• How quantum computing is reshaping today's technological fabric

    How quantum computing is reshaping today's technological fabric

    It is a universal truth that the modern world is awash with data. It has become the ‘fuel’ and the insight, both reactive and predictive, generated from it, and it’s the ‘electricity’ that illuminates our existence. To create the right spark between these two forces, it is essential to push computing beyond normal limits to solve the complex problems of today. This is now being done with quantum computing, which is set to transform the world. Every atom, molecule and particle behaves in accordance with the laws of quantum mechanics, which uses the physics of things at the atomic level to create changes in the macroscopic world - our world as we know it. Interestingly, quantum technologies are not based on a single natural law. Instead, they are grounded in engineering applications of different…

  • Nearly two billion face irreversible decline in Asian freshwater storage

    Nearly two billion face irreversible decline in Asian freshwater storage

    Scientists at Penn State, Tsinghua University and the University of Texas at Austin project that under a scenario of weak climate policy, the Tibetan Plateau, known as the Asia's 'water tower', would face severely depleted supplies. The area supplies freshwater for nearly two billion people who live in regions downstream, including central Asia and Afghanistan as well as Northern India, Kashmir and Pakistan. “The prognosis is not good,” said Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State. “In a ‘business as usual’ scenario, where we fail to meaningfully curtail fossil-fuel burning in the decades ahead, we can expect a near collapse — that is, nearly 100 per cent loss — of water availability to downstream regions of the Tibetan Plateau. I was surprised at just how large the…

  • View from Brussels: French power games go south

    View from Brussels: French power games go south

    Modern France’s ideal energy policy is an export-driven nuclear-fuelled behemoth, under which aspiring atom-smashers pay for French nuclear tech and know-how, while other neighbours and partners just pay for the power that its fleet of reactors generates. Recent history speaks in favour of such a policy, a major factor of which is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s actions have irretrievably cut off his country’s industries from lucrative European markets. That includes Russia’s state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom, which is one of the French nuclear industry’s main rivals for foreign contracts. By sanctioning itself into oblivion, Russia has scored a damaging own goal. Central and Eastern European countries that are eager to cut themselves off from Russian energy blackmail have…

  • Telecom infrastructure update 'could cause widespread disruption across UK'

    Telecom infrastructure update 'could cause widespread disruption across UK'

    BT's plans to withdraw PSTN and ISDN lines in 2025 could severely affect services provided by councils in England and Wales, according to cl oud and managed services company Maintel.  A Freedom of Information request conducted by the company revealed that 23 of the 40 councils across England and Wales that responded (56 per cent) have no strategy in place for the withdrawal of the networks. In London, the number rises to 70 per cent.  In 2015, BT announced the withdrawal of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR), Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) services, marking the biggest change in 30 years to the UK's telecoms industry.  First installed in the UK in the 1980s, the equipment used for the PSTN network is becoming less reliable, as well as harder…

  • Labour demands price cap freeze amid support for energy nationalisation

    Labour demands price cap freeze amid support for energy nationalisation

    Party leader Keir Starmer said that Labour “wouldn’t let people pay a penny more” on their winter fuel bills, which would save a typical family around £1,000. The plan would cost £29bn but would be paid for through an extension of the windfall tax on oil and gas firms that was announced in May after months of mounting pressure from MPs and public bodies on then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Currently, the tax will pay for a £400 discount on household energy bills over the winter, although with the price cap estimated to rise to over £5,000 by January, the money will offer little respite from the soaring bills. Labour estimates that its plan would bring inflation down by 4 per cent – which would lower the likelihood of future interest rate rises. “Britain’s cost of living crisis is getting…

    E&T Magazine
  • European heatwave could threaten UK electricity supplies

    European heatwave could threaten UK electricity supplies

    Record-breaking high temperatures across Europe and the UK might put electricity generation under pressure, and worsen the already dire predictions for the coming winter, experts have said.  Ongoing heatwaves have taken their toll on energy production activities, from hydropower to nuclear reactors. While the first relies exclusively on water to generate electricity, nuclear facilities are also reliant on this resource, whose use has been restricted due to the drought. Moreover, the performance of other energy sources such as solar panels has also been affected by the high temperatures.  Overall, experts have told the BBC that electricity from hydropower has dropped by 20 per cent. "Once the water in the rivers is very low and very hot, basically you have to stop cooling down nuclear…

