Recovering Berlin Competition is Launched

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In Nature’s Casino

It was Aug. 24, 2005, and New Orleans was still charming. Tropical Depression 12 was spinning from the Bahamas toward Florida, but the chances of an American city’s being destroyed by nature were remote, even for one below sea level. An entire industry of weather bookies — scientists who calculate the likelihood of various natural disasters — had in effect set the odds: a storm that destroys $70 billion of insured property should strike the United States only once every 100 years. New Orleanians had made an art form of ignoring threats far more likely than this; indeed, their carelessness was a big reason they were supposedly more charming than other Americans. And it was true: New Orleanians found pleasure even in oblivion. But in their blindness to certain threats, they could not have been more typically American. From Miami to San Francisco, the nation’s priciest real estate now faced beaches and straddled fault lines; its most vibrant cities occupied its most hazardous land. If, after World War II, you had set out to redistribute wealth to maximize the sums that might be lost to nature, you couldn’t have done much better than Americans had done. And virtually no one — not even the weather bookies — fully understood the true odds.

[NYTIMES]

East German escapees

from wiki:

East Germans successfully defected by a variety of methods: digging long tunnels under the wall, waiting for favorable winds and taking a hot air balloon, sliding along aerial wires, flying ultralights, and in one instance, simply driving a sports car at full speed through the basic, initial fortifications. When a metal beam was placed at checkpoints to prevent this kind of defection, up to four people (two in the front seats and possibly two in the boot) drove under the bar in a sports car that had been modified to allow the roof and wind screen to come away when it made contact with the beam. They lay flat and kept driving forward. The East Germans then built zig-zagging roads at checkpoints. The sewer system predated the wall, and some people escaped through the sewers, in a number of cases with assistance from the Girmann student group.

baghdad: a city of walls

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/apr/16/baghdad-city-of-walls

4 videos documenting civil unrest in baghdad in 2008-2009

Nanotube-Producing Bacteria

Shewanella bacteria has been found to produce semiconducting nanotubes produced, which is a huge step in the way to nanoelectroc devices.  The process  they follow is biological rather than chemical, which indicates a more  environmentally friendly manufacturing process for electronic materials.

-yb

cyborg beetle

-le

bunker buster

via WIRED

U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency is creating a tool to bore through the earth to reach underground facilities. The Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) can bore through up to 60 feet of concrete (depending on the type).  But it is rumored that Iran is developing an ultra-hard concrete, challenging the Pentagon to develope a stronger tool.

Using some German engineering, these tools are able to detect voids and soil densities. Additionally, the Strategic Technology Office of DARPA is investing in sensor technologies “that find, characterize and identify facility function, pace of activity, and activities in conjunction with their pre and post attack status.”

-le