When Bad Goes Happen – WIF Engineering Boo Boos

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Tragic Engineering

Miscalculations

In Space and Terra Firma

Engineers are one of the most important behind-the-scenes groups of people, and most of us just take them and their work for granted. The truth is that there can only be so many designers, and the vast majority of engineers do the un-glamorous, but no less important work, of building, testing, and improving things for safety to make sure nobody gets hurt and no one has to pay for large amounts of property damages. However, when you don’t hire enough skilled engineers to properly focus on safety, and do that all-important work that they do, you can end up with examples like the 10 tragic events in today’s list.

10. The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Gushed 130 Million Tons Of Oil Into The Ocean

Back in 2010, BP’s Deepwater oil rig, operated by the Switzerland based company Transocean Ltd., suffered a massive blowout, and the world watched in shock and horror. Eleven people died and 17 were injured in the initial blowout, and immediately people wanted to know how it had happened. But soon, something even more important became apparent: Due to the fact that the well was 35,055 feet under water, which was far deeper than any well in existence (and the only one that was in truly deep water), the oil that started leaking out quickly became a huge concern.

For years BP and Transocean had contended to regulators that their oil rig was fine because they were prepared for cleanup, but all they had were the same techniques that worked in shallow water. No company, BP or otherwise, had any real plan for how to stop a gushing oil leak coming out of the ocean floor in actually deep water. BP took 87 days before they managed to plug the leak, and during that time an estimated 130 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, with the Audubon Society estimating a good one million birds and other marine life were killed by the spill. As for how it all occurred, it turned out there wasn’t a single reason the oil rig suffered a blowout. It was caused by multiple failures that could have been prevented in time if not for lax regulators, and a lax company culture from both BP and Transocean Ltd.

9. Earthquakes May Have Damaged The Fukushima Reactors Long Before The Tsunami

Most people know that that there was a meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after a tsunami several years back, but many don’t know the official story — or at least what some suspect is the true cause. The official story is that an earthquake knocked out the power to the plant, but apart from that it left the plant largely unharmed and functioning just fine. In fact, according to this official story, the plant only failed when the tsunami came along and destroyed their backup generators, after which the plant’s cooling system stopped working and the meltdown occurred.

However, investigative reporters who interviewed workers that had been at the plant when the earthquake occurred offer a version of events that differs a bit from that of the Japanese government. Many of them claim they saw significant damage to pipes, some of which led to cooling systems for the reactors. Others saw serious structural damage or other issues and claim they were already told to evacuate because of oxygen tanks exploding and pipes bursting well before the tsunami hit. Then, as they were leaving, the tsunami warning came and they had to go to the top of the building to wait to be rescued. While the government version of the events calls into question the safety of a reactor near the coast (due to the possibility of a tsunami), the second version of events calls into question any reactor of a similar design that is in any kind of earthquake zone at all.

8. The Challenger Disaster Was Caused By An O-Ring, But Only Because Of Poor Decisions

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was set to launch and it was going to be a truly epic affair. A schoolteacher had been chosen to join the six astronauts, in order to show that even normal civilians could go into space, and children around the country were watching the launch from their classrooms on that cold Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the festive atmosphere soon turned tragic as the shuttle exploded before reaching the upper atmosphere, killing all seven people aboard. The Secretary of the State at the time, William P. Rogers, formed a commission to find the root cause.

They quickly found that the technical cause was a faulty o-ring. This small piece of plastic helped form seals in between the parts of the rocket boosters, and doesn’t operate well in cold — it tends to lose its elasticity. In fact, the commission found that despite knowing the o-ring didn’t function well below 53 degrees, they went ahead with the launch despite it being 36 degrees outside that morning. The commission found that there were concerns about the o-ring, but that they never reached the top of the chain of command. This is believed to have been due to incredibly poor communication, and that the top brass was desperate to get the launch done in time for Reagan’s State of the Union, so they weren’t particularly interested in learning about potential last minute problems that would delay the launch.

7. The Columbia Disaster Could Potentially Have Been Avoided As Well

The Columbia was a storied space shuttle that had been flying for decades and was set for its final mission. After many delays, it took off with a crew of seven on January 16, 2003. As the shuttle was launching, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the propellant tank and hit the left wing. Engineers at NASA tried to look at it with every camera angle they could and see how bad the damage was, but it was hard to make out. Now, NASA’s top management was not particularly concerned, as foam insulation had broken off at three launches in the past and hadn’t caused any critical damage. However, some felt that this time it might be critical, and pushed to use satellites to get a closer look.

Unfortunately, no one took that look during the Columbia’s two week mission, partly because some of the top brass felt there would be nothing they could do at that point even if critical damage had occurred. Then, on February 1, 2003, the space shuttle reentered Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart, killing all aboard and scattering debris far into the distance. The damage to the wing allowed the heat from reentry — along with the wind — to basically tear it apart, and after that the rest of the shuttle wasn’t far behind. While those in charge had decided to do nothing while the crew was in space, thinking nothing could be done, they were wrong. Later studies found that rescue, or even a possible repair by spacewalk, could have been done — NASA’s top management just didn’t take the danger that seriously.

6. The Apollo One Fire Almost Put An Early End To US Ambitions To Fly To The Moon

On January 27, 1967, NASA was testing their Apollo One command module, in advance of attempting a potential flight to the moon. There were three astronauts aboard: Roger Chaffee, Ed White, and Gus Grissom, and they were bolted into the pressurized compartment to begin the launch tests. While the tests were not proceeding particularly well and they were having technical issues, things were not anything beyond frustrating until the call of “Flames!” came over the communications equipment from inside the command module. The workers outside did everything they could to get the door open, but by the time they had, it was too late and all three astronauts were dead — the Apollo program was then shelved for 18 months while the situation was investigated.

The United States lost three pioneering astronauts that day, but at least NASA did learn something from the situation. It turns out that a single spark from a faulty piece of equipment had spread like wildfire in the all-oxygen environment of the cabin, and to make matters worse, most of the material they were sitting on and around was highly flammable. On top of that, the highly secured door usually took a good minute and a half to open at the best of times, and with the extra pressure in the air from the fire, they just really didn’t have a chance. While this should have been something NASA accounted for to begin with, they made future doors much quicker to open, replaced the flammable materials, and made the air an oxygen and nitrogen mix that would not so easily spread fire all over the place.

5. The Boeing 737 Max Crashes And Subsequent Scandal Are Harming Boeing’s Reputation

On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 went down over the Java Sea carrying a full load of passengers — 181 passengers and eight crew members all perished. Then, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 crashed and took 149 passengers and eight crew members with it. While plane crashes are always alarming, experts noticed that there were similarities between the two crashes, and that both involved the new Boeing 737 Max Jet.

