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Science and technology in Boston, Massachusetts

Posted by mandyf on November 9, 2012

Boston Massachusetts is a hotbed of scientific and technological advancements. Currently there are over one hundred and eighty projects involving over six hundred scientists worldwide on the cutting edge of advancing disciplines such quantum systems and space weather modeling, and earthquake models for the analysis of crustal straining. The research being conducted currently has the potential to positively effect the lives of every person on the planet, making a visit to Boston University’s Center for Computational Sciences on three Cummington Street a great stop on your visit.

With Boston University’s 1024-node IBM Blue Gene system groundbreaking research is being conducted everyday at a previously unknown high level of speed. While all projects carry great importance perhaps one of the most exciting is the research into crustal straining. While crustal straining is generally associated to earthquakes it is aggravated by volcanic activity, landslides, and tectonic instability as well.

This research is imperative and exciting because of it’s potential to help in a diverse array of areas. Government and business sectors adore the potential knowledge of this study as it relates to providing invaluable information for the placement of sensitive structures such power plants. Scientists revel in the idea of understanding why such phenomena as earthquakes stop. This study will offer the ability to accurately predict not just fore-shocks but aftershocks as well which can save countless lives. Significant progress is being made in their efforts to calculate both three dimensional stress and deformation changes due to earthquakes in layered poroelastic media for comparison particularly to space geodetic data.

The particular area of research which relates to the everyday functioning of not only Bostonians but everyone using technology is quantum systems and space weather modeling. We take for granted that items we use such as wireless Internet computers, cellphones, and anything which is satellite aided in it’s operation will simply work on demand. However the weather in space such as coronal mass ejections which shoot hundreds of thousands of miles into space with million mile per hour winds, blow charged particles towards earth which can disable satellites and power grids. By understanding space weather it can become possible to understand the vulnerabilities of the satellites we are increasingly dependent on make them less susceptible to such onslaughts.

The Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling is led by Boston University and involves seven other universities and five participating institutions. Research into High-energy electrons produced in Earth’s magnetosphere which penetrate the region of space containing orbiting satellites are of current interest. These electrons embed themselves in insulators building up electrical charges akin to static electricity that result in bolts of lightning which can short out electrical systems. Aerospace engineers also are working on developing new materials like glass composites which will prevent amassing electrical charges. Hopefully such advances will prevent untimely destruction as happened in 1997 to an AT&T communications satellite.

These charged particle events affect Earth’s surface as well. In 1989 major activity caused electrical currents in the Hydro Quebec power system which shut down the system for eight hours. Why this is so dangerous beyond being inconvenient is that it creates a domino effect which spreads along the grid. As one grid goes down another tries to replace it’s output and eventually burns out as well. In this particular incident it nearly spread to the northeast United States. Only taking several grids offline stopped it. Current research can make such impending phenomena known days or even weeks in advance, rather than a matter of hours, allowing preparations to be made to deal with the potential ramifications.

Boston has always been the leader in our nation no matter what area we examine. Whether it was the struggle for independence or creating some of the worlds finest institutions for higher learning. The advancement of science and technology in the modern world is no different. Boston is establishing itself as the hub of American research developing advances to carry not just into the next several years, but the far foreseeable future and Boston University’s Center for Computational Sciences is the leader.

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