  • Bugs and bats inspire creation of bionic super 3D cameras

    Bugs and bats inspire creation of bionic super 3D cameras

    The cameras were developed by a pair of bioengineers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a former postdoctoral scholar. Computational image processing powers the cameras and can decipher the size and shape of objects hidden around corners or behind other items. The researchers say the technology could incorporated into autonomous vehicles or medical imaging tools "with sensing capabilities far beyond what is considered state of the art today". In developing the cameras, the team drew inspiration from two natural phenomena found in flies and bats. In the dark, bats can visualise a vibrant picture of their surroundings by using echolocation, or sonar. Their high-frequency squeaks bounce off their surroundings and return to be picked up by their ears. The minuscule…

  • Lab-made gel that outperforms cartilage paves way for next-gen knee operations

    Lab-made gel that outperforms cartilage paves way for next-gen knee operations

    Knee pain generally comes from the progressive wear and tear of cartilage known as osteoarthritis, which affects nearly one in six adults – 867 million people – worldwide. Mechanical testing reveals that the newly developed hydrogel – a material made of water-absorbing polymers – can be pressed and pulled with more force than natural cartilage, and is three times more resistant to wear and tear. Implants made of the material are currently being developed by Sparta Biomedical and tested in sheep before clinical trials in humans next year. The researchers took thin sheets of cellulose fibres and infused them with a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol – a viscous goo consisting of stringy chains of repeating molecules—to form a gel. Image credit: Benjamin Wiley, Duke…

  • Mathematical model is new tool in fight against malaria

    Mathematical model is new tool in fight against malaria

    Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites and spread to humans through infected mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable, yet resistance to current antimalarial drugs is causing an avoidable loss of life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2020, with over 600,000 deaths. To tackle this issue, an international research team used data from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), a global, scientifically independent collaboration, to map the prevalence of genetic markers that show resistance to Plasmodium falciparum – the parasite that causes malaria. Lead author associate professor Jennifer Flegg from the University of Melbourne said malaria has devastating impacts on lower-income…

  • View from India: Chatbots, storehouse of customer data

    View from India: Chatbots, storehouse of customer data

    Chatbots got a boost during the pandemic when remote working and work from home became a norm. Often, chatbots filled in for employees as far as possible. Now, offices have either fully opened or at least follow the hybrid model. Whatever it is, chatbots have stayed on. Companies have realised that chatbots can do much more than what they did over the last two years. They are being positioned as digital alternatives to human agents in call centres and retail outlets. They also answer FAQs (frequently asked questions), which make them a storehouse for customer data. This data is being used by the companies to understand customer requirements, package their offerings accordingly and thereby improve their revenue. A further step in this direction is the integration of AI, or artificial intelligence…

    E&T Magazine
  • SpaceX to launch US spy satellites with reusable rocket boosters

    SpaceX to launch US spy satellites with reusable rocket boosters

    The US Pentagon has turned to recycling in order to reduce the costs of future missions, granting SpaceX the green light to use recycled rocket boosters for Falcon Heavy launches of US classified military satellites, Bloomberg has reported. The decision would grant Elon Musk's space business a temporary edge in its latest competition with a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture - known as the United Launch Alliance - that once had a monopoly on the Defense Department’s satellite launches. There have only been three Falcon Heavy launches to date, with the most recent one taking place in 2019. By allowing three Falcon 9 boosters to be strapped together, Falcon Heavy missions are able to provide maximum thrust for heavier payloads.  While one Falcon 9 has nine engines in its first stage, Falcon…

  • UK shortlists 20 carbon capture projects for funding round

    UK shortlists 20 carbon capture projects for funding round

    As part of the carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) cluster process, the projects represent a range of technologies that will capture carbon emissions, preventing them being released into the atmosphere. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said that carbon capture technologies offer “enormous economic potential” due to their ability to attract new private investment which could create 50,000 skilled jobs in the UK by 2030. The UK has one of the largest potential carbon dioxide storage capacities in Europe, making it one of the more attractive business environments for the technology. This is because the North Sea could be used to store captured carbon under the seabed. Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan to decarbonise the UK includes plans to deploy CCUS in two industrial…