The system that allegedly caused all the trouble was called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems, or MCAS for short. The system used two sensors to determine the nose of the planes’ so called “angle of attack” and adjust it if it thinks it is necessary, even if the pilot disagrees. On the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the black box showed that the plane was dangerously changing the angle of attack, and despite the pilot and copilot’s constant and best efforts, they could not prevent an uncontrollable nosedive.

Boeing has been under fire because regulators around the world allege the system did not have enough redundancy to spot malfunctions, that pilots were not given proper knowledge of it (or proper training for it), and that the limited information they did give on how to deal with a malfunction was used by the pilot and copilot in the Ethiopian Airlines crash and that it did not save them. Due to the loss in reputation, Boeing has had to scale back production to 42 jets from 52 and the 737 Max remains grounded worldwide until Boeing satisfies people’s fears.

4. The Chernobyl Disaster Was Caused By A Poorly Done Safety Test And Inadequate Design

The Chernobyl disaster occurred on April 26, 1986, when Soviet engineers were doing a test on the number 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in order to ascertain if the emergency water pumps could be run on inertial power. In order to prepare for their test, they actually disabled the emergency safety systems of the reactor the night before. They also removed quite a few of the control rods for the reactor as well, which are used to control power output. When their experiment didn’t work and they started to worry about meltdown, they reinserted all 200 control rods at once, which turned out to be a fatal mistake. The rods had graphite tips, which when inserted under already volatile circumstances caused a chemical reaction that blew the concrete and steel roof right off the reactor.

The disaster killed two people immediately, and at least 28 workers later succumbed to radiation poisoning. The fallout is said to have poisoned thousands and it led the entire world to put a lot more thought and effort into nuclear safety. The disaster was such a gigantic blow to the Soviet Union that Mikhail Gorbachev later lamented that it may have been Chernobyl that truly led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

3. The Grenfell Tower Fire Highlighted The Possibility Of Future, Similar Tragedies

On June 14, 2017, a fire rapidly spread through Grenfell Tower in West London. By the time the smoke had cleared, upwards of 80 people had died and dozens more were injured. The tragedy became global news and the entire world looked on in horror, as we all watched the building burn before our eyes. It was quickly discovered that the reason the fire was able to spread so rapidly was due to a cladding on the outside of the building, which was there both to spruce up the design and also slightly increase energy efficiency. Now, this cladding is usually aluminium, and has some kind of filler inside, and those fillers can be fire retardant. Unfortunately, the filler in the cladding at Grenfell tower was highly flammable, and the fire quickly raced all around the building.

After the tragedy, authorities in London have now inspected a lot of buildings that have cladding, and found that most of them failed safety tests. This highlights a serious public safety concern, as it means there are many, many more buildings at risk of simple fires raging out of control.

2. The Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway Collapse Killed 114 People And Injured Another 216

On July 17, 1981, there was a Tea Dance at the Hyatt Regency Hotel In Kansas City, and the ballroom was hosting about 1,600 people. The hotel had four floors, and upper walkways that extended across the main lobby area. The fourth floor walkway was positioned above the second floor walkway, and a couple dozen or so people were watching the dance from the walkways above the lobby. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the fourth floor walkway collapsed on top of the second floor walkway, which then collapsed the whole pile onto the dancing couples below.

The aftermath was utterly appalling and rescue workers likened it to a war zone. 114 people were killed and 216 were injured. Many of them were crushed in half, and others were suffocated or dealt with other awful injuries. Unsurprisingly, an inquest into the matter occurred as people wanted to know why such a catastrophic failure would happen. The issue was the second floor walkway had originally been intended to be suspended from the stronger ceiling supports, but was instead suspended from the fourth floor walkway. As for how such a bad decision could be made, the change was actually approved over the phone.

1. The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 Killed 21 People And Injured 150 More

If you haven’t heard of this tragic story before, it’ll likely sound too bizarre to be true. On January 15, 1919, a tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses ruptured in Boston’s North End. The stories say that its initial speed was 35 miles-per-hour, and that it reached a wave of 25 feet high and 160 feet wide; 21 people were killed and at least 150 more were injured by the time all the molasses had settled. Many who were close to the explosion were simply pulverized, and others drowned in the goop as the kinetic forces dissipated and it turned back into its highly viscous consistency.

Back in the day they were never really sure what happened, but recent investigations have discovered that the tank was almost certainly just not adequate for the job. It was too thin, and while built to hold 2.5 million gallons of liquids, it wasn’t designed for a thicker liquid that might weigh more — like molasses — and had even shown signs of cracks that were ignored by the owners and operators of the tank. Some reports even say it was leaking so badly before it burst that children would come with cups to fill up from the cracks. It just goes to show that sometimes, on rare occasions, molasses actually flows quickly in January.


When Bad Goes Happen –

WIF Engineering Boo Boos

Mars Without Matt Damon – WIF Far-off Travel

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Things to Know

About Visiting

Mars

Space travel has made exceptional progress over the years. It was only in July 1969 that man first walked on the moon, and now just 50 years later there are plans to send humans to Mars in the not-so-distant future. According to NASA, they plan to send humans to Mars by the year 2033.

There have been several spacecrafts that have landed on Mars – the United States has successfully landed eight on the Red Planet, including Opportunity and InSight. While the spacecrafts have conducted exceptional research on the planet, it’s not the same as having humans exploring the area.

Although it’s exciting to think about humans landing on Mars, they will encounter numerous problems during their exploration of our planetary neighbor. From long-lasting dust storms and exceptionally high radiation levels, to worrying about their food supply and their overall health, they will have several obstacles to overcome — not to mention to extremely long trip there and back. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most challenging obstacles the astronauts will face on their journey.

10. Mars May Still Be Volcanically Active

In a new study, it appears as though Mars may still be volcanically active. Located under solid ice at the South Pole, there is a lake of liquid water measuring 20 kilometers wide. While it was originally thought that the water stayed in liquid format because of dissolved salt as well as pressure from above the lake, new research provides a much different theory.

The new study concluded that the salt and pressure couldn’t have stopped the water from becoming frozen and that volcanic activity (more specifically a magma chamber that was created in the previous few hundred years) was the only way that it could have remained in liquid format.

Mars was definitely volcanically active in the past, as Olympus Mons is the biggest volcano in our entire solar system. Located near Olympus Mons are three other shield volcanoes called Tharsis Montes, and there are several more volcanoes on the Red Planet.

According to the study, magma from the planet’s interior came up to the surface around 300,000 years ago. Instead of breaking through the surface of the planet and creating a new volcano, it remained in a magma chamber located beneath the South Pole. When the magma chamber cooled down, it would have released a sufficient amount of heat in order to melt the water underneath the polar ice sheet. They believe that the heat is still being slowly released even to this day. The authors of the study suggest that if there was volcanic activity 300,000 years ago, there is a definite possibility that it’s still active today which could cause an issue for eventual visitors to the planet.

