Tag Archives: wonders

Huge dust storm chokes Sydney

 

A significant part of Australia’s east coast, including country’s biggest city, Sydney, has been engulfed by a shroud of red dust blown mostly from the desert outback. Visibility was so bad that most if not all flights were delayed, and of course, there were the usual folks who started screaming that this is the apocalypse. Turns out, it wasn’t.

Photo by Merbabu.

Numerous buildings, including the famous Opera House were covered in a thick blanket of dust and people took cover in their houses or nearby buildings. Lots of folks took to wearing masks and the emergency service reported a huge number of people who came in with respiratory problems. The transportation system was crippled also and doctors warned especially children and elder people to stay indoor until the storm passed, and even a few hours after that.

On Wednesday morning, powerful winds generated by a major cold air front transported tons and tons of dust from the drought plagued outback and brought it into the city. Dust storms are not really that uncommon, but they rarely take place somewhere else than the desert (or nearby areas); also, the pollution levels from the air were the highest recorded ever, with the 15,500 micrograms of particles per cubic meter generating a Mars-like landscape.

“On a clear day the readings for particulate matter or PM10 is around 10-20 micrograms per cubic meter,” said Chris Eiser of the NSW department of the environment. “During a bushfire, when there is heavy smoke around, we might see readings of around 300 to 500 micrograms per cubic meter.”

 

Locals described waking up to the storm as waking up on Mars, or even yet, in the middle of the apocalypse. The sky was soaked in red, the wind was blowing strongly and the whole scenery was somewhere between eerie and downright scary. They weren’t really as dangerous as they seemed, but they could do a significant amount of damage to one’s health.

“Dust storms are particularly hazardous for anyone with chronic lung disease or sinus disease. Once the particles per cubic metre are above 300, dust storms pose a risk to lung health,” said Dr Phillip Thompson of the University of Western Australia.

Here’s a video and some pics.

Dust storm Sydney 23 September 2009

sydney-dust-storm

the-bradfield-freeway-004

Pics via The Guardian

7 wonders of modern engineering

In a previous article you had the chance to read about the seven wonders of the ancient world, which remained famous for thousands of years and still amaze people from all over the world due to their magnificent traits. But time passed and nowadays people take pride in other accomplishments, from scientific experiments to stadiums. This list is by no means exhaustive, representing just a small part of these amazing things mankind managed to build.

1. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

This is the word on everybody’s lips these days. Our understanding of the world is about to change, or at least that’s what the people who work there claim. Located in Switzerland, near Geneva, it spans the border between Switzerland and France at about 100 m under the ground. There, scientists use a particle accelerator to study the smallest particles known to man, the very building blocks of everything. There are many different opinions about what the conclusions of these experiments will be, but it’s certain that they will help scientists take our understanding of physics to a whole new level. This truly amazing creation could give answers about the very creation of the universe, so its importance has to be understood and appreciated.

2. The Hubble Telescope

Carried into orbit in 1990, Hubble remained crucial for astronomy both for its vital scientific importance and for the public relations boom it created, which led to the further development. Also, it is the only telescope created in such a way that it can be serviced in space by astronauts. Just four such service missions took place until today, which just goes to show how well it was built and how well it served its purpose. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, including understanding how the universe expands.

3. Three Gorges Dam

Supplying China with energy is a task that seems almost impossible in our days, and it requires some magnificent accomplishments, such as this dam, which takes shape of the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world by far. It supplies 4% of the energy needed by China, reaching 22,500 megawatts and it’s still not fully operational, as some generators have not been yet installed. The scale of this project is truly huge, but there is still some debate about the usefulness and about the destruction of some archaeological sites from the area.

4. Burj-Al-Arab Hotel

Not all magnificent buildings are used for industrial and research purposes. Dubai features some of the most impressive creations in the world, and many of them are not done yet. The largest building used as the hotel in the world, Burj Al Arab rises at 321 meters and is connected to the mainland by a private curved bridge. It’s design and features are just amazing, as it imitates a type of vessel, called dhow, featuring an 180 meter high atrium between the two sides. Also, it’s built on an artificial island.

5. Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world, and just could be Japan’s greatest architectural achievement. It took the work of over 2 million workers and181 000 tonnes of steel and 1.4million cubic metres of concrete. The steel cable which they used could go around the world 7 times.

6. Space Telescope Chandra

Our century is definitely a century in which space plays a big role. We are just starting to meet the technical requirements necessary for going into outer space or just taking pictures, and Chandra was very important in this road, sending the most precise and amazing images mankind has seen from outer space. The X-ray images it features redefined many of our notions about cosmos.

7. Bird’s nest

Situated in the very core of Beijing, the Beijing National Stadium, or Bird’s nest as people nicknamed it, is without a doubt one of the most amazing buildings in the world, and it was built at a tenth of what it would have cost in Europe or America ($423 million). It’s the world’s largest steel construction, and it hosted a sum of events during the 2008 Olympics.