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Will cosmic elevators take us to space?

This week's Question: Penn State researchers recently developed ultra-thin, super-strong nanothreads made from diamonds. The nanothreads could ultimately be used to construct a "space elevator" to take people to orbit. A Japanese company, Obayashi, similarly sees the feasibility of such an elevator and envisions a space station tethered to the equator by a 96,000-km cable made of carbon nanotechnology. In theory, robotics cars with magnetic motors would quickly take people and cargo to the station. What do you think? Will cosmic elevators take us to space?

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Is a sleeper ship our best bet to Mars?

At the Center for Research in Advanced Materials (CIMAV), scientists "captured" the energy produced by people walking. The team designed a pill-shaped cylinder adapted to a shoe in order to store the mechanical-vibrational energy that the person generates when walking. Similarly, the London-based company Pavegen produces a technology that harvests mechanical energy of walking feet and converts it to electrical energy via a special floor tile. Both ideas perhaps could lead to cities using the alternative, piezoelectric solutions to create power when and where it is required. What do you think? Will we harvest energy with our own footsteps?

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Will we harvest energy with our own footsteps?

At the Center for Research in Advanced Materials (CIMAV), scientists "captured" the energy produced by people walking. The team designed a pill-shaped cylinder adapted to a shoe in order to store the mechanical-vibrational energy that the person generates when walking. Similarly, the London-based company Pavegen produces a technology that harvests mechanical energy of walking feet and converts it to electrical energy via a special floor tile. Both ideas perhaps could lead to cities using the alternative, piezoelectric solutions to create power when and where it is required. What do you think? Will we harvest energy with our own footsteps?

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Are apps making us too lazy?

A San Francisco startup called Shyp is expanding to New York this week. For a small fee, the company will pick up your item, box it, and ship it. The app-based Shyp uses custom-made boxes and QR trackers, and its couriers currently have their own transportation, including bikes. Shyp is another example of an application that conveniently outsources tasks and chores for users. Uber, for example, finds cars on demand, and startups like Instacart and Munchery provide quick and easy dinner and grocery delivery. Fans  of the apps say convenient technologies like Shyp support efficiency and free people up to be more productive, while others suggest that the app-based systems encourage laziness. What do you think? Are apps making us too lazy?

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Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Our lead story in today's INSIDER revealed engineers' attempts to power an electric car with removable, rechargeable battery modules. The potentially game-changing technology, however, faces challenges. The modules weigh 20 to 30 pounds, and no infrastructure currently exists for users to lease or purchase the rechargeable devices, for example. The engineers, however, say that they expect the battery technology to mature and shrink in size, and that exchange stations could easily be gradually deployed. What do you think? Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

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Will smart watches replace traditional timepieces and computerized wristwatches?

At a fall media event in Cupertino, CA last week, Apple unveiled its smart watch technology alongside the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. The Apple Watch comes in three styles and two sizes, with multiple options for colors and wristbands. The device also plays music, tracks fitness, sends/receives messages, and features compatibility with Apple's new Apple Pay app. The smartwatch industry is relatively new. Other wearable smart watches from competitors, such as Samsung, Sony, LG and Pebble, have come to market over the past two years. What do you think? Will smart watches replace traditional timepieces and computerized wristwatches?

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Electronic Noses Detect Chemical Warfare Gases

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia have developed a prototype electronic "nose" for the detection of chemical warfare gases, mainly nerve gas, such as Sarin, Soman, and Tabun.

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