futurism.com | Google Co-Founder Was Reportedly Spotted in A Flying Car

First Thing’s First…

Just last week, Uber released a white paper detailing its plans to incorporate vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to its ridesharing services. While the company acknowledges that it has a long way to go to actually have this service up and running (or flying), it brings to our attention an innovation that’s necessary to get there. Before we can have any VTOL services, we need to have a working VTOL car.

Google co-founder Larry Page, who owns two flying car companies, has not forgotten this. According to several eyewitnesses, he might already have one working VTOL car courtesy of Zee.Aero, one of his two flying car companies.

Popular Mechanics reports that several witness heard the flying car whirring while hovering about Hollister Airport in California. Some eyewitnesses even claim that they saw the machine take-off and land vertically.

Photo credit: Steve Eggleston
Photo credit: Steve Eggleston

Making a car that flies

Does Larry Page already have a working VTOL car? We don’t really have much available in terms of details, except that Zee.Aero previously filled a patent for a car that can lift off vertically using battery-powered propellers.

In any case, the quest for flying cars is on-going and the Google co-founder isn’t actually the only one who has been working on it. There’s Airbus, with its A3 Vahana, and a company called Joby Aviation working on its S2 VTOL craft — and Uber mentions these in their white paper. Then there’s also AeroMobil, with its plans to release a commercial version of their AeroMobil 3.0 flying car by 2017.

Not much development has been reported on these projects recently, especially since the future of transportation seem to highlight autonomous vehicles, hyperloops, and electric-powered cars. It also doesn’t help that Zee.Aero’s very secretive about it — even their website is sparse.

It isn’t clear that flying cars will be an integral part of the transportation revolution, but it is nice to see that some are keeping the dream alive.

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futurism.com | SpaceX Says They’ll Fly Again This Year

The Update

After about 2 months since the unfortunate Falcon 9 explosion in Cape Canaveral, SpaceX is ready to try again.

The aerospace manufacturer said in an October 28th update that they are ready to resume stage testing in Texas while at the same time, continuing the investigation of the September accident. They are looking toward resuming flights by the end of 2016. Previously, the investigation found a breach in the cryogenic helium system in the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank and is being pointed to as the cause of the Falcon 9 rocket’s explosion. However, the ultimate cause is still being investigated.

In the update, SpaceX mentions how it has been working closely with the FAA, NASA, the US Air Force, as well as experts from the aerospace industry to find the root cause of the breach. Through an extensive investigation which involved closely recreating the explosion, the investigators were able to narrow down the cause of the accident to one of three composite over-wrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank.

Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX

It’s Literally Rocket Science

Unfortunately, explosions have very much been a part of the field of rocket science since the V-2 rocket tests. Even when every precaution is taken, the high levels of volatile fuels and the general unpredictability of environmental factors, there are bound to be some mishaps. Even so, companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are doing something new; something that can and will benefit humanity, and that is bringing commercial space flight to the public. Above all, they are directing more minds toward space and the potential discoveries just waiting to be made there. Perseverance following a setback is exemplary of humanity’s will of progress. SpaceX is leading the way toward priming humanity into finally claiming its place in the stars.

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futurism.com | Ultra Fast Internet? Google Fiber Says No New Cities Are Going Online

Fiber’s (Not) Coming

Google’s super fast internet slows down to a halt, at least in terms of growing its infrastructure, that is. With announcements of job layoffs just last week, Google is taking a step back on its promise to bring its Fiber service to new cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Portland, including several others listed a part of the future of Fiber communities.

“In terms of our existing footprint, in the cities where we’ve launched or are under construction, our work will continue,” writes Alphabet SVP and Fiber project head Craig Barratt in their official blog. Admittedly, the fiber optic internet business is not cheap and requires plenty of prior groundwork (literally) before the service can be up. Amidst the halt and news of job cuts, Barratt is also stepping down.

Google Fiber boasts internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second (1,000 Mb/s), and is among the fastest available internet services in the US — albeit with limited availability, which just got even more limited.

