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London, United Kingdom

Liffen J.,Science Museum
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology | Year: 2012

Within three years of the invention of the telephone in 1876 attempts were being made for the partial machine switching of calls. A step-by-step system was developed by A.B. Strowger of the USA in the years 1889 to 1892 and from the beginning of the twentieth century was the first automatic exchange system to come into widespread use there. Conditions in Britain at the time were not conducive to the adoption of machine switching while telephone service was divided between the Post Office and the National Telephone Company (NTC) but the Post Office undertook a review of USA practice. The Post Office completed the purchase of NTC in January 1912 and instituted a series of trials of available automatic systems. The first of these, the public exchange at Epsom, Surrey, opened in May 1912 using the Strowger system. The paper describes the installation and operation of the equipment at Epsom and how it was received by its users and the wider public. In 1922 the Post Office decided to standardize on a development of Strowger step-by-step for British requirements. Ironically, when Epsom exchange required enlargement in the early 1930s it was instead replaced by a new manual exchange. A few examples of equipment from the pioneer British automatic exchange systems survive in preservation. © The Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering & Technology 2012. Source

The historiography of penicillin has tended to overlook the importance of developing and disseminating know-how in fermentation technology. A focus on this directs attention to work before the war of a network in the US and Europe concerned with the production of organic acids, particularly gluconic and citric acids. At the heart of this network was the German-Czech Konrad Bernhauer. Other members of the network were a group of chemists at the US Department of Agriculture who first recognized the production possibilities of penicillin. The Pfizer Corporation, which had recruited a leading Department of Agriculture scientist at the end of the First World War, was also an important centre of development as well as of production. However, in wartime Bernhauer was an active member of the SS and his work was not commemorated after his death in 1975. After the war new processes of fermentation were disseminated by penicillin pioneers such as Jackson Foster and Ernst Chain. Because of its commercial context his work was not well known. The conclusion of this paper is that the commercial context, on the one hand, and the Nazi associations of Bernhauer, on the other, have submerged the significance of know-how development in the history of penicillin. Source

News Article | December 16, 2015
Site: http://www.techtimes.com/rss/sections/science.xml

A Soyuz rocket helped make history happen as it sent a British astronaut to the ISS for the first time. On Tuesday, December 15, British pride Major Tim Peake joined Russian Yuri Malenchenko and American Tim Kopra as they blasted off to space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch went smoothly and the six-hour travel went according to plan. However, when it was time to dock to the ISS, the crew shifted from automatic mode due to a technical glitch. Veteran Malenchenko opted to manually guide the spacecraft towards the ISS and became successful. "The commander switched to manual control and everything went well," said a spokesman for the team. At 12:33 p.m. ET, the rocket was docked to the station, where ISS astronauts awaited their colleagues. Peake's travel to space is a historic event for all of United Kingdom and an emotional one for his family and friends. As per tradition, Peake together with his colleagues, stayed at the Cosmonaut Hotel prior to the launch. He met with his family prior to the pre-flight rituals, which include signing off his bedroom door before leaving his room and the Earth for the mission. He was also blessed by an Orthodox priest. Peake was said to have exude a vibe of cheerfulness and confidence as he was getting ready to board. The British government is extremely proud of Peake, with the Prime Minister and the Queen sending tweets of support after the launch. "It was great to watch Tim Peake blast off on his mission to join the International Space Station," British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter. People gathered in the Science Museum in London to watch the launch. The crowd went wild as they witnessed the rocket blasting off the launch site. Screams, including those from about 2,000 schoolchildren waving British flags dominated the place. For Mike Gouldstone, Peake's former Physics teacher, it was a dream come true. "This is every physics teacher's dream, to have had a future astronaut in front of you," he said. "It is all quite emotional for me." Peake's mission is called Principia, which is named after Sir Isaac Newton's works. He will perform various scientific experiments, which will hopefully enrich human's existing knowledge of a wide range of concepts. The three-man crew will stay at the ISS for six months and will return on June 5, 2016.

