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Alain Herzog/EPFL
Alain Herzog/EPFL

Researchers Built a Solar Simulator That Shines Brighter Than 20,000 Suns

Alain Herzog/EPFL
Alain Herzog/EPFL

Scientists looking to test the impact of solar radiation on their materials don’t need to send them to space. Instead they can pay a visit to the new solar simulator designed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which burns brighter than 20,000 suns, Gizmodo reports.

The light system at the Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering in Switzerland is described in the journal Optics Express [PDF]. It consists of a seven-foot-wide cluster of 18 lamps lit by Xenon bulbs. When the beams of light converge, the luminous flux measures in at 21.7 MW m-2, or the equivalent of 21,700 suns. (That’s bright, but not as bright as some machines that have been built in the past: a particle accelerator in Berkeley, California is more luminous than a billion suns).

Such a powerful simulator could have numerous applications, like testing out solar power equipment and crafts built for space travel. A duplicate of the machine in Australia is accessible to researchers on an open-source basis. The energy of 20,000 suns likely isn’t a requirement for most projects—thankfully, the output level can be adjusted.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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U2’s 360-Degree Tour Stage Will Become a Utah Aquarium Attraction
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The immense stage that accompanied U2 on the band’s 360° Tour from 2009 to 2011 is getting an unexpected second life as a Utah educational attraction. It will soon be installed over a new plaza at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium outside Salt Lake City.

The Claw, a 165-foot-tall structure shaped like a large spaceship balanced on four legs—a design inspired by the space-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport—was built to house a massive speaker system and cylindrical video screen for the band’s performances. Underneath it, a 360° stage allowed U2 to play to audiences surrounding the structure in all directions. To make it easier to tour 30 different countries with the elaborate system, which took more than a week to put together at each concert location, the band had several versions built.

U2 and its management have been looking for a buyer for the 190-ton structures since the tour ended in 2011, and it seems they have finally found a home for one of them. One of the two remaining Claw structures is coming to the Utah aquarium, where it’s being installed as part of a plaza at the institution’s new, 9-acre Science Learning Campus.

A four-legged, industrial-looking video-and-sound-projection rig rises over a crowd at a concert
The Claw at a Dublin concert in 2009
Kristian Strøbech, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As the only Claw in the U.S., the alien-looking feat of engineering will be "preserved and sustainably repurposed as a Utah landmark and symbol of science exploration and learning," according to the aquarium's press release. As part of the expansion project, the 2300-square-foot stage system will play host to festivals, movies, and other special events in two venues, one with 7000 seats and the other with 350.

The $25 million Science Learning Campus hasn’t been built yet—construction is starting this fall—so you’ll have to wait awhile to relive your U2 concert experience at the aquarium.

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Students Build a Machine to Study the Weak Ankles of Michelangelo’s 'David'
Yale University, YouTube
Yale University, YouTube

Michelangelo's David, perhaps the world's most famous Renaissance sculpture, looks good for a 514-year-old, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been subjected to the indignities of aging. In the case of this particular marble statue, the issue is one of posture—over the years, he has started tilting forward, causing his ankles to crack. As a result, in a few centuries, David could topple completely.

At Yale University, engineering students and the university's Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage have been studying the effects of gravity on the statue in the hopes of one day coming up with a technique to stop him from falling.

A close-up image of 'David's' foot
Franco Origlia, Getty Images

The students built a machine called the Force Relay Exertion Device to imitate the stress of gravity on David's ankles over time. They built step-shaped models to mimic the angle and pressure on his ankles, using concrete, clay, and other materials to study how different media will hold up. They placed those models within the machine, applying pressure until the fake ankles broke into pieces. From that point the team could gauge what kind of force and time lapse would cause the ankles to crack.

The students didn't solve David's issues in the half-semester they spent studying the statue, but the machine they built is still being used by the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in other materials sciences classes.

You can watch how the machine works in the video below.

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