  • More than a machine: the rise of dual-purpose robots

    More than a machine: the rise of dual-purpose robots

    There’s an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Whilst the past two years have certainly forced business to be adaptable, the changes we’ve seen in robotics have been centred as much around diversification as they have on pure invention. Business managers enlisted robots in greater numbers than ever before to create safer, more productive and robust workplaces during the Covid pandemic, but these same robots have multiplied their uses in the face of new challenges. Faced with a perfect storm of operational headaches, ranging from rising costs to staff shortages, businesses have automated like never before in the past two years. Working with this automation surge, robotics companies have rapidly diversified their products to make their existing technologies work beyond their…

  • EU and South Korea warn US EV tax credit could break WTO rules

    EU and South Korea warn US EV tax credit could break WTO rules

    Under the Inflation Reduction Act that was recently approved by the US Senate, households   could receive up to $7,500 (£6,140) in tax credits to buy an electric car or $4,000 (£3,275) for a used one. To qualify for the tax credit, the bill would require that the electric vehicles (EV) contain a battery built in North America with minerals mined or recycled on the continent. Although the condition is part of President Joe Biden's push towards increasing the US's battery production capabilities and reducing dependence on overseas supply chains, the European Union and South Korea have expressed concerns over the proposal. They have argued it would discriminate against European producers and break World Trade Organization rules. "The European Union is deeply concerned by this new, potential…

  • UK oil and gas firms call for windfall tax to be scrapped by 2025

    UK oil and gas firms call for windfall tax to be scrapped by 2025

    After months of mounting pressure from MPs and public bodies, then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in May that millions of households would receive a £400 discount on their energy bills paid for by a £5bn tax on oil and gas giants. But Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), which represents the sector in the UK, said it was concerned that the Energy Profits Levy (EPL) would dampen investment. This is despite the fact that fossil fuel firms have announced record profits in recent weeks, with BP reporting its biggest quarterly profit for 14 years earlier this month. “Introducing a new tax so suddenly, and with relatively little consultation, risks destabilising investor confidence,” the body said. “OEUK has warned that anything which risks reducing UK oil and gas production at this time will further…

  • Ethiopia completes third filling of controversial Blue Nile mega-dam

    Ethiopia completes third filling of controversial Blue Nile mega-dam

    Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has confirmed the country has completed the third filling of its mega-dam reservoir on the Blue Nile.  The announcement shortly follows the announcement that the dam's second turbine had begun producing electricity. The decision was made in spite of Egypt and Sudan's continuing objections to the project, and their protests to the UN Security Council. "Today as you see behind me, the third filling is complete," Abiy announced on national television.  "Compared to last year, we have reached 600 metres, which is 25 metres higher than the previous filling. The Nile is a gift of God given to us for Ethiopians to make use of it." The $4.2bn (£3.4bn) mega-dam is set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa. However, the project has been the subject…

  • HOD on tight – hidden creativity is coming out this September

    HOD on tight – hidden creativity is coming out this September

    European Open Days take place across 50 countries and include Heritage Open Days in England and, with slightly perverse naming, Doors Open Days  in Scotland and Open Doors Days in Wales. Taking place September 9-18 2022, the English events have a theme this year of 'Astounding Inventions'. Labelled as England’s largest festival of history and culture, Heritage Open Days (HOD) comprises specific events and access to places that are normally hidden. And it’s all free. Led by the National Trust, HOD is supported by People’s Postcode Lottery and run by thousands of local organisations and volunteers. This year’s theme of Astounding Inventions offers a celebration of the creations that make our lives easier as well as the imaginative inventors behind them. Alongside these stories of creative…

  • Online Safety Bill ‘not fit for purpose’, IT experts say

    Online Safety Bill ‘not fit for purpose’, IT experts say

    In a new poll conducted by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, some 46 per cent said the bill was not workable with only 14 per cent of tech professionals believing the legislation was ‘fit for purpose’. The Online Safety Bill would put a duty on tech giants like Facebook and Google to develop systems to identify and remove illegal material, as well as deal with content that is harmful to adults and children. Ofcom would enforce this as the regulator. But the poll found that the majority of IT specialists (58 per cent) said it would have a negative effect on freedom of speech, with only 19 per cent saying that the measures proposed would make the internet safer. Last month, the Institute of Economic Affairs warned the bill could hand the Secretary of State and Ofcom “ unprecedented powers…

