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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Brazilian Termite Tunnels as Old as the Pyramids

4,000 years ago some termites started building a tunnel – and they’re still at it today.  The Brazilian termite tunnels are not visible to the above-ground viewer, but massive termite mounds are.  The mounds are the result of the termites dumping dug-up dirt, and they cover an area the size of Great Britain.  In fact, they are so massive that they are visible from space.  The mounds and the interconnected tunnel system are as old as ancient Egyptian pyramids, with the tunnels serving as the “greatest known example of ecosystem engineering by a single insect species.”  We’ll be impressed if man-made tunnels are in existence, and use, for as long.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Hawthorne CA OKs Underground Testing Tunnel

The Hawthorne City Council gave Elon Musk the go-ahead to test the next phase of his underground high-speed transportation system.  Musk’s tunnel-digging company, The Boring Company, has almost completed a 2-mile test tunnel in Hawthorne, California.  The next phase, which was just approved, is to build a garage-connector test shaft.  Check out the article for a video rending of the system.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Tunnels to the Underworld?

There is a legend of a woman named Amalthaea, who served as a sibyl (oracle or prophetess) in the sixth century B.C.  Archaeologists and scholars have periodically looked for the cave or tunnel such an individual would have called home, without luck – until the 1950s, when archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri discovered the entrance to an unknown antrum.  The site remained unexplored until Robert Paget heard about it in the 1960s.  Paget and a colleague, Keith Jones, excavated the site.  They eventually discovered a highly ambitious tunnel system with huge numbers of niches for oil lamps, an underground stream of boiling water, and an antechamber.  Paget and Jones proposed the tunnels were used by priests to convince travelers they had traveled to the underworld, before reaching the sibyl.  Whether the theories are accurate, has never been proved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nuclear Test Site Tunnels Destroyed

North Korea invited twenty handpicked journalists to view the explosion of three tunnels leading to its nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.  North Korea did not allow independent verification from members of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, so it is unclear as to the exact state of the collapsed tunnels.  Members of the international community have differing opinions on what sort of goodwill message North Korea could be sending with the destruction, and how this would delay or limit future nuclear testing.