Self-Healing Concrete: What Ancient Roman Concrete Can Teach Us

Concrete is an incredibly useful and versatile building material on which not only today’s societies, but also the ancient Roman Empire was built. To this day Roman concrete structures can be found in mundane locations such as harbors, but also the Pantheon in Rome, which to this day forms the largest unreinforced concrete dome in existence at 43.3 meters diameter, and is in excellent condition despite being being nearly 1,900 years old.

Even as the Roman Empire fell and receded into what became the Byzantine – also known as the Eastern Roman – Empire and the world around these last remnants of Roman architecture changed and changed again, all of these concrete structures remained despite knowledge of how to construct structures like them being lost to the ages. Perhaps the most astounding thing is that even today our concrete isn’t nearly as durable, despite modern inventions such as reinforcing with rebar.

Reverse-engineering ancient Roman concrete has for decades now been the source of intense study and debate, with a recent paper by Linda M. Seymour and colleagues adding an important clue to the puzzle. Could so-called ‘hot mixing’, with pockets of reactive lime clasts inside the cured concrete provide self-healing properties?

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Minecraft Finally Gets Multi-Threaded Servers

Minecraft servers are famously single-threaded and those who host servers for large player bases often pay handsomely for a server that has gobs of memory and ripping fast single-core performance. Previous attempts to break Minecraft into separate threads haven’t ended successfully, but it seems like the folks over at [PaperMC] have finally cracked it with Folia.

Minecraft is one of (if not the most) hacked and modded games in history. Mods have been around since the early days, made possible by a dedicated group who painstakingly decompiled the Java bytecode and reverse-engineered it. Bukkit was a server mod back in the Alpha days that tried to support plugins and extend the default Minecraft. From Bukkit, Spitgot was forked. From Spitgot, Paper was forked, which focused on performance and gameplay mechanics. And now from Paper, Folia is a new fork focused on multi-threading.

A Minecraft world is split up into worlds (such as the nether or the overworld) and chunks. Chunks are 16x16xZ vertical columns of blocks. Folia breaks up sections of chunks into regions that can be ticked independently. Of course, moving to a multi-threaded model will cause existing plugins to fail. Very little was made thread-safe and the idea is that data cannot move easily across ticking regions. Regions tick in parallel, not synchronously.

Naturally, the people benefiting from Folia the most are those running servers that support hundreds of players. On a server with a vanilla-like configuration only around a hundred or so players can be online. Increasing single-core performance isn’t usually an option past this point. By moving to other cores, suddenly you can scale out significantly without restoring to complex proxying. Previous attempts have had multiple Minecraft servers and then synced players and entities between them. Of course, this can cause its own share of issues.

It’s simply incredible to us what the modding community continues to develop and create. It takes deep patience to reverse-engineer the system and rearchitect it from the outside. The Folia codebase is available on GitHub under a GNU GPL 3.0 license if you’d like to look through it.

Tennis Balls Serve As Decent Bicycle Tires That Don’t Easily Puncture

Pneumatic tires provide a great ride, great grip, and yet have one fatal flaw — they’re always getting punctured and leaving you stranded. [The Q] decided to solve this problem with a unique design: tires that use tennis balls as the cushioning medium instead.

The build begins with small cut sections of plastic water pipe. These are used as housings to hold tennis balls, which are pressed in with a unique tool of [The Q]’s own construction. The individual ball assemblies are then bolted into a standard bicycle wheel, and a tread from a regular bike tire is stretched around the outside for grip.

It goes without saying that these tires won’t offer the same quality of ride as regular pneumatic bike tires. Nor will the performance be as good, due to the significant extra unsprung weight. They are eye-catching and fun, however. Plus, if you live in an area with tons of nails or prickles, you might find these are just the ticket. Maybe.

We’ve seen some other great bike hacks before, too.

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