SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Monday mornings pretty much always make me feel like blowing things up. So watching videos about things blowing up -- or people blowing things up -- seems to be a perfect way to ease into the work week.
Happily for my now-improving mood, demolition experts demolished a 1930s-era steel bridge along US 281 in Marble Falls, Texas over the weekend, and someone was there to film it. I love how the first two passes of the video -- real-time and semi-slo-mo -- it's difficult to see exactly how the demo goes. But the third time, look closely under the bridge. You can totally see the detonator cords burning up ahead of the ignition of the shaped charges that brought the trusses down. The video also clearly demonstrates the difference between the speed of light in air and the speed of sound in air -- the flashes from the charges are long gone by the time the sound waves make it to the filming location. According to a fact sheet from the Texas Department of Transportation, steel from the bridge will be recycled into "beautification projects." I read elsewhere that it'll be turned into sculptures or other pieces of public artwork.
This isn't the first time we've written about bridge demos. A couple of years ago, we ran a Megapixels about a bridge demolition in Ohio and West Virginia (the bridge spanned the Ohio River). During reporting, we learned that it required some 153 pounds of explosive to bring down that suspension bridge. The demolition occurred in multiple phases: cut the suspension cables, destroy the roadway and then topple the towers. To my glee, that demolition has a slow-motion video as well.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A new material that halts and absorbs light may lead to advances in solar energy, stealth technology, and other fields, experts report.
Researchers developed a “hyperbolic metamaterial waveguide” that halts and ultimately absorbs each frequency of light, at slightly different places in a vertical direction, to catch a “rainbow” of wavelengths. The technology is essentially an advanced microchip made of ultra-thin films of metal and semiconductors and/or insulators.
“Electromagnetic absorbers have been studied for many years, especially for military radar systems,” says Qiaoqiang Gan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at University at Buffalo.
“Right now, researchers are developing compact light absorbers based on optically thick semiconductors or carbon nanotubes. However, it is still challenging to realize the perfect absorber in ultra-thin films with tunable absorption band.
“We are developing ultra-thin films that will slow the light and therefore allow much more efficient absorption, which will address the long existing challenge.”
Light is made of photons that, because they move extremely fast, are difficult to tame. In their initial attempts to slow light, researchers relied upon cryogenic gases, which are very cold—roughly 240 degrees below zero Fahrenheit—and difficult to work with outside a laboratory.
Gan previously helped pioneer a way to slow light without cryogenic gases. He and other researchers at Lehigh University made nanoscale-sized grooves in metallic surfaces at different depths, a process that altered the optical properties of the metal. While the grooves worked, they had limitations. For example, the energy of the incident light cannot be transferred onto the metal surface efficiently, which hampered its use for practical applications.
As reported in the journal Scientific Reports, the waveguide solves that problem because it is a large area of patterned film that can collect the incident light efficiently. It is referred to as an artificial medium with subwavelength features whose frequency surface is hyperboloid, which allows it to capture a wide range of wavelengths in different frequencies, including visible, near-infrared, mid-infrared, terahertz, and microwaves.
Researchers say the technology could lead to advancements in an array of fields.
For example, in electronics there is a phenomenon known as crosstalk, in which a signal transmitted on one circuit or channel creates an undesired effect in another circuit or channel. The on-chip absorber could potentially prevent this.
The on-chip absorber may also be applied to solar panels and other energy-harvesting devices. It could be especially useful in mid-infrared spectral regions as thermal absorber for devices that recycle heat after sundown, Gan says.
Technology such as the stealth bomber involves materials that make planes, ships, and other devices invisible to radar, infrared, sonar, and other detection methods. Because the on-chip absorber has the potential to absorb different wavelengths at a multitude of frequencies, it could be useful as a stealth-coating material.
The University at Buffalo and the National Science Foundation supported the work.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Jordanians poured into the streets this month, staging hundreds of protests after the government announced that it was reducing fuel subsidies. A number of them devolved into riots or clashes between police and protesters as demonstrators chanted, "The people want the fall of the regime."