9. Scarce Food Sources

Astronauts need to eat and growing food on Mars would be a very difficult task. In fact, it would take several hundred years before farming could be conducted without protective greenhouses since the soil there contains perchlorates, which are harsh chemicals that would need to be removed before any plants could be grown.

In addition to the chemicals, gravity would also pose a problem as the planet only has around one-third of the gravity that’s here on Earth. Although some experiments have proved some plants can grow in the microgravity located on the International Space Station, that doesn’t mean that they’ll grow on Mars.

There is some hope, as revealed in a 2014 study that tomatoes, wheat, cress and mustard leaves were able to grow in simulated Martian soil without fertilizers for 50 days. But transforming Mars into a planet capable of growing plants would take hundreds of years for its thin atmosphere to contain enough oxygen.

Let’s say, for example, that humans could quickly transform the atmosphere in order to grow plants, the winters pose another huge problem as the temperatures can dip as low as -207 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. They’d Have To Wear Permanent Space Suits

Astronauts visiting Mars would have to wear permanent space suits during their trip as the planet is not suitable for humans. The suits would have to be flexible enough for the astronauts to work with construction materials as well as for using different machines. Plus, they have to be comfortable enough for them to essentially live in.

As for the atmosphere there, it’s comparable to being at an altitude of 25 kilometers on Earth, which means that the air would be much too thin for humans to breathe. In addition to the thin air, there is way too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen. And since the winter temperatures can get as low as -207 degrees Fahrenheit, the astronauts need warm space suits to keep their blood circulating throughout their bodies. These spacesuits will be their life-line, so they need to be made perfectly for the astronauts to survive their exploration trip to our planetary neighbor.

7. Creating A Human Civilization May Not Be So Easy

Obviously, the astronauts exploring the Red Planet wouldn’t be there to create Martian families, but there is much talk about one day humans colonizing there permanently. That may not be as easy as it sounds. Just the lack of gravitational pull and the high amount of radiation are enough to severely damage a fetus. While there have been several experiments involving mice, rats, frogs, salamanders, fish, and plants to see if they could successfully reproduce in space, results have been inconclusive.

While mice and humans are obviously different, based on the experiments conducted, as of right now it’s not looking good for humans to successfully reproduce on Mars.

6. Landing And Returning

Landing on Mars will not be a smooth ride. For example, when NASA’s InSight spacecraft entered into the atmosphere on Mars, it was moving at a whopping 12,300 MPH. While it was descending through the atmosphere, it had to slow down to just 5 MPH before landing on the surface. The deceleration happened in less than seven minutes, which NASA engineers referred to as “seven minutes of terror.”

Since we know how to land on the Red Planet – although it will most likely be one rough landing – leaving Mars may not be so easy. The Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) will be powered by liquid oxygen and methane, with all of the ingredients (hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen) being available on Mars. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, so that would be relatively easy to get; however, drilling for water would be much more challenging as they wouldn’t be 100% certain that water lies underneath them. Assuming they would get the necessary ingredients for the fuel, taking off from the harsh environment and atmosphere on Mars may not be an easy lift-off.

5. Long-Lasting Dust Storms

Mars is definitely known for their massive dust storms – some of which are so huge that they can be seen from Earth-bound telescopes. As a matter of fact, some dust storms cover the same area as an entire continent, lasting for several weeks. And approximately every three Mars years (or five and a half Earth years), a gigantic dust storm covers the entire Red Planet which are known as “global dust storms.” The good thing about the dust storms is that the strongest winds only reach approximately 60 miles per hour, so it’s very unlikely that they would damage any spacecrafts.

On the other hand, the small dust particles tend to stick to surfaces and even mechanical gears. One specific problem would be the solar panels and if enough dust would cover them, they wouldn’t be able to absorb as much sunlight in order to get the energy to power the equipment.

4. Extremely Rough Terrain And Chilling Weather

The very rough and rocky terrain on Mars could cause problems for the spacecraft as well as the astronauts who are trying to walk around on the surface. The planet is covered with rocks, canyons, volcanoes, craters, and dry lake beds, as well as red dust covering the majority of the surface. The Curiosity rover experienced such problems when, in 2013, it came upon an area with sharp rocks that looked similar to spikes. The sharp rocks – that looked like 3 to 4 inch teeth from a shark – were most likely created by the wind. These sharp rocks could dent and even puncture wheels, not to mention how impossible they’d be to walk on.

Astronauts visiting the Red Planet will certainly not be accustomed to its extremely freezing cold temperatures. The average temperature on the planet is a frigid -80 degrees Fahrenheit and can get as low as -207 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. They would need special spacesuits that would keep them warm from the chilling temperatures.

3. High Levels Of Radiation And Very Little Gravity

Since Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, humans visiting the Red Planet will have very little protection against the high levels of radiation. In fact, they have to worry about two dangerous sources of radiation. The first are the dangerous solar flares that come from our sun, for which they’ll need proper protection. The second are particles from galactic cosmic rays that pass through the solar system almost at the speed of light and can damage anything they hit, such as the spacecraft or even the astronauts themselves. The spacesuits, as well as the spacecrafts, will need to be made from materials that will shield them from the high levels of radiation.

Another major problem is that the gravity on Mars is only a fraction of what it is on Earth. In fact, the gravity on the Red Planet is 62% lower than it is here on our planet. To better understand, if a person weighs 220 pounds on Earth, they would weigh just 84 pounds on Mars. There are several factors that contribute to its lower gravity, such as density, mass, and radius of the planet. While both planets have nearly the same land surface, Mars has just 15% of our planet’s volume and only 11% of our mass.

While it’s still uncertain what long-term effects the change in gravity would have on the astronauts’ health, research indicates that the effects of microgravity would cause loss of bone density, muscle mass, organ function, and eyesight.

2. The Long Journey To Mars

Before the astronauts even get to Mars, they would have to endure an exceptionally long journey just to get there. As for how long the trip would actually take, there are several factors to take into consideration, such as where the planets are positioned in the solar system at the time of the launch, since the distance between them is always changing as they go around the sun.

While the average distance between Mars and Earth is 140 million miles, they do get much closer to each other depending on their position around the sun. The two planets would be closest to each other when Mars is located at its closest position to the sun and the Earth is at its farthest position. At that point, the two planets would be 33.9 million miles away from each other. When the planets are located on opposite sides of the sun, they are at a distance of 250 million miles from each other.

According to NASA, the ideal launch to Mars would take approximately nine months. And that’s just how long it would take to get there. It would take another nine months or so to return back to Earth, along with however long they end up staying on the Red Planet.

1. Mental And Physical Health Issues

In addition to the rough terrain, freezing temperatures, and dust storms, astronauts would also have to worry about the mental and physical health issues that they could develop. The process of going from two highly different gravitational fields would affect their spatial orientation, balance, mobility, motion sickness, hand-eye and head-eye coordination.

