November 2007 Issue

world watch

Bicycles Trés Cool On Streets of Paris


Freelance Writer

A new look is coming to the Central Market region of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

When it comes to green transportation, Paris is pedalling at the front with the introduction of Vélib, Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.) reports. The citywide system of rented bicycles and docking stations is the most recent development in Europe’s bid to reduce traffic congestion.

Vélib rolled into being in July, when nearly 11,000 bikes became available for a nominal charge at 750 self-serve stations. Small penalty charges are assessed when the bikes aren’t returned in time, to ensure they are rotated as much as possible.

Ice Core Research is Hot

The European Science Foundation claims that Europe is now leading the way in ice core research, which is viewed as critical to understanding climate change. The core research uses specialized drilling technology to obtain continuous sequences of ice.

When the drilling is deep enough, as it is on icecaps in the Arctic and Antarctic, the ice can reveal valuable information about the past. Trapped air bubbles may show the composition of the atmosphere in the distant past, while layers of ash reveal information about volcanic eruptions. The cores also contribute to our understanding of climate change because they suggest the volumes of methane and carbon dioxide that were once in the air.

The European Programme for Ice Coring in Antarctica is funded by the European Commission and 10 national agencies.

Code Changes Approved

A three-year investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Centre has resulted in changes to the International Building Code, which is published by the International Code Council in Washington, D.C.
Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.) reports that the changes reflect recommendations by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The code contains 18 changes, including three designed to improve building evacuation and access for emergency personnel. Three other changes concern fireproofing.

Epoxy Adhesive Faulted

Civil Engineering also reports that the collapse of 10 ceiling panels along the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston in 2006 was caused by the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive not meant to sustain long-term loads. About 24,000 adhesive anchors were used in the Ted Williams Tunnel to hold concrete panels in place.

Arab Market Goes Modern

Ever wonder what a modern version of a traditional Arabian open-air market would look like?
If so, start planning a trip to see a five-hectare development planned for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Civil Engineering reports that a trio of towers will transform the Central Market region of the city by 2010.

The design engineers for the project, Halvorson and Partners of Chicago, note that the roof of each tower will be built at an angle of 50 degrees from vertical to obtain the maximum amount of light.
A firm Albertans may recognize is the architect — Foster and Partners is also the lead architect for The Bow, which will be EnCana’s new headquarters in Calgary.

Safety in the Stars

What’s the best way to rescue astronauts from stricken spacecraft?

According to Aerospace America (Reston, Va.), a less costly option than the current plan would be to place crew life stations into space. These would support four astronauts for up to 60 days.

The current plan calls for crew of a stricken spacecraft to transfer to a rescue spacecraft standing by and return to Earth. That option is extremely expensive and has a high risk of failure, the publication states.

Glycerin is Growing

Interest is growing in using glycerin as a new platform for making chemicals, Chemical Engineering (New York) reports.

The price of glycerin is falling quickly as biodiesel plants are built, producing glycerin as a byproduct. Although glycerin has more than 1,500 known uses — including in pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics — the increase in supply is worrying for some producers, because of a possible effect on prices.

One potential use is in propylene glycol, an ingredient commonly found in lubricants, resins, paints, detergents and antifreeze. The Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., is already testing glycol for such applications as boat hulls and bathroom fixtures.

Drilling Lake Might Help Darfur

Radar has revealed a possible water source the size of Lake Erie in the Darfur region of Sudan, according to Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.).

With more than 30,000 square kilometres in surface area, a former lake — now apparently gone underground — may prove to be a source of fresh water, researchers at Boston University believe. Water from the lake seems to have seeped into the sand below and could potentially feed wells.

Some say such a large source of water could even help move the area towards peace, ABC reported. The find could ultimately lead to less competition for scarce resources, which is one of the causes often cited for internal conflict in Sudan.