News

Will 'Bloon' rides catch on?

This week's Question: Zero2infinity, a Spanish company, plans to launch passengers to near space using technologies called "Bloons." A maximum of four passengers will join two pilots in the Bloon cabin, which will be chained to a balloon filled with inert helium. Once fully inflated, the balloon will pull the cabin to an altitude of about 22 miles or 116,000 ft; the balloons would take between 1.5-2 hours to reach maximum altitude. The passengers would not reach space itself, but would still be able to see the Earth, as well as the sun rise. Whether passengers would still need to wear spacesuits will depend on certification from authorities. Bloon's first departures are expected to be followed by the launch of space flights from World View Enterprises, an Arizona-based ballooning company. What do you think? Will 'Bloon' rides catch on?

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Are FAA drone rules too restrictive?

This week's Question: This month, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed long-awaited rules on the commercial use of small drones, requiring operators to be certified, fly only during daylight, and keep their aircraft in sight. The ruling, for now, prevents drones from being used for a range of possible other commercial uses, including crop inspection and package delivery. What do you think? Are FAA drone rules too restrictive?

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Would you take a one-way trip to Mars?

This week's Question: Mars One, a group that plans to send humans on a one-way trip to Mars, has narrowed its application pool from 200,000 to 100. The finalists will spend the next decade in training, including team-building exercises and isolation. The goal of the Netherlands-based non-profit is to start a permanent colony on Mars. If the mission is launched, the colonists will never return to Earth. One mission is scheduled to launch in 2025, followed by another every two years. What do you think? Would you take a one-way trip to Mars?

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Will selfies replace the password?

This week's Question: New apps, including one created by West Virginia University students in 2014, uses advanced facial recognition and liveness detection capabilities to authenticate smartphone users. A free technology from Hoyos Labs, showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, similarly enables a person to log in to a device without a user name, password, or other personally identifiable data. What do you think? Will selfies replace the password?

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Will autonomous car trends lead to lost jobs?

This week’s Question: As an increasing number of automakers develop autonomous or semi-autonomous cars, some critics are concerned that the number of vehicles on the road will be reduced and jobs will be lost, especially those in motor vehicle parts manufacturing and professional driving sectors. What do you think? Will autonomous car trends lead to lost jobs?

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Will virtual traffic lights improve traffic?

This week's Question: Carnegie Mellon University researchers have claimed that they can reduce commute times by placing virtual traffic lights on drivers' windshield. Through connected vehicle technology, the Carnegie Mellon system replaces conventional traffic lights with stop and go signals appearing directly in view. The virtual traffic lights are generated on demand when needed, such as when two cars are approaching an intersection. Although the technology attempts to optimize traffic patterns, some analysts say that older cars, as well as traffic lights and infrastructure, would need to be upgraded before the technology would be viable. What do you think? Will virtual traffic lights improve traffic?

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The Human Eye Can See ‘Invisible’ Infrared Light

Any science textbook will tell you that human beings can’t see infrared light. Like X-rays and radio waves, infrared light waves are outside the visual spectrum. But an international team of researchers co-led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that under certain conditions, the retina can, in fact, sense infrared light after all. Using cells from the retinas of mice and people, and powerful lasers that emit pulses of infrared light, the researchers found that when laser light pulses rapidly, light-sensing cells in the retina sometimes get a double hit of infrared energy. When that happens, the eye is able to detect light that falls outside the visible spectrum.

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