Where are space elevators coming

Where are space elevators coming

The prospect of devices that would enable passengers to be disassembled into atoms, transmitted through space, and then reassembled at the other end, has often been broached in science fiction. Think of all those classic Star Trek episodes, where Captain Kirk, requiring to escape the clutches of sundry anti-social aliens, flips open his mobile device to utter the well-worn phrase: ‘Beam us up, Scotty!' Sadly, the key word in that opening description is ‘fiction'. However, rapidly moving bodies from a planet surface into positions high up in the atmosphere is not necessarily a complete fantasy. Welcome to the concept of the space elevator. 

Firstly, what exactly are we talking about when we use the phrase space elevator? This would be a device made up of a tether, anchored on the ground, that would reach 100,000 kilometers up into space. This means of transport would provide safe and inexpensive access to an orbital point, as often as was deemed necessary. The overall concept was recently discussed in a report conducted by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and entitled: ‘Space elevators: an assessment of the technological feasibility and the way forward'.

The findings of the report make for interesting reading. In the first place, the experts concluded that, theoretically, a space elevator was viable, on the understanding that the risks could be overcome with the likelihood of technological advances as the century progresses. A degree of international co-operation would also need to be applied, resulting in a robust administrative infrastructure being built alongside the technical blueprint.

The tether that would deliver electronic vehicles up into the atmosphere would need to meet various economic criteria. The actual vehicles themselves – described as climbers in the report – would travel up and down at the speed of high-speed trains. The difficulty of maintaining a degree of tautness in the tether would be accomplished by the very rotation of the Earth.

One positive aspect of this technology is that the concept itself is nothing new. As long ago as 1895 the Russian space scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky suggested building a free-standing tower, reaching from the planet's surface to the height of ‘geostationary orbit', at 35,800 kilometers. His prototype vision has been fine-tuned subsequently, to varying degrees, by writers, engineers and scientific researchers. But the recent study marks a considerable shift it the thinking behind space elevators, from the theoretical to the practical.

According to the President of the IAA, Gopalan Madhavan Nair: ‘no doubt all the space agencies of the world will welcome such a definitive study that investigates new ways of transportation with major changes associated with inexpensive routine access to geostationary earth orbit and beyond'.

Using Cloud Technology

Using Cloud Technology

Cloud technology is well worth adopting to boost your business. It eliminates costly physical storage space for your data, frees up your document movement and allows you keep all your interested parties in the data loop with no delays. 

It also allows you to stay flexible, supporting a more mobile workforce, while automatic software updates make sure you are never lagging behind. It's also more sustainable, cutting down on your usage of consumables such as paper and toner, which is good news for the environment and your budget. 

There are, however, certain things you have to keep in mind before you commit completely to cloud services. Here are three all-important tips to follow.

You still have to back up

Regardless of what kind of company you run and what kind of data you are storing, it must be backed up and backed up again. Cloud services are reliable but that does not make them infallible. Not only should you be backing up your data as often as possible, you should be testing your back ups too.

In terms of back up locations, ensure that these are stored in different locations than the data source.

Your web server will go down one day

Do not assume your web server will never fail you. In fact, keep in mind that it is an inevitability of running an IT network that it will go down and probably more than once. It's never a good thing when this happens but it can be a somewhat less debilitating and disastrous thing if you have planned for the worst ahead of time.

Use a number of different data locations (known as availability zones) and even the worst server failure will not set you too far back. The more regions your information is saved in the better. 

Double up on cloud services

Obviously this will depend on what you can afford, but it's a very good plan to add more than one cloud provider to your infrastructure. This means even more tools to help you regain your data if one service goes down.

Bill Gates quotes about tech business

Bill Gates quotes about tech business

For anybody that wants to know about how technology can be turned into business and how technology can power business, there is one man you simply have to listen too: Bill Gates. The chairman of Microsoft not only redefined technology in his incredible career but also did more to bring hardware and software into the business mainstream.

Here are a few of his most telling, wise and intelligent quotes.

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.

At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top - I'm afraid that's not quite right.

Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don't think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.

Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.

People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn't they? People feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines... There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear. But with time, people will come to accept their silicon masters.

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.

This is a fantastic time to be entering the business world, because business is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50.

Whether it's Google or Apple or free software, we've got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.

There are people who don't like capitalism, and people who don't like PCs. But there's no-one who likes the PC who doesn't like Microsoft.

The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't really even notice it, so it's part of everyday life.

How does 3D printing work

How does 3D printing work

The dominant story of this year's technology headlines has, undoubtedly, been the rise of 3D printing to the public conscience. From the speeches of Barack Obama to the rantings of the web's least popular tech blogs, everybody has been talking about it. Yet, for many, many people, the question of what exactly it is and how it actually works remains unanswered.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating objects, in which layers of material are placed on top of one another until the item is complete. This differs from the traditional subtractive modes of manufacturing, in which a large piece of material is whittled down into the desired shape. 

To achieve this, 3D printers extrude filament through a nozzle above a heated building platform below. The movement of the nozzle and pace at which the filament is extruded is controlled by a Computer Aided Design file of the intended object. 

So, if you want to print a cup, for example, you would first create design for your cup on a CAD programme then save it as an STL file and send it to your 3D printer. The printer would then manufacture it in a series of passes over the platform, one layer at a time. 

The possibilities of this process are endless. So far, everything from machine components to furniture to clothes to guns to medical items have come out of 3D printers. The upside of the process is customisability – you can literally make everything to your specifications. Also there is speed and, in some cases, cost. For example, prosthetic eyes for patients traditionally take weeks to create and come at a cost of around 3000 pounds. With 3D printing they can be made in about an hour for around 150 pounds. 

On the other hand, however, there are some downsides. Firstly, it is not exactly sustainable. None of the main filaments being used in consumer 3D printing are particularly environmentally friendly. Secondly, it is far from perfected. While the day may come where everybody in the country is printing off their own products at home on a 3D printer, that will not happen until the process becomes faster and more user friendly. 

So, while 3D printing may be the future, it is not quite the present just yet.