News Article | May 15, 2016
Site: http://www.techtimes.com/rss/sections/robots.xml

Today, the field of robotics is thriving. There exists a robotic surgeon that successfully performed an operation on pig intestine; China's new interactive and completely lifelike robot named Jiajia and a bipedal robot that is capable of climbing stairs and overcoming hurdles, among many examples. In other words, robots have become ubiquitous in countries that can afford to develop them. In 1928, however, things were different. The same year Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the United Kingdom and several western countries saw the development of Eric the Robot. Considered as the "Grandfather of Robots," Eric was an aluminum-clad automaton that became a sensation in Europe and the United States because he could speak and move around. Eric the Robot became one of the first robots that travelled all over the world, as well as the first robot built in the UK. The robot weighed 45 kilograms (99 pounds), was about 150 centimeters (5 feet) in height and was enhanced by 35,000 volts of electricity. Eric could look right and left, as well as make arm gestures. He particularly shocked the crowds when he first stood up and spoke for 4 minutes - with sparks shooting out of his mouth - at the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers on Sept. 28. First created by A.H. Reffell and Captain W. H. Richards, Eric was "quintessentially British," with impeccable manners and erudite speech. "Eric was everything you imagined a robot to be," says curator Ben Russell of the Science Museum. "He was a talking, moving man of steel." It was an amazing feat during that time, when mechanization across the world boosted as factories churned out military equipment for World War I. Improvements in manufacturing accelerated and production efficiency became high. The industrialization spurred interest in all things mechanical, from science fiction and aircraft, and of course, robots. Incidentally, the letters "R.U.R." were emblazoned on Eric's chest, which stood for "Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti" or Rossum's Universal Robots, a reference to a work by Karel Čapek, a Czech dramatist. Čapek introduced the term "robot" to the English language in 1921. Unfortunately, Eric disappeared as quickly as he rose to fame. It was not known whether he was stolen, scrapped, or destroyed. Now, Russell and his colleagues from the Science Museum plan to bring Eric back to life. They chanced upon stories about Eric in their archives while researching for the Robots exhibition, and contacted relatives of the people who developed and designed Eric. The research team has brought together enough information including original plans, images and other documents that could help them rebuild the robot. They've enlisted the help of Giles Walker, an artist-roboticist, for the task. Here's How You Can Help The Science Museum has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in the hopes of getting enough funds to rebuild Eric. If it reaches the goal, the museum plans to display Eric the Robot from October 2016. Along with other robots, Eric would be showcased in the Robots exhibition that will begin in 2017. Afterward, Eric may set off on a world tour similar to the one experienced by the original Eric. Several pledges can be made to help the museum: for £5 ($7.20), supporters will receive a digital photograph of Eric when he is finalized. For £20 ($29), an additional tote bag will be given. For £50 ($72) and more, there will be a laser-cut mini replica of the robot. Watch the video below to see how the team's doing so far. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

News Article | February 29, 2016
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The planet is a good 250-million miles away and poses a number of challenges for human mission, but astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin believes that getting to Mars is actually “the easy part.” Dr. Aldrin, who in 1969 became the second man to step on the moon, said that humans could reach Mars by 2040, as led by the generation born around year 2000s. The 86-year-old also believes a global collaboration and big business’ help could make a human colony possible on the Red Planet. Getting to the planet is one thing – “very realistic,” according to Dr. Aldrin – while staying there is another. "That is the easy part. We know how to do that, we know how to get people there. It is being able to sustain yourself,” he said, speaking at the Science Museum in London, United Kingdom. He explained that a human colony on Mars would require a base where people could be self-sufficient, with the moon of Earth and Mars alike as possible staging posts. Continuing “cyclical” transport is also deemed necessary to bring people and resource to and from Mars. Humans on Mars cannot simply be left on their own, proceeded Dr. Aldrin, citing estimates that those on Mars would only be able to produce up to 20 percent of what they need for sustenance. “We need to supply them continually,” he emphasized. Unlike with the moon landings of NASA that quickly brought people back to Earth, it is only sound to keep a number of bases on Mars for new batches of visitors to use and develop, with the astronaut looking to concentrate efforts on a major center on Mars – eventually a “self-sustaining system.” Another crucial aspect is the mental impact of the Mars mission, particularly the possibility of spending the rest of one’s life there. It could get quite tough when people regret their decision and their resulting dysfunction affects others in the colony, Dr. Aldrin warned, thinking several hundreds of people could live on Mars and proliferate there. Finally, the astronaut believed one nation alone could not do everything – the United States, for instance, should work with and not merely compete with countries like China, as well as get Europe and Japan on board the moon landing plan. This May, an interview with Dr. Aldrin will be shown for BBC World News’ Horizons program. In early February, a U.S. house subcommittee urged NASA to create and present a solid plan to make the Mars mission by 2030 possible. The space agency is considered pressed for time, given the possibility that a space mission-unfriendly administration could take over the White House next year.

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