Picturing yourself at the 2022 World Cup, surrounded by Qatar’s (as-yet-to-be-built) state-of-the-art stadium sounds like a soccer-fan’s dream, but there’s one problem: In the summer, when the event is traditionally held, this desert country’s temperatures can easily top 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hard to enjoy soccer when you’re suffering a heat stroke, which is why engineers are developing a flying-saucer-like carbon-fiber cloud that will float above soccer-eyed spectators and automatically reposition itself to block the sun, cooling them from the sizzling heat.
As Saud Ghani, head of Qatar University’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering group, told CNN, this giant iPhone-shaped robotic cloud could potentially drop temperatures by 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It does this by shielding the pitch from sunlight (a simple-enough concept). So how does it stay aloft, and stay in the right place to block the sun?
For all those penny-pinching, world-traveling Facebook-users out there, you’re in luck: you’ll be able to check Facebook during your flight and not pay a dime if you fly during the short, sweet month of February.
Of course this means we all need to prepare ourselves for the inane status updates. Like: “I can see my house from here!” And: “Clouds… wow.”
Participating airlines–including American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and U.S. Airways–are partnering with Gogo Inflight Internet and Ford to provide airline passengers with free Facebook access. As Mashable reports:
Jet-heads rejoice: Starting in March, you can buy your own water-propelled jetpack, enabling you to soar over 32 feet into the air while traveling nearly 22 miles per hour.
Invented by Raymond Li, the JetLev works by shooting water out of two nozzles. Because the jetpack’s fuel and engine aren’t directly strapped onto the user–they’re housed separately on the water, and the flyer is connected via a long tube–the jetpack is not only safer than most, but also three times as powerful. As New Scientist reports:
“It’s the same reaction force a firefighter experiences when he points a water jet at a fire,” says Li.
But aside from the jetpack’s abilities, the price tag also sets it apart from your average fire hose: it costs $99,500. If resorts and outdoor rental companies snatch up this gadget, though, zooming along the waterfront via jet pack may soon be a common sight. Li hopes that it will have more practical applications, too, like search and rescue and–yes–firefighting. The task of creating a workable hydro-jetpack wasn’t easy. From New Scientist:
It’s the result of a decade of hard work and following a dream that most engineers thought was impossible. “No one had done anything like it before,” says Li. “Almost everyone thought I was crazy. It was hard to get quotations for prototype fabrication, raising capital, finding development partners and suitable venues to do the testing.”
By Valerie Ross
You’re squeezed into a middle seat, two rows from the back of the plane. It’s barely two hours into your cross-country flight, though you’d swear it’s been longer. Does it just seem like the minutes of your trip are crawling by — or does time actually pass more slowly for people who are mid-flight than for people on the ground?
Many of us have heard the idea that time doesn’t pass at the same rate for everyone. It’s a common narrative in science fiction, one that has its roots in Einstein’s theory of relativity. The story starts, let’s say, with two twins, one of whom stays on Earth while the other clambers aboard a rocket that’s making a round-trip journey, at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, to a planet in a not-too-distant solar system. When the traveling twin returns to earth, he’s aged more slowly, and now he’s younger than the twin who stayed behind.
This familiar — and paradoxical — plotline comes from a particular tenet of relativity theory known as time dilation. It predicts that a fast-moving clock will tick at a slower rate than a stationary one — or, a man on an interstellar voyage will age more slowly than his twin back on Earth. But time dilation also says that velocity isn’t the only thing that affects the rate at which clocks tick, or people age; gravity does, too. A clock in a stronger gravitational field (the Earth’s surface, let’s say) will have a slower tick rate than a clock subject to weaker gravity (such as a few miles up into the atmosphere).
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World of Wings in Cumbernauld claims Scotland’s “largest collection of birds of prey,” including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. The center also served home to a Rüppell’s Griffin Vulture named Gandalf–until Gandalf flew away.
David Ritchie, director of the bird center, told the BBC that the bird flew away during one of the center’s daily shows:
“She got caught in the wind and just went higher and higher until she disappeared…. We would warn people not to approach her but to call the police. She has no fear of humans and she could give someone a very severe bite. Her beak is designed to tear flesh apart.”
There are only about 30,000 remaining Rüppell’s Griffins, native to central Africa, and Gandalf has been at the center since 2006 as part of a zoo breeding program. The birds are scavengers, mostly eating dead animals, and can soar to heights of some 30,000 feet.
So it’s majestic–but its power to reach such heights and its 10-foot wingspan make the escaped vulture a “genuine threat” to airplanes and helicopters, according to Ritchie. The National Air Traffic Services has warned pilots of the threat, the BBC reports. Here’s hoping (for Gandalf’s, the Scottish National Air Traffic Services’, and flesh’s sake) that the vulture returns home soon.
For a prehistoric bird with a bigger bite but no flight, check out Ed Yong’s recent “terror birds” post on Not Exactly Rocket Science.
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The walls are alive… with sophisticated sensors that can sniff out potential terrorists, according to Popular Science:
Researchers at brain trust Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing andErgonomics (FKIE) in Wachtberg, Germany have developed a network of “chemical noses” that can not only smell chemicals hidden on a person, but also identify the carrier as he or she moves through a crowded space.
This means that someone entering an airport with individual chemical components, that can be used to make an explosive later, can be tracked right from the door itself.
Sensitive sensors located in walls would “sniff” out the chemicals, triggering a discreet security alarm. The sequence of triggered alarms would allow security personnel to determine which direction the chemical-carrying person was moving, and a software program would zoom in on one individual in the crowd. Cameras all over the airport would track the suspect as he moves and security could then apprehend the person well before he/she reaches the crowded security checkpoints.
The best way to make a point about privacy and “invasive” body scanners at the airport–is to strip down to your underwear and then publish that video to YouTube so the whole world can see you in your nearly naked glory. Might sound strange at first, but we are covering it in Discoblog, so I guess it worked.
Warning: This video has mild nudity and so may be NSFW.
German activists from the Pirate Party thought organizing a “fleshmob” of people to strip down to their skivvies and converge on the Berlin-Tegel airport was a great idea. The activists were protesting the use of what the Germans call the Nacktscanner, or naked scanner–a body scanner that may increasingly be used for airport security, in the wake of the botched underwear bombing on Christmas Day.
Remember Solar Impulse, the piloted, solar-powered plane that would circumnavigate the globe? Well, it took its first test flight this week, leading to a round of huzzahs from the press. However, you might want to contain the enthusiasm a little, because both “solar” and “flight” are a tad misleading.
“Hop,” as the BBC called the test, is more like it. Solar Impulse got airborne for 30 seconds, though that allowed it to travel 350 meters. And as you can see in the image, the plane didn’t exactly reach the stratosphere. As far as “solar” is concerned, the plane’s solar panels weren’t even hooked up. It ran on battery power.
That’s fine; Solar Impulse will have to run on battery power when it eventually reaches the night stages of its round-the-world trip. We hope the project is eventually a rousing success, but this was a non-solar test.