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Could Lasers Divert Lightning From Buildings?


by Michael Keller

The standard advice authorities offer when lightning starts crackling across the sky is for people to take shelter inside buildings. Substantial structures offer protection through lightning rods affixed to the roof, electrical wiring and plumbing that can direct the electricity away from occupants and into the ground.

But what is there to protect the buildings themselves from more than 5 billion Joules of energy in a typical lightning strike, which is enough juice to toast 100,000 bread slices? The problem is no small one—the Empire State Building (above) in New York City gets hit by lightning an average of 25 times a year. And Underwriters Laboratories reports that lightning accounts for more than $1 billion in building damage in the U.S. every year. 

Many buildings install lightning protection systems to direct lightning’s energy into the ground, which the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says are highly effective at preventing fires and destructive electrical surges after a strike.

Now researchers say there might be a next-generation protective system that prevents lightning from hitting a building at all. Their secret weapon? High-intensity lasers.

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Building A Shortcut

by Txchnologist staff

The Panama Canal opened for business in 1914 after a decade of construction, cutting across the Isthmus of Panama to provide ships a shortcut between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Before it was built, vessels would need to round South America’s Cape Horn. 

But to create the maritime shortcut, the canal’s creators had to dig out a 48-mile-long waterway through the narrowest piece of land between North and South America. They also needed to construct a series of water lifts, called locks, that could raise ships from sea level up to more than 85 feet above sea level to let them pass over the landmass. Operating the locks and other parts of the system required 1,022 electric motors, which together generated almost 29,000 horsepower. 

GE cameras were on the scene to record the gargantuan engineering project. The company helped create the largest electrical installation in the world at the time and designed the intricate selsyn controls for each of the locks.

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Today in History: The Technology That Lifts Us Up

by Txchnologist staff

On Sept. 20, 1853, Elisah Graves Otis sold the first “hoist machines” that featured his recently patented safety brake.

Elevators had existed before. But this new one prevented the platform from falling even if the ropes broke, which was kind of a big deal. Otis’s innovation was the precursor to the passenger elevator and heralded the age of modern high-rise buildings.

Before passenger elevators, buildings didn’t exceed six stories. Today, we have buildings such as the Burj Khalifa, pictured above, which is a 2,722 ft tower with over 160 floors.

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Architecture Of The Night

by Txchnologist Staff

GE printed this booklet, Architecture of the Night, in February 1930. Published while the art deco style was sweeping around the world, the booklet’s articles suggested all the possibilities of architectural illumination for the growing stock of beautifully executed buildings.

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