Being confined to a small space on an unpopulated planet away from family and friends for several months or years would be mentally hard on them. They could develop a drop in their mood, morale, cognition, or a decline in their daily interactions (misunderstandings and impaired communication). In addition, they could develop sleep disorders, fatigue, or even depression.

Being in an enclosed area makes it very easy for one person to transfer germs to the others, which could cause illnesses, allergies, or diseases.

The biggest health factor is the high levels of radiation on Mars, which could increase their chances of developing cancer. Radiation can damage their central nervous system, causing changes to their cognitive function, their behavior, and reducing their motor function. It could also cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and anorexia. Cardiac and circulatory diseases, as well as cataracts, could additionally develop.


Mars Without Matt Damon –

WIF Far-off Travel

Outer Space Tracings – WIF Space

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Scary Things

About Space

Image result for space gif

Since the dawn of man (and woman), humankind has gazed longingly at the flickering stars high above in search of meaning, guidance, and inspiration. A gradual progression in science and technology has taught us much about our faraway skies — namely, that it’s cold, dark, and tantalizingly mysterious up there. It’s also scarier than Hell.

Nonetheless, it’s hard not to daydream about the outer limits or simply laugh at Captain Kirk and that space lizard in the worst fight scene ever filmed. Although many elements of the final frontier remain elusive, recent discoveries have revealed an array of terrifying threats that will keep even the bravest star warriors hiding under the covers with the lights on at night.

10. Meteor Showers

Imagine cruising along in your Honda or Chevy GUV (Galactic Utility Vehicle) blasting sound waves on the ol’ satellite when suddenly out of nowhere — BLAMMO — you’re blindsided by a huge boulder. Not only is your insurance rate going to skyrocket, but the nearest space side assistance is billions of miles away. Bummer.

Although this scenario may seem like a sci-fi nightmare, a similar occurrence actually occurred on planet earth in 2013 after a meteorite exploded over the Ural mountains in Russia. By the time the dust settled, over 400 people had been injured, underscoring the disturbing reality that cascading debris can strike without warning.

Fortunately, most large falling objects burn up while traveling through the earth’s atmosphere. Space travelers in the future, however, will have to dodge a spate of other potential hazards, including meteors, comets, and asteroids.

9. Black Holes

Q: What traps light, warps time, and operates on a colossal scale but yet can’t be seen? A: Black Holes. True to its enigmatic label, black holes have been mythically confounding ever since Albert Einstein first introduced the notion with his general theory of relativity in 1916.

Recently, astronomers took the first image ever of a black hole via the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight linked telescopes around the world. Although many questions still remain unanswered, black holes are characterized by the way they affect nearby debris, stars, and galaxies — and typically form out of the death of a large star called a supernova (more on that that later). Unlike a planet or star, a black hole doesn’t have a surface but rather occupies a region where matter has collapsed on itself. The amount of concentrated mass is such that nothing can escape its gravitational pull — not even light — and certainly not an astronaut who makes a disastrous wrong turn while lost in space.

Black holes exist in many different sizes, and similar to tornadoes, they tend to move around at high speeds, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Even a small one in our Solar System would be catastrophic, tossing planets out of orbit and ripping the sun to shreds. Although intrepid explorers will be tempted to visit these dark voids, nothing so far has ever survived a trip to a black hole.

8. Solar Flares

Our sun is a glorious, awe-inspiring star that provides warmth, light and the necessary temperature for precious life to exist. It’s also steadily expanding —and will someday completely destroy earth, torching our beloved planet like a marshmallow that’s been left too long around a campfire. Fortunately, that won’t happen for billions of years, but in the meantime, solar flares are capable of inflicting tremendous damage with little or no warning.

solar flare is a violent eruption that occurs when stored energy on the sun is suddenly released. This produces another one of those ridiculous hotter-than-Hell numbers, releasing a flash of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Scientists classify solar flares according to their brightness and in relation to x-ray wavelengths. The largest of categories, X-class flares, are large, disruptive events that can severely damage satellites, wipe out power grids, and basically relegate all “smart” technology to stupid pieces of crap.

7. Eridanus Supervoid

First of all, stop your juvenile snickering. No, this isn’t slang for an epic bowel movement or anything of the sordid kind. The Eridanus Supervoid is believed to be a massive empty section located in the Eridanus Constellation just south of Orion. However, what makes this discovery so intriguing is that it’s not only the largest structure ever observed in the Universe, but it’s missing about 10,000 galaxies — or around 20 percent less matter than other regions. As a result, the oddity could possibly contain an “alternative reality” within this ominous patch of sky.

In 2004, cosmologists at University of Hawaii observed a span stretching 1.8 billion light-years across and located about 3 billion light-years away (1 light year = 5.88 trillion miles). They identified a large Cold Spot on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), a map of the radiation left over from the Big Bang, providing a critical tool to study the origin and development of the Universe at cosmic timescales.

The startling revelation presented a perplexing conundrum: the enormity of the cold spot doesn’t align with our current understanding of how the Universe evolved. While it’s not uncommon to find a few small warm and cold patches on the CMB, cold patches of this magnitude are a head-scratching anomaly. According to one report, it’s “too big to exist.”

6. Fermi’s Paradox

In 1942, an Italian-American physicist named Enrico Fermi led an all-star team of scientists to build the world’s first nuclear reactor. This monumental effort was part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret U.S. government operation that produced the atomic bomb. Afterward, Fermi shifted his attention and extraordinary acumen on solving another complex subject: why haven’t we detected any other alien civilization despite the billions upon billions of other Earth-type planets that most likely exist?

The theory, which came to be known as “Fermi’s Paradox,” posits how the high probability of extraterrestrial life is contradictory to the lack of fact-based, demonstrable evidence supporting it. Naturally, this school of thought discounts the myriad of claims made by people who have allegedly witnessed UFOs or experienced alien encounters — not to mention phenomenons such as Crop Circles and Cargo Cult Theory.

While it’s tough to argue with a genius of Fermi’s stature (especially with our own limited, reptilian brains), we’re left wondering if it’s more frightening that we’re all alone or that hostile life forms are waiting to devour us like a Great White Shark munching seal snacks. Either way, it’s best to keep that aforementioned light on at night.

5. HyperNova

Many subjects dealing with the cosmos involve an impossible-to-fathom number. A hypernova is one of them. In this instance, the astronomical figure relates to the excessive amount of heat and energy generated from an explosion. But first, let’s review what is known about these fascinating wonders.

Novas are relatively small eruptions that occur in double star systems. When a white dwarf’s gravity pulls material away from a companion star, gas piles up and eventually becomes dense enough to ignite in a spark of nuclear fusion. Next, the Supernova, usually marks the death of a large star and the formation of a neutron star. The heat of a supernova can reach 120 million degrees — a temperature five times that of a nuclear blast.

