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Alt-week 9.15.12: The ultimate wind machine, Egyptian Lego and the office of our dreams

Alt-week 9.15.12: The ultimate wind machine, Egyptian Lego and the office of our dreams
James Trew
James Trew|@itstrew|September 15, 2012 7:00 PM

Alt-week peels back the covers on some of the more curious sci-tech stories from the last seven days.

Sometimes we wonder, what would we have ended up doing if we didn't spend our time trawling the web for the week's best alternative tech stories? We could have been paleontologists, novelists, engineers, or if we were really lucky, worked for Google. Instead, here we are bringing you some of the more colorful tech-tales from the last seven days, which we're really not complaining about. That said though, at least on this occasion, we got to taste a bit of all the above. This is alt-week.

There are definitely many things that we see over here at alt.engadget.com that blow us away. But, for pretty much the first time, we literally mean it. A team of National Science Foundation-funded researchers have created a 15-foot-tall "Wall of Wind," in an attempt to recreate the impact of a category 5 hurricane. The breezy beast -- called WOW for short -- will be used to discover ways of making materials more, well, hurricane proof. Using WOW, not only can the team spot the obvious visible signs of damage, such as debris, flying furniture and general destruction, they can also take precise measurements about how the wind interacts with a structure. Anything that helps prevent the damage caused by an angry Mother Nature is clearly a good thing. We also think this would make for a wild Arduino project.

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From a stormy feat of mechanics, to something a little more... sedate. The ancient Egyptians are synonymous with excellent engineering. So, in their own way, are those little Danish Lego bricks. It's only fitting then, that the latter have been used to help bring the mummy case of Pharaoh Hor back from obscurity. Working with the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University, England, the Fitzwilliam Museum undertook an ambitious restoration project to repair and reshape the Egyptian relic, and get it back on display. David Knowles from the University devised a frame to support Hor face down, while delicate reshaping work was completed. Once done, and ready to go on show, a system of trusses was needed to prevent the empty cartonnage case from collapsing in on itself. To prevent this, Knowles developed a display mount, with ordinary garden variety Lego being used for the vital internal reinforcement. The supports are fully adjustable via a screw mechanism, and there's padding, of course, to prevent any damage to the case itself. It's believed that Hor didn't reign long enough to have a Pyramid built, but perhaps that could be the next problem solved if there any left over bricks?

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Writers, we're delicate souls. While we may try and act noble and bold from behind the relative safety of the keyboard, or computer screen. Put us up front and center, and we'll start questioning every single phrase from under a thick veil of self doubt. That's why we have untold amounts of respect for fantasy author Silvia Hartmann. She's decided to tackle those oppressive demons head on, and allow the world to watch her scribe a novel in real-time via Google docs. You're too late to start from the beginning, with the novel already well underway, but you can check Silvia's Facebook page to find out when she'll next start unfolding the story. In the meantime we're sat waiting impatiently to find out what happens between Sandra and Rix.

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In our own fantasy story, we'd work at a company that almost insisted we don't wear a tie, with infinitely restocked fridges full of tasty treats, rooms full of geek memorabilia, pool tables and Pac Man Machines. But, that's the stuff of dreams, of course. Wait, what? This actually exists you say? Where? Google of course. Whether Mountain View's products are to your particular taste or not doesn't matter. The search giant is undoubtedly one of the coolest companies to work for, famous for its employee-friendly work spaces and extra perks. The lucky folk over at Refinery 29 got a tour of the New York campus, complete with games room, library and, well, you imagine it and they probably had it. You can take all of that away though, and it'd still probably be just the sort of office we'd like to work in.

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[Photo credits: Refinery 29, Fitzwilliam Museum]

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

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