Credits: Google Fiber/Arstechnica
Credits: Google Fiber/Ars Technica

Cost Barriers

While we do live in a time when technology advances rather quickly, new infrastructure development remains to be quite pricey. Some of the biggest names in tech look forward to democratizing new technologies, but significant cost often needs to go in upfront before the public can reap the benefits.

“No matter how much people wish Google would come in like Batman and save the day for them, Google is in it for their own goals,” Roger Entner of Recon Analytics tweeted last Wednesday.

Barratt put it quite nicely: “Now, just as any competitive business must, we have to continue not only to grow, but also stay ahead of the curve — pushing the boundaries of technology, business, and policy — to remain a leader in delivering [super fast] Internet.”

Until such time that technology can be supported better in terms of business strategy and overall government policy, it would remain expensive. That’s a hurdle we have to overcome, as equally important as any major technological development.

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futurism.com | New Flooring Tech Generates Electricity Through Your Footsteps

The Future of Flooring?

Pavegen, a British clean-tech company, is taking an innovative approach to sustainability by generating energy from something that most people do every day: walk.

The technology is basically a multifunctional, custom flooring system that is outfitted with a wireless API, which allows it to produce power. That sounds complicated, but the way that it works is simple. As people walk over the flooring, the pressure causes generators in the flooring to vertically displace. This creates kinetic energy through electro-magnetic induction, and that energy can then be used to power lighting or whatever else is needed.

In short, the company is converting the kinetic energy from your footsteps into electricity.

In an interview with Futurism, Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook noted that this is a new area of energy production, one which comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. “When a person walks, they generate 5 watts of energy continuously, so you are, we all are, a 5-watt power-feed. Now imagine 10 people,” he continued, “that’s 50 watts of energy continuously.” That may not seem like an exorbitant amount of energy, but it is enough to supply power for a number of needs. For example, the technology can be used to illuminate paths as pedestrians walk upon them, which could potentially curb crime.

And it does more than just supply light as someone walks across the tiles. “You can store the energy from people,” Kemball-Cook noted. “Let’s say you have 40,000 people an hour passing through Grand Central Station, that energy is stored in batteries, and at night time, the power comes on. So municipalities, train stations, offices, schools—anywhere with lots of people walking — that’s perfect for us.”

The tech can also be used to supply power to radios and a number of other devices.

The flooring system’s design, which currently features a triangular shape, is meant to easily integrate into public spaces, as well as maximize energy capture and output. The latest iteration of the technology is said to be more efficient, durable, and 200 times more powerful than the initial version, which was created in 2009 and featured a square design.

Walking In LA, or New York, or…

As previously noted, in terms of application, the V3 system is particularly well suited to urban areas that have high foot traffic, and as cities evolve to become greener and smarter, it should prove especially appealing to those seeking out more sustainable energy options—and Kemball-Cook says that’s really what Pavegen is all about.

Sustainability is more than just nuclear power. It’s actually about changing the way people behave and how they think. People in New York have a decision to make every day: do they get a cab, do they ride on the subway, do they take a bus? They have that decision. What we buy and how we use our energy, these are all decisions that we need society to start thinking about seriously…so part of what we want to do is connect communities together and make people feel energy. When a child jumps on a Pavegen tile, their face lights up, because they actually see what they’ve done—they see the energy they’re creating.

So we’re trying to change the way that people are thinking about sustainability, because in 20 years time, even if we have totally clean energy powering the city, if people don’t care, they’ll still litter in the streets…they still won’t look after the environment they live in.

Kemball-Cook continues by asserting that this human energy could one day be as beneficial as other popular clean energy sources, though that will admittedly take time: “What we are trying to do is kind of what solar did over the last 70 years. Pavegen is really pioneering the area of kinetic energy. There’s no rule book here.”

And it seems that this human energy may be taking off.

Already confirmed for an installation in Westfield, the largest shopping center in Europe, Pavegen is now expanding to the US, which they hope will bring more focus to the importance of renewable energy. And earlier this month, Pavegen and Tribal Planet launched the very first sustainable “red carpet” in San Francisco.