After two frustrating years of minimal gains, some opposition members seemed to even welcome a confrontation, or at least see it as an opportunity to pressure the regime.
But the anger that drove November's protests quickly faded: Opposition leaders continued to call for demonstrations, but fewer people showed up. By Nov. 23, the now-traditional Friday protest in Amman drew only a few hundred demonstrators who braved the rain. For the moment, Jordan's fuel price crisis appears to have ended, and its swift conclusion suggests the opposition underestimated how high a premium most Jordanians place on stability.
Activist Mothanna Gharaibeh says the angry rhetoric of protests earlier in the month has actually scared people away.
"Those 'revolution' people, they don't really understand how strong the regime is," Mr. Gharaibeh says.
Despite the slow pace of reform, when the University of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies asked Jordanians in October if they believed political movements should continue protesting in the street until their demands were met, or if they should participate in elections and try to achieve their desires through Parliament, an overwhelming majority chose elections.
"A majority want those political parties to be part of the reform process through constitutional ways," says Walid Alkhatib, the head of the center's polling unit. The poll was taken before the gas riots, so the results were not affected by any backlash against the recent violence, but rather point to a deep-rooted desire for stability and incremental change, even among many Jordanians who are dissatisfied with the reforms so far.
That conservatism is something protesters will be trying to take into account, as they to try to win people to their side before the next crisis comes.
The next stand-off
The date for the next crisis is already set: Jan. 23, the date of the next parliamentary elections.
Dissatisfaction with the legislature has been a major opposition complaint for years. In 2011, the government responded by passing a new elections law, meant to change a voting system that makes it very difficult for political parties to get candidates into parliament, and leaves many of Jordan's urban areas radically under-represented.
The king also revised the country's constitution, saying that the changes would pave the way for a cabinet of ministers formed by Parliament rather than appointed by the crown. But opposition leaders and analysts say those changes are cosmetic. Several opposition parties, including Jordan's powerful Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, have already announced a boycott of the new elections.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Drastically reducing calorie intake may not be as effective as previously thought for prolonging lifespan, according to a 23-year study published in Nature.
The idea that eating less could slow the ageing process was sparked when researchers at Cornell University found that rats and mice given a restricted diet could live 40% longer, and the concept has since been confirmed by studies on fruit flies and roundworms.
In 2009, gerontologist Richard Weindruch of the University of Wisconsin showed that a moderately calorie-restricted diet slowed ageing in rhesus monkeys over the course of 20 years.
But a new study on rhesus monkeys, carried out by the US National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Bethesda, Maryland, has found no overall benefit to longevity from calorie-restricted diets.
In this study, led by the NIA's Julie Mattison and published on Wednesday in Nature, rhesus monkeys were given 30% fewer calories compared with control animals over a 23-year period. Whether the monkeys were relatively young or in their teens at the start of the study, Mattison's team found no increase in longevity for the calorie-restricted animals, relative to controls.
But they confirmed, however, that eating less can improve health by delaying the onset of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Mattison's team regularly measured levels of glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride fats in the monkeys' blood, to work out the potential health benefits of the calorie-restricted diet. "Cholesterol levels were significantly lower in treated males than in untreated males, but were unaffected in females," wrote Steven Austad, a biologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas, in an accompanying comment piece.
He said that the different conclusions between the Wisconsin and NIA studies might be down to the composition of the monkey's respective diets. The diets were similar in the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats the monkeys ate. But they differed in the specific types of these nutrients - for example, 28.5% of the diet of the Wisconsin monkeys was made from sucrose, whereas the sugar only made up 3.9% of the NIA diet.
"Possibly related to this difference, more than 40% of the [Wisconsin] control animals and only 12.5% of the NIA controls developed diabetes – although this metabolic malfunction was completely absent in the [Wisconsin] calorie-restricted animals, but not in the treated animals in the NIA study," wrote Austad.
