 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments, a business incubator space, and 4,000 square feet of commercial retail space. HAND has already reached an agreement with North Central Co-op, which currently owns the two-acre property, to purchase it for $575,000. The Co-op started to demolish the 85-foot grain elevator earlier this year.

Hamilton County Commissioners approved $225,000 in community development block grant funds for the project in late September. However, it denied HAND’s appeal for $250,000 from the county general fund. HAND requested the funding again on October 7, but the Council declined to vote on the measure.

The project depends heavily on securing a federal low-income housing tax credit distributed by the state of Indiana. It does not offer a guarantee, but projects that are fully supported by the local community generally have a better chance.

HAND also needs to obtain rezoning approval from the Noblesville City Council before the project can move forward. The council has not yet voted on the request.

Saudi Royals Leave France Early after Beach Controversy

Saudi royal family beach elevatorAfter sparking controversy and protests from the public and government leaders, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his family cut short their vacation in France. The king and his entourage of several hundred people were expected to vacation in Vallauris on the French Riviera for three weeks, but they left after only eight days.

The trip was controversial because locals and tourists were ordered to stay off the public beach and the royal family was granted permission to construct a temporary elevator to take them from their villa to the beach. Angry residents and politicians had a petition signed by over 150,000 people protesting the closure of the beach. The locals had briefly been able to halt construction of the elevator, but the plans were allowed to move forward. Police officers were also upset because female officers were not allowed to go near the Saudi royal family.

Government officials insisted that the king did not cut his vacation short, but rather that he had been planning to leave at this time all along. The Saudi embassy had indicated that the king would be vacationing in France until around August 20. The king and many members of his entourage boarded a flight from Nice to Tangiers, Morocco to return to Saudi Arabia.

Now that the royal family has left, the beach is open to the public again. The elevator that was constructed for the king and his family is being dismantled. Despite the controversy, the influx of Saudis provided a boost to the local economy.

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