Kemball-Cook states that, ultimately, these developments are the culmination of years of work.

“I’ve put the last 5 or 6 years of my life into making it real, and now it’s finally getting great traction. It’s being installed just a walking distance from the White House in DuPont Circle. It’s going to be installed on the busiest shopping streets in London, near the Oxford Street. It’s also going to be installed in the busiest retail site in London called Westfeld shopping center, which has 45 million people a year walking on it. Suddenly, all our hard work, and our new product, is all coming to life.”

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futurism.com | Scientists Successfully Lessen “Phantom Pain” with Brain-Machine-Interface

A Phantom Pain

Machine-assisted medicine has become an ubiquitous part of keeping us healthy and in the continued search for treatment to the vast mysteries of illness. Recent developments in brain-machine technology have discovered a way to relieve phantom limb pain through brain-machine-interfaces. The findings are published in Nature Communications.

“People with phantom limb pain still feel like there’s a hand there — it basically feels painful, like a burning or hypersensitive type of pain, and conventional painkillers are ineffective in treating it,” said Ben Seymour, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge in England and a co-author of the study.

When the body makes a movement, the brain generates activity for locomotion and uses visual and sensory cues to check if the action is occurring as intended. The sensations that a moving limb experience are processed by the brain to confirm if the brain activity generated was sufficient. An amputee experiences the same brain activity but receives none of the visual and sensory markers. This discrepancy is believed to be the cause of phantom limb pain.

Photo source: Flickr

Translating Brain Signals

Scientists previously thought that simulating movement with robotic prosthesis to provide the brain with the missing cues would mitigate the pain. However, when the researchers attempted this, it somehow made the patients’ pain worse. They then tried a different approach by asking the patients to imagine that their opposite hand was the phantom hand. For example, a patient with an amputated left hand was asked to move his imagined missing right hand.

The signals that the brain generated in the imagination activity was translated by brain-machine-interface technology so that movement of the robotic prosthesis is met with the right visual and sensory cue, and the patients’ phantom pain decreased. Brain-machine-interface technology analyzes brain signals and translates them into commands that can be relayed to devices like prosthetic limbs.

Truly, lines are blurring between humans and machines as we progress further into unlocking technological solutions to physiological problems.

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futurism.com | Male Birth Control: Study Shows 96% Efficacy

Hormone Therapy

With unintended pregnancy incidences constituting a whopping 40 percent of all pregnancies in 2012, more options for birth control are imperative. For men, there are few options to control their own fertility, with available methods including vasectomies, condoms, and other less effective methods.

Injectable contraceptives for men to prevent pregnancy in their partners could soon be available. The new study is published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Hormone injections of norethisterone enanthate and testosterone undecanoate were used to decrease the sperm count in men. The hormone therapy was tested on 320 healthy men between the ages 18 to 45 who have been in monogamous relationships with women for at least a year. All of the males had normal sperm counts at the beginning of the study. Two injections were administered to the participants by healthcare professionals every 8 weeks.

Photo source: Flickr

The reversibility of the contraception was also studied. They found that sperm counts increase to normal after a 52-week recovery period for 94.8 percent of the participants.

The study reports an effective reduction of sperm count to 1 million per mL or less in 274 of the participants within 24 weeks of therapy. Contraception was effective in nearly 96 percent of continuing users. Four pregnancies occurred among the men’s partners during the efficacy phase of the study.

A Need For Further Study

The participants did report some adverse effects of the treatment, including acne, pain in the injection site, increased libido, and depression. They reported that the incidence of mood disorders among the participants was relatively high.

While the results may not be ideal, this research paves the way for much-needed developments in birth control. “More research is needed to advance this concept to the point that it can be made widely available to men as a method of contraception,” said Mario Philip Reyes Festin, one of the study’s authors. “Although the injections were effective in reducing the rate of pregnancy, the combination of hormones needs to be studied more to consider a good balance between efficacy and safety.”

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futurism.com | This Wind Turbine Can Produce Water Out Of Thin Air

WaterSeer condenses safe drinking water without power or chemicals.

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