“How can we have windows that darken at command?”
One of the biggest consumers of energy in the built environment are HVAC systems. Although many people try to avoid this by putting blinds over their windows, many times it won’t do the job. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, what if we were to have a window that can darken at command? This is the idea behind Electrochromic Windows, whose material becomes darker when voltage is applied to it. Electrochromic windows can save large amounts of energy, but are also quite expensive to implement and have questionable long-term durability.
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“How can we assess risk?”
If phenomenon has a possibility of occurring with malignant effects it is classified as a risk. The origin of the risk, its spread, and its malignant effects can all be assessed. However, these all can be brought together under a complete Risk Assessment, which gives a holistic and quantitative overview of the entire picture.
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“How can we assess the consequences of a risk?”
Risks are something that come in every engineering system, whether it be the probability that a dam overflows or a forest fire breaks out. However, how can we assess what will be the effects of the mishap on the surrounding community? Well, we can perform a Consequence Assessment to quantify or categorize how harmful things will be.
“How can we quantify the probability of exposure to a risk?”
Risks can be found everywhere. Whether it be the probability of a fire breaking out in Northern California or the containment vessel in a nuclear reactor breaking down, everything that has uncertainty and a possible malignant outcome has a risk. And these effects might be passed on to individuals, such as a forest fire producing noxious smoke or radiation escaping from control rods. To estimate the probability that this might spread, an Exposure Assessment needs to be carried out.
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“How can we analyze the probability of a risk factor breaking out?”
Risk is one of the most important components in infrastructure projects, whether it be related to the structural integrity of a bridge or the temperature levels of a nuclear power plant. If something goes wrong, it could end up costing billions of dollars. So how can we analyze and quantify the release of such events. Well, we can perform something called a Release Assessment, which integrates every possible factor that could lead to failure.
“How can we model how long something is expected to survive?”
One of the most fundamental laws of physics is that the total amount of entropy can only increase. Consequently, everything in the physical domain will wear out over time and eventually no longer function. Since the survival of many projects and people are responsibilities of many engineers and medical practitioners, these professions are interested in how long things are expected to last. This can be accomplished using a Reliability Function, (also known as a survival function in medicine), which models the statistical lifetime of an object of interest as a cumulative distribution function. These can play out in any number of ways, but the starting point must always be equal to 100% and the endpoint zero.
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How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis
“How can we help stop the global housing crisis using a new type of construction?”
The world is going through an unprecedented change. Economic, political, and climate forces are driving more and more people to live in cities each day. However, as these urban areas are growing, the cost of living in them is growing even faster. Much of this results from an under-supply of affordable housing exacerbated by slow-moving construction and lack of political will. One thing that can help solve this is to find methods that speed up construction. One possible solution involves the use of prefabricated buildings, which can cut down construction costs and time drastically. This is How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis.
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The Consequences of the Destruction of the Amazon
“What are the ramifications of the loss of the Amazon?”
The Amazon is burning at an unprecedented rate. If the rain forest were to loose another fifth of its area, the world would be permanently scarred. Since the Amazon recycles its own water, if too much of it becomes deforested then the water will seep out, causing a dieback cycle which would turn the rain forest into a savanna. Not only will this be a death knell to its unparalleled biodiversity and indigenous communities, but it would also turn the area from a carbon sink to a carbon emitter, thereby accelerating climate change drastically. Global weather patterns would also be drastically altered and could lead to a drying of the agricultural U.S Midwest during growing season. These are The Consequences of the Destruction of the Amazon.
“How can forests suddenly die and emit carbon?”
Forests are one of the greatest carbon sinks available on this planet. However, with the changing climate, the conditions that led to their life are now changing. Induced heat stress and the spread of pathogens are causing entire forests to wither away and release stored carbon. This Forest Dieback can create a positive reinforcement cycle in which the more trees that die the worse the climate becomes, leading even more trees to die off. Two of the most extreme cases of this are in the Amazon rain forest and the Boreal forest, where large portions of the former is actually turning into a savanna.
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