  • Algorithm that detects brain defects could help treat epilepsy

    Algorithm that detects brain defects could help treat epilepsy

    The Multicentre Epilepsy Lesion Detection project (MELD) used more than a thousand patient MRI scans from 22 epilepsy centres around the world to develop the algorithm, which provides reports of where abnormalities are in cases of drug-resistant focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) – a leading cause of epilepsy. FCDs are areas of the brain that have developed abnormally and often cause drug-resistant epilepsy. Doctors typically treat the condition with surgery, but identifying the lesions from an MRI is an ongoing challenge for clinicians, as FCDs can look normal in scans. When developing the algorithm, the team, led by University College London (UCL), quantified cortical features from the MRI scans, such as how thick or folded the cortex/brain surface is, and used around 300,000 locations across…

  • NHS IT supplier suffers severe ransomware attack

    NHS IT supplier suffers severe ransomware attack

    NHS 111 call handlers service have been left "working on paper" after the failure of IT systems, according to a letter from NHS England to London GPs seen by industry magazine Pulse . The attack had wide-ranging implications, affecting the system used to dispatch ambulances, book out-of-hours appointments and issue emergency prescriptions and severely affecting response times across all four UK nations.  The Birmingham-based firm says it first spotted the hack at 07:00 BST on 4 August and immediately took steps to contain the hackers. The Welsh Ambulance Service was one of the firsts to report a "major outage" of the system used to refer patients from 111 to out-of-hours GP providers.  "We are rebuilding and restoring impacted systems in a separate and secure environment," said a statement…

  • Summer STEM Challenge: Sailing down a wire in the air

    Summer STEM Challenge: Sailing down a wire in the air

    STEM Challenge #58: Cable yachts Sun sparkling on a blue sea, waves lapping on the shore, and triangles of white sailing across the scene. It’s lovely! But… you’ve had an hour or two to admire it and you want something else to do. Why not try making a yacht for the beach? Now a model sailing vessel is a tricky thing to sail through waves breaking on the shore. And a sand yacht needs a big area of flat sand and big wheels to cross the sand, so that’s tricky too. Instead, try out the Cable Yacht, a yacht that sails down a wire in the air… You’ll need pulleys, some wood or Meccano, 20 or 30 metres of washing line or other thick string, a small weight, and something to make a sail with. Mount the pulleys so that if the yacht bobs up and down a lot, it’ll stay running on the pulley: you can…

  • Back Story: Chloe Sales, “The more experience I gain, the more empowered I am becoming”

    Back Story: Chloe Sales, “The more experience I gain, the more empowered I am becoming”

    Shini Somara: Why did you do an Engineering Apprenticeship? Chloe Sales: At the age of 22 years old, I found myself in difficult family circumstances. I was a qualified hairdresser at 17 but did not like that industry at all. I applied for many different jobs, including the role of warehouse operative. I got a job at TP Cats, but was only hired temporarily, to cover someone who was on holiday. They were short of welders, so I tried my hand at it. I have always been a much more practical person, rather than a good student, so I was pretty good at it. It also really interested me because I enjoyed the idea that two bits of metal could be joined together with electronics to make a whole new and functional product. So, I decided to put myself on an evening course to learn more. However, my…

  • Always question and improve your safety management. Do not end up like waste company Gaskells.

    Always question and improve your safety management. Do not end up like waste company Gaskells.

    An example of a company and its management being prosecuted due to poor health and safety practises is the one that followed a fatal accident in 2010 at the waste company Gaskells (North West). The case concluded in 2018. In 2010 Gaskells employee Zbigniew Galka entered the Company’s baler, used to compact paper and cardboard, to remove a blockage. He was able to do this without isolating the machine. Galka was crushed in the compaction chamber. HSE’s investigation found that the interlock to the door of the chamber, preventing the baler from operating when open, had been disarmed by the maintenance engineer: Michael Cunliffe. This was to bypass a faulty switchboard and keep production running. Cunliffe had emailed management about this modification. Gaskells (North West) and Cunliffe…

  • The connected issue: how to bridge the digital divide

    The connected issue: how to bridge the digital divide

    Welcome to our connected issue . This month, we focus on the digital divide and how it can be bridged with policies, programmes or projects. Half the world is concerned about the problems that digital connectivity brings yet the other half suffers from a lack of digital connectivity. The internet these days is not just about economic development – it empowers and connects people too. There are many digital divides across the world: by age, gender, geography, wealth and more. What would it take to get the other half of the world connected? Can we connect everyone? Keri Allan investigates the worldwide digital divide . But this divide is not just a problem for the developing world. It's a problem in the developed world too. E&T's publisher, the IET, is a co-founder of the the UK Digital Poverty…