Polluted Paris Forces Half Cars Off the Road
BERTRAND GUAY,KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
This combination of photos shows the Eiffel tower (R) in central Paris through a haze of pollution.
This week we focus on the future, when the world is flooded, when fossil fuels are defunct and when robots do the heavy-lifting.
BIO-INSPIRED CAR FRAME:
Turtle shells are strong and designed to protect the animal's soft tissue. A concept car inspired by the reptile was showcased at the Geneva Motor Show by German automotive supplier EDAG. The concept was meant to demonstrate how large-scale 3D-printing could be used to manufacture the entire body of a durable car.
Aleksandar Joksimovic and Jelena Nikolic
As sea levels rise, humans will have to figure out how to cope with shrinking land. This interesting concept called Noah's Ark, from Serbian designers Aleksandar Joksimovic and Jelena Nikolic, shows one solution. Terraced fields provide enough land area to grow crops. Deep underwater towers act as ballasts for stability. Energy to sustain the floating city comes from solar, wind and ocean waves and rain provides freshwater for the inhabitants.
Designer Chris Robinson, who met his wife 20 years ago in Fukushima Japan, began a project two years ago, after seeing the devastation the tsunami did to Japan. Robinson lives in Palo Alto, Calif., which theoretically could get hit by a big wave under the right conditions. He wondered how his family would survive. The submarine-shaped boat he designed, called Tsunamiball, is built from marine-grade plywood covered in xyletol and epoxy. He plans to test the boat first in a pool and then later in the ocean.
German automaker Mercedes Benz may have a hydrogen fuel cell car in showrooms and ready for sale by 2017. The car, based on the B-Class F-Cell concept from 2009, could deliver a hydrogen range of 250 miles.
University of Maryland
Hydrogen fuel cell cars need efficient hydrogen fuel cells. And while many labs are working on this technology, researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a graphene-based version capability of folding and unfolding into a three-dimensional box that can serve as a container for hydrogen. The technique could greatly increase a fuel cell's ability to store and release hydrogen.
M. SCOTT BRAUER
Researchers at MIT have developed the first self-contained autonomous soft robot that's able to perform an escape maneuver almost as quickly as a real fish. The robot, which has a soft exterior powered by fluid flowing through flexible channels inside, was built to demonstrate the myriad configurations a flexible robot can achieve compared to a rigid one with hinges.
Green Energy Motors
The Commute-Case is an electric scooter that folds down into the size of a briefcase. Designed by Green Energy Motors, the contraption, which normally sells for $5,990, is currently on sale for $2,995 as part of an introductory offer.
Stephen Power was wearing a helmet when his motorcycle crashed in 2012, but parts of his face still got crushed in the accident. In a project to reconstruct the man's broken cheekbones, top jaw, nose, and skull, maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar and team members from the Centre of Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery and the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research produced a 3-D model of Power's head and then used 3-D printing technology to create the replacement parts.
Gazzaleylab / SCCN / Neuroscapelab via Youtube
A system that combines brain scanning technology with brain recording and virtual reality can now allow a researcher to journey through a person's brain in real-time. Philip Rosedale, creator of the game Second Life, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Francisco, showed off their Glass Brain at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Tex. Although the technology cannot reveal what a person is thinking, the brain activity captured by a cap studded with electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes paints a lovely picture of brain activity.
The HyQ, a quadruped robot created by the Italian Institute of Technology, has mad skills. In addition to the basics of walking, trotting and kicking, it can now maneuver over a wide variety of terrain, recover from a stumble and stay on its feet even when whacked by a 25-pound bag. The most impressive move it made, though, was walking across a V-shaped platform without slipping and falling.
Paris on Monday resorted to drastic measures to curb sky-high pollution by banning all cars with even number plates for the first time in nearly two decades.
In a move that infuriated motorist organizations, around 700 police officers were deployed to man 60 checkpoints around the French capital to ensure only cars with plates ending in odd numbers were out on the streets.
Public transport has been free since Friday to persuade Parisians to leave their cars at home, and at rush hour Monday morning, authorities noted there were half the usual number of traffic jams as drivers grudgingly conformed to the ruling.
Some, though, appeared unaware of the restrictions that came into force across Paris and 22 surrounding areas from 5:30 am (0430 GMT) -- or chose to ignore them.
"You don't have the right to drive with your number plate," a man on a scooter remarked to another while stopped at a red light.
"Oh really? I didn't know," the second driver replied before speeding off.
The restrictions will be reviewed on a daily basis, with odd numbers potentially banned on Tuesday if deemed necessary -- a decision due to be made late morning Monday.
The government decided to implement the ban on Saturday after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for five straight days in Paris and neighboring areas, enveloping the Eiffel Tower in a murky haze.
And while these fell to safer levels on Sunday, they inched up again on Monday, though the pollution was not perceptible to the naked eye.
Ban Is 'Hasty, Ineffective'
Parking in the capital was free for vehicles with even number plates Monday, the Paris city hall said, calling on residents to consult carpooling or car-sharing sites to work out their travel plans.
Those who choose to defy the ban risk a fine of 22 euros ($30) if paid immediately, or 35 euros if paid within three days. Electric and hybrid cars, as well as any vehicle carrying three people or more, are exempted from the ban -- the first since 1997.
The issue has become something of a political football, with less than a week to go before key municipal elections.
The opposition UMP candidate for Paris mayor, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, called the measure a "fig leaf." Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said he understood the "difficulties, the irritation and even anger" over the move, adding: "But we just had to take this decision."
This combination of photos shows the Eiffel tower (R) in central Paris through a haze of pollution.BERTRAND GUAY,KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
Martin said similar measures in 1997 "had yielded results."
The measure is also expensive, with free public transport costing the RATP -- the state-owned Paris train, subway, tram and bus operator -- 2.5 million euros a day, according to RATP head Pierre Mongin.
France's Automobile Club Association (ACA), which counts some 760,000 members, denounced the move as "hasty, ineffective" and "bound to lead to chaos".
"This measure had no effect in any country where it was introduced," said ACA head Didier Bollecker. "Drivers are being targeted even though heating is more polluting, but no one is asking for heating to be used on alternate days."
Similar measures have been introduced in a number of cities around the world, such as Athens or Beijing.
In the Chinese capital, the government implemented the odd-even number plate system during the 2008 Olympics, and the result was so successful that authorities set up a permanent, watered-down version of the rules that sees cars banned from the roads one day a week.
But that has done little to alleviate the dangerous levels of particulates in the air in Beijing -- one of the most polluted cities in the world.
In Paris, authorities measure the concentration of particulates with a diameter of less than 10 microns -- so-called PM10 -- in the air to determine pollution levels.
PM10 are created by vehicles, heating and heavy industry, and include the most dangerous particles that measure less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and the blood system and are cancer-causing.
The safe limit for PM10 is set at 80 micrograms per cubic meter.
Last week, the concentration of PM10 particulates in the French capital's atmosphere hit a high of 180 micrograms per cubic meter. The smoggy conditions have been caused by a combination of cold nights and warm days, which have prevented pollution from dispersing.