Finally, a hypernova is an ultra-energetic supernova marking the birth of black holes and the release of intense gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most energetic form of light. As the mightiest of the Nova family, hypernovae are 5 to 50 times more energetic than a supernova. Additionally, for sake of completion, “Champagne Supernova“ is a song by the mega pop band Oasis, featuring lyrics of which scientists have yet to decipher the meaning…

4. We’re really, really, really small…

Although mother earth appears to be a gigantic sphere of bottomless oceans and endless roads, we’re relatively puny compared to other planets. How small? In terms of relative scale, Jupiter is 2.5 times larger than all the rest of the planets in the Solar System combined. But if you really want to feel minuscule, look no further than our sun — that big fiery 10,000-degree inferno 93 million miles away.

The Sun’s diameter is 109 times bigger than the rock we call home and is so large that 1,300,000 planet Earths could fit inside of it. While the luminous ball appears to be the largest star in the sky, that’s only because it’s the closest. The #1 star in the universe is the gargantuan UY Scuti, a Red Supergiant with a radius around 1,700 times larger than our sun.

But don’t despair, Earthlings. At least now you know how a ladybug feels, clinging to a thin blade of grass.

3. Rogue Planets

These wandering vagabonds (also known as nomad planets, unbound planets, orphan planets, starless planets, etc.) are objects with enough mass to qualify as planets but orbit a galactic center directly. The Universe, despite its vast expanse, consists of a jam-packed arena of activity that often resembles a well-choreographed dance. But a rogue planet disrupts this flow, stumbling recklessly to the beat of its own rhythmless hum while bumping into other cosmic bodies like a drunken ballerina.

Scientists believe rogue planets may have have been ejected from a previous planetary system or have never been gravitationally bound to another body such as a star. Furthermore, our galaxy (aka the Milky Way) alone may have billions of them.

Interestingly, some rogue planets feature a molten core, which combined with an insulated, cold exterior, could possess subterranean oceans that support life. A team of petrologists from Rice University recently theorized that a rogue planet the size of Mars possibly collided with earth 4.4 billion years ago, and could very well have planted the seeds of life while creating enough debris that later developed into our moon.

2. Space Junk

Ever since the start of the space race, man-made objects have been piling up in what has been politely termed “orbital debris.” But that’s being a little too kind. Let’s just call it what it really is: space junk. A wide range of discarded litter now includes thousands of metal fragments, cameras, spent rocket boosters, and even a complete 1958 U.S. satellite (Vanguard-1) that’s currently the oldest artificial hunk of metal still in orbit.

This overflowing galactic garbage, not unlike our polluted oceans, is rapidly nearing a critical juncture; the consequences could be detrimental for both astronauts and those below running for cover from the falling rubbish. There are currently over 1,700  satellites in operation, yet represents less than 10 percent of debris large enough to track from the ground. An obscene amount of smaller objects could also cause serious damage — and sadly, the number will only to continue to climb.

In just one single action from 2007, China destroyed a decommissioned weather satellite during one of its weapons tests, smashing the object into over 150,000 pieces. However, any attempts to clean up spiraling mess could present even more problems in terms of national security (surveillance equipment) and/or result in conflicts over territorial rights. In short, we’re doomed.

1. Zombie Stars

Just when you think we couldn’t be inundated any more movies, TV shows, and books about bloodsuckers and the undead, the science community has joined the fray with “Zombie Stars.”  Really? What’s next brainiacs, a Frankenplanet? Never mind.

As one might guess, a zombie star is something that won’t die. Ever. The monstrous explosion from a supernova typically glows brightly for a while before the dying star is obliterated into space dust. That is unless, for reasons that have yet to be determined, the star manages to avoid death. Adding to the horror show, the zombie star can become a vampire star by sucking fuel and energy from a nearby star to revive itself.

The most famous zombie (for scientists, anyway) is known as iPTF14hls. The star first appeared in 1954 and was thought to have died over a half century ago — but a discovery in 2014 revealed it’s still alive with no plans of retiring. According to the renowned astronomer, Iair Arcavi, a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Las Cumbres Observatory, the star’s inexplicable behavior is the “the biggest puzzle I’ve encountered.”

Yikes. If he’s stumped, folks, all we can do is lock the doors to the space station and hope for the best.


Outer Space Tracings –

WIF Space

Big Better Building Part II – WIF Engineering Feats

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Incredible Modern

Engineering Achievements

Humanity likes nothing more than building insanely large and complicated structures, except maybe reading about large and complicated structures built by other people. Today, we’re going to do the latter. While the ancient people had some amazing engineering achievements, we’ve all seen an article or six about the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. As such, let’s focus on the amazing achievements of relatively modern engineering, such as…

Engineering HOF – WIF Into History

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History’s Greatest

Engineering Achievements

The history of civilization is replete with examples of humanity improving the world in which it lives. Through ingenuity, imagination, and hard work, humanity has spanned rivers, built roads, erected cities, and created the infrastructure to connect them. Some projects took centuries to complete; others were finished with alacrity, driven by immediate needs. Many were treated with derision by contemporaries who considered the vision of their proponents’ to be delusional. Some — the Panama Canal being one example of many — were completed only after a spectacular and expensive failure during earlier attempts. Still others were spurred by the competition between nations and empires

Spectacular feats of engineering preceded the term engineer. The master builders and visionaries evolved over the centuries from mathematicians (spontaneously, it would seem) across the globe. The Great Wall in China, the pyramids of the Maya and Aztec cultures, the cities of the ancient world all were accomplished by engineering, though the builders and designers were unaware that they were engineers. Over the centuries, engineering accomplishments were directed at the worship of gods and heroes, the improvement of societal life, and to simply celebrate the spirit of humanity. Here are 10 of the greatest engineering achievements in history.

10. The Roman Water Distribution System

Three centuries before the beginning of the Common Era the Roman Republic, later the Empire, distributed water throughout its dominions using a system of canals, pipes, reservoirs, standing tanks, and aqueducts. Entirely through the use of gravity the Romans distributed fresh water to cities and towns, as well as to mines and farms. Some of the aqueducts still stand, architectural marvels built by laborers under the supervision of surveyors and master builders. By the end of the third century the city of Rome was serviced by eleven separate water conduits distributing water throughout the city, and in the case of the wealthier citizens directly into their homes. Poorer residents resorted to public wells and baths.

The empire was serviced with water systems as well, operated by both local governments and the state. Natural springs were the preferred sources of water. Easements were established by law on either side of the conduit’s pathway. The waterways were liberally supplied with inspection points – which would today be called manholes – and the water was routinely inspected for purity. Lead pipes were used in some sections, though the use of ceramic piping was preferred, and sections of the aqueducts which were of concrete were lined with brick, to prevent erosion and to help filter the water. The system was so well designed and built that there are sections still in use for the distribution of fresh water nearly 20 centuries after they were built.

