Rescue remedy

Jason Ford

News Editor

The Monday Briefing is looking forward to Wednesday when the first of 33 trapped Chilean miners is likely to be brought to the Earth’s surface.

Early estimates placed a timeline of between three to four months to rescue the miners following the collapse of an access shaft at the Compania Minera San Esteban Primera-owned mine on 5 August.

Efforts to locate the miners intensified on 8 August when engineers began drilling bore holes to find the trapped workers, who were finally located on 22 August. Since that time, three drilling regimes were put into place, with plan B almost ready to facilitate the first rescue attempt.

Metal pipework is now being fabricated so that it can be lowered into the rescue shaft to reinforce it near the surface. Concrete will then secure the pipework before the so-called Phoenix escape pod can be lowered down the shaft on Wednesday at the earliest.

Briefing has noticed that TV news coverage from Chile is giving engineers their rightful place at centre of the rescue operation.

Reporters on the scene are saying that it is engineers who’ve planned and executed the rescue operation, rather than catchall ‘rescue teams’ or ‘disaster response crews’.

We hope that by the end of the week the skill and ingenuity of those engineers will have led to the 33 miners being safely reunited with their families.

Whilst cautious optimism prevails in Chile, Southampton today celebrates the visit of the Queen who is in the Hampshire town to formally name the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, Cunard’s new luxury liner.

Due to sail on its maiden voyage tomorrow, the £365m vessel boasts 16 decks and weighs in at 90,000tonnes.

Back on land and in Sweden, which this week hosts the IEEE PES conference entitled ‘Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Europe’.

Taking place at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, the conference follows on from a similar event held in Washington earlier this year which aimed to define a smart grid roadmap.

‘My vision is that through this meeting we can create a bridge between Europe and North America and between different bodes and individuals: politicians, public authorities, industry, universities and students.’ said conference chair Lina Bertling.

In the UK, politicians convene on Thursday to discuss the cancellation of the previous government’s promised £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters.

The Business, Innovation & Skills Committee will be taking evidence from business secretary Vince Cable on the decision by the Coalition government to halt the loan.

Rounding off the week is the intriguing ‘Functional neurobiology in minibrains: from flies to robots and back again’ symposium which takes place at the weekend in Spain.

According to the symposium’s publicity material, the goal is to review progress towards an integrated understanding of the genetic, molecular, and neuronal basis of behaviour in the fruit fly.

Organised by the European Science Foundation, delegates will be able to examine how knowledge about biological neural processes can influence, and be influenced by, the design of robotic neural systems.

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