Another difference was that the control monkeys in the NIA study were given specific amounts of food, whereas the Wisconsin monkeys could eat as much as they liked. "Consequently, NIA control animals weighed less and were considerably longer-lived than the WNPRC controls," wrote Austad.
"One interpretation of this observation is that the NIA controls were partially restricted, which would account for the lack of a survival effect of the treatment in the NIA study. Nevertheless, all animals in both studies – even in the calorie-restricted groups – weighed more than wild-caught monkeys."—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The UAE’s real estate market is showing signs of recovery – nearly four years after the sector faced the fallout of the worst economic crisis in September 2008 that nearly halted most of the development activities.
Backed by a structured cash injection, careful re-engineering of major development companies and rescheduling of projects and debts, the sector is expected to rebound – although slowly, according to market experts.
“The overall residential market is seeing a positive trend with the villa market continuing to outperform the apartment sector in the second quarter of 2012,” real estate consultant, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), said in a recent report.
Signs of improved investor confidence have flowed into the real estate sector, with continued demand for quality, well located and income producing assets, it said.
“Prime residential buildings in well established locations continue to see improved performance, but secondary locations are still suffering from rental and pricing declines,” the report stated.
Except for RAK Properties, all the publicly listed property developers have recorded solid growth during the second quarter of this year. Emaar Properties recorded a 45 per cent jump in net profits to Dh1.2 billion at a time when its revenue remained flat, while Abu Dhabi’s biggest developer, Aldar Properties, recorded a 228 per cent jump in net profits in the second quarter of the year – visibly recovering from the near bankrupt situation when it had to be bailed out by the Abu Dhabi government last year.
Sorouh Real Estate, meanwhile, recorded Dh259 million profit – a 29 per cent increase over the same period a year earlier, while its revenue jumped 247 per cent to Dh1.2 billion.
“Dubai’s real estate recovery appears to have continued in Q2,” according to a report by Emirates NBD Research.
And prices for almost all categories of housing rose April through June according to data from Cluttons. “Mid-range villa prices rose 18.5 per cent year-on-year last month, outpacing the 14.6 per cent year-on-year rise in high-end villa prices. Apartment prices rose more modestly, while price declines in the beleaguered low-end apartment sector have slowed,” the data revealed.
Total value of land transactions in Dubai grew 21 per cent to Dh63 billion in the first half of 2012, according to the Dubai Land Department. The department’s statistics reveal that a total of 18,953 transactions were recorded in the first half of the year, consisting mostly of sales, mortgages, land development, lease contracts and grants.
Sultan Bin Mejrin, director-general of Dubai Land Department, said these are important indicators of growth and strong performance of the market.
“The real estate market in the UAE is quite fragmented with Dubai already seeing greater stability and even growth in some cases for certain sub-sectors of the market. This trend is expected to continue for the remainder of the year,” Matthew Green, Head of Research and Consultancy, CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), Middle East, told Gulf News.
Echoing similar thoughts is Niall McLoughlin, Senior Vice President of Damac Properties. “Confidence is coming back to the Dubai market and investors are looking to capitalise on some great offers. We are set to see an increase in valuations throughout the rest of the year and into 2013,” he said.
Deflationary pressures are likely to persist during the second half of 2012 as new supply continues to outpace growth in demand and heightened competition aggravates already falling rents, CB Richard Ellis said in its latest report.
“On the flip side those situation in less desirable locations will continue to face challenges in maintaining occupancy rates and in attracting new tenants. For Abu Dhabi the development cycle is significantly behind Dubai, with the capital only now reaching the peak of its development cycle,” said CBRE’s Green. “As new supply emerges we expect to see further deflation of sales and leasing rates, although this will be moderate as compared to the declines that we have seen during 2009 and 2010, at the peak of the market downturn.”
According to a recent report, Dubai remains in the top performing 15 cities in global real estate sector and number one in the Middle East throughout the second quarter with buoyant Asian markets and resurgence in the main European capitals providing a stimulus for growth.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Gulf News