News Stories

Flying High

Getting from place to place by airplane is tough because of onerous airport security restrictions, but these are about to get easier. Or you could just strap on your personal flying machine and take off. Take your ipod along and you can listen to your favorite radio shows!

Remember 2005, when you could still board a plane with shampoo in your bag, toothpaste in your purse, a can of soda in your hand? Washington feels your pain. Researchers at the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been fine-tuning magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. By detecting ultralow magnetic fields, the lab has created the Magnetic Vision Innovative Prototype (MagViz), which can peer through whatever container you're carrying, find out what's in it, and let you pass with your bottled water or hand sanitizer.

The first MagViz was programmed to be extremely sensitive and "saw" danger in certain off-brand shampoos and sport drinks. Since then, the technology has been fine-tuned. Last year, to test the new model's selectivity, evaluators planted a minefield of surprise liquids at Albuquerque International Airport. Nothing nasty slipped past MagViz: It correctly flagged all liquid-bomb ingredients.

Now that electric cars are becoming commonplace, the next step is electric planes.

There would be less chance of engine failure, since electric motors are far more efficient and reliable. It would also make for a more pleasant ride, since electric engines are quieter than internal combustion engines, and quieter planes mean that airports can be located closer to neighborhoods where airport workers live. In the past, lawsuits have been brought against airports for deafness in children living nearby.

In LiveScience.com, Charles Q. Choi quotes aviation expert Brien Seeley as saying that the reliability of electric motors is "perhaps 10 times or even 20 times that of a piston engine" and "they don't need anywhere near the same amount of cooling air flowing over them that internal combustion engines do, which is a very big deal with airplanes."

This could encourage not only shorter trips by plane, easing highway traffic jams, but also the building of more small regional airports, creating the jobs that would come along with them. Choi quotes Seeley as saying, "We're exploring the concept of pocket airports, maybe lots of them, each just two acre parcels, that you can take, say, at 150 mph to another pocket airport. It's a transformative concept."

Easy travel on an electric plane with toiletries, snow globes, and drinks may coming in the future, but the ultimate way to fly is the "Puffin," a personal flyer that allows you to take off and land vertically. It's electric and can cruise between 150 and 300 MPH.

These inventions will make travel to places like Nashville for the Dreamland Festival on the last weekend in June so much easier! If you missed the 2009 festival (or want to hear the extraordinary presentations again), we have a great deal for you: special discounts for subscribers and 2009 festival attendees, who get $12.99 off the discounted price! Only one coupon per order, but it covers all sets in the order, so give them as Valentine's presents! Subscribers, your coupon is in the subscriber section. Festival attendees, you received yours by email.

To learn more, click here, here and here.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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