Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Secret Package Delivery

Secret Package Delivery
87 billion packages were shipped last year.  To put that in context, that’s almost as many stars as are estimated to be in the Milky Way (100 billion), and far more than the number of chocolate chip cookies eaten in the USA every year (about 7 billion).  What does this have to do with tunnels? Well, once shipped, each of those packages has to be successfully hand-delivered, and some people see this as the perfect opportunity to bring tunnels and robots to city planning.  Chinese e-commerce giant and British start-up Magway both announced plans to design tunnels that would run under cities and enable the easy delivery of packages.

Could the tunnels be added to existing cities? Would they only be designed for newly-planned cities?  Will the robots be friendly? We’ll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Heading Underground in Europe

Europe is not lacking in history, and that history isn’t limited to the surface.  Cave shelters, historic mines, ancient catacombs...the continent is liberally riddled with all sorts of secret, underground sites.  If you’re looking for a bit of exploration and adventure on your next visit, National Geographic has 9 marvels for you to check out: catacombs and crypts in Rome; 13th century beer cellars in the Pilsen Historical Underground; a salt mine in Germany; an entire underground city in France; bomb shelters in Barcelona; Edinburgh’s only preserved, 17th-century street; prehistoric cave art in Spain; Istanbul’s Yerebatan Sarayi (Sunken Palace); and the cellars of the former Palace of Brussels.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Tunnels for Turtles

We all know numerous accidents are caused every year by people both hitting animals crossing roads, and by people swerving to avoid animals.  However, change is in the air. Wildlife undercrossings, or tunnels, are becoming more common worldwide. In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel to cut down on high turtle mortality rates.  The tunnel included aluminum flashing outside of each opening to let turtles know the tunnel passes all the way through, and grates to make it less shadowy.  While turtle deaths dropped, the turtles were not the only ones to benefit from the tunnel: rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and house cats have also been observed using the tunnels.  Meanwhile, in Brazil, gold monkeys and pumas benefit from undercrossings, while water voles get the same help in London.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Famed Ancient Baths of Caracalla

Ancient Romans have a well-deserved reputation for building incredible structures, above and below ground.  Now, thanks to an in-depth restoration, visitors can walk through more of those structures - the subterranean tunnels under the historic Baths of Caracalla in Rome.  The baths were built between 212 and 216 AD during the reign of Emperor Caracalla, and were the second-largest ever constructed by the Roman Empire.  The complex was powered by a nearly two-mile-long network of pipes and a nearby aqueduct that supplied around 18.5 gallons of water per second.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tunnels and Drones: Subterranean Battles

Hollywood loves staging fights in tunnels: they’re dark and creepy, and you never know when an alien will pop out or a surprise torrential flood will bear down on the hero.  The military, not so much, but they may not have a choice in the future.  Modern battlefields might consist of subway and water systems, or defensive tunnels, and for that reason the Army wants a portable way for soldiers to map remote tunnel systems using ground robot or drones.  Specifically, it wants a device that provides 2D or 3D maps, which must be seen immediately as the device moves through a tunnel.  The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also conducting a multi-year challenge to provide tech to map, navigate, and search underground terrain.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pre-Civil War Tunnels

Have you ever wanted to visit Charleston, South Carolina? Maybe you have a historical interest in Fort Sumter, or perhaps you want to stroll the walkways along the waterfront. Or maybe you want to know more about the pre-Civil War tunnels that snake under Charleston, installed in the 1850s partly to prevent another epidemic of yellow fever. The tunnels were designed as a drainage system, exist under Charleston’s streets, and are made of brick. Since 1856, the tunnels have been adapted into part of the sewer main system, and were later used for storm water drainage. They still exist, but periodically have to be updated and reinforced; sometimes the updates are finished before accidents, but other times updates are forced due to collapses.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wind Tunnels

We’ve got tunnels for cars, trains, and pedestrians, but what about tunnels for wind?  Aerodynamics is a field of science that studies the flow of air or gases around an object in motion.  Wind tunnels are used to test the aerodynamics of anything from car windshields to entire planes.  The first wind tunnel debuted in 1871, and was the work of Frank H. Wenham and the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain.  Since then, wind tunnels have evolved to include supersonic tunnels that generate winds faster than the speed of sound (768mph or 1,235.9 kph), and hypersonic tunnels that blast wind at 3,800mph to 11,400mph (6,115.5 kph to 18, 346.5 kph).  Engineers can adjust temperature and humidity as well as wind speed.  There are even recreational wind tunnels, used for indoor skydiving.  Find one near you today and use a tunnel to experience human flight.