Venice Tests Flood Barriers

Engineers in Venice have successfully tested a new flood barrier that they hope will protect the city. The BBC reports that the first four flood barriers of a planned 78 were floated in the entrance of the city’s famous lagoon.

Venice suffers annual floods due to unusually high tides that threaten irreplaceable buildings and a destination essential to Italy’s tourism industry. It’s also sinking at a rate of one to two millimeters a year, Discovery Magazine reports.

The barrier isn’t complete and has already cost $7 billion. It will take another $800 million and two years more work before it can protect the city. While Italy is suffering badly from the global economic crisis, the government has promised to complete the project by 2016.

Human-Powered Helicopter Wins Award (VIDEO)

Oh Canada! First you gave us William Shatner, now you give us a human-powered helicopter.

A team of engineers called AeroVelo has won a $250,000 award for creating a human-powered helicopter that could fly three meters off the ground for 60 seconds while keeping the cockpit within a ten-square-meter area. The American Helicopter Society sponsored this Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, and the prize money has been on offer for nearly 30 years.

Man-powering a helicopter is tough to do since humans don’t have strength to lift themselves off the ground without large rotors. Of course, large rotors are heavy, making it hard for a human to get the helicopter off the ground. This is the reason all those Renaissance-era experiments with birdlike flapping wings never worked. To cut down on weight, the team used super-light materials that are too delicate to be flown outdoors.

AeroVelo’s flight lasted 64.11 seconds, a world record, and reached up to 3.3 meters in altitude. As you can see from the video, drift was a problem with this and all other competitors, with the machine drifting up to 9.8 meters.

So will this be the new way to get to the hockey game? Probably not. The personal jetpack has been around for decades but never took off either. The Martin Jetpack company is trying to change that, although they haven’t yet made their jetpacks — which will probably cost in the six figures — commercially available yet. Popular Mechanics did an interesting article on why jet packs aren’t feasible.

Training shuttle to be displayed in Seattle’s Museum of Flight

It looks like the Space Shuttle, but it isn’t. It’s made of plywood, for one thing, and it can’t fly.

Yet it’s a piece of aeronautics history and will soon grace Seattle’s Museum of Flight. This training shuttle, more properly called the Full Fuselage Trainer, is a full-scale mockup that astronauts have used for practice since the 1970s. The museum originally hoped to get one of the four actual Space Shuttles, but those went to other museums. The advantage of the training shuttle, however, is that visitors will be able to climb aboard and get a feel of what it must have been like to go on a mission.

The shuttle will be flown to Seattle in five segments starting in May and should be open to the public sometime in June, the Seattle Times reports.

The Space Shuttles are going to four different museums. The Atlantis will go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in Florida. The Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The Discovery is earmarked for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia. The Smithsonian will transfer the shuttle prototype Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.