We asked experts about how these advances might help firefighters deal with challenging, wind-driven wildfires like the fatal blaze in Yarnell Hill, Arizona. (Related: "Who Are the Hotshots? A Wildland Firefighting Primer.")
Better Fire Shelters
When trapped by the fire, some of the Arizona firefighters who died were forced to deploy tent-like, foil-covered structures as a last—and ultimately futile—attempt at survival.
All federal, state, and local wildland firefighters are required to carry these so-called fire shelters while battling federal fires. The fire shelters are meant as a last line of defense when facing a fire entrapment, to be used only when there are no other options. (Watch a video of fighting wildfires.)
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) began distributing the newest generation of fire shelters in 2003. This latest version consists of an outside layer made of high-temperature resistant silica cloth and an inside layer composed of a lightweight, fiberglass scrim cloth. Both layers are laminated to aluminum foil, which is an excellent reflector of radiant heat.
The aluminum foil is "designed to slow heat transfer from the outside to the inside of the shelter, " explained Tony Petrilli, project leader for the USFS Technology Program, at a press conference on Monday.
As a result, Petrilli added, current fire shelters work really well against radiant heat. But they're challenged if they come into contact with direct flames.
Flames "break down the glue much quicker than in a radiant environment, " Petrilli explained. "And when you lose that aluminum foil as your barrier, it's easier for the heat to enter into the fire shelter."
"It would keep that aluminum foil in place longer, and keep it better sealed for a longer amount of time, " Petrilli said.
Improved Wind Models
To better combat these kinds of fires, researchers are developing computer models to simulate how wind moves across the landscape.
"Computationally, it's a pretty complex and intensive problem. This is basically like fluid dynamics. You have a wind stream going across topography in three dimensions."
But thanks largely to improved modeling software, scientists can now predict wind motion on ever smaller scales. Whereas the grid cells in simulations used to be about half a mile to six miles (one to ten kilometers) on a side, they are now much smaller—in some micro-scale models, only a few hundred meters on a side.
"The technology is improving to the point where we can actually model fairly fine-scale wind patterns, and that's important for fires because fires respond very strongly to wind, " Moritz said.
Anything new about stirling engines in Cal?
Looking for an update. Everything I find from google news is almost a year old. This is from the stirling engine deal with Southern Edison to build a 500MW plant outside of LA.
What geographical areas are best suited for a solar dish farm?
The southwest region of the United States is ideally suited for this. In fact, a solar farm 100 miles by 100 miles could satisfy 100% of the Americaâs annual electrical needs. Solar technology primarily addresses the peak power demands facing utility companies in the Southwest U.S. and other solar-rich areas.
The cost of living and job markets are better than the national average, but the best job strategy is not to go for averages, but look at your specific skills and experiences, figure out which careers that relates to, and then go to that geographical area:
technology - Silicon Valley
finance - New York
There are other factors to consider. How important are mountains? the ocean? good weather? I have met many midwesterners in Acapulco during the winter, and none ever told me
"I got to get back to Omaha. I just miss those snow covered plains."
4,000 Year Old Greenlander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) â Scientists have sequenced the DNA from four frozen hairs of a Greenlander who died 4,000 years ago in a study they say takes genetic technology into several new realms.
Surprisingly, the long-dead man appears to have originated in Siberia and is unrelated to modern Greenlanders, Morten Rasmussen of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues found.
"This provides evidence for a migration from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern Native Americans and Inuit," the researchers wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature