The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

Engineer "helpers"

Posted April 03, 2020 10:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Coronavirus engineers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” —Fred Rogers

Though perhaps overused to reconcile events that are difficult to process, this quote from television’s Mr. Rogers seems more appropriate now than ever before as we grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

All over the world, stories of helpers and those willing to sacrifice personal health and safety to save others are emerging; from first responders and healthcare personnel working without the proper protective equipment to volunteers making masks to protect those who ultimately protect us, helpers really are everywhere.

Though perhaps not on the frontlines, experts in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are also lending their expertise to help save lives.

For instance, a team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) is building a robotic pop-up laboratory in response to the coronavirus pandemic with the potential for processing over 1,000 patient swab samples in under 24 hours.

Meanwhile, engineers from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers are retrofitting space within New York City’s Jacob Javits Center to make way for roughly 1,000 beds in anticipation of more coronavirus-related illnesses overwhelming local hospitals.

Similarly, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made the template design for an emergency ventilating device public amid a global shortage of life-saving ventilators as such machines are necessary to treat patients with extreme cases of the respiratory illness.

This is just a sampling of those helping out during this unprecedented event. And that help is not limited to the STEM world. Help is coming from even the most unexpected corners of the globe. Perhaps the most unexpected help was in the form of medical scrubs donated from a medical fetish — yes, that is evidently a thing — supplier website. The scrubs were donated to an unnamed hospital in the U.K. amid a protective wear shortage.

Probably not the kind of helper Mr. Rogers envisioned, but these events are unlike anything he, and the rest of us for that matter, could have ever imagined.

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Some thoughts on telecommuting during a pandemic

Posted March 20, 2020 9:07 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: remote Telecommuting

Amid coronavirus fears, the number of people working from home this week multiplied, compounded, quadrupled — depending on where you read the news.

If nothing else comes of the world’s response to the handling of the pandemic, one thing is all but certain: there will likely be an increase in the number of people working from home, even after life returns to relative normal.

Workers from most industries can expect to spend the coming weeks working from the comfort of their homes, waiting out toilet paper shortages, school sanitation efforts and something called social distancing, which, as it turns out, I have been preparing for my entire life.

We are, folks, living in strange times, which makes me more than appreciative that I work for a company that ensures its employees have the ability to work from home — where for the next two plus weeks I can expect to experience cabin fever while arguing with my significant other and re-learning second grade math as our daughter weathers an unplanned and prolonged spring break.

And I welcome all of it, because I know this luxury is not afforded to everyone, particularly those in the service industry.

Stay healthy out there and let CR4 know how remote working, self-quarantining, social distancing or working on site amid the pandemic is going for you.

PS: Social distancing wise, I haven’t had to engage in the prolonged physical greetings family members and friends seem to typically enjoy. Instead I can awkwardly wave at them from no less than 6 feet away — just as I like it.

18 comments; last comment on 05/03/2020
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Wine pours from Italian plumbing

Posted March 13, 2020 1:30 PM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: plumbing wine

For a brief shining moment in a little town in northern Italy, a sparkling red wine flowed freely from an aqueduct and into the pipes of some lucky residents' homes before a local waste disposal company put an end to the merriment.

Settecani, a town in northern Italy’s wine region and home to the Settecani Castelvetro Winery, experienced a plumbing incident of (going for the low-hanging fruit here) biblical proportions — where water, albeit briefly, turned into wine.

Following a fault in a silo on the production line at the Settecani Castelvetro Winery, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, a sparkling red wine, passed through Settecani’s municipal water system, into a local aqueduct and, eventually, through the pipes of some of the townspeople’s homes.

Feeling compelled to issue an apology for the alleged mishap, the winery stated: Due to a fault in the bottling line, Lambrusco Grasparossa came out of some taps in Settecani," the winery said in an (unnecessary) apology posted to Facebook. "Hera (a waste disposal company) intervened following our report and the problem was solved. The incident did not involve hygiene or health risks. We apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Most of those affected by the event were too preoccupied to lodge complaints as they busily scrambled to bottle up the wine flowing from their taps, blissfully unaware that a killjoy neighbor (I’m assuming) would eventually blab about the snafu — all because dishes and a shower just couldn’t wait.

3 comments; last comment on 03/14/2020
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Join Me as I Lend to the Coronavirus Hysteria, Won't You?

Posted March 06, 2020 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Coronavirus Shield

As the hysteria surrounding the spread of the coronavirus intensifies — hastened along by blogs and articles like this one — several products, legitimate and otherwise, are cropping up to ease the concerns of a manic public.

Among the bevy of apps, AI systems, and customized masks innovators have created to track and fight the virus, a developer from Penda China has created a wearable shield of sorts to quite literally battle the quick-spreading virus.

Dubbed “Be a Batman” in a nod to the possibility that bats are the source of the virus, the shield is a lightweight structure of PVC film that shrouds the wearer in a protective layer, a so-called third skin or bubble. The structure is worn on the body like a backpack secured by a carbon fiber skeleton frame and the PVC film wraps around the wearer, enveloping the wearer’s face and most of his or her body, shielding against the virus.

In addition to the protective gear, ultraviolet light acts as another layer of protection, sterilizing the surface of the shield, reportedly slowing the person-to-person spread of the virus.

Unfortunately, the suit is only in the design phase and won’t be available until its developer finds a company interested in bringing the suit to market.

In the meantime, we can all commission creepy customized masks designed to conceal the fact that we are wearing masks by superimposing an image of our mouths on the standard protective mask. Somehow, this seems more upsetting than people moving around concealed by nothing more than a structured, life-sized Tide pod.

Source: Penda China

56 comments; last comment on 03/18/2020
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App May Prevent You from Getting the Coronavirus

Posted February 28, 2020 12:00 PM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: app Coronavirus

At first, I was intrigued by the headline: China Launches “Close Contact Detector” App. A promise, perhaps, to keep those who get too close from breaking some imaginary, yet very discernible personal space boundary during day-to-day interactions. If you’ve ever felt the hot breath of a stranger reach the back of your neck while innocently standing in line at Target, you'll understand why an app like this would be appealing.

Alas, this is not what the app is for.

Instead, researchers from China are enabling its citizens to track their movements in relation to others infected, or suspected of being infected, with the coronavirus.

Using the wealth of data China already collects about its citizens who are tracked via a national identification number and other methods, the app draws from data about a user’s movements, for instance from records about public transportation usage, to determine if a user has either traveled with, worked alongside, or even lived with someone demonstrating symptoms of the coronavirus.

To access this information, users are required to register their phones and input their names and national IDs to reveal their historical movements and measure those movements against the movements of those infected with the virus.

While the app will likely have significant implications for reducing coronavirus exposure, I’ll be waiting patiently right here for someone to develop the app that triggers an alarm whenever someone gets too close.

12 comments; last comment on 03/04/2020
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