9. The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia

Built as a Christian church and later converted to an Islamic mosque, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia is today a museum, and an iconic image of Turkey. Originally constructed in the sixth century it has survived rioting, looting by conquerors, earthquakes, fires, and the ravages of time. Built chiefly of masonry, it is easily recognized by its corner minarets and its massive dome. Built and rebuilt many times over the years, it remains a symbol of Byzantine architecture, and for over 1,000 years Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. Its design was revolutionary in its day.

The huge dome is set upon a square base, supported by four triangle shaped pendentives in the square’s corners. The pendentives carry the weight of the dome and direct it downwards, rather than outwards as the shape of the dome would otherwise dictate. Though the dome collapsed on more than one occasion, and was modified during rebuilding to include ribs which help distribute its weight to the supporting walls, each rebuilding strengthened it and improved the overall structure of the building. Hagia Sophia is a museum of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, as well as the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. It remains one of the largest masonry buildings in the world in the 21st century.

8. The Leshan Buddha

Carved from a single stone and completed in the early ninth century, the Great Buddha of Leshan stands over 230 feet tall, with a breadth across the shoulders of 92 feet. It is the tallest statue of Buddha to be found in the world, carved from the sandstone of a cliff overlooking the junction of the Min and Dadu Rivers in Sichuan. Ordinarily sandstone would be easily eroded by the rainwater which has fallen on the statue over the centuries. That it hasn’t is a tribute to the ingenious engineering which controls the flow of water through and behind the statue, which has served to protect it since its completion circa 803 CE.

The Leshan Buddha includes over 1,000 coiled hair buns, of stone, which are placed on the statue’s head. They were designed to collect rainwater, and to route it to a system of drains and drainpipes which allow the water to flow through the statue’s head and arms, draining out the back, behind the stone clothes and away from the statue, protecting it from the effects of erosion. The system was installed as part of the original carving. Originally protected by a wooden shelter which was destroyed by the Mongols, the statue has stood exposed to the elements for seven centuries, with its drainage system protecting it from erosion. Today the greatest threat to the statue is the heavily polluted air of the region, a factor its designers could not have anticipated.

7. The Erie Canal

Between the Hudson River and Lake Erie land elevation increases by about 600 feet. Canal locks of the day (1800) could raise or lower boats about 12 feet, which meant that at least 50 locks would be required to build a canal which linked the Hudson with the Great Lakes. President Thomas Jefferson called the project “…little short of madness.” New York’s governor, Dewitt Clinton, disagreed and supported the project, which led to its detractors calling the canal “Dewitt’s Ditch” and other, less mild pejoratives. Clinton pursued the project fervently, overseeing the creation of a 360 mile long waterway across upstate New York, which linked the upper Midwest to New York City. The cities of Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, thrived once the canal was completed, in 1825.

The engineering demands of the canal included the removal of earth using animal power, water power (using aqueducts to redirect water flow), and gunpowder to blast through limestone. None of the canal’s planners and builders were professional engineers, instead they were mathematics instructors, judges, and amateur surveyors who learned as they went. Labor was provided by increased immigration, mostly from Ireland and the German provinces. When it was completed in 1825 the canal was considered an engineering masterpiece, one of the longest canals in the world. The Erie Canal’s heyday was relatively short, due to the development of the railroads, but it led to the growth of the port of New York, and spurred the building of competing canals in other Eastern states.

6. The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge was originally envisioned by John Roebling, who had built suspension bridges of shorter spans across the Ohio River and at other locations. The project in Brooklyn and Manhattan led to an accident which cost Roebling his life, and the engineering challenges passed to his son, Washington Roebling. Washington was stricken with the bends early in the construction, and was forced to supervise the project from his Manhattan apartment. The engineering challenges were difficult; wooden caissons were sunk to the bottom of the East River, with men inside them to excavate the river bottom until the caissons reached bedrock. In the case of the east tower supporting the bridge, they never did. The tower rests on sand to this day.

It took 14 years to complete the project, from 1869 -1883. Often described as a suspension bridge, the structure is in reality a hybrid suspension/cable stayed bridge, with the load of the span transferred by wire cables to the towers, and thence to the bedrock on the Brooklyn side, and the sand over the bedrock on the Manhattan side. In the 21st century it carries six lanes of traffic as well as bicycles and pedestrians, though it no longer accommodates rail traffic, nor commercial vehicles. It was considered the engineering masterpiece of the world at the time of its completion, spanning nearly six thousand feet, and linking the formerly separate cities of Brooklyn and New York.

5. The Eiffel Tower

Gustave Eiffel built the iconic symbol of Paris – indeed of all of France – to serve as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Contrary to popular belief, Eiffel did not design the tower, instead purchasing the patent rights to the design from engineers within his employ. He then signed a contract for the construction of the tower acting as himself, rather than as his company, and later set up another company to handle the management of the tower and the income derived from it. The design of the tower was controversial from the outset, with artists and engineers complaining of its lack of aesthetic value. It was said that French writer Guy de Maupassant ate at the restaurant in the tower after its completion because it was the only place in Paris from which the tower could not be seen.

The ironwork was delivered to the site with holes for connecting bolts pre-drilled, and as they were installed the tower was brought into proper alignment through the use of hydraulic jacks installed near the four feet of the structure. Creeper cranes climbed the legs of the tower to erect each succeeding level. The tower was declared complete in March 1889, at the time the tallest man-made structure in the world. It reached the height of 1,063 feet and remains the tallest structure in Paris. The tower was to have been dismantled in 1909, under the terms of the original contract, but its usefulness as a radio transmitter gained it a longer lease on life. By the end of the twentieth century the idea of dismantling the tower was unthinkable.

4. The Panama Canal

The 51-mile long cut across the Isthmus of Panama was a dream for many decades prior to the French beginning its construction in 1881. During the building of America’s Transcontinental Railroad, equipment for use in the Sierras was shipped from the east coast of the United States to Panama, transferred across the Isthmus, and then shipped to California. Engineers for years studied the building of a canal before the French attempted to complete one, but the engineering difficulties combined with the climate and politics to thwart their efforts after more than two decades. The United States stepped in where the French failed, and completed the canal in 1914, after another ten years of work.

The canal is actually two canals, connected on either end with an artificial lake, Lake Gatun, located 85 feet above sea level. Locks on the two canals raise or lower ships to or from the level of the lake, allowing them to traverse from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa. The canal allows ships to transfer from one ocean to the other in just under twelve hours. It was the engineering decision to abandon the sea level canal design favored by the French and instead create Lake Gatun through the building of Gatun Dam (then the largest dam in the world) and install locks to raise and lower ships which allowed the Americans to succeed in completing the dam, which changed shipping lanes and inter-ocean traffic forever.

3. The Channel Tunnel

For centuries the British Isles remained unconnected to the European continent, a situation which many Britons favored as critical to their national security. Numerous proposals for a tunnel beneath the channel were put forth, but opposition within England and France prevented any serious efforts. Attempts to build tunnels for automobile traffic were started and stopped in the mid-to-late 20th century. Finally, in the late 1980s, after the usual political and professional maneuvering among governments, businesses, and financiers, work on the tunnels for high speed rail trains got underway, already bearing the nickname by which it is best known today, the Chunnel.

