Its been an interesting month in the world of technology as
always. You can purchase a Robofish to help soothe your stress, or watch the
skies for a newest hypersonic plane. Here's the details!
NASA has introduced its newest aircraft that is designed to
accelerate through the atmosphere at speeds up to 7,200 mph. The unpiloted X-43A
made its maiden flight in mid-May, flying under its own power for just 10
seconds and about 17 miles before crashing into the Pacific Ocean. NASA said the
plane, is designed to fly seven to 10 times faster than the speed of sound. Mach
1 is the speed of sound, which varies by altitude and is about 750 mph at sea
level. After the initial flight, two more of the 12-foot-long, surfboard-shaped
planes will fly at six-month intervals. If successful, the planes will smash the
speed record of Mach 6.7, set by an X-15 in October 1967. "This is an
aviation first," said Vince Rausch, manager of the X-43A program at NASA's
Langley Research Center. Unlike the rocket-powered X-15, the X-43A has an
air-breathing engine. It carries hydrogen for fuel, but must scoop oxygen out of
the atmosphere to combust it. Conventional rockets carry both fuel and an
oxidant. Currently, the fastest air-breathing aircraft is the SR-71
"Blackbird," which cruises slightly faster than Mach 3. The X-43A
should become the first air-breathing plane to go hypersonic, or faster than
Mach 5. The $185 million X-43A project is purely experimental. Engineers will
collect flight data needed to build future planes perhaps 200 feet in length.
The first piloted prototypes may fly by 2025. The X-43A, or Hyper-X, will
probably never carry commercial passengers because of the high acceleration,
heat generated by friction with the atmosphere and the difficulty of turning a
plane at such high speeds.
NASA has also been involved in more earthly endeavers.
Technology developed for astronauts who walked on the moon is now helping kids
with body-cooling problems. The so-called "cool suits" enable children
with HED (hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia) and other sweat gland disorders to
go outside without fear of heat stroke. "The children of the night don't
have to be in the dark anymore," said Sarah Moody, founder of the HED (hypohidrotic
ectodermal dysplasia) Foundation. "Those children are out enjoying the
life." The most recent recipient of the NASA space suit, which costs about
$2,000, was 8-year-old Cardi Hicks from Magnolia, Texas. Because of the suit
Cardi was able to go outside in the sun and play for the first time. He donned
the cloth white suit and played tag around a courtyard with his cousins and
friends. "This has opened the door for a wide range of medical
problems," Moody said. "I can see it as going on because we talk about
global warming. I mean heck someday we'll probably all be wearing those
things." The liquid-cooled garment was first developed to protect the
Apollo astronauts from the high temperatures on the moon. "It's amazing to
think that technology that allowed men to walk on the moon allows children to go
outside and head into the sunlight," Moody said.
Japanese toy giant Takara Company has taken the grief out of
maintaining a fish aquarium. Instead of fish food, just add batteries to keep
them going. The Aquaroid line features fish, jellyfish, and turtles.
"They're hypnotic to look at," said Paul Chavez, who imports the
jellyfish for his Robotoys store in Los Angeles. "They're very
soothing." About the size of a large grapefruit, the robot jellyfish gently
moves up and down its tank when the aquarium lights are turned on. Thanks to
sensors, it doesn't touch the sides. Customers of Chavez express
"astonishment" at the sight of one of the jellyfish moving around in
its tank, he said. "They say 'they're beautiful, they're great, they're
fantastic, they're pretty.' " Powered by penlight batteries, the plastic
critters cost 5,000 yen (US $40). They "swim" gently around the
aquarium until they run into the side wall or another creature, when a
nose-mounted sensor turns them around and they gently move off in the other
direction. The company estimates it will sell more than 100,000 units this year
of its Aquaroid Tower, a foot-high lava lamp-like aquarium that houses a
jellyfish. "Observing the gentle rhythms of the jellyfish has a 'healing'
effect," Terumi Endo, a spokeswoman for the toymaker, told the London
Times. "Research shows it is good for soothing nerves and alleviating
stress." According to The Times, the jellyfish was a big hit with
stressed-out workers who "spend hours staring into the glass tank that
houses the creature."
Then there's the ScreenFridge, a standard fridge that also
has a built-in touch-sensitive colour screen and an ADSL connection to the
Internet. Co-backed by Swedish mobile firm Ericsson and Scandinavian telco
TeleDanmark, this internet ready refrigerator is undergoing trials in the UK.
"We thought that the Screenfridge would be most popular with families,
because they are often the most time-sensitive. We actually found that lifestyle
is more important. Many different types of people liked the Screenfridge because
it was easy to access information quickly from the kitchen," explained
Linda Windmark, consumer knowledge manager for E2Home. "People really
appreciate the accessibility and ease of use. They've told us that even though
they have cookery books next to the Screenfridge they still log on to find a
recipe. Of course, they can then download the ingredients and add them to their
shopping list," said Diane Chayer, project manager for TeleDanmark. The
most frequently used applications were information-based services, such as
weather, travel and traffic news. Sending email and SMS messages were the second
most-popular type of application.