"I'm all shook up," sang Elvis. Well, the King may have been, but researchers at JILA, a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado sure aren't. They're building the "most vibration-free platform on Earth," they say. The structure will measure the ever-evasive thermal noise levels--typically unmeasurable due to the slightest mechanical vibration--as well as perform ground-based detection of low-frequency gravity waves coming from the cosmos. The instrument, designed to cancel out low-frequency, long-wavelength vibrations, uses three nested platforms hung on springs, each with six sensitive movement sensors and non-contact magnetic pushers. High-speed electronics activate the magnetic pushers that move the platform in the opposite direction and cancel the vibrations out. NIST researchers say the instrument can reduce vibration by a factor of nearly a million. The principles behind the project may be applicable to industrial processes like fabrication of ultra-small integrated circuits or diamond turning of super-smooth surfaces. Contact: James Faller (303) 492-8509 or Joseph Giaime (303) 492-0448.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.