The tunnel was built from both sides, using massive tunnel boring machines – TBMS – to approach each other. The machines bore through what is mostly chalk, though the varying geology of the French shore created some difficulties. Both the French and English used the removed spoil for land reclamation projects. The tunnels were lined with both cast iron and reinforced concrete. When completed, the tunnel provided electrical power to the trains running through it via overhead lines. The tunnel opened in 1994, and today allows for a trip from London to Paris in just over two hours. The tunnel also allows for freight traffic delivering goods manufactured throughout Europe to be imported to Britain, and British goods to find markets on the continent.

2. Burj Khalifa

The world’s tallest structure as of 2019, Burj Khalifa is a mixed use skyscraper in Dubai, which was completed in 2009. The building was designed by the same Chicago firm which designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in that city, and uses the same engineering principle of bundled tubes at its core to support the building’s weight. The tubular design allowed for substantially less steel to be used in construction, with most of the building being reinforced concrete. Its spire alone, which is mostly decorative, would qualify it as the 11th tallest structure in Europe were it erected on the continent.

The building has an outdoor swimming pool located on the 76th floor, with another on the 43rd floor. A 300 room hotel is located within the building, as well as corporate offices and private apartments. For those of a hardy constitution, 2,909 steps connect the ground floor with the 160th. The observation deck is located on the 124th floor. The surrounding park, known as Burj Khalifa Park, is landscaped with desert plants which are kept hydrated using water collected by the building’s cooling system, which itself relies on the cooler air of the upper portion of the building to decrease the temperatures of the lower portion of the structure.

1. The Apollo Space Program

It remains one of the signature engineering achievements in the history of the human race. No other program has delivered human beings to an environment other than their home planet and returned them safely to earth. Americans not only walked on the surface of the moon, they drove on it, using a battery driven vehicle designed for the purpose, capable of carrying two astronauts and greatly increasing the area which the lunar explorers could cover. It was carried to the moon within the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and used for the final three moon missions in the early 1970s. In 2003, the National Academy of Engineers called the program the “…greatest engineering team effort in American history.”

The Apollo program led to significant advances in the development of integrated circuitry, contributed to the growing cause of environmentalism, and over 20% of the world’s population watched on television when astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the lunar surface. NASA claimed spin-offs from the space program in the areas of freeze-dried foods, emergency reflective blankets, hand-held portable vacuum cleaners, and more than 2,000 other areas. LASIK surgery is a direct descendant of the technology developed to dock with vehicles in space, first performed as part of the Gemini program, in which astronauts learned the techniques required of Apollo.


Engineering HOF –

WIF Into History

New Stuff – Don’t Blink and They’re So Yesterday

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Tech Items

You Need To

Know About

We often check out sci-fi movies and books for ideas on what future tech could look like – anything from Marty McFly’s hoverboard to Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber – but what we don’t realize is that there are so many amazing gadgets and gizmos already around us. Every year, genius minds come up with fantastic ideas that have the potential to be game-changers. Sure, some ideas may fall flat, but for every weird and wacky item, there is a genuinely cool piece of technology that we humans could be using for many years into the future. Let’s take a look at 10 items that seem from the year 3017, but are actually coming very soon or available now.

10. PowerRay underwater drone by PowerVision

Sure, drones can record incredible footage from the sky, but what if you want to explore another vast and open area: the ocean. That’s why the Powerway underwater drone looks to be hugely popular, as it will be able to be controlled underwater to depths of 98 feet (30 meters). The little submarine-esque item can record 4K video and stream it to your phone, which is not only fascinating to the average seagoer, but also useful for fishermen. A sonar function is available which can apparently detect fish from up to 131 feet away (40 meters) and baits them with the help of a blue light. This makes us think that fishing doesn’t sound so hard after all!

9. Spectacles by Snap Inc.

Snapchat is already one of the most popular apps in the world, and now the company behind it all, Snap Inc., has now released their very own physical product: Spectacles. These record 10-second clips at the press of a button, which can then be uploaded to your Snapchat account. These sound useful, as you can have your phone in your pocket but still be able to record things from your POV, and they are stylish enough to be worn outside (unlike Google Glasses, RIP). However, there has been some discussion about privacy concerns regarding the Spectacles, as the thought that someone could be taking a video without your knowledge or approval is a real issue among people today.

8. Smart bikes by LeEco

LeEco has created smart bikes that contain some very useful improvements to your regular bike. There is a 4-inch touchscreen attached to the frame, which can provide you with on-screen directions and riding stats, as well as a compass, speedometer and barometer. There’s also some lasers attached to the handlebars, which create a virtual lane in front of you, which is kind of cool. There will be two types available for LeEco’s smart bikes: a road version and an all-terrain version. What’s great is that the smart bike doesn’t look so much different from the bikes of today, thereby reducing the risk of theft as it’s not over-the-top and ostentatious.

7. 360 smart bed by Sleep Number

This is perhaps the most high-tech bed on the market. The 360 smart bed is said to adjust to your ideal level of firmness and support, as you can control all settings relating to comfort. What’s really fun is that if the bed senses you snoring, it will gently raise the head section to (hopefully) prevent it for the rest of the night. Sleep Number’s bed can also warm your feet, which is said to help induce sleep much faster. In the morning, you’ll get sleep statistics sent to your phone, which means getting good sleep is now training of sorts.

6. The Core by Norton

The Core is not only a modern router for the home, but also a very stylish and futuristic-looking item – exactly what we want! But it’s more than a pretty sight, as the router contains security features that are said to prevent hackers, malware, and viruses from ever getting into any item with an Internet connection. As we have smartphones, laptops, tablets, and even fridges connected to the web, this is a big advantage in a world where cybercrime is a prevalent threat.

5. U connected shower system by Moen

This is something we’re really excited about, as getting the perfect shower temperature every morning seems to take way longer than we’d like. From your smartphone, you’ll be able to pre-heat the water temperature before you even get in, as well as setting a time limit to turn off the shower so you don’t spend ages in there and end up late for work (easy to do on a Monday morning). This device could also help in drought areas, as there’s no need to waste water as you wait for the perfect temperature – it happens instantly.

4. Moxi stroller and phone charger by 4moms

Everyone loves to get two things done at once, so that’s why 4moms made the moxi. The stroller doesn’t just get your child from A to B, but can charge your phone whilst doing so. Using kinetic energy, you can ditch regular old electricity to keep your phone from running low. There are additional great features of the stroller too, like an LCD dashboard that shows various data, headlights and taillights, and a fully adjustable seat and handlebars.

