Sunday, 29 September 2019

Research: Nanorobotics

A Brief History of the Future  suggests that by 2114 most humans in the developed world had nanoscale machine parts inside their bodies to keep them healthy. They were injected when disease was detected and removed when the job was done by collecting them with magnets and sucking them out with syringes.

The idea of robots so tiny they can be put inside the human body and repair it from within has long been the stuff of science fiction. In fact Wikipedia has an article on it. But how close are we to making it a reality?

Monday, 23 September 2019

Building a Castle: Rib Vaults

The castle towers, especially circular or polygonal towers, could have magnificent vaulted ceilings, particularly in the lord’s chambers. Later builders devised methods for long vaulted ceilings in churches. At Guédelon the great tower has a cross-rib vault which required skill to create.
Notre Dame de Paris
Master mason Florian Renucci and his teams of masons and carpenters achieved one of their greatest feats in planning, carving, constructing and fitting the the cross-rib vault. And remember, part of the brief in building Guédelon was to use only the tools and methods used in medieval times.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Research: Asteroid Mining

With Earth’s resources running short, asteroid mining seems on first examination to be a great idea. But is it science fiction or an actual possibility?
Asteroids are lumps of rock and rubble floating in space. The asteroid belt orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter and is estimated to contain 150 million large asteroids. There are also over 20,000 Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), which effectively bring the asteroids to us instead of us having to get all the way out to the main asteroid belt.

The book A Brief History of the Future suggests asteroid mining as a reality, but that is only supposition. There are enormous challenges to overcome and vast amounts of money required before we can tap into this vast store of resources. But maybe it is the only way forward, since experts estimate the Earth’s resources with run out in 50-60 years.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Building a Castle: Blacksmiths

We have already looked at master masons earlier in this series. Another vital craftsman was the blacksmith. 
Blacksmith at Guédelon
He too was a free man. His forge would have been in the castle bailey during war and in the local village during peacetime. He would have been in the centre of the building site during castle building. He made hinges and locks of course but his most important function was making and maintaining all the tools.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Research: Moon Base in Lava Tubes

The next topic suggested by A Brief History of the Future is the idea of a moon base underground.
On the Moon, a permanent base was set up in lava tubes close to the South Pole. Here they had light for their solar power arrays and frozen ice to supply the base with water. Being underground protected them from the temperature extremes on the surface and the airtight tunnels meant that residents needed neither suits nor helmets.
To my surprise, this is exactly what NASA and other space organisations are planning.
Lava Beds National Monument, California

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Building a Castle: Tower Keeps

As we saw last week, a shell keep offered all round protection for the most important buildings in the castle, but the buildings themselves were cold and draughty and the wood was subject to rot. Later castles, especially those on a level site or a rocky outcrop that could take the weight, had a stone tower keep so the important buildings were stone.
The White Tower, Tower of London
These great towers were a symbol of the lord's power and status, both to the local population and other lords.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Research: Artificial Lenses

I wrote a while ago about Augmented Reality Glasses and where we are today in developing them. Charles Joynson, the author of A Brief History of the Future,  suggests that once the glasses are a reality, they will develop intraocular lenses (inside the eye) to do the same.

I was surprised to find that artificial lenses for normal sight are already in use. When a cataract is removed, an artificial lens is put in its place. 

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Building a Castle: The Shell Keep

If you are one of the aristocracy and your headquarters are on a man-made hill behind a wooden palisade, you're going to be looking for something better, especially if it has burned down once or twice. The answer is to use stone.

The first keeps were a stone wall enclosing the top of the motte in a motte and bailey castle. The Normans were afraid the man-made motte was not strong enough to support a stone building, but a shell keep spread the weight and allowed the buildings inside to be made of wood. All the most important rooms, particularly the lord's chamber, were built inside. Should the outer walls be breached, attackers had another wall between them and their goal. And a much bigger one.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Research: Blood Transfusions

As Wikipedia says,
If your body does not have enough of one of the components of blood, you may develop serious life-threatening complications.
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen through your body to your heart and brain. Adequate oxygen is very important to maintain life.
  • Platelets help to prevent or control bleeding due to low platelet count.
  • Plasma and cryoprecipitate, replacement coagulation factors, also help to prevent or control bleeding.
Blood donors are asked many questions about their health, behaviour, and travel history in order to ensure that the blood supply is as safe as it can be. Only people who pass the survey are allowed to donate. Donated blood is tested according to national guidelines. If there is any question that the blood is not safe, it is thrown away.