Let’s face it, ketchup bottles suck. When you get down to an almost empty the bottle, plastic ones burp and splat all over your clothes, and glass ones have you awkwardly whacking the “57” on the Heinz bottle. That’s why this video of ketchup sliding effortlessly with a tip wrist is so impressive—even surreal.
This little bit of magic is the effect of LiquiGlide, a superslippery coating developed by physicists at MIT. The lab headed by Kripa Varanasi initially began researching coatings that could prevent clogs in deep sea oil pipes and ice from sticking to airplane wings. Other research groups have also come up with nonstick coatings that follow the same broad principle: the coating is actually a thin layer of liquid, which allows things to slip right off.
What’s the News: The helicopter that crashed during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound earlier this week was a stealth design that the US government had kept secret, according to aviation experts. The military is still keeping mum and the SEALs—keeping with protocol—burned the aircraft after it went down. But information gleaned from photos of the surviving tailboom (the part that holds the rear rotor) and clues from other stealth aircraft suggest the helicopter was an H-60 Blackhawk, heavily modified to escape radar detection and fly more quietly—explaining why Pakistani air forces didn’t detect the helicopters.
Military watchers are all atwitter this week about J-20, the Chinese stealth aircraft that has now taken to the skies in its inaugural test flight. It’s the country’s first radar-evading plane. The question is, what is it for, and should we worry?
The aircraft appears most similar to the F-22 Raptor, the United States’ stealth bomber/fighter and the only one of its kind in the world.
“From what we can see, I conclude that this aircraft does have great potential to be superior in some respects to the American F-22, and could be decisively superior to the F-35 [joint strike fighter],” claims Richard Fisher, a senior fellow on Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a Washington-based security think tank. [Los Angeles Times]
At 70 feet, the J-20 is actually longer than the Raptor by 10 feet. To some, that size would suggest its makers are attempting to maximize range, making the J-20 as much a bomber as a fighter.
On her first true flight as an observatory, NASA’s plane-based infrared telescope (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, aka SOFIA) took a close look at Orion and other star clusters overnight on November 30th.
“The early science flight program serves to validate SOFIA‘s capabilities and demonstrate the observatory’s ability to make observations not possible from Earth-based telescopes,” said Bob Meyer, NASA’s SOFIA program manager. “It also marks SOFIA‘s transition from flying testbed to flying observatory, and it gives the international astronomical research community a new, highly versatile platform for studying the universe.” [press release]
SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner that now includes a 100-inch German telescope (bigger than the Hubble’s!). These early observations were made with a general-use mid-infrared camera called FORCAST designed by a group at Cornell University.
Since SOFIA cruises at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet above sea level, it’s above 99 percent of the atmosphere’s water vapor (which normally blocks infrared light from reaching earth). The camera captures images using these infrared rays, producing detailed pictures that couldn’t be taken from earth.
The next generation of spies from on high continue to emerge, with two secretive unmanned planes making their public debuts this week.
Boeing Phantom Eye
The Phantom Eye, which Boeing unveiled this week, will take to the skies next year on the power of hydrogen. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) should be able to cruise at an altitude of 65,000 feet.
But the propeller-driven Phantom Eye is no muscle plane. It’ll have a pair of 150-horsepower, 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engines. Boeing says the UAV, with a 150-foot wingspan, will be able to cruise at about 150 knots [172 miles per hour] and carry a payload of up to 450 pounds [CNET].
The plane won’t need to carry much weight, though, because it’s intend to spy, not attack. Boeing says the Phantom Eye will be able to stay aloft for four consecutive days, executing “persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.” Its size and breezy pace mean it’s built for endurance and not stealth. But that might not be true for Boeing’s other UAV project, the menacing Phantom Ray that will make a test flight in December.
It’s a car… It’s a plane… It’s a car-plane. Last March, we described the maiden flight of Terrafugia‘s new flying, driving machine, called the Transition. Now we’re one step closer to a Jetson’s reality: the Transition has just received FAA approval as a “light sport aircraft.”
Approval was not guaranteed, since the little guy is a bit husky, weighing more than the FAA’s “light sport aircraft” limit. As The Register reports, Terrafugia wanted to keep the plane in this classification to keep the vehicle available to more drivers/pilots.
[T]he plane-car was originally designed to fit within a weight limit of 1320 lb, meaning that it could qualify as a “light sport” aircraft. A US light sport pilot’s licence is significantly easier and cheaper to get than a normal private ticket, requiring only 20 hours logged, and red tape is lessened. [The Register]