3. Pop instaprint camera by Polaroid

Not a company to dwell in the past, Polaroid has gone full 21st century by creating their Pop instaprint camera. Able to print 3″ x 4″ prints on-the-go, the camera gives you those instant memories but in a much more modern and sleeker design. The Pop from Polaroid can also shoot 1080p HD videos, making it the ultimate party or travel item. The notion of printing out photos has died somewhat, as most of our pictures tend to stay on our phones or computers, but the Pop camera bridges the gap between digital image and handheld phone.

2. Touchscreen by Tanvas

Have you ever wanted to feel what the material is like of a shirt when shopping online? Well, Tanvas can make that possible with their touchscreen technology. Tanvas has partnered with apparel company Bonobos, so you can know how smooth or rough those pants are before purchasing. It remains to be seen about what other applications this technology from Tanvas can be used for, but for the meantime, this could be very useful for online shoppers who want to go that extra mile.

1. Kitchen assistant by Hello Egg

Move over Alexa, there’s a new voice-operated home gizmo in town. Hello Egg’s device is specifically made for the kitchen, where it will assist you in planning meal ideas for the week, as well as keeping your shopping list organized and shouting out instructions for when you eventually start cooking. We really love this idea, as it can be often confusing to cook a new meal with only written instructions, but thankfully Hello Egg’s assistant has the option to show videos too, in addition to voice directions. No more burnt meals!


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Don’t Blink and They’re So Yesterday

Unusual Pirated Products – WIF Consumer Corner

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5 Unusual

Pirated Products

As a wise man once said, piracy is often a pricing issue, not a servicing issue. In short, people pirate things not because they don’t want to pay for them, but because the legal avenue to obtain them is unnecessarily obtuse or customer unfriendly. With that in mind, here are five amusing stories about lesser known, but oddly popular items that have found themselves being pirated over the last few years.

 5. The Green Lantern movie was searched for more in 2011 than “porn”

If there’s one thing it’s not hard to find on the internet, it’s images and video of people doing the horizontal hug. Pornography is ubiquitous online and remains one of the internet’s most traded and oft-pirated forms of media… except for in 2011, when more people wanted to watch that terrible live-action Green Lantern movie.

To explain, according to collated list of the 100 most searched for terms on a popular torrent site throughout all of 2011, more users searched the words “green lantern” that year than they did the word “porn”. Along with apparently being more popular than the most generic search term to find pictures of boobs online we can think of, “green lantern” was sought out by pirates more often than even objectively better content that came out that same year, like Captain America: The First Avenger or Breaking Bad. Then again, maybe the reason pirates torrented the Green Lantern movies so much is because they didn’t feel it was worth paying for it. Hell, we wouldn’t blame them, we paid to see that movie and wish we could have that money back every time we don’t have enough change to buy a soda.

4. The most commonly pirated eBooks are about being better at sex, Photoshop, and math

Thanks to the rise of electronic reading devices like the Kindle, it’s possible to download and, perhaps more pertinently to this article, pirate your favorite books. Meaning that yes, we live in an age where it’s possible to illegally download 18,000 copies of the Bible if you really felt like it.

Like most things online, sites on which it’s possible to illegally download eBooks meticulously track what users are doing and the results are actually kind of fascinating. For example, in 2011 it was found that the 10 most torrented ebooks by users of the PirateBay included two books about using Photoshop, and three books detailing how to be better at sex, neither of which seems all that surprising at first. However, inexplicably sandwiched between both these things on the list is a book titled 101 Short Cuts in Maths Anyone Can Do. A book that, as far as we can tell, detailed neither how to blow a woman’s mind in bed or better use radial gradients. Meaning maybe, just maybe, it was torrented purely for the benefit of learning something interesting, but ultimately useless in real life. Speaking of which…

3. People love pirating college textbooks

There are hundreds of horror stories about the ever rising cost of college textbooks floating around the internet, from students having to pay hundreds of dollars to buy a book their professor wrote, to textbooks being reprinted every year just to force students to buy them again. Most sources are in agreement that college textbooks simply cost too much, but few offer a solution to the problem. Or, should we say, few offer a legal solution to the problem… because many students have found that pirating a textbook they’re going to use for one class is a preferable alternative to eating nothing but ramen for a semester.

Along with uploading PDFs of popular course books, more enterprising students have skirted around the soaring price of college reading material by doing things like pooling their cash buy a single copy and photocopying every page. To make this fact even more hilarious, the Washington Post has found that some students have even been found pirating textbooks for ethics classes. Meaning there’s a student out there somewhere writing an essay about the ethics of digital piracy, while referencing a pirated copy of their course textbook. The only way to make submitting that essay a bigger slap in the face for the professor would be to position the printer over their sleeping face, and replace the paper in it with slices of wet ham.

2. Pirated cable boxes offer better service than actual cable companies

Online streaming services have been collectively kicking the cable industry in its aging, greying sack for a while now, and for the most part cable companies have done nothing to try and compete with the superior service they provide. For example, a common complaint about cable companies is that they refuse to offer a la carte programming (basically the option to pick and pay for only one or two channels), and have repeatedly insisted that this isn’t possible. Which is weird, because the people pirating their service can do exactly that.

Yes, there are unscrupulous folks out there who will sell you a pirated cable box or Android device with any channel you want unlocked. The difference being that, unlike cable companies (who will slap on a bunch of stuff you don’t want and charge you $80 dollars every month for the privilege), the people those same cable companies call thieves, will charge you once and only give you exactly what you feel is worth paying for, with regard to channels. For example, in Canada some people were caught buying a one for a one off fee of about $100, purely so that they could watch Game of Thrones on HBO, a move that saw HBO send pissy letters to customers reminding them that “it’s never been easier to legally watch HBO shows in Canada.” A sentence that’s technically correct, if you’re willing to pay about $100 per month for a top tier cable package. In other words, the pirates are offering customers a better deal than cable companies, and the reaction from those companies is to do absolutely nothing to make their service better.

1. Keurig has spent years having an amazing pissing match about their coffee maker

Keurig is a company best known for making single cup coffee machines that use those weird little pods. They’re also known for being huge, whiney babies about people who don’t specifically use their coffee pods. The company maintains that only official Keurig brand coffee pods should be used with their machines, despite most generic coffee pods working just fine.

Keurig, rather than trying to compete with these rival companies by offering a better selection of products, lowering their prices, or producing higher quality coffee, have opted to instead design ever more sophisticated machines that refuse to accept anything but official Keurig pods. Keurig is so gung-ho about this that they released a new machine that didn’t even work with old Keurig podsleading to a massive public outcry when customers who bought one realized they had to buy the newer, more expensive pods compatible with the machine. An endeavor that proved to be ultimately fruitless, because every time Keurig does this, generic brand coffee pod makers always find a way to circumvent it either by pirating the technology in the pods or figuring out how to mimic it. Still, it’s kind of nice to know that right now, there’s a company getting rich selling pirated pods of coffee. If only because that sentence sounds hilarious.


Unusual Pirated Products

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WIF Consumer Corner