Seattle’s Behemoth Boring Machine, Idle Since 2013, Makes Some Progress

After being blocked by an obstruction (“the object”) which left it idle just over two years ago, repair work has continued on Bertha, Seattle’s enormous tunnel-boring machine. Now, reports KOMO News and The Seattle Times, Bertha is once again ready to work. From The Times’ coverage:

Tuesday morning’s push of one and a half feet provided Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) enough space behind Bertha’s drive motors to fasten the next concrete ring at the 1,085-foot mark of the planned 9,270-foot tube. Chris Dixon, STP project manager, is calling this a testing phase. The team is measuring how Bertha responds while rotating through heavy loads of compacted sand. Last week, a fixed steel arm in the front end broke and needed a one-day repair. … This week’s two-day push would leave the nose of the drill just short of the north edge of the concrete vault, dug in 2014 so STP could reach and lift the 4million-pound front end for repairs. The winning bid from STP called for the tunnel to be completed this month.

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Fusion Progress: Superheated Gas Kept Stable For 5 Milliseconds

An anonymous reader writes: A company called Tri Alpha has successfully kept a ball of superheated gas stable for a record time, 5 milliseconds, putting them closer to producing fusion power. “‘They’ve succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,’ says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company’s scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy. Importantly, the Tri Alpha machine may be able to operate with a different fuel than most other fusion reactors. This fuel-a mix of hydrogen and boron-is harder to react, but Tri Alpha researchers say it avoids many of the problems likely to confront conventional fusion power plants.” The article does not say how much this success cost the privately-funded Tri Alpha, but it certainly wasn’t in the billions of dollars.

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Russian Progress Cargo Ship Docks With Space Station

An anonymous reader writes: An unmanned Russian cargo ship has successfully docked with the International Space Station. The successful launch, rendezvous and docking came after two resupply failures. A Progress launched in April spun out of control and a week ago, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated, destroying a supply ship loaded with supplies and equipment. “Crew reports, ‘feels like Christmas in July,'” the International Space Station tweeted.

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