NASA Spacesuit Prototype Sports Familiar Look

I don’t know if it will take astronauts to “infinity and beyond,” but NASA’s Z-1 prototype spacesuit redesign will certainly draw comparisons to the gear donned by Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear with its bubble top and distinctive green trim. Continue reading

Solar Toilet Could Save Lives

If you’ve visited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website lately, you know exactly where the Microsoft founder’s mind has been: the toilet.

In July, the Gates Foundation rolled out its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, an international effort to bring alternative sanitation technology to the developing world. Improper sanitation and waste disposal lead to millions of deaths each year, with the lack of suitable toilets leading to the spread of disease and fouled drinking water. The Gates Foundation has tasked teams of engineers and scientists with developing low-cost, sustainable toilets that don’t require electricity, running water, or a sewer hook up, and that can operate on 5 cents per day or less.

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Altaeros Energies’ Inflatable Turbine Soars

Alternative energy sources are a good investment for the future. Potential oil scarcity aside, most alternative energy sources are green, which means less junk in the air to fuel worries about global warming. Fewer pollutants also mean fewer respiratory health problems. We recently covered a new solar energy solution and today we’ll look at a novel approach for wind turbines.

Even before Don Quixote tilted at them, windmills have been producing energy. Wind turbines are just an old idea with a new look. The Netherlands have been erecting turbines for the last few years, hoping to hit their goal of creating 9% of the total energy needs of the country.

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Jumping Robot Aids Military Surveillance

We’ve previously written about Boston Dynamics’ amazing robotic cheetah and frightening AlphaDog military pack robot. On the other end of the size spectrum is their new, adorable SandFlea — a pint-sized robot that can leap tall buildings in a single bound, with the help of some compressed carbon dioxide.

The 11-pound robot operates like an RC car on the ground, but can jump 1 to 8 meters (up to 30 ft.) using a piston actuator and disposable fuel cartridge. An onboard gyroscopic stability system helps control landing attitude, and specially designed wheels cushion the shock of multiple jumps. There’s also a laser-based system to guide launch, live video feed for remote operation, and the unit can be controlled so precisely that users can send it through windows, onto tables, or up staircases. Continue reading

Finally: Flying Cars

We’ve previously discussed the noticeable lack of flying cars in the 21st Century, despite promises made by decades of science fiction films and cartoons. Magnetic levitation may hold some promise in delivering high-style transportation, but in the meantime at least two companies have come up with car/plane/helicopter hybrids that do, indeed, fly.

First up: Terrafugia, which successfully completed a test flight of its Transition Street-Legal Airplane, a two-seat vehicle with folding wings that can be driven on a highway and flown using standard unleaded gasoline. Continue reading


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