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Life before television

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Turn off your flat screen television and get lost in 17th, 18th and 19th century optical entertainment. Nowadays, televisions and cinemas have a remarkable image quality and size, computer games boast impressive graphics, and portable media devices make it possible to watch movies anywhere you want. But, before the birth …

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A steam powered submarine: the Ictíneo

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Few Victorian inventions have the grace and charm of the Ictíneo, the series of two wooden submarines built by Narcís Monturiol i Estarrol in the second half of the nineteenth century. Unlike some of the better known early submarines from his contemporaries in Germany, France and the United States, the …

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High speed trains: planes on wheels

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From an ecological point of view, the strategy to move travellers from airplanes to high speed trains just doesn’t make sense. Trains are considered to be much more environmentally friendly than aircrafts. Unfortunately, they lose their ecological advantage when speed goes up. And train companies seem to be obsessed by …

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Carbon sequestration: bury the idea, not the CO2

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Why introduce yet another expensive, energy-intensive and risky technology if there are so many other and better ways of fighting global warming?  Capturing CO2 from the smokestacks of power stations with the intention of storing it in underground reservoirs, oceans, rocks, consumer products, chemicals or fuels has gained a lot …

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The velomobile: high-tech bike or low-tech car?

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Recumbent bikes with bodywork evoke a curious effect. They look as fast as a racing car or a jet fighter, but of course, they’re not. Nevertheless, thanks to the recumbent position, the minimal weight and the outstanding aerodynamics, pedalling a “velomobile” requires three to four times less energy than pedalling …

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Hand powered drilling tools and machines

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Hand-powered devices have been used for millennia. However, during the last quarter of the 19th century a radically improved generation of tools appeared. These tools took advantage of modern mass production machinery and processes (like interchangeable parts) and an increased availability in superior material (metal instead of wood). One of …

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Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower

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All hydropower plants today produce electricity. Transforming energy to electricity seems to be the only way to harness water power, but it is not. For almost two thousand years, water wheels powered machines directly via mechanical transmission. Some small direct hydro powered systems in South America present a strong case …

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